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The Money Messenger -- Better Late Than...
January 17, 2010


Welcome to Issue #026 of The Money Messenger!

The Money Messenger brings you the latest on your kids and money.

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The Money Messenger

In This Issue

January can mean starting the new year with a clean slate and a time for setting goals. The turn of the calendar promises new opportunities to accomplish these goals as well as continuing to build on the successes of last year.

This month, the articles focus on setting family money resolutions and getting your teen started on the path to money management by helping them to start earning their own money. There are a number of options to consider in each article it can be tempting to jump in start all of them.

Don't. Pick one and try it on. New habits can take some time to develop and trying to fit too many into an already-busy family life can be stressful. Start slow and build on your success - you'll be amazed at how much you will have done in a few short months.

A reader's question on balancing new money resolutions while digging out from old money habits

A new section on helpful links and resources

What's next?

Note from Jennifer

Better late than...never?

Despite plans and a mountain of intentions, this newsletter is finding its way to you late. Reasons abound for why (work and family being the primary ones) that is the case. Each of them with their own merits and still ringing a little bit hollow since I didn't meet your expectations (or my own for that matter).

Do you find this happening in your own life? That you have the best intentions of setting a chore program for your kids or encouraging your teen to find a winter job? What about that budget you planned to set up to track your money at the beginning of the year - whether on paper or using online sites?

The hardest part of anything can be getting started but it can also be staying going. You may get your budget set up...but then you have to find time to update each week or month. That chore chart you and the kids created looks great on the refrigerator...except no one is following through on the plan.

No worries. Start anew wherever you find yourself. That's what I did with this newsletter - sat down, started typing and made the progress to getting onto your screen. (And, of course, promised myself and you that would never happen again!)

Feature Article
Family Money Resolutions for 2010

Resolutions of any kind can be a bit dangerous. For many of us, January 1st is a time to make our list of resolutions with great intentions Ė only to see them fall to the side before the end of the month.

But 2010 can be different.

Start by setting some realistic family money resolutions and focusing on a few key areas. Then come up some concrete ways to put those ideas into action. And, finally, take action Ė no matter how small Ė quickly. Getting started can be the biggest hurdle, so moving toward your goal immediately can be a key to success. Here are some key goals to consider for your resolution list:

  • Work up a family budget and stick to it. If you've never sat down and written out a monthly budget, the New Year is a great time to do so. Before you can improve your finances, you need to know exactly where your money goes each month. Then you can see where there is room for improvement and make adjustments that will leave you with more money to save or put toward debts. Try a free online budgeting service like for an incredibly fast start.
  • Pay off credit card debt. Whether the balances have hung around like an old friend for years or whether the balances are recent Christmas memories, credit cards can be a big drain on your financial health. Credit cards usually come with high interest rates, and if you're only paying the minimum each month, it could take you many years to get the balance paid in full. A resolution to stop using your credit cards and pay as much as possible on them each month could save you thousands of dollars.
  • Conserve energy. Using less energy is not only good for the environment, it's also good for your wallet. Resolving to turn off lights, TVs and computers when they're not in use, unplug electronics at night and insulate your home could save you more money than you might think.
  • Start clipping coupons. Groceries are a necessary monthly expense, but there's no reason to pay more for them than you have to. Make a resolution to start using coupons and keep your eyes peeled for sales. Consider signing up for your local grocery loyalty program and add that to your clipped coupons for more savings. (I will admit I always have the best intentions here Ė with a pile of coupons to show for it. But Iím not always the best at remembering to actually use them. THAT is my resolution.)
  • Buy used as often as possible. We all have to make a purchase every now and then, but in most cases we don't have to buy new to get what we need. A resolution to buy only used items can save you a great deal of money without making much of a difference in your life. Check out used books versions for your next book order or for almost anything you can think of.

Using these family money resolutions or some of your own to save money can make your life a lot less stressful. If you stick with them, the next New Year might look a whole lot brighter.

Feature Article
Teen Money Management Ė Earning It

As adults, we often look back on our teenage years as some of the best times of our lives. But when you're a teenager, it's hard to really appreciate the fact that you don't have to hold down a full-time job or pay bills. Teens have concerns of that usually arenít about money management, such as keeping their social lives going strong and coming up with money to go on dates and out with friends.

As parents, we can't always give our teens a lot of money. And even if we could, it's important for them to learn how to earn money for themselves and money management skills to go with it. If your teen is short on cash, it can be tempting to sigh, roll your eyes and open your wallet. But what if they started earning more of their own money?

Earning money often translates to managing it more effectively because of the work needed to get it. (Sure, thatís not always the case but it is still a good start.) Here are some ideas that he could use to earn the money he needs.

  • Do work around the house. Whether teens have assigned chores (or whether they get paid for them), doing occasional odd jobs around the house can be a win-win for parents and teens. What nagging chores need to be done that you keep putting off? For me, this is stuff like cleaning out the linen closet, shredding personal documents and packing up stuff that needs to be donated. None of those things must get done for the house to keep running (which is why they arenít getting done). I know that it would be nice to get these ďto-dosĒ off the list Ė nice enough to pay for it.
  • Find stuff to sell on eBay, craigslist or Amazon. This is not the shortest term way to raise cash especially for the eBay and Amazon options. Craigslist can be a much quicker way since it is largely a local, online classified ad site. Check out age requirements which may require parental registration. We are doing this idea with our kids for a number of books that we have accumulated over the years. Itís a great way to get them started in earning money online without much investment. Do be sure to set limits on what your teen can sell so you donít come home to an empty house!
  • Work for the neighbors. In the event that you donít have enough work around the house (or would prefer not to pay for pitching in), neighbors often have odd jobs that need to be done. Teens can offer to organize closets or garages, walk dogs for older neighbors in cold or snowy weather, or babysit neighborhood kids.
  • Get a part-time job. This may sound like an obvious statement to parents but maybe not to teens. Depending on your area, your teenís friends and talks you have (or not had) with them, some teens donít consider working for someone else. There are many options that donít have to take away from schoolwork or family time. This often will involve the teen having some sort of transportation to and from work, so this option really needs to be a family decision more than the other suggestions.

You and your teen can also brainstorm ideas. Get creative and let the ideas flow. Donít edit them the first time around Ė you can always do that. The goal is to have as many options as possible to kickstart the earning part of your teenís money management program. Share your best ideas with other readers here.

Ask the Editor!

Here's where I answer your questions. Mike writes that he is struggling between focusing on fixing old money habits while trying to build some new ones. Which one is more important - or can you do both at the same time. Here's the advice:

Working on something new is almost always more exciting than trying to improve habits that have challenged you in the past. Focusing on the old stuff may be not be as motivating as moving on to newer things that can be more interesting - even if that's just because it is something new.

But what if those old money habits will negate or erase any progress that you are trying to make on your new goals?

It may be time to review all your money habits and goals to come up with one new integrated list. Here are some ways to make that happen:

  • Focus on what would make the most impact to your financial health. List your money goals for 2010 as well as any other goals you may be carrying over from last year and then rank them in order of what is most important. Is it more important to do a weekly budget or to clip coupons and use them at the grocery store?
  • Is there a way to combine any of your money resolutions for the new year with your past goals? If your 2010 list includes earn more money on savings, consider combining that with last year's goal to pay off debt. How are these related? Paying off debt is the same as saving the money you are paying in interest - it's a risk-free return on your money.
  • Divide up the tasks within the family. Get the kids to cut out coupons and manage parts of the shopping list to make sure they get used. Have older kids or teens research better credit card rates or savings terms. Even dividing up parts of your financials goals can give you the time you need to focus on getting the stuff done that only you can do.
  • Get help on the web or with loaded software.Automate your budget tracking through a free site like which updates your accounts each time you log in and tracks what you are spending against the budget. If you don't enter your own budget, will help create one for you. Quicken software works much the same way (which makes sense since Quicken is behind

The biggest key is to not get overwhelmed and feel like you can't move forward. If focusing on new goals gives you the incentive you need to move forward, then do that. There is no right way to achieve your money goals - or even to set them to start with. As long as you are making strides toward even one goal, you are on your way your money management goals - old or new.

Useful Resources for You

While strives to provide all the information you need to help educate your kids, teens and family on money matters, there are other great resources to help you. This new section of the newsletter highlights those that I've found that provide solid, understandable and usable information.

  • For help in using coupons and store sales to cut your grocery bill, check out
  • For resources for teens starting their own business, the Small Business Administration and Junior Achievement have joined together to create
  • To check out your current credit rating, be sure to use the free website which is the official site to help consumers to obtain their free credit report.
  • For more basic financial education information, the National Endowment for Financial Education has some great resources.

Coming soon...the next issue of The Money Messenger

February can seem to stretch out forever even though it's one of the shortest months. The gray days of winter can drag on while wait for spring - only broken up by Groundhog's Day and Valentine's Day. That can make it a good month to look at what is coming in spring and how you might need to update chore programs or plan for spring and summer jobs.

If you have questions you'd like to see addressed for that issue, just use the Contact Form or email me at

Talk to you soon!

Comments or suggestions?

If you have any comments or suggestions for future newsletters, please let me know. I want to be sure that this newsletter meets your needs. Feel free to provide your comments using this contact form.

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