Summer activities for kids on a budget

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

Planning economical summer activities for children can be a challenge, particularly for working parents. Daycares typically close for a week or two during the summer months.

Community classes and summer camps fill up fast and private programs can be very costly.

Parents often cobble together a series of informal solutions including calling on grandparents, hiring responsible older teenagers and taking accrued vacation together or separately during the summer months.

But whoever is taking care of the kids, without the structure imposed by the school year, it doesn’t take long before boredom sets in. Here are some ideas for cheap things you or your children’s caregivers can do to take advantage of the beautiful weather and create special memories.

  1.  Staycation: Regardless of where you live, there are many places you may never have visited or have not visited recently. Zoos, science centres, museums, art galleries and historical sites can all make great family outings. Coupon books often sold by charitable groups may offer discounts, particularly if you visit during the week instead of on weekends.
  2. Fitness challenge: Challenge yourself and your children to be active every day. Chart your progress on a blackboard or a calendar posted on the fridge. Give small treats or outings as a reward for meeting milestones. Even if both parents work during the day, long bright evenings mean more time to walk, swim and bike.
  3. Local library: Your community library is a treasure trove of books, DVDs and even toys that can be borrowed. Children’s programs include story time, puppet shows and movies. There may also be special programs with children’s authors and illustrators.
  4. Parks tour: Public parks in your city or town often have different resources and equipment. Find out where the best wading pools, splash pads and climbing equipment are. Plan outings to different parks and conservation areas, and pack a lunch to take with you.
  5. Public transit: If the family car is your primary means of transportation, take a day trip using another mode of transportation like bus, train or even a ferry. Kids will enjoy learning about public transportation, planning the route and seeing new sites along the way.
  6. Pajama party: If the weather report calls for rain, have an all day pajama party. Stay in pjs all day, make breakfast food like pancakes for lunch and watch classic children’s movies available from Netflix or the library.
  7. Water play: Beaches and pools beckon in sizzling weather. If neither are available, then improvise. Turn on the sprinklers and let your children have fun while you water the lawn. You can also pick up a few plastic water guns so kids can soak each other in the backyard.
  8. Local produce: The fruit and vegetables grown and picked locally are entirely different from the pallid tomatoes and tasteless berries available off season in supermarkets. A visit to a farm where you can pick your own produce will educate your children about where their food comes from and how it should really taste.
  9. Board games: Remember playing Monopoly, Scrabble and Clue? Turn off the TV, unplug the computer and introduce your children to a family games night. Board games are enjoying a renaissance even among adults because instead of staring at a screen, the eyes of board gamers are on each other.
  10. Backyard camping: If you can’t get away, set up a campsite in the back yard. A tent, a flashlight and a sleeping bag can be fun for kids even if their own room is only a few steps away. And marshmallows taste just as good when they are made over the barbecue as when they are cooked over an open campfire.

Do you have ideas about cheap summer activities for you and your children? Send an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com and share your ideas with us. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

4-Jul Summer vacation Visit Canada. Take a road trip.
11-Jul Travel insurance What you need to know about travel insurance
18-Jul Buying a home Mortgage insurance vs life insurance

Jun 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Most of us would like to retire early and retire well, but it often seems like an unattainable goal. This week we feature blogs with advice from people who have either retired or are well on their way to that objective.

On retirehappy.ca, blogger Jim Yih presents essential information about CPP and OAS, government benefits that are the first leg of your retirement savings.

If you can’t imagine making the sacrifices required to save enough for retirement, see what Tim Stobbs has to say in There is No Sacrifice for Early Retirement, on The Canadian Dream: Free at 45.

The Frugal Trader has been thinking a lot about early retirement lately and what exactly would be required to walk away from his day job and live completely off his portfolio. On million dollar journey he provides a spreadsheet so you can calculate how much you need to save for early retirement.

A guest blogger on Boomer and Echo shares his  View Of Early Retirement. He says he has had opportunities to work part-time but he is too busy with hobbies and no longer want to be tied down to a calendar.

And finally, on Brighter Life, Dave Dineen says, Don’t listen to retirement naysayers. We all have our own ideas of what an attractive retirement looks like. So, don’t let naysayers define your retirement.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere. Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

How social media can help you find a job

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

For most people graduating from college or university this spring, getting a job is a top priority. But a job hunt is no longer as simple as reading the want ads and sending out resumés. It’s all about networking and effectively leveraging social media.

One study by Jobvite, a company that sells recruiting software, found the use of social media by recruiters to reach candidates is at an all-time high. Results show that 92% of respondents were using or planned to use social media in 2012, up almost 10% from the 83% using social recruiting in 2010.

LinkedIn is the social media site that is most targeted to business networking. While it may initially appear like simply an online bulletin board for business profiles, it is so much more.

Here are some ways you can use LinkedIn more effectively in your job search.

  1. Post a complete profile: Make sure your profile is complete. Describe your job experience and education in reverse chronological order. Search for jobs you may be interested in and include key words in your profile that will help recruiters find you. Update your profile including recent projects or work samples regularly.
  2. Connect with others: Link to everyone you know and everyone they know who may be able to help you. If you want to link to someone you don’t have a relationship with, ask for an introduction from one of your contacts. When “people you may know” pop up on your LinkedIn site, connect to these people where appropriate. I currently have 573 connections that link me with over 6 million people.
  3. Get recommendations: Ask people you have worked with and for to write brief online recommendations explaining the work you did and how you did it.
  4. Get endorsements: You can ask a broader group of contacts to click on the skills and expertise related to the key words in your profile to endorse you for those skills. Reciprocate and endorse them for relevant skills.
  5. Status updates: To keep you top of mind, post regular status updates. Links to articles, conferences and research related to your professional skills will keep you “top of mind” when internal and external recruiters are looking for candidates to fill positions.
  6. Other social media: LinkedIn now gives you the ability to link your blog post to your profile. You can also post to both LinkedIn and Twitter at the same time. However your twitter post will be cut off if you exceed the 140 character limit.
  7. Find companies: Find out where people with your background are working by doing an advanced search for people in your area who have your skills. For example, if you are a web developer in Saskatoon, search profiles in your postal code using keywords like JavaScript and XHTML to see which companies employ people like you.
  8. Check if a company is hiring: Companies with a LinkedIn page typically post open positions. While you can go directly to the company’s website, it is helpful to be able to do your research all in one place. There may also be information about the last people hired and internal promotions.
  9. Get to the right HR person: If you are interested in a position, see if you can find someone within the organization in your network who is willing to walk your resumé to the hiring manager or HR department. There may be added incentive if the company pays referral bonuses to employees who help them find a candidate for advertised positions.
  10. Secret job requirements: Job listings rarely spell out exactly what a hiring manager is looking for. Search for a company name. The results will show you who in your network connects you to the company. If you can find an inside contact, he/she may share the scoop on what is really required for the job.

Even if LinkedIn is your primary social media tool for job hunting, you should check your privacy settings and be very professional at all times on all social media. Recruiters and hiring managers will always Google your name. Pictures of a rowdy party tagging you that were shared by “a friend of a friend” could come back to bite you.

Have you used social media effectively to find a job? Send an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com and share your ideas with us. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

27-Jun Summer activities Inexpensive summer activities for kids
4-Jul Summer vacation Visit Canada. Take a road trip.
11-Jul Travel insurance What you need to know about travel insurance

Jun 17: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

This week we provide links to blogs and articles for students and new graduates.

On GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca the Investor Education Fund provides Money essentials: A survival kit for students, including how to manage student debt so it doesn’t get out of control.

If you are trying to avoid student debt altogether, read Toronto Star consumer columnist Ellen Roseman’s profile of two young men who finished university without applying for student loans. They just wrote a book called More money for beer and textbooks.

Don’t miss the Harvard Business Review’s Twelve rules for new grads. My favourite is “learn to listen and listen to learn.”

Does every interesting job you apply for require experience you don’t have? Take a look at How to get hired if you are unqualified on New Grad Life.

Finally, Gerald McGroarty shares Five secrets to finding a better work-life balance on BrighterLife.ca.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere. Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Frugal Father’s Day gifts

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

Maybe it’s because I’m a Mom and not a Dad, but coming up with creative gifts for the men in my life has always been a challenge. When my husband and I were first married he loved the gourmet picnic basket I put together. And years later he said the cordless drill I got him was the best gift ever. But these flashes of brilliance have been few and far between.

So in order to write this blog I used my trusty friend Google to help me come up with a list of frugal Father’s Day gifts that doesn’t include ties, socks or underwear. With thanks to fellow bloggers who are more innovative than I am, here are some ideas.

  1. Car detailing: A car wash with inside and outside detailing can cost $100 or more. If you play your cards right, you can charm your kids into providing the labour while you manage the project.
  2. Garage cleanup: Does the division of labour in your home dictate that Dad is responsible for spring and fall garage cleanup? Give him a break. Take a few hours to get rid of accumulated junk and make more space for the bikes and gardening supplies that resurface every spring.
  3. Barbecue: Sticking with the cleanup theme, think about vacuuming, de-greasing and even painting the barbecue to give it a new lease on life. You can also up the ante by buying a new set of inexpensive barbecue tools.
  4. Gadgets: My guy loves to cook and he loves gadgets. His latest purchase was mini muffin tins with a small ice cream scoop to fill them. Look for small inexpensive gadgets related to your husband or father’s hobbies.
  5. A shopping trip: I consider shopping for clothes as retail therapy. Many men view shopping for themselves as a necessary evil. Make the time to accompany your husband or father to the mall and help him select an attractive item he might never purchase himself.
  6. Special treats: Even the youngest children can help bake and ice a cake or cookies with “Dad” spelled out in chocolate chips or raisins. If they last long enough, special treats can be tucked into his lunch bag along with notes or original art work for days after.
  7. Tickets: For sports mad Dads, an outing to a hockey or football game may be just the ticket. While major league games can be very expensive, there are many local teams and tournaments that are great entertainment for the low price of admission.
  8. Framed photos: Some Dads are the family photographers, so they rarely appear in group pictures. Arrange a family photo shoot with a professional or a talented friend. Frame one or more pictures for his desk.
  9. Chores: Whether it is walking the dog, taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn, children of appropriate ages can make coupons for Dad to take over some of his chores.
  10. Memories: If your father has passed away, take some time to share memories with grandchildren and other relatives who didn’t know him or may no longer remember him. It may be a great time to start a family tree online to build and preserve memories for future generations.

Do you have ideas for frugal Father’s Day gifts? Send an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com and share your ideas with us. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

20-Jun Graduation How to use social media to find a job
27-Jun Summer activities Inexpensive summer activities for kids
4-Jul Summer vacation Visit Canada. Take a road trip.

Jun 10: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

After two weeks away, my inbox is chock full of great new blogs.

For sheer entertainment, you can’t beat Kerry K. Taylor’s account of how she got evicted from WalMart while taking pictures for her latest Squawkfox blog Target vs. Walmart: Where’s the best deal?

It turns out the answer depends on what you are buying, but Kerry preferred the shopping experience at Target including designer-style fashions and Starbucks coffee on tap.

If you are working hard to save for an early retirement, check out Tim Stobbs’ blog Know Thyself on Canadian Dream: Free at 45 to find out what personality traits may help you to meet your financial goals.

Many people believe downsizing in retirement will free up capital needed for travel and everyday living expenses. However, on Brighter Life, Dave Dineen explains why downsizing in retirement doesn’t always work.

Other financial decisions like taking on a super-sized mortgage, a second job or going out of your way for a bargain also may not make good financial sense, according to Boomer.

And if you do have savings but you don’t like the investment returns you are getting, on RetireHappy.ca Jim Yih shares some ideas on how to be a better investor.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere. Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.