July 21st, 2014

Will You Save Money On Your Cell Phone Bill By Switching To Ting?

Will You Save Money On Your Cell Phone Bill By Switching To Ting?

My husband and I are not phone people. We don’t call people a lot. We barely text. For the longest time, we only had cell phones because his parents insisted on paying for them. I finally decided that it was ridiculous at our ages to be on his parents’ plan still, so I decided to do some research and pick a company to use. After a lot of looking, we went with Ting, and I’m so glad we did.

Ting is an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), which means they lease wireless and data spectrum from other providers, Sprint in this case. They also have domestic voice roaming (not data roaming) over other CDMA cell phone networks when you’re out of range with Sprint at no extra charge.

We are really pleased with Ting so far. Our first bill was about $19 (told you we’re light users), second month was about $37, and that’s with two iPhones on the account. You see, there’s a per line fee you pay for each line every month no matter your usage, and the rest of the bill just depends on how much you use your phone. The second month we went on vacation to see my dad about 1000 miles away, so there was a lot of driving, calling and using data by our standards. Still light to others, I’m sure, but just for reference, that was 171 minutes of voice and 253 megabytes of data, which were both well within Ting’s medium level for each of those services. Texting only reached the small level. First month, voice and data were within the small level and no texts at all, and so that’s what we were charged for.

You are charged at the end of your billing period just for what you used. You might be charged on the small level for voice and medium for data if you use that much data, but barely call.

What I really like for when I start getting phones for my kids as they get old enough is that you can set up alerts to control their usage. That means no shocking phone bills for you. You go into the alerts section to set their limits, and you can have the system disable them if they go past a certain level. It won’t cut off an active call, but after that, they’re done until the next billing period. This is something you really want when you’re paying based on usage rather than unlimited. You can set alerts on any phone in your account.

If you want to know if Ting might be a good choice for your cell phone provider, take a look at your current usage over a few months, then use Ting’s savings calculator to see if you would get a good deal from them. If you use your cell phone like I use mine, it’s probably an amazing deal. If you’re a heavier user than I am but still not an extremely heavy user, it may still be a good deal… at least worth trying out the calculator to see how it goes.

Ting doesn’t charge for you to use tethering or to use your phone as a portable hotspot. No extra charges for voicemail or anything like that. The only added fees are the ones they’re is legally required to charge.

You won’t get any amazing deals on a smartphone through them, but if the savings are good enough you’ll make up for that soon enough. All phones must be compatible with Sprint’s network, so if you’re with Sprint already, your phone might just come over. Any other carrier, you probably have to buy a new phone. We bought our phones through Amazon. Ting has a supported devices list on their BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) page that you should pay attention to when shopping.

Now here’s a nice deal for you if you go through my link to Ting – they’ll give you a $25 credit. I get a credit too once you’re a paying customer. There’s no contract or anything, so if someone comes up with a better deal or you don’t like them, you’re always free to go to another carrier.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

July 18th, 2014

How to Limit Kids’ Screen Time While You Work at Home

How to Limit Kids' Screen Time While You Work at Home

I have to admit, this summer has been awful for me in terms of productivity. It’s hard balancing working at home with the kids being home all day. Swim lessons take up most of the morning because they never have all the levels we need at the same time. It took time for the kids to adjust to all being home together all day. Naturally, one of the big things they think of to do is watch TV or play on the computer or iPad. Just as naturally, I try not to let them overdo it, even though it makes it easier for me to work.

This issue has become both easier and more difficult as the kids have gotten older. They’re all old enough now that they can play on their own for quite some time, but the oldest in particular likes to play online games where she can interact with friends whose parents never seem to want to let them just come over.

Giving screen time to the kids is, of course, one of the easiest ways to keep them busy and somewhat quiet while I work, but it’s not ideal. Fortunately, there are good ways to limit kids’ screen time while you work at home. Try a few and see what works for you.

Talk About Screen Time Limits And Set Rules

It’s good to get into the habit of talking about it when you’re going to make a rule change such as limiting screen time. The ages of your children will determine how much they have to say, and you can try to come to a mutually agreeable solution. You can set limits per day or week, and consider ways for kids to earn extra time if you like.

One thing you may have to discuss is how much screen time parents have. Since I work at home, I’ve had to explain why the rules don’t apply the same way to me. I work on my computer, after all. If you aren’t following the rules yourself, be sure to have a fair reason why.

One long standing rule we have is that the kids may not bring screens into their bedrooms – except on sick days when I want them to try to keep their germs to themselves. Keeping screens out of the bedrooms means no one can just sit and stare at a screen for hours without being noticed, and they won’t stay up at night watching stuff.

Send them outside

Send Them Outside

Many kids these days seem to really resist playing outside when it’s hot out. I suspect it has to do with air conditioning. Why go outside when inside is soooo comfortable?

I aim to get my kids outside during the more pleasant parts of the day – morning before it really heats up, evening as it cools off. In the heat of the day is more difficult, but a nice sprinkler and a healthy supply of Super Soakers really improves their interest.

Consider also whether your kids are old enough to go to the park on their own or with a group of friends while you work. Whether or not this is possible depends on a lot of factors, but there comes a time when it’s really good for kids to be allowed to do things without direct adult supervision. Once they can do that, you may worry, but you can get things done while they’re gone. You can go along and try working on your laptop or tablet if you like or if the kids are too young to go on their own, but if your kids are old enough to go to the park on their own, you’ll probably be more productive at home.

Classes, Camps, etc.

What do your kids want to learn about or do during their spare time? My kids take swim lessons at least part of each summer, and we look at other classes, soccer camp and so forth. There may be signups at various times, both during the school year and in summer, depending on where you live. While I don’t believe in overscheduling kids (they need down time too!), signing them up for something they really want to do is great for keeping them away from the TV or computer and can give you some work time. If the classes are short, you may be better off bringing some work along on your laptop than driving back and forth for drop off and pick up.

Have activities ready for the kids

Have Activities Ready For the Kids

I keep a variety of craft supplies ready for my kids. At the moment, the big thing for them is perler beads. They print designs off the internet for whatever they want to make, and my oldest is allowed to use the iron to press them.

Pay attention to the kinds of crafts and other activities your kids enjoy so you can keep supplies ready for them. The easier it is for the kids to access the supplies on their own, the more they’ll use them rather than watch TV, and the more they’ll let you work.

Board games are another good choice. Play as a family sometimes, but make sure your kids know how to play some games just with each other. Some games are good for a wide range of ages – mine play Sorry together sometimes, for example.

There will probably still be times when you’d rather let your kids watch TV or play on a computer or tablet. If you plan alternatives in advance, you won’t have to give in as often. As everyone gets used to relying on screens less and less for daily entertainment, it gets easier all around.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

July 15th, 2014

Back To School Tech Style Giveaway

It’s hard to believe that summer’s almost over. My kids are horrified by the prospect, as it’s less than a month away for them. We start really early. Won’t be long before we get the lists of required supplies and find out who their teachers will be.

My youngest goes to kindergarten this year, so it’s a big year for us. I finally get all my kids in school! The other preschool parents were shocked that I’m so happy about it, but most of them were dealing with their oldest going to kindergarten, while I’ve been working from home with my kids for 12 years. The idea of having quiet time to get more work done is really, really appealing.

Of course, none of mine are even in high school yet, so back to school isn’t too difficult when it comes to shopping. Figure out who needs a new backpack or lunch bag, see if their school uniforms still fit, and get the required supplies from the lists the school sends home. The uniforms add up, but that’s the worst of it so far. Still, I think this giveaway is really appealing, and I’m happy to be participating.

BTS Giveaway

Welcome to the Back To School Tech Sweepstakes!

At Mom Powered Media, we believe in higher education and want to help our network readers get there. To help you do just that, we are giving one lucky reader a $500 Visa Gift Card and HP 14″ Chromebook PC. There will also be 20 second place winners to take home Back To School Prize Packages. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get BTS ready, tech-style!

Special thank you to our supporting co-host bloggers: Monica’s Rants, Raves & Reviews, The Jenny Evolution, Memoirs of a Clueless Woman, My Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Life, My Daylights, Barbara’s Beat, Saving You Dinero, Shaping Up To Be A Mom, Robyn’s View, Coupons and Freebies Mom, A Hen’s Nest, Budget Savvy Diva, Mutterings Of A Mindless Mommy, Your Sassy Self and Nest Full of New.

Open your sleek, next-generation HP Pavilion 14-Q020NR 14″ Chromebook PC to get online, fast. You can access your favorite websites and Google Chrome apps on the 14-inch diagonal HD display in seconds.

HP 14″ Chromebook PC features:

  • Intel Celeron 2955U Dual-Core processor 1.40GHz
  • 2GB DDR3 SDRAM system memory
  • 16GB solid state drive
  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wireless LAN
  • Intel HD GMA Graphics
  • Webcam
  • SD memory card reader
  • 1 x USB 2.0 port, 1 x USB 3.0 port, 1 x HDMI port, 1 x Acer converter port
  • 3-cell lithium polymer battery for up to 8.5 hours run time
  • 2.76 lbs, 0.8″ x 11.3″ x 8″
  • Genuine Google Chrome OS Software

BTS Packs

One grand prize winner will receive a $500 Visa Gift Card and HP 14″ Chromebook PC. Twenty additional winners will also receive a Back To School Prize Package.

Giveaway ends August 15th at 11:59pm, open to US and Canadian residents, ages 18+. Excludes Quebec. Only one entrant per household, per address. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Enter using the giveaway form below. Good luck!

Disclaimer: The participating bloggers were not compensated for this post. No purchase is necessary to enter. One entrant per household, per address. Void where prohibited by law. Winner(s) will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. The sponsor(s) will be responsible for product shipment to winner(s) of this sweepstakes. This event is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by, or associated with, Facebook and/or Twitter, Google, Pinterest. Contact [email protected] if you have any additional questions or comments.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

July 1st, 2014

Why “Easy” Is The Wrong Choice For Your Work At Home Search

Why "Easy" Is The Wrong Choice For Your Work At Home Search

One of the big questions I get sometimes is how to find “easy work at home jobs.” The appeal of an easy work at home job is quite clear – easier to deal with the kids, low stress, but still bringing some money in. The problem is that “easy” isn’t really a good criterion when looking for work, especially from home.

“Easy” Rarely Pays Well

Easy jobs of any sort rarely pay well at all. The more skill a job takes, the better the odds are that it will pay well.

If you want to try an easy job, try using a microtask site such as Amazon Turk. You won’t earn a lot of money doing most microtasks, but it is easy and flexible work. Fiverr can also be easy, depending on what you offer there, but making sure that you’re getting paid adequately for the time you spend on it isn’t always easy.

“Easy” Is Usually Dull

Usually when someone asks me about easy work at home jobs, they ask about data entry and such. That’s very repetitive work, generally not interesting at all. It’s very difficult to keep interested in a really boring job, which means it’s hard to work long enough to earn enough money with it.

“Easy” Is Vague

One person’s “easy” may not be so easy for someone else. What you find easy, someone else may find challenging. Asking for help finding “easy” work isn’t going to get you a very clear answer.

Sometimes that’s a good thing. If you find writing easy, blogging or freelance writing may appeal to you. Be prepared for writer’s block and other issues making your job more difficult… and most writing jobs still don’t pay all that well. There are writers who do quite well, but they’re in the minority.

“Easy” Often Leads To Scams

Many jobs that claim to be simple are in fact scams. There’s the classic mystery shopping scam where they offer you a cashier’s check to “shop” a particular bank – you keep a couple hundred for yourself, and wire the rest to the scammer. The problem is that the check is fake and now you’re on the hook for the money you sent them. Suddenly you’re in a mess that isn’t all that easy to deal with.

So What Should You Look For?

When you’re looking for a way to work at home, consider your skills and interests. Sure, you may want something really flexible, something easy, something you can do without paying for childcare, etc., but that shouldn’t necessarily be your first consideration. Find jobs that are a good match for your skills and interests first, then consider if they’re a match in other ways.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

June 23rd, 2014

10 Simple Reasons to Cook With Your Kids

10 Simple Reasons to Cook With Your Kids

Cooking is a great skill to teach your kids. It’s something that everyone should learn how to do, at least at a basic level. It’s not an easy lesson to give if your child is nervous about dealing with the heat of the stove or oven, but it’s important. The kids may test your patience as cooking dinner takes longer than usual and they make little mistakes and messes, but they will feel proud of what they’ve accomplished. Here are more reasons you should cook with your kids.

1. It’s time together.

Many families find it hard to make time to be together. School, activities, doing stuff with friends, work, it all adds up. Cooking together is time to talk, not just about what you’re making, but any other topic that comes up.

This is why I prefer to cook with just one of my kids at a time… that and the sheer truth about “too many cooks spoil the broth.” One on one time with any of my kids is a good thing.

2. It’s good for their self esteem.

Kids are really proud of what they’ve accomplished when they cook. They may even brag about it at school. My oldest became more interested in cooking when a group of her middle school aged friends started talking about what their favorites foods to make were. She enjoyed cooking well enough before that, but hadn’t really considered that my offers to teach her more might be worthwhile.

3. It teaches them to be comfortable with heat and kitchen tools.

My kids have all been on the nervous side about cooking due to the heat. As they’ve learned, they’ve discovered that it’s not that hard to work around, and the occasional injury isn’t that bad. My oldest was quite upset the first time she got a burn on her hand – nothing severe, but definitely painful that day – and was relieved when she realized how little discomfort there was the next day.

Cooking also helps them to be more comfortable with knives and other utensils. It takes a little work getting them comfortable, but it’s such a relief to no longer have to cut each child’s meat at mealtimes. Start them early with things that can be safely sliced with a butter knife so they learn technique while dealing with a knife that only rarely does serious damage (butter knives can still hurt someone who’s using them wrong!) and work up to sharper knives as they learn how to cut things better. Guide them through the differences as they cut tougher items.

4. Kids are more likely to eat what they cook.

Kids who have helped to cook a meal are more likely to eat that meal. They made it, after all! It’s not a guarantee, but it’s better odds.

5. Science and math!

Yes, I am that geeky mom who talks science and math with my kids when we cook. I point out that moisture evaporates from eggs when we cook them, and about the boiling point of water. I double or halve recipes when I can with the kids and make them do the math for the ingredients, then explain how cooking times may change. Nothing too pushy, but when I notice it, I explain it or have them try to explain. Chemical reactions are fun to explain too!

6. It encourages reading.

Not only do kids have to read while going through the recipe, you can encourage your kids to read through cookbooks and pick out recipes they want to try. Be prepared to say “no” a lot, however. Kids will always pick out some extravagant recipes. My son just went through a book on barbecuing, and picked out a bunch of recipes involving crab and lobster for the most part. On our budget, that’s not generally going to happen.

7. It’s a sensory experience.

Cooking food isn’t only about the taste at the dinner table. There are wonderful sights and smells, and changes in texture through the entire process. My youngest has something of an obsession with smells, and this makes cooking a real treat for her. She often wants to smell what I’m doing, even more than she wants to look at it.

8. Familiarity with real food.

Food from a box isn’t all wrong – most people resort to it at times, but it just doesn’t compare to freshly prepared food. Helping to prepare meals allows your children to see where their meals come from, and what it looked like at first. They may find some of it gross (how my kids hate the sight and feel of raw chicken!), but it becomes something they enjoy after it’s cooked.

9. Eventually they’ll be a real help in the kitchen.

Teaching your child any new skill means you have to slow things down to their pace. It’s not convenient at the moment to teach your child to cook, but the day will come when he or she will be able to cook a meal all alone, and you won’t have to help. You’ll probably have days where that will be really nice.

10. It’s a life skill.

Ever meet an adult who simply cannot cook? I have. It’s not that uncommon for college age kids to only be able to cook food in a microwave, and maybe spaghetti. Your kids will be glad to be able to prepare better food for themselves at a lower cost than they’d pay to eat out.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

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Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also participate in other affiliate programs.

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