February 22nd, 2018

Beating Stay at Home Mom Isolation

Beating Stay at Home Mom Isolation

It’s been one of those days. The kids are screaming. You were lucky to get a shower this morning – if you did at all. The laundry is piling up, as are the bills. You’re always surrounded by your beloved children, yet you’ve never felt so alone. Stay at home mom isolation has you in its grip. There has to be a way to beat this thing.

The feeling of isolation is often the price to be paid for the privilege of being a stay at home mom. It goes along with the loss of income and privacy. Many a stay at home mom quickly notices a feeling of isolation, not only when she first starts out at home, but also when circumstances cause her to lose touch with the outside world.

Isolation is painful. It doesn’t matter that you adore your children or that all the other stay at home moms you know are counting their blessings and seem to be having a blast. Sometimes the personal sacrifice of less time with other adults really stings.

It’s even harder when you run into people who tell you that you should just be grateful for the time you have with your children. You can be grateful for that yet still feel isolated. There is nothing that says those two things can only be felt separately. Being told to be grateful doesn’t solve the problem – it only makes the SAHM feel guilty for her own feelings.

You don’t have to feel completely alone. No matter how young your children are there are things you can do to get some time with other adults and beat those lonely feelings.

Run Errands

Something as simple as running errands can help. It’s not much time with other people, and you probably won’t have a real conversation with anyone other than the cashier as you check out, but it can relieve some of that isolated feeling.

Running errands won’t solve your isolation – it’s just not enough. It’s better than nothing, especially if you know when friends run errands. A lot of parents in my area, for example, run errands after dropping the kids at school. Chatting with the ones I encounter makes my errands take longer than necessary, but it’s so nice to talk to other adults!

Go Fun Places

If the children are old enough, heading to the park or to a museum can help with stay at home mom isolation. The park is particularly enjoyable if you can arrange for another mom to be there, ideally with kids for yours to play with. The children get exercise; you get time to talk with another grownup who knows what you’re dealing with.

You don’t have to take the kids along for all your fun outings if someone else can take care of them. Your spouse can handle them for a little if you want to go out on your own, maybe meet up with friends, or you can get a sitter so you can go out together. Time away from your kids really helps refresh you for later.

Join A Mom Group

There are also various moms groups you can sign up for if you don’t know any other stay at home moms in your area. Stay at home moms can be hard to spot, but you might be surprised at how many are in your area.

You can find groups online or form your own as you meet other stay at home moms. It can take some time to find a group that’s a good match, but it’s worth the effort.

Socialize Online

Going online really can help. Join a forum on a topic that interests you. Read blogs. Start one of your own. It’s all a chance to express yourself and at least virtually interact with people who share your interests.

There are mom groups all over the place online. You can probably find one with parents you’ll enjoy chatting with. Search for them on Facebook and BabyCenter (it’s not all about babies) for starters.

There will be drama in most groups from time to time. It happens. Friends disagree in person too, right? It may be a bit rougher in a large group with more people to argue, but it’s normal. Sometimes it will be bad enough that you decide to leave the group, or others will decide to leave. Other times you can agree to disagree and move on.

Volunteer

Find a place to volunteer, with or without the kids, depending on what’s available in your area.

My kids and I have volunteered at a local animal shelter for several years now. The employees and other regular volunteers all know us. While most of our time is spent with the animals, we get to chat a little with customers and the others who work there. It’s a lot of fun.

Work At Home

Starting a work at home job or a home business can help you feel less isolated. This can be challenging when the kids are tiny and need a lot of attention. Doing something super flexible is easiest, even if it doesn’t bring in as much money as it might otherwise.

This is why I like blogging. You can write when the kids are sleeping, playing peacefully, or when your spouse is around to be the main parent. Starting a blog is easy… making it profitable is more challenging. I consider it worthwhile.

Don’t Feel Bad About Feeling Isolated

Some stay at home moms will insist to you that they never feel isolated, as though you shouldn’t either. But if you ask them about it, you will find out that these are the moms who already have a good network of friends and family they can talk to and do things with regularly. They aren’t lonely because they don’t allow it to happen.

Don’t Feel Bad About Being Frustrated

We all have bad days. When the kids are acting up and making life difficult, any parent will get frustrated. Sometimes you just have one of those days where it all goes wrong.

As you get used to being a stay at home mom and develop friendships with people who can be there when you need someone other than a child to talk to, you can get control over stay at home mom isolation. It doesn’t have to be a problem forever.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

February 20th, 2018

Home Office Features To Include So That You Will Love Your Work Space

Home Office Features To Include So That You Will Love Your Work Space

A well set up home office makes working at home much easier. It gives you a space to work that is all your own, for those times when you have to be completely focused. While there’s something to be said for working in other parts of the house or even somewhere else entirely, there are times that you can’t beat your home office. These home office features will help make it a comfortable and productive place to work.

We won’t discuss your computer in this post. You should get a good computer for your home office, probably a laptop if you work elsewhere as well. There are other things, however, that you will only use in your home office.

Dual Monitors

If you’ve never used dual monitors, you might be amazed by how much they help your productivity. The ability to have more things open and visible while you work is a huge help.

If your home office computer is a laptop, its monitor may be one of your dual monitors. In my experience, it’s not as nice as having two monitors side by side, but it works much better than having only the laptop monitor to look at.

An Ergonomic Office Chair

An ergonomic office chair will make working in your home office so much nicer. It should be a chair that you are comfortable in even when you work for hours at a stretch.

Your office chair is one of those things you should splurge on if you can. It will pay you back with years of comfortable work. There’s a lot to be said for keeping back pain at a distance as much as possible. You have to sit properly in it for the best effects, of course.

home office ideas

A Large Enough Desk

Your desk needs to be large enough to handle the demands you put on it daily. Can it handle the papers you put on it? All of your equipment?

If your desk can’t handle your daily work routine without feeling cluttered, it’s not big enough. Sometimes that can’t be helped, but do what you can. If your home office is in a small space, there’s only a little you can do.

I strongly recommend getting a sit-stand desk so that you can change positions throughout the day. It’s so nice being able to do that. There are a number of units now that you put on your desk which can raise and lower your monitor and keyboard as you decide to change your position.

Fast Wireless Internet

Fast wireless internet is vital in your typical home office. What would you do without it? Make sure your router is fast enough to handle the demands you put on it as you work as well as what others in your home may need it for.

Fast wireless internet also means you can work elsewhere in your home if you have a laptop or tablet. There will be times that you want that, most likely.

Sufficient Storage

What do you need to keep in your home office? Where will it go? If you can’t keep it organized, your home office needs more storage.

Think about what will work best for your needs before buying anything. Are bookshelves enough, or do you need a file cabinet?

Take full advantage of the space you have, especially if it’s a small home office. Get creative with your storage space if you’re running out of room. Don’t forget any extra space under your desk, so long as you leave enough room for your comfort.

home office ideas

Decor That Makes You Smile

Your home office should feature decorations that make you happy to be in there. It’s your personal workspace – have a little fun with it. It’s a part of your home as well as the place you work.

Just how much fun depends on whether or not someone else will see it while talking to you in a professional manner. No one sees my home office, so I have dragons on my desk. If I had to present a more professional workspace, they wouldn’t be there.

Don’t let your home office decor get in the way of a productive workday. If it’s in your way while you work, find a better place for it.

Paint your home office if you can. Choose a color that will make you comfortable while you work. You want something that helps you feel productive. You can look at the psychology of colors to help you choose something, or just go with one you like.

Great Lighting

A pleasantly lit home office is a great place to work. Natural light is great (so long as the sun doesn’t get in your eyes), but it’s not always enough. Open your window blinds during the day in your home office and let the natural light in while it’s available.

For the rest of the day, have enough light fixtures to provide a good level of lighting. You may want a task light on your desk as well, depending on what you’re doing.

If you want to get fancy with your lighting, look into the Philips Hue. These light bulbs will allow you to adjust your lighting from your smartphone or other smart home devices such as Amazon Echo.

A Door

I know not everyone can have a home office with a door. But if you can manage it, I highly recommend one.

This doesn’t mean your home office has to be a completely dedicated space. Many families can’t manage that. A home office in a guest room or your bedroom still has a door, and when you need to be productive, you should close it. The ability to close out the noise of the rest of the house is not to be underrated.

Minimal Distractions

As much as possible, keep the distractions out of your home office. That’s a part of what the door is for, but don’t go adding other distractions in.

This means no television, including starting something up on one of your computer monitors. It’s fun to watch a show while you work, but you won’t be very productive at all while it’s on, will you? Be honest with yourself. Keep the TV out of your home office in whatever form.

Do what you can to keep pets and other kids out too. A part of that is having a door you can close, but also make plans for when they come into your home office.

I have a spot set up for my cat to nap in my home office, for example. This way she doesn’t try to get on my lap too often. She likes her little bed.

A Great View

Just because you shouldn’t have a lot of distractions in your home office doesn’t mean you should avoid having a great view from it. It does your eyes good to look away from the computer monitor from time to time throughout your day.

If you can’t set your desk up so that it’s easy to look out the window, hang some wall art in your home office. You need something to look at when your eyes need a break from your computer monitor.

A Bit Of Exercise Equipment

A little exercise equipment can help you keep in shape while you work at home. A quick fitness break can help your productivity. Some equipment will make you stop working entirely to use it, but other things can be used while you work.

Equipment can be as simple as some hand weights, or as fancy as a walking desk. You may also want to consider an under desk elliptical. Any of these will allow you to mix some basic exercises into your work day.

Home office exercise equipment isn’t something to break your budget on, but it’s so nice to have. Getting enough activity in each day becomes so much easier.

Slippers

I love keeping a pair of slippers in my home office, especially in winter. I don’t wear shoes much indoors, so slippers keep my feet warm while I work. Cold feet are very distracting.

Share Your Favorite Home Office Features

What home office features do you value the most? What would you love to have that you don’t yet? Share your ideas.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

February 19th, 2018

The Big List Of Remote Jobs With Benefits

The Big List Of Remote Jobs With Benefits

One of the big concerns many people have about working at home is whether or not they get employee benefits. So many work at home options don’t offer them. That’s because companies often hire work at home people as independent contractors or freelancers, rather than as employees. Fortunately, there are also a lot of companies that have remote jobs with benefits.

Not every position with a company on this list will have employee benefits. Part time positions may or may not have any, depending on the company. Your best bet for a remote job with benefits is a full time position. Your search for benefits will be much more difficult if you want to work part time. That’s true with outside the home jobs too.

Companies that allow regular employees to work at home will often include benefits such as health insurance, vacation, sick days, 401(k) and so forth. These companies have come to recognize the advantages of having employees who work at home. Some companies are entirely or almost entirely virtual, so the work at home employees aren’t the odd ones out in the company.

While I have done my best to be accurate with this list, you will need to review individual job postings and check with the company to see if the work at home job you are considering actually includes benefits.

Agencies

Temporary employment agencies and recruiting agencies will have much more than just work at home jobs available. Check with the agencies in your area to see who has remote positions available and whether they offer remote jobs with benefits to the employees they supply to other companies.

Adecco

Adecco is an employment agency, and some of their jobs are home based. Possible virtual positions include customer service and sales jobs. It’s not easy to find work at home jobs by searching their site, but I did see some locations.

Depending on the job, you may be able to get benefits from Adecco after you’ve been placed in a position. Some positions are direct hire, using Adecco to find employees, and then I would expect the benefits to depend on the employer.

CyberCoders

CyberCoders is a recruiting agency, and some of the positions can be done remotely. Benefits will depend on the company looking for employees, but many will have them available. The main focus of the site is on technology and IT, but there are also jobs in engineering, finance, and healthcare.

Companies With Multiple Work At Home Job Titles

You can’t put all companies into just one category with the kinds of jobs they offer. The possibilities are too broad. These companies offer a variety of remote jobs with benefits.

ADP

ADP (Automatic Data Processing, Inc.) offers a variety of jobs that can be done primarily from home. Many have location requirements and may require that you come into a local office at least once a week. Jobs that may allow you to work at home seem easy to find as the form allows you to select whether or not you work at a home office.

Many positions have to do with sales, instructional design, and project development. What’s available will vary tremendously, of course.

ADP offers a lot of perks, including medical insurance, life insurance, dental, 401(k), career development, tuition reimbursement and more.

Amazon

While Amazon is best known to have virtual customer service positions, they have other virtual location jobs as well. They have positions in many countries around the world. Pay attention to any location information they give you even if it says the location is virtual, as some are not home based.

Amazon jobs can be very demanding, but the benefits can be good. Eligible employees can get medical benefits, a 401(k), parental leave and more. These can vary by location.

Dell

Dell is, of course, best known for its computers. It has a wide variety of remote jobs available as well. Some are field based, not home based, so if you don’t want to do field work, keep that in mind as you search their job listings.

Dell hires in many countries, and so benefits may vary. They generally include health and wellness, time off, and retirement plans.

Xerox

Xerox has people who work at home in many areas, including customer care, tech support, data entry, quality control, software programming and more. Benefits include paid holidays, health care, retirement plans and more.

General Transcription Mini-Course: Transcription Foundations

Customer Service, Technical Support, And Sales

Customer service and sales job have been very popular with people who want to work at home. Employers can be very demanding about having no background noise audible on calls. On the other hand, many of these jobs are very flexible, which is why many work at home moms and dads seek them out. You might be surprised by how many offer remote jobs with benefits.

American Express

Most virtual positions at American Express are for customer service or travel counselor positions. They take calls 24/7 and may require you to have flexible availability. As of this writing, they don’t hire in California, Alaska or Hawaii.

Benefits for eligible employees may include health, dental and life coverage, paid family leave, 401(k), tuition reimbursement and more.

Apple

Most at home jobs with Apple are in the customer service and technical support area. They also hire team managers and area managers at home to supervise the at home advisors.

Even part time associate at Apple get benefits which include product discounts and paid time off.

Asurion

Asurion hires customer service representatives to work at home, and pays a premium for bilingual employees. You also get paid extra for working evenings and weekends. Performance bonuses may also be available.

Benefits include medical and dental. Tuition reimbursement may be available.

Convergys

Convergys hires customer service agents to work at home. Some positions require more sales or technical support knowledge, but all are expected to do basic customer service.

Benefits include medical, dental, vision, paid vacation, 401(k) and tuition reimbursement.

Enterprise Holdings

Enterprise Holdings includes Alamo, Enterprise, and National rent a car companies. They offer reservation sales and customer service positions that can be done from home. Pay attention to the location listed in work at home job listings – you will probably be required to live in that area to apply. Work authorization paperwork may need to be completed in person.

If you qualify for benefits, they may include medical, vision, and dental, life insurance, 401(k), flexible spending accounts, and more.

Sitel

Sitel work at home customer service jobs include benefits for full time employees. Benefits may include medical, dental, 401(k), vacation, and discounts from partner companies.

Support.com

Support.com is best known for its technical support offerings, but not all of their remote jobs are in technical support. They also hire for positions such as web developers or data engineers that can be done remotely. Benefits may include medical, vision and dental, 401(k), and paid time off.

SYKES Home

SYKES Home offers customer service work at home jobs with benefits, including vision, dental, and health. This may be good for entry level work at home job seekers, as they also list a customer service background as nice to have, but not required.

World Travel Holdings

If you want to sell cruise and resort vacations from home, this is the position for you. There may be occasional openings for a web developer or other positions as well. They offer health benefits and time off.

Education

Many remote education jobs require a little travel to go see your students. Others may be done entirely online.  But when you want to teach, how nice is it if it’s also a remote job with benefits.

Connections Academy

Connections Academy runs online charter schools in many states. Benefits may be available to full time employees and may vary by state.

K12

K12 runs online charter schools. They offer health, vision, and dental benefits, as well as a 401(k).

Western Governors University

WGU has positions for work from home instructors, evaluators and course mentors to work from home. There are some small benefits for part time employees, such as a 403(b) retirement savings plan and tuition discount. Further benefits, such as medical and dental, may be available to full time employees.

Financial

Many financial jobs can also be done from home. Not many are, so far, but there are a few companies that will let you do your job remotely.

AccountingDepartment.com

Hires people for accounting positions. Benefits include medical, dental and vision, as well as vacations and 401(k).

Intuit

Intuit offers work at home positions for customer service and tax support personnel. Bilingual positions are available. Some positions are seasonal, and may not offer benefits. Regular positions may also be available in human resources or marketing.

Health And Medical

You might be amazed by how many health and medical jobs can be done from home. It’s not just medical coding or medical transcription – telehealth positions allow some doctors and nurses to work at home as well. These medical remote jobs with benefits cover a wide range of possibilities, from medical coding to transcription to jobs for RNs, and more.

Acusis

Acusis hires experienced medical coders and medical transcriptionists. Note that positions may require a Windows 8 computer, as some clients are not compatible with Windows 10. Benefits are available to full time employees.

Aetna

Aetna offers quite a few work at home jobs in the health and medical fields. With a quick look, I found medical coding jobs, network manager, field case manager (significant time away from home), telephonic case manager, health coach consultant, medical director and more. Some positions will require that you visit client sites and may keep you in the field more than you are at home. Others are entirely at home. They make it easy to see if a job may offer a telework option by showing it off to the side when you search for jobs.

Aetna also hires application developers and web developers, and some of these positions may be done at home.

Most of their customer service positions are NOT work at home.

Benefits may vary by position and can include paid time off, life insurance, health coverage, dental, 401(k), tuition assistance, and more.

Altegra Health

Altegra Health hires various types of medical coders, and many positions are remote. They require at least two years of experience for many positions. Some positions may be seasonal or temporary, and so may not offer benefits.

Altegra Health offers medical, dental and vision plans, as well as a 401(k) to eligible employees.

Anthem

Anthem has work at home positions available for RNs as well as positions in business development, data analysis and more. Some positions require that you work in the office for a time before being allowed to transition to remote work.

Anthem offers health benefits, retirement benefits, tuition reimbursement and more to eligible employees.

Carenet

Carenet has work from home opportunities for RNs. Benefits include medical, dental and vision, as well as gym memberships and a 401(k).

Covance

Covance does clinical research, and some jobs can be done remotely. The availability of remote jobs varies significantly over time. If you want to be a part of this, you may need to keep an eye on their job listings. Career opportunities may be available around the world.

Benefits vary quite a bit by location, which is to be expected in a company that operates worldwide. They include health and wellness coverage, as well as matching eligible charitable donations.

HCA Healthcare

HCA runs various hospitals and surgery centers. Some jobs can be done from home, such as medical coding.

Benefits include medical, vision and dental, 401(k), and HCA has a partnership with Western Governors University to offer educational opportunities to affiliated employees.

Himagine Solutions

Himagine Solutions hires medical coders for a variety of specialties, such as inpatient, outpatient, HCC, emergency, and others. Positions typically require a RHIA, RHIT and /or CCS as well as at least three years of experience. Remote workers must have remote experience. Some positions may be full time and include benefits.

Humana

Humana makes it easy to find their work at home/virtual positions with a checkbox in their search form. Some positions require travel. There are a wide range of openings you can consider.

They offer medical, dental, vision, and supplemental health coverage, as well as a 401(k) and tuition assistance.

Lexicode

Lexicode is a medical coding service. It’s a part of Excela. To find remote positions, go to their careers page, and select the remote option for State and City.

They offer full time employees the usual health benefits, and also offer reimbursement for continuing education, and a 401(k).

Parexel

Parexel offers various home based positions, mostly in the US and UK, but sometimes in other countries as well. These can include titles such as Medical Director, Clinical Operations Leader, Medical Writer, and more. Reviews posted on Indeed and Glassdoor say the benefits are good.

Insurance

Most insurance remote jobs will require some field time, but others can be done completely from home.

Erie Insurance

While some jobs with the company can be done from home, many will involve fieldwork. A company car may be included if this is the case. Jobs that might have work at home options available include adjusters of various sorts and claims specialists. They say about 40% of their employees take advantage of flexible work and telecommuting arrangements.

Benefits include health, dental, and vision, wellness programs, adoption assistance, 401(k), life insurance, and identity theft protection.

Holmes Murphy

Hires workers compensation claims specialists for telecommuting positions in certain states. Benefits are not described clearly on their site but are offered.

Marketing

Marketing is a great job to do from home, so long as you’re comfortable chatting with your coworkers online.

Acceleration Partners

This is a great company if you’re interested in helping companies with their affiliate marketing. You must live within driving distance of Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, or Santa Barbara/Los Angeles. Benefits including medical and dental, 401k, paid time off, tuition reimbursement and more may be available.

Internet, Software, And Technology

Many internet, software, and technology companies now offer remote jobs. It makes a lot of sense for them, as there are so many tools making it easier to collaborate with coworkers online, no matter where they are.

10up

10up is a fully remote company that creates websites and tools for content creators. Their teams are distributed, able to work from their own home offices with flexible schedules. Benefits may include health, dental and life insurance, paid time off, professional development stipend, and 401(k).

Articulate

Articulate is a company that develops ways to make training easier. The company is fully remote and gives employees a lot of flexibility in how they get their work done. Benefits include healthcare including medical, dental and vision, flexible paid time off, a 401(k), a wellness benefit, and supplemental insurance.

Automattic

The folks that bring us great software such as WordPress also hires people to work remotely. You start out as a contract employee, but if you’re a match, it goes to full time.

Benefits include an open vacation policy, home office allowance, books and conferences, parental leave, health, vision, dental, and more.

Chef.io

Remote job titles with Chef.io may include Inside Sales Representative, Customer Architect, Business Systems Software Developer and Customer Success Manager. Jobs may include benefits such as unlimited time off, medical and dental, and paid family leave.

GitHub

GitHub is a place for companies to securely develop software. Remote positions for developers, technical support, and so forth may be available. Benefits include health, vision, dental, and family leave.

TTEC@Home

TTEC@Home offers customer support positions from home, as well as project management, designer positions, and other developer positions. Not all positions appear to offer benefits, but if they are available, may include 401(k), tuition reimbursement, and health and wellness programs.

Wombat Security Technologies

Hires software developers and possibly other positions to work at home. They offer a full benefits package.

Are There More Remote Jobs With Benefits?

Of course there are!

This is far from a comprehensive listing of remote jobs with benefits. Many companies don’t hire remote employees consistently enough for me to list them here. Others do, but their benefit offerings weren’t all that clear. Keep searching the listings on my remote job board for more places to look for work at home jobs.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

February 15th, 2018

When Can You Let Your Kids Stay Home Alone?

When Can You Let Your Kids Stay Home Alone?

Letting kids stay home alone for the first time is a big deal. It’s a mark of maturity and parental trust. The hard part for the parents is deciding when it’s appropriate and for how long. Your idea of when to let your kids stay home alone may not match what they want.

But it isn’t all about what you think, or even what an individual child thinks. You have to consider a few things before you can let your kids stay home alone, for their safety and protection.

State Law

The laws on when kids can stay home alone vary from state to state, but most states decline to give an actual age requirement. Many give recommended ages, which can range from age 8 to 14. Considering that most places kids can start babysitting at age 12, I consider older than that to be overly strict on the state’s part. That’s something you have to consider when you’re making this decision.

A part of the rules effective in your state will depend on how safe the situation is. Being home alone for a while during the day is very different from being home alone all night.

Contacting CPS is an option if you aren’t certain about the rules in your area. Some of you will think this is a great idea. Some will consider it terrible. They may or may not give you good information. Sometimes you’ll get someone with very different ideas of what is safe versus what the law says. You don’t have to talk to them about it if you don’t want to. If other parents in your area have had problems, it may be a good idea. Facing legal issues over what you considered to be a good parenting decision would be hard.

Where Do You Live?

In asking where you live in this case, I don’t mean which state. We’ve looked at state laws already.

What we’re looking at here is the kind of neighborhood you live in. Do you feel safe letting your kids be home alone in your neighborhood?

There are neighborhoods where it’s a higher risk to have your kids home alone there than it would be elsewhere. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your kids home alone due to your neighborhood. You have to consider it, but it’s not something you can easily change. It’s not like “move” is a realistic answer for most families.

Maturity of Your Child

The simple truth of the matter is that some kids are ready to stay home alone sooner than others. You know your children best. You can decide when they’re ready to stay home alone for short periods and when you can be gone longer.

Your kids may be ready to stay home alone when you’re confident that your child won’t break too many of the rules you set for when you’re gone, such as having friends over, answering the door, cooking, and so forth. They should also know how to deal with minor problems and what to do in case of an emergency. They should know how to reach you at need. Cell phones are wonderful in this regard, as it makes it much easier for a child to reach a parent who is out and about.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if the kids don’t follow all the rules you set every time. Do you really think they’ll be perfect about screen time limits when you’re not around? Keep them reasonable. If your kids are like mine, you’ll come home to kids rushing to get assigned chores done. It’s normal. So long as the rules aren’t broken too badly, it’s rarely a big deal. But if the infraction is serious, deal with it appropriately.

Most of these rules should loosen up as your kids get older. They’re going to move out someday, and you want them comfortable doing normal adult things by then.

My son, for example, is about to have his first day alone without even siblings home. It’s his choice. I have to be an appraiser for his younger sister’s Destination Imagination tournament, and my husband has to be there with her. My oldest daughter has an archery tournament. I gave my middle child the choice of which to attend or to stay home, and home is what he chose. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. We’ll all be gone a significant chunk of the day. He knows he can call us if he needs help, and he has the phone numbers of various friends he could call if he needed an adult sooner than we could get back.

Siblings

A child with older siblings able to watch him or her can stay home without a parent younger than one without older siblings present. A child who has to watch younger siblings will need to be older before being allowed to watch them without parents home. Taking care of yourself and siblings is a much bigger deal than taking care of yourself.

I think about how old I was when I started babysitting, which included watching actual babies. I was 12.

That’s probably a pretty good age, state laws permitting, so long as your older kids are familiar with what the younger needs. They should also be fairly patient with the younger.

How Long?

How long are you going to leave your kids alone matters too. You can trust kids while you run a quick errand younger than you might trust them to be alone for a few hours.

For example, I’m willing to let my youngest stay home for a short time while I pick up her older siblings from school. Longer than that she’s not ready for.

They should also be a bit older if food preparation is required. Snacks may not be so difficult to deal with once rules are agreed upon. If a meal needs to be prepared, there’s more responsibility required of your child. This is true even if it’s just popping something in the microwave. It’s all too easy for an accidental burn to happen while taking food out of the microwave. Your child should know how to handle that without panicking.

Can Someone Come Help If Needed?

It’s a huge help if your kids know which neighbors or nearby family friends they can call upon at need. Most times, no one will be needed. On rare occasions, things happen. They need a trusted adult faster than you can come home. Plan for it so it’s not a bigger problem than it has to be.

Don’t make letting your kids stay home alone be a burden on neighbors or friends. If your kids need help from them often, they’re too young to be alone.

How Will They Contact You?

Make sure your kids know how to contact you in an emergency, even if it will take you a while to get home.

Most times, this is easy. Most of us have cell phones. If you don’t have a landline phone in your home, make sure your kids still have a way to contact you, of course.

There is an extra challenge if you’re somewhere that you cannot use your cell phone. Some jobs won’t let you carry one, for example. It’s rude, of course, to have your phone ringing at the movie theater or at a performance. Other times, there isn’t cell coverage where you’re going.

At these times, you need to have a backup plan for your kids. If they can’t reach you, who should they call?

What Options Do You Have?

Sometimes you aren’t entirely happy about leaving your child home alone, but you don’t have other options. If your child isn’t ready to be home alone, you will need to find a way to deal with that. You may need to talk to a family member, friend or neighbor about helping you out, or hire a babysitter. Sometimes you can arrange a playdate with one of your child’s friends when you need to get out without your child. If leaving your child alone isn’t the right choice, you have to pick an alternative and make it work.

When it comes right down to it, guidelines or no guidelines, and even state law, you know best when your child is ready to stay home alone and for how long. If you don’t feel your child is ready when the law or guidelines say they can do it, you don’t have to push the matter.

Allowing your kids to stay home alone is an important step in developing their independence. Keep the rules reasonable and they’ll have a lot of fun.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

February 14th, 2018

Watch Out: Tax Refund Spending Mistakes Many People Make

Watch Out: Tax Refund Spending Mistakes Many People Make

People are getting their tax refunds at this time of year, and are ready to spend them. A lot of people, however, don’t spend them wisely. Suddenly you have a chunk of money right there, ready to be spent. It’s easy to use that unwisely. These are some of the tax refund spending mistakes many people make, along with some suggestions for smarter choices.

These situations aren’t true for all families, of course. Something that’s a mistake for one is just fine for another. But all too often, there’s a smarter choice available. The tighter your finances are for the rest of the year, the more careful you should be when spending your tax refund.

Major Tax Refund Spending Mistakes

Most times, it’s a mistake to spend your tax refund on these things. Not always, of course, but if you want to do this, make sure you know why you’re spending your money this way and be sure there isn’t something smarter you should spend your tax refund on.

That New TV

Getting a new TV, smartphone, or whatever gadget you’ve been eyeing is often a tax refund spending mistake. Sure, they’re nice to have, but how much do you really need it? Why couldn’t you afford it before?

If you’re spending your tax refund on something like a TV, think about why you’re spending it that way. If it’s just “I have the money now” and not “That’s how the timing worked, and the old one is about dead,” you may need to rethink things. You’re smartest to buy such things when they really need to be replaced, not just because a chunk of money came in.

If you couldn’t afford it without the tax refund, is it really affordable with it? Maybe there’s a better way to spend your money.

Other Splurges

It’s easy to want to splurge when you get extra money in your account. I get that. But it’s not a good idea to spend your entire refund on stuff that won’t last.

Whether it’s a new wardrobe or a nice vacation, really think about why you’re spending your refund that way. Be sure your priorities are straight. There are good reasons to spend your refund on things like vacations (you can’t beat the memories!), but not all reasons are good.

The Wrong Down Payment

There are times when it’s the right move to spend your tax refund as a down payment on something, such as a new or newer car. Other times it’s a huge mistake.

Don’t use your tax refund as a down payment on something you will struggle to make the monthly payments on. Just because you have enough money for the down payment doesn’t mean you can afford the thing the rest of the year. Keep it sensible so that you don’t add to your money troubles after the tax money is gone.

Gambling

Some people can’t resist gambling when they have some extra money. It’s that dream of hitting it big, and you have a system, right?

Casinos look as amazing as they do because people lose a lot of money there. Odds are that you’ll be one of them.

If you really want to gamble, only use a small part of the money for that. Don’t risk your entire tax refund. If you have a good day gambling, you have some extra money. If the odds aren’t in your favor, you’ve only lost that part of the money, and still have the rest to spend more carefully.

money twist

What Should I Spend My Tax Refund On?

The right choice for what to spend your tax refund on depends on your situation. If any of these apply to you, however, they’re probably a good choice.

If you’re getting a huge refund every year, odds are that you should adjust your withholdings. Remember, this is money you put in. If you change your withholding, you’ll have a little more money each month, rather than having it sit around until you file your taxes. You can put that money to better use if you get it as a part of your regular paycheck.

Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is expensive. If you get a big tax refund, spend it paying down that credit card debt. It’s so hard to get out from under it that the boost should help you quite a bit. Getting rid of credit card debt is usually a wonderful idea. Considering how high credit card interest can be, there are few things that can beat paying it off for financial benefits.

Household Repairs

Are there any repairs around the house that you’ve been delaying on because of money? Spending your tax refund getting your house into better shape is probably a good idea.

You might look into better insulation for your home, new windows, a new roof, new carpeting or flooring, or planning a remodel of your bathroom, just for some starter ideas. Depending on the size of your tax refund, it may not pay for the entire amount, but if you can afford to make these changes with your tax refund money, this is a great time for it.

You may even be able to consider getting solar power if there are good deals on it in your area and your electric bill is high enough for it to be worthwhile. In my area, solar companies try to get the monthly cost to less than what you’re paying for electricity, so this could be a good deal regardless of the size of your tax refund.

Start An Emergency Fund

How prepared are you financially for an emergency? Do you have a few months’ income saved up? If not, spend your tax refund by starting an emergency fund for your family.

This is money you try hard not to touch, even though it’s fairly accessible. Keep it separate from your regular spending money, at least in terms of how you track things. This way you don’t have to touch the credit cards if you need a major car repair, a pet gives you a huge vet bill, you need a new refrigerator, and so forth. An emergency fund will cut down on the stress of these events.

Try for a high yield savings account for your emergency fund if you can. This should keep it accessible for emergencies, but still let it earn a bit of interest.

Invest

How does your retirement portfolio look? Have you been good about contributing to a Roth IRA or other retirement account?

If you have room to contribute, this is a wonderful use of your tax refund that will pay itself back when you retire. Most people don’t have enough money saved up for retirement. You can give yourself a boost by adding an appropriate amount of money into your retirement account. This is especially important for stay at home moms and dads who often struggle to contribute to a retirement account.

If you can’t contribute more to a retirement account, how about a regular investment account? It won’t have the tax advantages of an IRA, but it’s still a good way to make your money work for you.

A Sensible Vacation

Taking a vacation can make a lot of sense, even though they can be expensive. You can’t beat some of the experiences you can have while on vacation.

You need to keep it sensible, however. Don’t take a vacation that is far beyond your means. The money you spend on vacation, even if it comes entirely out of your tax refund, should make sense in light of your overall financial situation.

Improve Your Career Or Business

Have you been waiting for the money to improve your business or career? This is a great thing to spend your tax refund on because it should pay you back.

What would you like to learn that would help you to earn more money? Now is the time to take action and do it. You could learn to be a virtual assistant and start a whole new business from home, for example. You could learn a skill that would make it easier for your employer to promote you.

Whatever you choose, be sure that it’s a wise choice. Don’t fall for a scam.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: 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 review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.