Education

6 Ways To Save On Back To School Costs

6 Ways To Save On Back To School Costs
Image Credit: Unsplash

School fees, school uniforms, school bags, sporting gear, school books. stationery, laptops, lunches, and transport. These days, the cost of sending your kids back to school every year can really add up. But with a bit of planning and a little foresight, it is possible to make sure your kids have everything they need for the school year ahead and without breaking the bank in the process.

With that in mind, here are a few simple ideas to help you stay on top of the costs that are normally associated with sending your kids back to school. Here are 6 simple ways you can save on back to school costs.

1. Spread out the costs

One tip is to only buy their things as they need them. For example, only buy those uniform items that your child will need for the first term.

By putting off buying the warmer items they’ll need for the winter months until the season actually changes, you won’t be hit with a big upfront expense and will have time to save for what’s needed further down the track.

Similarly, don’t buy all of the stationery items on their lists at the same time. Find out from the school when they’ll need the various books and supplies and if some aren’t required until later in the year, wait until then to purchase them.

2. Buy second hand

There’s nothing wrong with buying second hand. Used items have often only been worn for one season or used for one term and the difference in price between new and used can be quite substantial. 

Most school uniform suppliers sell second-hand uniforms, as well as new and second-hand bookshops, often have second-hand curriculum-based school books and stationery at greatly reduced prices.

Second-hand laptops and tablets can also be purchased online for much less than new and some schools even have programs where you can purchase new computers through the school at discounted rates. You could also consider getting a low-interest personal loan and paying for your kids’ technology in easy installments.

3. Buy wisely

Rather than buying items when you need them, look out for sales and clearances throughout the year and try to buy the same items at discounted prices. Similarly, if you’re buying stationery supplies, big suppliers like Office Depot will often have rewards programs or coupons to take advantage of. 

And when you buy, look for value, Good quality school wear will last a lot longer than the cheap stuff, so look for sales where quality and value come together.   

4. Label everything

Over the course of the school year, the lost property office usually fills up with a wide range of items that kids have lost or misplaced. And if you struggled to be able to afford these items in the first place, you certainly can’t afford to be paying for them twice.

So label every single thing that belongs to your child, from their uniforms to their sporting gear and laptops. Using one of those permanent markers will help to ensure that if anything of theirs is lost, it will eventually find its way back to its owner.

5. Have a budget

The key to saving is to have a budget and stick to it. Work out at the beginning of the year what your kids are likely to need for school and then use the old envelope system to put a little money aside for each item every week.

Be sure to account for every likely expense and make sure you have a miscellaneous envelope to cover unexpected costs such as excursions or school camps. 

6. Ask for help

If you’re struggling to meet all your kids’ back to school expenses, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s lots of assistance available and it’s just a matter of knowing where to look:

  • Get help with transport costs: If your child catches the bus or the train to school every day, student concession cards are available in most states.
  • Get help from the government: Federal assistance is available through Services Australia for children’s education and health care. Each state government also offers financial assistance to help with education costs.
  • Get help from your school: if you’re struggling to meet school costs, talk to the principal, as most schools have financial assistance programs for families.

The cost of public primary school education has been estimated at around $23,000. A survey by the Australian Scholarships Group (ASG) also found that in urban areas you can expect to pay around $4,455 a year for public secondary education and up to $30,000 in a private school. That’s a lot of money for families to come up with, especially if there are several children to be educated.

It’s hard to do much about rising school fees, other than shopping around for the lowest. But it is possible to reduce the burden of back-to-school expenses and putting these 6 tips into practice will hopefully allow you to do just that.

Education, Tips and Tricks

4 Tips for Filing Taxes in 2021

In case you forgot, tax season is creeping up on us again. 2020 was a bizarre year for all of us, and your taxes this year might reflect that. Don’t get caught doing your taxes last minute! Here are 4 Tips for Filing Taxes in 2021.

  1. Get organized

Start a filing system for all of your documents. Keep all the transactions and receipts that can affect your tax return in 2021. It’s important to stay organized so that you don’t lose anything and you don’t forget items from months ago. Be aware that the last day for filing taxes in 2021 is April 15. 

  1. Figure out your bracket

To estimate how much in taxes you owe this year, you need to find out what tax bracket you belong to. The U.S. has a progressive tax system, and the rate at which you are taxed ranges from 10%- 37% of your annual income. This is not a flat rate because each individual tax bracket is taxed at the rate set for the bracket. The tax brackets are as follows:

  • 10% for incomes less than $9,875
  • 12% for incomes more than $9,875
  • 22% for incomes more than $40,125
  • 24% for incomes more than $85,525
  • 32% for incomes more than $163,300
  • 35% for incomes more than $207,350
  • 37% for incomes more than $518,400

Be aware of the fact that unemployment benefits are taxable income. 

  1. Learn about the deductions and credits you can apply for

A deduction is an expense that you’ve had during the year that you can subtract from your taxable income. A tax credit is an actual dollar-to-dollar reduction in your tax bill. Many of the same deductions and credits apply from last year. Some popular ones to be aware of include:

  • Child Tax Credit – If you have a child who you can claim as a dependant, you can get up to $2,000 per child. If you end up having $0 to pay in taxes this year, you can even get a credit of $1,400 from the IRS.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit – If you earned less than $56,844 last year, you might be eligible for the EITC, which can give you $538 to $6,660.
  • Business Expenses – Those who are self-employed can claim expenses on their tax return, ranging from rent, travel expenses, and office supplies.
  • Medical Deductions – If you’ve spent time in the hospital because of the pandemic or any other reason, you can deduct anything over 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
  • Charitable Deductions – The CARES Act allows you to deduct up to 100% of your adjustable gross income from your taxes.
  • Education – The American Opportunity Credit (AOC) allows you to deduct $2,500 from your taxes if you are in your first four years of college. If you are past that, you can deduct up to $2,000 as part of the Lifetime Learning Credit.
  • The stimulus check and the CARES Act Relief Fund count as a credit this year and not as a deduction from your taxes. 
  • The PPP loan acts as a deduction that you can use on any expenses paid from the loan from your taxable income.
  1. Retirement funds

There are generally two different retirement funds out there, the 401(k) and the IRA, and you should be aware of how they affect your taxes. Money put into a 401(k) won’t get taxed by the IRS. However, the IRA works a little differently depending on if you have a traditional or Roth IRA. With a traditional IRA, you don’t pay taxes on your deposits, but you pay taxes on your withdrawals. Roth IRAs are the opposite: you pay taxes on what you put in, but not on what you take out.

These tips should make filing your taxes this year just a little less difficult. If you need more tax help, remember to seek out a professional to avoid costly mistakes.

Education

What Are the Most Popular Memory Improvement Strategies?

What Are the Most Popular Memory Improvement Strategies?

Have you ever forgotten something before? Maybe you misplaced your house keys or forgot someone’s name. Some of us have struggled with recalling information at some points. Of course, the more we age, the more we become forgetful.  

Also, the biggest reason we forget is that we are not paying attention. Due to the emergence of a digital world, we rely more on external equipment such as a smartphone. It makes us easily distracted and we forget things more.

It is important to know the strategies to improve your memory since forgetfulness is human nature. Knowing these strategies will improve your cognitive abilities. But before we discuss them, let’s briefly explain how the memory works.

How Are Memories Processed?

Our brain is a marvel. It can store data and information worth a zillion terabytes and can recall them accurately. For many years, scientists wondered how the human memory functions but almost to no avail. 

In 2016, a new discovery was made. It showed that a certain protein in our brains ensures the formation and loss of memory. Yet, there is still so much that has not been discovered about how this works. What we know is that information processing can come in three (3) stages: encoding, decoding, and storage.

Encoding

This is the first stage of information processing. This is when information or events that you are experiencing are consciously encoded by your brain. This can be interpreted by sounds, smell, touch, and images. Semantic encoding is when you attach meanings to your sensory interpretation, and it is this encoding that ensures better retention.

Storage

The information encoded is stored in various parts of our brain, which contains nerve cells called neurons. These neurons are like a network that sends signals to themselves. They help memory storage and retrieval. Having a strong neural connection will enhance remembrance. 

Our memories can be long or short-termed. Short-term memories are short-lived. For instance, after a meal, your brain may choose to forget or recall this event. But memories that are long-term store for a long time like riding a bicycle or your first love. 

As we age, our memories weaken. This is because our brain loses some neurons that are important for information storage connections. You may want to click on https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/age-related-memory-loss.htm to learn more about how age can affect our memories.

Recalling

Retrieving a memory is the last stage of information processing. Having been stored, your brain can recall events or knowledge later on. Also, repeatedly remembering information can strengthen your neuron’s connection. It is important to note that the way information is encoded is not exactly how it will be recalled. 

Popular Memory Improvement Strategies That Can Help

Since we now know how memory works, let us look at the most popular memory improvement strategies that have been proven to be effective.

1. Meditation

Image result for What Are the Most Popular Memory Improvement Strategies

Meditation improves memories. Our brain stores information in a database called the working memory. New things learned are stored in this database till the brain decides to either do away with or store them. 

Since we use our working memories every day, we need to strengthen them. Meditation can make this possible by improving our concentration, which in turn, helps us recall things faster. It is counterintuitive because when meditating, our brain slows down the processing of information but improves the sharpness of recalling.

2. Eating Habits

“Watch what you eat and drink” is a popular improvement strategy. Research has shown that eating certain foods can enhance our memories. Berries are one of such; they contain flavonoids which are said to strengthen the brain neurons connections. Fish is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids which improve memory.

Since caffeine makes you alert when ingested, some studies have shown that it can improve your memory performance, but an overdose may be harmful. Also, sugar, in the form of glucose, can boost thinking abilities. Chocolate and nuts have antioxidants in them that improve concentration and enhance focus and recalling of knowledge. 

Overall, a healthy diet with the right vitamins and minerals will boost your health and memory. You may also want to click here to read more about this.

3. Sleeping

A good sleeping routine will improve your memory. It is when we are sleeping that information processing occurs. So, when we lack sleep, we can’t recall anything we have learned. Napping is enough to enhance the recalling of events. 

Sleeping after acquiring knowledge is not only important but also advisable to sleep before acquiring new knowledge. So, get a good night’s rest or nap before and after acquiring new knowledge. This will improve your ability to recall.

4. Exercises

Just as sleeping is important, so is exercise. The brain needs oxygen for proper functionality and blood flow. Therefore, it needs a healthy supply of this oxygen. Through exercise, we improve blood flow in our brain. 

Aerobic exercises like running can do this. When running, we trigger a protein known as Cathepsin B. This protein improves the growth of neurons and strengthens their connections with the hippocampus, which is relevant to information retention. 

Walking for hours after we learn something new can improve our memory. Whatever the case is, regular exercising can improve your cognitive abilities and perception.

5. Share Your Memory

As the saying goes, “the best way to recall something is when you teach it to someone else”. This is referred to as “the protégé effect”.  You will improve your memory retrieval as you prepare to pass the knowledge to others. 

And when you pass this information, you can improve your thinking and cognitive prowess. Also, the repetition of this information can enhance your brain to get familiar with this memory.

Conclusion

As more studies of memories are developing, we learn every day how we can retain the knowledge gained. There are many popular strategies that could help; it could be a good sleeping routine or healthy eating habits. Why don’t you try any of the popular proven memory improvement strategies above if you struggle to recall information?

Education, Toy Reviews

Montessori Toys That Will Grow With Your Child

Maria Montessori developed the Montessori educational philosophy in 1897. This philosophy emphasizes hands-on age-appropriate activities for your child to nurture their physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development.

And although this child-focused educational technique was meant for classroom settings,  it’s now possible to introduce it to your toddler or baby through play. And the best way to do this is by buying your little one a few Montessori-inspired toys.

Montessori Toys That Will Grow With Your Child
Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

What sets a Montessori toy apart from other toys?

You may be wondering what you need to look out for to know that a toy is Montessori friendly. Well, here are a few pointers that will help you know what to look out for when buying a Montessori toy.

  • Toys made from natural materials – Maria Montessori emphasized using natural classroom materials that a child can touch, explore, and connect with. Thus, toys made from natural materials such as ceramic, metal, cotton, wood, and wool are the best. These materials are also safe for your child, and their different textures help define your child’s senses.
  • Purpose-driven and realistic toys – The Montessori philosophy emphasizes the use of realistic toys that are purpose-driven. The toys should be a representation of something real. For instance, if you were to choose between a unicorn and a rhino figurine, you should go for the rhino figurine. Further, the toy should allow your child to engage in meaningful play.
  • Simple but engaging toys – Toys that are free of distractions are the best. Think toys with no bells, batteries, or whistles. The toy should be passive, encouraging your child to manipulate it to make a sound. They should also be simple but encourage your little one to explore and engage in self-directed creative play
  • Toys that hone a skill – Montessori toys should teach your little one a skill or build on one. This helps create a good foundation for advanced learning in your child’s later years. A good example is a shape puzzle that teaches your little one concentration or shape recognition.

Now that you know what to look for when buying Montessori toys let’s look at a few amazing Montessori-inspired toys you can get for your child.

Grabbing toy for babies who are starting to reach for things 

  1.  Manhattan toy Skwish natural rattle

This rattle and teether toy is perfect for your little one who is yearning for something to hold and touch. The toy is lightweight, making it ideal for tiny hands to grab, plus its unique shape makes it easy to reach. Besides, it produces a gentle rattling sound that allows your little one to explore sounds and understand cause and effect. 

The fact that it’s made from wood with a smooth and baby-safe water-based acrylic finish makes it safe for your little one who is teething. This is also a toy that won’t break when banged as it’s made from quality and durable wooden material.

Rattling roller for crawling babies

  1. PlanToys wooden rainbow baby roller with sound

Is your little one just starting to crawl? Then, it would be best if you got them a toy that encourages their gross motor skills. 

This wooden rainbow baby roller from PlanToys is perfect for tiny hands to pick up, plus it’s beautiful when it rolls, keeping your little one interested. 

Moreover, this toy has a rattling sound that ensures your baby doesn’t give up crawling even when the roller rolls away. The wood sound is soothing and not distractive. 

The rainbow colors further stimulate your baby’s sight, and since this product is made from quality chemical-free rubber wooden material, you can rest easy knowing it’s safe and it will serve many generations. 

A memory toy

  1. Montessori and Waldorf Inspired Sea Life Matching and Memory Game – 18 Piece Set

This matching sea life matching and memory game from Playskills Toys is perfect if you want to encourage your child to concentrate or focus on a task. 

This game also improves your child’s short-term memory and nurtures their creativity. Since this memory game is based on linking two related images, your child’s visual discrimination will also improve.

The 18 piece set of sea animal cards are made from non-toxic wood, so you don’t have to worry about your child getting sick after putting one or two cards in their mouth.

Letter writing toy

  1. Montessori Safari Animals 

These wooden safari animal figurines keep in line with the Montessori principle of giving your child lifelike playthings to spark their creativity and interest. 

With a realistic-looking lion or giraffe, you allow your child to experience what a real lion looks like before visiting the zoo. It also becomes easy to name all the animal body parts if you’re homeschooling. Besides, since your child is also supposed to match the figurines with similar-looking flashcards, they learn to concentrate, which improves their memory.

This sturdy set of safari animals and matching flashcards is made from natural wood with a non-toxic child-safe paint finish. It’s best suited for children who are age three and up.

Final thoughts

In closing, this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the Montessori toys available in the market. But these five toys and games are some of our highly recommended Montessori-friendly ones.  Besides, they are suitable for different age groups, making them ideal if you have children of different ages in your home. Get your child one of these toys, and we can bet they will fall in love with it.