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Pets are part of many children’s lives. Learn how to help them foster strong, healthy relationships.

 

Every parent knows the feeling: It all goes by so quickly. You’re newlyweds, then you’re the parents of small children. Turn around again and you’re empty-nesters. And then … grandparents.

My wife and I are grandparents now, and everyone who knows us knows we’re madly in love with our granddaughter. Give me five minutes and I’ll show her picture, followed by those of our beloved pets. There is nothing more important to me than being a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather — and, yes, a good veterinarian.

From the vantage point of seeing so many children grow up to have children of their own, I offer five things this veterinarian (father, grandfather and husband of more than 30 years) wants every parent to know about pets and children.

Your Pet Can Be Your Child’s Best Friend

Pets are nonjudgmental, loyal, loving and always excited to be with their people. Unlike classmates, friends or even, at times, family members, a pet will love your child unconditionally. Rich or poor, tall or short, under- or overweight, porcelain skin or pimples, smart or struggling in class, popular or pariah, athlete or academic: We all need unconditional love. Pets are also doggedly loyal; a pet will never leave your child because he’s tired or a better offer came along.

Pets Teach Responsibility

Animals need to be fed, watered, groomed, exercised and played with, and they need medical care and love. They’re not like the newest video game or toy that can be enjoyed for a while and then left to be forgotten on a shelf. Although you should never allow a pet to be cared for exclusively or primarily by a child, pets can help children understand how to nurture. Pets need care, constantly and consistently, and they teach children to give to others.

A Pet Can Teach Your Child About the Circle of Life

At each stage of life, a pet provides valuable lessons. For example, adopting a pet from a shelter is an opportunity to talk with your child about homelessness and a forever, loving home. A pet can also offer parents a way to talk with a child about death. For many of us, the loss of a pet is the first of many such losses we will all experience in our lives. A pet can teach your child that it’s important to love and just as important to grieve. A pet can also teach children that compassion needs to be extended beyond our own species.

Pets Provide Physical Contact

In our lives, we are not always sure when touch is acceptable and when it’s not. But not with our pets: They always love our touch, always welcome it. Anyone of any age can kiss a dog or cat and say “I love you!” and nobody thinks anything of it. We need touch, and “heavy petting” is always fine with our pets.

Pets Are Good for Our Health

Pets are life support systems. Pets don’t just make us feel good. They’re good for us. Being around pets in early childhood lessens the severity of allergies, asthma and eczema. Pets can blunt chronic pain; fight depression; lower cholesterol; decrease blood pressure; lower the risk of heart disease or stroke; improve survivability of a heart attack; help treat ADHD, anxiety and PTSD; detect seizures; help Parkinson’s patients; and even detect cancer. Adding a pet to your growing family is one way to protect your child’s health — and your own.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Dr. Marty Becker

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Juggling a new carpool schedule, unfamiliar teachers, and your child’s school jitters can make one over-whelming season. Avoid a mommy meltdown by staying organized and in control with these 10 must-have tools.

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Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Zoe Schaeffer

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You know what your budget is, and you may even be a champion at getting the best possible deal, so why is it still so easy to go wrong?

 

Today’s shoppers have more choices than ever before, from grocery store coupons they can download directly onto their store savings card accounts to apps that help them find even more bargains. But modern technology also makes it easier to spend — turning us into a nation of rabid consumers, always on the prowl for the next big score.

The cure for our nationwide shopping fever starts with identifying and conquering our personal spending habits. If we’re successful, we end up with more savings and less debt, which is a financial goal that’s short on pain and long on gain.

Here are seven of the most common shopping traps and tips on how to avoid them.

1. Shopping as hobby or sport

There’s nothing to do, or you’re on vacation or planning an afternoon with some good friends. You opt for shopping. Why is spending money such a rush? Financial expert and newsletter editor Galia Gichon says Americans shop for three main reasons: There’s a sale, they’re bored, or it’s a habit.

“Very rarely do they shop because they truly need something,” Gichon says, adding that many times, these same consumers haven’t done the math to determine whether they can even afford their purchases. Gichon recommends combatting the urge to plug shopping into your empty hours by creating a budget that puts aside a weekly amount for such expenses. “You can spend that money on anything you like, but keep to that amount,” she says. Once you’ve spent out your allowance, says Gichon, you’re done for the week.

Another strategy that’s both simple and effective: Remove the source of your guilty pleasure by tossing those sales circulars, staying out of the mall during lunch hours and leaving your credit cards at home. Your bottom line will thank you.

2. Cruising for deals online

True shopaholics don’t quit simply because they can’t get to the store. Instead, the digital age keeps bringing temptation to your doorstep — or desktop. Financial author and speaker Peter Bielagus says the problem with the information superhighway is it keeps finding new inroads to our wallets.

“Websites are getting smarter and smarter. Tracking software is monitoring your purchases, as well as what people like you purchase, and constantly offering suggestions,” Bielagus says. As a result, he says, temptation increases.

“It’s a bit like trying to stick to a diet while keeping a fridge full of sweets,” he says. Bielagus says that in addition to online consumer reward programs, websites now send alerts when they’re running sales, which prompt consumers to buy with a simple click. He suggests taking active steps to shut down alerts and recommends that those looking to make permanent hard-core changes to their habits even close some of their online accounts. “The hassle of reopening an account just to buy something can be enough to deter an impulse purchase,” he says.

3. Having to own the latest technology

If you’re the type of person who thinks nothing of standing in line half the night to be the first to buy a new gadget or software, then you’re stuck in one of the deadliest of spending traps: having to own the latest technology.

While there’s fundamentally nothing wrong with being into gadgets, staying up to date on your purchases can shred your budget and doesn’t really make sense over the long haul. “The longer you wait for new technology, the better,” says Bielagus.

Plus, says Bielagus, waiting before pouncing on the newest thing has advantages: Not only does the cost fall (for example, plasma televisions were pricier when they first came out), but the developers work out the kinks over time, and you get a better product.

4. Mistaking shortcuts for savings

This applies particularly to weekly purchases made at the grocery store. While it’s nice to have that salad already made and ready to drop into bowls, you can stretch your cash by purchasing ingredients that require a little elbow grease. “Food that has been ‘pre’ anything — chopped, cooked or marinated — is one of the most expensive ways to purchase (groceries),” says Ellie Kay, the author of “The 60-Minute Money Workout.”

Kay says a side-by-side comparison with “virgin” (uncut, uncooked) counterparts will show that you’re forking over lots of extra bucks in exchange for a little help in the kitchen. While that’s fine if your budget’s unlimited, most of us don’t have that luxury. Try going the more labor-intensive route for a change, and see how spending that extra 15 minutes in the kitchen can pay off.

As for bulk buying, do so only when the items are ones you know you will use before they expire. Bulk toilet paper for a household with multiple bathrooms and lots of family members might be a good investment, while a purchase of four dozen eggs may result in waste if you end up throwing some away.

5. Buying the brand

Sometimes it pays to buy brand names, and sometimes it doesn’t. The key is to know the difference. Kay says brand buying can torpedo a grocery budget, particularly when prices of staple products, such as milk, are climbing in double-digit increments.

“There are some exceptions, but brand-name buying is not always the best indicator of quality,” Kay says. She recommends buying generic at the grocery store and using common sense when it comes to other purchases, such as children’s clothes, especially when it comes to items you’ll hand down to your younger kids.

“We had four sons, and we could buy two pairs of cheap tennis shoes in six months or one pair of quality shoes for six months (until they outgrew them),” Kay says. She bought name brands when it came to her kids’ shoes because it made sense to buy a more durable product. But she buys generic fabric softener at the grocery store to save cash.

6. Getting clearance-sale fever

Even prudent shoppers seem to react differently to clearances, especially after Christmas. If you’ve ever found yourself the owner of matching 3-foot-tall wooden nutcrackers, you might be a victim of clearance-sale fever. The solution, says frugal shopper Sara Davis of Clayton, N.C., is to shop clearances only when you can match the clearance to your real needs.

Davis says she shops for necessities such as pillows and sheets during January white sales and picks up candles when they’re marked down for clearance, because these are items she would purchase anyway. “I don’t buy holiday decorations after the season because I don’t feel like storing the items,” she says. As for things she really wants, Davis stalks those items before making a purchase.

“I once waited two years to buy a pair of shoes I wanted just to make 100% sure they never went on clearance,” she says.

7. Taking couponing to the extreme

While reality television has turned couponing into a sport worthy of the Olympics, experts say improper coupon use can drain your finances, not help them.

“Good couponing is not buying something simply because you have a coupon; good couponing is buying something because it’s a good value,” says Kay. She says it’s a lure that can hurt your budget if it leads you to buy a brand that costs more or if you have to buy items in larger quantities, as in a coupon that requires the purchase of two items.

Davis avoids compulsive shopping by using coupons only for items she typically purchases — a good policy, according to Kay. To make the most of your coupons, sort and match them to your grocery list, then store sales circulars. Download store-generated coupons from the store’s website to add more coupons to the mix. Trade coupons with friends to maximize your savings — keep only the ones you’ll use, and pass along the coupons your friends will find handy. Finally, never assume anything is a bargain simply because you have a coupon for it.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article By: Carol Moore, Bankrate.com

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