Consumer Real Estate News


    • Tips From Teachers for Choosing Quality Child Care

      5 August 2021

      (Family Features) As families across the country get ready for back-to-school season, many are also preparing to return to in-person work, which means finding the right program to support their children’s ongoing learning and development. According to the “The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects” report, choosing a quality preschool helps children start elementary school prepared for success.

      Knowing what to look for when choosing the right child care provider for your family can be stressful. However, these insights from KinderCare teachers with 40-plus years of classroom experience and Teacher of the Year honorees can help remove some of the mystery.

      Make a list of what matters most
      Before beginning your search, take some time to think about specific wants and needs for your family and children, whether that’s kindergarten-readiness, social and emotional development or convenient location. Write down the things that matter most to your family and refer to that list when you’re speaking with potential providers and asking questions.

      Put yourself in your child’s shoes
      When you look around the classroom, be sure to look for child-sized furniture and age-appropriate books and toys within children’s reach. This can help inspire their natural curiosity, encourage independence and build confidence. It’s also important to know how play is incorporated, how it’s facilitated and to see purposeful opportunities for play in each classroom.

      “There should be areas set up with enhancements that incorporate toys, blocks, art materials and dramatic play,” said KinderCare Teacher of the Year Sara Fouriner. “Teachers should share how they’re fostering social and emotional skills, executive function, problem solving, language and regulation skills in children by offering clear examples and putting evidence of learning on full display.”

      Ensure safety and quality are priorities
      Health and safety took center stage in 2020 and remain top priorities for many families. Ask questions about each potential provider’s safety rules and practices in addition to their curriculum. It may also be beneficial to ask if their programs are accredited by a third-party agency, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Accreditation means the center’s program is held to high standards and exceeds basic requirements set by state licensing.

      “As a mother, grandmother and teacher, I believe families should look for a center that is clean and accredited,” said Dorothy Ellison, an early childhood teacher of 40 years. “Families should also inquire about child-to-teacher ratios, staff training and hiring practices, supervision, emergency prep, illness policies, communication and the quality of caregivers in each program.”

      Look for teachers who love what they do
      Great teachers have a natural ability to connect with every child in their care. If children love their teachers and school is a safe, happy place for them, there are typically few limitations on what they can learn.

      “High-quality education starts with open, caring teachers who understand the expectations of the age group they represent,” said Dana Davin, a KinderCare Teacher of the Year and center director. “A genuine welcome when children arrive, a clean and engaging classroom and a culture of inclusion all stem from great teachers who believe in what they do.”

      For more tips on choosing the right child care for your family, visit kindercare.com.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Pay Off Credit Card Balances Faster

      5 August 2021

      Credit card debt can strain your monthly budget and may keep you from achieving other goals, such as buying a house or a car. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by credit card bills and want to pay them off, here are some tips.

      Know Where You Stand
      Before you can tackle your debt, you need to know how much you owe and how much you’re being charged for interest. Gather your most recent credit card statements and make a list of the balance and interest rate for each card. That information will help you prioritize debt and make a plan.

      Figure Out Which Debt to Tackle First
      If you try to pay off all your credit card balances at the same time, you may feel overwhelmed and think your situation is hopeless. Instead, focus on paying off one credit card at a time. 

      Paying off the card with the highest interest rate first can save you a significant amount in the long run. Put as much money as possible toward that balance each month and make minimum payments on your other cards. Once you’ve paid off the highest balance, put money that was going to that card toward paying off your second-largest balance. 

      The “snowball” approach involves paying off the smallest balance while making minimum payments on other accounts, then moving on to the next-smallest balance. That strategy may not save you as much in interest as paying off your card with the highest interest rate first, but the snowball approach may be helpful because the psychological satisfaction of reducing a balance to zero can motivate you to keep going. 

      Look Into Balance Transfer Options
      Credit card companies often offer balance transfers with low or no interest for a specified period of time. Moving one or more balances to a different card with a lower interest rate may save you a substantial sum in interest charges. 

      Balance transfer offers carry a fee, which is usually a percentage of the balance moved to the new card. Calculate the balance transfer fee and compare that to the amount you can save in interest to figure out if transferring a balance makes financial sense.

      Tap Into Your Home Equity
      If you have enough equity, you may be able to use a home equity line of credit to pay off credit card debt. That can eliminate high interest charges, but it will reduce the amount of equity you have in your home. Also, it will switch your obligation from unsecured credit card debt to debt secured by your home. If you fall behind on your payments, you may risk foreclosure.

      Trim Your Budget
      Track every dollar you spend for at least a month, then ask yourself if there is anywhere you can cut back. Eliminating unnecessary expenses can free up funds that you can put toward credit card debt. Even paying a little bit extra each month can help you eliminate your credit card balances faster.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 4 Easy Side Jobs to Make Money Fast

      5 August 2021

      Whether you’re looking to save up for a vacation, pay off some of your outstanding debts or simply trying to build up your savings, a side job may be the answer. Finding the right side hustle, however, can be a job in itself. Of course, you want to find something you will enjoy in your off-hours, but more importantly, you need to choose something that can help kick-start your financial goals. Here are four ideas that can help you bring in the extra cash you need. 

      Bookkeeper
      If you have any prior bookkeeping experience, this can be a great way to make some extra money. As one of the more profitable and necessary gigs on the market, freelance bookkeepers can make up to $80 an hour. Also, because most businesses work with programs like Quickbooks, this is a low-cost startup for you to take on. You can even become a bookkeeper with little to no experience, but having an understanding of different programs, and a knack for numbers, can go a long way. 

      Pet, House or Babysitter
      A classic side gig, pet, home or babysitting can help you quickly rake in some extra dough. Maybe your neighbor is taking a business trip and needs a helping hand to feed their cats while they are away. Or, a close friend or family member is taking a business trip and needs a trustful eye to look over their home. No matter the reason, sitting of any kind is always needed, so put yourself out there and offer up your services. Experience dealing with young children, or a history of caring for pets, will help you land more jobs. And depending on where you are sitting—or who, say three kids under the age of 10— you can charge up to $30 per hour. 

      Virtual Assistant 
      With more virtual work out there than ever before, virtual assistants are becoming more popular and necessary. With even little to no training, you can pick up a virtual assistant job making $15-20 per hour. Certain skills, however, will be good to offer up to land this position. If you have experience in data entry, customer service, graphic design or even calendar management, you can help your clients reach their goals in no time. Be careful, though, as some clients may view you more as a personal assistant and overwhelm your workload, turning your side gig into a full-time job. 

      Freelance Writer or Designer
      If you have a way with words or you know your way around Photoshop, offer up your services to whoever needs them. Freelancing offers you an opportunity to pick and choose the jobs you want to do and know that you can do well. Also, freelancers mainly work from home, so you can take on jobs for companies all over the world. Just be sure you have a good internet connection and a solid setup with all of the right tools. Because you don’t need a degree to become a freelancer, keep a record of your work, as well as testimonials from satisfied clients, and before you know it, you will have a line of clients wanting to hire you!

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Sweet Ideas for Easy Back-to-School Breakfasts

      4 August 2021

      (Family Features) A healthy breakfast can give your student a boost that lasts all day long. Mornings tend to be rushed, but it’s still possible to prepare easy breakfasts that power little learners throughout the school day.

      Fresh fruit is a breakfast staple, and a nutritious option like watermelon is a sweet way to satisfy hunger (and thirst). As a refreshing ingredient or standalone treat, watermelon includes just 80 calories and no fat. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C (25%) and because it’s made of 92% water, it’s a flavorful way to encourage kids to start a busy day well hydrated.

      A bowl of watermelon cut into cubes, balls or fun shapes is a winning idea, but you can also think outside the rind with these ways to give watermelon a place at your breakfast table: 

      • Top a grain-based cereal like corn flakes or oatmeal with bite-size bits.
      • Make Watermelon Donuts for a grab-and-go delight, perfect on hectic mornings.
      • Freeze cubes overnight and use them in place of ice with your favorite smoothie ingredients.
      • Put a twist on a breakfast favorite with these Watermelon Oat Flour Waffles.
      • Add a layer of oat crumble to a bowl of watermelon balls for a savory, satisfying treat.

      Get in a school morning groove with more easy breakfast ideas at watermelon.org.

      Kid-Friendly Cuts
      It’s no secret that kids gravitate toward fun foods. Watermelon is a versatile fruit that offers plenty of serving options that let kids get hands-on and creative.

      Slices
      A classic watermelon slice may be basic, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeve. With the rind on, it’s an instant finger food with a built-in “handle.” Add a wooden stick for watermelon you can eat like a sucker or pop it in the freezer for a cool way to start the day.

      Cubes
      Simple and versatile cubes are a solution for banishing breakfast boredom. You can cube a melon and use them differently every day of the week by eating them on their own, mixing in a fruit salad, layering with other ingredients, blending in a smoothie and more.

      Sticks
      There’s nothing like a dipper to get kids’ attention. A watermelon stick offers a bit of rind to hold onto and a juicy strip of sweet melon that’s perfect for dunking in a cup of yogurt or fruit dip.
       
      Cutouts
      Cut watermelon into thin slices and use cookie cutters to create a treat that shows off creativity.

      Watermelon Oat Flour Waffles
      Yield: 8 waffles

      Waffles:
      1 cup old-fashioned or regular oats
      3/4 cup all-purpose flour
      1 tablespoon baking powder
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1 cup watermelon juice
      1/2 cup vegetable oil
      4 egg whites
      nonstick cooking spray

      Garnish:
      2 cups plain Greek yogurt
      3 cups watermelon, diced 1/2 inch
      fresh mint leaves
      powdered sugar (optional)
      honey (optional)

      Preheat Belgian or regular waffle iron.

      In a blender, process oat flakes into flour.

      In a bowl, mix oat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Mix in watermelon juice and oil.

      Whip egg whites into stiff peaks and fold into batter.

      Spray hot waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter into waffle iron and bake 3-4 minutes, or according to waffle iron instructions. Repeat with remaining batter.

      Garnish waffles with yogurt; watermelon cubes; mint sprigs; powdered sugar, if desired; and honey, if desired.

      Watermelon Donuts
      Servings: 1

      2 slices seedless watermelon, 1 1/2 inches thick
      2 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt
      1 pinch sugar
      vanilla, to taste
      9 slivered almonds

      Cut out donut shapes from watermelon slices.

      Sweeten Greek yogurt with sugar and vanilla, to taste, to create frosting.

      Frost half of watermelon donuts with half of frosting. Add a layer of remaining watermelon donuts and top with remaining frosting.

      Sprinkle toasted almonds over top and serve.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Eat Healthy When You're Busy

      4 August 2021

      Work, errands, chores and family duties can have you running from place to place, making it feel like you barely have time to breathe. When you’re busy, you may grab unhealthy snacks or eat out often. Consuming unhealthy foods can leave you feeling tired and run down and can lead to medical problems.

      Make Sure Healthy Foods are Available
      Not all processed foods are bad for you, but many are filled with sugar, fat and ingredients that you can’t pronounce. It’s important to read labels and look for the healthiest options.

      Preparing your own meals and snacks can be a better strategy because you’ll have complete control over what you’re eating and will be able to avoid unhealthy ingredients. If nutritious foods are always available, you won’t have an excuse to eat things that you know aren’t good for you.

      Meal Prep
      The thought of making a sandwich each morning before work or cooking dinner after a long workday can feel overwhelming. You don’t have to do those things to eat healthy. 

      Instead, you can prepare nutritious meals and snacks in large quantities so you have enough for several days, or even for an entire week. Simply make more than you ordinarily would, then pack up the leftovers in individual containers that you can store in the refrigerator or freezer until you need them. Meal prepping can save you a lot of time and help you avoid unplanned purchases from restaurants and convenience stores, which will save you money.

      Prepare Ingredients Ahead of Time
      Chopping vegetables can be time consuming and can lengthen the amount of time needed to prepare a meal. Instead of cutting vegetables every time you cook, set aside some time to cut them up all at once. It will save you time later and keep you from getting too stressed out. If you don’t have time to cut lots of veggies, you can pay a little more to buy ones that are already chopped. 

      You can prepare other ingredients, such as various types of protein, in advance. Then, when you’re pressed for time, you can combine them in a variety of ways to whip up a quick and nutritious meal.

      Choose Restaurant Meals Wisely
      There will be times when you decide to eat out with relatives, friends or colleagues. When you look at a menu, focus on healthy options with lots of vegetables and lean protein and minimal amounts of sugar and fat. 

      Restaurants often serve portions that are much too large for the average person to eat in one sitting. Split a meal with someone else or have half of your portion wrapped so you can take it home and eat it at another time.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.