MONEY deals

2 Amazingly Simple Tips for Cheap and Lazy Back to School Shoppers

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Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Parents grasp the idea that only suckers pay full price.

Over the past decade, the amount of money parents spend during back-to-school shopping season has increased a hefty 42%, according to National Retail Federation data. But this year, parents seem to have hit their limit.

The average household with school-age kids expects to spend $630 during back-to-school season, down from $669 a year ago. Probably the most common way to save is by shopping strategically and snatching up good deals as they arise. Retailers like Office Depot, Staples, and Walmart roll out new promotions and discounts once a week, if not more frequently, and loss-leader deals like notebooks for 25¢ or even 1¢, potentially saving big bucks for families. Sales tax holidays offered around the country in July and August shave a few percent off the household back-to-school budget as well.

Here are two increasingly popular back-to-school saving strategies that require even less—perhaps no—effort on the behalf of parents.

Procrastinate. The number of parents who wait until after the school year has started to complete back-to-school shopping roundups is on the rise, and for good reason. According to a Deloitte survey, 31% of parents plan on doing some or all of their back-to-school shopping once their kids are already back in school. That represents a 5% increase over 2014.

To some extent, the increase appears to be part of a general trend of procrastination, laziness, and/or refusing to admit that summer is coming to a close. The National Retail Federation similarly noted a rise in parents saying they’ll shop at the last minute (one to two weeks before school), from 25% last year to over 30% this year.

But consciously or not, there’s some strategy behind the refusal to buy in advance: By doing so, not only do parents get to skip out on the chore of browsing weekly brochures and trying to figure out when to buy protractors, glue, and whatnot, but they also get to benefit from broad clearance sales. Around the time Labor Day hits, after all, retailers resort to deep discounting to empty the aisles of back-to-school items and make way for Halloween and (groan) Christmas merchandise.

Do nothing whatsoever. This “tactic” is even easier than procrastinating and buying everything on discount in one fell swoop after school starts. This approach—essentially doing zilch and getting by with what you already have on hand—is being embraced by more parents as well.

According to the same Deloitte research, since 2011 there has been a 13% increase in parents adopting the anti-consumer strategy: “Our household will reuse last year’s school items rather than buying new.”

Again, going this way yields the dual reward of a) requiring minimal effort; and b) saving money. It also plain makes a lot of sense, especially in light of the data noting that families have been spending more and more on back-to-school items—so, in theory at least, households should have quite a backlog of products to use, or reuse as it were. American households are generally pretty cluttered with stuff as well, and somewhere in the mix parents know there are probably more than enough perfectly good supplies and clothes for their kids to start the school year.

TIME Television

Brienne is the Name of 4 Girls Born in the U.K. in 2014

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in 'Game of Thrones'
Helen Sloan—HBO

Khaleesi and Arya are more popular

Brienne is the U.K.’s newest entry to Game of Thrones-inspired baby names for females in 2014, according to data from the U.K. Office for National Statistics.

Last year, four girls were named Brienne, after Brienne of Tarth from the cult HBO television program. The Starks are the most popular Game of Thrones girls names: with 244 named Arya and 6 girls named Sansa.

The data also revealed that 53 girls were named Khaleesi –the royal title Daenerys Targaryen takes when she marries Khal Drogo. Nine girls were named Daenerys in 2014.

MONEY retirement planning

When It’s Time to Cut Financial Support to Your Parents or Adult Kids

A new study finds many households are risking their retirements by spending thousands of dollars to help out other other family members.

Family financial ties grew strong during the Great Recession, and by many measures the bond holds fast. Yet the level of support that working households offer aging parents and adult children may be setting back the retirement plans of millions.

During the depths of the financial crisis in 2009, MONEY reported on the changing nature of family values. Expensive vacations, shopping for sport and big new houses were out; relationships, time together and sharing was in. These shifting values were borne of necessity for many, and it was not clear how long the new values would stick.

But while spending has rebounded, surveys in the years since have confirmed that family financial ties remain strong. A quarter of boomers and a fifth of Gen X and Millennials currently support family members, according to a new survey from TD Ameritrade. This support averages $12,000 a year and comes on top of caregiving chores, which one third of financial supporters also provide.

Read Next: Millennial’s Guide to Moving Out of Your Parent’s House

On average, mothers receive the most support, $13,000 a year while fathers received $8,500 and adult children get $10,000, the survey found. For the most part, this support is offered unconditionally—64% of financial supporters say they are “very glad” to offer help to a parent and 53% feel the same about supporting an adult child.

Financial supporters would offer more if needed. One in three would delay retirement to help an adult child and 69% say they will stay with it until their child finds a decent job. Yet if push came to shove, and there was not enough money to support both, an aging parent would win out over an adult child, the survey found. Financial supporters are twice as likely to say it is more acceptable to support a parent than an adult child and, if forced to choose, four times more likely to support a parent.

Most say their support is not causing hardship. Only 22% say they are digging into savings while 30% say are making modest lifestyle sacrifices. But they may be doing more damage to their own financial security than they know. On average, financial supporters have a $22,000 balance on their credit cards and $75,000 in outstanding mortgage debt. A third say they have already delayed retirement and half say if they had to retire unexpectedly they could no longer offer the same level of financial support. Only one in five has discussed any of this with an adviser.

Read Next: How to Avoid Paying for Your Kids Forever

Generous financial support can be its own reward, drawing families closer in times of need. But the long-term impact may be difficult to see. Many who plan to work longer may not be able to. Nearly half of retirees left the workforce unexpectedly because of disabilities, other health issues or problems at work, an EBRI survey found. So what seems like an easy fix is anything but certain.

Cutting support for a loved one is not easy or fun. But it may be easiest with adult children because they have a lifetime to recover from college loans or a slow start in their career. With parents, cutting support may be in order if you examine where the money is going and see that not all of it is well spent.

In the end, any support decisions should be made with your own financial security in mind, and that means looking ahead to what you expect from your retirement and whether you have a cushion against unexpected developments like a job loss or health issues.

Read next: How to Avoid Paying for Your Kids Forever

TIME safety

FOMO Is Making Teens Terrible Drivers

The pressure to be "always on" is leading young people to take their eyes off the road

A frightening amount of drivers will fess up to texting while driving. One recent survey found that 70% of people will admit to using their smartphones at the wheel. Now a new study goes beyond bad behaviors to investigate the motivations behind them. When it comes to teen drivers at least, it appears the culprit is an ascendant cultural plague: FOMO.

FOMO, an acronym for fear of missing out, is not just another cloying bit of slang, report Liberty Mutual Insurance and the non-profit SADD, an acronym for Students Against Destructive Decisions. In their study of 1,622 high school juniors and seniors around the country, teen drivers said they feel pressure to respond immediately to texts even while driving and that they can’t help but peek at their phones when notifications pop up in their apps. The expectations of their “always on” lifestyles, the researchers say, have “potentially deadly consequences.”

“Today’s hyper-connected teens … may be more plugged into their devices than the actual driving task,” says William Horrey, principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, in a statement. Teens may struggle to attend to everything they should on the road even without a smartphone, he says, because they are less experienced drivers. Once a device is thrown into the mix, messages and updates and videos and tweets become additional competitors for their attention, along with the radio, the climate controls or the hundred things happening outside the car.

In the study released Tuesday, more than half of teens said they text while driving in order to keep their parents updated and about one-fifth of them said they believe their parents expect a response within a single minute, even when they are at the wheel. (For their part, nearly 60% of 1,000 parents also surveyed for the study said they do not have a set expectation for response times.) About half of teens said they text more when they’re in the car alone than when others are in the car with them. The most popular apps they said they used while driving break down as follows:

  • Snapchat: 38%
  • Instagram: 20%
  • Twitter: 17%
  • Facebook: 12%
  • YouTube: 12%

The list highlights that, like older drivers, teenagers aren’t just texting while driving. They’re watching videos and taking selfies.

The feeling that they must like an Instagram photo or reply to a Facebook comment the moment it’s posted not only makes teenagers distracted, the researchers say, but may contribute to their general fatigue. In their survey, 58% of teens said they had either fallen asleep or nearly fallen asleep at the wheel, and about half of them said they get only three to six hours of sleep per night during the week, often because they’re up staring into their smartphone screens. The effects of driving while sleepy, the researchers point out, are similar to those of driving under the influence; 24 hours without sleep can be the equivalent of three cocktails.

SADD was founded to stop young people from drinking and driving but has expanded its mission to combat an array of things that undermine young people’s health and safety. Their experts suggest parents act on data like this by talking to their kids, making it clear that it’s fine not to respond while they’re en route somewhere and making sure they get a decent amount of shuteye each night. “Today’s parents are juggling their own busy schedules, and too often young drivers’ risky habits go unrecognized,” says SADD’s Stephen Gray Wallace in a statement.

It appears they should also continue to pound away at the message being trumpeted by everyone from trauma centers to wireless carriers: It’s dangerous to use your phone while driving, and despite how you might feel at the time, whatever it is can wait. Nearly 90% of the teens who said they use apps on the road also said they consider themselves “safe” drivers, the study found, as did 60% of those who make calls. While many said they’re texting with purpose—to coordinate an event or update a friend—nearly 20% say they text while driving “just for fun.”

“It’s critical that parents focus on pinpointing these dangerous driving habits early on,” says Wallace, “and have frequent conversations with their children about what safe driving really means.”

MONEY Family

The Hidden Upside to Living With Mom and Dad

Recent college grads may think living at home is less than ideal, but it has its advantages.

CNN’s Christine Romans thinks it’s the perfect solution. If you’ve just graduated from college, there’s a good chance you’ve got at least a little bit of debt. Romans advises you to take a year at home to save up money, start paying off your loans, and get on your feet financially. But don’t stay forever, she says. Make a plan – you can even sign a contract – with your parents on what responsibilities you’ll take on, and how you plan to be out of the house before two years are up.

Read next: Why Millennials Are Better Off Waiting 10 Years to Buy a Home

TIME Education

Meet the Mother-Daughter Team Set on Saving Cursive

It's not as loopy as it may sound

A mother-daughter team is fighting a battle that should inspire bands of ruler-wielding teachers to join them in the fray—and will lead others to accuse them of being out of touch with the modern student. Linda Shrewsbury and Prisca LeCroy want America’s future generations to learn cursive, and they’ve just finished publishing their first book on the subject, which Kickstarters gave them over $33,000 to design and produce.

It’s easy to make the argument that class time would be better spent teaching kids to type 80 words-per-minute (or to code for that matter). In this digital age, isn’t giving cursive pride of place in the curriculum the didactic equivalent of teaching teens to ride horses instead of drive cars? After all, the Common Core standards being adopted by states around the country don’t waste any space on laying out penmanship goals.

Courtesy Linda ShrewsburyLinda Shrewsbury, left, and her daughter Prisca LeCroy are on a mission to preserve cursive.

The ladies have plenty of retorts to this line of thinking. Chief among their scientific missiles are studies that show cursive fires up areas of the brain that tracing, typing or even printing letters does not. “They’re doing some studies that seem to suggest there’s something special about cursive,” says 34-year-old LeCroy, who was home-schooled by Shrewsbury before becoming an attorney and is now a full-time stay-at-home mom in Dallas.

Teaching kids old-fashioned penmanship, proponents like her argue, helps refine their fine motor skills and their visual cognition, while beefing up the lobes known to underline successful reading. One study found that students who handwrote rather than typed on writing assignments tended to write more and come up with more ideas.

Then there is the cultural ammunition. Only kids who can read cursive will make a jot of sense out of the original copy of the Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.—where the two of them recently gave a presentation on this very topic. “Do we want them to actually have the capacity to be historians?” says LeCroy. “Or do we want them to be lemmings?” For Shrewsbury, cursive is a proud old vehicle for fostering artistry and individuality in people, as well as a line the ties us to the past.

“My strongest feeling about cursive is the idea you can capture individuality and personality in a signature and have it be preserved for generations,” says Shrewsbury, a 63-year-old who has taught government to students in Tulsa and English to students in Africa. “I think about the fact that I know the handwriting of members of my family. The idea of throwing away a tradition that powerful and simple makes no senses to me.”

Shrewsbury got started on this mission while volunteering to tutor a 23-year-old student named Josh in a local literacy program. He had learning difficulties, but as they bonded over improving his reading skills, he confessed to her that he had never learned cursive and wanted to be able to sign his name. While it might not make a difference in a legal sense whether one prints or loops their autograph on a contract, to him there was a sense of dignity that he was missing (and, it’s worth noting, printed signatures are easier to forge). So Shrewbury tried to figure out a simple way to teach him the letters and noticed patterns in how the letters are formed—four patterns to be exact: an oval, a loop, a swing and a mound.

These, for instance, are letters that are all formed using a move they call “over oval, back trace.” If you trace the movements, you’ll see what they mean:

CursiveLogic

Using these insights, Shrewsbury says she was able to get Josh writing in cursive in about 45 minutes. “I hear all around me that cursive takes too long to teach and is too hard to learn,” she says.

Unfortunately, TIME cannot reveal all their secrets because rather than tackle this issue through lawmaking—as many would-be saviors of cursive have—these ladies are trying to win the battle through business. The book on their method is called CursiveLogic, and in Shrewsbury’s dreams, these guides will sell like such hotcakes that she can eventually use the proceeds to start local education programs in Tulsa for African-American boys and men who, like Josh, “have fallen through the cracks” of the educational system.

The ladies aren’t arguing that teaching kids cursive should displace typing classes, but not be lost in the dust of progress. LeCroy says that with even the suggestion that it might have benefits—in an era when we’re making more things with pixels and fewer with our hands—cursive is a craft worth preserving. “Wouldn’t it be bad if a generation if kids didn’t learn it?” she says. “Why would we want to strip away that little bit of creativity?”

TIME Parenting

How Making Mom Friends Is Like Dating

women walking
Getty Images

There are some dealbreakers

You’ve probably heard this before, but making mom friends is eerily similar to picking up guys.

I’ll strike up a conversation. If we have a connection, I’ll try to casually exchange information. Sometimes I’ll hear from them, sometimes I won’t.

If it works out, we end up going out on a few (play)dates. Sometimes I think the (play)date went well, but never hear from them again. Sometimes I’m the one who takes the passive-aggressive opt out and doesn’t text back.

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But here’s the thing: I’m 32 years old. I’m married with two small kids. I don’t have the time or the patience for “dating.” Over time, I’ve learned what I want and what I don’t want. I’m probably way too picky. But I’m not sorry about it. Especially when it comes to the following deal breakers:

1. Your kid is mean to my kid.

Look, kids all act like meanies sometimes. We’ve had hitting and biting incidents, just like anyone else. Everyone makes mistakes. I’m talking about kids that are always aggressive or rude to my toddler. The worst is when the kids (and some parents) are completely unapologetic about it. I won’t let my daughter hang out with perma-meanies because I want her to know she is worthy of respect. Also, seeing as how every fiber of my being wants to protect my children, it’s important for me to pull the plug before I feel the need to drop-kick your kid.

2. You’re mean to your kid.

It makes me so uncomfortable to watch a parent be mean to their kid. In my book this includes talking down to your kid, constantly yelling at them, playing tricks on them, disciplining them in front of others, and/or cruel teasing. Yes, we all reach a boiling point and yell sometimes, but then we come back from the brink and try to make amends. Call me crazy, but I think kids should always feel safe and supported. In instances like these, it’s important that I bow out so I don’t feel the need to drop-kick you.

3. You reward your kid’s tantrums.

Here’s how this breaks down: My kid sees your kid getting consistently rewarded for acting like a meanie. When we get home, she starts acting like a meanie because she saw it work for your kid and thinks it will work for her too. Then I start acting like a meanie because my kid is constantly whining/screaming/throwing herself on the floor. Then we’re all stuck in a downhill-meanie spiral for the next few days. Then when things finally calm down, we meet for another playdate, and the cycle starts all over again.

4. You think sugar is the devil, and preach accordingly.

I’m all for trying to make healthy-ish choices, but I still love cookies and cupcakes and all things chocolate. And yes, I will occasionally feed my kids things like sweets, chips, and McDonald’s (gasp!). As long as you do your thing, I’ll do mine. But just know that if you’re the kind of person who is always talking about gluten, refined sugars, food dyes, preservatives, and clean eating, no one is going to want to hang out with you.

5. You’re always trying to sell me stuff.

I empathize with you, I really do. It sucks to try to support a family on one income. You know how I know? Because we’re making some drastic budget cuts on this end too. And in the rare case that we do have some extra money (tax refund, someone sells a kidney on the black market, etc.) then we’re going to use it on a babysitter and booze, not that shakeology crap or whatever it is you’re selling on Etsy.

6. You’re constantly on your phone.

Technology has murdered our ability to socialize normally. To be clear, I am the last person to care about any kind of etiquette. But if you’re texting/Facebooking/Tweeting/Instagramming/etc. while I’m trying to have a conversation with you, our relationship is doomed. Because that stuff is rude.

7. You’re a Debbie Downer.

Parenting sucks sometimes. OK, a lot of the time. I think it’s important to have friends you can vent to. But some people are always the victim. Some people have a problem for every solution and a complaint for everything else. AIN’T NOBODY GOT PATIENCE FOR THAT. Our time together should be fun, not draining. I’m all for venting sometimes (that’s really all this post is), but there has to be a balance.

The fact is, I don’t care what you feed your kids, whether you send them to daycare, what your vaccination schedule looks like, whether you attachment parent or let your kids “cry it out” — I really don’t. It’s just that I literally don’t have the time or energy for relationships that are stressful to maintain. Friendship is a fantastic thing, but if a relationship makes life feel harder instead of easier, then it’s not friendship. And that’s a deal breaker.

Joanna McClanahan (aka Ramblin’ Mama) lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two small children, and two dogs. She took up writing mostly as an excuse to make her husband watch the kids. She is a Contributor over at Sammiches & Psych Meds. You can find more from her on RamblinMama.com, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Scary Mommy.

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TIME public health

California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Mandatory Vaccine Law

Law abolishes exemptions for personal beliefs

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a mandatory school vaccination bill into law Tuesday, abolishing the “personal belief” exemption that many parents use as a loophole to avoid vaccinating their children.

Now, under California law, which is among the strictest in the country, children would not be able to enroll in public school unless they have been vaccinated against diseases like measles and whooping cough. The law includes an exemption for children who have a medical reason to remain unvaccinated (like an immune system disorder) and can prove it with a doctor’s note. Parents who decline to vaccinate their children for personal or religious reasons will have to home-school them or send them to a public independent study program off school grounds.

Students who are unvaccinated because of “personal belief” who are already in public elementary school can stay until they’re in 7th grade, and then the parents will either have to vaccinate them or home-school them. Daycare students can stay until kindergarten, when they have to be either vaccinated or home-schooled. In the fall of 2014, almost 3% of California kindergartners were unvaccinated because of personal belief. Preschools in the most affluent areas are also the least likely to vaccinate, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The bill was proposed after a measles outbreak at Disneyland infected more 150 people, and many needed to be hospitalized. Supporters of the law argue that it is based on medical consensus that vaccinations improve public health. Opponents—who have been picketing outside the California legislature—argue that it’s an attack on personal freedom.

TIME motherhood

Millennials More Supportive of Working Moms than Previous Generations

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Jasper Cole—Getty Images/Blend Images RM Mother and daughter walking on city street

Much more likely to say that moms who work have just as good relationships with their kids

Working moms are getting more love than ever. Millennials are much more supportive of working mothers than young people in the 1970s and 1990s, and there’s a broader consensus that working moms can have a great relationship with their kids, according to a new study shared exclusively with TIME.

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Researchers at University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University attribute the increased acceptance to a shifting social and economic realities over the last 30 years, in which there are more single moms and few can afford not to work. The study, published Monday in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, analyzed the results of two national representative studies of nearly 600,000 respondents. They found that in 2010, only 22% of 12th-graders thought young children suffered if their mother worked, down from 34% in the 1990s and 59% in the 1970s. Adults also showed an increased tolerance for working mothers, with 35% believing that a child was worse off if his or her mother went to work in 2012, compared with 68% in the 1970s.

The researchers also found that more people believe working moms can have just as good relationships with their kids as moms who stay at home. In 1977, less than half of adults agreed that “a working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work.” In 2012, 72% agreed with that statement.

“When you have more working mothers, you have to have more acceptance of them,” says Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me and a main researcher on the study. “When people look around and see ‘this is what people do now,’ you have to have more acceptance.”

But in some areas, there appeared to be a bit of a backtracking. In the 1990s, 27% agreed that it was best for the man to work and the woman to stay home, while 32% agreed with that idea in 2010-2013. In the 1990s, 14% thought the husband should make important decisions in the family, but 17% thought so in 2010. Twenge says that probably doesn’t indicate a spike in sexism, but instead might signify an increased perception that marriage is only for a certain kind of person. “It’s possible that this generation sees marriage as something that people with traditional gender roles do,” she says. “They think it’s for more traditional people.”

Twenge says the increased acceptance of working moms isn’t just because millennials have been around more women who work– it’s also part of the millennial tendency towards individualism. “One aspect of individualism is to treat people equally,” she says. “When you treat people as individuals, you’re not going to distinguish between a working mother and a working father.”

 

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