Utility bills are expensive. On top of the Green Movement, the importance of energy conservation has popped up on Americans' radar screens in a major way after oil-price spikes in 2008. This caused utility companies to add fuel surcharges to customers' bills. Not to mention droughts and water shortages in many regions of the country that forced strict water use restrictions. There's plenty of incentive to save money on utility bills any way you can.
So in honor of yesterday being Earth Day (April 22nd), we've provided some tips in this blog post to help you save on your utility bill. Plus you can feel good about your household going green!
- Paint Your Roof White:
A 1999 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Heat Island Group found that in sunny climates, buildings with white roofs required up to 40 percent less energy for cooling than those with black roofs. At current utility rates, that means you could save $120 or more per year in cooling costs. This is because darker colors typically absorb more heat than lighter colors. Black absorbs more heat than any other color. An inexpensive white, elastomeric roof coating will do the job and can be found at most hardware stores. Not to mention elastomeric coating is durable, flexible and waterproof, and offers the fringe benefit of helping to increase your roof's life span and water resistance!
- Do a Nightly Sweep:
Leaving fans, lights or appliances on at night while you sleep wastes increasingly expensive energy. So save money and do a nightly sweep through the house to make sure all your electrical devices are turned off before you go to bed. It's a pain, but if you make it a habit it's a simple way to save.
- Set your water heater at 120 degrees:
Heating your water too hot create the danger of scalding, and it can cost you. It's estimated that a heater set at 140 degrees or higher can waste $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses to keep water at that temperature, and more than $400 to bring fresh water up to that high temperature. So turn down the heat and save!
- Don't let money slip through the cracks:
- Keep track of your utility bill:
Utility workers make mistakes just like the rest of us, and when they make mistakes reading your meter, it can be costly. So make sure your meter and utility bill match up. Even catching subtle errors can save you.
We hope these tips are useful to you, and that you start saving on your bills!
Being a single parent is a very busy life. With obligations like work, errands, appointments, and other duties, it can be very hard to get time for yourself. Plus lets face it, sometimes it would be a lot easier and faster to do all these things without your children present, not to mention the need for some well deserved rest and relaxation is a must! You may already have a support system established, such as family members or a reliable friend who doesn't mind helping you out with occasional babysitting jobs. But when a circumstance occurs where your friend or family member cannot watch over your kid(s), it can completely throw off your day, or even get you in trouble with your job.
This is why it's very important to have a reliable nanny. But finding a nanny can be hard, especially when it comes to trusting someone with your little ones. So we gathered some very useful tips to assist in your hunt for the perfect nanny!
WHERE TO LOOK?
- Ask friends and family: One of the best things about being so connected through social networking is that you can round up their recommendations pretty quickly. So make a few phone calls, post a few facebook statues, and ask away! You never know who will have a great suggestion, and you might even find a great candidate! Or even have your friends and family spread the word that you're currently looking for a nanny to hire!
- Go through an agency: There are several well known nanny agencies, all of which offer parents the chance to select nannies in their area, and even look over posted resumes of skills and previous experience.
- Remember: You are perfectly within your rights as a parent to question the character of the person who will be caring for your child in your absence. So be picky, but remember to not judge.
- Check their references: Don’t be shy about following up on every lead you’ve been given. Past experience is a very important indicator of someones character, and can help you make better decisions on who is the most suited candidate.
- Do a thorough Internet search: Thanks to Facebook and other social networking tools, you can easily unearth scandalous information. Again, don't judge. You're just making sure this person is a good influence to be bring into your home.
- Pay for a professional background check: When talking about the safety of your child, you can afford to throw some money towards a background check. It’s possible to find inexpensive basic background checks that will unearth anything you might want to know about your potential nanny.
- Previous work experience: Look at how many previous childcare jobs they’ve had. If the stays seem short, you may want to ask why. You’ll want to find someone who can commit to a decent amount of time and who is reliable, considering kids get very attached!
- Education: If one of your requirements is that your nanny needs to do occasional tutoring or help your child with homework, it's essential that your chosen candidate has a solid educational background.
- Childcare qualifications: Make sure you have a set job description for the candidates to see, including duties and salary/pay. CPR and first aid certification a must? Would they be willing to obtain it upon hiring? Cooking skills? Do you want a non-smoker? Will they have to be willing to be silly, and make arts & crafts with your child? No qualification is too small for your child, so list them all! You want the PERFECT nanny for your child.
- Test out a few scenarios: What would they do if your child was injured? Refusing to eat? Throwing a tantrum? Test these scenarios, and ask for responses from your candidates. See what they come up with and check that they are along the same lines as you would want them to react in that situation. You want to make sure you're on the same page with your nanny.
- Creativity and ingenuity with entertainment: What kinds of things would they do with your kids? Ask for specific examples and see if they line up with your own ideas and ideals. Maybe even ask for a test run day if you trust the candidate enough with your child. Be present for this test run, and watch as your potential candidate interacts with your child. Once the candidate leaves, ask your child simple questions like "Did you have fun today?", and see how your child responds. You want to make sure your child is comfortable.
We hope these tips helped you, and wish you single parents the best of luck in finding the right nanny for you! Below are some additional links that help with child related things that you may find useful. Also, remember to visit SPAOA.org for useful resources!Information regarding W.I.C.:
Information regarding diaper bank network:
Women of any age can become single parents through many unexpected circumstances, such as death of a spouse, divorce, abandonment or choice. Being a single mom can be difficult, especially when you're taking on two roles while focusing a lot of your attention on your children. But it's very important as a mother to maintain mental and physical health, and to thrive as an individual so that you can nurture your children to the best of your ability. Here are some tips to help make surviving a single mom easier!
- Your health and well being is vital!
- We all know that single moms are super heroes. You're holding down the fort and taking care of your little ones. But it's very important to remember yourself as well, and to take steps to ensure that you are still a priority. If you are struggling and feeling depressed don't be afraid to seek help from friends, family or a health care professional. Or even just take a moment to unwind! Soak in a bubble bath, watch your favorite movie when the kids are asleep, or catch up with a friend on the phone for some much needed girl talk. YOU ARE IMPORTANT TOO! It's perfectly fine to relax and have "Me time".
- Remember yourself as a person, and what you value:
- As a single mom, your mind is always racing. You're a selfless, caring woman who puts the needs and feelings of your children first. Along the journey you may feel like you're sacrificing a lot of who you are, but it's very important to take a moment to remember who you are as an individual. Maybe make a list of positive things that you like about yourself. Every individual is unique, and has traits and skills that make them who they are, so remember how awesome you are! It really helps put your focus on the positive, and to see how incredible you are as a person.
- You are not alone!
- This can be very hard to remember, especially with being a single mom. But just because you do not have a partner does not mean that you are alone, so establish a support system! Society has many outlets of good, kind, loving people. Connect with friends and family, or maybe even reach out to a support group. You can even get online and connect with other single mothers going through similar circumstances. Just remember that life is a beautiful thing, and it's important to reach out. Maybe you'll inspire and touch the hearts of others! Also, Look to close family, Universities and social agencies for assistance with food, clothing, medical needs, shelter and future education for yourself. Use state funded grants for housing and food if necessary, there's no shame in asking for help!
- Take responsibility, not blame.
- Be selective. Do not think that constraints with limited funds allow anyone to take advantage of or force you into a decision. Being a single mom is a tough situation, but remember you're a strong mother. As long as you have love for your child, your morals are intact and you behave in a responsible manner, all should work out for the best.
- Leave if you are in a bad neighborhood or an unhealthy relationship.
- Don't feel pressured to stay somewhere, or with someone who is unhealthy for you just because you're scared to be alone. The safety of your child should always be a priority. Remember, you're strong and able enough to stand on your own two feet! Don't settle for less than what you think you deserve in a relationship or living situation.
- Believe in yourself!
- It may take a while to accomplish all your goals, but you CAN do it! Always, always, ALWAYS have faith in yourself, and keep moving forward. Giving up is not an option for you strong single mothers!
- Ignore people who are critical of you.
- No matter where you go in life, there's always going to be criticism and negative people. Ignore these toxic influences in your life, and continue forward. YOU know how strong and amazing you are, so never let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Stay clean and healthy!
- Even super moms get sick, but being a single mom is a full time job in itself. So prioritize your health and hygiene, and the health of your children. Cleanliness means health!
- Be knowledgeable and Independent!
- You can never know too much information as a mom. So go to school, take some CPR classes, or parenting classes. Knowledge is power!
- Remember to enjoy being a parent!
- Being a single parent is a learning experience until the end. So enjoy it! Learn about your children, and let this experience shape you both into better people along the way. This is your own journey, and it's always important to treasure it.
For information on resources for single parents, please visit spaoa.org! To learn more! CLICK HERE
Today is April 2nd, which means it's World Autism Awareness Day, and we hope you're all wearing blue to show your support! In honor of this wonderful day of awareness, we're going to put the spotlight on Autism Speaks, and Temple Grandin.
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, grandparents of a child with autism. With passion in their hearts, and the help of a longtime friend named Bernie Marcus who generously donated $25 million to help financially, they finally launched the organization. Since then, Autism Speaks has grown into the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization. They're dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism by increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. The goal is to change the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders.
Temple Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two in 1949, is an animal behavior expert and author of The Autistic Brain, and considered an inspiration to many. In 2010, Grandin was listed in the Time 100 list of the one hundred most influential people in the world where she was placed in the "Heroes" category.
“I am different, not less.”
“If I could snap my fingers and be non-autistic, I would not. Autism is part of what I am.”
Single parents need a reliable form of transportation for their every day activities, whether it's a trip to the store, taking little ones to school, or getting to your job. But with the expenses that come with taking care of a family on your own, it can be very hard financially to afford a car. With no car, the single parent could end up having to use other forms of transportation, such as a bus or other public transportation. Those who use public transportation know that the schedule is never exact, which could result in you being late to work or an appointment. Another thing to keep into account is emergency situations, such as your child being injured or ill. As a parent you want to get your child to help as soon as possible, which can be hard when you do not have a vehicle to transport your child in. You can call an ambulance, but that could cost anywhere between $500-$2000 depending on where you live. Another option would be to rely on friends and family for rides, but it can be a difficult situation when you have to rely on another person to get you to where you need to go.
Overall, not having your own vehicle can be very inconvenient. Fortunately it is not a problem that goes unnoticed by Free Charity Cars, which is a is a 501(C) (3) non-profit charity with a mission to "To engage in activities that will uplift humanity". The organization’s main focus is to provide free donated vehicles to struggling families to assist them in their transition from dependency to self-sufficiency. The Original 1-800-Charity Cars operates the largest free non-profit car-donation / distribution program in the nation and has awarded over 4500 free vehicles nationwide. Among its many awards, the organization is honored to be a past winner of the prestigious Walt Disney World Outstanding Community Service Award. It has also received local and national publicity being featured on shows such as Oprah, Good Morning America, CBS Morning News, and more! The steps are as simple as:
- Create your profile: This is an opportunity to explain why you are the most deserving candidate and why everyone should vote for you. This allows for you to personally tell your story.
- Generate votes and promote: This is a crucial part to receiving a Free Charity Car. By generating votes your profile attains a higher page rank, thus moving you up the list to have your application reviewed when a donated vehicle becomes available in your area. This promotes the idea of "Paying it forward" and helping others.
- Bond with supportive friends and apply for a free charity cars: As you develop friendships and vote for others, you receive votes in return. Many members report that they find the process of simply sharing their story very therapeutic, which also allows for you to reach out to families in similar difficult situations, and to not feel so alone.
To learn more about Free Charity Cars please click the link and go to www.freecharitycars.org
Being a single parent is a lot of responsibility, emotionally and financially. This can be a lot more difficult when the non-custodial parent is neglecting to do their part in paying child support. Whatever reason a parent has for neglecting to pay child support dims in comparison to the result it has on these kids not having that extra financial support. In America; 1 out of every 50 children spend at least 1 day per year homeless. Unfortunately, enforcement of child support payments is almost as difficult as being a parent on your own.
- More than 37.5 million custodial parents are owed child support in the United States, and that number continues to increase every year.
- Unpaid child support has reached more than 100 billion dollars in the United States in 2011.
- 25 million custodial parents do not receive any child support and have not filed to receive child support.
- Of the estimated 12.5 million custodial parents that have child support orders, approximately 6.2 million custodial parents do not receive any child support.
- 6.3 million custodial parents receive some support, but are owed arrears.
- Of the estimated 12.5 million parents owed support, approximately 75% of the noncustodial parents can afford to pay support, but refuse.
- Most noncustodial parents arrested with child support warrants are arrested for another reason, leaving their children without the additional support until they are arrested.
- There are an estimated 2.6 million outstanding serious misdemeanor and felony warrants that have taxed the United States Judicial System, which has made child support warrants a low priority.
- Out of State Child Support Warrants are almost never extradited when the noncustodial parent is arrested in another state.
With statistics like this, you have to imagine the difficulty in actually receiving child support. Fortunately there are those that see this problem and want to do what they can to fix it. Project Child Support assists custodial parents in collecting their child support arrears, by providing the necessary services to help them obtain an Enforcement Order. They understand the importance of Custodial Parents receiving child support and the many problems created by child support neglect. The Custodial Support Foundation is a 501(c)(3), 509(a)(1) Nonprofit Foundation. The Custodial Support Foundation's mission is to provide custodial parents with services to receive the child support their children deserve, and provide noncustodial parents with the child support resource to reduce the money owed in child support arrears in the U.S.A.
The Custodial Support Foundation will not take any portion of a parent's child support as payment. To provide parents with programs necessary to receive child support, they have contracted a team of lawyers to assist in preparing certifications and motions to enable custodial parents to receive child support as quickly as possible.
To learn more about Project Child Support, please CLICK HERE
Life can be very hard, especially when you're a single parent. With all the financial and emotional stress, you can have times where you have very little faith that things will ever get better, or that your life can be turned around. This feeling of hopelessness can make a single parent feel isolated from the big world we live in, or even make them so depressed that they feel there's no reason to try and get themselves out of a difficult situation. It's very important to remember you're not alone. Sadly there are many single parents in the world, and they're feeling the same heartbreak you do. But there's also people who have hit that rock bottom, picked themselves up, and now live to inspire other single parents who are in the same boat that they once were in to do the same.
Joanne Rowling, best known as J.K. Rowling, was born on July 31, 1965, in Yate, England. If you have read the Harry Potter Books, or seen the Harry Potter movies, you would know that it has had huge success, and is a very popular story. But J.K. Rowling wasn't always successful. In fact, she came from humble economic means before writing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which is the first book of the series. Her daughter had been conceived and born while she was married, but the failure of the relationship soon had her living on state benefits in the coldest winter Scotland had seen in a few years. She did not want her daughter to grow up in poverty, but her district health visitor told her that she would never get state-funded childcare because she was "coping too well". She had nobody else to look after her daughter, with her sister working full time, and her mother being dead. She was in a strange city, and had no idea where her daughter was supposed to go while she earned a living to support them both. She ended up working at a local church a few hours a week, where she overhauled the filing system. Since she had no one to watch her daughter, she would bring her along to work with her. Along with working, she was writing her novel in secret. Full-time mother, part-time worker, secret novelist. Talk about juggling!
Though she was very proud of herself for earning money on her own, her self-esteem slowly started evaporating. She never imagined she would be in the place she was in as a single mom, and many people looked down on her for it. Assumptions were made about her morals, and her motives for bringing her child into the world or her fitness to raise that child, rather than seeing her as a brave mother in horrible circumstance. She struggled with depression and even considered suicide while struggling as a single mother, and trying to succeed as a writer.
Even through all the judgement and mental exhaustion, she still kept fighting. After a number of rejections, she finally sold the book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (the word "Philosopher" was changed to "Sorcerer" for its publication in America). She continued to write more books in the series, and finally accomplished her dream to be a writer. But even if she is a very successful novelist, her years of being a single mother is the part of her life she she is most proud of.
"I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized and I still had a daughter that I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life." – J.K. Rowling
So to other single parents, always remember that no dream is too big. You are not small or insignificant, and your circumstances do not make you who you are. With enough courage, you too can get your family out of rock bottom. Just like J.K. Rowling, you're going to have to work at it, and it will feel impossible at times. But it is possible! Something as simple as an idea she had while traveling on a train, turned into a story of magic and wonder that inspired the hearts of many. Have faith, and keep enduring through the hardships, even if there's many. Work hard, and you too can accomplish your goals and better the life of your family. Your path is your own, and you get to write your own story of success. But first, you must pick up the pen.
Every single parent can agree that diapers are absolutely needed and necessary when it comes to raising a little one. But with 5.9 million babies in the U.S. aged three or younger living in poor or low-income families, you can understand it can be very difficult for families to obtain such important essentials.
Infants require up to 12 diapers per day, toddlers about eight. Disposable diapers can cost up to $150 per month per baby. But money isn't the only obstacle for low-income families to obtain diapers that they need. Some low income families do not have access to transportation, making it hard to make a trip to a low-cost store, which leads them to go to the store closest to them in distance. Though the location is more convenient, prices may not be. Some stores will charge more for diapers, which could double or even triple the monthly cost. You could consider using wash cloth diapers that could be reused after washing them properly, but for those who do not have their own personal washing machine at home, it can prove to be difficult to wash these diapers to the point where they are sanitary enough for the child. For sanitation reasons, coin-operated laundromats often don’t allow customers to wash cloth diapers, which adds to the difficulty for parents to wash the reusable diapers.
Government help, such as WIC and foodstamps, will not assist in buying diapers, even if you yourself would consider it to be an "essential" for your family. You can buy candy with food stamps, but diapers are classified with cigarettes, alcohol and pet food as disallowed purchases. Babies can spend a day or longer in one diaper, leading to potential health risks which will only add to the financial stress if you're making trips to the hospital, along with costly medications you might need.
Along with financial stress, most childcare centers, even free & subsidized facilities, will turn away a child who arrives without a day’s supply of disposable diapers, because they will not supply the diapers for you. Cloth diapers are not accepted at the vast majority of childcare centers. If parents find themselves in a situation where their child is being turned away from the childcare center, it could mess with their ability to work and get the income they need that goes into every day expenses. On top of that, the child's chance to develop cognitive abilities and language skills that they can take away from the childcare could be in jeopardy, which will only add on to the stress on not only the parents, but the child as well.
Luckily, The National Diaper Bank Network sees the importance in obtaining clean diapers for babies of low-income families. The National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that every baby in the United States can be clean, dry and healthy. Their mission is to raise awareness of the diaper gap in America and to build the capacity of community-based diaper banks to serve families throughout the country. They do this by creating a national network of community partners, and work to accomplish this goal through three primary activities:
- Raising awareness: NDBN brings national attention to the issue of diaper need through education and outreach to the general public and national leaders.
- Providing technical assistance: NDBN helps communities start diaper banks and helps existing diaper banks do more with the resources they have.
- Distributing diapers and funding: NDBN provides critical logistical assistance that connects large, corporate donors with community-based organizations that distribute diapers.
If your family is struggling to obtain clean diapers, they can go to a diaper bank closest to them. A diaper bank is a nonprofit group that collects, stores and helps distribute free diapers to homeless shelters, food pantries, family service agencies and faith-based organizations. If you wish to find a diaper bank closest to you, please CLICK HERE
For more information, please visit the following website:
Candy and jack-o-lanterns, monsters and witches... Who doesn't love Halloween? As your kids look forward to trick-or-treating this year, please keep these safety tips in mind:
1. If your children are going out for candy, make sure that they are supervised at all times.
2. Bring flashlights!
3. Don't allow your children to enter anyone's home. Make sure they stay at the front porch.
4. Teach your children to not tell their names to anyone they don't know.
5. Despite the protests, look through all of your child's candy before they eat any. Remove anything homemade or with opened packaging.
6. Keep a cell phone on you - just in case.
7. Stay in well-lit and well-known areas.
8. Have fun!
If you are affected by Hurricane Sandy, please stay dry, safe and warm. Don't go out into harsh weather. Stay in and have a Halloween party instead!
The sun is out, the school year is coming to an end, and the kids are home and ready for summer. You've been relying on school and after-school programs to keep the kids busy while you're at work. Now, for the next three months, you have to figure out how to provide affordable care for the kids while you're at work. Luckily, you have a few options.
Local organizations, like the YMCA or the Boys & Girls Club offer affordable summer camp programs and child care during the day. Your kids will have a chance to make new friends, learn a new skill, and have a stimulating summer with these programs. Financial assistance is often available, especially if you sign up for more than just one week at a time. As an added bonus, if you can get a job at one of these centers, you can bring your kids to work with you!
Churches often have similar summer programs that can work to your advantage. Since your church most likely already knows about your family's situation, they may be more likely to help with financing summer programs. Talk to your church and see what you can work out.
As an alternative to sending your child to summer camp, you can try to form a network of single parents. Swap your work schedules, and try to find parents that work at all different times. Then, you can all take turns watching over the kids for free while you're at work. The more parents you have in your network, the more reliable and consistent your care will be. Just make sure you're aware of the laws in your state for how many children you can legally have in your home at one time.
If you have work to do from home and need some quiet time, look into different reading programs at your local public library. Many libraries have reading programs or educational projects over the summer to keep the kids busy. While you should never use the library as a child care facility, you can definitely take advantage of the quiet environment. Bring your computer or whatever you need to work on, and let the kids do whatever program is going on.
For more ideas on how to find child care during the summer, check out this article: