COLLEGE SAVINGS 101

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10 holiday traditions you can start this year
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/10-holiday-traditions-you-can-start-this-year-876

Posted: 2015-12-09

by Kathryn Flynn

1. Share some love

When Kimberly Sisk, CEO of Count My Payment, wasn't able to visit the gravesites of loved ones who recently passed away, she decided to honor them by spreading love to those in need.

A few months before a holiday such as Mother's Day, she and her children contact nursing homes and their local Veteran's hospital and ask the staff if any of the residents who haven't had visitors appear to be lonely. Then, as the holiday approaches, they bring flowers and balloons for those in need of a smile.

This tradition brings many touching memories for Sisk and her family, as well as the people they visit.

RELATED: 8 reasons why grandparents love 529 plans

2. Trade presents for good deeds

If you think the holidays are getting too commercialized, you're not alone. In fact, Today reports that one family stopped giving Hanukkah gifts altogether and instead focuses on doing eight good deeds. Not surprisingly, the kids didn't initially agree with the plan, but they eventually warmed up to it.

If you're looking for ways to spread some genuine holiday good will, check with your local schools and churches to see if they are collecting donations, or volunteer at a soup kitchen.

RELATED: Lacrosse or Kumon? Which activities best prepare a young child for college?

3. Pinkies up!

Why not celebrate the season in style this year? Each year, writer and editor Lisa Tsering and her son enjoy Christmas Tea.

"I take my macho 10-year old boy for high tea in San Francisco and he loves it," says Tsering.

Afternoon tea is a longstanding tradition for British Royalty, and many upscale hotels and restaurants across the U.S. offer a family-friendly version during the holiday season. This can be the perfect way to complement a day of shopping in your favorite city.

RELATED: 6 steps to landing in the Ivy Leagues

Photo credit: kidsandfamilyns.com

4. A shopping lesson

What better way to teach your kids about using money than to let them use it! Each year during the holiday season Michelle Morgan assigns her three sons an important job buying each other gifts.

"We give them a budget and set them loose," says Michelle.

In addition to learning about the value of a dollar, the boys also learn how to work together. Sometimes they'll even go in on a gift together.

RELATED: 4 ways to get your kids involved with saving for college

5. A meaningful letter

As the year comes to an end, take time to reflect on all of the positive things your family has accomplished. Write a letter to your children that lists them all, and include a statement from their 529 college savings plan showing an annual gift contribution and how much your balance has grown. Give your child the letter and statement on New Year's Day each year.

Don't have a 529 plan? There's no better time to get started! You'll benefit from tax-free earnings and withdrawals as long as the money is spent toward college, and you may even be able to deduct your contributions from your state income tax.

This is a great way to teach your kids about money. As they get older, you can show them how their investment works and explain the power of compound interest.

RELATED: How college savings can make a great gift

6. Elf on the Shelf

Santa's little helper has been around for 10 years now, but has recently been causing a debate among parents. Legend has it that the elf comes to visit a family sometime after Thanksgiving to help Santa keep an eye on the children. At nighttime, the elf's magical powers help him or her fly back to the North Pole to report back to the big guy.

The next morning, the children have to find the elf, who's usually left doing something silly, like hanging out with Barbie and Ken, or taking a "bubble" bath in a bowl of marshmallows. Most kids love it, but parents have mixed feelings. According to a recent article from Yahoo Parenting, some moms and dads don't like that the elf looks for negative behavior, and some simply don't want to have to remember one more thing during the busy holiday season.

RELATED: Parents vs. politicians on cutting college costs

Photo credit: www.Metro.us

7. Feed Santa's reindeer

It seems like all kids remember to leave cookies for Santa, but what about the reindeer? As we all know, it's almost impossible to get your kids to sit still on Christmas Eve. One fun activity is to make a snack for the reindeer from raw oats and glitter. The recipe is simple, and there's even a special poem to attach to the bag:

"On Christmas Eve, sprinkle this wonderful reindeer food on your lawn. The shiny glitter will sparkle in the moonlight and the smell of oats will guide Rudolph to your home."

RELATED: Why you should teach your kids about money

8. All aboard!

What kid doesn't love a train ride? During the holiday season, many cities and towns offer a ride on a decorated train or trolley car with cookies, hot chocolate and a live reading of the popular children's book "The Polar Express", written by Chris Van Allsburg in 1985. There'll be a special guest at your final destination (the North Pole), so remind your little ones to be extra good.

Check your local train stations or community newspaper to see where the Polar Express departs in your area, and get your Christmas jammies ready!

RELATED: 5 habits of successful college savers

Photo credit: xfrog.com

9. Cookies for your neighbors

If you stop and count all the nice things your neighbors did for you all year, you might end up with a pretty long list. They looked over your house and grabbed your mail while you were on vacation, they brought over chicken soup when the kids were sick and bought candy from your many sports fundraisers. One idea for an annual tradition is to spend a day making cookies with your family that you can deliver to your neighbors as an expression of gratitude.

As you bond with your kids, you'll also be teaching them how to pay a good deed forward.

RELATED: The magic number for college savings

10. Get ideas from a celebrity

Mark Steines, host of Hallmark Channel's Home and Family, spends Christmas Eve with his two sons, Kai and Avery, making pizzas and decorating a birthday cake. The pizza making began as a way to distract the boys from thinking about Santa and his gifts, and the birthday cake was to acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas the birth of Jesus.

Each year, instead of cookies, the Steines family leaves a piece of pizza, birthday cake and an anchovy (Kai's favorite pizza topping when the tradition started) for Santa.

Steines remembers how much the kids loved it. "Santa had a Wonderful Smorgesboard of delightfulness that he had to eat," he says.

He also feels that their tradition teaches his sons a valuable lesson.

"The element of distraction by making the pizzas helps put off the tremendous anticipation of what promises to be a good morning of presents," he said.

"We get caught up in the commercialization of what Christmas is all about. Making the pizza together gives us a chance to talk about the birth of Christ and what it's really all about. The lessons are a constant reminder of being grateful."

1. Share some love

When Kimberly Sisk, CEO of Count My Payment, wasn't able to visit the gravesites of loved ones who recently passed away, she decided to honor them by spreading love to those in need.

A few months before a holiday such as Mother's Day, she and her children contact nursing homes and their local Veteran's hospital and ask the staff if any of the residents who haven't had visitors appear to be lonely. Then, as the holiday approaches, they bring flowers and balloons for those in need of a smile.

This tradition brings many touching memories for Sisk and her family, as well as the people they visit.

RELATED: 8 reasons why grandparents love 529 plans

2. Trade presents for good deeds

If you think the holidays are getting too commercialized, you're not alone. In fact, Today reports that one family stopped giving Hanukkah gifts altogether and instead focuses on doing eight good deeds. Not surprisingly, the kids didn't initially agree with the plan, but they eventually warmed up to it.

If you're looking for ways to spread some genuine holiday good will, check with your local schools and churches to see if they are collecting donations, or volunteer at a soup kitchen.

RELATED: Lacrosse or Kumon? Which activities best prepare a young child for college?

3. Pinkies up!

Why not celebrate the season in style this year? Each year, writer and editor Lisa Tsering and her son enjoy Christmas Tea.

"I take my macho 10-year old boy for high tea in San Francisco and he loves it," says Tsering.

Afternoon tea is a longstanding tradition for British Royalty, and many upscale hotels and restaurants across the U.S. offer a family-friendly version during the holiday season. This can be the perfect way to complement a day of shopping in your favorite city.

RELATED: 6 steps to landing in the Ivy Leagues

Photo credit: kidsandfamilyns.com

4. A shopping lesson

What better way to teach your kids about using money than to let them use it! Each year during the holiday season Michelle Morgan assigns her three sons an important job buying each other gifts.

"We give them a budget and set them loose," says Michelle.

In addition to learning about the value of a dollar, the boys also learn how to work together. Sometimes they'll even go in on a gift together.

RELATED: 4 ways to get your kids involved with saving for college

5. A meaningful letter

As the year comes to an end, take time to reflect on all of the positive things your family has accomplished. Write a letter to your children that lists them all, and include a statement from their 529 college savings plan showing an annual gift contribution and how much your balance has grown. Give your child the letter and statement on New Year's Day each year.

Don't have a 529 plan? There's no better time to get started! You'll benefit from tax-free earnings and withdrawals as long as the money is spent toward college, and you may even be able to deduct your contributions from your state income tax.

This is a great way to teach your kids about money. As they get older, you can show them how their investment works and explain the power of compound interest.

RELATED: How college savings can make a great gift

6. Elf on the Shelf

Santa's little helper has been around for 10 years now, but has recently been causing a debate among parents. Legend has it that the elf comes to visit a family sometime after Thanksgiving to help Santa keep an eye on the children. At nighttime, the elf's magical powers help him or her fly back to the North Pole to report back to the big guy.

The next morning, the children have to find the elf, who's usually left doing something silly, like hanging out with Barbie and Ken, or taking a "bubble" bath in a bowl of marshmallows. Most kids love it, but parents have mixed feelings. According to a recent article from Yahoo Parenting, some moms and dads don't like that the elf looks for negative behavior, and some simply don't want to have to remember one more thing during the busy holiday season.

RELATED: Parents vs. politicians on cutting college costs

Photo credit: www.Metro.us

7. Feed Santa's reindeer

It seems like all kids remember to leave cookies for Santa, but what about the reindeer? As we all know, it's almost impossible to get your kids to sit still on Christmas Eve. One fun activity is to make a snack for the reindeer from raw oats and glitter. The recipe is simple, and there's even a special poem to attach to the bag:

"On Christmas Eve, sprinkle this wonderful reindeer food on your lawn. The shiny glitter will sparkle in the moonlight and the smell of oats will guide Rudolph to your home."

RELATED: Why you should teach your kids about money

8. All aboard!

What kid doesn't love a train ride? During the holiday season, many cities and towns offer a ride on a decorated train or trolley car with cookies, hot chocolate and a live reading of the popular children's book "The Polar Express", written by Chris Van Allsburg in 1985. There'll be a special guest at your final destination (the North Pole), so remind your little ones to be extra good.

Check your local train stations or community newspaper to see where the Polar Express departs in your area, and get your Christmas jammies ready!

RELATED: 5 habits of successful college savers

Photo credit: xfrog.com

9. Cookies for your neighbors

If you stop and count all the nice things your neighbors did for you all year, you might end up with a pretty long list. They looked over your house and grabbed your mail while you were on vacation, they brought over chicken soup when the kids were sick and bought candy from your many sports fundraisers. One idea for an annual tradition is to spend a day making cookies with your family that you can deliver to your neighbors as an expression of gratitude.

As you bond with your kids, you'll also be teaching them how to pay a good deed forward.

RELATED: The magic number for college savings

10. Get ideas from a celebrity

Mark Steines, host of Hallmark Channel's Home and Family, spends Christmas Eve with his two sons, Kai and Avery, making pizzas and decorating a birthday cake. The pizza making began as a way to distract the boys from thinking about Santa and his gifts, and the birthday cake was to acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas the birth of Jesus.

Each year, instead of cookies, the Steines family leaves a piece of pizza, birthday cake and an anchovy (Kai's favorite pizza topping when the tradition started) for Santa.

Steines remembers how much the kids loved it. "Santa had a Wonderful Smorgesboard of delightfulness that he had to eat," he says.

He also feels that their tradition teaches his sons a valuable lesson.

"The element of distraction by making the pizzas helps put off the tremendous anticipation of what promises to be a good morning of presents," he said.

"We get caught up in the commercialization of what Christmas is all about. Making the pizza together gives us a chance to talk about the birth of Christ and what it's really all about. The lessons are a constant reminder of being grateful."

 

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