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11/10/15 Children # , , ,

Best Math Apps for Kids

Best Math Apps for Kids

Math was never my strong point in school. I eventually learned some good personal finance habits, but my math skills didn’t progress much beyond algebra. If only I had a smartphone and some math apps back then.

My daughter, who is now in 6th grade, is much better at math than I was at her age. Her teachers have done an excellent job in the classroom, and every once in awhile we go to a math app for help with homework.

I’m often on the lookout for great math apps to help make her math homework easier, and if possible, a little fun. Below are some math apps I’ve checked into, though we haven’t used all of them.


This website has come recommended by my daughter’s teachers and is also used at her school.  I signed her up for a subscription this year ($11 per month) and I’m trying to get her to use the math app part of the site, which also offers lessons in English, social studies, science, health, engineering, and the arts.

The cartoon videos are fun and informative, featuring a guy and a robot. Some of the site’s content is free, such as this video on how to compare prices.

Zap Zap Math app

This math app teaches math through games, most aimed at K-6 grades. The app is free to download and doesn’t contain in-app purchases or ads.

While games can be great motivators, it’s up to you as a parent to decide if the games are really helping your child learn math. My guess is that most children will become bored by them eventually, since there is only so far you can go with them and the memorization of multiplication tables, for example, may eventually becoming boring. Continue reading

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09/21/15 Children , Personal Finance , Travel # ,

Teaching Kids Household Finances

Teaching Kids Household Finances

I’m still trying to teach my 11-year-old daughter the value of a dollar, and I try to remind myself that it’s a constant teaching process. But it’s now always easy, especially in the area of household finances.

Household chores, for example, don’t always get done, which results in no allowance being paid and no TV or Kindle time. That’s a fun time.

Middle school is a key time to introduce a child to household finances, though I’m not too optimistic about my chances with the lackluster success on her chores. Still, I’m willing to give more things a try in an effort to teach my daughter as much as I can about money before she goes out into the world, and things are going to ramp up this year.

Plenty of household finances

She already has plenty of questions about how much things cost, and earning money to pay for some of her own things is a habit we’re working on. Kids are very curious, and they observe how their parents spend money on household finances — from clothes to cars, groceries and a summer vacation — that they should have an idea of how much is needed for certain things.

Here are some ways to help your kids learn about household finances so that they not only understand why you go to work each day, but hopefully appreciate it and can better see the value in a dollar: Continue reading

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09/14/15 Children # ,

Why My Kid’s School is Teaching Her to Shill Cookie Dough

cookie dough

It’s a simple sales formula that would make any door-to-door salesman proud: Play on a customer’s emotions and you’ll likely get a sale. It works with magazine subscriptions, Girl Scout cookies and even cookie dough.

Cute + cookie dough = sale. It’s automatic.

If cookie dough, cheap jewelry, Oreo churros and expensive candles, among other junk from Believe Kids, are making the rounds in your neighborhood, you know that summer is over and kids are back in school. Forget falling leaves and cool winds when looking for the start of the fall season. Cookie dough for $17 is for sale, marking the start of fall.

My daughter’s school started its fall fundraiser recently, and while she and her classmates are told not to sell items door-to-door, they are expected to push their cuteness and fundraising goals upon their families. If you can’t sell a $16 pumpkin roll to Grandma, then you aren’t cut out to be in sales.

Is shilling a life skill?

I’m all for giving extra money to schools. I wrote my daughter’s school a big check before school started this year. I understand the need for raising money for extra activities and supplies that the school can’t afford on its own.

Where I lose it is in trying to understand the logic in teaching my kid to shill for cookie dough to her friends and family. The school has all kinds of prizes — which I’ll detail soon — to encourage kids to sell things for which they have an astronomical chance of winning a prize for, and the kids don’t get a cut of the profits. Even in the name of charity, which I don’t think the Parent-Faculty Club is anyway, that isn’t much of an incentive to sell. Continue reading

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07/16/15 Children , Minimalism # , ,

The Cost of Outgrowing Birthday Parties

The Cost of Outgrowing Birthday Parties

Every parent knows the financial hazards of planning a birthday party for their child. Planning birthday parties is an industry among many that pull parents into a major expense that they otherwise might not be part of — at least not voluntarily.

If you’ve escaped the high cost of birthday parties for your own child, chances are you’ve seen it at birthday parties you’ve taken your kid to for their friends.

You know the ones. Whether’s Chuck E Cheese and the chaos that happens when screaming children are pared with soda, lousy pizza and game tokens, or another manufactured playdate at a facility that will set up, put on and clean up after, these birthday parties can easily run a few hundred dollars. Continue reading

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06/18/15 Children # ,

What I Want to Give My Daughter for Father’s Day


I’m going to a baseball game with my family and some friends on Father’s Day, so my 10-year-old daughter is essentially off the hook for getting me a gift since I’ll be happy enough if she can sit through a game. She’s not a fan.

And while I’m not shelling out $50 to the Oakland A’s so I can play catch with her on the field after the game — a Father’s Day ripoff I’ve already written about — there’s some financial advice I want to give her on this day in June to remind her how important she is to me and some of my hopes for her.

College fund

My wife and I set up a college education fund within a month of her birth that we contribute to monthly.

When she does go to college, I hope she uses the money well, works summers to supplement it, and doesn’t have to take out student loans or work much while in college. Years of debt shouldn’t be the price of an education. Hopefully, we’ve helped make her financial life during and after college a bit easier.

A savings account

She also has a savings account where most of the money she receives for birthdays, Christmas and other events is kept. I hope she becomes a saver and always has an emergency fund and travel fund moving in the right directions.

A well-paying, fun job

I don’t know what career path she’ll eventually choose, but I hope it’s one she chooses because she’s great at it and enjoys it. I didn’t choose journalism for the high pay, but it’s a job I fully enjoy.

A college education is likely to help her more than anything to get there. And a job in the public sector may be even better, according to a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.