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Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
1099s, receipts, bank statements, tax deductions, and medical spending are just some of the documents that a family needs to pull together come tax time. The sheer amount of paper can be overwhelming but free online tools that have accompanying apps can assist with tracking expenses, storing copies of important documents safely, and capturing expenditures so you can throw away receipts.
Tax season doesn’t have to be daunting if you are good about keeping track of expenses throughout the year. Streamline your taxes by going paperless with these six helpful tools, which can be accessed through apps for your iPhone, iPad, or Android device and also on the Web.
Mint— If you’re a family that struggles with budgeting or likes to account for every penny spent, Mint helps pull together your bank accounts so you can view all of your financial information at the same time. Take a look at balances and transactions on the web or on your smartphone to get a big picture view of your family’s finances.
Expensify— Technically designed to assist with expense reports, Expensify can also be used to organize a freelancer or consultant’s business expenses and helps eliminate endless receipts. Start by logging into the website to create an account and then download the mobile app to use Expensify to capture and upload receipts. Use your smartphone’s camera feature to take a picture of your receipt, fill in information such as expenditure category, add some notes, and save it in a report that can be viewed online at a later date.
Slice— Slice works with your email inbox to pull information from your e-receipts and organize them all in a single, easy-to-access record of past purchases. Slice keeps a record of online purchases through e-receipts so it can instantly assist you in finding lost or forgotten deductions and receipts such as textbooks, small business expenses, and travel. Slice presents purchases in an easy-to-browse list and stores your receipts so you can print them out or take a screenshot for your records. It also allows you to download and export purchase data to a .csv file.
Freshbooks— Small business owners or consultants who need to keep track of invoices and payments will appreciate the ease of Freshbooks. This cloud accounting service makes billing painless thanks to an easy to use interface. Freshbooks helps business owners create professional invoices and then send, receive, print, and pay them too. For added convenience, Freshbooks integrates with Expensify.
Evernote— If you’re in need of an organized, paperless tax process for your personal finance documents, Evernote can help. Scan and save documents such as receipts and financial statements, save logins for online accounts, or store contact info for tax professionals and accountants you work with. All information can be organized in a notebook or with a tag before sharing it with your spouse or partner if filing jointly.
Master Lock Vault— With so many online accounts and apps to help reduce the paper associated with tax season, it’s easy to forget each site’s login credentials. Master Lock Vault is a free service that works online through your desktop computer and a mobile app as a way to store and organize important information. It securely stores logins and passwords but also digital copies of your passport, social security card and other confidential data such as debit or PIN card numbers or online credit card account log-in information.
Closeup woman’s hand writing messages on business desk via Shutterstock
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accounting, Expensify, free, FreshBooks, invoicing, Mint, online tools, receipts, tax preparation | Categories:
Apps, Must Read, Tech Savvy Parents, Website
Friday, January 18th, 2013
On Monday, January 21, Barack Obama will be sworn in during our Nation’s 57th Inaugural Ceremony making it a great time to teach kids about the pomp and circumstance surrounding inauguration day as well as the role of the president and about our country’s past presidents. Where to start? Websites that are chock full of information satisfy curious learners while interactive apps engage kids of all ages.
Inauguration Day has many parts. The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has a fantastic page about each of the Inauguration Day Events and the history behind them. Learn about the Procession to the Capitol, Vice President’s Swearing In Ceremony, President’s Swearing In Ceremony, Inaugural Address, and everything leading up to the night’s many Inaugural Balls.
For children who are interested in learning more about our country’s past presidents, an engaging way to learn is through iPad apps. Basher Presidents features fun facts and a bit of trivia about each of our presidents using text that is appropriate for first grade and up.
Upper elementary ages who are interested in a deeper dive into our nation’s leaders will enjoy the Disney American Presidents: Unofficial Oval Office Scrapbook iPad app. Based on the award-winning educational DVD series The American Presidentsfrom Disney Educational Productions and developed with the help of a producer from The Daily Show and Colbert Report, this app features an interactive scrapbook, cartoons, and animations that incorporate music, videos, art and more that makes for a fun learning experience for kids. Parents will also enjoy getting a history refresher course through real life testimonials from Mo Rocca, Bob Woodward, Paul Begala, Wesley Clark, Sam Donaldson, Melissa Harris-Perry, Robert Reich, and Jon Meacham.
If you happen to be traveling to Washington, D.C. to be a part of this historic day but are without inaugural ball tickets, The Washington Post shares 10 ways to celebrate for $20 or less. Consider involving your family in Inauguration Day of Service if you’ll be in town on Saturday to engage in charitable acts together. Also be sure to sign up for text alerts for real time information about Inaugural activities on the National Mall and parade route from the U.S. Park Police by texting INAUGURATION to 888777.
Faces in the crowd on Bill Clinton’s Inauguration Day January 20, 1993 in Washington, DC spirit of america via Shutterstock.com
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Friday, December 28th, 2012
After the opening of the gifts, it’s time to say thanks for items received not only to demonstrate proper etiquette but also to practice a number of important skills. Thank you notes provide younger children with the opportunity to practice fine motor skills as they practice their letters while older children can hone their written communication skills. Whether you choose hand written note cards or tech savvy expressions, there’s a method of saying thank you that suits every child’s style.
Hand written thank you notes sent via snail mail are a great way to teach younger kids the importance of a thank you card. Use free printable online templates to differentiate the task for kids of varying ages. Older children should be expected to write more than younger siblings but it’s often motivational if everyone sits down together to complete the task. Printable templates in princess, rainbow, and party themes allow preschooler and kindergartners to fill in the name of the gift giver, the gift, and sign their name at the end. These black and white templates from Delightful Distractions are fun to color and require two sentences, rather than 1. Third graders who are practicing cursive can fill in these notes and can either draw a picture or add a photo of themselves with the gift.
Personalized thank you cards with a hand written note are the ultimate expression of self. Tiny Prints makes great thank you cards for kids of all ages that include flat and folded versions, child-friendly themes, or sophisticated fonts and designs for the most choosy tween or teen. The online card retailer makes it easy to create cards on their website in a matter of minutes. Add a photo, your child’s name, and even request a proof to be emailed to you before your cards print and ship. The hardest thing about using this site is choosing among the vast selection of gorgeous thank you notes!
The Paperless Post app makes it easy to send personalized cards even while on the go. It’s great for creating personalized thank you cards while traveling. Just select a free card design, type your message, select the recipient in your iPhone’s address book, and the cost includes printing and the required postage.
For the super tech savvy giver and receiver, iGiftThanks is an app that allows iOS device users to keep track of gifts received, take a photo, add a frame, and say thank you via email, Facebook or Twitter instantly. It’s a simple and thoughtful app that is easy enough for young iPod users to use so there won’t be any excuse as to why they haven’t written their thank you notes yet!
Thank you note written in chalk on a slate heart hanging on a wooden background via Shutterstock
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Sunday, December 23rd, 2012
As Christmas draws near, the anticipation of Santa’s arrival becomes almost unbearable but the NORAD Santa Tracker is a fabulous website that allows kids to see where in the world Santa is while teaching lessons about geography at the same time. Run by The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), this real organization is a joint venture between the United States and Canada whose mission is to provide “aerospace warning includes the monitoring of man-made objects in space.” Each year the Colorado Springs based company uses radar, satellites, Santa Cams, and fighter jets to track Santa’s travels around the globe as he starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west.
Children can visit the site for the Santa Countdown Calendar to see the days until Santa’s sleigh is loaded up and ready for take off. The interactive site allows kids to click on parts of Santa’s village to see which workshops are the busiest on any give day up until Christmas Eve.
NORAD begins tracking Santa on what is Christmas Eve in the United States. By the time kids on the East Coast have woken up, Santa has already made stops in Asia. A world map shows exactly where Santa has stopped. NORAD displays the city and country of Santa’s last stop along with the arrival time to his next destination. A fast paced ticker on the site shows how many gifts have been delivered and is mind boggling for kids who still believe.
The Videos tab on the website feature footage of Santa as he traverses the globe featuring Santa and his reindeer flying over landmarks all over the globe. The videos can also be seen on NORAD’s YouTube page.
For curious kids, NORAD features a Frequently Asked Question page where parents can share how Santa is able to travel the world in a mere 24 hours, the travel route, technical specifications of Santa’s sleigh, if NORAD fighter planes ever intercept Santa, whether Santa has ever crashed, and even numbers and an email address in case they want to communication with NORAD about unanswered Santa questions.
In the years that our family has been tracking Santa, the NORAD site has become more sophisticated with additional content added each year that makes it a holiday tradition even for the non-believers.
Christmas background with Santa’s sleigh via Shutterstock
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Thursday, October 4th, 2012
How do you raise children to be knowledgeable about politics and the upcoming election in an age appropriate way?
Joanne Bamberger, parent, author, and new media expert who specializes in the political involvement in women and mothers on PunditMom, says that there are many different ways to get kids involved. Her best selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, features a chapter titled Raising Political Children where she encourages parents to make politics a family affair.
Bamberger believes that attending political events together, hosting a family debate party, or discussing politics around the dinner table to explore issues that are important to your family are great ways to engage kids of all ages. She also thinks that online games and website content strengthen the knowledge of children by allowing them to synthesize information and explore issues on their own.
“Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wanted to help today’s generation of children become more engaged in civic life so she created a website called iCivics.” says Bamberger “In addition to various materials on the site that teachers can use in the classroom, iCivics has a variety of interactive games for kids of different ages to teach them about voting, how our system of government works, and even lead their own virtual country to see what it takes to be a leader.”
In addition to iCivics, Bamberger also suggests the following 4 sites to teach kids about the election, candidates, and how voting works.
- Time for Kids— “This is a good one for kids old enough to be following the election because it talks in more specifics about the candidates (vs just the process) and features kids actually covering the news,” Bamberger reports. “I especially like the section on the issues, because sometimes it’s hard for us parents to find ways to talk about things like the economy and taxes in a way our tweens and early teens can really understand.”
- ZOOM the Vote from PBS Kids— There are many sites that are reporting election news but unlike other sites, Bamberger says ZOOM the Vote “gives kids an explanation of something many sites don’t — why your vote actually matters.”
- The Democracy Project on PBS Kids— Although Bamberger admits that the site is a little dated since there is still information about the 2008 election, she finds the section on “How Does the Government Effect Me” relevant for jaded middle schoolers who be asking why they should care about this election.
- Scholastic Kids Press Corps Blog— “Scholastic, as always, has great resources to help kids understand out electoral process,” states Bamberger. “I like this one because it features a blog with actual students who got to cover the conventions and write about what they thought about the process, without all that talking head shouting nonsense we so often see on TV.”
Thanks to Joanne Bamberger for her willingness to be interviewed and share her favorite websites for kids. Mothers of Intention image courtesy of Joanne Bamberger. Two elementary girls laying on their bellies while holding American flags via Shutterstock
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