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Pantech Vybe Review: First Phone For Kids

Pantech vybe first phone kidsBack to school is a busy time for parents, preparing their kids for the classroom, fall sports and other activities. Choosing a new phone and managing cell phone use is also at the top of many parents’ list. Kids nowadays use phones as one of their main forms of communication with other kids as well as pesky parents who pick them up and drop them off places. I covered the topic of deciding on the right age to buy a phone and tips on setting up your kid’s first phone in a recent back to school post.  I drove to the AT&T store myself to try to figure out which phone I was going to buy for my twin boys who are starting middle school. After receiving an email about the Pantech Vybe, I decided to do a review of the phone with my twins.

 

As I mentioned in my “tips for buying your kids a phone” post, I believe phones should be given to kids on an as-needed basis. My kids are taking the bus, riding their bike or walking to school and activities on their own now we decided it was time for them to have their own phones. Because they are just starting middle school, I just wanted to have the ability to call, text and use phone tools while not using any social network or the mobile web. The Pantech Vybe is a great first phone because in addition to making calls it has a slide out keyboard that’s perfect for texting and has its own operating system so kids can’t use app stores to load up on apps and games. We also found it helpful to have the option to disable data on the phones if necessary.

 

Of course at first we the kids pushed back. They wanted an iPhone or another fancy smartphone like some of their other 11-year old friends. Beyond being RIDICULOUS that 11 year olds have full featured smartphones in the first place, tweens especially may not understand the consequences of all of their actions – so why give them mobile tools to do so?  We do believe as a family that all kids should be educated and make informed decisions about Internet safety but temptations and peer pressure can be hard for tweens/teens to resist. Already one of their peers is posting things on Instagram that are pretty alarming for their age group.  While many kids have full access to browsers and apps on tablets, desktops and laptops at home – at least those devices are being used at home and not being taken with them every day and used without supervision.

 

PANTECH VYBE SPECIFICATIONS AND FEATURES
FEATURES:
Here are the features of the Pantech Vybe:

  • Slide-out QWERTY Keyboard
  • 3.2” Touchscreen Display and 3 Customizable Homescreens
  • Hands free one-touch “Say-A-Command button”

 

The user manual has information on setting up and also found the Pantech support section of the AT&T website useful because of the setup videos.
pantech vybe home screen

 

Touchscreen Display, Navigation and Customizable Home screens:

The touchscreen display is 3.2 inches and can be customized with favorite apps such as notepad, calculator, contacts and more.  There is even a hands free one-touch “Say-A-Command” button. Pantech included a proprietary dual-user mode: “Easy Mode has one home screen and a simplified menu for a truly intuitive user experience. Advanced Mode is customizable and offers more options and flexibility. You can safely switch back and forth between modes without losing your contacts or favorites. ”

 

What I found useful to understand is that there are two types of “menus” in advanced mode. The main menu is called the home screen (starting point for using applications on your phone) . The home screen can be customized with a picture or standard backgrounds (customizable from “display” section of tools). One of the home screens can be customized to display shortcuts for favorite apps (Max 9 icons can be added) and another for web addresses. Once the main screen is set up it is simple to use the phone (unlock, tap and go).
The second menu is listed on the home screen in the navigation at the bottom as “Menu”. This has access to load lots of different tools (more than the 9 max on the home screen). In the tools area we loaded shortcuts for pre-loaded apps such as sketch pad, notepad, calculator, alarm clock voice memo, pictures, address book, video player, and camera.

 

Entertainment:
The “My stuff” folder has applications, games, audio (alert tones and ring tones), music, pictures, video, other files and info on memory. Available games include brain challenge and UNO (we bought the full version of Uno). You can insert a memory card if you wanted. For kids who do have data plans there is a video player and for those who want to load music there is a music player. The help section of the website has instructions on how to transfer music to the Pantech Vybe.

 

What I like about the Pantech Vybe is that it does not have access to an app store so kids are limited to what is loaded on the phone. As I said in my “getting your kid their first phone tip post”, having access to app stores can be expensive and give access to inappropriate apps for kids.  While the Pantech Vybe does have Facebook, Twitter and mobile web apps – I explained to my kids that we blocked the data plan so they can’t use those apps anyway.

 

AT&T Services:
Along with the other apps, the Pantech Vybe has AT&T services apps preloaded such as like AT&T Navigator, AT&T Address Book, AT&T Family Map, AT&T Drive Mode and myAT&T so I can help them see their account information.

 

Specifications:

The specifications have the phone at just 4.94 ounces so it is light for the kids to either carry in their pocket, bags or backpack pockets. It is also slim at just 2.32 inches width and 4.49 inches height (depth is only .51). The 3.2″ TFT Touchscreen Display has nice resolution (240 x 400) for a first phone and the touchscreen makes it more intuitive to use. Calls made to my sons on the phone sound great. I am able to hear them clearly and they have been able to hear me (even if they don’t want to!).

 

The proprietary operating system (Pantech Proprietary J2ME)  gives me comfort that they can only use the apps pre-loaded on the phone.  The Pantech Vybe has cellular technology to meet my kids need (2G – Quad Band (GSM/GPRS/EDGE) – (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) 3G – Tri Band (UMTS/HSDPA) – (850/1900/ 2100 MHz) and Bluetooth if they want to use it with wireless accessories.

 

Overall my kids are very happy with the phone and were able to start using it without any instruction from me. But we did of course spend the time to go over the family phone use rules, multiple times to make sure they understand (even though I had to hear “I KNOW Mom!!” multiple times).   With the Pantech Vybe I have the comfort of knowing they can call and text with a phone that has all the features they need right now (as a middle schooler) without having too much access to the wide range of apps available on other smartphones and in other app stores. When my twin boys turn 13, maybe we will allow them to use the Pantech Facebook app

 

Pantech Vybe Overview from press release:

Purchasing your child’s first mobile phone has become a rite of passage for tweens and young teens, and parents too. The big question looms: Is your tween ready for a cell phone?  The Pantech Vybe is a great compromise, offering your child plenty of must-have features like messaging, easy camera access and social media without unrestricted access to apps and a high data plan. The Pantech Vybe is your solution.

The Pantech Vybe is an affordable, easy to use quick messaging phone, with access to the features and apps kids want at a price parents love. With a low-cost monthly plan for talk and text, the Pantech Vybe is an attractive option to add to a family plan at an affordable price.

In addition to being budget-friendly, the Pantech Vybe is tween and teen-approved with a slide-out keyboard for quick and easy texting, social media shortcuts, quick camera button, multiple customizable home screens and music and video players.

 

The Pantech Vybe is $29.99 with a two-year contract and can be purchased exclusively at AT&T. For more information on the Pantech Vybe, visit MyFirstPhone.com”.

 

 

Here is a video I received with the press release:

 

 

 

Disclosure: I have received products for review purposes.

 

 

 

Top Tips: Choosing First Phone For Kids

Top Tips to Help Kids Choose First PhoneOne of the most frequent requests I receive from parents is to discuss the right age to buy a child their first phone, what type of phone to buy and how to establish and enforce phone usage rules. Back to school is the perfect time for families to create family rules for existing kid phones and establish new rules for kids just starting to use cell phones.

 

Our older son received a call and text only phone for middle school and then a smartphone for high school after he proved he could not only follow our family phone use rules but also engage with us in regular “phone safety” discussions. Now that our twin boys are heading off the middle school, we decided it was time to buy them their first phone and set up new family phone use rules. Here are some of the tips from our experience of setting up our kids with their first phone. Please share your tips!

 

Tips To Buying First Kid’s Phone

 

TIP 1Buy your phone on as as needed basis:

Buy your kids their first phone on an “as needed basis”: I tell parents that the age when their kids should have a phone is dependent on when they “need” a phone.  Just because a third grader may say to their parents, “my best friend has a phone, I should get one too”, does not mean a new phone is one the way. Peer pressure is not a valid reason to get a child their first phone.  One appropriate reason is to keep in touch with your kids when they start transporting themselves to school (via bus or bike for example). But each child has different needs and different timing.

 

TIP 2 - Decide what type of plan (i.e. “emergency only”, voice, voice & text or voice, text and data phone):

 

When my kids started riding their bikes to school in 4th grade we decided to buy them inexpensive “pay by the month” phones that only had minutes for emergencies and were not for regular use. But when my twins went off to middle school this year, we agreed to get them a phone with a voice and text plan so we could communicate with them and they could communicate with their friends. A few of our friends purchased phones with a voice and text plan for their kids because they had multiple after school activities and sometimes needed a way to reach the parents where were driving.

 

Although our family phone plan has shared data, we do not allow them to use the data and can easily track this on the monthly bill.  We can also disable data from their phones if their discipline weakens or they don’t comply. The AT&T website (our phone service) has details on disabling data on phones.

 

TIP 3 – Develop family phone use rules and phone etiquette standards:

 

The most important thing to teach your kid when you give them their first phone is phone etiquette.  A cell phone can be a great communication tool or a tool that can get your kids in serious trouble (even danger). Parents should take the time to first educate themselves then create family phone rules. We started talking to our kids about cell phone etiquette a year before they had their first phone. Now we are creating rules as well as a phone “safe use” contract that they “sign” to confirm they understand. Breaking the rules means they lose use of the phone.

 

We checked online resources including the Common Sense Media Parents Guide to Kids and Cell Phones, Emily Post Top Ten Cell Phone Manners, Parents.com Teaching Kids Cell Phone Etiquette and more. We focused on different types of etiquette including appropriate cell phone voice and texting, cell phone etiquette do’s and don’ts (Common Sense Media),  email etiquette, school rules for phones (don’t use during school!) and overall phone safety rules such as not sharing personal information or location information with anyone but family and friends (and never accept “online friends” you don’t know if real life!).

 

My friend Sarah Granger just wrote a book called “Digital Mystique – How the Culture of Connectivity Can Empower Your Life – Online and Off”.  I recommend this book as a great starting point for parents to educate themselves on the online world. She interviewed me for the book and included something I always tell parents: “Internet Safety is the New Sex Talk”.  This includes cell phone etiquette because it opens kids up to a world of communication between other kids, even if it is just calling, texting, and sharing photos.

 

Most of all, I have written for years that the most important tool for proper cell phone use is active communication between parents and kids. We manage this communication by rewarding our kids for sharing their personal experiences and rewarding this open communication with freedom to use their phones. It has been hard at times, but we have a “discuss anything” policy and try not to be upset when they come to us – even with upsetting news. We want them to feel comfortable talking about their phone use and work with us to navigate the scary waters of cell phone use. When my oldest made a mistake or two in the past we discussed why it was wrong and how he can make sure it never happens again. We do not use apps such as “Ignore No More app” that limit cell phone use when kids ignore their parents calls because they do not treat the underlying issue: trust. Of course, each family needs to choose what works for them.

 

For example, the day oldest son received his first phone he attended a pool party that afternoon where he took pictures of his friends, several of whom were wearing bikinis. Some of the girls were posing in ways that could be seen as provocative and the photos were inappropriate. Luckily, our son showed us the pictures in an effort to comply with the “open communication qualification” for phone use. This gave us the chance to explain why the pictures were inappropriate and he deleted them from his phone. It was an innocent situation, which happens so often, but those are also the most dangerous because the kids don’t know that what they are doing is wrong.

 

We also explained that even if someone else takes a picture that could be perceived as inappropriate and sends it to him – he needs to delete it from his phone right away. If he shares a picture even that he did not take, he will still be held responsible and could even include being arrested.

 

TIP 4 – Choose a Phone:

 

I received an email about the Pantech Vybe phone around the same time I had just been to the AT&T store (my carrier) to look at possible first phone options for my twin 11 year olds.  Because I had already included the Pantech Vybe on my list of phones to investigate, I decided to do a review of the phone with my twins. Here is a link to the review “First Phone For Kids: Pantech Vybe Review”.

 

For my kids, we did not want to get them a “smartphone” until they were older. Because they are just 11, we decided that making calls and texting was appropriate for their age (in our family). We also felt that having access to an app store was something we wanted our tweens to do at home using our WiFi only devices.  For example, we set up home tablets to request a password sign-on before any app can be purchased. This allows us to review the app as a family before they download it.  But even then, having access to a device with an app store can have it’s challenges. Both Google and Apple faced lawsuits over in-app purchases by kids. Beyond the cost consequences of using apps, apps that “seem” family friendly can at times lead to inappropriate features. So I always recommend parents use “family friendly” rated apps together at first.

 

TIP 5 – Privacy Settings and Digital Safety Toolbox:

 

To prepare for my kids for getting their phone, I created a list of digital safety tools and phone settings which they later helped me set on their phones. This includes location, which can be a safety issue for young kids.  The tools we implemented include  LoJack for Android, and Find my iPhone to track the device plus apps to track your kids (some of which are covered in this post on Tom’s Hardware “8 Apps for Tracking Your Teens”) including Life360 (family locator, messaging tool and communication app all in one).

 

What was the first phone you chose for your kids and what apps, settings and rules did you set up that worked or did not work?

 

 

Disclosure: This is a press post. Some items were provided to me for review purposes.

 

 

 

 

Back To School Organization Tips – Family Online Calender

Back-To-School-OrganizationAs kids head back to school many families start the process of organizing their schedules and lives.  I will be covering the tools, apps, tech and processes that I have found helpful for back to school organization over the next few weeks , and hope to hear from my readers what works for them. Because organizing for the new school year can be overwhelming, I suggest starting with setting up the school year and after school activity schedule.  While there are many paper based organization systems, my family prefers to use online calenders.  Here are the steps we took to set up our family schedule online:

 

STEP 1: Pick an online calender.

 

There are individual sites such as Cozi.com that have web and apps to capture family schedules, but there are also online calenders such as Microsoft Outlook, Apple iCal, Yahoo and Google Calenders. To help choose, look at the email accounts and operating systems that most family member’s use. At the same time consider that because online calenders can be accessed over the internet, they do work across operating systems and devices as long as you have either WiFi or a data plan for phones.

 

STEP 2: Gather School, Sports and After school Activity dates:

 

Gathering a list of school, sports and after school activity dates make seem time consuming, but it is worthwhile investment. Setting up an online calender in the beginning of the year (and updated seasonally) will help organize the family schedule and family life in general. Some schools and sports leagues have online calenders you can load to directly to personal online calenders (look for the “+” calender or “add calender” option).  If you only have paper printouts our online lists, I suggest putting those in a folder then pick a time that I call “input day” where I just input everything into the calender. It may seem like a big task, but it actually does not take as long as it would seem it I just start it at the beginning of each school year then just update as needed.

 

 

STEP 3:  Input school, sports and after school dates into the online calender.

 

Next pick a time (or a few times) to input the school year calender dates into the online calender. Check out the features of the online calender system so you know in advance the ones you want to use. For example, I use special features like “repeat” for the timing of each school day (8:15am-3pm) so it just repeats each weekday for a whole semester at at time. Then I delete or change the timing for vacations. I “invite” family members to events so they get it on their online calenders (such as school concerts).

 

 

But my favorite feature is the option to color code different calenders to represent different kids in my family of three boys. I then “invite” my kids via their email address to access their calender so they can not only see their schedule but also learn the process of managing their schedule. The goal is as they get older they will become independent by setting up their own online calenders. Color coding has also taken care of any “you did not tell me about that appointment” complaints because I can always say “it was on your schedule – so please check it”.  My teen has a smartphone with access to a data plan so I have higher expectations for him to regularly check his schedule versus my twins who have talk and text phones with no internet access.  I also try to print out my kids “color coded” online schedules and have them up in the kitchen as a reminder.

 

How do you set up your family school year schedule?

 

 

 

Teen Health and Myths

Disclosure: Sponsored Post

 

 

peer pressure kidsBeing a teen is difficult enough, managing self-esteem and self-confidence at time when peers can be judgmental and mean.  With one teen child and two tweens following closely behind, our family is in the thick of that challenge. I decided to help my kids focus on health and wellness to strengthen their confidence and part of our journey involved creating a dental health strategy. As a member of the Invisalign Teen – Mom Advisory Board I had the opportunity to learn about Invisalign as an alternative to braces. Below are our top priorities for our teen’s health and wellness, including a dental health strategy, along with some myths and facts about Invisalign from a company press release.

 

1. Focus on Exercise:  We were shocked to learn that while some sports are great for a team experience (baseball), they may not satisfy a teen’s daily exercise needs. So we looked into setting up regular activities to help with daily fitness training including running, a rigorous work out at a health club, and aerobic sports including swimming and basketball.

 

2. Focus on Healthy Eating: Each of our boys has specific healthy food preferences but all three of them favor junk food when socializing with friends. In response, we talk about finding ways to fit healthy foods into their daily routine.

 

3. Focus on Mindfulness: We researched mindfulness to help our kids learn techniques to deal with stressful situations. One of them is a simple 5 minute meditation at night where they focus on their favorite place (i.e. the beach) and listen to the sounds of that place (waves).

 

4. Focus on Emotional Intelligence: We have regular talks with our kids about recognizing their own emotions as well as the emotions of others to help develop emotional intelligence. We then stress the importance of engaging with “positive” friends while disengaging with negative people (such as school bullies).

 

5. Focus on being Healthy instead of what peers think:  Being a teen brings with it certain social pressures to look a particular way. We try to help our kids understand that real beauty lies in being healthy, not “peer” determined standards. This includes getting sleep as well as exercising and eating well. My teen has been successfully managing Eczema (moisturize more) and addressed dental health by properly brushing and flossing his teeth as well as using Invisalign to fixing the crowding on this teeth. In a prior post I talked about the thousands of dollars I have spent on dental problems caused by my overcrowded teeth (that could of been fixed if I had braces). Fixing my son’s overcrowding during his teen years gives him a better chance at a healthy dental future. It also really helps that the Invisalign are clear so his friends don’t even know he is wearing them!

 

When I first research using Invisalign for my son’s second round of braces as a teen, I had many questions. The wires on the metal braces he used the first time around routinely broke, causing significant discomfort and maintenance challenges. As part of the Invisalign Teen – Mom Advisory Board I had a chance to get some answers – setting it straight on the myths of Invisalign.

 

Here are some of the information I received from Invisalign to help me understand answers to my questions:

 

 

Invisalign Myths/Setting It Straight

Myth: Invisalign can only treat minor or cosmetic issues.

Setting it Straight: Invisalign effectively treats a wide variety of orthodontic issues including severe bite issues. From underbite to crossbite, deepbite to overbite and overly crowded to widely spaced, advancements to Invisalign’s patented technology continues to increase the complexity of issues that can be treated.

 

Myth: Invisalign is more expensive than metal braces.

Setting it Straight: The cost of Invisalign is usually comparable to the cost of traditional braces and many dental insurance plans cover Invisalign just as they would braces.

 

Myth: I won’t be able to tell if my child is wearing Invisalign often enough for it to be effective.

Setting it Straight: Invisalign Teen aligners are made with small blue dots, officially called compliance indicators, that gradually fade as aligners are worn. It’s a quick visual check for parents and teens to confirm they wearing aligners long enough to get results. In fact, clinical data from orthodontists confirms that teens wear their aligners an average of 21 hours per day, just as recommended.

 

Myth: If my child loses their aligners, it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg to replace.

Setting it Straight: We know kids lose things, even their aligners! That’s why you get up to six FREE replacement aligners with Invisalign Teen.

 

Myth: After Invisalign Teen, my child’s teeth may revert back to their original position.

Setting it Straight: Studies show that without retainers straight teeth can gradually shift back towards their initial position. This is a common occurrence with all orthodontic treatment including braces, but is one that can easily be overcome. Ask your doctor about Vivera retainers from the makers of Invisalign.

 

Myth: I don’t need to take my child to see an orthodontist until they are a teenager.

Setting it Straight: The American Association of Orthodontics recommends taking children for their first orthodontic check-up no later than age 7. The American Dental Association says this is because, “Your child’s dentist can spot problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth early on, while the primary teeth are present.”

 

Myth: Invisalign takes longer to complete than braces.

Setting it Straight: The length of Invisalign treatment is comparable to braces. The average Invisalign journey averages about 12 months for adults. The length of treatment time for teens may vary depending on the severity of the case and can only be determined by a doctor.

 

Myth: If my child’s dentist or orthodontist recommends braces over Invisalign, I should trust their opinion.

Setting it Straight: Not all orthodontists specialize in Invisalign Teen. Visit www.invisalign.com and select “find a doctor” to locate experienced Invisalign and Invisalign Teen doctors in your area. If you are told your teen is not an Invisalign candidate, it may be worth getting a second opinion from more than one orthodontist. Doing so may help ensure that you have all the information you need to make an educated decision.

 

Myth: Braces work better than Invisalign.

Setting it Straight: Invisalign Teen was developed with leading orthodontists to correct the most common teeth straightening issues – from severe cases to more minor, cosmetic adjustments. Invisalign Teen’s clear aligners are removable and can straighten teeth without a mouth full of metal and all the disruption and sacrifice that comes with it. With Invisalign, teens look better and feel more confident than they ever could in traditional braces.

 

Myth: We can’t afford Invisalign.

Setting it Straight: Invisalign Teen is covered by many dental insurance policies just like traditional braces — up to 50% of the cost may be covered by insurance. Even if dental insurance doesn’t apply, many doctors will help parents find options to make straightening their child’s teeth more affordable. Many offer flexible and affordable monthly finance plans that can be as low as $99 per month.

 

Myth: Braces are a rite of passage.

Setting it Straight: Virtually invisible aligners, mean there is less social awkwardness to impact teen’s confidence and self-esteem during an already vulnerable time. There’s no need for teens to hold back or feel they’re missing out on anything when straightening their teeth with Invisalign.

 

Myth: Invisalign treatment will disrupt our lives.

Setting it Straight: With Invisalign, Teens can play sports without fear of injury and continue cheerleading, musical instruments, acting and singing with little to no interference. And because its removable, brushing and flossing is easy and no food restrictions to worry about either. Invisalign is much less disruptive for busy moms and dads too. Invisalign Teen eliminates emergency ortho visits for broken wires and brackets and requires fewer appointments since several aligner sets are provided in advance.

 

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board. My son has received complimentary treatment from Align, but all opinions expressed are my own. Here is the link to the Invisalign Smile Assessment.

 

 

 

 

What happened when I went #DigitallyDark – sponsored GIVEAWAY

*Disclosure: Sponsored Giveaway*

 

WINNER: Robyn Wright from RobynsOnlineWorld.com! Congrats!

 

device theft solutionsIn my last blog post, I talked about device theft and smartphone security including the importance of protecting the data on our devices. Because I manage my personal life and business using my smartphone, tablet and laptop, I need to plan for the potential nightmare of my technology being stolen. I simulated this scenario as part of  Absolute Software’s #DigitallyDark challenge. This challenge involved going “dark”, with all devices turned off, for one day last week. Absolute Software solutions enable device location tracking, locking it against unauthorized users and data protection software that permanently erasing files from remote locations. Their two device theft solutions are called Absolute Data Protect and Absolute LoJack.

 

What happened when I went #DigitallyDark  (yes, shriek of terror) for a day?

 

1. Contacts: I could not make any calls or access my contacts. Even though my data is backed-up in the cloud, I needed a device to get to the cloud!!

 

2. Data files: I did not have access to all my personal, professional and family management data files stored on my devices. Also off limits the software I use to run both my business and my family management. If the #DigitallyDark exercise had been a real theft of hardware, I would be forced to re-install some of this software from the disks, which hopefully are in a convenient location in my house.

 

3. Music Playlists: Even the music playlists that I listen to when relaxing and exercising were not accessible, so chilling out to music was not an option.

 

4. Security: The personal information on my phone includes passwords to payment software, so a stolen phone or notebook is a big financial risk.

 

5. Theft reporting: If my devices really were stolen, I would not even know where to start. Where would I report stolen laptop, stolen smartphone or even report a stolen tablet? Who should I call first? I could report it to the local police… and then what?  If I had tracking on my device, should I pass that information to the police and ask them to track down my property?

 

Using device theft solutions like Absolute Data Protect and Absolute LoJack would give me peace of mind and more of a sense of control because the software can locate the device, lock the device to prevent access of personal information, and permanently erase files in order to protect personal information and prevent identity theft. Absolute LoJack also has the extra features of recovery and guarantee. Absolute’s Investigation Team springs into action building a case and then presenting it to law enforcement (recovery) and provides a Service Guarantee to help pay for a replacement.

 

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

Device Theft Absolute LoJackAs part of the #DigitalDark challenge get the opportunity to run a giveawa (6/19 – 6/25) where I will select one winner (at random) who will receive a family pack that includes FIVE -year Premium Absolute LoJack Subscriptions.

 

Rules: Each entrant can only enter once. To enter:

STEP 1. “Like” Absolute LoJack’s Facebook Page.

STEP 2. Comment on this blog post confirming that you liked the Facebook page and then share your thoughts on device theft.

 

1. One Blog Post comment per person. One Blog Post comment is equal to one entry (so only one entry per person)  2. Winners are limited to US residents only 21 years of age or older. 3. If a valid email address is not provided in the entry, another winner will be chosen. 4. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded. 5. Approximate value of prizes may vary. 6. All decisions are final  7. By entering any giveaway on this website you release Techmamas.com from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action. 7. Contest ends June 25 2014 -10pm pst. Winner will be announced by June 27 2014.

NOTE AS OF JUNE 27 – WINNER HAS BEEN CHOSEN AND CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. But feel free to still share your thoughts on Device Theft!

BONUS:

I also get the opportunity to share an exclusive offer:  30% off a 1-year Absolute LoJack Standard or Premium subscription.  Just enter promo code:  DARK30 at checkout: www.absolutelojack.com/challenge

**Offer is good until June 30.

 

 

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored giveaway. All of my words are my own.*

 

 

 

Fed Up – New Documentary On Sugar and Obesity in America

Healthy food Lately I have been busy trying to help my family really understand how to live a healthy lifestyle. I realized it is not only about exercise or eating food that seems “healthy”. It is also about understanding what are the right foods to eat and to control things like the amount of sugar being consumed. We have a history of diabetes in our family so it is especially important. I really did get “Fed Up” with the type of foods in the schools, restaurants and even grocery stores that have moved so far away from whole food ingredients. We just recently started cooking from scratch, adding more plant foods and even making my kid’s lunches for school. I am also trying new nutritional apps and websites that I am excited to talk more about in future posts.

 

But for today, I am excited that Katie Couric took her amazing background in investigative journalism and worked with Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH) and director Stephanie Soechtig, to create a documentary on the truth behind the obesity crisis in America called Fed Up opening in Theatres across the country today (May 9).  This was the topic of the Katie Couric Show on May 8 as well. I wanted to share some of this information to help spread the word in the hopes that everyone will take the time to learn more about this important topic.

 

“FED UP” WITH OBESITY IN AMERICA AND ITS AFFECT ON FAMILIES –“KATIE” AIRED MAY 8

 

Photo Credit: Credit:  Disney/ABC.  Katie Couric Show  #2148 with Stephanie Soechtig,  Laurie David,  Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Margo Wootan.

Photo Credit: Credit: Disney/ABC. Katie Couric Show #2148 with Stephanie Soechtig, Laurie David, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Margo Wootan.


 
 
On Thursday’s episode of the nationally syndicated daytime talk show “Katie,” that aired  May 8, Laurie David and Katie discussed their documentary “Fed Up” on obesity in America and the truth behind one of the greatest health crisis of our time.   Director Stephanie Soechtig joined the conversation along with Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science In The Public Interest. Find out what you should be doing to live healthier and longer and how this obesity crisis happened.

 

Today, May 9 the Fed Up Documentary is now at Theatres. I will be taking my family to the see the documentary to learn important information about this health crisis! There is also a FedUp Challenge to join in by clicking HERE. The trailer from the movie gives more details:
 

Fed Up

In theaters May 9, 2014

Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. FED UP is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see. From Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH) and director Stephanie Soechtig, FED UP will change the way you eat forever. The film opens in theaters across the country on May 9th.

 

 

 
 

 

Give gift of Time and Organization with OneNote for Mother’s Day!

Disclosure: Sponsored Post

 

Mother's Day Gift Time

On Mother’s Day, the gift options for that special Mom in your life are endless. One of my favorites is the gift of time with my family, friends and myself. Both organization and automation are essential to freeing-up that valuable time and Microsoft OneNote really helps.

 

New updates to OneNote are pretty exciting and I shared several in my last blog post. It’s available across my wide variety of family devices, and the perfect way to help get better control of my time. Better yet, my family helps by organizing their lists as well on OneNote so we ALL have more time!

 

Here are some of the ways you can give the gift of time and organization to your Mom (or if you are a Mom, suggest to your family!)

 

CREATE/UPDATE FAMILY PHOTO ALBUMS: Scan and organize old family photos into a OneNote notebook to create family albums. OneNote’s integration with apps like Office Lens (for Windows Phone) and Genius Scan (for iPhone, iPad and Android) give you a OneNote scanner in your pocket, so getting your family photos into OneNote is a snap!

 

ORGANIZE WEEKLY RECIPES: Have the whole family find recipes they want to “help” cook for dinner and scan those or save the online links into a OneNote Notebook. Then save in a “special occasion” notebook some fun recipes to cook for Mother’s day or other events. You can even download this customizable OneNote recipe book!

 

MOTHER’S DAY CARD: Have your family create their own pictures as well as find special memento’s or photos to scan for a Mother’s Day OneNote Notebook.

 

GROCERY LIST: Have the family help create a weekly Grocery list on OneNote that can be shared across devices so the family can all help with shopping! Even kids can read OneNote shopping lists on their parents’ phone to help find items at the store!

 

WEEKLY SCHEDULE: Have the family create a weekly schedule in OneNote that can even include screen shots of school lunch schedules, after school activities, scanned calendars and online links. A family that plans together has MORE TIME together! The schedule can also include TODO’s for the week so no one will forget to practice guitar, baseball, tennis or coding (hint hint to my kids!)

 

VACATION LIST: Create the family vacation “wish list”: A OneNote Notebook with vacation idea pictures, links and information so the family can plan special places to visit. After you’ve decided on your destination, download this OneNote travel planning template. Once all your research and planning details are in this OneNote, it’s easy to recall a particular detail at any given moment. You can even use Instant Search in the bar on the top right to recall anything you’ve ever put in OneNote.

 

GIFTS: Have the family create a OneNote notebook recording the gifts everyone wants for special occasions. Add a section detailing ways to earn rewards by completing homework and household chores. For example, if my kids want toys outside of holiday’s or birthdays, they need to create a plan to earn them!

 

ENTERTAINING: Our family realized that we have not been entertaining family and friends as much as we would like so we decided to create a OneNote Notebook with a list of who we want to invite over and meal ideas.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I am an Office Champion and have received sponsorship and products. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

Twitter Party 3/20: Making Screen Time Beneficial #SylvanPlay

One of the top daily struggles I have with my boys is with screen time. Luckily there are many new educational apps and websites to help make that screen time beneficial (a win-win situation!). Please join me (TechMama) and co-host Mike Johnson of PlayGround Dad for a Twitter Party on March 20 from 6-7pm PST. The topics we will discuss includes screen time, finding educational games and apps, how we can empower our kids to learn on digital platforms, helpful resources and more.  The Twitter party is sponsored by Sylvan Learning, which has a personal approach to learning including the latest digital tools. I am excited to share that Sylvan Learning just launched a mobile game network for kids (the press release is below).  

 

Sylvan Learning

 

 

#SylvanPlay Making Screen Time Beneficial Twitter Party Details:

 

  • Twitter Party name: Making Screen Time Beneficial
  • Twitter party hashtag #SylvanPlay  ( @SylvanLearning  )
  • Time and date of the event: 6pm PST/9pm EST Thursday March 20
  • Host’s: Mike Johnson (@Playgrounddad) and Beth Blecherman (@TechMama)
  • How to join the party: Follow join in our discussion by sharing tweets with the hashtag #SylvanPlay on Twitter.  Party hosts will share the party questions. 
  • Prize details (optional)– Three $50 iTunes cards will be randomly be awarded to those participating using #SylvanPlay hashtag.
  • Rules: No purchase necessary to participate. A purchase will not improve your chance of winning. Winners will be randomly selected from those who participated during the party and answered at least one question using the Hashtag #SylvanPlay. Winners from the Twitter Party must be 18+ Years of Age and must have a valid USA mailing address and email address to receive the prize.

 

PRESS RELEASE:

Sylvan Learning Launches Mobile Games Network For Kids

SylvanPlayHelps Kids Build Critical Grade-Level Skills Through Fun, Educational Apps

 

BALTIMORE (March 13, 2014) – Is it ok for kids to binge on mobile games? Sylvan thinks so – as long as they are the right ones. But how can parents find games that guarantee their kids’ screen time is actually beneficial? To help take the guesswork out of choosing from the thousands of apps available, Sylvan Learning introduces SylvanPlay – a comprehensive, educational mobile games network for kids in 1st through 4th grade. SylvanPlay provides the best collection of educational games that reinforce grade-appropriate lessons in fun and engaging ways and enhance what kids are already learning in the classroom while on-the-go.

 

Rather than just one individual app, SylvanPlay is launching with a library of eight fun, Sylvan-approved edutainment apps all packaged together in one network. The games, which have been developed to help students build critical skills in reading, math, science, geography, strategic thinking and more, include:

 

  • Critter Cruise (ages 6 – 9): Inspires math and language learning as kids take a landmark filled road trip across North America, filling up their gas tank by correctly answering questions.  This game was developed exclusively for SylvanPlay and aligns to specific grade level content and the Common Core curriculum.
  • Battle Station (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids improve number sense as they defend their ship from enemy submarines by estimating their location using marker buoys. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Angle Asteroids (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids develop an intuition for angles as they position their laser to blast away the incoming asteroids. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Pizza Party (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids master fractions by splitting up the treats at a pizza party with fun tools like the Slice-o-matic. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Sushi Scramble (ages 6 – 9): Develops language skills through a multiplayer word-building game where 2 to 4 players collaborate or compete to “serve” up the most words or longest word.
  • Get Rocky (ages 6 – 9): Inspires an interest in science through a geology-based racing game that takes kids to the core of the earth.
  • Not Lost in the Universe (ages 6 – 9): Kids learn about how wind, the sun, water, and heat create lasting sources of energy while helping the brave explorers on the Planet Blarp refuel their power cells.
  • Wonder Bunny Math Race (ages 3 – 8): Helps younger kids ages 3-8 learn numbers, counting, addition and subtraction as they help Wonder Bunny win the race and collect carrots along the way.

 

“Sylvan Learning is focused on providing a personal learning experience using the latest technology to engage and connect with kids,” says Julia Fitzgerald, Chief Marketing Officer at Sylvan Learning. “We developed SylvanPlay as a way to extend the learning that happens in our centers and provide parents and kids with Sylvan-approved games they know will be fun, educational, and grade-appropriate. With SylvanPlay, parents can be confident that their kids are turning game time into brain-building time.”

 

The SylvanPlay network will continue to expand on an on-going basis and the content range will soon be available for kids up to 6th grade.  Additional edutainment apps and subjects will inspire more kids to play anywhere and learn everywhere in new and engaging ways.

 

SylvanPlay is available for both iOS and Android operating systems and offers an assortment of free and paid content ranging from $.99 to $4.99 To download to any mobile device, parents can type in “SylvanPlay” or any of the app titles into the search function of either the Apple App store or Android’s GooglePlay store to locate the educational mobile games network. All apps within the SylvanPlay network are free for current Sylvan Learning customers.

 

“As kids became more comfortable working with technology, Sylvan has moved its curriculum to iPads® with the SylvanSync platform,” continues Fitzgerald. “Sylvan continues to follow what families are doing and adapting the curriculum to the devices they prefer.  Why make parents say “no” to apps and games if we can turn them into educational tools that help their child succeed?”

 

To build the new educational game network, Sylvan Learning partnered with Fingerprint, a global technology company, to leverage its well-established mobile technology platform and proven network model. Now SylvanPlay can provide a fun and safe edutainment hub for kids and parents alike.

 

For more information on SylvanPlay and Sylvan Learning log on to http://www.SylvanLearning.com/resources/SylvanPlay or www.SylvanLearning.com.

 

# # #

 

About Sylvan Learning, Inc.
With more than 30 years of experience and more than 800 locations throughout North America, Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of personal learning for students in grades K–12. As the leader in supplemental education, Sylvan is transforming how students learn, inspiring them to succeed in school and in life. Sylvan’s proven tutoring approach blends amazing teachers with SylvanSync™ technology on the iPad® for an engaging learning experience. Sylvan programs include study skills, math, reading, writing and test prep for college entrance and state exams. Sylvan also provides educational services to public and nonpublic schools. The company was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. For more information, call 1-800-31-SUCCESS, or visit www.SylvanLearning.com or Sylvan’s Mom Minded blog at www.SylvanLearning.com/blog.

 

About Fingerprint

Fingerprint is a mobile technology company offering a dynamic technology platform through customer networks. Fingerprint’s enterprise platform solution, with an easy-to-use SDK and curated play-and-learn content from top developers around the world, enables global brands to license and develop customized and localized networks of their own. Fingerprint is funded by leading consumer tech investors including Corus Entertainment and K2MediaLabs. For more information, visit fingerprintplay.com or facebook.com/fingerprintplay.

SylvanPlay and SylvanSync are trademarks of Sylvan Learning

iPad is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.

 

Disclosure: The Twitter Party is sponsored by Sylvan Learning.

 

Tech Tour of Microsoft: Windows 8.1, One Note, 3D, Xbox One and More

 I previously shared the top 5 ways I use Microsoft Office 365 to #GetItDone and explained that I am excited to be an Office Champion. Last month fellow Champions and I had the opportunity to learn lots of new information at the Champions Summit up at the Microsoft Campus in Seattle. Here are some of the fun highlights and I will be sharing more during the coming months.

 

 

Here are a few of us getting ready to start the tour!!!

 

 

The features of Office 365 Home Premium, Windows 8 (8.1) and Windows devices enable me to be so productive. At the Champions Summit I  took notes using Microsoft OneNote,  which synced across my smartphone and Windows laptop via SkyDrive. I used a Windows Phone for pictures, SkyDrive to store them and OneNote, Word and PowerPoint to create my blog post. Best of all, I was able to embed my PowerPoint presentation showing the highlights of the event into this blog post via SkyDrive and the PowerPoint Web App:

Listed below is a summary of information covered at the Champions Summit. But there were so many great tidbits, that I will also be sharing more in future blog posts!

 

WINDOWS 8.1

 

We started with a demo of Windows 8.1, the news update to Windows. I have already updated the family desktop, but laptop was still running Winows 8. What I like about Windows 8 (now 8.1) is that no matter what Windows device I am logged into with my Microsoft account – I see my same “desktop” with my live tiles configured consistently. While Windows “tiles” are similar to what people know as “app” icons, they differ in that they are constantly updated with the most current information.

 

Windows 8.1 has many new and exciting features resulting in a fast and more fluid experience:

  • Swipe from the right to pull up the date and Windows charms.
  • Swipe from the left to see the other current apps/information open on your desktop, then drag the screen (app) next to another open screen (app) to create a  split screen. Then drag it down to close.
  • When you are in an app, swipe from the bottom to see additional functionality.
  • Pinch in and you can move around whole sections at same time.
  • Additional new  capabilities include the ability to customize groups of apps to sort by different categories and to purchase Microsoft app gift cards.
  • One more feature I enjoy using is the Bing Smart Search. My standard technical benchmark for search is to type “Ryan Gosling” and check if all the information I need is in one, easy to view location. Seriously, it’s a great topic to test the quality of Internet search.

 

The Microsoft website has lots of information about upgrading to Windows 8.1, including tutorials such as this post on upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 8..1 My tip is before you do any upgrades make sure your Windows updates are current,  which is usually automatic.

 

ONE NOTE

 

 

Picture credit: Microsoft

Next, we discussed One Note, which is a note taking app used for jotting down ideas, information, adding pictures, audio, video, web – a true digital scrapbook. You can place things anywhere in a page. The concept is similar to a three ring binder with sections on top and pages underneath (you can create as many pages as you want). I use One Note for so many things, and for this conference I used One Note to organize my travel information and keep track of the day’s discussions. All notes were automatically synced via Skydrive to all of my devices.

 

One Note came in really handy when I decided to finally upgrade my laptop to Windows 8.1 during the conference. I was able to have the software upgrade running on my laptop and take notes on the smartphone One Note app – picking up exactly where I left off in my notes. Before, (comma inserted) I used to jot down some handwritten notes on paper notebooks and then type other notes. Unfortunately, it always seemed like I lost the notes or forgot the file name. Now, (comma inserted) with One Note, I have “notebooks” for different events with all of my notes, research and important information (such as travel information) filed and labeled appropriately. The search feature in One Note is also powerful enough to sort through all the text in my notes just in case I forget the location of specific information.

 

Here are some of the key features we discussed:

 

  • So Many Uses: Use OneNote for work, home, school projects or class notes, to-do’s, recipes, flight, hotel, schedule, documents, people, map and more. You can TAG info to be searchable. Or search by keyword in the search box. If you have recipe book with lots of recipes  – you can search for what is in your fridge and it will bring up recipes with those ingredients (i.e. spinach, chicken). Important documents such as a passport with the associated travel information can be kept in One Note and accessed anywhere in the world with an internet connection (via SkyDrive). One Note can be the place to store household paperwork to live a paperless life.
  • Digital Clipping: You can add screen clippings (insert tab), pictures from SkyDrive or locally, images found using Bing, scanned images and recorded audio and video. Choose “screen clipping”, go to internet page and then click and drag to drop clipping into a section. Put all your information in one place. If you just want to include reminder it will include a URL for reference so you can go back.
  • Storage: OneNote/ SkyDrive offers 7GB of content for free. Evernote limits to 60 MB per month for free. If you have Office 365 you have 20 GB plus the 7GB.
  • Co-Authoring and Sharing: With One Note you can have simultaneous co-authoring for free. Evernote Premimium does not support simultaneous edit. One Note Notebooks can be shared so that everyone can edit and view, seeing not only the changes but also who made them and even share with people who don’t have OneNote.
  • Online and Offline: No internet, no problem: Office access  offline is included for free. This is premium feature for Evernote.
  • Across devices and platforms: ” OneNote comes with Office 2010 and 2013, and Office 365 for PCs. OneNote is also available for free on the Web, Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android phones, and as a Windows 8 application for tablets.” One Note also works with the rest of office, so I can even insert PowerPoint presentations or other Office documents and then annotate it!
  • Value Proposition: Office 365 Home Premium is $99 per year, and is a full suite of products, delivering a better value than Evernote Premium at the price of $45..

 

*NEW* ONE NOTE FEATURES

 

I really enjoyed the demo of the now announced update to the touch enabled One Note app in the Windows Store.  Here are some of the key details covered in the  One Note update announcement: “Capture it all: Capture your screen with the share charm and capture documents, magazines and whiteboards with camera scan, Browse and find your notes easier than ever: Search for text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition and find your notes faster than ever before with recent notes and page previews, Annotate and take your own notes on the things you’ve captured: Write better with ink and see your notes in full screen! “

 

With Windows 8.1 you can capture and send it to One Note using the “Share Charm” . It’s  exciting that I can use the camera in my touch enabled device to take a picture of the screen, documents, whiteboard or other important information and then “scan” it to One Note using the camera scan function. Here is a video:

 

 

Even better, after I use that camera scan feature (with a receipt for example) I can then use the text recognition capability to search text in One Note (and then find it later when I need it!).

 

Here is another video of the recognize and search text:

 

 

For more information, check out OneNote.com.

 

OFFICE 365 HOME PREMIUM

 

We also discussed what is included with Office 365 Home Premium and the top ten features.

Here’s some information from the press release fact sheet highlighting key features:

:

“Top 10 Features of Office 365 Home Premium:

  1. If you are reading, not writing or editing, click or tap View, then Read Mode in Word to hide the writing tools and menus.
  2. On your Windows device, re-open a document or presentation and keep reading right where you left off with Resume reading in Word and PowerPoint.
  3. Like a data assistant that finishes your work for you, Flash Fill in Excel detects what you want to do and enters the rest of your data in one fell swoop, following patterns in your data.
  4. Dress up your data with conditional formatting such as bars and color scales through the Quick Analysis Lens in Excel.
  5. Tired of trying to precisely match the colors of shapes and pictures in PowerPoint? Let Eyedropper in PowerPoint do the work for you.
  6. With an improved Presenter view in PowerPoint, the audience views your slides on a main screen, while you control the show on another screen that only you can see.
  7. Inline replies in Outlook allow you to reply with one click by typing your response right in the Reading Pane.
  8. Grab a quick glance at your schedule, an appointment or your to-do list with peeks in Outlook, without having to switch from email to calendar or other modes.
  9. If the sound of typing is distracting, you can handwrite notes in OneNote instead of typing them. This is also useful if you’re faster at writing than at typing.
  10. Instead of re-typing information or relying on links to documents, feel free to embed files in OneNote to keep them handy online or offline.”

 

 

MICROSOFT ENVISIONING CENTER

 

Next was a fascinating tour of the Microsoft Envisioning Center. We were not allowed to bring our cameras, but luckily there is information on the Microsoft Website about the Envisioning Center..

 

We were not allowed to bring our cameras, but luckily there is some information about this research center on the Microsoft Website.

All I can say – is that I want the kitchen of the future NOW… But really, everything covered in the Envisioning Center tour was the perfect match of technology, home and community working together in a much more efficient way than we do it now. Luckily, the future is not too far away.

..

1|10

The new Envisioning Center explores how technology will transform the way we live, work and play in the future.
Envisioning Center - March 01, 2013. The new Envisioning Center explores how technology will transform the way we live, work and play in the future.

 

 

 

MICROSOFT’S 3D BUILDER APP

 

 

Then if I was not already excited enough about the technology in the Envisioning Center, we had a demo on 3D Printing and learned about the newly released Microsoft 3D Printing app. The Windows blog post explains more about the 3D Builder coming to Windows 8.1: “A few months ago, you may have heard that Windows 8.1 makes 3D printing possible because it is native to the operating system, meaning the OS offers plug-and-play support for printers, understands 3D file formats, and connects lots of apps with lots of hardware to deliver offering a seamless printing experience for customers. Now, with the 3D Builder app, we’ve made it even easier for people to create and print objects in 3D” .

 

What I find interesting is that while 3D printing used to seem like some sci-fi fantasy, now it is not only becoming more accessible with all types of 3D printers hitting the consumer market but is also includes 3D apps (such as Microsoft 3D Builder) that help design objects. With Microsoft partners such as 3D Systems, Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, MakerBot, netfabb, Materialise, Stratasys, Tiertime (PP3DP) and  even MakerBot at the Microsoft retail store – I am getting closer to soon seeing a 3D printer in our family workspace soon.  Of course I started thinking about all the cool things I could create with my kids. Especially after seeing this 3D printed version of a DNA. Now that would be a science project my boys could be extra proud to bring to school!

 

 

Our last stop was techie heaven for me, located in a conference area that had selection of Microsoft Devices to demo.  The tour included a product and technical deep dive into the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro, which packs many features making them very productive tablets.

 

 

We also had *drumroll* a demo of the Xbox One that just became available to the public. While I have not given one a test drive just yet, it is tops on our list, especially for our Xbox gamer sons! I can’t wait to play with the new capabilities of the  Xbox One, especially the advanced voice and gesture commands, entertainment options and innovative features that will really make it an all-in-one device.

 

 

What new technology are you looking forward to trying (or just started using)?

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.

 

Black Friday Roundup: Tips and Tricks!

Today is BlackFriday and many people are probably not reading posts but working like crazy to check off their shopping lists. I wanted to provide a roundup to save time of some of my favorite BlackFriday posts. Please share your tips!!

 

1. SHOP SMART – USE PRICE TRACKERS & AVOID SCAMS: Save money by understanding the true pricing across stores by using a price tracker. Also, take time to learn about the scams.  Here are some recommendations from Techlicious:  Price Trackers that Can Save You a Fortune  and 3 Holiday Online Shopping Scams To Watch Out.

 

 

2. MAKE A HOLIDAY SHOPPING PLAN: I shared my Holiday and social time shopping tips to recommend taking time to make a shopping plan but also a plan for spending time with family and friends. For example, instead of just shopping for gifts at stores, check out gifts for your loved ones or yourself that invest in your health or provide fun throughout the year: Health Club or Sports Club Memberships (like in San Franciso area memberships to YMCA or JCC’s, Western Athletic Clubs, Indoor Rock Climbing or more), Memberships at Art or Family museums (such as Exploratorium), Season tickets for your favorite local professional, minor league, college or sports teams (like the SF Giants or Stanford Sports – GoStanford in my area!).

 

Also look for opportunities to invest in education for yourself, kids or the whole family (cooking classes?) by purchasing online or local classes/instruction. I purchased indoor rock climbing lessons for our family as a holiday gift and will be purchasing tickets for the SF Giants and Stanford Sports.  We also want to learn how to program ( i.e Code Academy, Tynker, Girls Who Code and TED 10 places to learn to code) and to speak Spanish, so we are looking for education classes in those areas to invest in. Use the holidays to invest in a success plan for yourself and your loved ones!

 

 

 

3. SHOPPING ONLINE IS A GREAT OPTION:  Develop a shopping plan that is less stressful by doing some shopping online! First make a list of your favorite stores and check online. Then check the holiday gift guides online such as for Cool Mom Tech, Cool Mom Picks, Techlicious, Mom Trends, The Shopping Mama and more. When shopping online, check the coupon sites for coupon codes (such as Coupon.com and RetailMeNot.com). I found a 30% off code for pants for my teen from RetailMeNot!

 

4. Mind Your Budget, Walk away if needed:

 

 

What are your favorite Black Friday Shopping Tips?