Why I Get My Middle Schoolers Mobile Phones

I want to start this off by saying I’m not judging anyone for giving or not giving a cell phone at any particular age. This post is strictly the reasons I decided to and my tips, as a mom of 4, who has given their children cell phones with another one coming up here in a few months.

Initially, I had it in my head that my kids weren’t getting cell phones until they were in high school. I figured they’d be more responsible, they’d need it when they started driving, for work, etc, etc. Little did I know how fast my mind would change with 1 incident in middle school.

My oldest son was in 6th grade so, he was about 11 years old. We found out when we moved to our new house that he would have to walk to the middle school which was 1.8 miles away. I worried about that, especially with these Pennsylvania winters. BUT, it was a straight shot on a main road in town. Other kids would be walking too. He would find friends to walk with, I was sure of it. I even walked it with him over the summer before classes started to see how long it would take. On a nice summer day with no heavy backpack it took us 20 minutes! 20 minutes! I worried about what it would be like when he had to trudge through unshoveled snow covered side walks with ice on the ground.

I worried about him a lot. I took him to school sometimes but I was working full-time at the time so it wasn’t always possible. Then my son found a walking buddy and I felt a little better about it.

Then my son starts telling me about these high school kids that would harass him and his friend on the way home. They would call them names, and even threw rocks at them. One day my son and his friend burst through our front door, eyes wide as saucers and out of breath. I knew something was wrong. It turns out, the high school kids that had been harassing them on the way home most of the year surrounded them and pulled a knife on them. They were able to get away but had to run nearly a mile home to get help. There are no pay phones anymore and people just aren’t as open to opening their doors to high school kids. I called the school immediately and we went through a process there.

Well that’s the day I decided my son needed a cell phone. Through trial and error I’ve learned these tips with giving kids cell phones. I also realized how much they’d be staying after school in middle school for sports practices, clubs, or just to hang out with friends.

  • Do NOT start them off with an expensive phone. Pick a free or low cost phone to start with until they learn how to take care of it.
  • Consider getting the insurance. Most insurance is only a couple dollars a month per phone. Though not all insurance plans are worth the investment so be sure to read the fine print.
  • When you get your child’s phone, whether you buy it in store or order online, get a phone case immediately! Don’t even give your child the phone until there is a case on it. There are tons out there that range from a few dollars to over $100. Shockproof, waterproof, glitter, name brand, and designers like Karl Lagerfeld phone case You can usually find something that fits your budget and your child’s personality.
  • Get screen protectors if the case you choose doesn’t have screen protection. I usually buy a budget friendly screen protector on Amazon.
  • Put restrictions on your child’s phone and lay ground rules. If passwords/passcodes are used, make sure you know what they are. Check your child’s phone often. Until the learn how to properly use texts, phone calls, social media etc.

Another thing I’ll add is to shop around for cell phone providers. Not all of them are created equal when you have family plans. We suffered with AT&T for too long. I had the mentality that I was with them for 16 years and never had an issue so why change (other than the exorbitant amount of money we were paying). We finally switched to Consumer Cellular and our bill was literally cut in half. I wish we wouldn’t have waited so long.

I know buying those things for your kids phone seem “extra” but trust me when I say a $15 phone case and $8 screen protector can save you a lot of money in the long run!

I’ve also found more benefits to them having a cell phone over the years. It makes it easier for them to check in with me and for me to check on them. They can get updates from the school’s automated announcements for school closings, delays, etc. When they started driving I’d have them call me when they got to their destination. There’s also tracking apps so I can see where they ACTUALLY are.

This post is sponsored by Diamond Bloggers. Any opinions expressed are my own. This post does contain affiliate links. I will earn a small commission from sales made through my links.


If You Experience Cold Winters, You Probably Keep These Things In Your Car

I have two fairly new drivers in my family. My oldest son has been driving for about a year and a half. My middle son just got his license in June. Living in Pennsylvania, our winters can get pretty bad. Snow, ice, occasional blizzards, occasional subzero temps. Not only do I worry about them hitting a patch of ice but I also worry about them breaking down or getting stuck when it’s 10 degrees outside.

While at the grocery store I pick up a jug of kitty litter. I bring it home and tell my oldest son to put it in the trunk of his car. He looks at me funny. Then I realize he probably doesn’t understand the purpose. I also realize that for people that might not live in a colder climate, they might not do the odd things we do when prepping for winter. Whether you’re on your way to work at car dealership in Yonkers, NY, taking a drive in Duluth Minnesota, or going to the grocery store in the Laurel Highland of Pennsylvania, here are things people in colder climates keep in their vehicles and why.

Kitty Litter or Bags of Sand

Seriously, a lot of us that live in areas that get frigid winters keep either a bag of non-clumping kitty litter or bags of sand in the trunk of our vehicles. For those with only front or rear wheel drive it helps to weigh down the vehicle a little bit for traction. But mostly it’s used for when your vehicle get stuck in some snow or wheels are spinning on an icy patch. Pour some sand or some kitty litter in front and behind each tire. This helps to gain traction.

Emergency Shovel

Most of us have small shovels to throw in the trunk or back of our vehicle. A small metal one is best. If you look up emergency shovels you’ll see what they look like. This can be used to serve several different purposes. It’s not unheard of to park your car at work, have snow dump down while you’re working, and come out to your vehicle buried in snow. Having an emergency shovel makes life a little easier to dig your car out. A good metal shovel can also be useful when freezing rain happens to break up ice around tires or pry things out of the ice.

Blocks of Wood or Wooden Boards

I don’t personally do this but I know people that do. Some people keep blocks of wood or shorter wooden boards in their vehicle or truck. This one I didn’t really know about until recently. The blocks can be placed in front of the tire if stuck in a ditch, mud, or a snow drift. Wedge in front of the tire. Hopefully it lift your vehicle up enough to get out of where you’re stuck.

Emergency Blankets

My husband had actual emergency blankets from a survival kit in his vehicle. Some people just throw an extra fleece blanket or two in their car. The idea, if your car breaks down, it might be a while until help arrives in bad winter weather. You can’t keep your car running forever. If you’re low on gas this statement is very true. Emergency blankets could mean the different being ok until help gets their or going straight to the emergency room once help arrives do to hypothermia or frostbite.

Bottles of Water and Energy Food

Ok so maybe this one isn’t so different but it hits different when it’s 20 degrees outside and you’re broke down in the middle of nowhere. Foods that store for a while and might be considered energy food are helpful. Things like protein bars, nuts, or granola bars. Again if you’re gonna be there a while you grab your emergency blanket and have water and food for at least a little while.

Yes it’s true the water bottle can freeze but it will typically start to melt while driving hopefully having melted enough by the time a car breaks down. It’s also helpful if your car is overheating.

Vehicle De-Icer and/or Winter Washer Fluid

Vehicle De-Icer comes in handy a lot. De-icing windows, frozen locks, windshield wipers froze to the windshield, etc. They typically come in convenient spray cans or squirt bottles to make de-icing easier.

There is also special winter windshield washer fluid that can help melt snow and ice while cleaning your windshield. Some people will fill their washer reserve with the winter wash fluid and keep a container of vehicle de-icer but the washer fluid can also help de-ice locks in a pinch.

Closing Tips

Whether you live in a cold climate or not, have a car emergency kit is always a good idea. Most include things like emergency triangles, jumper cables, a couple basic tools, roadside flares, flashlight, etc. Some more elaborate ones will even have the emergency shovel I mentioned and air compressors. It’s a good idea to keep your phone charged and even carry a back-up battery or power bank with you in bad weather. Have the name of your mechanic or roadside service handy just in case. Always let someone know where you’re going and approximate time of return so if you do break down or get stuck there’s a better chance someone will know where you are to get you help.

These are just a few things I know people do to prep for winter driving emergencies. If you have idea I’d love to hear them!

This post is sponsored by Central Ave DCJR . This post also contains some affiliate links. I will earn a small commission from sales made through my posts.


Earn Gift Cards In Your Down Time with Dabbl

I feel like, with current conditions, everyone could use a few extra bucks right? Imagine being able to interact with ads, take surveys, and more from your phone while waiting for the bus, sitting in the waiting room of your doctor’s office, or while sitting on your couch and earning free gift cards for doing it!

This time of year is the perfect time to start earning too. In my experience starting by this time or sooner in the year usually produces at least one gift card for the holidays. A gift card that can be used for holiday shopping, to gift, or used to buy donations. If you could earn gift cards to Walmart, Disney, Target or hundreds of other stores for FREE, would you try it?

Dabbl is a reward app that offers everything I just mentioned. Simply download the app, for free, and start earning your way towards free gift cards.

Dabbl is available in the apple app store and Google Play. So if you’re phone or tablet uses either of those options for app downloads, you’re good to go.

Dabbl has paid out over $2 million in gift cards since 2017. If you find yourself having just a little extra time on your hands with this pandemic this is a great way to spend your relaxation time. Doesn’t hurt that you’ll earn some free gift cards either.

I was looking at the list. Some of the gift cards that caught my eye include:

  • Spotify
  • TJ Maxx
  • Amazon
  • Ulta
  • Lowes

That’s just a sampling. 100s of gift cards to choose from for your efforts. Start earning now and maybe earn some extra scratch by the end of the year!

Download Dabble now

This post does contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission from downloads through my links.


A Surprising Alternative to Education Funding

A good friend of mine is an insurance agent. She happened to mention one day about using whole life insurance to help pay for college. My ears perked up. Wait, what? I can use whole life insurance to help pay for college. But why would I used that instead of loans, 529 plan, or any of the other options out there? Turns out there’s a few reasons. I was eager to learn more and thought maybe my readers would like to know more too. So, I asked her to write up this article. I’m so glad she did.

Providing protection to your loved ones is primarily what whole life insurance is known for, but gone are the days when it’s used solely for the death benefit. One surprising way that life insurance can be used is
to pay for higher education costs, specifically as an alternative to using a 529 plan. If you’re unfamiliar with what a 529 plan is, it’s a tax-advantaged investment vehicle in the U.S. designed to encourage saving for future higher education expenses of a designated beneficiary. However, there are several disadvantages to a 529 plan. They vary from state to state and balances in a 529 plan may reduce your beneficiary’s ability to receive financial aid. Also, in the event that your beneficiary doesn’t want to
pursue higher education, the earnings may be subject to income tax plus a 10% penalty tax.

A whole life insurance policy can help you accomplish your college savings goals similar to a 529 plan and for some, an insurance policy may actually be a more suitable option because of the additional benefits, added flexibility, and guarantees not tied to the market. However, it’s best to use this option when the child is young, that way your policy can build up enough cash value to properly cover college expenses. You can also use what’s called an optional Paid-Up Additions (PUA) rider to significantly add
to the early build-up of cash values in your policy. While the two have similar contribution, accumulation, and distribution tax features, there are some differences between the two that might make whole life insurance a more suitable option for you:

Income tax-free college loans. You can use the accumulated cash value in your whole life policy to take out tax-free loans to help pay for college expenses without having to worry whether they’re qualified education expenses or not. If the time comes and your child decides not to pursue higher education, you could use this money for other things. For instance, you could use this money to help them purchase a vehicle, pay for living expenses if they choose to go out on their own, or pay for travel expenses so they could see the world.

Get guarantees without market volatility. A 529 plan likely has funds tied to market returns. While that can allow your college fund to grow over time, a down market could have the opposite effect. Imagine a downward spiraling market right before your child starts college. That would be a disaster. Alternatively, a whole life insurance policy provides you with guaranteed premiums along with a death benefit should the unthinkable happen and an accumulated cash value that won’t decrease based on the financial market performance.

Have options in case of disability. What if you became disabled while trying to build up savings for college education? No worries. With whole life, you have an optional waiver of premium rider to guarantee your college funding goals stay on track.

Benefit from savings that may not affect financial aid considerations. Unfortunately, a 529 plan is considered an asset by FAFSA. However, FAFSA financial aid guidelines currently don’t count your life insurance policy’s cash value as an asset, which means you could qualify for a higher
level of aid. (Note: Some colleges do view life insurance as an asset in determining financial aid).


Fund an education should the unthinkable happen. Life insurance provides an income tax-free benefit to your named beneficiary, which could in turn fund an education if they wished.

However, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. If you could afford it, a whole life policy could simply be used as a solution that supplements funds alongside your 529 plan contributions. If the grandparents are highly involved in your child’s life, you could even consider asking them if they’d like to start a 529 plan for your child (as currently 529 plans owned by grandparents or third parties generally do not affect
financial aid of beneficiaries under the current guidelines), while you start a whole life insurance policy. I encourage you to compare the two and talk to a financial professional to see if using whole life insurance is the right college savings solution for you.

If you’re ready to start with whole life insurance, get in touch with my friend Angie Bailey.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AFGBurgAngela/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/angela-angie-bailey-b1545025/


*Disclosure: This article is not intended to provide investment, insurance, or tax advice. Please consult
your own tax advisors regarding the comparative tax benefits of 529 plans, as well as the potential taxation of distributions from both 529 plans and whole life insurance policies


Beware of COVID-19 Scams: Utility Scammers

With COVID-19 comes a lot of new problems. Some we adjust to, some are temporary. I’ll never understand how scammers can do what they do to innocent people. Which is why I wanted to pass on this information I received from The National Consumer League (NCL).

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL) has issued a warning today for consumers about a reported increase in scams by con artists posing as utility company representatives who are threatening to shut off subscribers’ power service if they don’t make an immediate payment.

The anatomy of the scam is highly consistent: a consumer receives a call from someone claiming to be with the electric utility company. The caller warns the consumer that their power is about to be shut off over an unpaid bill. The only way to avoid this is to pay up immediately, typically via wire transfer, gift card, or some other difficult-to-stop payment method. So what can we, as consumers do?

Such a call can be very scary—particularly for those who may need electricity to power medical devices or run their small business. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers are having trouble keeping up with their bills, which may make them even more vulnerable to this scam. And even for consumers who are confident they’ve paid their bill, the impending threat of a shut-off at the height of summer heat can cause a panic. 

To avoid becoming a victim, consumers should:

  • Not panic. According to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, electric utilities in all 50 states have placed moratoriums on disconnections during the COVID-19 crisis, either voluntarily or in response to government orders. If someone contacts you claiming that they’re about to shut-off your electricity, it’s a scam. 
  • Contact the power company. A utility will never initiate a disconnection without contacting you via the mail first. If you received a call from someone claiming they’re about to turn off your power, hang up and contact your electric company. Their toll-free phone number and website address is typically listed on your electric bill. 
  • Beware of unusual payment methods. Anyone who asks you to pay an overdue electric or other utility bill via wire transfer, gift card, bank-to-bank transfer, bitcoin, or any other unusual payment method is almost certainly trying to scam you. 
  • Not give out personal information. Utility imposters may offer to connect their victims to federal assistance programs or payment plans to help pay their overdue bills. They just need to “verify” the victim’s information. In reality, these scammers are trying to gather the information they need to steal your identity. If you suspect something is amiss, hang up and call your utility company directly. 

NCL asks consumers to share their stories by filing a complaint at Fraud.org via its secure online complaint form. Complaints are shared with NCL’s network of nearly 200 law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who can and do put fraudsters behind bars.

Scammers like these are everywhere. Knowledge is power. Please share this information with friends and family.

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.