The Gift of Giving Back – Teach Your Children Early

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‘Tis the season of gift giving. But perhaps there is no greater gift that you can give to a child than the gift of “giving back.” Children who are involved in giving at an early age make it a practice and a habit that continues into adulthood. They also behave better in the classroom and reach higher academic achievement.

How can you start kids down the path to being young philanthropists and volunteers?

Start small. Host a bake sale, gather school supplies, play games with elderly residents in a or work at a food bank or other event as a family.

Talk about local needs and global needs, but hold these conversations at a child’s level. By talking with them about homelessness, hunger, etc., you can teach them about compassion and about how they can make a difference in people’s lives.

Match your efforts with your family’s time and resources. Giving should feel pleasurable, not overwhelming. Even small efforts, such as shoveling a neighbor’s walk or taking a meal to a sick friend teach children valuable lessons in giving.

Talk about giving. Tell stories about what you do to show generosity with a single kind act, with a day of volunteering or with donations of goods or money. Encourage questions and think of ways you can all donate together.

Provide a “giving allowance” to encourage both saving and giving – an allowance with three equal parts set aside for spending, saving and giving to charity. This is a great opportunity for parents to help their kids understand the value of making the right purchases, saving money and choosing the right charities.

As kids grow older, you can up your discussions to help teach about financial values and setting and achieving short-term and long-term financial goals, saving for college, getting part-time jobs and more.

If you have a larger pool of donation funds, let kids select where some of the money goes. Teaching about discretionary giving is another step toward creating stronger philanthropic ideals for older children and young adults. You can also  give your kids a budget for some of your charitable dollars and let them decide how they grant these them. Do they give it all to a single organization? Divide it among charities? This will help them consider how to have the greatest impact.

Kids mirror what they see. Teaching them how they can give back with their resources of time and money when they are younger will be one of the best life-long gifts you can share with them.

Universal Lending gives back.

At Universal Lending, we believe in giving back all year long. Our foundation’s Mortgage Bridge Program provides up to three months of mortgage and HOA payments to patients and caregivers at Craig Hospital after a traumatic brain injury or spinal injury, so they can focus on their recovery rather than their bills. We are honored to support others when they need us most.

Keep Your Kids and their Friends Entertained All Winter!

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Winter can be a snowy blast for kids, but when it’s too cold to play outside, kids need something that entertains them inside. Here are some winter games and activities for kids and the kid inside every adult. 

Indoor Snowball Fight

Whether there is snow on the ground or not, you can still have a snowball fight inside! Ball up some white paper or some white socks, give each kid a basket with their snowballs and let loose. Clear away furniture or anything that could be fallen over, tripped on or broken, but this is a great way to burn off some energy during the coldest days.

Pass the Antlers

Get a pair of inexpensive antlers and have them ready for a fun game of Pass the Antlers. It’s like Hot Potato, with a winter twist. Sit in a circle and start the music. Pass the antlers around the room as the music plays. Each player must put the antlers on their head when they receive them. When the music stops, the person with the antlers on their head or whose holding them is out.

Pin the Nose on the Snowman

This is a winter spin on Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Cut out a large snowman from some white paper and add some eyes and mouth, and even a hat if you’re creative. Cut several “carrots” from orange construction paper, add some tape, cover the kids’ eyes with a scarf, and let them try to get the nose where it goes on the snowman.

Reindeer Word Search

Write the word reindeer on a pieces of paper. Pass these out to the kids. They have three minutes to find and write down as many words that they find in “reindeer.”

Mitten Pictionary

Get out your classic Pictionary game and add a little winter fun. Put mittens and snow goggles on the child whose turn it is to draw the picture. This puts a fun, childlike spin on this classic game. Kids love it and cannot stop laughing while they play.

Hello to the Relatives

Grab your craft supplies and spread them out. Let the kids decorate cards with glitter, glue, paint, sequins, beads, whatever you have available. Then have them write thank you notes and messages inside the cards for all their relatives – grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins and even friends. They’ll have fun creating these and the recipients will have fun opening them.

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean the fun has to stop inside! 

Weekend Home Projects for Cold Winter Days

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It’s time to have some fun with indoor projects you have been putting off throughout the year. Here are some simple ideas to help you de-clutter, get organized and start your new year refreshed and ready for anything.

Clean up your digital life. The end of the year is a good time to edit digital photo files — you get to reminisce over the past year and create room on your hard drive for the year to come. Delete the fuzzy, out-of-focus and unflattering shots right away, then narrow your collection further by keeping only the best image when you come across a bunch of similar shots. Once that’s done, order yourself a book of your favorite snapshots from 2013.

While you’re at your computer, be sure to back up data using a cloud service or an external hard drive (or both) if you haven’t already done so. Collect all of your passwords in one secure place and clean up your virtual desktop.

Organize you winter wear. Rotate coats of the season. Do you have the tools you need to properly store your jackets and coats? Balancing five coats on a two coat hanging peg can be tricky, if not downright frustrating. Having the right hardware to store outerwear makes a big difference. Take stock of the storage options in your home. Do you need to purchase more hangers for the hall closet, finally fix a hanging rod, buy a coat rack or upgrade to more coat hooks?

Build a healthy pantry. Is one of your new year’s resolutions to eat more healthfully? If so, take this downtime as an opportunity to set the stage for healthier eating. Look at the raw ingredients you have and consider making some healthier swaps — whole wheat for white flour, quinoa or other grains for white rice, or maple or brown rice syrup for refined sugar. Make some healthy meal plans and shopping lists, and store them in your pantry where you can easily access them.

Make a scrapbook. Get creative and make a memory book using all the pictures you found in the clean up of your digital life. Use old ticket stubs, pictures, brochures, menus, programs. This is a fun project for the whole family on a cold and snowy day, and it gives you a chance to be creative and use those little treasures you don’t want to throw away.

Organize your greeting cards. Plan how you are going to display/organize all the cards of the season. Click here for some clever ways to be creative with your holiday card display.

The holidays and can be a hectic and often stressful time of the year. Being organized can help ease the stress and allow more time for joy and cheer

Inexpensive Holiday Gift Guide

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Looking for the perfect holiday gift but don’t have a lot of money to spend? Here are some great gifts for anyone on your list that won’t blow your bank account!

A potted plant

Some indoor plant life can bring some much needed green into the long, dark January and February months. A potted plant is a great gift for anyone who has recently purchased a home or has lived in their home for years or even decades and needs a change. You can think big or small, depending on the size of their home. But if they have pets, make sure you pick a plant that is non-poisonous to animals.

Kitchen gadgets

It takes a long time to stock your first kitchen, especially with stuff that’s going to last. For that friend who needs basics, think a can opener, potato peeler or corkscrew. If you want to get fancier, you could go for a garlic press, a potato masher or a pastry cutter. Maybe throw in a pretty tea towel or place mats for a splash of color.

Small gardening tools

These are great for new homeowners suddenly faced with caring and tending to their own garden. Think some basic pruning shears or some tools for planting fresh flowers. Want to make the gift even more fun? Put these items in a flower pot and get them started on decorating their deck when spring comes.

A cookbook

A great way to save money is to make meals at home, but there are a lot of cookbooks out there. Choose something simple with a lot of basic recipes that can be adapted or modified. Or choose a cookbook that has an online blog associated with it. Then they will have a built-in community, where they can seek out further recipes as well as tips and tricks.

A few months of Netflix (or the recipient’s channel of choice) and some popcorn.

Cable TV is expensive, and a lot of people are looking for ways to cut their bills. A gift fo a few months of Netflix or Hulu is great for someone who wants to try something new but doesn’t know where to start.

Pancake mix and maple syrup

Pancakes are a favorite weekend treat, light and fluffy and a warm reminder that you have nowhere to be on a cold snowy morning. But making homemade pancakes isn’t always a top priority. A special pancake mix from a specialty food store can make this the perfect gift. Top it off with some maple syrup or homemade fruit compote. If they are new to the kitchen, you may even throw in a small griddle and a spatula!

A deck of cards

A deck or two of playing cards and you can create your own family fun and holiday memories. Old Maid and Go Fish for the kids, Gin Rummy, Poker and Black Jack for the adults. Get a classic deck or go for the recipient’s favorite theme. Whatever you decide you’re sure to bring family fun to your family’s holiday.

Board games

Go old school and get family games like Parcheesi, Monopoly, Trouble, Sorry or Yahtzee. Those games are around today still because of the fun they bring for the whole family. Or you can go with strategy games like Settlers of Catan or Risk. Those will bring a challenge, for sure. Friends like word games? How about Scrabble or Boggle? A walk down the game aisle of any toy store wil spur more fun board game ideas. Check out puzzles while you are in this aisle. Some of the best conversations and comfortable silences happen over the bonding of puzzle building.

Winter skin care kit

Frigid temperatures, bitter winds and dry, radiator air will give anyone’s skin a scare. But you can take the bite out of this pain with some nice lip balm, a good hand lotion, some cuticle oil and maybe a facial moisturizer or shaving lotion.

For pet lovers: A box of pet treats and a pet toy

Pamper your friends by pampering their pets. Get some squeaky toys and some treats. Or maybe Fido moved to a new home but his favorite bed didn’t make the trip. Check out all the options for pets online or in your local pet store. After all, nothing says you like your friend than loving their pet!

Whatever gift you give, at Universal Lending we want to wish you a  warm and happy winter holiday season and a happy new year!

Holiday Safety for Your Pets

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Celebrate with your pets – after all, they are part of the family, too, but make sure you keep them safe this holiday season. Dogs and cats don’t know what they can and cannot eat, and if it’s shiny, they think it must be a toy. Here are some simple holiday pet safety tips so you can safely spend the holidays with your furry friends and not with your vet.

Watch what they eat. We all know that chocolate is a poison to your dog, but what else should they avoid? Grapes and raisins, onions, avocados, macadamia nuts and alcohol are all bad for Fido. Keep him safe by feeding him his food and dog treats but not people food. Even if the food isn’t poisonous to dogs, too many table treats can lead to indigestion and one ill pooch. And never give your dog the bone from your meat. These treats can cause your dog to choke or cause stomach and digestive issues.

Keep them away from candles and breakables. With all the excitement of the holidays, your dog or cat may be extra playful or a more nervous than usual. Make sure lit candles and breakables are away from their paths, so they don’t knock them off of the table and break them or start a fire.

Plants can be poisonous. Mistletoe is poisonous when eaten and can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. None of this spells joy this holiday season. And the verdict is still out on the dangers of poinsettias, but better safe than sorry.

Go garland-free if you have a cat. Anyone with a feline has seen the joy in its eyes when it sees something shiny. Tinsel and garland are begging to be eaten by a cat. At best, eating this will cause vomiting. At worst, it can lead to an obstructed digestive tract. Ribbons and yarns can cause the same problems. Entertain your furry friend with safe toys and discard the rest.

Provide your pets with a safe and people-free zone. A bedroom or study with a nice bed and some fresh water gives your pet a place to go to get away from guests and chaos. Dogs and cats like their routines. Keep them relaxed and safe with a room of their own.

By following a few simple “rules,” you and your furry friends will have a much happier holiday season.