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The Ultimate Guide to Community Management

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In today’s highly digital and connected society, it’s funny to think people can still feel disconnected from others. With so many people who communicate online, behind screens, this connected world can actually feel rather lonely at times. This goes for personal relationships as well as business relationships — specifically between brands and their customers as well as brands and their employees.
So, what is it that has people feeling a disconnect to others and the companies they do business with?
A lack of community.
A community provides people with a feeling of belonging and a network of other people they can connect with based on their shared interests and/ or characteristics. And that’s why so many brands today are beginning to invest in the creation of communities for their customers, employees, and fans — as part of a process called community management.
Businesses build communities — or implement community management tactics at their companies — to build authentic relationships among their external audience (their customers, fans, and followers) and their internal audience (employees, vendors, partners, and team members). When businesses invest in community management, they transition from an everyday brand to a human brand — one that cares deeply about the people who support them, work for them, and interact with them.

What is community management?

Community management is the process of building an authentic community among a business’s customers, employees, and partners through various types of interaction. It’s how a brand uses opportunities (in person and online) to interact with their audience to create a network in which they can connect, share, and grow.

What is the purpose of community management?
Community management has become increasingly popular and recognized by all types of businesses — however, it’s still largely undefined. So, what makes it so special? Why should your business adopt it? To answer those questions, let’s cover some of the main reasons why community management is critical to your success as a brand today.

“Brands need to hire community managers because they’re the tone, voice, and human element behind your brand.” -Krystal Wu, Social Media Community Manager, HubSpot

Community management allows your business to:

Obtain feedback and gather ideas from your customers and audience members through real conversations.
Provide support for audience members, fans, and customers when they need it.
Increase brand and product awareness among your target audience.
Learn about your customers and what they want, expect, and need in terms of content, products, services, and support.
Build one-on-one and one-to-many relationships between audience members and your brand.
Boost customer interactions, conversions, and sales.
Provide value to your customers beyond a product or service.
It’s important to note community management is a broad industry — these are just some of the things community management allows your business to do.
Additionally, community management is an umbrella term, meaning there are many forms of community management that live beneath it. Let’s review those types of community management to help you determine which one(s) you’d like to focus on at your company.

Types of Community Management

There are six main types of community management — some of these happen behind a screen and require no face-to-face interaction, and some involve members of your community to interact with you and your team in person. The easiest way to review these types of community management is through the SPACE Model.
Community Management SPACE Model
The SPACE Model represents different types of community management — this way, you can get a better understanding of which options will work for your needs. Let’s take a look.
Important note: This section is an overview of just six of the many types of community management. We’ve also provided a couple examples of each.
S: Customer Support/ Success
The first type of community management is customer support and success. There are a few simple ways to think about customer support and success in terms of community management — a forum, FAQ document, and community website.
A forum is a question and answer, community-based discussion board focused on customer service and support. It’s a great way to connect your community. With a forum, your customers can chat with each other, ask each other questions, provide you with feedback, or strike up a discussion regarding a new product or service.
On the forum, you might provide your community members with access to your FAQ document so they can self-help and get quick answers to commonly-asked questions. You’ll also be able to see who’s writing what so you can intervene and provide assistance if needed. This keeps things straightforward for your community members and also prevents your team from having to take the time to answer the same questions over and over again.
With a customer success platform or software, you can create a branded website or landing page for your community members that’s focused on supporting your customers. Here, your customers can help themselves (and each other), communicate with members of your team, locate any resources they need (such as your knowledge base), and review your FAQ document.
A great way to create and manage your company’s community forum, your FAQ document, site, or page is with the help of software like Vanilla Forms. You can customize the entire site to match your branding, write and manage your forum and FAQ documents, and even ask for your customers to provide you with ideas and ways to innovate your products and services to better meet their needs.
This type of community management is ideal for companies that have an in-depth product line — like a software company — so users can communicate with each other about tips, tricks, and issues they may run into during use.
One of HubSpot’s customer support communities is our Developer Forum for those looking to build on the software. This keeps developers connected to the company, others in the same position, and resources they can use while working on the platform.
P: Product Ideation, Innovation, and Feedback
Product ideation, innovation, and feedback is both a proactive and reactive type of community management. It requires you to create a safe space where your customers and target audience can share their feedback and thoughts about the ways you can innovate and improve your products and services.
You can ask your community members to complete surveys or participate in in-person feedback discussions you lead. There are also many other types of user testing that your audience and customers can take part in if you choose to organize them. For example, you might host a focus group with ten real customers at your office to learn about the ways they believe you can enhance your product or service after they use and/ or experience it.
This type of community management is ideal for most companies — asking for feedback from real customers and members of their target audience on how they can innovate their products  is a critical part of the success of virtually every business.
A: Acquisition and Advocacy
Acquisition and advocacy is another type of community management. This form of community management allows you to directly with the people who are most excited about your business including your leads, customers, brand ambassadors, and brand advocates.
These community members help you build brand awareness and promote your business, products, and services through various methods such as word-of-mouth, affiliate programs, and social media. A common way to create a community for these (very important) people is through an acquisition and advocacy program such as a brand ambassador initiative. Let’s look at an example.
The Skimm has a brand ambassador program for any user who gets ten people to sign up for the media company’s content. Once they’ve done so, they become a “Skimm’bassador.” These brand ambassadors and advocates help The Skimm acquire new consumers and readers. They also become members of the Skimm’bassador community in which they receive swag and gain access to internal events, company headquarters, and parties. Additionally, they’re able to connect and communicate with the community of Skimm employees and other Skimm’bassadors and provide The Skimm with feedback on how they can continue to grow and improve.
This type of community management is great if you want to delight your best customers by keeping them at the center of your flywheel, promote brand loyalty, increase brand awareness, and build long-lasting relationships with your biggest supporters.
C: Content and Programming
Another type of community management involves the creation of content and programming for your members — such as your customers, fans, followers, or employees. Your content and programming might include marketplaces, crowdfunding, user groups, and user-generated content.
This is a great option for companies with contributed content at the core of their products, business model, and other assets. For example, for companies like GoFundMe and Airbnb, their value is created by the people who join their sites and use their platforms to share fundraisers or rental properties.
These types of companies typically have community teams who work to ensure all community-generated content is appropriate, follows company guidelines, and meets the requirements of the site.
E: External Engagement
External engagement is a type of community management that provides your customers and supporters with a sense of belonging that leads to a stronger connection to your brand through a space that exists outside of your business. One of the most common types of external engagement community management is social media management.
For example, look at HubSpot’s Instagram page — it’s a highly interactive and engaging space that promotes brand awareness all while creating a community of followers with a similar interest (HubSpot). HubSpot’s social media community managers ensure every single person who interacts with a post is noticed and treated like a human — not just a number. Followers are able to engage with HubSpot, the branded content that’s shared on the page, and their fellow followers.
This type of external engagement is great for companies looking to improve brand awareness while creating one-on-one and one-to-many relationships with fans, customers, and followers of all kinds. Virtually any company has the ability to create an external engagement community management with the help of social media.
(I): Internal Engagement
Lastly, there’s internal engagement community management. Companies today are learning the value of creating strong communities internally — among their employees, partners, vendors, and suppliers. Strengthening these internal relationships creates a sense of belonging and allows people to find others to identify with, which, in turn, boosts company morale and overall happiness.
For example, many companies, including HubSpot, use platforms like Slack, which has features, like channels, to improve internal engagement and communication. This feature also helps build a sense of community through groups of employees (remote and in office) with common interests and positions at the company.
This type of community management brings your internal contributors together, connects them with like-minded individuals, and creates a sense of belonging, support, camaraderie, and inclusion in the workplace. This helps them better serve your company by boosting their knowledge of your products and services and improves their happiness and retention rates.
Almost every business can take part in this type of community management as it only requires community building within the office space and may include software you already have (like Slack) or the formation of interest groups among your fellow employees.
So, you’ve reviewed the main types of community management and how they can add value to your business. Now, let’s cover the ways you can actually get started building a community management strategy so you can start reaping its benefits.
How to Build a Community Management Strategy
As you can see, there are several types of community management and ways to go about implementing them at your company. For the sake of this piece, we’re going to review how to create just one community management strategy — an external engagement strategy (which we defined earlier), specifically through social media.
1.  Choose a social media channel.
The first thing you’ll want to do is choose the social media channel on which you’ll manage your community. Think about your target audience’s demographics to determine the best option for your company — for example, you might choose to focus your efforts on Snapchat if you have a young target audience, Instagram if you’re going for a broad target audience, or LinkedIn if you’re targeting a more professional crowd.
Other examples of platforms you might consider building and managing your community on include Facebook, Youtube, and Pinterest.
Learn everything you need to maximize engagement with a social media checklist.
2. Identify your audience.
Once you’ve chosen a social media channel, identify your audience on that platform. By doing this, you’ll be able to see the type of content your target audience interacts with on the specific platform, what they like and expect from the brands similar to yours they already follow, and who they currently engage with.
This research and information will allow you to begin thinking about how you’re going to tailor the content your business creates to your target audience and your chosen platform.
3. Ask your audience what type of content they want to see.
In addition to identifying your audience, you should also ask your audience what they want to see to ensure you’re creating and pushing out content that’s relevant to them.
This will ensure you’re going to be able to reach your audience with social media content they want and are interested in. Asking for this feedback and being open to suggestions also shows your audience you care deeply about their opinions and what they have to say — this will help you enhance your brand loyalty and advocacy, and create valuable interaction within your community (versus a one-way platform).
4. Determine how you’ll identify your success.
Now it’s time to determine how you’ll identify your success. There’s no right or wrong answer here — this is completely based on what matters to you and your company. Ask yourself, “what’s ideal for my brand?”
Here are some examples of success identifiers you might choose to focus on:
Boost in audience members/ increase in followers
Number of conversation participants in a live chat or discussion
Amount of content shared or liked by your followers
Overall engagement (likes, shares, mentions, hashtags, messages, comments)
Increase in brand awareness
Increase in customer satisfaction and retention
Traffic that’s directed to your website
Boost in your sales and conversions
(We’ll review how you can measure your community management success identifiers and metrics shortly.)
5. Set goals.
Like most things in business, setting attainable goals, as well as stretch goals, is crucial when working to achieve your various objectives and measure your success. However, if you’re developing a completely new strategy or if you’ve never set goals like the ones you need to make for your social media community management strategy, this task might seem like a difficult one. To get started, try running an experiment or two after you’ve determined how you plan on measuring your success.
For example, if you’ve decided that you’re going to measure your success through your overall engagement on the social media platform, you can run an engagement experiment. Try keeping track of all engagement related to the content you produce and share on the social platform for a specific amount of time you’ve chosen (maybe 4-8 weeks to start).
When the experiment has come to an end, average out your overall engagement (likes, shares, comments, mentions, hashtags, messages, etc.) and then use that number to create an attainable goal — and stretch goal if you choose — for your engagement over the next 4-8 weeks, and so on. You can always update these numbers as time goes on and as you begin collecting more data.
(Throughout your experiment, you can also A/B test different content to see what your followers like the best and choose to interact with most.)
6. Post regularly and engage with your audience.
Success on social media requires consistency in terms of your frequency of posts and engagement. You should determine how often you’re going to post on social media and stick to that plan so your audience members know you’re reliable and start to expect to see your content — you’ll train them to look for your latest posts.
Social media is a great way to develop close bonds and relationships among your brand and audience. Show your customers and followers they aren’t just a number and they’re heard by your company and employees. “Like” their comments and respond to all questions, comments or concerns (even the positive comments that warrant a “Thank you!” or “Yay! We’re so happy you’re enjoying our free CRM!”).
You can even follow back your biggest brand advocates — if you deem it as appropriate — or interact with the content your followers share (whether or not it has a direct tie to your company) to show your support.
No matter how you choose to interact and engage with your followers, remember to be authentic and address each person as an individual. Social media isn’t a forum, so there shouldn’t be any canned responses you use for your social followers. By maintaining an authentic voice and presence on social media, your brand will have a unique, human element behind it that feels trustworthy and personal to customers and community members.
7. Measure your results.
Now it’s time to measure your results. Remember, when it comes to measuring your success on social, you shouldn’t always get hung up on the quantitative data — numbers don’t always reflect all of your efforts accurately, or the sense of belonging you’re creating for your community members. Additionally, you rarely see immediate results when it comes to your social media efforts — identifying your target audience, building a following, and learning how to reach your customers on a specific platform takes time.
To measure your results, decide on the method that works best for your needs, goals, and company. Here are a few ways to do this.
Social listening: Social listening is the process of monitoring your social media accounts to look for and keep track of all mentions, customer feedback, keywords, and discussions related to your brand, products, services, and customers (even your competitors, too). You then take a deeper look at all of these things to analyze them and gain insight into what’s working for your customers and followers, and what should be modified.
Platform analytics: Depending on the social platform you chose for your community management strategy, there might be a built-in analytics tool for you to measure your success in terms of variables specific to that platform. Examples include Twitter Analytics, Instagram Insights, and Facebook Analytics.
Analytics tools: If your platform of choice doesn’t have an analytics tool included, or if you’re looking for deeper analysis, you might choose to incorporate another tool or platform to help you measure your success. Examples include Google Analytics, Sprout Social, and HubSpot.
We’ve covered how to develop your community management strategy, so now, let’s review seven best practices you can incorporate as well.

Community Management Best Practices

Set community rules and guidelinesCheck on your community regularlyBe authenticListenShow appreciationMaintain your brand’s voice at all timesExplore new ways to engage your community

1. Set community rules and guidelines.
When it comes to anything related to your business, it’s probably fair to assume you want it to represent you well and serve as an accurate portrayal of your brand. Your community is no exception. Therefore, you’re going to want to set community rules and guidelines for all members and contributors (including your team members who are managing the community).
Depending on your type of community, how you go about setting your community rules and guidelines may differ. However, here are some examples of ways to create these guidelines to help you get started.
Create a written document with your expectations for the way all members are expected to communicate, behave, and contribute. Then, share that document with your team and community members when they join.
If you have a forum, FAQ document, or community website, you can also make this document available at all times to members there. If your community meets in person, review these details face-to-face and consider handing out a printed copy to set expectations.
Have a method for your team members to escalate any major issue within your community to the right person at your company so they can manage it appropriately.
Be sure to update your rules and guidelines as necessary (as your community grows, changes, etc.).
2. Check on your community regularly.
No matter what type of community you manage, check on its members, the content being shared by your customers as well as your team. Whether it’s related to your brand ambassador program, forum, Facebook account, or community website, it’s your job to ensure everything is running smoothly —  that people are receiving the support they need, their questions are being answered, and they feel a sense of community.
3. Be authentic.
You need to be authentic while managing any type of community. When your customers, fans, followers, and leads come to your community, they should immediately know it’s yours based off of different factors like your branding and voice. And no matter the type of interaction, being genuine and human is crucial whether or not you’re behind a screen or face-to-face. After all, one of the main reasons you’re creating a community is to make sure your members feel valued.
4. Listen.
Since community management requires so much thoughtful interaction with members, listening is crucial. Whether it’s social listening, reviewing your forum and FAQ pages regularly, or responding to in-person and online feedback, listening is how you’ll improve your community to the best of your ability. It also shows your audience and members you value their opinions, hear what they have to say, and care about their experiences within your community.
5. Show appreciation.
A large part of managing a successful community is showing appreciation for your members. This will help you build brand loyalty and trust between you and your members. It also shows your members how much you value their time and commitment to your brand — remember, some of your community members are most likely also some of your most invested, supportive, and loyal fans, followers, and customers already.
To ensure you’re showing appreciation when necessary, you can try the following tactics depending on the type of community you have.
Interact with all new community members as soon as they join — say, “Thank you and welcome!” and ask them what you can do to make their experience a great one.
Pay attention to who your biggest community contributors are (keep a document with their names, emails, etc.). This way you can send them swag or give them a shout out for simply being awesome.
Invite your ambassadors and brand advocates to your office to meet your team and give them a behind the scenes look at your operation.
Keep an eye out for mentions, keywords, and hashtags, on your forum, social media platforms, community website, and more so you’re able to engage with those people to show your appreciation and the human element behind your community.
6. Maintain your brand voice at all times.
Similar to what we reviewed about the importance of authenticity, maintaining your brand’s voice at all times is critical when it comes to community management. This is a large part of what makes your community unique as well as ensures your community is identifiable to your members and audience.
No matter how many people are working on your community, make sure they understand your brand voice so they can help you maintain it throughout all interactions, engagement, and content. One way to make this a simpler process is by tying your community back to your company’s marketing goals and/ or collaborate with your marketing department. It’ll keep your messaging and interactions focused as well as push you to maintain your brand voice.
7. Explore new ways to engage your community.
You always want to be engaging your community — but what happens if there are changes in your industry, your company’s products or services are drastically updated, or your members request new types of content?
To keep your community up to date, always explore new ways to engage your members, whether that’s online or in person (depending on your type of community). You can also engage members as soon as they join to continue learning about your audience, what they want from you, and what made them join your community — this will also help you learn about new ways to interact with them.
At this point, you may be wondering how to get all of this work started — where to begin with your community management strategy efforts at your company if you haven’t done any work related to the field before.
A common first step businesses take when spearheading their community management plan and strategy is to determine whether or not they want to hire a community manager.
Community Managers: How They Can Help Your Business Grow
If your business has the resources, you might want to consider hiring a community manager (or even a team of managers) to help you kickstart your efforts and community.
What is a community manager?
Community managers run your community management efforts. Depending on the type of community management you chose to incorporate at your company, you might require the assistance of several community managers with entirely different focuses.
However, there are some universal traits shared by almost every community manager, no matter their role in the field. Generally speaking, a community manager:
Has the ability to lead your community development and growth efforts.
Is highly customer-focused.
Can empathize with their members on forums, during in-person meetings, on social channels, on community platforms, and more.
Knows how and when to show empathy.
Is an authentic and detail-oriented person.
Can analyze and measure community management efforts and results.
Understands who you are as a brand and carries that image and voice — along with your marketing efforts — over to your community management strategy.
To bring us back to our previous example of external engagement community strategy, let’s review the specific in-depth tasks of a social media manager.
A social media community manager:
Maintains the voice of the brand in all posts and interactions.
Ensures all content being shared has a purpose and meets the expectations and needs of followers and the target audience.
Schedules, posts, and engages on all social content.
Creates, manages, and follows up with all contests, giveaways, and promotions on social.
Ensures community rules and guidelines are being followed by all community members.
Measures results of all content and work on social (and makes modifications when necessary).
Keeps up with industry trends and updates made to the platform at hand.
Knows what audience members want and need out of the shared social content.
Is authentic and knows when to say, “Thank you”, “We’re sorry”, and “We support you”.
Creates a safe space for followers and members to ask questions, get help, feel supported, share ideas, provide feedback, and solve problems.
Whew! That was a lot of information — but, you should now have a better understanding of why community management is so important, how it can help your business grow, and how you can get started on your business’s strategy.
Start Building Your Community
Community management is a new, yet powerful, industry. By implementing a community management strategy at your company, you’ll be able to create a safe place for your customers, fans, employees, and followers to collaborate, provide you with feedback, bond, and learn.
This will help you build brand loyalty, increase conversions and sales, and show the people who matter most to your success a human side to your brand that they can relate to. So, get started by reviewing your options for types of community management to incorporate at your company, developing a strategy, and determining whether a community manager is the next hire you need to make.

Originally published May 14, 2019 7:30:00 AM, updated May 14 2019

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Community Management

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How to Teach Your Kids About Money

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How to Teach Your Kids About Money

There’s a specific conversation I frequently have with people around my age. As they get closer to middle adulthood and look back on everything they’ve learned about money, they start to wonder – why didn’t they teach us this stuff in school?
For whatever reason, the American education system is sorely lacking when it comes to personal finance education. You can easily enter adulthood without ever learning how to set up a budget, open a retirement account or build a respectable credit score. If school is supposed to set you up for success as an adult, that seems like a glaring blind spot.
That’s why it falls to parents to teach their kids about money. Here are some important topics to cover, and how to teach them lessons that will actually stick.
Share Your Mistakes
I grew up in a household where my parents were honest about money. They didn’t mind talking about how much they earned, how much they spent or most importantly, how much they owed. I probably learned as much from their failures as I did from their successes.
My parents are immigrants and had never seen a credit card before they moved to America. Entranced by the shiny plastic, they signed up for several, not realizing how easy it would be to rack up a balance. It wasn’t long before they racked up a balance that took them more than a decade to pay off.
After my parents learned their lesson, they always taught me to avoid putting more on a credit card than I could afford to comfortably pay off. Seeing how credit card debt affected them spurred me to pay off my student loans quickly and avoid other forms of debt.
I remember hearing conversations about their credit card balance and how they regretted taking on so much high-interest debt. I wasn’t old enough to grasp the specifics, but one thing was clear – they had made mistakes, and now they were suffering the consequences.
Don’t be scared to share your personal finance mistakes with your kids. If you put off saving for retirement and playing catch up, tell them about your experience and how you’re fixing it. They’ll learn best from your personal example.
Explain the Value of Compound Interest
One of the most important savings lessons anyone can learn is how compound interest builds wealth.
Compound interest is the concept of interest building on interest. When you save or invest money, you earn interest on your contributions. That interest will then be added to the principal, where it will earn more interest.
You can do this by opening a high-yield savings account for your child, preferably one that earns at least 1% in interest. Every once in a while, pull up their account statement to show how much interest they’ve earned. When they’re old enough, you can encourage them to use that money to open a retirement account.
Show Them How to Budget
Like any life skill, budgeting takes a while to master. The earlier your child starts practicing, the better they’ll be at making hard decisions as an adult.
You can do this during a family vacation or field trip. Give your kids a set amount at the beginning of the trip and tell them what they’ll be responsible for buying, like extra snacks or souvenirs. Letting them choose their own purchases will teach them how to allocate resources wisely.
Before the trip, you can explain what prices might be like and how to make decisions. If you’re giving them $30 and each toy costs $15-$20, explain how they can probably only afford one big toy or a couple small ones, but not everything.
Let Your Kids Make Mistakes
Credit expert and father Matt Schulz advises parents to let kids make their own money mistakes, even if they can prevent it.
“I’m a big believer in letting a kid experience buyers remorse,” he said. “Let them use their money to buy something they really want but that you know they’re going to forget about two days later. That can help them think twice before they buy the next thing.”
Chuck Jaffe, host of the “Money Life” radio show, witnessed this first-hand when his daughters were six and four years old. They were at an outdoor-themed chain restaurant when the girls spotted a toy in the restaurant gift shop, a puppet named Timber the Talking Tree.
Jaffe explained that they could each afford the toy, but it would empty their bank accounts. The girls each received a weekly allowance and were allowed to spend money however they chose. Jaffe told them they could share the toy and save some money, but they didn’t want to do that. So they each bought the toy.
Three weeks later, they stopped playing with it. What’s worse, it took them almost three months to rebuild their bank accounts to where they would be if the girls had just shared the toy.
Jaffe said this lesson has stuck with his daughters. Now in their twenties, they still decide on big purchases by asking themselves, “Is this going to be like Timber?”
Teach Them to Give
With online and mobile advertising, your kids are bombarded with images and links of products they want. Without proper guidance, they can easily end up spending their allowance on material goods as quickly as they receive it.
If your kids get an allowance, encourage them to donate part of it to charities and causes they care about. It could be the shelter where you adopted the family dog or a charity that works in your neighborhood.
Giving away money also reminds kids how lucky they are and how much they have. It’s important to teach your child the value of a credit score, but it’s also good for them to see how giving away $5 makes an impact on the world.
If you and your spouse give to charity, explain why it’s so important to you. Your child might even want to start their own fundraiser.

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Zina Kumok (59 Posts)

Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Debt Free After Three.

How To Teach Your Kids About Budgeting At The Farmer’s Market

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How To Teach Your Kids About Budgeting At The Farmer's Market

Aside from cooking, if there’s one important lesson I learned from my parents it would have to be about budgeting. I grew up in a large family of 6, and we enjoyed delicious home cooked Vietnamese dishes, so I’ve had my fair share of trips to the Asian market to pick out the dinner ingredients. We couldn’t always get the pre-packaged American snacks from the commercials, but now that I think about it, learning those lessons about budgeting for our family really came in handy for me now that I’m a parent- way more handy than any fun snacks or juice boxes would have been!
With twin tweens, a hungry husband, and now my parents in my household, budgeting is still important when it comes to food, except now it seems easier. My parents might have taught me how to balance a checkbook, but those days are long gone because now I’ve been using Mint to balance everything and track my spending. I love how my expenses are automatically categorized and I can even set goals for saving. Times have changed since I was young!

Although the menus and where we shop may be different than when I was growing up, I still want to teach my daughters about budgeting, and one place that is perfect for those lessons is the Farmer’s Market. Just like how I learned about budgeting when I was accompanying my mom to the market, my kids not only learning about budgeting- they’re also understanding how to eat healthy on a budget!
To help get your family started, here are my tips about how to use the farmer’s market to teach your kids about budgeting:
1) Set a food budget
Establishing a budget is usually one of the first steps when it comes to saving money, which I shared that in my last post about how to eat healthy on a budget. This tip goes both for parents and children. By starting with a budget, your children will understand the importance of this first step. I would suggest to be open about the budget and let them know how much you are allotted to spend at the farmer’s market, and that you are asking for their help to stay on budget. One extra perk of being honest about your farmer’s market budget is that kids are usually pretty good police when it comes to staying on track!
2) Write a grocery list together
When your kids write out the grocery list, they will realize that this is also an important step in budgeting. This step also gives a sense of ownership to your child because they feel empowered to make healthy choices. Allow them to choose some of their favorites, but also include some of your necessities so that they can help you complete your list. I found it helpful to have your kids take note of what foods are local and in season so they have realistic expectations of what to find at the market. It’s no fun if your child expects to get nectarines in the winter, but on the flip side, it can be so rewarding to have your kids wait for that special time when their favorite fruit is in season! It’s also important to help them understand that this is just a list to start from, and depending on the variety available at the market, they might have to be flexible. That is a whole other lesson in itself!
3) Load up their wallet with cash
Most of my spending is on a card, which makes using Mint so easy, but when it comes to learning about budget and money, cash is easier for kids. First, that’s how they learn about money and math in school, so it’s a great way to connect what’s learned in the classroom to the real world. Second, it’s a tangible way to see their budget in action- once the money is gone, then their budget is spent! I suggest giving your child a wallet with the budget broken down into various denominations and coins, so that they can have different options to pay with.

4) Do a walkthrough together first
Your child may get excited at the first sight of strawberries they see in the market, but when you’re dealing with a budget, it’s important to shop around to get the best value. Do a walk through of the whole market together and take note of the items on the grocery list, how much the foods cost, what kind of varieties, and even ask for some taste tests! Then, loop it back with your kids to see what they think about where their dollars should go, and what foods come home with them.
5) Allow your kids to handle the transactions
Your kids have the cash, so give them the power to use it and make decisions with your support. For farmer’s market first timers, it would be helpful to first model to your child about how to buy food and talk through each step. Show them how to pick the best produce, and if the vegetables are by the pound, demonstrate how to weigh it out. Use a calculator to add it up, or ask the farmers if they can give a price before you complete your purchase. But since we’re dealing with budget, always make sure to bring the learning back to the budget. Ask questions to help them relate the money in their wallet to their grocery list and the actual costs in the market. As a parent, you may know all the answers, but your child will learn so much more if you give them the opportunity to think things through and make a few mistakes along the way. Questions like, “If we buy this much, will we have enough for something else?” or “How many of that can you buy without going over budget?” can be helpful to make those connections.
Once your children have the hang of how the farmer’s market transactions happen, let them do the work while you take a back seat. Let them ask for help, but leave the rest to them. When it comes time to checking out, let them pay with the wallet, and while that may take longer than other customers, farmers are usually friendly and supportive when they see a young person involved in the process.
After your farmer’s market trip, spend a moment with your kids to reflect on the trip and the budget to close it up. Did you run out of money or do you have any left? Do you need to change your budget for the next trip? What are ways that you can save money next time? Based on the current spending, how much budget would you need for the month? This reflective part about spending is usually something that children aren’t involved in, but reflecting on my spending has helped me stay on track of my budget immensely. While I have tools like Mint to help reflect on my budget, our kids need us to help understand budgeting first, and trips to the farmer’s market has helped my girls so much!

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My Nguyen ( 2 Posts)

My Nguyen of My Healthy Dish started out by posting Instagram photos of simple and nutritious meals she made for her twin daughters. She sparked so much interest by sharing her recipes and healthy lifestyle, she turned it into her life’s work to educate others about what they put on their plate. She believes that health is a lifestyle, and that success is all about the everyday choices we make. All of her recipes are dishes she makes for her own family, and as a busy mom, she has to find ways to take shortcuts in the kitchen- without taking shortcuts on flavor.
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How To Determine What Child Care Choice Is Right For You

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How To Determine What Child Care Choice Is Right For You

Congrats! You had a baby! And now it’s time for you to transition back to work. It’s hard enough to mentally and logistically prepare for a new job of being a parent, but add in fears plus emotions (hello hormones) plus no sleep and  financial factors … equals,  finding the right child care is the toughest and most important job in the world.
So how much does child care cost? We’re about to find out…
I am one of those stressed out moms thinking about what I’m going to do after my baby comes in a few weeks. Since I plan on going back to work, I’m  trying to figure out who will watch my child– and the options are overwhelming. Will one of us be a stay-at-home parent? How will the working parent(s) contribute to childcare?
It’s time we uncover the costs and break down the choices… Au pair, day care, nanny or me?
Did you know that child care is the third-largest expense in the family budget, behind food and housing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s crucial to know up front what it’s going to cost so you can look at your budget and plan accordingly.
The average national daycare rate for one child is over $200 per week. Throw daycare costs of $10,000 a child into the mix. Nannies are even more costly averaging about $28,905 a year nationally, according to Care.com.
Gulp!
Daycare Centers
What Are They? This usually the first thought for most parents. Day care options can be both private-residence family childcare and more commercial (and more regulated) daycare centers.
It’s important to know your local licensing requirements and regulations.
How Do They Work? Daycare centers usually have a staff and more children than in-home providers like nannies or au pairs; so this is a great way to socialize your child and  help them develop emotional intelligence and language skills.
How much will it cost me? Day Care averages $9,697 per year. And around $808 a month
The Cost for daycare varies widely by state, but it’s going to be expensive. A flex spending account can help defray some of the cost.
Daycare Center Pros – with their large staff, daycare centers don’t call in sick, and a large number of children give kids plenty of socializing opportunities.
Daycare Center Cons – their schedules and rules can be inflexible. Kids get less one-one attention, and dropping off a baby in a new environment can be scary
Au Pair Programs
What Are They? A young person from overseas who travels to the U.S. to live with an American host family. They help take care of their children and participate in a cultural exchange.
How Do They Work? With au pair childcare, you have the freedom to schedule 45 childcare hours per week —including night-time and weekend hours. An au pair can get your children out of bed and dressed in the morning, provide supervision, drive them to school, activities, and appointments, do their laundry, fix meals, and help keep their bedrooms clean. Just don’t ask them to do any hard scrubbing or wash windows.
How much will it cost me?
Breakdown of program costs:
Around $1,571 per month
Families go through an agency (paying a Processing fee- usually $300  to find a vetted provider who seems like a “match.”
Add in the Program fee which is around $8,495
Transportation fee – This is to get the au pair  to you
$9,983.25 – Stipend ($195.75/week)  This you pay directly to the au pair weekly.  The U.S. State Department requires minimum stipends based on the type of program, the most common of which requires a weekly stipend of $195.75.
$500 – Education requirement (you contribute $500 towards her classes)
Au Pair Pros – Convenience and Peace of mind knowing your caregiver is close by and exposure to a new culture, language and way of life.
Au Pair Cons – the programs end after one or two years, which can lead to some difficult goodbyes for little kids.
Nanny
What Are They? You can hire a live in nanny or a live out nanny depending on your preference and of course budget. With a live in nanny, depending on what you include for room and board, you may pay slightly less than what you would pay a live out nanny.
How Do They Work? Unlike au pairs, nannies are often living in America.  Also unlike au pairs, nannies are not limited to work a certain number of hours, and they provide help around the house.
How much will it cost me? Many nannies will charge an hourly wage that is significantly higher than minimum wage, but you should pay a nanny at least minimum wage . The cost will depend on where you live, the number of hours, number/age of kids and previous experience.
According to the 2017 International Nanny Association survey, the average hourly rate is USD $19.14. That’s $861.30 for a 45-hour week. Again, that can vary by state, community, agency, and qualifications of the nanny.
On average, you should set aside $525 a week for a nanny. Or $3,445.50 per month/
Nanny Pros – Someone who will take care of your house, kids and errands. Kids get plenty of one-on-one attention, and having the care in the home can make kids more comfortable.
Nanny Cons – Nannies aren’t regulated. Well-educated nannies can cost a premium. And kids get fewer socialization opportunities at home.
Me
Ok so maybe you’re taking a different route and staying home with baby. Sometimes both salaries are necessary to keep up with expensesI. But if you can do it- you’ll not only find the time together early on is super important, but this obviously saves you money if you’re making less than you would for childcare.
Each option has its benefits and drawbacks, but it’s a reality that the biggest limit to choices will be the cost. So start saving. The Mint app can help you get started and set budgets. Let us know about your experiences below the comments section!

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Jessica Naziri (10 Posts)

Jessica Naziri is the founder of TechSesh.co, a lifestyle website for women inspired by tech. She has been a technology news reporter for The Los Angeles Times, CNN and CNBC.com. Since then, her work has also appeared in TechCrunch, The Washington Post, Mashable, CBS, The Travel Channel, CNN, NPR, USA Today, Inside Edition, Yahoo!, and Business Insider.
Follow Jessica on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or reach out directly via email Hello@techsesh.co.
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Getting Your Kid A Debit Card? This Is What You Need To Know

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Getting Your Kid A Debit Card? This Is What You Need To Know

While there’s been a larger push for financial literacy in schools as of late, teaching money management basics has yet to make its way to the school curriculum. If you’re a parent, that means the responsibility falls on you to teach your kids money lessons, perhaps through using a handy app or game.
Another way to educate your children about finances is to give your child a debit card. With prepaid debit cards designed for kids offered by Greenlight and FamZoo, as well as a handful of credit card networks, you can get a card for your kid of any age.
But how can you tell if it’s a good idea? Let’s look at the pros and cons, and how to determine whether a debit card is right for your kid:

Know the Pros

First, your kids will have a better understanding of dealing with money digitally. Studies point toward the fact that we’re prone to spending more online. And while we do shell out fewer bucks using cash, using cards and making transactions via money-sharing apps will surely be a big part of your kids’ lives when they become adults.
“Kids need to understand that digital money is just like real money,” says John Lanza, author and creator of The Money Mammals. When his daughter turned 10, he and his wife bumped up her allowance to $100 a month. While she had a larger budget, there were also more responsibilities: She had to pay for her cell phone, food at school and clothes. Having a debit card helped her be more in control of her money.

Other advantages of giving your kids a debit card are:

Safer than cash. Safer to use a debit card than have them carry around cash, which they could potentially lose, points out Road2College founder Debbie Schwartz, who gave her three kids debit cards when they were teens.
Easier to access money. Paying with a debit card enables your kids to get a hold of the money they have earned and saved, says Schwartz. “Plus, reviewing their online statements gave them practice into managing their money, reviewing transactions and budgeting.”
Lessons in safely managing money. You know not to flash your wad of cash around after you make withdrawals from an ATM, but your kids might not know otherwise.
Your kids can learn to find safe ATM locations, keep an eye out for suspicious activity when they make withdrawals, and save their receipts.
“You’d be surprised how naively teens go to ATM machines, don’t look at their surroundings, don’t pay attention to if someone is watching them enter their PIN and then casually take the cash and don’t safely put it away,” says Schwartz. “It may seem basic to adults, but teens just don’t think of these details.”
Convenience. It’s much easier to fork over money online, says Lanza. While your kids are more prone to spending money digitally — aren’t we all? — the convenience outweighs the cons. Plus, you’re teaching your kids how to handle money responsibly.

Understand the Downsides

Before making your decision, you’ll also want to weigh the cons of giving your kid a debit card:
Limited fraud protection. If your child’s debit card were stolen or suffered an instance of fraud, it wouldn’t offer the same protection as a credit card.
Kids might be prone to spending more. You’ll want to watch for your kids spending more and in a shorter amount of time. If that’s the case, you might want to consider transferring smaller amounts of money in shorter time periods. For instance, instead of transferring allowance to your kids’ debit cards once a month, consider doing it every week.
More cards to manage. More cards, more things to consider. If you’re handing your kid cash, you’ll most likely have fewer factors to consider: Which parental controls on the debit card to enable, how frequently you want to transfer money, and how closely you want to track your kids’ spending.

Instill Basic Money Management First

You’ll probably want to teach your kid the basics of saving and spending before signing them up for a debit card. Before they decided to give their daughter a debit card, the Lanzas had implemented a three-jar system with her money. She was to save, spend, or share her money. “The three-jar system was about putting physical money into jars, and the debit card was the digital version of that,” says Lanza.
If your kid has some know-how before you make the switch from physical to virtual money, it’ll be less befuddling, and your young one will probably make fewer blunders.

Figure Out Your Parameters

If you are leaning toward giving your child a debit card, figure out the age at which this might be most appropriate. If your child has an entrepreneurial streak and is already earning money on their own, or you are handing them more financial responsibilities, it might be time to introduce a debit card into their lives.
Some prepaid debit cards have no age minimum, while others are only offered for those in a particular age range. So that might affect which debit card you spring for. When shopping around for cards, check to see what the parental controls are. Many allow you to pause spending on your kids’ cards as necessary, allocate money to chores and tasks, and to track transactions.

Look Into the Fees

Of course, just like any card, you’ll want to know the fees. Some prepaid cards offer a monthly fee to use the card and access the online platform. You’ll also want to read the fine print and see if there are fees for ATM withdrawals, PIN transactions, and balance inquiries.

Getting your kid started with using a debit card can be a good idea, but you’ll want to understand the benefits along with the downsides. Plus, preparing your child to spend cash virtually will make for a less bumpy transition.
“The reality is that most transactions are not done with cash, and having my kids use a debit card was one of their first of many lessons for how to manage money in a cashless society,” says Schwartz. “You’ll be having a lifelong conversation about money with your kids,” adds Lanza. “Starting a teenager with a card means they’ll be making mistakes when the stakes are lower.”