iPad baby seats are dubious devices

Every mom can attest to needing 10 minutes for a shower, to prepare dinner and sometimes even just to put down a colicky baby that has been crying nonstop.

If you’ve seen the new iPad baby seats, from infant activity seats to toddler potty seats, featuring an attachment for an iPad complete with “developmentally appropriate apps,” you might wonder if they are better than a traditional baby seat.

But don’t choose it for educational advantages.

The “educational merit of media for children younger than 2 years remains unproven despite the fact that three-quarters of the top-selling infant videos make explicit or implicit educational claims,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics updated 2011 statement, Media Use in Children Younger than 2 Years.

The academy “discourages media use by children younger than 2 years” for some very good reasons.

The medical group reviewed all of the scientific studies on media use in children under 2 (mostly television viewing) before coming to that conclusion and no research over the past four years has prompted it to revise that opinion.

Yet nine out of 10 parents say heir children younger than 2 years watch some form of electronic media. So where does that leave parents faced with the decision to buy and use one of these iPad baby seats?
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It’s getting easier to do good by linking your spending to your favorite charity

If you’re one of the 95% of Americans who donate to charity each year, your good will could stretch a little further if you spend your money wisely.

You can now support everything from education to the environment through your credit or debit card, bank account or other payment method.

Some options provide funds to particular nonprofit organizations, while others give you the flexibility to choose the charity that reaps your rewards.

I’m a huge shopper, buying everything from special food for my senior cat to cosmetics through the site.

Last year I signed up for the AmazonSmile program after friends who run a clinic that provides low-cost veterinarian care suffered a devastating loss. An arsonist torched their facility, destroying the inside of the building and killing the three clinic cats.
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Let’s save ourselves from costly ‘help’ like this

Beware of yet another start-up that’s out to take advantage of the self-employed and part-time workers trying to make a living from several jobs.

Even is a new company launching later this year that promises to help smooth out the erratic income of those of us who don’t have a single, steady employer.

They posit themselves as insurance on your checks: Give them your money, and they’ll pay you a weekly salary out of it.

If your income isn’t up to snuff that week, they say they give you an interest free loan.

If all systems are go, your extra money is saved for the next time a check is late or your shifts are cut.

The big problem: Even charges $5 per week to hold onto your money for you. That’s $20 per month and $240 per year. In exchange, they give you zero interest in your savings.

What a terrible idea.

Look, I understand the frustration when your incoming is coming from a dozen different sources. I’ve been self-employed for 10 years, and sometimes checks are late.

But there’s a very easy way to even things out yourself.
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The Ultimate Layoff Survival Plan: How smart financial decisions now and later can help you through

Most people don’t expect to be laid off, but for anyone who’s been through it (raising my hand!), it often comes when you’d least expect it.

For me, it came on a Monday morning in the form of a sticky note from my immediate supervisor that said to meet her in the hallway.

I knew right away that she was giving me a heads up about the “meeting” I would be called into later that day. These so-called meetings had been happening a lot at my company, but I just assumed after working there for 15 years that I was safe.

Take it from me – I was wrong, and your job is not safe either.

Sure, there aren’t 2009 levels of layoffs going on right now, but for industries still feeling the economic sting, you may find yourself saying, “that cubicle wasn’t empty yesterday, was it?” or “what happened to Jane from accounting?”

As much as we try to be prepared in case of a rainy day, when that day does come, it’s easy to slip into panic mode, and start making rash financial decisions like borrowing from your 401(k) or maxing out your credit cards.

Lucky for me, my layoff was the push I needed to take my side freelance business to the next level. In other words, I had a backup plan ready to go.

In order to keep your financial future secure in the event of unexpected unemployment, you need to have a game plan.

Here’s what you should do if you’re laid off -– and what you should do now, while you’re still working -to be as prepared as possible for an unexpected pink slip.
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Start saving and planning now for summer vacays

AirplaneThe coldest winter months are the time to start saving for your summer vacation.

By planning now for a week exploring the sites of London and Paris, or trekking around Orlando’s theme parks, you can avoid racking up credit card debt on airline tickets and hotel rooms when warmer weather rolls around.

While some travel agencies allow you to layaway vacation packages, that can be risky business. You’ll typically wind up paying a penalty if you need to cancel or change your travel plans.

If a trip to a Disney resort or a Disney cruise is on the top of your wish list, the mighty mouse is making it easier for you to save, rolling out a Disney Vacation Account in conjunction with JP Morgan Chase.

It helps put you on the right track by allowing you to save up for your vacation. You can make one-time or recurring contributions to your account, including via your debit card. And if you suddenly decide you’d rather go skiing in Aspen, you can get your account balance refunded.

But there are definite downsides.

If you opt to make deposits using your credit card, you run the risk of racking up big interest charges if you carry a balance on your card.

You also won’t earn any interest on your account, though you will receive a $20 gift card for every $1,000 you spend on your vacation. That’s equivalent to just 0.02% APY.

Far better savings choices are available, regardless of where you want to spend your summer.
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 Culture Cents 

Life’s more expensive for women …

Here’s how I fight financial discrimination

I’ve just purchased a new pair of men’s boots.

I’m a woman, so I suppose that these boots are women’s boots now, because I own them.

But they were designed for and marketed to men.

I own a lot of men’s stuff: my winter coat, razor, deodorant, sun block, and running shoes, to name just a few.

These goods didn’t land in my life by accident.

Sales clerks offer me stuff made for women, so I have to seek out these gender-bending alternatives.

Finances are my biggest motivator.

Goods made for men often cost less than exactly the same product, when it’s made for and marketed to women.
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New ways to make extra money

Most of us would love to start the new year with a little more walking around money.

Well, one of the few benefits of the financial crisis and recession is that it brought out the entrepreneurial spirit of throngs of Americans and the development of the sharing economy.

Why not cash in on the wave by seeing how your skills and the stuff you have could help you earn more money?

Here are 10 enterprising ideas to explore.
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‘Pay As Your Earn’ gets lots of attention, but it isn’t the best way for many of us to repay our student loans

When I was a new college graduate, I owned $10,000 in federally subsidized student loans.

I paid them off the boring way: I wrote a check every month. Then I took a bit of time off from my repayment schedule when I was unemployed. Eventually I wrote a bigger check and I was done.

Since then, the government has added more repayment options, including programs that can actually forgive a portion of unpaid loans after a couple of decades. (If you know anything at all about student loans, you know that they are virtually never forgiven. Unpaid student loans stick with people through bankruptcy and retirement.)

One of these, the Pay As You Earn option (PAYE), is the result of a YouTube video that then-candidate Barack Obama made in 2011, promising college students wouldn’t have to devote more than 10% of their discretionary income to student loan payments.

Under current rules you’re eligible for PAYE if you are repaying direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans made to students, and/or direct consolidation loans that do not include PLUS loans made to parents.
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