Monday, August 14, 2017

Teaching Financial Literacy Part 2: Financial Resources

This is the second post in my 'Teaching Financial Literacy' series and today I'd like to address my former personal finance students! You can also listen to a podcast interview where I address my experiences teaching personal finance HERE

Hey Kids,

Do remember when you were in SPFC (Senior Personal Finance & Citizenship) and didn't know if you'd ever use the information we were learning? Well, many of you have reached out to me since you've graduated and are now in the 'real world', navigating this 'adulting' thing! You've shared your successes with me (renting your first place, voting, opening up a checking account) and have also asked me to provide a list of resources we used in class! This post is for YOU! And just like I wrote on the last page of your final exam, "I'M ROOTING FOR YOU"! Keep in touch!


Miss Rush

Practical Money Skills  (Helpful Financial Calculators)
If you are thinking about buying a car, taking out a loan, saving for a big-ticket item, or want to compare interest rates, this is my FAVORITE source to play around with various calculators.

Better Money Habits Videos (Great Refresher Videos)
These videos from Bank of America in partnership with Khan Academy provide a great overview of a variety of financial topics. Watch them to refresh your memory on the various topics we covered in class!

Dave Ramsey's Budget Calculator
I'm sure you remember using Dave's spending categories and percentages when creating budgets in class! Here's a link to his budget calculator (you will have to create an account but it's free). You can also download the 'EveryDollar' app to create a budget on your phone!

Federal Trade Commission (Consumer Protection)
As you may remember, you are entitled to a FREE credit report check from each of the three main credit reporting agencies once per year. On this site you can find the link to access your credit report and well as information about reporting identify theft and protecting yourself from fraud!

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Along the same lines as the resource above, this website from the federal government has resources to help protect you as a consumer (as the title indicates)!

FAME (Finance Authority of Maine)
A great resource about paying for college, filling out the FAFSA, and general money management from a Maine organization.

College Scorecard (Comparing College Data)
This is the resource we used when comparing net price, average loan payment, graduation rates, etc. of various colleges. If you are trying to find the best 'bang for your buck' and want to see how your school compares to others, use this interactive website!

Maine Snap-Ed (Healthy Eating on a Budget)

If you’re looking for recipe ideas and shopping lists to stretch your grocery budget, this resource will provide just that! It IS possible to eat healthy while pinching your pennies- a great resource at any stage of life!

 (name brand vs store brand taste test activity)

(listening to & reading student 'consumer savings tips' projects)

Do Something.Org (Volunteer Opportunities)
Although not personal finance related, I feel compelled to link up this really great resources to help further your civic mindedness and encourage you to get out there and make a difference in your community (wherever that may be at this point)! Simply input how much time you have and some of your interests and a list of volunteer opportunities in your area will be created!

Voting Information for Maine Residents
I'm not sure where you may be living at this point, but this is the resource we used in class for determining who is eligible to vote and where to vote if you are living in Maine. If you are out of state, go to your state's website and to find similar information.

Political Typology Quiz (Pew Research Center)
This is the quiz you took on your own to help you determine where your views fall on various social and economic issues. The Pew Research Center is a non-partisan you remember what 'non-partisan' means? :)

(field trip to listen to the Maine gubernatorial debate in Portland)

The information above are some of the 'most requested' resources and should provide a great overview of the major topics covered in our personal finance & civics course. There are endless amounts of information on the web to help navigate the world of personal finance but hopefully this list will provide a great place to start!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Thrift Store Teacher Outfit Ideas

One of my favorite back-to-school traditions is going shopping for 'new' teacher clothes at all of my local Goodwill stores. I take a day and make the rounds to 5 or 6 of my area stores in search of great bargains on stylish & professional outfits! Upon looking through my closet recently, I noticed that at least 50% of my current wardrobe came from thrift stores. I often receive compliments on my outfits from my high school students as well as colleagues, which is proof that you can in fact be stylish and professional without spending a fortune! As a personal finance teacher, thrift shopping has also provided me with a way to demonstrate consumer saving skills to my students! Let's take a peak inside my closet as I offer some thrifty teacher outfit inspiration!

Thrifted Teacher Style Ideas

The outfit shown above includes a thrifted eyelet sheath dress and a cardigan, both originally from Old Navy, and paired with a belt and sandals that I already had in my closet (not thrifted). I love to mix thrifted pieces with pieces I already own to create new looks. The sheath dress and the cardigan are both staple pieces that can easily be mixed and matched with other items. Below I've paired the same red sandals with some fun printed pants found at Goodwill!

Teacher Outfit Ideas

Teacher Outfits

The outfit above, including the boots, was entirely thrifted at Goodwill! The green sweater from the first outfit was paired again with a cute printed dress and tights. Adding tights or leggings is a great way to transition pieces from warmer months to those dreaded colder winter months! Leggings/tights also help make items that may be on the shorter side a bit more appropriate for school.

My first stop inside any thrift store is the dress section. You really get more 'bang for your buck' with dresses because they are basically an entire outfit in one piece and are often easier to make fit since pants can be a bit tougher to find the right length, size, shape. The polka dot dress above is from LOFT originally but thrifted for $6 and paired with other items already in my closet.

The LOFT sweater dress above was found 'new with tags' at my local thrift store for $6!! Although the blazer wasn't thrifted, I've owned it for over 10 years and it's a great staple piece. I've seen lots of stylish blazers & jackets at Goodwill!

Both striped dress above were Old Navy dresses that were purchased at thrift stores. They make awesome wardrobe staples because they are great transition pieces! Pair with boots on the fall/winter or sandals in the spring/summer! They also make getting dressed in the morning really easy and are school appropriate because they cover up everything without sacrificing style & comfort!

Thrifted J. Crew wool skirt paired with items already in my closet!

 Pink printed skirt originally from J. Crew, $5 at Goodwill

 Dress originally from Target

It also helps to have some basic sewing skills when thrifting because if you can shorten a hemline on a dress or skirt, you take home more great deals! I'm really short so sewing a straight line with my machine and a basic hem with a needle and thread were essential skills to learn early on. The dress below fit perfectly except in the length which was easily remedied with a hand stitched hem!

 (Thrifted LOFT wrap dress)

 (Thrifted J. Crew Skirt)

 (The entire outfit above including the shoes was thrifted)

 I've even found some great evening/formal wear at Goodwill for great prices. The J. Crew silk taffeta dress above retails for over $200 new and I was able to purchase it for $10. The gold Banana Republic shoes were thrifted, too, and I wore this outfit to chaperone prom last year!

The outfit above is more like 'teacher on summer vacation style' but obviously Goodwill has some great pieces for more casual looks, too. The dress makes a great beach cover up and the Cole Haan sandals are one of my all time favorite Goodwill purchases!

 (A 'Casual Friday' look featuring a thrifted J. Crew ruffle button down paired 
with jeans and some nude pumps)

(Thrifted orange vest and plaid shirt, both from Target)

(Another more casual look above with dark denim jeans,  a 'hand me down' sweater from a friend, and thrifted Cole Haan wedges.) 

When I'm hunting for thrifted clothes, or really any clothes at all, I also like to purchase items that can be worn both at school and in my 'real life'. All of the thrifted items above could be dressed up or down and even the strapless dress can be paired with a cardigan to make it school appropriate. 

(A few of my favorite thrifted items! Cole Haan, LOFT, and even a Chanel jacket!)

Because I've found so many fantastic thrifted items, I find it difficult to go into other clothing stores to pay full retail price. Even the sales prices can't beat the prices I find at the thrift store! With a little bit of patience it is entirely possible to find great brand-name clothing and accessories at a budget-friendly price at the thrift store and you may just end up feeling pretty proud!

I post many of my 'teacher outfits of the day' over on Instagram! I hope to see you there!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Teaching Financial Literacy Part 1: Course Overview

Summer break is upon us and I finally have time to share something I've been growing increasingly passionate about during the last several years...FINANCIAL LITERACY!

Four years ago my department leader came to me and asked if I'd be interested in teaching a new semester course that all of our senior students would be required to take before graduating. The course would be focused on both financial literacy skills and on civics and I would be tasked with creating the new curriculum. This sounded both daunting and exciting all at once!

That summer I set about gathering resources and doing some research to figure out what exactly the course would cover (Pinterest is a great place to gather ideas). I asked myself what skills I would have wanted to know if I could go back to my late teens/early twenties. I also thought about what skills I DID know that really helped me start my adult life. And so, a new course was born!

Teaching Personal Finance

I plan on writing a 3-part series about financial literacy in the high school classroom. This first post will focus on providing an overview of the major topics covered in the course. In subsequent posts, I will be sharing a comprehensive list for TEACHERS of the best resources & lessons that I've used with my students & will also be creating a list of resources FOR MY KIDDOS who've already graduated and often email asking for links to some of the resources we've used in class. They want access to these resources now that they are actually out in the 'real world' and applying the knowledge they've learned (most of them don't keep their binders from high school nor do they have access to our Google Classroom page once they've graduated). 

Course Overview
One semester can seem like a short time in which to teach all of the financial literacy skills I'd ideally like my students to know (a portion of the course is also dedicated to civic literacy), however, below is a break down of each of the units/topics we do cover. The units also have 'enrichment' topics that help to enhance the basic skills being taught.

1) Money Management
-Consumer shopping/savings skills
-Understanding a pay stub
-Enrichment topics: living on minimum wage/poverty, wealth distribution, the impact of financial stress on individuals and families

2) Credit
-Credit cards/debit cards
-Credit scores
-Interest rates/minimum payments
-Renting/Buying a home
-Taking out loans
-Enrichment topics: debt of the United States, how the country 'borrows' money, how the debts of citizens impacts the economy

3) Saving & Investing
-Checking/banking skills
-Investment options
-Financial goals
-Enrichment topic: consequences of not saving & investing as individuals

4) Financial Protection
-Insurance options
-Identity theft/fraud
-Consumer protection

5) Funding Your Future
-Comparing various post-secondary choices/options 
-How much should one borrow to pay for college?
-Understanding financial aid
-Enrichment topic: discussion/research on the underlying causes of the rise in college tuition costs

Back in April I attended a financial literacy conference hosted by the Maine chapter of the Jump$tart Coalition of Financial Literacy and got some fantastic resources. The BEST resource shared at the conference (in my opinion) is a website for educators looking to teach financial literacy called Next Gen Personal Finance. What I really like about this website is that it's completely free, you don't have to log in or enroll to access the materials, and it's basically a complete financial literacy course broken down by unit with lots of different types of lessons. There are interactive group activities, daily discussion questions, links to videos and simulations, and teacher guides. 

Hello?? Where was this resource 4 years ago when I needed it?? Ha ha! 

If you are considering teaching or are about to teach financial literacy skills to young people you should absolutely visit the Next Gen website as a place to start. Having taught personal finance for 4 years already, I am thoroughly impressed with the materials they've come up with! It also validated what I've chosen to teach my students because many of the resources I already use are included on their website!

*UPDATE: After writing this post, Tim from Next Gen reached out to me and asked if I wanted to be on his podcast! You can listen to my podcast interview HERE

(The group of seniors pictured above from one of my personal finance classes VOLUNTARILY came to a financial aid night seminar being offered at a local college. We decided to make a night of it by dining at Olive Garden beforehand! It made my teacher heart happy to see them want to expand upon what we were learning in class for no other reason than to gain more knowledge!)

Teaching financial literacy is incredibly rewarding. I KNOW my students walk away with skills and knowledge they will and have used in their adult lives. I've received lots of feedback from students about how much they've learned in the class and how much more confident they feel about starting their post-secondary lives. Parents also tell me that our activities in class have led to a lot of interesting and important discussions at home with their kids about finances and 'life beyond high school'. It's a wonderful feeling to know that what I am teaching is truly helping my students!

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where I will be providing a list of great financial literacy resources for my students to use once they've graduated and are in the 'real world'.

In the meantime, find me over on Instagram!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Rustic & Coastal Master Bedroom Makeover

As my home renovation journey continues, today I'm sharing the first room in the new house to be {just about} finished! My initial goal was to have my master bedroom completed BEFORE actually moving into the house. But, as is the case with most renovations, everything takes far longer than anticipated! I've been squatting in the room next door, eagerly anticipating the day that I could move into my new and improved beautiful bedroom! Let's take a look at the space throughout the renovations...

Fixer Upper Renovation Ideas
DIY Shiplap Plank Wall

The first item to tackle was removing the window to the left of the room to make the furniture placement in the space fit a bit better. Since there are two other windows in the room, losing light wasn't an issue! I attempted, in vain, to remove the wall paper but quickly gave up and decided to use a plank board tutorial to cover up the walls instead. My suggestion would be to paint or prime the wall paper BEFORE putting up the boards so that the pattern doesn't show through in the nickel sized gaps... let's just say I learned that lesson the hard way!

Before I painted & decorated the room I created a design board for inspiration. I was going for a 'rustic meets coastal' look in the space with a soft, calming color scheme. The bed pictured above is from Target, although I ended up just using the headboard I already had (also from Target). The paint color I chose is Window Pane from Sherwin Williams.

Rustic Light Fixture

The ceiling fan was replaced with a low profile light fixture. I LOVE this fixture!! I shopped all around looking for something affordable and rustic-looking. This one IS rustic looking but a bit of a splurge, at least for my budget, but I couldn't be happier as it really adds some interest to the space. The floors were stripped of the worn-down orange stain and then re-stained. That process in itself will wait for another post as we attempted to DIY the floors and it did not end well! I had to bring in the pros...lesson learned!

Are you ready to see the space now that it's all pretty?! Here it is...

Rustic Coastal Bedroom Decor
Farmhouse Bedroom Decor
{This photo is of my grandmother when she was's one of my very favorite parts of this space}

Master Bedroom Makeover Ideas

I still have some decorative touches to add (like maybe some framed art above the bed and something on top of the dresser) and need to finish organizing the closet spaces, but I really could not be happier with how things turned out! The rug, ceiling fixture, and side lamps are all new but the rest of the items I was able to reuse from my previous house, which made this makeover pretty affordable!

Here's the source list:
-Hardwood floor color is 'Jacobean' stain by Minwax (on red oak flooring)
-Area rug is from Overstock
-Side lamps are from Lowes
-Ceiling light fixture is from Wayfair
-Wall paint color is 'Window Pane' from Sherwin Williams
-Bedding and curtains are from Home Goods (purchased a few summers ago)
-Cordless Roman Shades were purchased from Amazon
-Nailhead trim headboard is from Target (similar)
-Side tables were purchased 10 years ago from Christmas Tree Shop
-Mirror is from IKEA (purchased it at a yard sale and painted)
-Dresser is a Salvation Army find that I painted white and then distressed

In case you forgot where is all started, here's a 'before' and 'after' of my rustic/coastal bedroom retreat...
Master Bedroom Decor Ideas

The next space I'll be tackling is the full bath, which is done being renovated but just awaiting paint. I'll be sure to share that makeover journey soon! 

I post daily home renovation updates over on Instagram...hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Home Renovation Journey

Today is the last day of February break and I've SO needed this past week to make some progress in this space before turning my attention back to teaching. I'll be honest in saying that it hasn't been easy juggling home renovations and school obligations (while also trying to fit in some fun and relaxation in an attempt to feel human/normal) but sometimes there are busy seasons in life and this happens to be one of them!

The past few months have been an incredible whirlwind between traveling for the holidays, starting a new semester at school (with new kiddos and new courses), packing up and moving out of my previous house, and moving into my new place. Luckily there was a three week period between when I closed on this new house and when I sold my previous house, so there was at least some time to get the renovations started before moving in. I'm also fortunate to have lots of extremely generous, handy, and helpful friends and family members! So much progress has been made in some areas and yet there also seems like there's still an incredible amount of projects left to complete (baby steps)!

First, some BEFORE photos of the new place...

Fixer Upper

The Exterior
When the Maine temps are a bit warmer, the exterior siding will be repaired and repainted and I'd also really love to add either a farmer's porch or at least a small covered porch over the front door. Garrison style homes are one of my least favorite styles of homes so I'll do what I can to add some curb appeal! One advantage that this home has over my last, is the garage! Although it's small, my car does fit (the very first thing I did after closing was drive my car into the garage) and hopefully next winter when the renovations are over, the garage will be empty enough for me to actually use it!

The Kitchen/Dining Area

Through the side entrance you come into the kitchen. The space was pretty dark and a bit cramped so my immediate thought was to tear down the wall between the kitchen and the separate dining room, which you can see through the doorway in the photo above. Removing the wall would allow more light into the space and would allow for a more open entertaining area.

Kitchen DIY

The layout of the kitchen would need to be reworked since the wall dividing the space is now gone, so I set my mind to designing a 'one wall' kitchen with a large center island and a walk-in pantry. The space is already so much larger and just makes much more sense for my style of living and entertaining.

Above is the view from inside the original dining room...the wall to the right has since been removed. Below is the 'before' and 'progress' views of the space with and without the wall. Hopefully by next weekend I'll have a partially functioning kitchen since I've been living off of a microwave and refrigerator for the last few weeks!

The Living Room
The sunken living room is really the space that sold me on this house (other than the great neighborhood)! I could see the potential in the brick fireplace, the built-ins, and the size. I also like that this space is right off the kitchen so it will make sort of one large continuous entertaining space. This is the room in the house that is the closest to being complete as I really needed at least one clean, happy place while everything else is in shambles! 

Here's a little sneak peek at the progress made so far:

The Front Room

Since the sunken living room was an addition to the house, the original structure also has a living room. Since I don't really need two full-sized living rooms, I decided to borrow some space from the front living room to add a walk-in pantry (accessible from the kitchen side). Although the brick chimney had to stay because it's hooked up to the boiler, the rest of the brick hearth was removed and the new pantry was framed in. I'm thinking I'll now turn the front room into a little office or reading/library area at some point. Below is a view from the kitchen where the door to the pantry was added (where those 2x4s are).

The Half Bath

The half bath on the main level also houses a laundry closet. The vanity & toilet have been removed and the tile wall has been demoed. New flooring has been added and I had the washer/dryer stacked. I also added paintable beadboard wallpaper to cover up all the imperfections on the laundry closet wall. A small cabinet with shelving above for some storage will be added to finish up the space.

The Full Bath

The bathroom was the first thing to be completed as I needed it to be up and running before I moved in. We had a two week time frame to get it all done! This space is a good size and since it's the only full size bath in the house I wanted to add a double vanity to make it more functional. After everything was gutted, the plumbing and electrical were moved and a new vanity (which I LOVE) was added. I chose to do a plank wall to cover up the wallpaper and the holes where the original lighting/electrical fixtures were. A new toilet, shower/tub, and new flooring have also been added. There's still some finish work left to do as well as decor (the fun part) but it's functional and looking good so far!

The Master Bedroom
 The master bedroom is a long and narrow space, the walls are covered in wallpaper, and the chimney runs up straight through one of the closets, so there were some design challenges. The first decision I made was to have one of the windows removed to better accommodate furniture placement. Other than right in front of the doorway, there was really no other place to put a queen sized bed! So, the window on the side wall was removed and then wood planks were added to the space to cover up the wallpaper (I gave up on my attempt to remove it). The chimney in the closet has to stay but it was painted white to better fit in! A new light fixture was added and the floors were refinished.

Progress so far...

The Other Bedrooms

The home has three other decent sized bedrooms (with great size closets, too)! Luckily, other than refinishing the hardwood flooring, there are only mostly cosmetic updates do be done in these spaces. The first room to get a makeover will be the 'pink room' which will be painted gray and turned into my office/craft room!

My plan is to do a separate blog post for each space in the house with lots of 'before' and 'after' photos and the details on each space. Be sure to check back in to follow along on this journey! I also post (almost) daily home renovation pics/videos on Instagram! Hope to see you there, friends!

Now, off to lesson plan for the week ahead!