09/25/2013 03:18 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2013

Autumn Checklist

There is a distinctive chill in the air, gardens are winding down, nature's color palette is tipping to gold and orange and kids are well into their new school year -- fall has arrived. Now that your kids are settled into their routine, this is a good time to revisit and reinforce budgeting and ecology lessons as the holiday season is in within sight.

Budget Basics

Teach your kids to budget their allowance. An allowance system operates on a "work for pay" principle and should begin when your child is young. I suggest the allowance should be $1 a week for each year of your child's age -- a 9-year-old would get $9 a week, and so on.

  • There are four components to my budget system: Charity, Quick Cash, Medium-Term Savings and Long-Term Savings. Ten percent of all money the children earn should go to charity. Then divide the balance among the remaining three categories.
  • Teaching your children the difference between need and want is a lesson that will serve them throughout their lives.
  • Use the world as your classroom. Learning goes far beyond the confines of the classroom. Seeing a fire truck speed past is a good opportunity to explain the concept of taxes and tax dollars at work for the good of the community. A restaurant check offers a chance to explain tipping and teach percentages.
  • Explain why we budget. Stick to it. Don't give in to whining -- if your kid wants a toy or the hottest new gadget, it has to be budgeted for.
  • Teach by example -- your kids are watching you.

Economy and Ecology

ECOnomy - is it a need or a want? We need food but we want fast food, which comes wrapped in layers of packaging and probably isn't all that healthy. Think about how much extra stuff you buy and make sure that what you're purchasing is really worth the hard-earned money.

ECOlogy - What effect will your purchases have on you and the environment? You can see that choosing fast food could have a more negative effect on both your health and the environment (disposable packaging).

Here are a few examples of how ECOnomy and ECOlogy are related:
  • They might be slightly more expensive than non-organic foods but, you have the option to buy and eat organic foods that are grown and processed without pesticides and are healthier for you and the environment.
  • If you buy a better-made product, it will probably last longer, and you won't have to replace it quite as quickly. Also, it won't wind up in a landfill overnight. That's as good for your wallet as it is for the environment.
  • More is not better. When you shop, take the time to look at the packaging. It's simple -- fewer layers of plastic and paper create less garbage. That means less has to be hauled away to landfills in trucks that use fossil fuels, such as gasoline or diesel. It saves the environment, and it may save you money.
  • If you make your home more fuel efficient by insulating, plugging air leaks, keeping the furnace operating at optimal condition -- you will save money on heating fuel and you will also reduce your carbon footprint.
A Seasonal Idea to Combine Lessons

Charity does not only mean giving money to your favorite cause, or to those less fortunate - it can also be a gift of your time or skills.

The change of seasons means chores that need to be accomplished. Your teens could help their grandparents around the house. Fallen leaves need to be raked. Gardens need to be cleaned and prepared for next spring. Summer furniture needs cleaning and covering or storing.

Your teens can also help winterize the home. They can become ECO-action Detectives by going through their grandparents' home looking for EEKs and EEPs and things that can be done that will contribute to a healthier planet and a healthier family.

An EEK represents the sound that you make when you see something that is wrong - or out of place -- or shocking. The sound reminds us that there is a problem. Shmootztm, one of the characters in my iOS apps, makes this sound to alert us of a problem. These problems can be inside or outside your home.

An EEP is what I call and ECO-EFFECT POINT because the point is that I want you to be aware of doing something that makes an ECOlogical difference for the world. Your kids get an EEP when an EEK is fixed.

  • Air leaks around the house can be costly, allowing heat or air conditioning to escape, wasting energy. Check for the EEK -- drafts around windows, doors, electric outlets and other openings. The EEP can save a considerable amount of money with simple fixes such as caulking, weather stripping and expandable sealant.
  • EEK: incandescent light bulbs waste energy -- look for them in your home. EEP: changing 15 of them to compact fluorescent bulbs will reduce electricity use and can save you 600 in energy costs over the life of the bulbs.
  • One dripping faucet can waste 30 gallons of drinking water a month - EEK! Check for leaky faucets. EEP: stop pouring money down the drain -- have the leak fixed.
  • Screens should be replaced with storm windows to help keep the cold out.

Helping out with the grandparents is priceless bonding time in addition to the real world learning it provides. Getting your family on track now will make the fast approaching holiday season much easier to tackle.

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