I tend to pile up ideas for articles, thinking that I'll do more research and write a full post about them. But, that day has been slow in coming lately! So, here's a mixed bag of things I've come across in the news or tips that friends have passed on. If you have something to share, please leave a comment below.
1. I saw this really cute idea for a store in the paper. It's called Wee Can Shop located in Hawthorne. Here, your kids do the shopping in pint-size carts as their parents assist or wait in the waiting room. They also host birthday parties and you can buy online at www.weecanshop.com (a very cute site). 282 Lincoln Avenue.
2. I also read about this kid friendly restaurant in Dumont called Snax. Breakfast all day, fried oreos, free daily specials like free soda or sprinkles, butcher paper and markers on the tables, etc. are sure to please the kiddies!
3. Besides those places I mentioned above, I was excited to check out 201 Magazine's list of the Best of Bergen 2009. I want to check out Ronnie's Hillsdale Bagels, Shelly's Cafe for Brunch, Happy Tuesday gift shop in Ridgewood, and Larry & Phil's Barber shop in Midland Park for my kids haircuts. My fave diner, Matthew's Colonial Diner was named best diner–no surprise! Link here.
***Note: A devoted reader pointed out that I wrote about last year's list by accident. Oops! Here is the link to the 2010 Best of Bergen List. Also, Happy Tuesday in Ridgewood closed down. Regarding the 2010 list, I am most interested in checking out…Peter's Fish Market in Midland Park, and speaking of fresh fish: Varka Restaurant in Ramsey. Grilled octopus, yum! I was surprised Fountain Spa was voted best spa–I wasn't too impressed with it. I think Hoboken has great spas, but then, that's Hudson County! Best Burger–Bobby Flay's was no surprise. I LOVE the burgers here. My favorite is the LA Burger and the fry sauce. I find their burgers pretty raw, though, so I always order Medium well. David Michael Hair Studio was voted Best Hair Salon–which I always pass by on Rt. 4 but have never checked out. For children's party they mentioned Gravity Vault in Upper Saddle River (rock climbing). Sounds like a place to check out for a future post! Thanks to 201 Magazine for providing these great recs for us!
4. Are you big on getting your kids into a great school, but short on finances? There is a website www.sss.nais.org where you provide your financial information and schools can use it to evaluate whether you qualify for scholarships. Some local schools on there are Apple Montessori, Dwight Englewood, and Elisabeth Morrow School. Check with the school first, though.
5. Looking for an accountant? I'm very happy with the one I used last year. I didn't think they made a difference, but after reading a NY Magazine article where they compared one family's experience using different services–it was clear that although the fee may seem high, the return more than makes up for it! Mine is Harry E. Kramer in Oradell, NJ. 201-262-2728. Oh, and another thing…he used to work for the IRS!
6. Now that I have the tedious task of going over my deductions from last year, I figured out there must be a better way. Well, I read an article on Mashable (a great social media site) about great free resources online that help you manage your money. So, I tried their top pick, Mint.com. I was a little nervous about handing over passwords and stuff to a website (but the CEO's article in NY Times about their security level comforted me enough). Anyway, I love it! It really helps me manage our credit cards and it will even give suggestions on credit cards with lower rates. Another bonus, it categorizes everything for you automatically (and I can note which ones are deductible expenses) and pulls data regularly from your accounts so you have an always up to date accounting for all your outgoing expenses. If you like cash, you can even split that up into different categories easily (but you still have to record what you spent the cash on). Bank of America has something similar called "My Portfolio" in online banking but it's not nearly as sophisticated. Mint.com's budgeting section is a bit weak, therefore…
7. There's another software called You Need a Budget. This gets great reviews online and the concept is ingenious. You spend last month's paycheck instead of this month's. That means you have to save up, but with tax returns coming in, this might be a good time to put that return to use! I haven't tried it yet, but they have a free trial online.
8. Tales2Go iPhone App. I saw this recommended on Parentville through my Google Reader. You can stream great kids audio stories from leading publishers and storytellers directly to your smartphone. Great way to captivate your kids with great storytelling when "Once upon a time" draws a blank. Link here.
Believe it or not, I have more tips but I'll save it for next week. I think this will become a regular feature. As you can see, some of the items above I haven't tried yet or tested, so if you do try it out leave a comment on your experience!