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Smart Money Strategies

Take charge of your finances to make the most of what you have.

Smarter, Easier Shopping 

Holiday Shopping Strategies   

Our friend The Gift Therapist shares these tips for succesful, budget-friendly shopping:

1.  Get organized! Clean out your wallet to include only the cash,
credit cards and photo identification that you will need to make your
purchases. Leave all unnecessary items at home to lighten your load, resist the urge
To overspend, and protect against loss or identity theft. Creating a
Separate shopping wallet is a simple and effective way to keep your lists, cash,
cards, and receipts organized.

2.  Play it safe! Keep a detailed list of the credit/debit cards that
you keep in your shopping wallet in a safe place at your home. Be sure to
include the card name, account number and customer service phone number.
Should you loose your wallet or have it stolen, having quick access to this
information will save you valuable time and stress should this unfortunate
experience happen to you.

3.  Pack a snack! The old rule "never go shopping hungry" still rings
true, especially while holiday shopping. During a long day of shopping,
keep you blood glucose balanced by nibbling on a granola snacks, protein bar,
or homemade trail mix. These are healthy and filling treats that will boost
your stamina, mood, and budget!

4.  Dress for success! Beautify but are on a mission
and must dress accordingly! Minimize your morning primping and select your
most comfortable clothes and sneakers to get the job done! Leave your
bulky coat in the car and rely on a fleece pull-over or hoodie to shield you
during your long walk to and from the parking lot. You can always tie your
hoodie around your waist later and still have two hands to manage all of your
shopping bags!

5.  Shop backwards! Buy the small gifts first and big gifts last. Find
great bargains by taking 10 minutes to browse the clearance racks first.
Challenge yourself to come in under budget. Applying your savings toward
The bigger purchases on your list, next year's gift budget or your favorite


Take Charge! Dig Out!

The bills come in, and there's stress. The phone calls start to come, and there's stress. Dealing with debt can feel overwhelming. New research shows that women suffer greater anxiety, and have more difficulty coping with the stress that money trouble brings. You can't run and hide from it; you need to be honest with yourself and face it to get out of debt.


Basic Steps to Getting Out of Debt

Mary Ann Demchak, an accredited financial counselor, and financial education and community outreach advocate with Clearview Federal Credit Union offers this advice:

• Your gross may look wonderful on paper, but if your net is less than your bills, there will be problems! The amount of major credit card debt is testament to that. Keep a spending diary to track expenses for one month to get a clear picture of what you really need "to live."

• Know what your net is and what you owe-this is a must! It's amazing how many people have no idea how much debt they are actually in. Do you keep a log of your revolving and installment debt? Keep a chart of what you owe, who you owe it to, the APR, and the due dates for each.

• Learn to distinguish between your wants and your needs. Before you make a purchase, think it through. Does it fit into your plan for debt reduction?

• Identify your personal goals. Where do you want to be financially in the next five years? How will you get there?

• Know what your options are. What resources are out there to help? Explore all options: your credit union, outside agencies that specialize in debt management and/or counseling, using your own methods.

• Commit to making positive changes in the way you live. If you stay on the same course you can't expect to get a different result!

• Save for the future as part of your basic financial routine. Saving is an important part of any healthy debt reduction plan.

• Create a plan and stick to it! Empower yourself to make a difference in your financial future.


Time for a Change?

Think it through

As family and life situations, your ideas about working outside of the home can change.  Are you cut out for starting your own business? What kind of business might be right for you? What else should you be considering before starting your own business?

Click here to find out more about what you should be thinking about, and how to avoid problems when starting a new business.

> Business Considerations (pdf)

Get a plan

You want to get to the creative, fun part of running your business, but you can't get started without a formal plan.

Forcing yourself to focus on a business plan is essential to the success of your business.

> Print and Save Business Plan Guidelines (pdf)


Family Money Talk

with Clearview Federal Credit Union expert, Mary Ann Demczak

Talking about money is taboo in many families.  Therefore, many kids grow up not realizing where the familiy's money comes from or how much the family has.
Financial experts agree that understanding cash and credit is important for building a sense of financial responsiblility in children.  Remember that a solid financial education is one of the best tools you can give your children!  It's something they'll use for the rest of their lives.

j:  When's the best time to start teaching kids about money, and how should you start?

Mary Ann:  You can introduce kids to coins at an early age, say 5 or 6, and encourage them to save their coins in a piggy bank. It's very important that kids learn to set goals in life-whether it's an academic goal, a sports goal or a financial goal. This is the first step to becoming financially responsible. Are they saving for the next DVD, or are they thinking long term and saving for college?

j:  Should you open a savings account for your child?

Mary Ann:  Yes.  Once they've accumulated $25 or $50, have them open a savings account where they can make deposits. Take them to your credit union so they can make the deposit themselves, let them empty their piggy bank into the Coin Counter listen while the coins are being counted and let them proudly take their total slip to the teller window to make the deposit into "their" account-remember this is Their Money. Explain how money saved in this way will grow and that their $25 may be $28 before too long. This will help them understand the value of money and how it can work for you.

If they don't want to "part" with their cash and want to keep it at home, place a picture of the toy or boots, or school, whatever they want to save for, right on the piggy bank to remind them of what they are saving for. This may deter them from dipping in too often to buy less "important" stuff.

j:  What about an allowance?

Mary Ann: If you think they're old enough for an allowance, explain what you expect them to pay for with their allowance. If you're just starting an allowance and are wondering what's appropriate, a good rule of thumb is $1 for their age. For example, a ten-year old would receive $10 a week. Even better, have them earn their allowance-doing chores, helping with laundry, cleaning their rooms, etc. Also, make sure you explain to them what they'll need to use their money for. For example, you may tell them that you'll continue to buy their clothes, but they'll need to buy their own video games. It's also a good idea to suggest that a percentage of their allowance be put into savings. It's never too early to start good savings habits. Teach them the Share-Save-Spend philosophy-get them into the habit of charitable giving, then put some into savings, but always let them spend some of it-consider a diet with absolutely no chocolate-you'll fail! Same with budgeting-if you can't spend any money on "fun"-you'll also fail.

j.  What are some good ways to teach children about a budget?

Mary Ann:  Kids can learn about goals and budgeting to reach them from the time they are about seven. The first step to any successful budget, whether you are 10 or 50, is to Track Your Spending. Once they receive their allowance, ask them to write down how they spend it.
Did they buy candy? Write it down, a movie, write it down. Then, when their money is all gone and they want to go to the mall, have them look at that list and discuss what they could've done differently with their allowance, how they might have saved up enough to buy that new necklace or video game at the mall.

A great way to teach younger kids about budgeting is to ask them to plan a family activity where they must stay within a certain dollar limit. You can tell them you only have $40 to spend on an activity for the family... then, have them come up with ideas that fit the budget.

If you have an older child with a job, teach them to budget by asking them to contribute to household costs for auto insurance or cell phone usage. You should also encourage them to put a percentage of their paycheck into a savings account. (Share-Save-Spend)

j.  Many adults have trouble balancing a checkbook.  Any advice for teaching children the skills needed to do that?

Mary Ann:  Teaching kids to balance a checkbook can be a daunting task. You can start with young kids by giving them a checkbook register to use with their piggy bank. Every time they make a deposit or withdrawal from the pig, have them enter it into the register. Occasionally, you can have them open up the pig and check the contents against what they have marked in their register. Great way to introduce balancing.

Once your teenager gets their first job, have them open a checking account. Make it their responsibility to keep track of their transactions and encourage them to never spend more than what is in their account. Teach them to keep a register and to balance their statements every month.

j.  We've talked about saving.  What about spending?  How can we teach our children to be smart spenders?  

Mary Ann:  The best advice is to lead by example. Explain the difference between needs and wants. Explain what you are doing when you pay by check or debit card and where the money is coming from. Explain that when you use a credit card, you're really just borrowing the money from someone else, and spending money you have not yet earned. And, that you have to pay back more money that what you borrow. One simple way to explain needs and wants is to take your child grocery shopping with you. Divide the list into "need" items and "want" items. Then explain that if you have enough money left after you buy the items you need, you may be able to buy some of the items you want.

If you start teaching some of these basic concepts at an early age, you'll lay the perfect foundation for a strong financial future for your kids. It's just as important for your child to learn about money as it is to earn it.

Be an advocate for Financial Literacy in Schools

Mary Ann urges parents to get together, go to school board meetings, and let your school leaders know that you want Personal Finance to be a part of your school's curriculum. Write to your legislators and demand they pass legislation that requires Personal Finance be taught to your children before graduation. Only nine states currently have a law on the books and PA is not one of them.

Mary Ann sits on the Executive Committee of the National Youth Involvement Board which is a nationwide credit union organization advocating for Financial Literacy in schools and legislation across the country.  





Surf for Deals

Checking your local paper for coupons and discounts is still a good idea, but take ten minutes (limit yourself so you don't get sucked into wasting time online) and search the web for coupons and special offers you can use for the items you need and want this holiday season. 

Use search words like "special offers for Chilren's Place" and "Bath and Body Works Coupons" for example. Do this with your gift list handy and print or copy and paste the offers you can use.  You'll be amazed at how many discounts are available, especially this year as retailers are competing more than ever for our shopping dollars.  Make it a point to check online before you buy to get the best deal available.  


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