Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mother's Day Craft Ideas

When Mother's Day rolls around, kids want to show their moms just how special they are. Store-bought gifts and cards are nice, but they lack that personal touch. Something made just for Mom has much more sentimental value, and kids don't have to spend much money (if any) on it.

Even toddlers can make Mother's Day crafts with a little help. Here's a sampling of things kids can make for Mom.

Framed Photos

Every mother loves to look at pictures of her kids. So why not pick out a favorite picture or yourself with Mom and create a beautiful frame for it? There are many ways you can go about making photo frames.

One of the cheapest and simplest ways to make a picture frame is to cut one out of paper. Construction paper, card stock and thick scrapbooking paper are good choices. Or, if you want to make the frame even sturdier, use corrugated cardboard. Just make sure the opening in the middle is large enough to show the part of the photo you want to display, and make the frame any shape you like. Decorate with paint, glitter and stickers. Add a magnet to the back for easy display on the refrigerator.

You can also make frames out of craft sticks. Just glue the ends of four sticks together to make a square, and decorate with markers or paint. Or if you prefer, buy a plain photo frame and decorate it as you please.

Candle Holders

It's easy to make a lovely candleholder out of a small jar. Larger baby food jars work well for tealights and votives. Pint jars can hold votives or small pillar candles.

To decorate, use tissue paper. Mix equal parts white glue and water, and stick the paper onto the outside of the jar, stopping below the rim. Use pieces of different colors to create a stained glass look. Cut some shapes out of the paper if you like, arrange them in a pretty pattern, and glue on top of the larger pieces. Coat with the glue mixture to seal, and let dry.

Bath Salts

Want to help Mom pamper herself on her special day? Make her some homemade bath salts. They will help her relax and leave her skin feeling great.

Just mix 3 cups of Epsom salts, 2 cups of baking soda, and 1 cup of table salt. Add about twenty drops of a fragrant essential oil. Lavender, sandalwood and chamomile are good choices. Mix thoroughly. Present the bath salts to Mom in a pretty jar tied with a ribbon.

Decorative Flowerpot

Moms adore flowers. Creating a unique flowerpot with a plant you've grown for her is sure to bring a smile to her face.

Small unglazed terra cotta flowerpots are easy to paint on. Use acrylic paint to make a pretty scene or design. If you don't have a flowerpot, a styrofoam cup will do. You can decorate it with markers, glitter glue and stickers. When your creation is dry, fill it with potting soil and plant a few seeds. Try to do this a week or two before Mother's Day so the plant will have time to start growing. Don't forget to give it plenty of sun and water.

Mom is sure to appreciate these simple yet thoughtful crafts. They will give her fond Mother's Day memories for years to come!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Home-Made Cleaning Products

With the prices of commercial cleaners, having a clean home and car can be costly. Also, many of the ready-made cleaners you buy in the store can damage the environment. Here are some cleaning products you can make yourself at home, which are better for the environment and your budget.

Drain Unclogger and Freshener -

The next time your drain is plugged, choose a safer and more cost-effective way to unclog it. Pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain. Add 1 cup of hot vinegar. Wait 5 minutes. Flush the drain with 2 quarts of hot water. Repeat if needed.

Home-Made Glass Cleaner -

To clean glass, combine 2 cups water, ½ cup white vinegar, and ¼ cup rubbing alcohol. Store the mixture in a clean spray bottle. To use, spray the solution on a rag or paper towel then wipe glass.

Home-Made Furniture Polish -

Make your furniture shine by mixing 1 cup of olive oil with ½ cup of lemon juice in a clean spray bottle. Shake the solution well before each use. To use, apply a small amount to your cleaning cloth or rag. Spread the polish over the furniture evenly. Dry the surface with a clean cloth.

Home-Made Multi-Purpose Cleaner -

You can easily keep bathroom and kitchen surfaces clean with this solution. Mix 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water in a clean spray bottle to create your own multi-purpose cleaner.

Home-Made Floor Cleaners -

Commercial cleaners are handy, but these are very simple to make and much more affordable. To make a cleaner for your wood floor, mix ½ cup of white vinegar with ½ cup of vegetable oil. This will make your floors shine as beautifully as any commercial cleaner. To clean your linoleum or tile floors, mix 1 tablespoon of liquid soap, ¼ cup of baking soda, 2 gallons of water and ¼ cup white vinegar.

Home-Made Car Cleaning Products -

You can save money by cleaning your car yourself using these environmentally friendly recipes. To wash the exterior of the car, all you need is a bucket of water and some liquid castile soap. Add a few drops of soap to the water and wash.

For an environmentally safe chrome cleaner, mix equal parts of white vinegar and water. Spray the solution on your wheels and rub with a sponge or cleaning rag. You can make a carpet and upholstery stain remover with white vinegar and baking soda. Make a paste with the vinegar and soda. Work the paste into any stains with a small scrub brush. Let the paste dry then vacuum. Any stains should be gone.

Now you can keep the environment clean while cleaning your home and car. Using the above recipes will also keep your cleaning costs down.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

How You Can Help Homeless People for Free

How You Can Help Homeless People for Free is an eye-opening article written by a woman who was homeless herself for a time. Please spend some time reading through these suggestions and try to help someone today. The human race needs to start caring more. Start a discussion with your family today.

Here are some more excellent articles by the same author on this difficult topic:

Some Reasons People Become Homeless

What I Learnt While I was Homeless

Friday, September 3, 2010

5 Easy Menu Planning Tips

If you have a family, then one of your biggest expenses is probably the weekly grocery bill. The healthy food we want to feed our families with doesn't come cheap, and prices always seem to be on the rise. But, despite the continual increasing cost of food, and the ever-tightening of family budgets, you can still cut down on your grocery bill by being organized and planning ahead.

Here are some easy menu planning tips for a tight budget.

1. Know what you have on hand right now.

Have you ever had to run to the grocery store for something, only to find out later that you already had it in your cupboard – you just couldn’t find it? Saving money on your groceries starts with organizing what you have on hand right now so you know where it is and can easily find it. Otherwise, you can end up wasting money on items you don't need. Organize your pantry, shelves and refrigerator.

2. Plan your meals in advance.

Before you head out to the grocery store, plan your meals for the next week or two. That way you will know what you need to buy and you won't make any unnecessary purchases. You also won't be tempted to eat out because you'll have everything ready at home to make nutritious meals.

3. Check the grocery store flyers.

When you're planning your meals, flip through the grocery store flyers too. They will tell you what's on sale this week. To save money, plan your meals around items that can be purchased for a good price. When you go to the grocery store, you won't be as likely to spend time looking at more expensive items when you already know what's on sale.

4. Use leftovers creatively.

With a little imagination, one meal can be turned into two by planning to use leftovers. When you plan your meals, organize your menu so that the cooking you do for one meal can become the beginning of another. For example, leftover meatballs from spaghetti and meatball night can become meatball subs the next day.

5. Look at your calendar and plan ahead for busy days.

We all have days where we have limited time in the kitchen, with sports clubs and evening activities. When you're planning your meals, keep an eye on the family calendar so you can plan to accommodate those kinds of days as well. If you have made something ahead of time, or have planned a quick dinner, you will be less likely to eat out or pick up a more expensive item on the way home.

The grocery bill is one of most family's biggest expenses, yet it is also among the easiest to cut down. With some organization ahead of time, you can easily plan meals that will help you save money.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How to Motivate Yourself to Save Money

Mustering up the motivation to start saving can take some effort, especially if you have never set up a savings plan before. In order to start saving it helps to have a specific goal in mind. You also need to have a good overview of your finances and your expenses. It can be difficult in the beginning to create a savings account, but once you start it will be easy to continue.

* Keeping a goal in mind will help motivate you to start saving. Be specific in your goals – do you want a new car in a year or a down payment on a house? By being specific when choosing your goals, you never lose sight of what the money is for. In addition to choosing a goal, be sure to figure out how much you need to save up to meet your goal as this will help to keep you on track.

* Analyze your finances and expenses. This is an important step because it will show you how much you can afford to put away each month. Eliminate any needless expenses. For example, skip eating out and bring a bag lunch to work. Bring your own coffee instead of buying. While these may seem like little sacrifices, chances are they will add up to a nice chunk of change at the end of the month. Instead of spending it, put it in the bank.

* Update your goals as necessary. It is human for us to change our minds about goals. Instead of kicking yourself when you do, just revamp your savings plan to meet that particular change. Sometimes, emergencies happen and we have to use the money we planned to save to take care of the situation. Just continue to save as usual when things return to normal.

* Save your change. It’s pesky and heavy and it’s everywhere, but it is money. Keep your change in an empty jar or buy a special jar to contain it. When the jar is full, wrap the change up and deposit it into your savings account. You will be amazed at how much money you are able to save up just by collecting your change.

It can be difficult to get motivated to save, but it does help when you have a goal in mind. Analyzing your finances and expenses will allow you to see just how much you can afford to put away each month. You can save up by eliminating unnecessary expenses and also by collecting your change and depositing it into your savings account.

Keep your goal in mind when you are saving up, but don’t kick yourself if you get deterred. Simply pick back up where you left off and reward yourself for your hard work.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Where Should I Keep My Savings?

When making the decision save, it is good to have goals in mind. However, an important part of saving is almost always overlooked – where to keep the money so that it works for you. There are many different types of accounts that you can use to gain interest on your savings account and make your money work for you.

* Savings accounts are available at your local bank. Most banks have different types of savings accounts and rates that vary depending upon the amount that is deposited. The annual percentage rates are usually low, with interest being paid quarterly. If you are looking for a long-term, high interest yielding investment, you might want to skip the savings account in favor of a certificate of deposit.

* Certificates of deposits, or CDs, are a type of investment tool that requires the investment to be held for a specific time frame. If you invest in a certificate of deposit, your money will be on hold until the time expires. You will be able to withdraw the money early, but a penalty will apply. Interest will be credited according to the agreement, but all interest will be lost if the withdrawal is made before the CD matures. Placing your money in a CD is not a good idea if you wish to have unlimited access to the money.

* Savings bonds are a type of bond that is issued by the government. They are backed 100% and typically take 20-30 years to mature with interest accumulating every month. However, they can be cashed in at any time with no penalty; you just will not earn the extra interest. Savings bonds can be purchased online as well as through your bank.

* IRAs are designed for retirement. Investments are typically held until the depositor reaches retirement age. The money will hold a severe penalty if withdrawn early, but there are exceptions. Taking money out for educational purposes or buying a house, for example, are not penalized.

* Money markets are held at your local bank as well. Money markets usually require higher balances and the access to the money is limited, although not as limited as a CD. Most money market accounts allow only a limited number of withdrawals per period, usually per quarter. The plus side of a money market is that it tends to yield higher interest due to the higher amounts required for deposit.

There are many different types of savings methods available. There is no wrong way to invest your money. A typical low interest yielding savings account is good if you want unlimited access to your money. If you are interested in investing long term only, you might consider a savings bond or an IRA. Whichever route you decide to go, do your research first so you know exactly what to expect. You can always change your mind at a later date, although you may pay a penalty.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top Tips for Staying Fit for Less

Keeping in shape is not only good for your ego; it is also good for your health and longevity. Many people join a gym to stay fit, but not everyone can afford to do so - especially when some of them can be a bit pricey. In addition to working out regularly, eating healthy is essential to staying in shape. There are several ways to get in and subsequently stay in shape without breaking the bank.

1. Buy healthy foods.

Staying away from the junk food will help to save you money in the long run. The best way to stick to a healthy diet when shopping is to shop the perimeter of the supermarket. Around the perimeter is where you will find the produce, dairy and meats; all of the stuff on the food pyramid. You will have to delve into the aisles for dairy and cereals, but keep them on the healthy side by buying whole grain.

2. Instead of joining the local gym, invest in buying equipment for your house.

You do not have to purchase the equipment brand new. Check your local newspaper or Craigslist where you will find people trying to get rid of stuff that they no longer use or want. Oftentimes you can find gym equipment at a deeply discounted price.

3. If you do not have room in your house for equipment, then take up an activity that does not require any equipment.

Walking, for example, is an excellent exercise that will work out most of your body. If you’re able to, running is a great way to boost up your cardio activity. Walking or jogging a few times a week is a great way to shape up your body and keep it fit. Enlist a buddy to help keep you on track toward achieving your goal.

4. Buy fitness DVDs if you have trouble establishing a workout.

There are several different types of workout programs available wherever you can buy movies. For best results, buy a variety of workout programs so you can change it up and keep your workouts fresh.

Working out and staying fit does not have to be a budget breaker. If you cannot afford to go to the gym, bring the gym home to you. If you do not have space in your home for gym equipment, there are several ways to work out without using specialized equipment. Enlisting the aid of a friend or family member will go a long way in assisting you in your goal – to get and stay fit.