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.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Smarter Driving Saves Fuel

Whether you are planning on a cross-country road trip or just driving a few miles for groceries, the rising cost of fuel, the dependency on foreign oil and the damage fuel production and usage causes to our environment is something to think about. There is no way to completely reduce these problems, at least while still owning and using a fuel-burning vehicle, but there are many ways to minimize them.

* Top running condition - If your car is maintained at its optimum condition, including frequent oil changes, tune-ups and any necessary repairs, it will burn less fuel. Make sure the fuel cap is always tightly sealed and external trim is properly secured. The cost of these items could even be balanced out by the savings in fuel cost if you drive a great deal.

* Good tires - Monitor the condition of your tires and replace them when they are starting to show wear. Even if they don’t show any problems, they should be replaced on a regular basis, depending upon the specifications of the tire. Make sure to maintain proper tire pressure as well; underinflated tires cause a huge waste of fuel.

* Proper speed - Maintaining the speed limit is not only good for your safety, it’s good for your fuel efficiency as well. The optimum driving speed is around 55 mph, and every mile above 60 mph costs you.

* Slow your stops and starts - Gunning the engine to hit 60 like a race car wastes fuel, and waiting until you are upon a stop sign to stop pressing on the fuel is not only dangerous but a waste as well. Always accelerate at a slow, even pace and anticipate stops by letting your car coast a while before you need to start braking.

* Air conditioning - Whether or not to use the AC in your car should be dictated by the speed you are driving. When driving in town and making frequent stops, running the AC gets expensive due to the higher idling of your engine, so opt for windows down if possible. On the highway, however, having the windows down will create a wind-drag on your vehicle and have the opposite effect. It is best to keep all windows shut tightly and the AC running as low as is comfortable when driving at higher speeds.

* Lighten up - Reduce the amount of weight in your trunk and on top of your car to reduce drag. Non-essential items in the trunk, such as sandbags, an old flat tire, canned goods or tools cause your engine to work harder and use more fuel. If you aren’t specifically transporting the heavy items somewhere, then take them out. The same goes for items on top of your car. Remove luggage racks if possible, and do not use them to carry items unless there is no room elsewhere for them. Modern vehicles are designed to let the air flow smoothly over the car, but having items on top interrupts that flow creating a drag on the engine.

These are just a handful of the top things you can do to reduce your fuel mileage. You can test out a variety of options for your car by keeping track of your habits and fuel mileage or by installing a mileage meter. Learn more about ways to reduce your fuel consumption through educational websites such as EcoDrivingUSA.com and DriveSmarterChallenge.org.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Easy Ways to Get into the Money Saving Habit

Deciding to practice self-discipline and be frugal in your spending is one thing. Actually doing so is often quite another. Our old habits are hard to break. However, if you apply strategies to your spending, you will find it easier to practice self-discipline and frugality. Here are some easy strategies to get you started.

* Change your attitude about money. How you think about money determines the role it plays in your life. Stop thinking that you have to have the same things as everyone else. Instead, focus on what you really need instead of what you just want.

* Recognize and be grateful for all the positives in your life. Changing your perspective can help you see the abundance you already enjoy, regardless of how much money you have to spend.

* Take positive action. It can be tempting to make excuses about why you can never save any money, or why you can't spend less than you already do. Instead of wasting energy complaining about it, focus on positive steps you can take. Can you do something to bring in some extra income? Do you have any unneeded items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist? This can give you a sense of control over your finances and a more positive outlook.

* Learn to make and fix things yourself. Packaged foods and restaurant meals are convenient. However, they are an unnecessary expense. You can learn how to make them yourself. You can also save money by making your own home-made cleaning supplies, specialty coffees, and many other things you buy. As well, learn to fix things around the house instead of replacing them when they break.

* Comparison shop. If you've always shopped at one particular store for your favorite products, it may be time to do a little comparison shopping. Shop around for better deals. You may even want to check online and see if you can order your items for a better price. It might be time to try a less expensive brand as well.

* Track your spending. Knowing exactly where your money is going will help you keep on top of your spending. Even small expenditures can add up over time. Track every purchase you make, no matter how small. You might be surprised to find how much money is really slipping through your fingers. Having to record each purchase will also help you maintain self-discipline in your spending.

* Explore other options. Just because you've always done something one way, it doesn't mean you can't change your patterns. Do you need to drive to work, or could you save money by carpooling instead? Do you need the full cable package for your TV, or is this a good time to turn off the television and get the family outdoors? Looking at all your options will help you decide which are the best for you and will help you save money.

If you've decided to practice self-discipline and frugality in your spending, you will have many challenges to overcome. However, by applying some of the above strategies to your spending habits, you will find it much easier to follow through.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Healthy Back-to-School Lunchbox Ideas

It’s that time of year again, and the age-old question of what to feed your children for lunch while they at school is upon you once again. With all of the talk about the poor quality of school lunches, you may decide to start sending a lunch with your children. But if they are like most kids, their first choices may not be the healthiest or the least expensive.

To recharge them after a long morning and get them through the day, avoid sugary foods and provide at least one source of protein. Remember to pack a dairy product, use whole grains, and give them at least two veggie or fruit items.

Here are some simple ideas for keeping them healthy and strong while keeping your budget under control.

* Sandwiches - Peanut butter, deli slices, cheese, or even leftover meat loaf or roast beef all make great sandwich fixings. Pair them with whole grain bread, pitas or tortillas. Add the complimentary condiments in separate containers to keep the bread from getting soggy, and include a plastic knife for preparation.

* Jello - Most children adore a Jello snack in their lunch box, but purchasing these pre-made can get pricey. Instead, buy boxes of Jello powder and mix it up over the weekend to dole out each day. Use fruit juice in place of water or add canned fruit to the mix to take care of one of your daily servings of fruit. Invest in some small plastic containers that are about the size of the pre-made Jello cups to make it easier.

* Fresh fruit - Toss an apple, orange or banana into the lunch box each day. If it isn’t eaten at lunch, chances are it will get eaten after school. Fresh fruit is better than canned fruit and if sent whole it doesn’t require a special container of its own.

* Fresh vegetables - Baby carrots, celery slices, broccoli pieces, cherry tomatoes and even salad are easy to carry in a lunch box and can stand alone or go well paired with dip or dressing in a separate container.

* Soup - Mix up a batch of home-made soup or stew over the weekend or open a can of soup and heat it up to boiling before school. Pour it into a thermos and it should still be safely hot by lunchtime. Pair it with items that do not need to be cold to ensure everything in the lunch box remains at a safe temperature.

* Chips - You can avoid regular potato chips and still have a cheap, healthy addition to your child’s meal. While pricier, whole grain and baked chips will provide a nutritional advantage over the white flour and fried varieties. Purchase large bags of chips and dole them out in baggies or washable plastic containers each day to keep costs down.

* Milk or yogurt - Many schools will allow your child to purchase a container of milk, or you can send along a thermos of ice-cold milk. Send a container of yogurt; if frozen overnight it should be nicely thawed by lunch time and will help keep other items cold during the morning.

With many of these options, refrigeration or heating is required but probably not allowed. Investing in a good quality thermal lunch box, a freezer pack and a thermos to keep items hot or cold is well worth it. Use washable containers for each item instead of disposable baggies to keep your long-term expense down.

Making wise choices for your children’s lunches this school year will keep both them and your bank account healthy and strong.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Easy Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Clothes

One of the best things about heading back to school is the shopping spree a few weeks before. Unfortunately, with many families struggling to make ends meet, this may be a pleasure for more prosperous times. What can you do to make sure your child is well dressed while not busting your budget this fall? Here are a few tips.

* Sort through last year’s items - Pull out all of your child’s clothes and go through them. Items that still fit and are free from stains and tears can be repurposed for this year. Basic items are almost always in fashion and go well with newer updated items.

* Use hand-me-downs - If you have an older child of the same sex, pass their clothing along to the younger sibling instead of tossing them out. Just like last-seasons items, keep only those pieces that are timeless, fit well, and are free from stains and tears. Make sure that the younger child doesn’t feel like they only get their siblings cast-offs, though. Take him or her for a special shopping trip to get a couple of extra-special pieces.

* Bargain shop - From outlet stores to seasonal sales, there are always bargains to be had. Watch your local ads and sign up online for newsletters from your favorite stores so you will know when the sales are. You might even get some coupons out of it!

* Plan ahead - Begin planning for your child’s school year clothing the winter before and it will be much less expensive to send them off with a full new wardrobe. Styles really don’t change too much from one season to the next, so if you purchase from end-of-season sales you could get three or four outfits for the price of one.

* Buy used clothing - While your child might act like they are dying of embarrassment if they knew it, you can usually find some great pieces at second-hand stores and clothing trades. You might have to weed through a number of torn, stained or horribly-out-of-fashion items, but you are sure to find things like basic jeans, tank tops, t-shirts, turtlenecks, belts and possibly even barely-worn shoes.

* Learn how to sew - Unlike many years ago, it is rarely cost-effective to purchase new fabric and create items from scratch. However, it is useful to have sewing skills for making alterations to good used clothing. It is even possible to convert a larger item into an entirely different garment if the fabric is good. It’s also fun to add whatever embellishment is the latest trend. From patches to sequins, a needle and thread can go a long way.

* Splurge a little - If you can afford it, allow your child a set dollar amount, even as little as $20, to purchase one or two items that they adore and they consider “must-haves” for this year’s little fashionistas. This small splurge can make the entire back-to-school bargain hunting effort go much smoother and helps your child with their fashion self-esteem.

The bargain-conscious parent can be at peace with fashion-conscious kids with some planning and extra effort. It’s as simple as reusing items, buying bargains, and accessorizing with a few of the latest fashions. Your kids may not be ready for a runway, but they will be ready for the first day of school.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Give Your Family a Money Makeover

Families need to make money stretch as far as it possibly can. This can mean doing without unnecessary purchases, or budgeting for monthly expenses. If you find yourself struggling each month or living paycheck to paycheck, it may be time to give your family a money makeover. Giving your family a money makeover means finding the best deals for your money to make it stretch further. Here are some tips that will yield an effective money makeover.

* Find better deals on insurance policies. If you feel like you are paying too much for car insurance or health insurance, do some comparison shopping. Oftentimes people do not think that they can save, so they do not look for better deals.

Being comfortable with your current insurance agent is also a factor as to why people do not shop elsewhere. If you find a better deal with another insurance company, check with your current insurance holder and see if they will match the price. In a competitive market such as today’s, people are more likely to match prices to keep the business.

* If you do not already have a savings plan, it is time to start thinking about one. It's a good idea to have a savings account that will sustain the household for three to six months if the unthinkable were to happen. You can build up your savings over time by putting a little of your paycheck away each pay period. Once you have your emergency fund, then you can focus on building upon that savings even more.

* Having a retirement plan is important because it is not feasible to work until death. Social security programs are running out of funds and may not be around when it comes time for you to retire. This is why it is especially important to plan ahead. Look into IRAs or other interest-yielding accounts to build up enough money to retire on. The sooner you start building up your retirement, the better.

You and your family stand to gain a lot by giving yourselves a money makeover. By shopping around for better insurance policies and building up a savings account for retirement and family emergencies, you are helping to ensure that your family is prepared for the future. Implement money-saving methods where possible and watch your nest egg grow.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cheap Party Ideas

Everyone loves to attend a good party. The costs, however, can be a deterrent to throwing one of your own. Throwing a good party does not have to cost an arm and a leg, however. There are several cost-effective ways to throw a cheap, but great, party. Utilize the following tips to keep your money and your sanity.

* Instead of renting out a hall or a venue for your party, consider having it at the park. Some parks will charge a deposit or a small fee to rent the park area for the day while others require a permit for parties, so be sure to check the local regulations.

* It can be tempting to want to hire a caterer or to order food for the party, but your budget could be better served if you made your own food. You can also hold a pot-luck where all guests are responsible for bringing one food or drink item. This can help to ease the cost on a tight budget. For birthday parties, instead of buying a cake, bake one yourself or have a family member or friend bake the cake for you. This will save money and you can have fun decorating the cake yourself.

* Planning ahead always helps to ease the budget as well. Decorations and such can be purchased beforehand so that all expenses are not paid for at once. Sometimes putting items on layaway can be a big help as well.

* Instead of buying favors at the store, consider making them yourself and involving your family, including children, in the process. Making handmade favors or paper goods can be a great bonding activity. So, in addition to getting a task accomplished, you will be enjoying some family quality time as well.

* Bring your own music. Some events may call for music, but skip the DJ – instead bring a stereo with CDs or even an iPod with songs pre-loaded. DJs can cost several hundreds of dollars but a stereo will keep playing music long after your guests are gone.

Planning a party is a fun endeavor, but not budgeting properly can make the party cost a lot more than planned. Consider having your party in a park atmosphere and providing the food and music yourself. You can enjoy family quality time if you make your own party favors and enlist the family help while doing so. Remember, it’s not the amount of money spent that makes a good party, it’s the company.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kitchen Tips for the Frugal Family

If you have a family to care for, you already know how much of your budget gets spent on food and cooking. In fact, this may be one of the biggest items in your budget. So, when it's time to cut back on expenses, the kitchen is the first place many moms look to save money. Here are some kitchen tips to help frugal moms keep their budgets under control.

* Don't let food go bad. If you're like most families, when you clean out your fridge and your cupboards, you probably end up throwing a lot of food away. It might be past its expiry date or already transforming into a different life form. This is a waste of food and money and it is easy to avoid.

If you keep your fridge and cupboards organized, you should be able to easily see what you have in stock. That will remind you to use it before it goes bad. As well, review expiry dates regularly. Then you can remember to use the item before it expires.

* Don't buy too much food. Some grocery stores will offer you discounts if you buy in bulk. However, that's only a good deal if you're actually going to use all the food you purchase. It is a common mistake to buy too much because it looks like you're saving a lot of money. In the long run, you may be spending more than you need to on food you won't use.

* Make your own condiments. Condiments like salad dressings, seasonings, and sauces can easily be made at home. That can cut a lot out of your grocery bill. Look for recipes for dressings, salsas, chilli sauces, vinegar, marinades, and so on. They will probably be a lot healthier for you than store-bought ones as well.

* Cook from scratch. There are many convenience items available in the grocery store. However, you can cut down on expenses by cooking from scratch. Instead of relying on high-priced convenience items to save you time, you can manage your time in the kitchen better by planning ahead and cooking more than one meal at a time.

* Eat what is in season. You can save money by choosing fruits and vegetables that are in season. They will be lower priced than other, off season, items. If you're not sure what is in season, you can do some research or ask your grocer.

* Eat what is grown locally. Because locally grown foods don't have to be shipped, they cost less once they reach the store. You can even buy directly from local growers at farmers markets.

* Try cooking vegetarian meals. Meats are often very expensive. One way to save money is by trying to cook more meatless meals. If your family isn’t ready to go vegetarian, you can start by having a meatless night once a week. Even that small step will cut down on your kitchen spending.

The kitchen is full of opportunities to cut back and save money. Following the above tips will help frugal moms keep their kitchen spending under control.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Car Repairs

For many families, owning a car is not a luxury but an important necessity. However, there are a lot of costs associated with owning a car. There is the cost of fuel and regular maintenance. There is also the cost of car repairs. No matter how well you care for your car, there will be times when it needs to be repaired.

If you don't know a lot about cars, you may feel that you're at the mercy of the repair shop and have to spend whatever they tell you it will cost. However, there are steps you can take to make sure you're saving as much money as possible on your next car repair.

* Call independent repair shops instead of dealerships - Dealerships often recommend you call them first about your car repair, since they are most familiar with your vehicle and have the same brand of parts in stock. However, this is often the most expensive route to go. Instead of calling dealerships, call independent repair shops and see if they can give you a better deal.

* Buy your own replacement parts - There is always a cost for labor and parts. When the car repair shop shops for replacement parts for your vehicle, they are not looking for the best deal for you. They are probably thinking more about their convenience. You can save money by shopping around for your own replacement parts. Then your only other cost will be the labor.

* Try to repair it yourself - Some car repairs are minor and can easily be accomplished on your own. Research online to find out what the problem with your car is. You can also get a repair manual for your car. Use what you learn to find the correct parts to repair it and fix it yourself. Not only will you save money, you will gain new knowledge and confidence about repairing your car.

* Perform regular maintenance - Sometimes, major repair jobs can be avoided all together simply by following the recommended maintenance routine for your vehicle. For example, the cost of having your engine cooling system repaired on time will be much less than the possible repair bill for an overheated engine if you don't.

* Get a second opinion - Some repair shops will recommend that you make other repairs that aren't really necessary at that time, and that you can't afford. To make sure you're getting the real story on what's wrong with your car, take it to another repair shop and see what they say. If the two opinions are vastly different, you know you have some more research to do and that one of them may be trying to take advantage of you.

Car repairs are an unavoidable expense of owning a car. However, with the proper maintenance, some research and creativity, you can keep this expense under control.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Are Your Children’s After-School Activities Blowing Your Budget?

Involving your children in after-school activities is a good way to keep them busy and also from getting into trouble. However, sometimes too many activities can put strain on a family’s budget. There are several activities that your children can get involved in that will not put a strain on your finances. Here are some points to consider:

* Is there a monthly fee for the activity? Such activities include martial arts, gymnastics or dance class. These monthly fees can eat away at a budget very quickly, so plan accordingly and consider registering your child in only one activity at a time. This may not be feasible if you have more than one child as the cost will increase with each child who participates. Some institutions, however, do offer discounts for family participation.

* Many schools have after-school activities such as sports. Most of the time, these activities are funded by the school with little investment from the parents. There are many different sports available for your children to try from ball games to swimming lessons.

* Scouts have clubs virtually everywhere. Look online and find a scout near your home. These clubs are usually low cost and have great benefits. The purpose of the scouts is to teach your children morals and values; they supplement what you teach your children at home. Also taught in the scouts is leadership and teamwork.

* In the US, 4-H clubs are a good way to get children involved in crafts and taking care of animals. 4-H is not available everywhere but they do have a lot of science activities that most other organizations do not. Often they exhibit at local fairs or craft shows.

* Musical lessons are another option, which children often do when they are inspired artistically. One of the best artistic ways for your children to express themselves is through music. This can be instrumental or vocal in nature. Many times schools will have these programs available or they can be found by searching your local phone book. This can get expensive, however, if your child has her heart set on an unusual or valuable instrument. Consider hiring or borrowing bigger instruments, like a piano, before investing in something that may only be a fleeting interest.

Keeping your children occupied after school can get pricey, especially if your children are involved in multiple activities. To ease up on your budget, try to keep children in one primary activity. Schools offer many different sports programs and there are many organizations that cater to children such as 4-H and Boy and Girl Scout clubs. Whichever activity you choose for your children, be sure to make sure they enjoy the activities, otherwise you could be throwing your money away.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Avoid Debt Triggers

Debt triggers are the character traits or habits that cause you to overspend. Everyone has different triggers. Therefore, knowing your specific ones is critical for becoming financially free. However, while everybody is different, there are some common triggers that cause people to go into debt. Here are four of the most popular:

1. Using credit cards

This is one of the main ways that people spend too much. Since you do not need any cash, you can easily spend more than you have.

So what’s the solution? One option is to only use cash. You can still utilize the credit card every now and then. Just try and cut down on it. For instance, go to the grocery store with only the amount of money you plan on spending. Leave your card at home. This way, you cannot overspend even if you wanted to.

2. Buying based on emotion

If you analyze yourself, you will probably find you are spending on many things just to make yourself feel better. For instance, if you’ve been having a hard day, then you might relieve yourself by getting an ice cream cone.

Also, you might be reading a golf magazine and see an ad for a club that helps you hit the ball a lot further. You might not have had any intention of buying a club in the near future, but the ad created an emotional reaction in you that caused you to spend. Cutting down on want-based spending is very important.

3. Looking for sales

Only go “bargain hunting” when it’s for something you absolutely need. Many people shop for the express purpose of finding good deals. In other words, they buy an item simply because it’s so marked down.

You might think you saved money. In reality, you just bought something you wouldn’t otherwise have purchased. Only shop when you have something you need. If it’s not a necessity, forget it.

4. Have a budget

Not having a strict plan is one of the biggest triggers for overspending. If you do not know how much food you can afford for a given week, you will likely end up just buying anything that looks good.

The budget is the most important part of not overspending. How can you know what to spend if you don’t know how much you have in the first place?

The bottom line is, eliminating debt is usually not complicated. Just break your bad habits. However, you can’t do that until you know what those bad habits are in the first place. Hopefully these four triggers have given you insight into why many people overspend, and how to stop.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Inspiring and Inexpensive Kids Bedroom Makeovers

Kids change their minds so often and get bored with the same old bedroom decor. They are always finding new and creative ways to live their lives. When you are ready for a bedroom makeover, let your child’s imagination be your guide to something new and exciting for them. And, it doesn’t have to be expensive.

All children are different. Some like bright colors and others like no color at all. Some are into toys and other like to play with video games. They have varied interests and that can be reflected in the choices you make to redo their bedroom d├ęcor.

First of all, ask them what they would want to see. You can use their words as clues. Your son may be into fishing. Your daughter may be a budding artist. That would be a good place to start.

* Paint ideas – Paint colors say something. A medium blue might make you feel like you are floating on a cloud. Red may make you feel like jumping around. Besides the color, there are many uses for paint nowadays. For instance, chalkboard paint can be used to give your child a place to draw when they come home. For the artist, this will be perfect.

* Decorative art – Does your child have a favorite cartoon character or specific interests? Capture those images in beautiful art. Using picture frames that you can buy at any store, create a collage of pictures from magazine pages, comic books and snapshots. They will love to see their work integrated into their room.

* Make your own wall hangings and curtains – Do you know how to sew? You can save money if you sew your own curtains for your child’s room. Let them help you to pick out the fabric. Any leftover fabric can be used to create chair covers or a makeshift headboard if they don’t have one.

* Change linens – Changing the color of the bedding can spruce up a room for a kid. For example, they may like greens if they are interested in the outdoors.

* Add an organizational system – Dressers and such can clutter a room. For a kid who likes to play, those sharp edges can also be a hazard. You can use brightly colored and stacked milk crates (lying on their side) as a storage system along one wall. Store their books, knick-knacks, stuffed toys and other items out of the way.

For clothing, use colorful hangers to keep everything up off the ground. When clothes need to be folded (like underwear) you can have a dresser, but house it in the closet out of sight to give your child more space in their room.

A kid’s room is where they hang out, entertain friends, do their homework and relax. It will mean more to them if the room is tailored to their likes and dislikes. You can achieve this without a lot of expense.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fun Free Activities to Do With Your Kids

1 Visit the library and take advantage of their resources. Many libraries offer free reading times, free shows, free book signings, free plays and even free classes and writing groups. Your local library can be a hot spot for fun and free kid friendly activities. (Bookstores also often offer reading time and other kid-friendly events for free.)

2 Check out your local establishments. In addition to the fact that many restaurants have a “kids eat free” night, many museums, zoos, aquariums, and gardens also offer free days. Find out what’s available in your community and make a day of it.

3 Head to the park. Kids of all ages love to go to the park. Grab a blanket to sit on, a bucket and shovel if your kids are young, or a ball and a glove if they’re older. Pack a lunch, grab some music and you have a day of free fun.

4 Look for free summer events. Many cities offer free movies, concerts and even plays in the park during the summer. Find free events in your local listings.

5 Let’s go to the fair. Fairs, festivals and even farmer’s markets are free. It’s a great place to people watch, have fun, and enjoy a day with your kids that doesn’t cost anything.

6 Free bowling & roller skating. Many local establishments offer free nights a few times a year. Check online or give your local establishment a call to learn your options.

7 Go on a nature hike. Grab a camera and go on a nature hike. Children love exploring and you can make a fun day of it by taking pictures of what you find or by simply exploring. Catch tadpoles, climb a rock or a tree, or hike all the way to that waterfall you’ve been curious to see.

8 Go on a scavenger hunt or have an amazing race. Scavenger hunts are a great way to spend the day and they can be absolutely free. Make the hunt more difficult for older children by adding more description to the items on the list. For example, if a younger child has to find a green leaf, you can ask an older child to find a green oak leaf.

9 Cook. Children love to have fun in the kitchen. Plan a meal, or a dessert, and have them help you make it. The key to making this fun is to have your children really help in the kitchen. Let them stir, measure, mix and get messy.

10 Get crafty. There are probably a number of things around your home that you can use to make crafts. Egg cartons, milk cartons, buttons, fabric scraps - you name it, it can all be used to create some pretty interesting crafts. Collect it all, dump it on the table and challenge your children to make something. Sit down with them and explore your own creative side. If you’re short on crafty items, you can make home-made playdoh with items found in your pantry. Jump online to find a recipe.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Inexpensive and Healthy Summer Picnic Ideas

Are you planning a picnic? Here is a list of cheap and healthy recipes and summer picnic ideas.

1 Roasted chicken. A whole chicken is inexpensive and it’s also much healthier than a burger or ribs. You can find whole roasted chickens already cooked at your market or you can cook it at home and take it to your picnic to eat warm or cold.

2 Fill your basket with fruits and veggies. When you buy foods that are in season they’re much less expensive. Summer is a great time for finding tasty fruits and veggies in season. This means you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg filling your picnic basket. And because fruits and veggies are rich in fiber, you’ll fill up quickly. For even more savings, visit your local farmer’s market to buy your fruits and vegetables.

3 Tuna, chicken or egg salad. Tuna salad, egg salad and chicken salad are all delicious and they’re inexpensive. And if you use light mayonnaise or yogurt as your dressing base, they’re healthy too. Add carrots, celery and other chopped veggies for a good crunch and more nutrition.

4 Beverages. Skip soda and beer; it’s expensive and not so healthy. Instead bring water, tea or lemonade to drink. If it’s just not a picnic without beer, limit yourself to one and consider light beer for fewer calories.

5 Make kebabs. Kebabs are great on the grill and they’re easy to make. Chop chicken, beef or lamb into cubes. Cut vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, onions, and squash into cubes. Skewer, marinate in an Italian dressing for an hour and then pop on the grill. They’re healthy and fairly inexpensive to make.

6 Have fruit for dessert. If fresh fruit just isn’t enough dessert, consider making fruit popsicles. Here’s a great recipe to try:

2 c. plain yogurt
1 c. bananas, strawberries, blueberries, etc.
1/2 c. orange or apple juice

Blend all ingredients together and pour into small paper cups or popsicle molds. If you’re using paper cups you’ll need to insert popsicle sticks. Place in freezer, remove when frozen and enjoy!

There are many ways to make summertime picnics fun, inexpensive and healthy too. Step outside of the traditional foods like ribs, burgers, brownies and chips and embrace a healthier and more frugal lifestyle. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Save Money on Clothes

How do you save money when looking for clothes? It’s not as hard as you think. Here are six ways to conserve cash:

1. Buy only what you need

Before you shop, evaluate what you already have. Many people already have closets full of clothes they aren’t wearing.

If you have five pairs of shirts you are not wearing, don’t go looking for new ones. Wear what you already own! Many people just get into the habit of wearing the same clothes again and again without thinking about other items.

2. Go with a budget

If you’ve done the first step, and determined you genuinely need new clothes, make sure to have a budget when shopping. Do not go over that limit.

This will discourage you from buying unnecessary items just because they are on sale. Often times stores mark down clothes just to encourage impulse buying. This is how you end up walking out with items you never intended to get. Stick with what you came to buy.

You might also want to bring cash. Using a credit card might cause you to spend more than you really have.

3. Do not buy top brands

Everyone wants the big brand names. That’s no secret. However, you can really get great deals on clothes that are not as famous but are still just as high quality.

Let’s face it: the only advantage of the more expensive clothes is the name. The cheaper clothes often look just as good, but cost much less.

4. Do a clothes swap

This is a great way to save money. And almost no one does it! If you have a number of friends or family who tend to wear the same styles and sizes, consider exchanging clothes. This way you all get what you want for free. This is simple but very effective.

5. Shop online

Buying on the internet can really save you money, because the online stores do not have to pay for the upkeep of a physical store. Therefore, they can pass savings on to you. This is an excellent method to save cash.

6. Buy during clearance sales

The best time to buy is at the end of the season, when the stores are getting in their clothes for the next season. They will be in a big hurry to get rid of their old clothes, which means the prices will be marked down severely.

The bottom line is, you can conserve a lot of money when you take a few simple steps. Implement these six tips, and you will be amazed at how low your next shopping bill will be.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Camping Equipment

What kind of camping equipment do you need, and where do you find the best prices? This can be a bit overwhelming to the beginning camper, because there is simply so much equipment needed. Here is a comprehensive guide to everything you will need, and where you can find the best prices:

1. Food

Purchasing your own food is a lot less expensive than going to a restaurant. If you want to save money when camping, always bring your own.

2. Tent

This is the most important part of any camping trip, besides food and water.

Not all tents are created equal. If you don’t get a good one, you might wake up at two o'clock in the morning with water dripping from the ceiling. Or you might be freezing the whole night. The best tents have a full rain fly, tub floor, and high quality ventilation systems.

You want to locate a tent that can handle a minimum of one more person than you anticipate needing it.

3. Bedding

Sleeping bags are the most popular method of bedding. However, you might want to consider air mattresses if you have back trouble.

What’s the best sleeping bag? It depends on the temperature. The colder it is, the thicker the bag needs to be. They are rated according to their temperature. For instance, some are built for 30 degrees, some for -10, and so on.

Just get the right one based on the weather conditions of the location you are going to. The heavier duty the bag, the more expensive it will be. There is no reason for getting a super thick one if you don’t need it.

4. Miscellaneous equipment

Here is a list of the rest of the essentials to bring besides the three listed above:

* First aid kit
* Headlamps
* Compass
* GPS
* Knifes
* Hiking boots
* A water purifier (Many water bottles today come with a purifier, and they are ideal for hiking.

A portable stove is optional. Many would rather using the campfire, so it all depends on personal preference.

So how do you save money?

Just look online. Internet stores do not have the upkeep expenses that Eastern Mountain Sports and other offline stores do. Therefore, you can save money. There is simply so much competition online that the prices are usually at least a little less than offline. And don’t be afraid to buy used.

Finally, don’t forget to take stock of what you already have. You might already have some equipment you could use for camping. Make sure to evaluate what you currently have before rushing out to buy anything else.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Save Money on Baby Care

How do you save money on baby care? The average yearly expense for a baby is around twelve thousand dollars, so saving money is very important. Here are four of the best ways to do so:

1. Make your own wipes

This popular strategy can save you a huge amount of money. Instead of getting store bought wipes, making your own will save you a lot of money. They are healthier as well, because there is no harmful alcohol or chemicals.

Make your own wipes from old pieces of soft cloth cut into pieces. Add a few drops of essential oil to a small bowl of water: lavender, tea tree, or eucalyptus oils are all excellent anti-bacterial agents.

Soak enough wipes for a couple of changing sessions. Wring them out lightly and store in an air tight container. It's up to you whether you dispose of your wipes or wash them and reuse them.

2. Breastfeed

Not only is artificial baby milk ("formula") extremely expensive, it also puts your baby's health at risk and is a nutritionally poor and inadequate way of feeding a baby that should only be used in emergencies.

3. Feed your older baby the same food you eat

"Baby Led Solids" is concept that babies do not need their food to be pureed and they can safely explore most of the foods that the rest of the family eat as long as it's healthy and non-allergic. Babies should not start solids before six months as enzymes can pass into the bloodstream up until this age. Fully breastfed babies older than six months should be offered foods to explore for a social learning purpose as all their nutritional requirements are filled by breastmilk at this age.

4. Use pet gates

They are much cheaper than baby gates, and just as effective.

5. Get used clothes

Avoid buying new things when at all possible. If you have any friends who’ve had babies, you may be able to use clothes their babies have grown out of.

Also, try shopping online for used clothes. As long as you clean them out well before using them, they are perfectly fine. Just make sure to look on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website, and be certain you are not getting clothes that were involved in a recall.

The bottom line is, you do not have to break the bank when raising a baby. Just implement these ips, and you will save a lot of money.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Creating a Garden Pond on a Budget

Is your back yard missing something? It could be a water feature. Learn how to create a garden pond for you and your family to enjoy while still sticking to a budget.

What is a garden pond? It is a unique water feature that gives you the feeling that you are bringing a bit of the exotic into your living space. These ponds can range from small constructions to larger ponds that can be populated by water life and plants.

So, why doesn’t everyone have one in their back yard? The reason could be that they are generally expensive and time-consuming to construct. But, here are some tips to help you get what you need without having to rob a bank first.

* Choose the spot for your pond – Ponds constructed under trees just give you a bigger mess to clean up. Also, the falling leaves can cause clouding in your pond as they break down in the water. Also, be sure that the area has a lot of sun. Many of the plants you use will need several hours of sun each day. Water features with pumps or fountains will need to be near an outdoor outlet.

* Choose your shape – Will this be a rectangular pool, oblong, wavy or simply round? Usually the larger the pond is, the more work you will be doing to construct it.

* Find the pond material – If you are really on a budget and like to get creative, you can use a plastic pool as your pond liner. The sides are already shaped and you have a durable material that probably won’t leak. Pool liners for inflatable swimming pools also work well. Choose dark colors to limit the amount of algae growth in your pond.

* Dig your pond – Who needs a professional? All you need is some old-fashioned elbow grease to get that earth moved out of the ground and your pond moved in. A good pond depth is at least three feet. You can go deeper but consider the size of your liner as you do. Be sure to leave a ledge area to showcase your water plants.

* Use recycled rocks – These are rocks that you find in your own yard or others in your neighborhood. Many people dig up a ton of them when they are preparing the site for their pond. Arrange them around the pond and within it.

* Buy appropriate plants – Water plants require different treatment than plants in soil alone. For one, you will plant them in containers inside the pond. Plants around the outside of the pond need to be compatible with those inside of it.

* Fill your pond – Use tap water. Most city water contains some chemicals. Before adding any fish or plants allow the water to sit for a few weeks and acclimate to the environment.

Are you thinking about a pond in your back yard? You don’t have to spend a lot to get it done if you know what you are doing. Get the entire family to help.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Frugal Outdoor Cooking

How do you save money on outdoor cooking? Here are nine of the best strategies:

1. Have everyone bring their own meat

If you are having a party, this is the best strategy for conserving cash. This prevents you from having to shoulder all the expenses yourself. Also, it allows everyone to bring their favorite meat, and saves you the headache of trying to find something each person likes.

2. Buy beef and sausage

These tend to be the least expensive kinds of meats. If you like them, they can save you a lot.

3. Get meat on sale

If you are flexible about what to eat, then just buying whatever is the lowest price can be an excellent strategy. Also, be on the lookout for coupons in the paper. This is the best way to find top deals.

4. Do not get pre-cut meat

Obviously this is more convenient, but is likewise a lot pricier. Cutting your own can save you a lot of money. It also gives you more flexibility, because you can cut it the way you want it.

5. Stay away from “boneless meat”

Meat with the bones in it is cheaper then boneless, and tends to stay juicier when cooking. Of course, this won’t work for the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs. However, for a lot of meat it will save you money. In some instances it’s twice as expensive to get boneless meat.

6. Use corn and other vegetables on a kabob

These are among the cheapest items to barbeque.

7. Get on sale charcoal

If you have a charcoal grill, consider getting on sale charcoal. Since it lasts a long time, you might as well wait until you find it on sale, and then purchase it. You can even buy it twelve months or longer in advance.

8. Use your own plates

If you are having a party, this again can save you money. Purchasing paper plates is quite expensive.

And if you do purchase paper plates, then do not get the ones with the fancy designs. Getting Fourth of July napkins might be cool, but it’s a lot more expensive.

9. Get barbeque equipment in winter

It is cheaper when less people are buying it. Also, like just about every other product today, look online for further savings. Since online stores don’t have to pay for the upkeep of a physical store, this can save you some good money.

The bottom line is, you can save a lot of money when you are careful. Outdoor cooking doesn’t have to break the bank. Implement these nine tips, and your next cookout will be much easier on the wallet.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fun Free Activities for Teens and Young Adults

Finding entertainment ideas for your teen and their friends shouldn’t cost a small fortune. If you’re looking for fun and free activities, here is a list that should keep young adults and teens busy for quite some time.

1. Frisbee golf.

Most communities now have Frisbee golf courses set up at nearby parks. Don’t have a park with a Frisbee golf course? Make your own. You just need a Frisbee and a few targets. This is fun, can be played year around with proper outer wear, and is absolutely 100% free, if you have a Frisbee. If not, collect the change in your couch and head to the local market to get one.

2. Scavenger hunt.

This is a great activity that can take a few hours or an entire month depending on how difficult the items are to find. You can also stipulate the rules that no items can be purchased on the list. This ensures the game is equally challenging and cost effective for all participants. Make the scavenger hunt more interesting by giving it a theme.

3. Visit local museums on their free days.

Most community facilities - whether it’s a botanical garden, zoo or museum - offer free days throughout the year. Find when their free days are and schedule a trip.

4. Movie night.

In addition to the free movies available on campus, you can rent a movie for a dollar at your local Red Box or you can stream them on your computer via many online movie sites. Have someone bring the popcorn and you’re good to go.

5. Go to the park.

Parks are always free, unless they’re State or National Parks. Grab a blanket, pack a lunch and just go hang out and people watch. A little music, a good book or two and you can spend the day outside having fun.

6. Look for outdoor events.

Many communities, particularly during the warmer months, host outdoor movies and concerts for free. Check your local listings to see what’s going on in your community.

7. Fairs and festivals.

There are fairs and festivals going on somewhere almost year around. They’re free, they’re fun and they can be a great way to get out and experience something new. Find out what’s happening in your community.

8. Host a cooking party.

Have everyone bring one ingredient for a recipe and make the meal together in your apartment or dorm.

9. Have a theme party.

Choose a theme and host a party. Have everyone dress up and bring something to serve.

10. Window shop.

Shopping, particularly if there is a nice downtown or cool antique stores and flea markets, can be a fun event even if you don’t spend a dime. It’s fun, it’s free and it’s a great way to spend time with friends.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How to Start Your Own Business Affordably

Starting a business is not cheap. There are all kinds of expenses, particularly if it’s an offline company. Online, it can be done relatively affordably, but it can still be pricey.

So where do you get the money? Here are five tips that work:

1. Begin using free methods

The best free strategy for making money with an online business is search engine optimization. Once you are earning, you can slowly start advertising. The amount of visitors you can get to your site is virtually unlimited, and this can bring in a lot of money to fund your paid advertising.

2. Borrow money

If you need to start advertising immediately, consider getting money from friends.

3. Get a loan

If you don’t know anybody you can ask for money, get a small business loan. How do you qualify? In most instances you will have to show that your company has a profitable history. You also have to have good credit.

What if you haven’t made any profits? A lot of times having positive credit will still be enough to help you qualify. Check around and apply at a number of places. If one place rejects you, don’t give up.

To improve your chances of getting accepted, put up some of your personal assets as collateral. For instance, if you have a car that is worth as the loan amount, use that to secure it. This can dramatically increase your odds of getting the financing.

4. Get a personal investor

There are plenty of places you can find them online. There are lots of people looking to put up money for small businesses, in exchange for a share of the profits.

To convince them to put money in your business, you must have a detailed plan. Investors want specifics, so don’t try to wow them with lofty claims. They are savvy people, and can easily see through the hyped-up picture most businesses try to paint.

5. Start small

Begin testing gradually before going full scale with your advertising. There is no point in asking for a $5000 loan if you don’t know if your campaign will make money.

Start with $100 or so. Once you know your advertising is profitable on a small scale, than you can ramp up your efforts. The bottom line is, there are all kinds of ways to get the money you need for advertising. The most important thing is that you start gradually, and build up.

This is true whether you are going to be advertising immediately or not. If not, start making money with free methods, and build up more so you can reinvest.

If you are going to be advertising immediately, then begin with a small amount and make sure you will be profitable. This is how to ensure profits down the road.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cleaning and Organizing Go Hand-in-Hand

Clutter can easily take over your life if you let it. When there is more than one person in a home, that compounds the amount of clutter you can accumulate. Think about how your life will change when the clutter is gone - you’re able to clean your home without moving stacks of papers, and the whole atmosphere will be more peaceful.

Getting rid of clutter is important for a number of reasons. Clutter eats at your time because you can’t find what you need, it causes stress among your family members, and you may even feel ashamed to let friends or family come and visit. Any one of these reasons may be enough to lead you to start purging your home of the clutter that’s dragging you down.

De-cluttering your home makes organization easier. Start by going through your home and taking things you don’t use, don’t love, or which need repairs, and put them in bags or boxes. This will begin the de-cluttering process, but don’t stop there.

After you have gotten rid of the initial clutter, you can take more time making decisions about other items in your home. Clothing, books, magazines, music, knick-knacks, tools, and other items that aren’t being used or have been outgrown are fair game. Of course, you may have disagreements about some items, but hold your ground for the sake of your home.

Go to each room of your home with a laundry basket. Take everything that doesn’t belong in each room and put those items in the correct place. Remove the papers from the counter top, desktop, and wherever you’ve been hiding them. Put all of the papers in a box so you can file them later, and then don’t forget to do it.

Use containers to corral small items in kitchen drawers, cabinets, the bathroom cabinet, and in your desk. Silverware, spices and flavorings, medicines, pens, pencils, and paperclips can all be bothersome if they’re allowed to remain free, so organizing them and putting them in containers is a great idea.

Maybe you’re having problems letting go of things. Call in the reinforcements! Ask a friend who isn’t emotionally attached to them to come and help you make decisions. If the de-cluttering isn’t the problem but cleaning is, you may consider saving up to hire a maid service to help.

Cleaning and organizing go hand in hand when you’re trying to get your home in order. Do what you can to get rid of things you no longer need, organize what’s left, and then clean up. Before too long you’ll find your house is a joy to live in.