Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Frugal Fun With a Child

March 11, 2008

Tent 1

This was our frugal fun adventure for last weekend. We took a sheet, desk, and the existing balcony railing and made a tent. This was one of the ideas we had discussed in this article. The entire area took a whole ten minutes to set up, and provided countless hours of enjoyment. It was slept in every night, and was not took down till Monday.

Camp fire In this picture you see the “fire” that kept us warm throughout the weekend and provided the source of flame to roast our marshmallows and hot dogs! This was a great chance for our child to express creativity without any adult intervention. Everything was her creation.

Tent 2 Lastly, this is the area that was slept in.  It was simply a comforter folded in half and placed on top of the carpet.  Not the most comfortable set up, but when roughing it, sacrifices have to be made!

It is such a simple thing to do.  Mostly all that is required is time and a little creativity.  It gives the adults a chance to revisit their childhood as well.  I know from personal experience, it only takes a short while before the tent becomes something totally different.

It will be a castle under siege by the evil Lord Greedball;  it will be a submarine folding under the pressure of the tentacles of a giant squid;   a spaceship trying to plot a course that avoids destruction before hastily jumping to light speed;  a police car in pursuit of the bank robbers, and the possibilities are endless.  The thing we enjoy is encouraging imagination, actually leaning with each “turn” or collapsing with each wreck.

Have a great camping trip!

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How Do You Define Success?

March 10, 2008

One of the things that became immediately obvious while trying to set our goals, was that we did not have a clear definition of what success meant to us.  Which is probably another reason we ended up in our financial fallout.  We had the usual culprits of fame and fortune raise their heads briefly, but was that really the way we wanted to define whether we are living a successful life?  Here are a few of the things to consider when creating your own definition of success.

What is the main objective to your life.  If it could be said that you accomplished one thing in your life, what would you have it be?  Personally, we do not think that “they made a lot of money” should be the main topic at our funerals.  If you did not have any bills, and loads of money, what would you wish to achieve in this life?

Money alone is not a worthy goal.  Most people who say they want a million dollars (or some other figure) in the bank before they can consider their life a success.  I have never heard of a case where money was the only destination.  More often than not, the desired result is something the person believes the money can provide.  Security, freedom,  conveniences, are usually the end result that is sought.

Be careful not to tie your success to a finite object or amount of money.  If you define your success as getting the newest Lamborghini  Diablo, one of two things could happen: (a)If you do not purchase the object or achieve the large bankroll in your lifetime, you may consider yourself a failure, or (b) Once you have the object, you will become complacent and think that you have “arrived.”

It is of some debate now, but this quote was at one time attributed to Emerson.  Regardless, the meaning is an awesome statement and a great way to define success:

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

This is by far one of the best definitions of success I have ever heard.  Another great way to live a successful life: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your might.  To love your neighbor as you love yourself.  If we all lived that way, this would be a better world.

Finally, make sure that it is YOUR definition.  We are so bombarded by television and the media about how we should define success.  I look at these people (movie stars, singers, and so forth) and I feel sorry for them.  They have no privacy.  Many end up on drugs and alcohol.  Even though they “have it all,” many are never satisfied.  Be sure that you define what your life should be about.  Take the time to consider this carefully.  By defining what is truly wanted out of life, you may find that the eighty hours a week or more that you are working are doing nothing to get you closer to your idea of success.

Take a few minutes to think about your definition of success.  Are you currently getting closer?  Farther away?  What can you change to make your life a success as you define it? 

How Will You Offset the Rising Price of Flour?

February 27, 2008
Wheat
It has been in the news since December. Now it seems that it is going to trickle down to all of us. Estimates are that a price increase of up to thirty percent can be expected. Here is an excerpt from a recent article in The Christian Science Monitor:
“Why the increase? The prime ingredient in flour is wheat, which these days is acting more like oil – rising sharply on commodities exchanges. On Monday, the price of March spring wheat on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange shot up to $24 a bushel, the highest price ever. Within the past month, the price of some types of wheat has risen over 90 percent. Already, agricultural experts say, it’s getting hard to find the type of wheat used to make pasta, noodles, pizza, and bagels.”Supplies of some types of wheat will be extremely tight,” says economist William Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, Neb. “I don’t think we’ll see physical bread lines, but supplies will be just tight.””This leads to the question of how are we going to compensate for the extra price of these wheat based goods. One thing we are going to do is buy a 25lb. bag of flour now, before the price goes up again. This will usually last us around a couple of months for us (we bake a considerable amount of pizza and breakfast goods) if we pace ourselves.Another way to help with this increase in price is to look for ways to decrease your expenses in other grocery categories. One thing that we do is use a price list. Granted, doing this will take a little time and effort, but it will pay off. A fabulous resource that we have used extensively is a program on saving at the grocery store. I cannot begin to explain all the wonderful information we gleaned from this product. Nothing is left out, and the whole process of lowering your grocery expense is laid out step by step.

Once you have found ways to decrease the expense in other categories, that will obviously allow for an increase in your flour and wheat based products. If the price were to increase too drastically though, we will have no choice but to consider a change in diet. There are many programs (Adkins, South Beach, etc.) that sing the praises of a carbohydrate free meal, just are there are those that warn against high intakes of protein. Personally, I love my pastas and bread.

To read the rest of the article mentioned above, please click here.

How do you plan to deal with the increase in the price of wheat? Do you have bread with every meal?

Five Frugal Ways to Have Fun with Your Child

February 18, 2008

This post is by Mrs. Perfectlyimperfectmusing, an Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education major.

Sign for playing children

 

This post is designed specifically for those with kids in mind. (Or…those who are simply kids at heart!) Whether you are looking for something to do on a rainy day or something fun (and frugal) to do with your family this post is for you.

 

Let me begin by first stating one of our personal philosophies when it comes to children: First and foremost we believe that learning occurs in young children best through play! This means lots of playing…yes, that means mom and dad get in the floor, in the yard, in the kitchen…wherever and play! We know, sometimes it is hard to do that, but honestly if we don’t play with our little ones and enter their worlds of make believe (while we are still invited) then what makes us think that when our children reach their teenage years that they will want us involved in their lives. O.K. Off of my soap box…

Children love messy, icky, and all around gooey textures. With this in mind, let me warn you ahead of time; some of the fun, frugal ideas here are a bit messy. My recommendations are put down an old sheet or some wax paper and let the fun begin. For those of you who are a bit leery of a mess let me give you some motivation for allowing the icky, messy stuff. Allowing young children to experience the different textures and temperatures is very beneficial to their sensory-motor development; this is true for children with or without special needs.

Certain foods and ingredients make for great fun! I am going to list several activities that you can do at home for a minimal cost, but for maximum fun.

  1. Make some play dough! I am going to list two separate recipes so that even very young toddlers can get in on the fun.

Peanut Butter Play dough
3 ½ cups peanut butter
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 ½ cups of honey
4 cups of dry milk powder

In a large bowl, mix together peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar, then beat in honey and fold in milk power. Divide into 15 equal portions and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

The above recipe is great for toddlers who are too young to try to keep them from eating it!

Regular Play Dough
2 Cups of flour
½ cup of cornstarch
1 Tbsp. powdered alum
2 cups of water
1 cup of salt
1 tbsp salad oil

Place all ingredients in saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until mixture thickens into consistency of cough. Remove from heat and let cool until it can be handled. Knead like bread dough until smooth. Add food coloring if you wish. Store in airtight container. Keeps for up to one month.

**Great for those days when kids are WILD and you need to de-stress….the kneading of dough is a natural stress reliever**

    2. Finger Paint! No, I am not crazy! This is loads of fun and there are some great non-toxic recipes that can be used for children of all ages. My favorite is:

Condensed Milk Paint
2 cups condensed milk
4 small bowls

Various plastic or wooden spoons
Red, yellow, green, blue food coloring
Divide the condensed milk evenly into the four bowls.
Add a few drops of food coloring to each bowl (create more colors by mixing and experimenting)
Mix food coloring into the milk with spoons.
Put down construction paper and let the fun begin!

You can give your toddler wooden or plastic spoons, cookie cutters, basting brushes or anything that they can “paint” with…of course fingers work great.

    3. Make Goop. This stuff is fascinating, it hardens in the air and turns to liquid when it is held, can resist punching, but a light touch causes a finger to sink in. Try to explain this to a curious child of four and you have yourself a challenge.

 Goop
3 cups of corn starch
2 cups of warm water

Slowly add water to the corn starch. Mix ingredients together with hands. Goop is ready to use when it changes from being lumpy to satiny.

 

    4. Have children tell you a story or have them act out a story you have told them. This is especially fun when the child is old enough to draw some of their own story prompts. Many people wrongly assume that a preschooler has a limited attention span, but give them your attention and *listen* to them, talk *to* them not at them and I think many would be pleasantly surprised at just how much of an attention span they have and they would be shocked at their creativity.

 

    5. Sing, dance and use your imagination with your child. Ok, I know this is hard for a lot of us, but I promise you this: young children don’t care whether or not we can sing or dance, they just want us to be involved with them. When doing these things remember that it is irrelevant how crazy you feel or how out of sorts you feel, what is important is that you are showing your child that you are willing to have fun with them in a way that you both can enjoy.

 

To close this post let me state that having fun with your family in a frugal manner is really rather simple. I believe that it is the pillow fights, the wrestling matches in the living room floor, the make believe princesses and super heroes, and the little things that make great memories. These things will be what children and parents remember most when looking back, not the expensive vacation that leaves everyone exhausted and cranky! So, what are you waiting for? GO PLAY.

 

What are some of your best memories from childhood? What are ways that you have frugal fun with your family?

 

Free Software that Makes My Life Easier Part 1

February 17, 2008
2 3.5 floppy disk
Over the last few years the amount of free, open source software has increased exponentially. Most of these programs work just as good, if not better than, their “name brand” competition. Here is a list of the 100% free software that I use on a daily basis.
  1. OpenOffice. This is by far the program that I use the most. It has all the features that MS Office has, and you can even save in Office format if you need to share the file widely or use it on a system that you cannot download OpenOffice on. You can get you free copy here.
  2. Gimp Shop. Same features as Adobe Photoshop, only loads cheaper. I will say that if you are not familiar with photo editing software, this may not be the best choice for you. The amount of editing this program allows you to complete is astronomical.
  3. Adobe PDF. This is a free pdf reader. I usually end up hitting one or two files online each day that are only available in .pdf format.
  4. Mozilla Firefox. This is a great web browser. The add ons are phenomenal, and it is a very smooth running browser that has rarely crashed on me. I will write another article on my favorite Firefox add-ons; way to many to list here!
  5. Mozilla Thunderbird. A very sleek email program that is similar to Outlook for sending and receiving emails. Also has add-ons available to add the calendar aspect as well.
  6. GnuCash. This is a program to rival MS Money, Quicken, and other financial software. It is not as easy to navigate, or set up as the others, but it has good built in help files to get you started. Be sure to download the last “stable” release.
  7. MusikCube. If you only listen to music on your PC, this is a very light media player. It has a wonderful customizable dynamic play list that lets you create your own dynamic list.
  8. Truecrypt. If you travel and use flash drives for sensitive information, this is a must have. Cutting edge encryption that actually makes the data invisible to those who do not know it is there. Website has more details.
  9. Sunbird. Another Mozilla application. A very user friendly calendar. I use it to schedule routine task. Also, you can download an add-on that will sync with Google calendar so you have access no matter where you are!
  10. Keypass. A password tool that keeps all your passwords encrypted and in one place. Allows drag and drop feature, and you can link to the sites inside the program.
Those are just a few, the rest will be revealed in later post. I think we will also do a post on Firefox add-ons only. They really make the functionality of my browser go through the roof.
What free software do you use? Ever had any massive failures while trying open source programs?

Ways Your Public Library Can Save You Money

February 6, 2008
How long has it been since you visited your local library? Here are some ways that you can save money by going.
Our local library is a small one compared to some that we have visited in the bigger metropolitan areas, but almost all libraries have a few things in common that we enjoy. It is one of the many ways you can have entertainment without spending much money.
  1. The obvious reason is for the books. The amount of information available on any subject (particularly personal finance in my case) is astronomical. It is considerably more cost effective to get a book from your library to read than to buy the book new. Even if our library does not have a book in stock, they can usually get it in about a week via interlibrary loans. Some books warrant a purchase even after the free read, but most you can glean the information you need at no cost.
  2. Most libraries have copies of the local newspaper. If you pay $0.50 for a newspaper five days a week, that will cost you $120.00 a year. You can harvest the same information for free (all it takes is the time) in one trip a week.
  3. Copies of magazines. As with the newspapers, magazines can be read for free.
  4. Technical information for DIY projects. If you have some projects you would like to have done around your house, to your vehicle, or whatever the case may be, there is a good chance your library will have a how-to book. Even if you choose not to tackle the project yourself, you will know what is involved and what you think the job would be worth to pay someone to do.
  5. Movies are available. Our library has a decent selection of “Hollywood” movies (around 50 or so that seem to rotate with other libraries every couple months), as well as several educational documentaries and National Geographic productions.

That pretty much covers the services that we use at our local library. I feel that it is one of the most overlooked resources of frugal entertainment.

What services do you use at your library?  What other services does your library offer?

Five ways to have fun with your family in a financially savvy way.

February 1, 2008

We would like to take a moment to list a few of the ways we have entertained ourselves and others in ways that do not break the bank. Some will be dependent upon the weather, while the rest will be available year round and in all climates.

1. Go to your public library. This is a great local resource that is free and is often overlooked when thinking of entertainment. There will be an entire post on libraries later, but for now just check one out if you have not in a while.

2. Go to a local park. This obviously is a weather permitting event, but it is a good option for kids and adults alike. Young and old alike, this is a great place for fun as well as exercise. We like to go for the walks in nature, which for me is a great stress reliever after a week spent in overdrive!!

3. Enjoy a movie theater at home. You don’t have to go out of your house to have a great movie experience. We enjoy turning out the lights, popping popcorn, melting butter, maybe having nachos and cheese, and enjoying an old classic from our collection. Try to keep it as real as possible: go to the bathroom before the movie starts, turn all phones to silent, etc.

4. Go to a museum.  Most areas will have a local museum of some sort.  They can usually be found by contacting your tourism office.  Some of the ones we have visited have charged a nominal fee, while others were completely free.  These museums can be a great place to learn about the history of your town or county as well as be able to view some interesting exhibits and artifacts.

5.  Go camping.  This is another idea that does not have to be planned around the weather.  Most camp grounds are very nice, and have great facilities.  It is always a good idea to check  the comments on a place, or even do an inspection in person if the campground is close enough.  The fee is usually nominal, and the experience is well worth it.  I would also like to add that if you have children, and the weather is nasty, camping indoors has served us well.  It usually amounts to no more than a few sleeping bags in the floor around a fire made out of construction paper.  Kids are very creative when you tell them this is there indoor camping trip, and to make what they will of it.

Do you practice any of these, or have your own ways of
having frugal fun?  Please let us know!!