Archive for the ‘Fun’ 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!

Free Software that Makes My Life Easier Part 2: Mozilla Firefox Add-ons

February 18, 2008

Firefox add on symbol

Here we are going to list some of the Firefox add-ons that have been extremely helpful in saving us time and effort on a daily basis. There are too many add-ons available to count, just don’t get carried away and install too many (it will affect browser performance, I know!). My advice is to stick with only the add-ons that you will be using more than once a day. I look at them as ways to increase productivity, or to save time and money; they must meet one of these criteria before I will install them.

  1. Session Manager. This is the first add-on that I use when I open my browser. It probably saves me 10-15 minutes daily. You can create as many sessions as you wish and label them all. I have several, but my core session is the one that I use daily. It includes all the pages I visit daily. Be sure to create a master password before you save a session. It will open in tabs and log you in automatically after you enter your password. Try it out.
  2. Scribefire. This add-on will only appeal to you fellow bloggers out there. It opens an interface at the bottom of the page and allows you to post to your blog instantly.
  3. PDF Download. This is a great tool. How many times have you clicked on a link only to find it is a .pdf file that takes 5 minutes to download? This add-on stops that. Whenever you click on a link that is a .pdf, it automatically detects the file and lets you choose how you want to handle the file.
  4. No Script. If you visit sites that you are not familiar with often, this add-on is a great security feature. It will allow absolutely no script to run on the page without your permission. You only have to allow sites that you frequent often once, and there is a menu if you change your mind about certain scripts.
  5. Auto Shutdown. This allows your computer to automatically shutdown once all files have been downloaded. I usually grab any music, podcast, or videos before bed and let them download. Whenever they are finished, my PC automatically shuts down. At the time of this post, the add-on was not found. It is possible that an update is being processed.
  6. StumbleUpon. This will add a StumbleUpon toolbar. If you frequently use this application, this is a great tool. All of your stumble options can be managed from the toolbar.
  7. Twitterbar. If you use Twitter to let friends know what you are into, this allows you to post to Twitter directly from your address bar by clicking a little green circle.
  8. Answers. Provides one click information on words or phrases that you may encounter on the net.

These next two are for the Thunderbird email client developed by Mozilla.

  1. Lightning. Adds calendar functionality to Thunderbird.
  2. Provider for Google Calendar. Allows Lightning and Sunbird to sync with Google calendar.
I hope that you will find some of these useful! Have a great day and enjoy making your life a little easier!

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!!