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Author: Shanah Bell

I am a Holistic Health Advisor with a Master's Degree in Nutrition. My partner is a Chef and we have a blended family with 5 children.

As a single parent of 2, I was able to still make things work while financially struggling with the help of food stamps. I was also one of the early children diagnosed with Celiac Disease in the US,which has driven my lifelong pursuit of using food for optimal health.

We focus on teaching people, and creating dishes, to help people learn how to make food that is:
- Quick
- Easy
- Delicious
- Nutrient Dense
- Budget Friendly

Our Favorite Ways to Save Money at the Movies

Going to the movies is a favorite past time for a lot of us. But, it can get pretty darn expensive if you aren’t careful. This is largely due to the fact that the movie production houses set the movie ticket prices, and not the individual theaters. And the theaters don’t really make anything on the movie ticket prices because of that. So that leaves concessions for them to make a profit, which is why they can be so darn expensive. So, over the years, we’ve found some great hacks to help save money at the movies.

Groupon, Living Social & Fandango

Groupon and Living Social are both sites that offer discounts on a ton of different products, services and experiences. Movie theaters just happen to be one of those potential options. We’ve used both of these sites to help us find some great budget friendly family activities in the past, which was awesome!

Since they don’t always have deals running at your local movie theater it’s best to check both sites regularly.

Another great site/app to check out is Fandango. This is a movie app that helps find the movies you are looking for at your closest theaters. But, as an added bonus, they also offer discounts and specials if you become a member.

With the app you purchase your tickets ahead of time and save money on concessions. The way this currently works is once you purchase $15 in concessions, you will then get a $5 gift card from Fandango. However, this can vary and only be on specific items purchased at concessions. So it’s best to double check ahead of time to see what qualifies.

Matinee & Tuesday Movies

One of my favorite movie theater hacks is to go to a matinee instead. Matinees are always cheaper than the prime movie showings. Going to a matinee instead can really help us save us a lot of money right out of the gate.

This is the current price breakdown from our local Regal theater for ticket prices:

  • Matinee (Noon – 4 pm) Child & Senior – $7.44
  • Matinee (Noon – 4 pm) Adult – $8.14
  • Prime (4 pm – Close) Child & Senior – $7.94
  • Prime (4 pm – Close) Adult – $10.74

And if you want to save even more money, consider going on a Tuesday instead. A lot of theaters offer a special Tuesday price because that is traditionally the slowest day of the week. Most of the time, the ticket prices hover around $5 – $6 per ticket. I don’t know about you, but I am perfectly fine with checking out a Tuesday flick for major savings!

Late Run Theaters

Another great movie theater hack is heading to late run theaters instead. These theaters specifically gear their showings towards later run movies. This means they don’t show newly released movies as soon as they come out. So, you’ll have to wait a few weeks until the movie is out of the first run theater. But, by doing so, you can save some major money on the movie ticket price.

Most of the time, these ticket prices can be as low as $1 – $2 per showing!

Theater Website

Most major movie theaters have their own website and loyalty club you can join. Usually, when you sign up to become a loyalty member, you some sort of discount right away.

Most of the time this discount is:

  • a percentage off a movie ticket
  • concessions rewards
  • free small popcorn
  • free drink

No matter what, I am perfectly fine with free bonuses. So adding this to your arsenal can only help you save even more money at the movies.

Summer Movie Programs

Most theaters have some sort of summer theater program that is geared towards children. The program only runs for a certain amount of weeks and usually has showings during the day only.

During the summer, the kids can get pretty bored, so this is something I have been utilizing for years now. After all, I am all about how to have a great time on a budget!

Usually these summer movies usually run anywhere from $1 – $2.50 per ticket. So, if you are willing to go during the day, and watch some more kid friendly movies, this might be a great option to save money at the movies this summer.

Specialty Discounts

Most theaters also offer some sort of specialty discount. These discounts are geared towards people who fall into the following categories:

  • AAA Members
  • Children
  • Government Employees
  • Military
  • Seniors
  • Students
  • Teachers

Not every theater offers all of these discounts. Therefore, it is best to ask if you happen to fall into one of these categories.

Divvy Up the Snacks

Since concessions are usually the most expensive part of the movie going experience, this is where you should try to save the most money. This works really well if you’ve got a group, or children with you. Some of the best tips we have learned are:

  • Ask for water cups and fill them up at the water fountain
  • Buy the large popcorn and split it up between all of you
  • Buy the large candy and divide equally

The best way to split up the snacks is to bring paper bags, or something like it, with you. Since theaters charge for the trays and extra cups, you don’t want to add those into your concessions cost.

Either way, purchasing the large, refillable, options, you will end up saving you the most money. Just performing these simple concessions hacks can really help you save money at the movies!

Save Money at the Movies

Overall, there are so many ways to help you save money at the movies. Some of our favorite options are:

  • Groupon, Living Social & Fandango
  • Matinees and Tuesday Movies
  • Late Run Theaters
  • Theater Website
  • Summer Movie Programs
  • Specialty Discounts
  • Divvy Up the Snacks

No matter which options you choose, combining some of these options can really help you save a ton of money. After all, we want to enjoy our movie going experience, but we don’t want it to break the bank at the same time.

What are some of the best hacks you’ve found to help you save money at the movies?

Awesome Budget Friendly Foods to Boost Your Health

When it comes to our food budget, sticking to it can be the most difficult part. Of course, we have 5 kids, so that doesn’t help at all! But, what helps us save money the most is stocking up on some of our favorite superfoods. These foods help build our immunity, which keeps us healthy, which in turn, means very little, to no, medical bills. I am all about saving money wherever I can, so these awesome budget friendly foods really help out.

Turmeric

Turmeric is one of my absolute favorite spices to keep on hand. I even put it in my coffee in the morning!

This is because it is extremely diverse in its uses. But, the flavor profile is quite pronounced. So, for some of us, it may take a little while to become accustomed. But once you do, you will love what it does for your body!

Turmeric has been used in Eastern cultures for thousands of years for its medicinal properties. When you see Indian food dishes that have a yellowish tint to them, you know there is turmeric in there.

There are so many health benefits to adding turmeric to your diet, that you really can’t go wrong. Some of the major health benefits of turmeric are:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Increases neural function
  • Increases memory
  • Reduces risk of heart disease
  • Reduces and potentially eliminates cancer cells
  • Anti-depressant
  • Delay aging and aging related diseases

This little yellow spice is really a huge superfood! However, in order to get the best benefits out of adding turmeric to your diet, make sure you consume it with a fatty meal (or coconut milk in your coffee) or black pepper.

Black Pepper

Black pepper is a go-to spice for us. We use it in pretty much every dish we make, including some desserts. And, as previously mentioned, it should be used with any turmeric dishes in order to activate the turmeric. When the two are combined, the amount of turmeric that is bioavailable to you goes from approximately 3% to 2000%. That is a huge jump in bioavailability!

But that is not the only thing black pepper is good for. In fact, black pepper has a lot of the same health benefits as turmeric. Some of the most common health benefits of black pepper are:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Increases memory
  • Decreases degenerative brain diseases
  • Improves blood sugar metabolism
  • Lowers cholesterol levels
  • Fights cancer cells
  • Boosts nutrient absorption
  • Increases good gut bacteria
  • Reduces pain
  • Appetite suppressant

Now, I don’t know about you, but I like all of those things! And, black pepper can be extremely cheap to purchase. So, why on earth wouldn’t you put it in everything you could?

Cinnamon

One of my other favorite spices to add to my morning coffee is cinnamon. I just love the flavor of it, especially when it is combined with turmeric. While we have a lot of cinnamon on hand, we don’t use it as much as the other two previously mentioned spices. But, it can be just as budget friendly to pick up at the store. So that is a huge bonus!

Our favorite thing to put cinnamon in, besides coffee, is overnight oats. The kids love it in the morning and have no idea that we are giving them a ton of medicinal benefits with their breakfast. This is what I call a parenting win!

Some of the most common health benefits of cinnamon are:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Reduces risk of heart disease
  • Reduces insulin resistance (Great for those with Type II Diabetes)
  • Decreases degenerative brain diseases
  • Fights cancer cells
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-bacterial

We not only use it in food, but make our own cleaning spray with cinnamon essential oil in it. This is due to its extremely strong anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. And it works like a charm!

Star Anise

While star anise does not seemed to be used as widely, including in our house, it is also a powerhouse. Star anise has a licorice flavor profile, so it can be a bit harder to use on a daily basis. Unless you are a big lover of licorice, that is!

However, it can still be added to coffee, savory dishes and desserts. So this is a spice to help you get creative with your cooking.

It can be found at most grocery stores, so it’s not too difficult to track down. And the cost is similar to cinnamon, so you won’t be breaking the bank.

Some of the best health affects of star anise are:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antiviral
  • Antifungal
  • Antibacterial

Since it has so many great properties, this is another essential oil that we include in our household spray. The combination of cinnamon and star anise alone will kill anything our kids drag in.

Algae

Algae is one of my more recent superfood additions. A couple of years ago I ran across some really great information, including a wealth of scientific studies, about algae. The nutritional and health benefits of spirulina and chlorella are out of this world!

Since I found this information, and did more of my own scientific digging, we now incorporate algae every morning before our coffee. In fact, some of the kids ask for it too! Which is really great for our picky eaters. At least then, I know they are getting some essential vitamins, minerals and nutrition into them for the day.

Some of the most common health benefits of algae are:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron
  • Omega 3
  • Vitamin K
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Protein
  • Anti-depressant
  • Reduces and potentially eliminates cancer cells
  • Boosts immune system response
  • Helps with proper digestion
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Reduces appetite
  • Builds muscle
  • Strengthens hair, nails, skin and bones

As you can see, when it comes to superfoods, algae really is the OG! But, algae can be a bit more expensive than the other items on this list. So, we take it in moderation just to maintain our level of wellness, which helps keep withing our budget.

Most awesome budget friendly foods

Overall, there are some really awesome budget friendly foods our there that you can incorporate in your daily regimen. And most of these are so cheap, and stretch really far, so you won’t even feel it. This means you get to boost your overall health, reduce potential illness and medical bills and stick within your budget. So what’s not to love?

Have you tried any of these awesome budget friendly foods yet? If so, what are your favorites and how do you usually incorporate them into your diet?

How to Keep More of Your Money This Year

With a new year comes a new slate. And for us, that means it’s a great time to create more financial freedom and independence for our future selves. And one of the best ways we have found to achieve that is to keep more of our money, as opposed to spending it. But, that doesn’t just mean we keep it and don’t do anything with it. There are many different tips and tricks used to help create more wealth with our money. So read on if you want to learn how to keep more of your money and create more long term wealth.

Setting financial goals

Setting your financial goals is the first part of the puzzle. After all, if you don’t have clear cut goals lined up then what are you wanting to keep more of your money for anyway? The best way we have found to do this is to create 4 different things.

    • Budget
    • Short-term goals
    • Mid-term goals
  • Long-term goals

Once you have those 4 things nailed down, then you can really start rolling towards your personal financial goals.

Open a high yield savings account

No matter what your debt to income ratio is, you can always find something to put aside. Even if it’s only $20 a month to begin with, something is still better than nothing. And with this $20, or whatever you are able to regularly scrape together, you will create your emergency fund.

After all, one of the most important tools in your financial arsenal is your emergency fund. Even if you don’t have 6-9 months of expenses saved to begin with, everybody has to start somewhere. And this money can really help reduce your stress levels in times of crisis. No matter what you put into the this savings account, the goal is to budget the same amount monthly.

Just pretend it’s another bill and it will be less painful. And, the best way to gain a little more on your emergency fund savings is to open a high yield savings account to put it into. 

With interest rates closer to 2% in high yield savings accounts, you will still do a whole lot better than if you put the money into a traditional savings account. Those rates are currently at a national average of .09%, which is just ridiculous!

Stay focused on your financial goals

Once you have figured out your financial goals and started your emergency fund, next you have to figure out how to stay focused on them. Believe me when I tell you that this can really be the hardest part! 

There are a lot of great tools out there to help you track your spending and your wealth. But, the one I have been using for years now is Personal Capital. You can use it on your PC or your smartphone. And once you have all of your accounts connected (that is what takes the most amount of time!), it is very easy to navigate.

You just login to the platform and it will show you your overall net worth based on the balance of each account. I take it as a personal challenge to increase my net worth every month, if even only by a little bit.

Pay off your credit card

While most of us prefer to use credit cards over cash, they can really get us into financial trouble if we aren’t careful. Some of these credit cards have pretty awesome rewards, which are fantastic to get. But if you don’t pay off your credit card in full every month, then you are ultimately spending more than you are getting in rewards.

So, the best way to fully utilize your credit card’s perks is to pay off your card in full every month. If that means only putting basic household expenses on the credit card, because you know you can pay that off. Then that is what you should do to make sure you will have enough money in your budget to pay it off. 

Determine Needs vs. wants

Once you have gone through all of the previous items, determining needs vs. wants is the next step. Because now you are getting into potentially erroneous items that may creep up monthly to spend your money on. And it is these things that can really derail us on our financial path if we aren’t careful.

Therefore, keep in mind whether the item/service is a need or a want first. If the item is a need, then go ahead and do it. But if it is actually a want instead, you may want to hold off on it or figure out a different solution. After all, not spending your hard earned cash on wants will only help you keep more of your money in your pocket.

Keep More of Your Money

Overall, it can be difficult to keep more of your money in your pocket. Especially, since it is just so easy to spend it quickly these days. And this is the reason why we have to be more aware of what we have and where we want to be with our finances. 

Just remember to:

  • Set your financial goals
  • Open a high yield savings account
  • Stay focused on your financial goals
  • Pay off your credit card every month
  • Determine needs vs. wants

For us, following these great financial tips have really helped us keep more money in our pocket. So it will be interesting to see how much we are able to keep this year and continue to grow our wealth.

What steps to you plan to take to help keep more money in your pocket this year?

How Can You Get the Best Car Insurance Rates?

When it comes to our cars, we all want to save money. This is not only true of the car purchase, but also the car insurance needed for it once we drive it off the lot. But sometimes by saving money, we end up cutting corners that can cost us more in the long run. This is where car insurance comparison sites come into play. I have found that they can be a great resource when it comes to getting new car insurance, or negotiating with your current company for a better rate.

But, before we get to the comparison sites, I want to talk about the items you should be comparing across the board to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck. After all, not all insurance products are created the same.

Car Insurance features

No matter which company you end up going with, they should all offer some of the same features. Although, most of us consider these basic features today, they are really extras that don’t have to be offered. These include:

Comprehensive insurance

Comprehensive insurance covers anything that happens to your car non-collision related, such as:

  • Break-in or vandalism
  • Damage from an animal striking your car
  • Fire or explosion
  • Natural disasters
  • Shattered or cracked windshield or window
  • Things falling onto your car

Collision coverage

Collision coverage covers the repair of your car when you have been in a collision. If the car is considered a total loss, then they will cover the cost to replace your vehicle at current market value.

Roadside assistance and towing

Roadside assistance is not something that every insurance carrier offers in their basic plans, but they should. What it usually covers is:

  • Fixing a tire
  • Gas delivered to your car if you run out, but you usually have to pay for the gas
  • Jumping your battery
  • Locked out of your vehicle
  • Stuck in the snow or ice
  • Towing to a service station

Rental car insurance

Rental car insurance is an another one that is not always offered in a basic plan, but certainly should be Usually it will cover:

  • The cost of a daily rental car while your car is being fixed due to a car accident

Bodily injury insurance

Bodily injury insurance is generally used in accidents that you are deemed at fault for to pay for:

  • Death
  • Injury
  • Lawsuit
  • Sickness

Property damage insurance

Property damage covers somebody else’s property that you have damaged in an accident you are deemed at fault for. Some of the most common items are:

  • Hitting a parked car
  • Running into your neighbor’s house
  • Sliding into a neighbor’s mailbox

Uninsured motorist coverage

This coverage is extremely useful when you find yourself in an accident with someone who is either underinsured or uninsured. Your uninsured motorist coverage will pick up the slack and cover the remaining costs for injuries or damage to you and your car.

Medical expense insurance

Medical expense insurance is an extra buffer built into your car insurance plan to assist with health related issues occurring from a car accident. It helps to pay for things like:

  • Ambulance
  • Doctor visits
  • Funeral costs
  • Hospital stays
  • Medicine
  • Surgeries
  • X-rays

PIP insurance

Personal injury protection insurance is used to help people, other than yourself, who might have been injured in an accident.It covers things like:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of services
  • Lost wages
  • Medical treatment

GAP insurance

GAP insurance is for drivers who have purchased new cars. It helps to pay the difference between what the new car is now worth and what a replacement vehicle of the exact same year, make and model would cost.

Comparison sites

Now that you have a better idea as to what you should be comparing, the best way to do that is through the use of comparison sites.

I like to use a few of them, just to see if I find a difference in rates. Which does actually happen! A lot of times this is due to the fact that most of them give you a general ballpark quote, but you have to go through the final sign up process to get the final rate.

These types of sites include:

But, there are other sites that will give you cold hard facts, if you are willing to put in a bit more information. A couple of these are actually through the insurance company offering the car insurance and the other two aren’t the actual car insurance carriers.

These sites are:

To be honest, I usually start with the general ballpark quote sites just to get a broader idea of what I am looking at. And that way I don’t have to put in a ton of information, or risk getting phone calls from a lot of different agents and companies.

Once I have a better idea as to which companies might be able to offer me the best rates, for the best features, I dig in deeper.

best Car insurance rates summary

Overall, if you want to get the best car insurance rates, you are going to have to be willing to do a little work. Do your general comparison shopping first to narrow down companies of interest. Then, check into their offered features in their basic plans to see how they compare. Next, dig into the sites with real quotes, or go to the actual car insurance carriers website itself to get a real time quote.

If you are happy with your current carrier though, this may just be an exercise to help you reduce your rate or get better features added to your policy for no more money. Either way, what do you have to lose if it saves you money and can potentially get you more features? This is a win-win in my book!

What are some of the most effective ways you have found to get the best rates on car insurance?

4 of the Best Ways to Get Clothes on a Budget

As a fairly frugal family, we are always looking for ways to cut costs. This is especially true when it comes to clothes. After all, having 5 growing children can really get expensive in the clothing genre! But, over the years, we have found some great ways to procure clothes on a budget. And whether you have children or not, these tips can really come in handy to save you some money.

Poshmark

A friend of mine turned me onto Poshmark not too long ago. I had never heard of them before, but have fallen in love! This service is for buying and selling name brand clothes, shoes and accessories.

Ultimately, I don’t have a whole lot of name brand items. But, since we are always cleaning things out, I figured what the heck. Setting up your closet (if you want to sell anything) is pretty quick and painless. You have the option to share your closet on all of your social media accounts also, if you so choose. This can increase your sales opportunities.

Poshmark takes 20% of whatever you sell your items for. So this is something to keep in mind. But, you can keep the money you make in your Poshmark account to use for items you want to purchase. The seller does not pay shipping, the purchaser does.

And negotiation is allowed on Poshmark, which is pretty cool!

I have sold a few items on Poshmark so far. I was then able to use the money in my account to purchase new clothes for us. The grand total I have spent so far is $.59. Now that is what I call clothes on a budget!

consignment stores

Consignment stores are another one of my favorite places to shop for clothes on a budget. Not only do I love to donate to them, but shopping at them is pretty awesome also. Granted, there can be a lot of things that don’t appeal to you at all. Or the clothes and shoes can be extremely outdated. But, I have found quite a few diamonds in the rough at consignment stores.

There are a few consignment stores near us that are notorious for having a lot of donations with the tags still ON! These are my favorite finds because we get brand new clothes at severely discounted prices. How can you go wrong with that?

Some of our favorite consignment stores to hit up are:

Depending upon which consignment store you go to, the prices will vary. But, prices at Goodwill are the same no matter which one you frequent in your area. For us, that means the kids clothes start at $3.19 each and ours start at $3.89 each. We love this!

Just keep in mind that whenever you are consignment shopping you will also be hunting. So you have to be okay with scouring through a lot of different clothing items to find what you are seeking. If you aren’t a fan of this, then don’t worry because there are plenty of other options for you.

end of season

One of the best times to shop for clothes is the end of a season. I realize this can be difficult with growing children though. Since you have to predict how much they will grow, it is always a guessing game.

However, if you are willing to play the game, you can save some serious money. Take right now, for example. Most stores are moving into the heavy winter clothes and are trying to offload the lighter fall attire. This is the time to search for, and stock up on, things such as:

  • Capri pants
  • 3/4 length shirts
  • Lighter leggings
  • Lightweight long sleeve shirts
  • Long skirts
  • Lightweight jackets

Since we have been searching for new pants for some of the kids in the past few weeks, we have run across some great deals. I’ve been able to pick up pants for some of the kids for as low as $2.50 each. I also came across some Capri athletic pants for myself for $4.98. I don’t know about you, but those prices really make me smile!

emails and coupons

Last but not least are email lists and coupons. Even though I greatly detest all of the emails inundating my inbox, I love some of the deals I run across.

Usually, when you sign up to get a newsletter, you will also get a welcome email with discounts of some sort. I hold onto those puppies like gold!

A lot of the email lists, and/or associated store apps, will have coupons also. You have to read the fine print because some of them can’t be combined with any other offer. But I have run across quite a few that can be combined. And that is where you start really racking up the savings!

One of my favorite tricks is to sign up for a new email list and use the coupon(s) in the clearance section. I have been able to get a lot of clothes for next to nothing this way. And that really helps keep our clothes budget low.

Clothes on a budget

Overall, there are quite a few different ways you can find clothes on a budget. And sometimes, they might even be new clothes with the tags still on!

Some of the best ways we have found to restock our wardrobes on the cheap are:

  • Poshmark
  • Consignment stores scouring
  • Shopping at the end of each season
  • Getting onto email lists for deals and coupons

Therefore, getting creative and playing the game are the best ways to get clothes on a budget for the whole family.

What are some of the best ways you have found to get clothes on a budget?

Have You Considered Buying Family Gifts for Christmas?

With the holidays quickly approaching, it is time to start thinking about gifts. At least, that is what is on our children’s minds right now. From our perspective, trying to figure out the best way to approach Christmas gifts for the kids without killing our wallet is always a fun game. So, we are considering buying only a family gift this year instead of individual gifts. Here is our thought process and how we hope it might help us save some money on the holidays.

Costs

This may not be the most cost effective way for every family to approach Christmas gift giving. But for us, as a family of 7, the holidays can get pretty darn expensive. My spouse and I don’t usually get each other anything, which helps reduce our costs. But, if we did decide to swap gifts, that would just increase the overall cost of Christmas in our house.

The usual average that we spend per child is $40 – $50, which equates to approximately $200 – $250. This doesn’t include anything for us, but if we did, that would tack on another $80 – $100. This being said, what we spend is still a whole lot less than what the average American spends on Christmas gifts.

These studies show a few different figures for holiday gift giving. The majority of us plan to spend more than $1000 on gifts, or somewhere around $885 per person. That is insane!

For us, on the path to financial independence (FI), that is just not something we can justify. But, for those of you who do spend that much on Christmas gifts, then the family gift could really save you some serious cash.

Family Gift Options

In order to save some of our hard earned money, the option of just one family gift we can all enjoy sounds appealing. It also means less boxes, wrapping paper, tape and bows. After all, those cost money too!

A few of the options we are considering are:

ASTC Membership

This membership has a passport program that lets you use it at museums all over the United States, and in a very select few other countries. If you have a membership near you, then you can get into all of the other museums listed on the passport program for FREE. On top of that, once you buy the annual family membership, you get into that museum for free whenever you want too.

They also send out special events and discounts specifically for ASTC members that you wouldn’t otherwise get.

The membership can range in price depending upon where you live and which museum happens to be closest to you. For us, we have 3 in our immediate area to choose from. They range between $85 – $140 for the annual membership and cover all 7 of us. We purchased one last year to Marbles and go there quite often now. Since each visit to the museum would cost us $5 per person, no matter what, we make our money back in less than 4 visits. And this doesn’t include all of the other museums we have been able to use our membership at to get into for free. I really love this option!

Trusted Housesitters Mini-Vacation

We have used Trusted Housesitters for two trips now and it has saved us a ton of money. If we can find something close enough to us that might only be for a long weekend, then this may be the way to go. Since we get to stay for free when we travel through Trusted Housesitters, the only things we would have to pay for are the extras. We always pack food when we travel, so that cuts down on the costs. Ultimately, this option would still probably be the most expensive though. My best estimate on costs would be somewhere between $200 – $300.

Ping Pong Table

Getting a ping pong table for downstairs is something we have been considering for a while now. It is something fun that we could all end up partaking in, and can be done when the weather isn’t as nice.

I have been leaning towards one that converts into a pool table also, so that it would be multi-function. I have found quite a few used options that range from $75 – $200. Therefore, this might be one of the top runners also.

Family excitement

Ultimately, whatever we get the kids for Christmas, they almost immediately forget about. The toys end up on the floor, or broken. The video games get old and then they are bored. They just don’t have the staying power. And, it really divides our family since they are all off doing separate things.

We continually try to find ways to unite us and keep our communication at a high level for more family unity. So the idea of getting one big family gift instead of a bunch of smaller individual ones appeals to us on all levels.

Plus, if the gift is something we can all do together, or enjoy together, then it creates more overall family excitement. Since the holidays are supposed to be a time to celebrate family and those you love, this idea just makes more obvious sense to us.

takeaway

Overall, it appears that it will cost us less money to buy one family gift for us to enjoy versus individual gifts for everybody. Plus, the family gift will be something we can all enjoy together to create more unity in our family, as opposed to separate us. Since we are always searching for ways to save ourselves more money and create more family cohesion, this seems like a win-win to us.

Have you considered buying a family gift instead of individual Christmas gifts? If so, what was your thought process behind the decision?

How Much Does Having a Child Cost and How To Cut Costs

Deciding to have a child is a very big, life altering decision. It not only affects your everyday life but your finances too.

The average amount that it costs to raise a child annually varies from between $12,000 – 13,000, and it goes up each year with inflation.

But, there are more expenses incurred in the 1st year of having a child. How much does it cost for that 1st year and how can you cut costs?

CHILD BIRTH

The most expensive part of having a baby is the actual birth process. The costs completely depend on:

  1. Vaginal birth or c-section
  2. Insured or not
  3. How much your insurance covers
  4. Which state you live in

While these are a lot of different variables, here are the average costs in each category:

  • Vaginal birth with insurance –  $4,900 – $10,700
  • Vaginal birth WITHOUT insurance – $9,015 – $19,800
  • C-Section with insurance – $7,500 – $15,000
  • C-Section WITHOUT insurance – $12,600 – $28,500

Total range of just giving birth – $4,900 – $28,500

This is a pretty wide spread and should give you a whole lot to think about right out of the gate.

HOUSING

Buying a home can have a pretty large price tag, especially for things that you might not have even thought about. First and foremost is the down payment. This can vary depending on which type of loan you qualify for, but the average amount required for a down payment is 10%.  However, most banks prefer you to put down at least 20% in order to forgo the mandatory PMI. Just something to keep in mind before you decide to purchase a home.

While there may be more up front costs buying a home, it could still potentially cost you less overall. Owning usually gives you more space for the same amount, or less money as renting a smaller place. Plus, you get the equity if you own and you don’t if you rent.

As an added bonus, once your house is paid off, it will then be considered an asset. One that could potentially help you as you get older and start thinking about retirement.

The buy vs. rent decision is a very personal one. So if you aren’t sure which one is the best for your family, then check out this rent vs. buy calculator. Hopefully, it will help you on your path to cutting costs.

FOOD

Food costs can be one of the biggest parts of a monthly budget. While you may not think it will directly affect you immediately, it certainly can. Because with a new baby is in the house, the food costs will go up.

The 3 major things affecting this are:

  1. Breastfeeding
  2. Formula
  3. Solid Food

1. BREASTFEEDING

Breastfeeding usually requires an extra 500 calories per day, just to account for the extra energy needed to produce the milk. A an average of 20% more than you were eating before, you should add an extra 20% into your food budget just for you.

If the average grocery bill for 2 is around $500, then that translates to approximately $250 per person. With the mother requiring 20% more food though, that will be an extra $50 which = $600 per year in increased food costs.

2. FORMULA

Formula feeding can vary with regard to costs depending on how much your child eats and which type of formula you use. But the average costs to formula feed are between $1,138 – $1,188 per year.

3. BABY FOOD

Baby food runs close to $1 per jar. Most babies eat anywhere from 2 – 5 jars a day, depending on their age. That means you could be spending an extra $2 -$5 a day.

That is an extra $60 – $150 per month and $720 – $1,800 per year! A great option to cut costs here is to buy a blender and make your own baby food.

CHILD CARE

Child care can be one of the biggest expenses, aside from the actual birth.

The average a married couple spends 10% of their budget on child care expenses alone. But if you happen to be a single parent, it’s even worse. The number now goes up to 36% of your budget.

This means the average cost of one child, under the age of 1, can be anywhere from $10,000 $20,000. This may be a good reason to think about staying home and working on side hustles instead, as an alternative option.

TRANSPORTATION

A lot of families decide that they want to upgrade to a minivan or an SUV when they begin to think about having a child.

But, switching from a sedan to an SUV or a minivan can cost you up to 50% more. But that doesn’t even include the increased car insurance costs associated with switching to an SUV or a minivan. So keeping your older car, especially if it is paid off, can really help you cut costs.

HEALTHCARE

Adding a child to your healthcare plan will certainly increase your costs. So much so that the range can be anywhere from $250 – $400 extra per month or $3,000 – $4,800 more per year.

This doesn’t even include the higher deductible you will have due to the increased family size. Checking around for cheaper payments with a higher deductible, that covers preventative care visits, may be a good way to help cut costs.

CLOTHING & MISC

Babies require a lot of clothes because they grow so fast and they like to have accidents. The average cost for baby clothes runs around $60 per month, but this depends on your state and income level. However, this doesn’t include other things you need for them such as:

  • Bedding
  • Blankets
  • Books
  • Hairbrush
  • Haircuts
  • OTC medicine
  • Stuffed animals
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste

If you add an extra $40 into your monthly budget, this should help cover these extraneous expenses. This makes the total for this category an extra $100 per month or $1,200 per year.

overall costs

Let’s recap the added cost breakdown:

  • Child birth = $4,900 – $28,500
  • Housing = Variable
  • Food = $1,320 – $2,988
  • Child care = $10,000 – $20,000
  • Transportation = Variable
  • Healthcare = $3,000 – $4,800
  • Clothing & Misc = $1,200

That is a grand total (on average) of $20,420 – $57,488!

Even though having a child could potentially cost you this much, it doesn’t necessarily have to. Proper planning and forethought are key to helping you cut costs when you have a child.

How much do your children cost you extra a year? Where have you found to cut costs?

What are Some Great Budget Friendly DIY Home Improvement Projects?

It would be great if our home could stay in the state it was in when it was originally built. Then we would never have to spend time or money on home repairs. But, as we all know, that is a pipe dream. Things get older and start to fall apart, or become severely dated with time. One of the best ways to combat major home repairs, and major costs, is to incorporate smaller DIY home improvement projects on a regular basis.

I have found this is one of the most budget friendly ways to keep our home up to date and in good working order. So I’m going to show you some of the best, and easiest, DIY home improvement projects that you we have incorporated to potentially increase the property value. And they can all be done within a small budget. Read more

How We Bought Two New Used Cars With Cash

We have been hitting the road towards debt freedom pretty hard for the past three years now. The car loan on one of our cars was the last big thing we had to get rid of before we could start throwing more at the mortgage. How to get rid of the car loan faster was something that had been vexing me since the beginning of the year. I was getting close to an answer to pay it off faster, when it suddenly happened. We were finally able to get rid of the last car loan, and buy two new used cars, with cash only. This was a miracle! Read more