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Category: The Frugal Home

Here we’ll share ways in which we save money on home maintenance, repair and decorating and entertaining at home.

It’s summertime and it’s finally time to party. Before entertaining, consider these backyard upgrades to make your yard the envy of the neighborhood.

Start Your Summer Off with a Bang with These Backyard Upgrades

Summertime is the time where we can have fun, enjoy the weather, and start entertaining loved ones outdoors. However, if your backyard looks more like an abandoned lot rather than a place to entertain, you might want to consider tackling these backyard upgrades. 

These backyard upgrades will turn your hum-drum backyard into your own summer getaway that everyone in the neighborhood will envy. Or at the very least the upgrades will make backyard barbecues more enjoyable for everyone! Read more

These are Awesome Natural Mosquito Repellents!

With the spring almost here, the warmer weather is upon us. And, in a lot of areas, that means it’s also time for mosquitoes to start showing back up again. I know where we are, it’s the bane of our outdoor time. Mosquitoes are not only annoying, but can carry disease, along with some major scratching once you’ve been bitten. We aren’t fans of anything chemical to treat them with, since those things cause other side effects to the environment. Plus they can get pretty expensive to maintain also. So, we’ve found some of the best natural mosquito repellents that do the job well and don’t cost  much to implement.

Citronella

Citronella is one of my favorite go to plants for mosquito repellents. If you’ve ever had a citronella scented candle you know what it smells like. And, while it can be a pretty darn good mosquito repellent, not everyone likes the smell.

What I’ve found is that the actual citronella plant has a slightly different odor that I like much better. It’s not as artificial smelling and keeps the mosquitoes away pretty darn well. Plus, they make beautiful borders for garden beds because they can get very full and have beautiful leaves.

An even better way to keep the mosquitoes away with citronella is to crush up a couple of the leaves and rub them on your exposed skin.

Lavender

Lavender is very similar to the citronella plant at repelling mosquitoes. But, it has much more color to add to your garden or landscaping. One of my favorite places to plant the lavender plant is by the front porch. This way, guests get the lovely scent of lavender as they approach our front door. But, as a double bonus, the plants also help keep the mosquitoes at bay.

I like to crush up a stalk of lavender and rub it on my skin whenever I am getting ready to garden. But another great way to use it is to make a spray out of the lavender essential oil, since it is so easy to come by.

basil

Out of all of the mosquito repellents, basil is my absolute favorite option. A big part of this is that we use a lot of basil in our cooking already. So the basil plant has a double function in our house right out of the gate.

I like to plant this one in the corners of our herb garden to help mosquito prevention while I’m working in the garden. Take one or two leaves and crush them up in your hands and then rub on the exposed skin. It makes you smell like a delicious salad, which I love!

rosemary

Rosemary serves the same function as basil does. So, the rosemary plant is a good option to add into your border rotation in the garden along with the basil. And, if you like to add rosemary to your culinary dishes, then this plant serves two purposes for you immediately also. Plus, rosemary is pretty darn easy to grow.

But, you should be careful with rosemary because it doesn’t take much for it to take over your garden. It’s a vigorous grower. So, I’ve found the best way to incorporate it into our garden is by putting it in big pots. This way I can also move them around, if need be, but they also won’t take over any of my other crops.

marigolds

Marigolds are very popular in most areas of the United States. These plants are brightly colored and make great borders for landscaping beds and/or around mailboxes. I’ve used them quite a few times for both their color and their mosquito repellent properties.

Usually, the marigold plant can be found in shades of yellow, gold, orange and tinges of red. So they make great additions to most landscapes. They are extremely easy to plant and care for, and are fantastic insect repellents. I like to plant these around the edges of where my kids play and in some of the corners of landscaping beds. But, since they are annuals, they will have to be replanted each year. Which I am not a huge fan of. But since they are pretty darn cost effective, it can be worth it to purchase a few plants each year.

geraniums

Geraniums are very similar to marigolds in that they come in some beautiful coloring options. More often than not, I put these in a pot on the front and back porches. And that is usually where I find other people tend to put them also. They are easy to grow and care for, and in a lot of cases can bloom all year long.

They don’t do well in the cold though. So if you choose to add the geranium plant into your rotation, it’s best to pot it. This way you can bring it in when it gets cold and enjoy the beautiful colors and aroma inside during the winter.

best natural mosquito repellents summary

Ultimately, there are quite a few natural ways to repel mosquitoes. But, my favorite ways all include plants. Luckily, none of these plant options are very expensive. And most of them are perennials, so you won’t necessarily have to repurchase them every year, if conditions are right. If you plan it out right, you can get some lovely smelling and looking additions to your landscape and repel mosquitoes at the same time. This is what I call multitasking!

How to Save a Ton by Switching From Disposable Products

Even before everything with COVID-19 was happening, we were always looking for ways to save money around the house. Plus, we continually strive to be more “green” every year and help the environment. And what I’ve found is that there are a ton of ways to merry both saving money and going green together. The best way we have found to achieve both goals is by switching from disposable products whenever, and wherever we can.

Paper towels

When it comes to disposable products, we didn’t use a ton of them to begin with. But, I knew there will still places that we could work on. And paper towels just happened to be a big one for us. With 5 kids and boarding a ton of different dogs, there are always messes to clean up.

While it may not seem that paper towels cost a lot of money, what they do cost can actually really add up. If we go with a 10 year projection, it’s easier to see the real savings by switching from disposable products.

Our family goes through about 1 roll of paper towels per week. If we purchase a package of 8 rolls for $17, that package will last us approximately 8 weeks, or 2 months. Which means, that for a year’s supply of paper towels we will be spending about $110.50, before tax. So, over 10 years, we would spend $1105 on paper towels. That’s a heck of a lot on just this one disposable product!

However, we decided to toss out the paper towels and go with a reusable, washable version of paper towel instead. The product we chose is Lola Wowables 30 count roll for $19.99. They come in 4 different colors: yellow, teal, purple and coral. We chose teal because that color matches our kitchen best. The website offers free shipping on orders of $40 or more, so we chose to purchase 2 rolls to save us the shipping cost.

Overall Savings

Since these reusable paper towels are washable and biodegradable, they last for a really LONG time! In fact, based on the aforementioned usage, one roll should last us a total of 2 years. Which means that by buying the 2 rolls at once, we should have 4 years worth of paper towels on hand. And we paid a total of $40 plus tax for that!

So, over a 10 year period of time, we should only have to spend a total of $100 on these fabulously bright and absorbent reusable paper towels versus the $1105 we would have spent on disposable products. That’s a huge savings in just this one category alone!

water bottles

Our family strives to drink more than the recommended 64 ounces of water per day. Which means that we all end up needing water bottles because we aren’t always at home. And with a family of 7, that could really add up if we were buying bottled water all the time.

In order to just get the 64 ounces per day, each of us would have to drink 4 bottles of water per day. This is based on the standard 16.9 ounce prepackaged water bottle size you find in stores. Which means we would go through 28 bottles of water per day, on average. We can get a 24 pack of water bottles for around $3.50. But, one package wouldn’t even be enough for one day of water for us, since we have 7 people in our family.

Therefore, in order to get enough water bottles for a year, we would need to purchase 426 cases of water (24 bottles in each case). This would total up to $1491 plus tax just in water bottles for 1 year, or $14,910 over 10 years That is a TON of money!

But, by switching to reusable metal water bottles, we have saved a ridiculous amount of money just in the first year alone. We found these really awesome, larger and more versatile reusable metal water bottles instead. The Extremus Deluge SS Wide Mouth water bottle usually sells for $20.99 per bottle and comes in 6 different colors. We were actually able to get them for a discounted rate since Amazon had them on sale for $16.79 when we found them, so we have saved even more. And, they come with 2 different handles, a carabiner and a smaller lid that screws off only at the mouth hole, which we really liked.

Overall Savings

These water bottles should easily last for 10 years, barring any child accidents. So, with that in mind, we have spent a total of $146.93 plus tax for all 7 bottles. So, if they last the full 10 years, this means we will have save a total of $14,763.07. Now, that is a not only a HUGE savings, but it also has a giant impact on the environment. Reusable water bottles for the win!

switching from disposable products summary

Overall, there are a lot of ways you can choose to go about this. But, ultimately, the more open minded you can be about getting rid of disposable products, the more money you can potentially save. Our biggest savings come from the paper towels and water bottles category, personally. But that doesn’t mean you can’t save in every category. No matter what, the more disposable products you get rid of, the greener you are and the more you can save.

What are some of the disposable products you’ve tossed to ultimately save more money and go green?

How to Celebrate Halloween Safely During COVID-19

This year has been a bit different for all of us. And with the holidays looming, most of us are trying to figure out how to approach them safely. First and foremost is Halloween. Yes, I can’t believe that it’s almost here either! But, the kids are certainly excited, albeit a bit nervous. Because even they realize that this year isn’t going to look the same as all the previous years. So, here is how we plan to celebrate Halloween safely during COVID-19 and still have a great time.

House Party

Having a house party may seem like the antithesis of how to celebrate Halloween safely, but hear me out. We aren’t actually talking about hosting a raucous house party here. What I mean by house party is a bit different in this particular context.

This house party will only include you and your family. The kids still get to dress up in costumes, so that is a huge plus. But, then they get to be even more creative.

Have each child go through ideas with you regarding how to decorate their room for Halloween. Maybe they like the haunted house idea, or a fun house, or something else entirely. Whatever they come up with, help them get the supplies they need to create their idea.

You will also take each child out, separately, to get the candy of their choice to pass out. That way it’s even more of a surprise for the other kids.

When it’s time to celebrate Halloween, have the kids dress up in their costumes. Pick names or draw straws to see who will be hosting the family in their Halloween room first. That person will go into their room and prepare their candy for trick-or-treater’s. You and the rest of the family get to trick-or-treat at that child’s door so they can show you what Halloween masterpiece they have come up with. After they have walked you through it, they will give you the surprise candy and then it is the next child’s turn.

You, as the parents, can do this with your room also to stretch out the holiday fun. If you have a small family with only one or two children, then you may want to consider sharing in the fun with some other local family members or a set of close neighbors. As long as you keep the group small and continue to remain safe.

Drive by

If you live in a neighborhood with a lot of tight knit families and kids, then this might be another good option for you. Talk to your neighbors to see who you can entreat to participate first. Of course, not everyone will be willing to celebrate Halloween with you by creating a drive by. But, for those neighbors that will, this could be a lot of fun.

How this works is that everyone who is participating will decorate their house for Halloween in some way. And of course, turn on the front porch light!

They should prepare small bags of candy to pass out to each person using gloves. These bags of candy should be placed at the end of each driveway in some sort of bucket or receptacle to contain them properly. And when the time comes, the participants can set up camp on their front porch or stoop to watch the show.

As for the families with kids dressed up in Halloween costumes, they will be the ones driving by. And if you want to make it even more fun, then decorating your car for the holiday will be even more exciting.

As you drive by each house, let the kids out of the car to show off their costumes while they pick up an individual bag of candy. They can talk to the neighbors from the end of the driveway, should they choose to. But this way, the neighbors get to see your kids awesome costumes and the kids still get to trick-or-treat. Safely and from a distance though.

celebrate halloween safely summary

Ultimately, there are different ways you can approach Halloween this year. And a lot of it will be determined by the ages of your kids and the area in which you live. While a drive by party sounds like it could be fun, our neighborhood doesn’t really have that many kids. So, it’s not something we are going to do. Plus, there are more potential health risks involved with the drive by option.

Therefore, we are planning to partake in the house party option. And I can’t wait to see what the kids come up with. Once we see how Halloween goes, then it’s time to tackle the rest of the holidays. This should really be interesting!

What ways have you contemplated to celebrate Halloween safely with your family this year?

How More Virtual Learning is Changing our Back to School Shopping

I don’t know about your school system, but ours is changing drastically this upcoming year. In fact, we still aren’t sure just how drastically yet. But we know there will be a lot more, or maybe all, virtual learning this year. And with this comes a shift in how we are approaching back to school shopping. We have narrowed down a few essential items for our kids to help them adjust, and hopefully thrive, in this new environment.

Computers

Whether we like it or not, the most expensive thing on the back to school list this year will be a computer. After all, kids can’t really engage in virtual learning if they don’t have a device to use.

The way I have always preferred to purchase items in this category is by buying refurbished. In fact, with the exception of one, all of our tablets and laptops are refurbished. And, we haven’t had any issues with any of them. In fact, the laptop I am writing this on was a refurbished purchase back in 2013 when I was entering Grad school. And it still runs like a champ!

I just prefer refurbished because they are so much cheaper than buying brand new tablets or laptops. And, if you purchase them from a reputable source, you really can’t go wrong. Plus, you can save tons of money!

And this especially holds true when our children are involved. They just don’t take care of the devices the way that we do. And with that being said, here are some of my favorite places to purchase refurbished computers and tablets:

No matter which device you go with, make sure to get a protective cover. This will help to keep them functional for much longer.

Wireless Headphones for Virtual learning

Wireless headphones are something that we realized rather quickly last year we were in dire need of. We just didn’t realize how much, until all of the kids started doing school work from home. It’s simply much too difficult for multiple people to be on calls or meetings when you don’t have wireless headphones.

We purchased a few different pairs of wireless headsets in the past few months. And they each have their pros and cons.

The Target dollar spot wireless headphones work great for our youngest child. She is a little harder on things, so we wanted to try the cheaper version first. They work great for connectivity and sound. But they are more cheaply made than the other two, so they may not last as long.

The iJoy wireless headphones were the next set of headphones purchased. This was for the youngest boy and was a step up from the cheaper headphones. The sound quality is a little bit better and you can tell that they aren’t as flimsy.

The iClever wireless headphones were purchased for the oldest girl. She is more responsible and wanted something with more bells and whistles. They have great sound quality, connect easily to all of her devices and even have light up LED lights. She loves them!

No matter which direction you go with the wireless headphones, there is a budget friendly option for all of us. And you don’t need all of the bells and whistles to get the job done. You just need something to make everyone’s life a bit easier when it comes to virtual learning.

Somewhere to sit

Once you have the tech taken care of, you have to tackle where your child is going to be doing their school work. And this is where good seating comes into play. If you don’t already have a separate place for them to do their school work already, then you’ll need to help create a space for them.

One of my favorite finds at a kids consignment sale is a smaller old school desk that fits our youngest child. She was so thrilled with it when we brought it home, and it cost next to nothing! So, if you don’t have something for your child yet, checking out a kids consignment sale may be a great way to go. If, there are any happening in your area, of course.

However, if that isn’t an option, there are a couple other cheaper options than buying a new desk. Both  bean bag chairs and bungee chairs can be easily purchased new for under $50. And, what’s even better about both of these options is that they can be folded up for easier storage. .

If you have more than one child, and want to get a combination of all 3, then that can create a more diverse learning environment also. Plus, you can use the bean bag chair and bungee chairs too!

Lounge Wear

We aren’t really in the market for the newest styles in back to school clothes this year. But that doesn’t mean we should toss the whole category out. In fact, since so many of us are working from home now, our clothing styles have changed. So, we need to adjust our back to school shopping ideologies as well. This means an addition of more lounge wear this year.

Lounge wear can mean different things to different people. But, it really just means clothes you are really comfortable lounging around in. And with the increase in virtual learning, that is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Some of our kids favorite lounge wear options include:

No matter which type of lounge wear your child prefers, them being comfortable is the most important part. And you need to help remind them that they need to get dressed before they begin school. Even if they aren’t going to a physical school this year. Because just the act of changing into clothes for the day helps get their brain ready to learn and out of sleep mode.

BAck to school Virtual Learning Summary

No matter how you look at it, this year school is going to be different. And we, as parents, need to do all that we can to help our kids adjust to this new learning environment. This includes in the back to school shopping category also. Because that is a normal part of preparing for a new school year.

Since we don’t know how long this situation will last, it’s in our best interest to help our children adjust as much as possible. So, do what you can to make the virtual learning environment as effective, and comfortable, for them as possible.

Does your back to school shopping look any different this summer with more virtual learning happening this year?

How to Make Teaching Young Children About Finances FUN!

When you have young children, teaching them about money is a big part of our job as parents. And this is especially important when they are young because they learn so much more quickly when they are younger. And, they are more apt to listen to us and follow our actions because they look up to us greatly at this age. Not as much once they hit the teenage years! To the earlier you can start, the better.

But it’s not always easy, or fun. Especially when they are really young because the concepts can be much too difficult for them to grasp. However, I have found some great ways to make teaching young children about finances fun. And not just for them!

grocery list

One of the easiest financial lessons I found to begin with was grocery shopping. When my children were around the age of 2, they began helping me make a grocery list. I found the best way to approach this was to have them go through the pantry and refrigerator while I wrote down a list. They would  ell me what they thought we needed and we would discuss it. Because sometimes what they thought we needed was ice cream and cookies!

Whenever we went to the store I would have them help me decide which items to buy. I started out simply by comparing the same item but different brands. That way it was easier for them to see the cost difference between the two products.

Example: If Brand A can of beans costs $.89 and Brand B can of beans costs $.99, which one is the better deal.

This math is usually simple enough for them to grasp when they are much younger. As they got a bit older, I would increase the complexity of the math needed. In that, I would then compare similar products that had different quantities also. This can be pretty confusing for them initially. But once they understand it, it’s a really fun game for them to find the best deal.

allowance budget

Every member of the family should be pitching in to help. So, chores and allowance are another great way to approach teaching young children about finances. However, with the allowance comes some strings. Besides not getting paid if they don’t do their age appropriate chores, they also have to create a budget for it.

One of the most common ways to create an allowance budget is to split it up into the following 3 categories:

  • Donations
  • Saving
  • Spending

Of course, you can discuss this with your children because they may have other categories in mind. But these 3 categories are usually the most simplistic to begin with.

Once you have the allowance budget categories defined, then it’s a good time to open the discussion with your child regarding how much should go in each category. Percentages are easier for us as adults, but may not be as easy for your young child to grasp.

Therefore, if may be best to start with a specific dollar amount in each category.

Here is a good example of both options for a simple $10 allowance since this number can be easier for them to understand from a percentage perspective.

  • $10 = $2 for Donations, $4 for Saving, $4 for Spending
  • $10 = 20% for Donations, 40% for Saving, 40% for Spending

Ultimately, how this is broken down is completely up to you and your child. The main point is that they begin to learn the basics of budgeting their income. So that it will be much easier for them as adults when they have to do it for themselves.

sell their old stuff

As most of us know, with children comes a lot of extra stuff. And as they grow, they outgrow that “stuff” fairly rapidly. Most of the time, the majority of it is also barely used. So, this is another great area to weave financial lessons in for your young child.

When it’s time to declutter the house, have your child go through their stuff to sell also.

The first thing to go through with them is which items they might be able to sell. And then you should have them help you figure out how much they think they can sell the items for.

A lot of times I prefer to sell my kids outgrown stuff online. But, having a yard sale is another great way to approach this lesson since your child will have to be physically present for it.

This lesson helps to teach them the value of their stuff and the value of a dollar. So, it’s really a two-fold lesson that is extremely important for them to grasp now.

Plus, it’s a great place to add on a third lesson while you are at it. Let them keep the money they make on their stuff and put it into a high yield savings account. That way they can watch it grow each month and you can help them learn about compound interest. Now, I call this a big win!

Birthday Budget

And last but not least, the birthday budget. I think my kids always think that money grows on trees. Which is extra funny because we actually have a money tree, but it doesn’t grow money!

With that being said, their birthday wish lists always start out much further outside the budget than they think. So, it’s a good time to bring them back down to earth and have them help with a more realistic birthday list.

First, let them know what the budget is for their birthday. The best way I have found to do this is to tell them that they need to find some gifts that are under $20 and they can find one or two that are closer to $40 – $50 also.

This way, the majority of the birthday gifts they want fall into most people’s budget. And the couple of larger gifts could be from us or a joint gift. But, I also let them know that they will never get everything on their list. That way I help to set up their expectations and keep a bit of the birthday surprise going.

Teaching young children about finances

Overall, there are a lot of great ways you can begin teaching young children about finances and it still be fun. My favorite ways include:

  • Having them help make the grocery list and compare food prices
  • Make an allowance budget
  • Selling their old stuff and putting the money into a high-yield savings account
  • Creating a reasonable birthday budget

If you can start with these easy lessons, then you are well on your way to increasing your child’s financial knowledge. And the earlier you can start, the better. So, have fun with it and get started today!

What are some of the best ways you have found to teach your young children about finances and still make it fun?

How to Stop Letting Money Control Your Happiness

If you often find yourself thinking, ‘If only I had enough money, I would be…’, it could be that you are letting your finances control your happiness. In order to take back control, you need to work out where your money is going – and then track and manage it successfully.

Here are some tips on how you can stop letting money control your happiness. Read more

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?