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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.

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?

4 Inexpensive Ways To Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

When most people hear the term “air pollution”, they think of industrial emissions, big cities, smog, and car exhaust. Typically the air we breathe inside our homes doesn’t come to mind, but it should. According to the EPA, the air we breathe indoors is often up to five times as polluted as outside, and Americans, on average, can spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors. But, don’t fret. There are many simple and inexpensive ways you can improve your indoor air quality, starting now. Read more

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