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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?

Frugal Fall Treats to Make with the Whole Family

With the lovely fall season comes a whole lot of delicious flavor profiles. While not everyone is a huge fan of the pumpkin overload, I happen to love the fall flavors. And so do the rest of our family. So it is a season that we look forward to all year long. But, some of these treats can get pretty expensive sometimes. This is especially true because all of our recipes are gluten free. So we have found a few of our favorite frugal fall treats to pass along to you so you can enjoy this season on a budget also.

Mini cheesecakes

I have been making these mini cheesecakes for years now. Everyone loves them and they are so simple to make. You can add in any surprise you want to the bottom also, to create more diversity. We like to use Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter cups.

  • 2 packages Cream Cheese (8 oz each) – $2.68 per package x 2 = $5.36
  • 2 Eggs – $2.46 per dozen/6 = $.41
  • ½ Cup Sugar – 32 oz bag = $3.75/4 = $.94
  • ½ tsp Vanilla – 2 oz bottle = $2.14/24 = $.09
  • 6 Gluten Free Graham Crackers – $5.36 per box (14 crackers per box)/14 = $.38 per cracker x 6 = $2.28
  • 4 Tbsp Butter (1/2 stick) – 1 lb = $4.29/8 = $.54
  • 12 Mini Reese’s (or regular) size Peanut Butter Cups – $3.20 per bag/40 pieces per bag = $.08 x 12 pieces = $.96

Total per batch = $10.58 or $.88 per cheesecake

Recipe

This recipe is pretty simple, which makes it easy to include your kids. I can tell you that my kids favorite part is opening all of the Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter cups and putting them in the top of each crust.

Recipe:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Open cream cheese and place in a large mixing bowl to come to room temperature. You may want to do this an hour or so before you plan to begin, just so that it is softened enough to work with.
  • Grind GF Graham Crackers in a Bullet, Vitamix, or good old fashioned blender.
  • Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl.
  • Add GF Graham Crackers to melted butter and stir until crackers are thoroughly soaked
  • Line muffin pan with muffin tins/liners.
  • Using your hands, press each muffin tin with the graham cracker/butter crust.
  • Open all Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and place one on top of the crust in each muffin tin.
  • Add eggs, sugar, and vanilla into the large mixing bowl with cream cheese.
  • Mix on medium speed until smooth, approximately 4 – 10 minutes.
  • Spoon cream cheese mixture to each lined muffin tin until approximately 3/4 full
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, depending on oven.
  • Check with a toothpick to make sure they are done and then let cool at room temperature.
  • Remove them from the muffin tin once they are cooled.
  • ENJOY!

One of the biggest perks to these is that you can put different surprises inside each one, if you want to get really creative. And each one is just enough for a good serving, so you don’t have to worry about eating too much or making a huge mess.

Butternut Squash soup

Butternut squash soup is a newer addition to our favorite frugal fall treats. But, it is not only delicious but really nutritious also. Bonus!

The ingredients, and costs, are as follows:

  • 1 Whole Butternut Squash – $1.99 per squash
  • 4 Shallots – $1.99 (per bag of 9)/9 = $.22 each x 4 = $.88
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic – $.99 (3 bulbs per package)/3 = $.33 each/12 (cloves per bulb) = $.028 x 4 = $.11
  • 4 cups Low Sodium Vegetable Broth – $1.99 per 4 cup container
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil – $6.99 (per 1 L bottle = 66 Tbsp)/66 = $.11 x 2 = $.22
  • 3 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme – $1.69 (20 sprigs per package)/20 = $.085 each x 3 = $.25
  • ½ tsp Salt – $1.49 (per 4.5 oz jar w/grinder)/ 135 (servings per jar, 1/8 tsp each) = $.01 x 4 = $.04
  • ¼ tsp Smoked Paprika – $5.49 (per 1 oz jar)/40 (servings per jar, ¼ tsp each) = $.14
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon – 5.49 (per .8 oz jar)/36 (servings per jar, ¼ tsp each) = $.15
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg – $4.29 (per 1 oz jar)/36 (servings per jar, ¼ tsp each) = $.12/2 = $.06
  • 2 Bay Leaves – $2.95 (per ½ oz bag)/30 (per bag, approximately) = $.098 x 2 = $.20
  • 2 Tbsp Pomegranate Seeds – $1.59 per whole pomegranate/16 = $.10 each x 2 = $.20
  • ½ oz Arugula – $2.49 (7 oz package)/7 per oz = $.36/2 = $.18

Total Price: $6.41 or $1.60 per bowl

I can tell you that this is a heck of a lot cheaper than any butternut squash soup I have gotten out at a restaurant. And the flavor profile and nutrients are so much better also.

Recipe

In order to make this recipe, you need to:

  • Peel the butternut squash.
  • Fully de-seed the squash. (Kids can definitely help with this step!)
  • Chop into larger chunks.
  • Dice the shallots.
  • Mince the garlic.
  • Heat pan to Medium heat and grease with olive oil.
  • Add shallots, garlic and half of the salt to pan.
  • Sweat down for approximately 3 minutes.
  • Add butternut squash to pan.
  • Cook for approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Add all spices and remaining salt and stir in thoroughly.
  • Add vegetable broth and bay leaves.
  • Turn heat up to High and reach a boil.
  • Once boiling, reduce to Low heat and simmer for approximately 25 minutes, until squash is tender.
  • Remove thyme stems and bay leaves.
  • Pour soup into a blender or food processor.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Add extra salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
  • Pour into bowls and garnish with arugula and pomegranate seeds.
  • Enjoy!

Our kids like to help with the blending part of this recipe, so that is a great area for little helpers. They also like to garnish the top of the soup with the arugula and pomegranate. A few of them like to add pumpkin seeds also, for extra crunch.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies are something I have been making for as long as I can remember. Not only are they delicious and easier to make than any other cookies, but they are also super budget-friendly. Plus the kids can help with every step of this recipe.

Here are the ingredients and costs for this recipe:

  • 16 oz Organic Peanut Butter – $2.12
  • 1 C Cane Sugar – $.96
  • 2 Egg Whites – $.40
  • 2 oz Dark Chocolate Chips – $.26

TOTAL = $3.74 (24 cookies) or $.16 per cookie

Recipe

And if you thought the ingredient list was short, you should see the actual recipe! The only steps required are:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Throw peanut butter, sugar and eggs into a bowl.
  • Mix on medium until batter is consistent.
  • Hand roll each cookie ball and drop it onto a cookie sheet.
  • Create a cross fork pattern on top of each cookie to smash them down.
  • Decorate the top of each cookie in whatever design you want with the chocolate chips.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes.

This whole process can be a really fun family event. Especially if you all take turns decorating the cookies, since everyone likes different designs.

Pumpkin Avocado Chocolate Pudding

Pumpkin Avocado Chocolate Pudding is very new to our frugal fall treats recipe list. But, so far, it’s been a big hit! Of all the recipes, this one has the most nutrient denseness and overall flavor. So, if you  haven’t ever tried this, now is as good a time as any.

The ingredients and cost breakdown for this recipe are:

  • 2 Ripe Avocados – $2.68
  • 1/2 C Pumpkin Puree – $.59
  • 1/2 C Cocoa Powder – $1.77
  • 1/2 C Coconut Milk – $.70
  • 8 Dates (softened) – $1.83
  • 2 t Pumpkin Pie Spice (or any other spices you prefer) – $1.03

TOTAL = $8.60 (4 servings) or $2.15 per serving

Recipe

You can always add some natural sweetener if you don’t feel the recipe is sweet enough for you. But I would suggest trying it this way first. In order to make this recipe, all you have to do is

  • Put all ingredients into a Vitamix or blender.
  • Blend until the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour into individual containers.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour to set.

Out of all of the recipes, this one is also the simplest to make. Therefore, you kids can help with every step of the process. Including washing dishes!

Frugal fall treats summary

Overall, there are so many great frugal fall treats to enjoy this season. But our favorites are all budget-friendly, delicious, gluten free and nutritious. Well, the peanut butter cookies may be a stretch on the last one. But these cookies are much better options than any other peanut butter recipe I have found out there yet.

So, if you are looking for some delicious fall treats to make with your family, check these out. We would love to hear what you think of them!

What are some of your favorite frugal fall treats to make with the whole family?

How to Change Your Debt Mindset

When it comes to being in debt, we all have a lot of preconceived notions surrounding the situation. After all, nobody wants to be in debt. But, in today’s society, it is very common to start out adulthood in debt right out of the gate. And even if you get to a point where you are able to get out of debt, it can be so easy to slip right back into it. So, if you are currently in debt, there are some great ways to change your debt mindset to help you finally get out of debt. And hopefully stay out of debt, while you are at it.

How you got into debt in the first place

The first step to changing your debt mindset, is to take a very hard look at how you got there. After all, if you don’t know how you got there to begin with, you can easily fall right back into debt.

So, begin really taking a deep dive into your financial past. This includes not only how you have been spending money, but how those money habits and beliefs formed in the first place. Ultimately, our perception of money begins at very early ages and grows from there. So, if your parents didn’t have a great relationship with money, or they didn’t talk to you about it, then it stands to reason you developed a similar mindset.

Beginning with your money story and/or beliefs that have currently shaped your perception of money is what can really help you get to the crux of the issue. Once you have figured out where you came from, and why you believe what you believe, then you can begin to change.

Change takes time, for all of us. But, if you don’t want to repeat the same harmful patterns, change must occur.

What’s your why?

In order for that change to not only occur, but be a permanent change, you have to have a strong why. What this means is that you need to have a very good reason why you want this change to occur. Living in the same damaging cycle over and over again can be very exhausting. It can wear you down and cause all sorts of mental breakdowns. Some of the most common include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Insecurity
  • Anger

In order to break these cycles, a strong why is necessary. Having a strong why is not only important to break harmful financial cycles, but it can be seen a lot when people want to change their health for the better. Many people say they want to live stronger, healthier and skinnier, but when it comes down to actually doing the work, they fall short. This is because they haven’t determined their why yet.

So, determine your why to begin really reshaping how you think about money and finances. Some great reasons “why” people might want to change their debt mindset are:

  • Don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck anymore
  • Want to be able to travel
  • Dreams of retiring early
  • Want to change careers
  • Aspirations of a better living situation
  • Want to be able to go through day to day life without the constant stress of money

Even if none of the aforementioned speak to you, it’s important to find your driving factor in order to create the change. So, what is your why?

communicate openly

At this point, you have already determined how you got in the debt mess in the first place and your why to get out of it permanently. Which is awesome! However, this new mindset needs to be communicated openly with everyone in your world.

Whenever we change something foundational about ourselves or our lives, it has a tendency to throw those around us for a loop. A good example of this is when somebody who has smoked most of their life, suddenly decides to quit. This is already an extremely hard habit to break. But, if you don’t have the support of those around you, it can become exceptionally easy to fall back into old habits. Especially if anyone around you still continues to smoke.

The same can be said when people are trying to lose weight, work out more or just trying to change their eating lifestyle. Misery loves company and most people don’t want you to change because it’s familiar the way it is.

Therefore, you need to be comfortable and confident enough to communicate exactly what you are changing about your life and why you need their support to make it happen. If the ones you love can’t support you on this healthier financial journey, then that might be a bigger issue all in itself.

debt mindset summary

Overall, changing your money story and your debt mindset can be a difficult road to travel. In order to really be effective with changing your mindset and your money story, you have to start at the beginning. Dig deep into how you got where you are and why you believe what you believe about money and finances.

Then move onto your why. Why do you want to change your perception of money? What is the bigger picture you are trying to accomplish so that you can live a happier and more well balanced life?

And last, but not least, then you must communicate this information to your loved ones. Explain why you want to change your perception of money to get out of debt and what you want to gain out of it. Ask them to help you stay on track and motivate you.

Take this deep dive and begin the journey to make these changes. If you do, and are willing to put in the work, the rewards can be outstanding.

Have you ever considered changing your debt mindset to change your financial life? If so, how did you do it and what were the results?

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 We Are Surviving Through COVID 19

As pretty much everyone in the world knows now, COVID 19 has completely changed our world. We were all set to go on our big joint 40th birthday trip to Greece in the middle of March when all of this hit. Obviously, that didn’t work out for us and we are extremely disappointed, to say the least. But, at least we are home safe with our family and not trapped in another country.

But since all of this has unfolded, it has changed every aspect of our lives, as I am sure it has for you too. So I want to talk about what we have been doing now that our world has turned upside down, both financially and in every other way.

Unemployment

As has happened to most other American’s, we have lost a significant amount of our income. My spouse is a chef, so when all restaurants were mandated to close, his job went along with it. That doesn’t even include me, as a small business owner, but we will get to that in the next section.

Once his restaurant closed, we thought we were stuck. But, due to the wide reaching impact of COVID 19, unemployment insurance was opened up to any and all W2 employees that were affected. My spouse included.

So, we applied for him to begin getting unemployment. Although, this sounds easier than it actually was. So many people were applying that North Carolina’s system kept crashing. It took us 2 days to finally complete his application, with all supporting documentation. And another week and a half for them to approve him.

While it is awesome that he is receiving unemployment benefits now, North Carolina is one of the few states that doesn’t offer a full 26 weeks of unemployment, but only 12 weeks. We are hoping that will be mandated to change due to the circumstances, but only time will tell.

paycheck protection program

As for me, the new CARES Act states I should qualify for unemployment. I did apply for myself also, but the system keeps kicking me out and telling me that I am ineligible. I think they will eventually figure it out, but due to the fact that unemployment has never had to take self-employed or small business owners, they simply don’t have the infrastructure to handle us yet.

So, I spoke to another entrepreneur I know and was informed that I simply had to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to get funding for my business. At first, I didn’t want to apply because I didn’t want to be on the hook for a loan. But, the way this one is structured is that the loan is supposed to be forgiven entirely, as long as you only use it for approved items. Those items include payroll and up to 25% of the loan for utilities to keep the business operational.

I just applied 2 days ago and haven’t heard anything back yet. But since each individual bank has to approve it through their underwriter first, and then it goes to the SBA for their approval, it could take a while. Either way, I am crossing my fingers that one of these avenues pans out for me, because I have lost about 90% of my business currently.

food stamps

Another option that I looked into was food stamps, or the SNAP program. While the parameters are different in every state, we happen to qualify in ours. Even though my spouse and I aren’t married, we share a household and 5 kids, so we fall into a household size of 7. Due to our incomes being decimated, we more than qualify for the food and nutrition assistance program.

And even though I really don’t want to go back on food stamps, I will take whatever help I can get right now. Especially since our family size could potentially get us a little over $1000 for groceries each month while all of this is going on. That would really help take a lot of the financial stress off and comes in under what our normal grocery budget is. Even though I applied a week ago, and my application is still pending, I am crossing my fingers that they will approve us any day now.

homeschooling

While I began homeschooling one child this year, I am now pretty much homeschooling 4 more. Yes, I said 4 more! The 1 child was more of a challenge than I initially thought, but it has been great for him. And great for our relationship too. So, it has been very worth the extra work on my end for both of us.

But, now due to schools being closed until potentially next school year, we have 4 more kids who need some educational guidance. I realize that it is different in every state and county, but ours hasn’t started mandating any sort of virtual instruction yet. And they have been out of school for over 3 weeks now.

So, I have been busy figuring out all of their weaknesses and assigning work to help them improve. Of course, that has been a lot more work for me and my spouse. And certainly some tears and frustration on the kids end. But, it has really helped us see where they are lacking in their education. Therefore, the positive is that this time can only help us help them improve.

home improvement projects

As I am sure a lot of us are doing, we have been tackling a lot of home improvement projects. Most of ours have been talked about for quite some time but kept getting pushed to the back-burner. So, now that we have a whole lot more time on our hands, we are taking advantage.

We haven’t been going out to spend a lot of money on supplies. That would just hurt our bottom line right now. Instead, we have been doing things such as:

  • weeding
  • blowing hardscapes
  • pressure washing
  • reset our patio and put in polymeric sand (if you don’t know what this stuff is, it’s awesome!)
  • moving random pavers to create another small patio outside my office
  • cutting down trees
  • trimming bushes
  • cleaning out storage shed
  • reorganizing my office so I can actually look out my window and open my door to the outside world
  • going through all of the kids clothes, games, random stuff and downsizing everything
  • building garden boxes

I am sure there is more that I am forgetting, and there will be more in the future. I figure that our house and yard will look and feel the best it ever has once we all come out of this. So why not take advantage of the time we have been given?

exercise

This is a category that I have been slacking on of late due to working too much. And trying to spend more time with the kids. So, even though I normally do a lot of yard work and walk a lot of dogs for one of my businesses, it still isn’t enough for me.

My spouse loves to play disc golf and I love to hike. So, we have a great compromise of playing disc golf together on more challenging courses with more diverse terrain. That way I can get my hiking in and he gets to throw.

And due to COVID 19, we have had the time to go play some much further out courses that we have never been able to get to before. Which has been a lot of fun when we don’t have the kids.

I also love to bike but haven’t really had the time for that either, until recently. My normal bike mileage on the Greenway is somewhere between 35-40 miles when I ride regularly. But, since I just started getting back into it, I am starting back out at 15-20 miles. It shouldn’t take me too long to build back up to my normal mileage. But, it’s disappointing to see how far behind I’ve fallen.

Although, I have loved being able to get back out on my bike, ride hands free and just enjoy the wind and the nature.

covid 19 new world summary

Overall, we are all being severely affected by COVID 19. It has changed the whole landscape of our world. And while the up side is that none of us are sick, this has still been a challenge.

We have been looking into any and all resources that might be able to help us financially during this time to assist with taking some of the stress off. And while we now have kids at home for school, it has been a blessing also because it is has helped us see where they could use more help. The extra time has granted us more time for home and yard projects, as well as more exercise time.

So, while this has been challenging, it has also been a beautiful gift. And ultimately, how we choose to perceive what is going on can have a huge affect on how we come out of this. So we are choosing to try and look at all of this in a positive light. We don’t know what our world will look like when we come out the other side. Cut our goal is to do the best we can with the time we have right now and just be grateful.

How has COVID 19 affected your family and how have you been handling it?

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?