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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 We Plan to Celebrate Super Bowl During COVID

Let’s face it, COVID has changed how all of us live our lives. And this includes how we get together and celebrate even the little things in life. Since the Super Bowl is almost upon us, this is something we have certainly been thinking about recently. We usually go to a big Super Bowl party every year with friends and family. But this year it seems that may not be the best way to celebrate and still stay safe. So, here are the ways we are contemplating celebrating Super Bowl during COVID this year.

how can we Celebrate Super Bowl During covid?

The first thing we have to decide with regard to a Super Bowl party is whether or not to have a socially distanced party or celebrate it virtually. The decision will not be the same for all of us, but ultimately you need to decide which of these options makes the most sense for you and your family.

If the socially distanced Super Bowl party makes the most sense for you, then there are some great ways you can make this work effectively and economically. These include:

  • Provide football themed masks available for your guests or ask that all guests wear a football themed mask upon arrival
  • Masks should be worn whenever guest are not eating or drinking
  • Space seating areas 6’ apart for different groups (so that families can still sit together but still socially distance)
  • Set up smaller food stations in multiple areas of the house
  • Have a separate beverage station that only one person will be managing to minimize contact
  • Have different viewing screens in different areas inside and outside, when possible

However, if having a virtual Super Bowl party feels more comfortable for you instead, then that can be fairly easily achieved also. Some good ways to pull this off are:

  • Pick a designated time to begin your virtual streaming call with friends and family
  • Set up your food and beverage table within sight of your streaming device so all your friends and family can see how cool your football themed table is
  • Share food and beverage recipes ahead of time
  • Spitball games to play during commercials and/or half time
  • Participants in the virtual games can put money into the pot via a money payment app to avoid contact
  • Create some fun contests for everyone to participate in

super bowl party must haves

Once you’ve narrowed down which kind of Super Bowl party you’re having, then it’s time to dig into the must haves for a great party. All of these party items should be multifunctional so that you can use them for other things throughout the year. This way, you can help minimize the overall cost since you will be using them for more than just one party.

No matter what, there are a few must haves that can really make your Super Bowl party shine. These items should include:

  • Larger TV or projector for viewing the game
  • Super Bowl themed games
  • One or two good grills
  • Diverse grilling tool set
  • Party food & beverages
  • Serving dishes

TV or Projector Options

The TV will be the most expensive thing on the list, but there are ways to make this work. If you already have a great TV that will do the job well, then adding a projector might just be a great way to go. These have become much more economical in the past few years and can be moved around to so many different places. I found a great projector that comes with a screen for under $100, which I think is awesome. This way we can move it to a completely different room, or possibly even outside to show the game on the side of the house. And, this is something we could use all year long, which helps offset the initial cost.

But, if you don’t have a great TV, now is a really good time to buy one. The end of January through Super Bowl weekend is usually when a lot of companies have the deepest discounts on TV’s. So, keep an eye out for great deals on 65″ – 75″ TV’s during this time. They will definitely cost you more money than the projector, but this is another item you can easily use all year long.

Super Bowl Themed Games

There are plenty of games to choose from when it’s party time. So, if you already have some favorites, then start with those. For us, personally, there are two games we really like to play during the Super Bowl especially.

The football squares game is a huge Super Bowl party past time for us. This game can be played during Super Bowl, but also with all other sports games throughout the year. Each player chooses squares on the board they think will be winners and if they are correct they win the pot at the end of each quarter. Each column and row have on number on them and will denote the last number in the score for each team at the end of the quarter. This game can be a lot of fun, but get super competitive, so watch out! And this is a really good game to celebrate Super Bowl during COVID since you don’t need to have physical contact with one another.

Another favorite party game we like to play is cornhole. This game can be seen at parties and bars all over the US recently, so it is much easier to find now. If you aren’t sure which team you want to root for, then you can choose a cornhole set that is just sports themed so you can play it all year long for any football games. Overall, though, this is a fun backyard game just to have on hand for every day fun, Super Bowl party or not.

Grills

Having the right grill, or grills, is an essential part of any party, Super Bowl or otherwise. We actually like to have two grills on hand to begin with. One is a larger grill for feeding our whole family or party purposes. While the second grill is a smaller tabletop grill to bring out at parties or for traveling. If you don’t plan to do a lot of grilling throughout the year, then the smaller tabletop version may just be a perfect fit for you.

Either way, you can pick up a grill for fairly cheap in most cases. And since we prefer to cook with charcoal, these grills are usually a lot cheaper than the gas versions. Of course, there are also some hybrid grill options out there now that are charcoal but have a gas igniter, which are pretty cool. No matter which version, or versions, of the grill you go with, make sure it be used throughout the year to help offset the costs of the purchase.

Grilling Tool Sets

Once the grill has been sorted out, grilling tools are the next natural step. We prefer to keep two sets of diverse grilling tool sets on hand. A big part of this isn’t necessarily for parties, but they come in handy then too. But we use one set for indoor cooking/grilling and another specifically for outdoor grilling/cooking. Either way, these sets can be pretty easy to find and very cost effective. So, if you plan to have a Super Bowl party, this is when having more than one set can really help.

Getting a smaller set for more everyday use that has 2-4 pieces is a great way to start. But, if you want to get really fancy, you can upgrade to a huge multipiece grilling set with all the bells and whistles. In most cases, you can pick a pretty decent grilling tool set up easily for under $20, and sometimes even under $10. So this is one thing that certainly won’t break the bank.

Party Food & Beverages

No Super Bowl party is complete without a great selection of food and beverages. Of course, everyone is going to have a different idea of which types of food and beverages they want to have. But, here is a list of some of our favorite options:

  • Chicken wings
  • Chips
  • Cocktail wieners
  • Dips
  • Football cookies
  • Hamburgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Meatballs
  • Potato skins
  • Sliders
  • Beer (bottles, cans or a keg)
  • Football themed mixed drinks (Tequila Touchdown)
  • Wine

Ultimately, it’s great to have others brings some of their favorite football party food also. Since providing all of the food for a party can really do some damage to your budget, having a pot luck can really help offset the costs.

Serving Dishes

Once you have decided what food and beverages you will be having at your party, then it’s time to figure out what you will be serving them in. Some of my favorite options are:

  • Football themed party set (usually has plates, napkins, silverware, cups)
  • Large party napkins
  • Paper or plastic plates (different sizes usually come in handy)
  • Disposable silverware
  • Disposable Cups (with a marker to write guests names on the cups)
  • Tongs (disposable plastic kind or the metal heavier kind)
  • Football shaped chip and dip platter
  • Larger round serving platter or two
  • Tiered serving stands
  • Chafers and sternos for keeping food warm
  • Large cooler for beers and cold food

How to Celebrate Super Bowl During COVID Summary

Overall, there are quite a few different ways we can choose to celebrate Super Bowl during COVID. And each way will be totally up to you and your individual situation. But ultimately, the Super Bowl is a great time of year where a lot of us can get together to socialize and cheer on our favorite team. Along with laugh at some of the crazy half time commercials! But, because of COVID, we have to be a lot more careful how we celebrate with each other. Whether we celebrate by social distancing or virtually, there is still a lot of the same party items and food involved. We can stay safe but still have a great time. And here’s hoping the Super Bowl next year will be back to normal!

How do you plan to celebrate Super Bowl during COVID this year?

Some of My Favorite Shopping Apps This Holiday Season

The holidays are upon us once again. And with only a few shopping days left, we have to make the most of it. But, with holiday shopping can sometimes come holiday debt. That is the last thing any of us want. Therefore, I have found some great shopping apps that can help you save more money. Plus, they can be used all year long for any shopping possible to save even more. This is what I call a shopping win!

 IBOTTA

Ibotta has been one of my favorite shopping apps for quite awhile now. With Ibotta, you can either shop in person or online. If you choose to shop online, you have to shop directly within the Ibotta app in order to get the rebate. If you shop in person, you have to upload an image of your receipt in the app to get the rebate.

A lot of the rebates go across multiple stores, which makes shopping even easier. However, I usually look up the store I am planning to shop at first to see what Ibotta rebates are being currently offered first. Then, if I find items that I am thinking about buying, I will see which other stores they might be offered at within Ibotta. Once you find items you plan to purchase, then click the plus sign to add them to your list before you can earn the rebate.

Once you go through all of the steps, your rebate will show up in your Ibotta account fairly quickly. Sometimes I have seen mine as quickly as 5 minutes later. But more often than not, I see the rebate the next day. Some stores are now automatically connected to your shopping rewards number with that store. And in those cases, the rebates will be automatically added to your account within 24 hours. I like this even more because I don’t have to scan anything. Just remember to use your store shopping rewards information when you check out in store so that you can get the Ibotta rewards.

Cash Out Ibotta Rewards

But that’s not the only way to earn money with Ibotta. They have regular rewards categories and group participation bonuses to help you earn more faster. Click under the “Earn More” tab to find other ways to add more money to your account. Some of the ways to earn more include:

  • refer a friend
  • working with your team to hit the monthly bonus amount
  • purchasing a specific featured product
  • purchasing a specific group of products

Once your Ibotta account reaches $20, you can cash it out. PayPal is the primary way to redeem your Ibotta rewards, but they also offer some gift card options too. In fact, I just recently cashed out my Ibotta rewards balance for an Amazon gift card. And then I used that gift card to buy Christmas presents for the family. Now that’s a win!

RAKUTEN EBATES

Another one of my favorite apps/extensions is Rakuten. I have this on both my computer as an extension and on my phone as an app. If you put it on your computer, then it runs in the background anytime you are shopping on a website. It will pop up and tell you if there are any current rebate offers for that seller. Which, during the holiday season, are much higher than normal, so take advantage!

If there is a current rebate with Rakuten, then just click on the “Activate % Cash Back” button at the top right-hand side of your screen. Once you’ve completed that, you are on your way to getting cash back rebates.

If you choose to use the app on your phone, you have to launch your shopping trip directly from the app, just like Ibotta. Once you purchase something that qualifies for a rebate, you’ll get an email with the store and the amount you will receive. That amount will be deposited into your Rakuten account within a couple of days, usually.

Their cash out method is slightly different than Ibotta, though. They send a “Big Fat Check” every quarter for whatever you happen to have in your account. It can be sent as a physical check or you can connect your bank account for them to direct deposit it to. I prefer the latter method, personally.

Honey

Honey is another app/extension that I have been using for years now. This one is very similar to both Ibotta and Rakuten. Except that it helps to find coupon codes online and then apply them to your checkout order to save you money.

Any time you shop online, Honey will pop up on merchant pages that they work with to tell you how many coupon codes they have. When you are ready to check out, just click on the pop up and it will run through all of the coupon codes to see which one gets you the biggest discount, if any. Then it will automatically apply it. This can potentially save a lot of time scouring the internet for coupon codes. And I know it has helped me save a lot of money that I otherwise might not have.

On top of saving you money on your purchases, you could also qualify to earn Honey Gold. The gold points accumulate in your account until you reach a minimum of 1,000 coins and then you can cash them out for gift card rewards. It just doesn’t get any sweeter!

COUPONCABIN

CouponCabin is another hybrid app, like Honey. They not only have coupons for thousands of different websites, but they also offer rebates up to 10% off on some sites. Take, for example, right now they have a $100 bonus on any order over $100 purchased from Kohl’s. That can really help you ring in the savings this holiday season!

Plus, you get a $2 bonus cash back reward just for signing up. And if you add the app to your phone and shop within a certain amount of time, you get another $5 bonus. The payout methods are a little more diverse than some of the other options. With CouponCabin, you can cash out your balance to:

  • Amazon gift card (they give you an extra 10% back for using this method)
  • Check
  • Chase payments
  • Charitable donation
  • Direct deposit
  • PayPal

This gives you a lot more leeway with what you can do with your rewards.

BEST Holiday Shopping APPS SUMMARY

Ultimately, there isn’t much time left to get your holiday shopping done. But, by adding some, or all of these shopping apps to your arsenal, you are bound to save more money. Plus, you can even earn money for future purchases. Which is what I call a huge holiday win-win!

What are some of your favorite shopping apps?

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?

Why a UTMA Account is an Awesome Way to Help Kids Save

When it comes to helping kids save money, there are just so many different options. Of course, you could go with the traditional savings account. However, those generally don’t keep up with the rate of inflation, so they will actually be losing money. There are also money market accounts and CD’s, which can be some other better options. And if your child has any earned wages, then you can open up a custodial Roth IRA for them. Roth IRA’s can earn the highest market returns of an average 8%. But, if they don’t have any earned income, you can’t use those types of accounts. This is where a UTMA account comes into play instead.

What is a utma account?

A UTMA account is a Uniform Transfers to Minors Act account. This is a custodial account that is for taxable investing. Which is slightly different than a Roth IRA account, in that anything your child withdraws from the account in the future will be taxed.

We opened all of UTMA accounts at Fidelity, since they are one of the few that have custodial accounts. Initially, we planned to open all of the Roth IRA’s and UTMA’s with Betterment, since that is where our Roth IRA’s are. But, we found out that they don’t support custodial accounts yet, so that wasn’t an option.

Since I had an old 401k with Fidelity, it just made the most sense to stick with them. Plus, their customer service is amazingly helpful. So, if you decide to open either a Roth IRA or a UTMA for your child, you can call them and they will walk you through the whole process.

HOw can it be funded?

UTMA accounts can be funded through any account you care to connect to it. They don’t have the restrictions that Roth IRA’s do when it comes to the funding or where it comes from. What this means is that you can attach any account with EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) capability to each UTMA. Most banks won’t open anything other than a savings account for younger children, which don’t have EFT functionality, though. So, if you have younger children, you will probably have to fund their UTMA accounts with your own checking account.

Initially, we found out that some of the kids had savings bonds purchased for them when they were first born. Instead of just letting them sit there earning very little interest, we decided to cash them out and put the money into their UTMA accounts instead.

However, you can put money into these accounts at any time for any reason. So it wouldn’t just have to be from old savings bonds.

We also found that some grandparents like to give money for birthdays and holidays. Or they send us a check to get their gifts and we don’t spend all of it. So we have started putting that “extra” money into their UTMA accounts also. This way it will really help the kids in the future because they don’t even realize the money is there. And, they aren’t just getting more toys for us to break our toes on. Bonus for us!

With that being said, here are some ways you can think about funding your children’s UTMA accounts:

  • Old savings bonds
  • Extra birthday money
  • Allowance money
  • Side hustle money (kid’s lemonade stand, yard work, etc.)
  • Money for good grades
  • Gifts (just because)

teaching about investing

One of my favorite things about these accounts, besides how easy they are to fund, is that it helps us teach them about investing. Even the youngest one, at the ripe old age of 8, has found this to be a lot of fun.

Once you put money into the UTMA account, it just sits there in a money market earning basically nothing until you choose your investments. The kids can invest in mutual funds, individual stocks or ETF’s.

Teaching them the difference between the three is just the beginning of the lesson. Once they grasp the different types of accounts, then I let them find companies they are interested in. I had to explain what publicly traded meant a few times, but once they got that concept, they were on a roll.

After they wrote down a list of everything they were interested in, then came the extra fun part for me. I like for the child to see how certain assets are performing before they decide whether to pull the trigger or not. There are many different places to look up ticker symbols to find out how they are performing.

Marketwatch is a good one to start with because it is very in depth. But, if you can’t remember where to go, you can always just type in the ticker symbol in the Google search box and the first thing it usually pulls up is how the stock is performing.

I like to make sure the kids see how an asset has been performing for the past 6 months, 1 year and 5 years. A lot of times this has changed their mind about purchasing a certain fund because they don’t like how it has been performing.

I answer all of their questions to the best of my ability, but I don’t want to choose for them. This is a huge learning experience for them while they are young, so I don’t want to push them one way or another. After all, if they lose money on their choices right now, it won’t really hurt them financially in the future. So this a great time to get their feet wet.

utma account summary

Overall, opening up a UTMA account for your child is a great way to help save for their future. While these accounts are a bit different than Roth IRA accounts, they operate fairly similarly with rate of returns. These accounts have the potential to net your children some great interest on money they aren’t spending while they are young. Which means they have the opportunity to create a decent sized nest egg before they leave your nest.

Plus, you get to teach them about investing and the stock market. Which is a great lesson to learn while they are young. I know I wish my parents would have taught me more about it when I was younger, because I would have been a much savvier investor in my early twenties. But, you can’t change the past, only the future. And that is exactly what we are trying to do with our children by opening up UTMA accounts for them now.

Have you heard of a UTMA account or opened one up? If so, what has been your experience with them so far?

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?

Our Favorite Ways to Save Money at the Movies

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

Groupon, Living Social & Fandango

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

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

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

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

Matinee & Tuesday Movies

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

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

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

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

Late Run Theaters

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

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

Theater Website

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

Most of the time this discount is:

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

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

Summer Movie Programs

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

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

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

Specialty Discounts

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

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

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

Divvy Up the Snacks

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

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

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

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

Save Money at the Movies

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

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

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

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

Awesome Budget Friendly Foods to Boost Your Health

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

Turmeric

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Pepper

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

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

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

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

Cinnamon

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

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

Some of the most common health benefits of cinnamon are:

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

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

Star Anise

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

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

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

Some of the best health affects of star anise are:

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

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

Algae

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

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

Some of the most common health benefits of algae are:

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

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

Most awesome budget friendly foods

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

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

How to Keep More of Your Money This Year

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

Setting financial goals

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

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

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

Open a high yield savings account

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

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

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

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

Stay focused on your financial goals

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

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

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

Pay off your credit card

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

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

Determine Needs vs. wants

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

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

Keep More of Your Money

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

Just remember to:

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

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

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

How Can You Get the Best Car Insurance Rates?

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

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

Car Insurance features

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

Comprehensive insurance

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

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

Collision coverage

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

Roadside assistance and towing

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

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

Rental car insurance

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

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

Bodily injury insurance

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

  • Death
  • Injury
  • Lawsuit
  • Sickness

Property damage insurance

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

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

Uninsured motorist coverage

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

Medical expense insurance

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

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

PIP insurance

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

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

GAP insurance

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

Comparison sites

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

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

These types of sites include:

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

These sites are:

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

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

best Car insurance rates summary

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

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

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