Category Archives: Kids

Five fanciful fads for frugal fun

Frugal fun that doesn’t involve the TV

Frugal fun… without TV?! Yes, it’s possible! 🙂

Back a decade ago, our idea of frugal fun was watching our favorite shows on cable TV. After the cable no-service tech royally ticked me off, I cut the cable and went to satellite. We loved our DVR, and recorded CSI, History Channel and Discovery Channel shows, and cartoons for the kids.

However, we found that with two small (at the time) children, and full-time jobs, we would fall asleep trying to watch our favorite shows on the DVR. We were so exhausted with work and family, we had no time for frugal fun TV. After a few months, I asked R, “Why are we paying for this again?”

So, we cancelled satellite. That was at least nine years ago. Our family is living proof that one doesn’t need to have the TV on all the time. Yes, our children have survived without TV. 🙂

We have a 46” Sony HDTV, but we don’t even have rabbit ears. We use the TV for DVD’s which we check out free at the library. We also play on our game consoles; we buy used games for cheap (less than $10, sometimes less than $5). Sometimes, I use the TV with the iPad or MacBook Pro as a giant computer monitor, so we can look at photos or YouTube videos.

However, this article involves having frugal fun WITHOUT the TV. So, let’s begin….

  1. Read – Reading… the non-TV thing you can do with your eyes. Now, if you don’t have any of those old-timey things called “books”, you can also read tablets or computers. Find a good novel for a relaxing frugal fun get-away. Pick up a non-fiction and learn something new.
  2. Write – Hand-write a thank you note. Send a birthday card to a relative. Put a recipe on an index card. Even type out a quick Facebook post to let people know that you went “old school” and read a “book”.
  3. Eat – Yes, one of my favorite frugal fun things to do. 🙂 Clean out your fridge, and get rid of left-overs… by eating them. R often prepares veggies and fruits by washing and pre-cutting them. She puts them in air-tight bowls in the fridge or on the table, so it’s easy to snack on something healthy.
  4. Take a hike – Or a walk, or gallivant about the neighborhood. Make a family excursion of it. Grab the pets, and get the spouse and kids off the couch for frugal fun, fresh air, and easy exercise.
  5. Nap – Now that you have overcome your couch potato tendencies by going for a walk, return home for a short rest. Frugal fun can even be had while “doing nothing”. Set your timer and take a 20-30 minute power nap. Awaken recharged, refreshed, and ready to take on the rest of your day.

How about you? What is one of your favorite things to do for frugal fun?

10 ways to Host a Garage Sale and Win

A garage sale can be a win-win deal!

Garage sale season is coming! Want to earn extra money for the upcoming holidays? Want to get rid of some of the stuff around your house? Hosting a garage sale is a great way to do both.

A few years ago, we hosted a garage sale and earned over $500 cash in one weekend, while getting rid of things that had been cluttering up our home. None of our items were over $50, and very few of them were over $20 each. Most of them were in the $1 to $5 range. We followed several of the strategies I have listed below. Using them can help you get the most from your garage sale efforts:

  1. Start with the end in mind. What is most important to you? Do you mostly just want to get rid of excess stuff? Do you want to make a lot of cash? Do you want to have a combination of both? Do you have the time to plan and implement strategies for a successful garage sale? Would you be better served by dropping everything off at Goodwill?
  2. Start planning. Assuming you decide to proceed with a garage sale, plan your garage sale to succeed. Grab your calendar. Check family obligations, school events, and vacation/travel plans. Then check for holidays, school events, and climate trends. The longer people stay, the more likely they will buy something. Seriously, don’t plan your garage sale for holiday weekends, and don’t plan for the hottest/coldest time of the year. You want the greatest number of people to attend, so schedule your garage sale for maximum success.
  3. Start organizing. Pick a place in the house for future garage sale items to reside until the sale. When something is on longer wanted, immediately put it in that area. If you know where you will hold the garage sale, start thinking about how to organize it… clothes here, tools over there. Put large bright colored toys near the road, so they attract the eye.
  4. Location, Location, Location. Like real estate, a garage sale needs to be in the right place for maximum success. A residential neighborhood near a busy intersection is best. If your area has very little traffic, or if you live in a gated apartment complex, do you have a friend who lives in a busy area? Ask if you can have your sale there. Sweeten the deal; offer to help sell their stuff.
  5. Teamwork. Speaking of selling their stuff, a “multi-family” garage sale or a neighborhood garage sale is very popular with customers. Shoppers know they can see more stuff with less driving. Recruit your kids, or borrow someone else’s kids to help. Take shifts so everyone has time to eat, stretch their legs, or take a potty break. Have a trustworthy person stay with the cash ALL THE TIME. Team up with others, advertise together, build friendships, and sell more!
  6. Follow Rules. If you do decide to have a multi-family or neighborhood garage sale, or even if you go it alone, be sure to check with your local HOA or government officials to be sure you are not violating any laws, ordinances, or guidelines. Paying a fine from your garage sale proceeds would not be fun!
  7. Advertise. To get the greatest number of people to attend your garage sale, they have to know about your garage sale. The newspaper classifieds are the most common place to start. Make simple signs, with arrows, on bright, neon color posterboard, and put them at intersections. Use a wide-tip marker, so drivers can READ the sign. Craigslist is great option, as it is free, you can run the ad several days before the sale, it’s free, and you can add photos of some of the items. Also, it is free. 🙂
  8. Take Life Easy. Lay out your sale so that it is easy for your customers. The longer they stay, the more likely they are to buy. Think about traffic flow and parking. Think about traffic flow for the people walking around shopping. Hang your clothes up. Get a tag gun, and tag clothes with prices. Put stuff on tables, so Grannie doesn’t have to kneel down to look at it.
  9. Get Real. Even though the movie just came out, no one is going to pay $40 for a dirty, torn Teenage Mutated Ninja Tortise backpack from back when you were a kid. Ask for a realistic price. Your sentimental value is worthless to others.
  10. VIP Service. The longer people stay at your garage sale, the more likely they will buy something. Have t-shirt bags / plastic grocery bags available so they can carry their loot to the car. Offer to help them carry stuff to the car. Offer them cold water / hot chocolate, depending on the weather; sell it for a little extra cash, or offer it free if they purchase a certain amount. Have fun, upbeat music playing. Have a “free” box, especially with small things for little kids… old toy cars, etc. Give their kid something free, and a parent will feel more obligated to buy something from your garage sale.

Your customers have your money in their pocket. Treat them special, make them like you, make it easy for them to shop, and they will give that money to you.

Your turn… Have you had a successful garage sale? Tell us about it. What worked in your case? What do you wish you had tried? What suggestions do you have to make a garage sale rock?

25 Date Night Ideas for Under 25 Dollars

Date Night doesn’t have to break the budget!

Date night is not just for engaged couples or newlyweds. R & I have been married for nearly 16 years. Like any couple, we have cycles of up and down, closeness and distance, passion and apathy.

In an effort to help strengthen the ties that bind, I want to begin having date night more regularly.

When we were newlyweds, we had time and money. We had two incomes, the economy was much better, and we had more discretionary funds. We did everything together. Date night was often weekend getaways. Date night was sometimes dinner at a nice restaurant. She worked for an airline, and I had a company car; sometimes, we would travel domestically. We went camping, traveled with friends, went to the beach, or went to visit family. Date night might be the movies, bike riding, or hanging out with friends.

Now, we have two children and one income. The older daughter is VERY athletic, and attends public high school, in part so she can participate in organized sports. At school, in addition to JROTC, she is on the varsity basketball team, varsity soccer, and cross country. In the off-season, she is on a travel basketball team. Her coaches expect that she will get offered scholarships for basketball, as she LOVES the game and is an

Our younger daughter is homeschooled, so her schedule is a little more flexible. Still though, she is in Children’s Choir, with practice every Wednesday night. My wife works in the church nursery every Sunday. I have my day job during the week. Some Friday nights and weekends, I have events for my small business. I’m a DJ, and do 30-35 weddings annually, plus parties, school dances, corporate events, etc.

Why do I mention this (besides the fact that I am proud of our daughters)?

Because, life gets in the way of living. Date night is now going to Target, Lowe’s, or Wal-Mart. Often we are there for something the kids need. We have no family close by, so we can’t stay gone for long. Having kids is a blessing, but they are a big responsibility. Extracurricular activities take time and money. The need to make additional income for food, glasses, clothes, school supplies, and health insurance puts restrictions on the ability for the two of us to “get away” for date night.

In an effort to balance our desire for date night with the realities of our budget, I’m looking at more frequent, less expensive date nights. This is part of the “personal” of personal finance.

Since we are on a budget, I set a ‘soft” limit on most date nights to $25. There are many options for a date night on a budget. You just need a little bit of extra creativity and maybe some planning. Following are 25 ideas for date nights for 25 dollars or less.

Obviously, not all of these date nights will work for everyone. For example, we used to live one hour from the beach. Now, we live at least six hours from a beach, and fuel prices have at least doubled. There is no way we can visit a beach for less than $25 now, unless someone else is driving and paying for the gas!

25 Date Nights for Under $25

  1. Picnic – at the park, at the lake, even your living room floor if the weather is bad… one of our favorite dates, even before we were married
  2. Visit the beach – again, this used to be a favorite date, but we can’t drive there for $25 now
  3. Local arts and crafts festival – one of her favorite activities
  4. Visit a museum on half-priced or free day – A local art museum has a free Thursday night once a month. Perfect for date night! Also, if you have a membership to a local museum, often that membership is honored by other museums.
  5. Hike in a state park – it doesn’t have to be a long hike/camping trip… just watch out for poison ivy!
  6. Find a recipe, buy the ingredients, and bake something together. Invite another couple over to share your date night.
  7. Visit a free concert at a car show – downtown, at a high school, or in a park, this date night is popular during the summer in many cities
  8. Go to a matinee movie, “movie night in the park”, or have a double-date night with another couple at a drive-in movie
  9. Go to your local zoo – We haven’t lived in Houston for years, but the Houston Zoo used to be very inexpensive, due to corporate sponsors. They also had free days during the year.
  10. Libraries sometimes have drama night, where people will dress up and act out parts from a book. Another idea is a high school drama department play or show.
  11. “Taste of your city” – Local restaurants invade downtown and showcase their offerings.
  12. Groupon restaurant deal
  13. Volunteer in your community – the animal shelter, the nursing home, the hospital
  14. Take (or teach) a class at the library – art, beekeeping, dance, guitar
  15. Visit a local fair or circus (think Shriner’s, not Cirque du Soleil)
  16. Model clothing for each other at the mall… free date night, if you don’t buy anything
  17. Go shopping at a thrift shop or resale store – Goodwill, Salvation Army, ReStore, etc
  18. Do a home improvement project together – this date night could last several nights
  19. DIY decorations for your home – get an idea book at the library or look at Pinterest
  20. Visit a new neighborhood and look at model houses – get more ideas for your home improvement or decoration projects
  21. Have breakfast or lunch at a small diner or local “hole-in-the wall” café – ask the waitress what she recommends
  22. Eat at home, then go to a four-star restaurant… for dessert only 🙂
  23. Make dessert together, and invite another couple to bring ice cream
  24. Go meet the ice cream truck and buy ice cream for the neighborhood kids
  25. Use the $25 for gas and go on a day trip (just bring a lunch)

WHAT you do is less important than WHO you are doing it with. You are going on a date night to be together, as friends and lovers. Leave behind the distractions of work, bills, homework, business, yard work, and family responsibilities. Since your little ones aren’t there to be tugging on you, and your teens aren’t there to get grossed out… kiss, hold hands, look  into each other’s eyes.

Most importantly, during date night, put away your phone. Focus on each other. Be present, be engaged, be in the moment of date night with the one you love.