Family

Budget-Friendly Kids

Posted on May 13, 2013. Filed under: Family, Finances | Tags: , , , |

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Let’s face it. We all want to give our kids the world. We even measure our success on being able to give our kids more than our parents gave us. What we fail to realize is that the best gift we can give our children is to teach them responsibility. Ironically, to do this you can’t give them everything! Go figure. The reality is that they will not be given anything once they get out in the real world. If you give them everything they want now and then they succumb to their immediate wants as adults, they (and you) will be setting themselves up for financial failure.

What it really boils down to is you can’t compromise your financial situation by getting your kids everything they ask for. In keeping your financial situation in order, you teach your kids that money does not grow on trees and that there has to be accountability for every dollar you spend. To help you keep your finances in check, you should implement (and stick to!) a budget for your kids. Holidays, birthdays and special rewards should all come with a firm price tag that your children (and you!) must adhere to. Sticking to a budget doesn’t always mean telling your kids no to everything they ask for. In fact, creating a budget creates an opportunity for you and your children to be extremely resourceful. They learn to think outside-the-box as they opt for less conventional outlets to get their items from. They are also taught invaluable lessons in researching, saving, and all-around patience.

Here are five tips on how to stick to a budget and get everything on your kids’ wish list:

1. Determine budgets for holidays, birthdays, etc. well in advance so that everyone is aware of how much money they will have to spend. For older children, this budget should be communicated. However, for younger children, the budget is more of a FYI for yourself!

2. Have your children make their lists early and start your shopping as soon as you can. This will prove beneficial because it allows you to shop around for the best deals and you can hold out for a great sale. If you have older children, get them involved in hunting for the best deal.

3. Shop out-of-season or during big shopping days. I have twins that have birthdays in February. Buying their birthday items the day after Christmas provides big savings. My son has a birthday in July and I can buy summer clothes for him at a really great price during that time. Knowing the best times to buy gifts for the kids as well as the best times to buy certain items will help you get the most out of the money you have budgeted.

4. Give your kids the option of whether they might want to purchase a gently used item. This allows them the ability to get higher ticket items within their set budgets. Garage sales, Craigslist, thrift shops, and even pawn shops are good resources to find used items at a great price. Some stores even sell refurbished items, such as electronics, at a discounted price.

5. If your child wants a higher priced item, encourage them to save their money so that they can put it towards any money that you might give them to shop with. This would include any allowances they might get or money they may have received from past holidays. Also, if you know that they will be getting money soon, you might want to suggest that they wait until after the event to determine just how much money they will have. The last thing you want is for them to pick things out just to spend up all their money. Having patience and holding out for something they really want will be a lot more fulfilling.

Sound simple enough? I encourage you to try these out and see how it works for you. Remember to adjust your budget for gifts so that you are well-prepared when the time comes.

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Whose Turn is It Anyways?

Posted on March 25, 2013. Filed under: Cleaning, Family, Organizing | Tags: , , |

choreHaving six children means that there is more than enough hands to go around. So why when it’s time to have those hands work for YOUR greater good, they seem to develop arthritis or some other sort of de-generating disease? Well the common phrase that usually goes around my house is “But I did it last time!” As a parent your first reaction is, I don’t care who did it last time! You do what I tell you to. Yes you can get them to comply using this method but it is totally draining for you and the kids. You’re ready for the kids to clean up. But first, you must assign tasks out and then go through, what I like to call, the re-assignment period. That’s when the kids negotiate amongst themselves and barter chores off; often times the youngest get the short end of the stick. Does this sound familiar?

So what can you do to make sense out of the chaos? It’s simple. Out of the chaos evolves the chore chart. A white wash board makes for the perfect chore chart. It’s reusable and can be easily changed. List out all the chores and rotate each child’s assignments each day. This ensures fairness as the hardest chores are rotated evenly. It also gives the kids the opportunity to learn how to do all the chores that need to be done. If you have older and younger children, partnering them up may be the best way to make sure the difficult tasks are done accurately. Our chore chart has worked out better than I ever imagined it would. The kids eagerly finish their chores as soon as they get out of school; without me having to tell them what to do. When kids know what is expected from them, it gives them a sense of empowerment. While they may not have the choice of whether or not to do the chore, they can choose when they complete their tasks. This simple sense of control actually makes the chores easier to do.

Implementing a chore chart means a united cleaning unit, right? Well, for the most part. The biggest complication has been the kids’ unwillingness to want to stray from the chart. We all know that flexibility is important to successfully running a household. Sometimes kids become reliant on the chart and if a need arises that requires them to stray from their normal tasks or take on extra, they are not happy. It is important for you to stress that the chart is merely a guide so that everyone has a task but there could be times when you may have to veer from the chart.

The one week I forgot to do the chart proved to be a complete disaster. The kids felt lost and were calling me to figure out what they should be doing. So as I complete this blog, I have just updated the chore chart for the week. While many of my ideas are short-lived; this has definitely proven to be a great resource for our household.

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Fun for Less

Posted on February 24, 2013. Filed under: Family, Finances | Tags: , , , , , |

grouponlivingsocialTonight my hubby and I enjoyed a wonderful night out for free! Well I won’t say that it was completely “free.” A month ago I took advantage of a bowling deal for two on Living Social — two games (per person), two shoe rentals and a pitcher of pop for $10. An awesome deal for our bi-monthly date night and perfect for a family on a budget.

Daily Deal sites such as Living Social, Groupon and JB Dollar Stretcher are great ways to go out with the family without spending an arm and a leg. My family has enjoyed eating out at new restaurants and activities such as bowling and laser tag for half off the normal price. With a family of eight, these deep discounts have become key to keeping us on budget. I have signed up for email alerts to receive daily deals in my area. I review these emails regularly and we pick what we will do based on the deals that are available. I even plan ahead for those special occasions that we like to celebrate out; such as birthdays. I start scoping out the deals well in advance to snag one before the big day.

Additional Savings Tips:

Weekly coupons inserts and ValuPak are also great resources for discounts of restaurants. I keep these in my car so that they are accessible when we’re on the go. See my previous blog – Not So Extreme Couponing – for more tips on how to use coupons to save.

There are plenty of free activities that you can do with your family. Check out the calendars of your local publications (Metroparent.com’s calendar is my fav) to see what upcoming free events are available. I will share more ideas for free and inexpensive activities for the family in a future blog. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, what is the best deal you’ve found for a family outing? What sites/resources do you go to find deals? Leave a comment, I would love to hear how you had fun for less.

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Not So Extreme Couponing

Posted on January 11, 2013. Filed under: Family, Finances |

Picture Source: blog.couponsherpa.com

Picture Source: blog.couponsherpa.com

Not too long ago, I was talking to my 14-year old daughter about wanting to save more money. As an avid watcher of many of the – what I like to call – less risqué reality TV shows, she seriously asked me, “What about extreme couponing?” I laughed thinking there’s no way I could be an “Extreme Couponer.” I mean, really, who has time for that? But then the gears started turning in my head… That doesn’t mean I couldn’t coupon, right? After all, anything I save would be extra money in the bank. Cha Ching!

 I was no stranger to coupons. I witnessed my mom do it for years and as a very analytical number cruncher, I knew I could excel at this.

 But where to begin?

 I remembered my mom always had a neat filing system for all her coupons. So first thing first, I made a quick trip to the dollar store to get supplies – and can you believe they actually sell coupon books there with preset categories? I also grabbed an expandable accordion file folder so I could customize my extra categories. My customized labels included a section for “Coupons to Redeem” and “Expiring Coupons.” (You’ll see why a little later).

 Now for my collection…Back in the day your only option for coupons was the Sunday Newspaper; but now there are so many more to choose from. But why choose? You would be doing yourself a great disservice not to take advantage of them all!

  • Online – Sites like coupons.com and redplum.com have many of the coupons you can find in the newspaper conveniently online. Just clip and print. Note: You will need to download software in order to print these coupons off.
  • Electronically – Yes you can save money without having to carry around dozens of coupons. Certain grocers allow you to clip digital coupons that you can redeem in-store. My favs are Meijers mPerks and the Kroger Plus Card.
  • Mail or E-mail – Signing up for your favorite product or store mailing lists can result in extra savings in your mail or inbox. For products that you use frequently, you may find this worth the sharing of your personal info.
  • Newspaper – Of course, you can always pick up your Sunday paper at a convenient location or opt for a subscription and have it mailed directly to you. There is value in the paper because many times you do find exclusive coupons in them. Even if you can access the coupons online, utilizing both options will give you access to duplicate coupons.

 Now that you have your coupons, here’s how to make sure your maximizing them:

  • Double for your trouble – There are several stores that double coupons, usually up to 50 cents. Find out what stores, such as Meijer and Kroger, and take advantage of the double savings. Note: Coupons that are printed offline can be doubled as well.
  • Shop the Sales – Use coupons in conjunction with sales to get your items at an even further discount. Most stores make this easy as many when note on their sales flyers if a coupon just came out for an item that is on sale that week.
  • Know where to go – In addition to major grocers, there are several other stores that take coupons. Most local grocers, all national pharmacy retail chains such as Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens, and even some discount stores such as Family Dollar, Big Lots and Dollar Tree accept manufacturer coupons.
  • Pay attention to detail – Make sure you know exactly what the coupon is for and that you pick the right item(s) to redeem your savings. Many coupons are size and quantity specific. Some are even specific to certain stores so make sure you pay attention.
  • Coordinate with care – If you use both electronic print coupons, you are only allowed to redeem one per item and from my experience the digital trumps all. If you have print coupons that produce greater savings, you can always un-clip your digital one and redeem the print coupon or re-clip later.
  • Plan ahead – When making your grocery list, take out the applicable coupons for the items on your list and put them in an envelope or a separate tab in your coupon organizer for easy access.
  • Don’t leave home without them – Keep your coupon folder in your car. This way you never leave home without them and can take advantage of them even when making unplanned purchases – such as cold medicine when someone in the house gets sick.
  • Purge frequently – Keep your coupon organizer up-to-date. Make sure you periodically go in and purge all those coupons that have expired. At this time you can even pull out those coupons that will be expiring soon. Put them in the appropriate slot in your organizer.
  • Double check – Pay attention as coupons are being redeemed, sometimes cashiers accidentally miss one. Even in self-check, you should make sure everything scans correctly.

So now I’m sure you’re wondering, how long does it take to do all of this and is it really worth it?

How much time do I have to invest?

Since I am several months into this, I can clip coupons – online, electronically, and in the paper – and make my grocery list with pairing coupons in roughly an hour each week. I have found creative, convenient ways to incorporate this in my already busy schedule.

  • Clip during your favorite TV show – I used to clip my coupons and make my grocery list while watching Walking Dead on Sunday nights.
  • Take advantage of downtime – Since I can access my electronic coupons from my smart phone, I will clip while riding shotgun in the car, during my breaks at work, or even while waiting at appointments. Just make sure you’re completed by the time you make your grocery list.

What will I save?

As far as savings go, I save about $50 a month on my grocery bill as a result of coupon redemption. This doesn’t include the savings I get from shopping the sales and going to multiple stores to get the best deals. Overall, I have been able to cut my grocery budget by 25%. While I won’t be getting any calls from TLC to make a guest TV appearance “Extreme Couponing,” I would still like to think that my efforts have greatly helped my family in our quest to be debt-free and maximize our savings. I would love to hear

I hope that you have learned a little something from this post – even if it’s just that you don’t have to be an obsessive, compulsive person to coupon. But most importantly, I would love to learn from you! Please feel free to share your couponing tips and other savings techniques. Let’s empower one another!

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Clean House – Children’s Edition

Posted on May 10, 2012. Filed under: Cleaning, Family, Life, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , |

Don Aslett is a renowned motivational speaker and cleaning expert who has written several humorous books on the topic of cleaning and organizing the home. Reading his book Help! around the house : a mother’s guide to getting the family to pitch in and clean up was my first swift kick in the you-know-what that I needed to make a major change. If I was to ever have any hope of having a life outside of constant work, I needed to get the kids more involved in the daily housework.  I, by nature, am not a neat freak. I do, however, admit to having my way of doing certain things that tends to accomplish the task and keep the chaos to a minimum. Seemingly every time I asked someone to take over one of these tasks, they could never complete it the way I could which either left me having to redo it over or thoroughly upset every time I caught of glimpse of my solid structure slowly crumbling.

 Now you might think that I am a clear case of Mommy Dearest, but I promise you I am not and if you continue to read on I will eventually humanize myself! In his book, Don points out that not only are children capable of doing very intricate tasks around the home but they may actually be better at doing it than we are. After all, they are smaller and can get into nooks and crannies almost effortlessly. Gotta love his logic! But in hindsight, I did discover that each of my children had certain strengths right out the bat while others had to be nurtured (which forced me to conjure up all the patience I could possibly muster). But even in the case of the latter, they were still capable and eventually developed the ability to complete the task.

 The first task we had to perfect was washing dishes. My preteen daughters would simply toss dirty dishes into the dishwater every which way and at the end of the wash, dishes were still dirty…But now we had a bigger problem! Food was hardened to the dish at the point adult intervention was not only desirable but necessary. If intervention did not happen the dishes were either left in the dishwasher awaiting the next load or were packed away to be addressed when someone went to use it later on. The chaos continued when putting the dishes away. Went dishes were stacked on top of each other and there was no rhyme or reason in where they were put – any open space would do! Needless to say when the time came to actually use these dishes, I spent (or should I say wasted) so much time trying to find them.

 Now does this mean my daughters’ were hopeless, of course not! But like many things in life, you have to be properly taught. Don’t assume that everyone has an innate ability to do every task. So similar to how the Fortune 500 companies handle new hires, my daughters underwent a rigorous training process. From shadowing a seasoned employee (watch me work!) to shared responsible (teamwork!) to on your own with a post-quality review. Now they do the task with no supervision. I remember when I opened their first successfully loaded dishwasher – talk about a proud Mama! And when our dishwasher was on the fritz and we had to resort to hand washing, they didn’t miss a beat as they had already been trained on pre-rinsing the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Same concept, just add soapy warm water. A great example of while it can be efficient to take advantage of available technology, technology should never be fully relied on and you should always know how to manually complete a task. During this whole process I discovered that my then observant 6-year daughter had the art of dishwashing mastered – no training necessarily! While the boys took a little longer to catch on (and a lot more hand-holding!), they too can complete the task with spotless dishes.

 While it may be more work to train your kids on the proper way of performing housework, the benefits are extraordinary. Not only do you avoid spending all your free-time working around the house but you teach your kids responsibility and prepare them for adulthood. I subscribe to the Daily Hope e-mail newsletter by Pastor Rick Warren – author of New York Times seller, The Purpose Driven Life. I recently read “Trust Your Kids with Responsibility,” where he notes that “we all need places where we are trusted, where we can grow, develop, and prove ourselves.” While housework seems rather mundane when considering all of life’s lessons to be had, being neat and organized paves the way to enjoy life and gives you more time to take advantage of what life has to offer. And as an adult who values that, giving your children the responsibility of helping you in such a profound way let’s them know that you trust and believe in their ability to be an asset to your life.

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A Purpose-Driven Family

Posted on April 30, 2012. Filed under: Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , |

The importance of having a purpose and setting goals is often emphasized to us throughout our lives as they help to give us direction. But what about having the same for your family? After all, with multiple people in the mix, doesn’t it become more important to map out these expectations?—Let’s face it, expectations are learned and until they are spelled out, your family may trail behind or even veer off the path that you would like them to be on.

While reading Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider, I was introduced to the idea of having a family purpose statement. Mind you, I was just reading this book to gain insight and tips on how to have an organized home in order to make our lives easier. However, I soon discovered that the basis of achieving that goal was setting a proper foundation (i.e. purpose statement) and rolling all your expectations up to that purpose statement. This helps your family realize the importance of the individual tasks assigned to them because now they can see the bigger picture. While everyone in the family may not value having a tidy, clean house (as you do), they may all value being able to spend more time together as a family. When you can show the direct correlation between them helping to keep the house clean, how it creates less work for you and therefore would result in more time together—it will create the motivation needed to make this a routine in your home.

With a blended family of eight and a house to fit them all comfortably in, obtaining the peacefulness you get from a clean organized home became a task from you know where. The nagging and constant follow-ups necessary to achieve this goal made it anything but peaceful. When I introduced the idea of having a family purpose statement to my husband, he was all for it. We discussed what we collectively wanted for our crew and developed a statement that was unique to our family. Our family statement encompassed our Faith in God, unconditional love that supersedes blood, and our desire to ensure that all of us have the support we need to reach our greatest potential. We discussed what we came up with the children and allowed them to ask questions and to add any input that they wanted. We, then, had an official Signing Ceremony (like in the movie Courageous) where each family member signed the statement and officially committed themselves to this process.    

Now as Tsh points out in her book, your purpose statement needs supporting statements in order to guide your family on exactly how they can achieve their family purpose each day. We came up with about 15 goals and having an organized clean home was one that was emphasized as it created more time for us to do the things we love. We also committed to allotting time together as a family each week so that everyone could reap the immediate rewards of living toward our purpose. Two weeks into our revamped way of living and our home is well on its way to becoming the peaceful and serene place my husband and I want to come home to. And we’re hoping that once the kids get acclimated to this way of living that this will also be something that they too, desire. But in the meantime, fun-filled family time will be motivation enough.

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