5 Tips for Planning a Cheap Family Getaway

family vacationLast weekend I had the luxury of getting out of town with the family, even though we didn’t go very far it was so nice to just get out of our normal routine and boundaries. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to enjoy a family getaway. We managed a weekend away for less than $200 by finding some deals and capitalizing on cost savings, you can too.

Shop Around

We knew we’d need a hotel for the evening but weren’t interesting in spending a ton of money. I also knew we’d likely be spending a decent amount of time in our room given that we have a little on who is asleep fairly early so wanted it to be comfortable and spacious for my husband and I to enjoy while she was sleeping, without being overpriced. The internet makes searching for stuff like hotels a breeze. I found exactly what we needed for below the price we were willing to spend.

Look for Discount Options

We were planning to attend a specific event, if we signed up for notifications from the hosting vendor we would be granted a 25% discount on ticket price. Given that there we a total of seven of us traveling it saved us a decent chunk of money. We also saved on parking at the event itself because they considered us a carpool (more than 4 people), a nice surprise.

Enjoy and Seek Out Perks

I hate paying for parking at hotels, given the rate at which they charge you to sleep in a room I think it’s insane to charge upwards of $40 per day in some cities to park your car on top of room rate. I always look for hotels with free parking before ever paying. I also compare the room rate for breakfast vs. no breakfast included. At our particular hotel not only did we have free parking for only $10 more per night then the other hotel we were looking at, we got hot breakfast included. Our family of three certainly can’t eat (out) for less than $10. The hot breakfast is almost always worth the money to me.

Share Costs

A few family members were traveling with us to go to the same event to we decided to cut one of the cars out and share the cost in our vehicle instead. They save on wear and tear on their vehicle and we shared the cost of gas which was a help to both parties involved. We also shared a hotel room. Paying for the larger room and extra persons charge was still significantly cheaper than us each getting a room and it was nice to have the extra company!

Bring Your Own Snacks

Buying snacks on the road can get expensive. We always pack our collapsible cooler with drinks and light snacks for us and kiddo so we’re not tempted to waste money at gas stations and pit stop locations. We have a child who much prefers to graze throughout the day then eat larger meals so this works especially well for us.

With a little planning it is possible to plan a weekend away with your family and not break the bank. Proper budgeting will insure you can get away without worrying how you’re going to pay for it all when you get back!

Saving Money on Kids Birthday Parties

money saving ideas for kids birthday partiesThis past weekend my daughter was invited to the birthday of a little girl we know.

She was turning six and all I knew was that there was a ”clown theme”. It was the first time I’ve actually attended the birthday party of a child (outside of me being a kid myself) and holy. cow. The party was over the top.

I certainly don’t remember ever having, or attending a party of such detail before in my life. It scared me a little into thinking there was some new expectation to have a huge party for kiddo’s upcoming birthday.

I was right, there was a clown theme which included:

  • Having a live clown perform or two hours making balloon creations for every kid present (at least 30 kids), a full kid-friendly magic show and all sorts of attention for the birthday girl.
  • Rented hall for event.
  • Full decoration (balloons, streamers, plates etc)
  • Toys for kids (clown noses, silly bowties, party hats)
  • Food (fresh fruit, candy in skewer form, cake, chips)
  • Multiple treat bags full of stuff for each kid.
  • And so many gifts!

Saving Money on Kids Birthday Parties

Kid parties certainly don’t have to be so over-the-top though. You can have all sorts of fun without compromising the child’s memory. To save on kids parties consider doing these money saving tips:

  • Only invite the child’s friends/family. There was simply no way this little girl was friends with every child there. Invite only kids that your child actually interacts with. There is no rule about mandatory invitation to every child in their class.
  • Don’t have it during a time when a meal may be expected. Only serve snacks and keep them to a minimum. Depending on how many people may be present, buying in bulk at a store like Costco or Sams Club may be the best option.
  • If you do serve a meal make or buy something that is inexpensive but can serve a lot of people (lasagna, pizza, pasta, BBq burgers/dogs) or consider a potluck meal.
  • Look into group party discounts at local attractions. I know the local movie theater here offers a pretty good price for a large group (movie ticket, snacks, room rental and cake all included). If you’re only inviting close friends and family it can be a reasonable option.

If you start with extravagant parties, especially so young, there will be an expectation for years.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t have fun and celebrate their special day but keep it within reason. This can’t be the new norm! I remember having my friends over for pizza and games, as we got older possibly a sleepover, not an all-out afternoon event with every kid in the neighborhood. Put the focus on your child having fun, not money spent.

How do you save money on kids birthday parties?


The Top 3 Tips For Saving On School Expenses

school suppliesWith skyrocketing education costs, rising fuel prices, and a lack of affordable housing over much of the country, finding ways to save money whilst at university is as important as ever. Luckily, there are a few things you can do while you’re in school to save money and avoid an excessive amount of debt. Sure, you still need to have a great time whilst you’re getting your higher education, but, if you want to have a bright financial future, then it’s wise to save what you can – wherever you can. Here are 3 tips that can save you bucket loads whilst you’re still at school.


1. Grants and Scholarships

We know this is an obvious one, but so few students actually put in the time and effort to apply for grants and scholarships. There are lots of companies and organisations out there who are waiting and willing to subsidize parts of, or all of your education. So do some research online, and speak to your university about all available options. You may just be surprised at what you find. By all means, apply to all those you’re eligible for. But don’t be put off approaching other independent organisations and companies about possibly securing some form of financial help. For example, if you already work part-time for a company, ask them if they’d be willing to pay for some part of your education. You never know, and god knows you could use all the help you can get!


2. Make a Budget

When it comes to the world of finances, having a budget never hurts. You need to be aware of how much you can realistically spend each week, without going into debt. Set aside a spare Sunday and write all your upcoming expenses down. Having an idea of all your outgoings, as well as your incomings, will give you a full picture of your financial situation, and help put things in perspective.
You’ll then know how much you can play with each week without going into debt. Also, if you currently have credit card debts with multiple companies, then it may be a good idea to see Fox Symes about debt consolidation. Lumping all your interest payments into one can save you lots of money at the end of each month. Of course, as with any budget, you’ll need to stick to it almost religiously if you want to come out of your degree in the black. But learning this kind of self-discipline during your early years will only help you in your future.


3. Live Off Campus

Another way to save money while going to school is to live off campus. Whether you choose to live with your parents or a group of friends, this can save you a lot of money in the long run. Of course, before committing to any lease, or promising to live at home, do some calculations to find out whether living off campus will actually bring your total costs down. Sometimes, transportation costs can offset any savings to be had by living outside the campus grounds.

There are many more ways you can save money whilst attending school. Keep an eye out for what your classmates are doing to save money, and see if those things can work for you too. But in any case, the above suggestions will give you a great start on your savings goals, and hopefully you can come out of your university years with a degree in hand, and little to no debt.

What other tips do you have to save money on school supplies?

How to Save Money by Going Green

going greenDo you want to save money in an environmentally conscious way?

Going green can sometimes seem expensive. Especially when you compare the shelf prices of green products verses regular products. But, by trying to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle you can help make the world a better place for future generations to come.

If you’re trying to go green without breaking the bank here are three ways you can do just that.


Make Your Own Cleaners

Going green is becoming increasingly popular and because of this many green items have a hefty mark up. One of these items is household cleaners.

Instead of purchasing cleaners from a big box store you can make your own for much less money. Here are some natural alternatives to chemical cleaners:

  • Baking Soda: cleans and deodorizes.
  • Lemons: kills household bacteria.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol: can be used as a disinfectant.
  • White Vinegar: will remove grease, mildew, and some odors.
  • Cornstarch: can be used as a window cleaner or as furniture polish.

There are also all types of combinations you can create to replace your favorite name brand cleaners. You can easily find a natural recipe for the cleaner you need online.

In addition to household cleaners you can make your own toothpaste, soap, and laundry detergent.


Don’t Throw Away – Recycle

The next time you think about throwing something out check and see if it can be recycled. By recycling you can help out the planet and even put some cash back in your pocket.

You can recycle things such as aluminum cans, copper, steel, plastics, and paper. You should also think about recycling appliances and electronics. You can reduce your carbon footprint by practicing computer recycling, cell phone recycling, and the recycling of your other electronics.  You just need to find a recycler like Vernon Technology Solutions to help.

Don’t forget about up cycling, either. A lot of times you can breathe new life into an old item. Things like small furniture, fabric, and old flower pots can be refurbished or turned into something new. If you don’t want to up cycle an item consider selling it or donating. This way your unwanted items won’t wind up in a land fill somewhere.


Rent Instead of Buy

Another great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to rent instead of buy- this is especially true with electronics.

If you occasionally need a tablet you can rent ipads instead of buying them. The same goes for renting computers. When you’re in a bind you can rent a computer for a specified time rather than shelling out hundreds of dollars for a new one.


Other Ways to Be Green and Save

Reducing the amount of harmful impact you do to the environment isn’t limited to just these three things. There are others things you can do to help out the planet and your pockets.

Here are a few:

  • Shop for clothing at thrift stores
  • Take shorter showers
  • Unplug appliances and electronics not in use
  • Don’t waste food
  • Drive your car less

There are many green things you can incorporate into your everyday life. The little things you do can have huge impact.

How do you save money by going green?

Saving Money While Traveling With Children

Family VacationI previously wrote about how my family was getting ready to partake in a family vacation together. The event was a family reunion and our first vacation with our daughter. Even though she’s still quite young, I can already see how  the expenses are adding up with factoring more that just a plus one in your travel plans. Kids eat, sleep and partake in events just as adults do and costs add up!


Getting Ready to Travel

A key to saving with traveling is to prepare appropriately.  I like to prep for travel by trying to earn as many points as possible for my travels.  For example, with the TD Aeroplan Card, I can earn points faster, and they also have a 2-for-1 travel special.  Since my daughter is still young, she can fly on my lap.  And with this card, my husband and I can travel for the price of one ticket.  Then, you add in points, and we’re well ahead on our path to save money traveling.


Saving Money on Travel with Children

I don’t need to tell anyone that airfare is expensive. While bartering or negotiating posted airfare prices isn’t an option there are other ways to save on travel costs.

Most airlines don’t charge for children under two years of age so travel away with your babies! Younger children will often get discounted tickets as well. Another option for saving on additional ticket costs is to look into any rewards you may have through credit cards or point redemption programs. Even if you don’t have enough rewards for your whole family, having enough to help offset some travel costs will be beneficial on your travel budget.

While flying would have been a fast and convenient option for our family, we chose to drive. The cost of driving the 2800 km (1750 mi) round trip was significantly cheaper than paying for the airfare for our family and, in my opinion, much more fun. We made the road trip fun and apart of the vacation fun.


Saving Money on Events

The easiest way to save money on events is to attend events where kids are free or discounted. We didn’t attend a single event that we had to pay for our child. Even though she’s young (14 months), most places were free under six anyway. Only the professional sporting event would we of had to pay if she didn’t sit on our lap, an event well worth the money should we needed to pay.

Prioritize the events the family wants to do and come up with a budget that suites everyone’s wants.


Saving Money on Food

We saved money on food a few ways. One, we stayed in a hotel that had breakfast included. The hotel had a hot breakfast selection every morning which was great because it kept us well satisfied until late in the day. We often skipped lunch, opting for a snack instead and having a normal dinner. We also had the option of requesting a mini fridge and/or microwave in our room which made things quite easy. We were able to buy some foods at the grocery store and store in our room for the week. This was especially good for having a little one with us and being able to keep her favorite snacks and fruits on hand.

Like the event option, choose restaurants where kids eat free, or cheap. We went to one restaurant where kids ate for $0.10 per pound of body weight. I don’t know if they actually enforced the weigh-in and fee or if they had a generic kids price, but there was a discount for kids.

Travelling with children will be more expensive but with a little more planning you should be able to make it work. Vacations should be about making memories not stressing about money!

How do you make your family vacations more family/budget friendly?

Saving Money By Throwing Themed Parties, Showers and Events

Camping Wedding ShowerFirst comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby…

At least in my case this is how it went. I started dating my husband when we were just kids in high school. We got engaged and started planning our wedding seven years after we started dating. Since we had already lived together in a small one bedroom apartment, there wasn’t much that we needed in terms of wedding gifts nor did we have much room to store anything for our future home.

If you’re a parent planning a party, shower or event for you kids, or are helping a parent plan an event like this, you need to read this post!


Planning a Shower

I didn’t think having a wedding shower was necessary, but being the first wedding on both sides of the family in many years we attending a lot of events because other people insisted. I made it quite clear that I did not need  a shower. It was unnecessary and in my mind, a whole lot of wasted money on, what I pictured to be, kitchen gadgets and pre-baby ”nesting”  supplies. I thought everyone was on board with saving money and not throwing me, or us, a shower.

One summer evening after the summer of our wedding we decided to meet up with the rest of the family for a weekend of camping. Hubby-to-be picked me up after work and we drove the hour to the campground where the rest of the family had been since the day before. We went right to our site to set camp up before dark and proceeded to head on over to the main site where everyone was getting ready to have dinner.


Decorating a Fun Event

When we arrived we realized that t he site had been decorated with balloons and signs saying ”Happy Camping Shower”. Our family was throwing us a camping shower instead of a wedding shower! They got the message loud and clear that we didn’t need anything for our home, so instead had a camping shower where under the open sky of the camp site, we opened gifts, all related to camping, our favorite past time. It was amazing.

Having a themed shower, especially if you’re planning an event for your child’s wedding, can be a great way to save money.

A themed shower limits what people buy. In our case, camping stuff, but if you wanted to have a ”kitchen shower” people would likely understand that buying a large picture frame for wedding pictures is not an appropriate gift. Having a themed event is also a great way to make sure you get what you want. Though we didn’t ask for this event, I’m so glad my mother-in-law thought of it.


Other Ideas

When my sister-in-law moved out, instead of having a housewarming party we threw her a ”fill their pantry” party where, instead of plants and homey stuff, people brought non perishables for their pantry. Everything from spices to baking supplies. They really did fill their pantry!

Parties, showers and events alike can get quite expensive but with a little planning and creativity, it is possible to save money. Coming up with a theme is just one of many ways!

Raising a Saver

raising a saverGrowing up, I didn’t have much in terms of financial role models. My mom used to say blanket statements like ”debt is bad” and ”always pay your credit card balance in full” but she never explained details about money.  Details about how to manage my money, how to allocate savings or even encouraging me to save. I think she was just relieved that when I got a job she was no longer on the hook to ‘support’ me and my social habits.


My History

I grew up always spending any money earned. I managed to save a few bucks for my wedding but that was the extent of my savings. Even though I started working when I was 15, it wasn’t until I was in my mid 20’s that I began to understand the logic behind emergency funds and planning for a ”rainy day”. Though I had a savings account my entire life, it remained empty 99% of the time.

Educating your children early on how and why one saves money is so important. When I think about how much money  let pass through my fingers over the last 15 years a small piece of my soul dies.


Start Young

If you want to raise a child who understands and respects money, it is so, so, important that you start young. Giving an allowance before they start earning their own money is an easy way for children to learn the ins and outs of money management.

The allowance money should come from your budgeted monthly amount for your children. If, for example you have allocated $50 per month for ”kids” which can include anything from haircuts to lunch money, give your child a percentage of that money for them to manage. This will be done within you guidance but have them learn about money; spending, saving and budgeting. Have them help you shop and budget for their things. This way they will understand that they only have $25 to buy pants, therefore rather than whining in the store about the why they can’t have the $50 jeans they will need to shop around.

A percentage of their allowance needs to go into savings. Teach them early about the importance of saving for things. If they really want those $50 jeans, they’re going to have to save up for them. Not everything can be purchased immediately and will require financial planning and preparation. This is applied to everything from the purple My Little Pony they want to the university education they aspire to obtain.


Saving as Your Child Grows Older

As kids get older, give them opportunity to make more money. Money that can be made beyond upholding normal household expectations (ie don’t pay them for making their bed). If they’re saving for something or would like to have extra money for something have them work for it. This will depend on the age but something like cleaning dads car for $20, helping clean the yard in preparation for winter for $30 sort of thing. The point is that kids need to understand early that money comes from hard work, and building savings, not from mom and dad’s wallet. If children grow up assuming money will just appear when they need it, they will fail.

When kids get they first real paying job it is important that a percentage of their pay goes directly into savings. This will be decided upon between kids and parents but agree on a spending and savings amount and enforce it. Saving early will establish long-term good habits.

Did you start saving young? How are you encouraging your kids to save?

Saving Money With Back to School Shopping

back to schoolI can’t believe we’re already nearing the end of the summer. This past week the flyers were delivered and jam-packed full with back to school shopping deals. I feel like we were just talking about Easter! Time goes too fast.

When it comes to grade school, back to school is a time of year when pressure is put on parents. Kids need to go to school and they will require some new items for their pending academic year but it doesn’t have to be as expensive as your children will have you believe. Kids have a funny way of making it seem like they couldn’t possibly succeed without ‘x’ item and guess what? As parents, we will occasionally get duped by our kids. We will inevitably purchase an item we didn’t have to, sometimes because we’re suckers and believe them and sometimes because we just love them. Back to school shopping can be very expensive but there are a few ways to save!



This isn’t exactly about saving money per se, but if you know your child will be needing new supplies every year, budget for it! Determine how much money will be spent on each child and budget the amount equally over the year so you’re not faced with a huge bill come school shopping time. This should include any supplies, clothes and gadgets they will need. Once you’ve set a budget shopping will be a lot less stressful, especially if you’re able to set ground rules with kids in advance.


Wait for Sales

The normal price for a pack of looseleaf paper at my local Walmart is $1.79/pack, this week it is on sale for $0.15. Needless to say if I was shopping for my child I would be buying enough paper to last the next 10 years at that price.

In many places, there are also tax free days for back to school shopping, which can at least give you a little break on the taxes you pay on your school supplies.



When I was in elementary school I needed a new backpack every year. I’d find a flaw in my current one just so mom could buy me a snazzy new one. Eventually she caught on and bought me a good quality backpack with the stipulation that I took care of it and it was to be the last one she ever bought me. Fair enough. That bag ended up lasting me all the way through university, money well spent.

Same thing goes with things like sneakers ad clothes, unless your child is growing a legitimately doesn’t fit in their current size, or their shoes are really falling apart they don’t need a new pair just because it’s the start of a new year. Though I respect wanting a new outfit or two for the new year it doesn’t have to be a full wardrobe overhaul.


Share What Can Be Shared

If you have more than one child to shop for, and there are items that can be shared, capitalize on this. Each child does not need their own computer. Trust me, I know they will have a very elaborate explanation as to why they do, but unless you have a household of five plus children all in school, one computer for the children will suffice.

Back to school is a stressful time for families with the drastic change in routines, shopping for supplies shouldn’t be!

How do you save on back to school shopping for your kids?

Saving Money When You Have Kids

It’s no secret that kids can be quite the expensive investment, especially when you’re on your second or third pup.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to save money when you’ve got kids however. In fact, there are quite a few things you can do to keep the costs down as much as possible even with a few extra people in your home.


Bills and Utilities

More people in your home means more electricity being used up every month.  It’s important to assess Texas Electricity Providers (or whatever local energy providers you’ve got) and compare the prices per kilowatt to see if you can save quite a bit of money each month on your utility bills.  When you have kids it’s difficult to keep tabs on your energy consumption all the time so having a lower electricity rate will help keep costs down.


Food and Clothes

When you’ve got kids you should start looking into buying things in bulk.  Buying items that you use constantly in bulk is going to be the best and most cost effective way of purchasing things.  When you buy in wholesale you’ll get quite a discount on the items and it isn’t like you aren’t going to end up using them, so it’s probably your best bet for things that aren’t perishable.

As you start to spend more money when you’ve got kids, you’ll need to find ways to cut down your other expenses as much as possible.  This means you’re going to have to start using coupons and looking for things that are on sale.  While it might be a little difficult to get into these types of behaviors initially, you’ll find that it does tend to get easier as time goes on and once you get into the routine, you’ll start looking for sales and coupons without even thinking about it.


Furnitures and Other Goods

full shopping cartLook on Craigslist or eBay, or start searching for yard sales to grab stuff for a lot cheaper than you would buy them otherwise.  These are great resources when it comes to finding furniture or children’s toys and more often than not, you can find things that are in quite good condition.  Some of these might even be free and you can end up cutting down a few hundred dollars that you would have spent had you not gone the cheaper route.


Fun Stuff

Not all vacations or activities need to have a hefty price tag on them in order for them to be fun.  You’ll find that a lot of kids can have an enjoyable time in almost every situation as long as you find ways to keep their attention, so don’t think you have to spend a ton of money for a weekend trip.

Something as simple as a day outside can mean a lot to your kids and as long as you’re spending legitimate time with them, they probably won’t mind that you haven’t gone to the latest amusement park.  Try doing more home-based activities or going to attractions when they’re offered for free and you’ll end up saving a ton of cash.

Kids aren’t cheap, but that doesn’t mean they have to be necessarily expensive.  There are different ways you can save money while keeping your kids happy as long as you’re conscious about what you’re doing and spend a little effort.  Coupons and free items are going to end up saving you a ton of money and having fun at home is priceless.

The Piggy Bank Saga

Ok, so I know I have been blogging about embarking on the wonderful journey of explaining money and budgeting to my kids. Well, turns out, it isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It Is so hard to teach kids about budgeting when they have a very, very simplistic view of money.

Before you roll your eyes and say ‘I told you so!’, let me just say that I haven’t given up on this project.  In fact, I enlisted the help of my mommy friends (who also happen to be Psychology majors) to give me some tips and ideas about how to do this without breaking my brain.  Here is what I have come up with:  THE PIGGY BANK SAGA.

Ok, I know. You are probably saying ‘but the piggy bank is old news’.  Well, there is a lot of value in things that have lasted decades, and this little object is one such thing.

Some background to the idea behind the pig

Turns out, the piggy bank has been in existence for apparently 4000 years and way before money saving websites like LoveMoney.com! Way back when, when every object was made of clay, jars were created to store money. These were called “pygg jars”, ‘pygg’ here referring to the kind of clay used to make the jar.  By the 18th century, this object began to take the shape of its animal namesake and was made from plastic, plaster, or glass.   Another explanation states that, based on German folklore, a pig is a symbol of good fortune, therefore a vessel for money in the shape of a pig means more wealth or coming wealth.  Whichever history you believe, today the piggy bank is defined by Wikipedia as:

Piggy bank (sometimes penny bank or money box) is the traditional name of a coin accumulation and storage receptacle; it is most often, but not exclusively, used by children.

Here is a picture of a piggy bank (c’mon, humor me here).

traditional piggy bank

Ok, so here is the idea. Take the generic piggy bank and have one for saving, spending, and donating.  First of course, you need to define the terms. I use the most simplistic explanations so I would say something like saving is when we keep the money so that we will have enough to buy ‘x’ item.  Thankfully my son and daughter know the word ‘buy’ so I don’t need to explain that term anymore. Donating would be giving and spending is using the money to buy ‘x,y,z’ items. Or something along those lines, you get my drift.

What a Piggy Bank Teaches Your Kids

I am thinking, and my mommy-psych major friends agree with me, that this will teach the kids the following things without the trauma of deprivation.

  • One, it will give them the idea that there are different actions connected to money.
  • The general idea behind saving, spending, and donating.
  • The value of patience.
  • The value of waiting for something.
  • The value of effort for something desired.

Different Kinds of Piggy Banks

Doesn’t it sound like a marvelous idea?  It is so great when you can teach so many lessons with one simple thing.  It is really easy to start on this project. The materials you will be needing are very inexpensive.  All you need are three piggy banks, or one that has segregations.  If you want to use separate piggy banks, getting the ones with see-through body is best as it give a visual picture of the theory/lesson/activity.  See the pictures below:

piggy bank countersee-through piggy bank








About money and budgeting, you don’t really HAVE TO stick to the traditional piggy bank (although there are a lot of really cute ones for boys and girls these days).  You can opt for other money carrying objects:

It does not really matter what you use, as long as you get the point of the exercise across.

Now, you also don’t have to go out and buy any kind of money saving vessel.  You can use any old jar, tin, or container.  A lot of my friends save the pretty seasonal tins for tea and use those for odds and ends.  That would be perfect for this project.  Similarly, you can use any mayo jar or cheese spread jar, create a slot for the coins and bills, and you have your pot! A suggestion to get the kids excited is to have them decorate their piggy banks. I know the idea of arts and crafts really gets my kinds excited and quite dedicated.

So, I hope you see some merit in this simple money-saving lesson plan.

 Do your kids have a piggy bank? What do you think of using multiple banks for different purposes?