Mom’s Money Summer Saving Tip #1: Keep them Fed!

file0002134801752.jpgIt seems like the second we pull out of the garage, two little voices announce in chorus, “I’m Hungry!!!” It’s not like they go without meals, like some sort of Dickens era soot faced moppet… But there is something about leaving the house that makes kids hungry. Especially when you are out and about during the summer.

To combat the chorus, we have a small backpack (Henry’s Pre-school Cars backpack) that is full of shelf stable snacks and drinks. While we are out having adventures, if the chorus starts up, I can pull out the backpack and soon everyone is happy.

Here are a few of our family’s favorite snacks and other stuff I keep in our snack bag (Amazon affiliate links for some items that you may have never seen):

  1. Re-usable water bottles (I fill them daily). Each child has their own, and I have a larger one. I put lots of ice in mine in addition to water. I also carry extra water in my truck at all times (in case of emergency, but frequently the emergency is just hot, thirsty kiddos).
  2. Powdered drink sticks. Dollar Tree and 99 Cents Only has lots of great flavors to chose from.
  3. Freeze dried Fruit. Bitty Bird likes strawberries, Henry and I love pineapple.
  4. Protein bars, granola bars, goldfish crackers, Beanies (they are for toddlers, but, both kids love them), fruit squeezy pouches, Yogurt squeezy pouches, applesauce cups, individual cups of peanut butter, crackers to go with the PB (usually Ritz), individual cups of water packed fruit and veggies, Pirates Booty, home made trail mix, ziploc bags of cereal, and depending on what is on sale, juice boxes/pouches or sometimes shelf stable milk boxes/pouches.
  5. In a zipper pouch (this one), I keep hand wipes, plastic utensils, straws, and napkins.  I also carry a ziploc bag with extra ziplocs in it, and a few small trash bags.

While the initial outlay of money to buy a backpack and stock of food to keep in the car snack bag and water bottles way be steep (it was about $65 for us), you will save that much money in just a few weeks in the summer. You’ll be able to avoid drive-thru lines, and you can better control what your family is eating.

file0001779824833.jpgWhen we are going to be gone all day, I also pack a small soft sized cooler bag with blue ice and cold treats like frozen tubes of yogurt, berries, cheese, and cold cuts. I like using re-usable plastic containers, instead of zip top bags. They are usually better for keeping food cold and for squishable items like berries in good condition. These are all the same things that we eat for lunch during the school year, so our food budget in the summer does not increase.

Besides keeping your budget in check, there is another upside to having kids that eat regularly (even on the go): Behavior changes, like tantrums, can occur when kids blood sugar dips or they are hungry. Henry frequently doesn’t realize that he’s hungry until he’s OMGOSH SO HUNGRY that he’s Hangry. I offer him snacks every few hours in the summer, as we are so frequently on the go out with friends or at events in the summer during lunch time.

The main reason I use a backpack instead of a box is that I can quickly grab the bag out of the car and toss it into the basket of the stroller when we hit up the zoo, YMCA for swimming, or the park.

I’d love to hear what kind of snacks you take on the go for your summer adventures!

 

Frugal ways to help your Child’s School!

For most of us, school starts soon, if it hasn’t already started… That means the fundraising will start.  Wrapping paper, candy, candles, you name it, you’ve probably seen a catalog and a doe-eyed child selling something to raise money for their school.

We’ve got a pretty tight budget around out house, and $12/roll wrapping paper is not in my budget, but I do want to help Lil’ Man’s school. Here are a few ways that you can help your kiddo’s school. If your kid isn’t in school yet, ask the parent of your favorite mini-fundraiser if their school participates in any of these programs!


Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 10.21.07 AMBox Tops for Education (BTFE):
This Program has been around for a while, and it’s probably one of the easiest ways that you can help the school of your choice. Look for these little box top doodads on hundreds of products that you probably already buy (here is a list), clip them, and drop them by your school’s office. LIl’ Man’s class sends home a cute themed Sheet for us to attach up to ten each month. If I have more, I just staple a ziploc bag full to the worksheet. Any parent would be thrilled to receive an envelope of bag of BTFE from family or friends!

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 10.21.16 AMLabels for Education: Similar to BTFE, but this program is run by Campbell’s. To find products that are a part of the Labels fro Education Program, click here.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 10.21.24 AMTarget’s Take Charge of Education®:
Choose your kids’ elementary school, the neighborhood middle school or any other eligible K–12 school. We’ll donate up to 1% of your REDcard purchases at Target stores in the U.S and at Target.com.

 You can learn more here. 

Escrip: Now this one has been around since I was in High School. It’s super easy. Once your school is registered, all you do is sign your various loyalty cards (like your Vons Card), and shop like you usually do. You school gets a percentage of your total purchase!

The best part about these four programs is that you just do what you already do: Shop and save money! Clipping Box Tops for Education and Labels for Education are not that much different than clipping coupons off of packages.

 

Money Saving Tips for Newlyweds!

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There is so much stress involved with a wedding, here are a few tips that can help you start off your marriage stress free.

Combine, combine, combine. There is no reason that you need to pay extra (sometimes double!) on the following:

Car Insurance. If you are with separate companies, call each one before the wedding and get quotes. Which company will provide you with the best coverage at the best rate? Most likely a company that offers longevity discounts (the company one of you may already be with) or a company that caters only to specific clientele (such as USAA).

  • Remember, your liability limits should be the same for every car in the house.
  • Whether or not you opt for “full coverage” (meaning Comprehensive and collision coverage to protect your vehicle against fire, theft, vandalism and collision with another vehicle or building/structure) is up to you.
  • If you have a loan or a lease on your vehicle, the lender will require to to carry both of these types of coverage.
  • If you use public transportation to travel to and from work, tell your insurance company that you use your vehicle for pleasure only.
  • If you drive less than 10,00 miles/year, let your insurance carrier know- most companies offer a short mileage discount! 

 Renters/homeowners/condo-unit owners’ insurance

  • Remember to combine your home insurance as well, especially if you have not lived together prior to your marriage. You’ve got all those get wedding presents! Insure them!

Cell phones/landline/internet coverage/cable.

  • If possible, change to the same carrier and get a “family plan” with unlimited mobile to mobile for your two numbers, at least! Most carriers offer a discount for the second cell phone.
  • Do you both have cell phones? Think about why you have a landline. If you’ve received less than 20 calls on your landline in the last month that were actually people you wanted to talk to (not phone solicitors or surveys), consider canceling your landline. You’ll have around $300/year, if not more.
  • Most companies that offer cell phone and internet coverage will provide you with a discount if you “bundle” your services. Ask your carrier!
  • Cable- If you have high speed internet service and a Netflix subscription, cancel your cable subscription. Between Hulu, CBS.com, and YouTube you really don’t need cable. And really… As a newlywed, you won’t be watching all that much television.

Finances: This is a major one!

  • Budget- Your financial intake should be more than your output. Make a list of all of your monthly bills and make sure that you include budget lines for groceries, gas, savings, and a date night! Join Mint.com if you are having trouble with your budget or don’t know where all your money is going. Stick to your budget. This is really hard. You can use a website like Mint.com to help you make a budget (they’ll even do a pie chart for you too)!
  • Combine bank accounts. If you do not want to do this, at the least put each other on your accounts as a co-signor (for emergencies!).
  • Saving money is important. If you get cash as a wedding gift- DON’T SPEND IT ALL. A lot of relatives and friends give you money so you can start your life together. Save some of it for your future!
  • Talk honestly about the debts you bring into the marriage and make a plan to get debt free! Debts include car payments, credit cards, student loans.
  • One person should be in charge of all of the bills and balancing the checkbook. YES- You must balance your checkbook! Be willing to trade duties and both of you should be aware of how much money you have as a couple, where your debts stand and the plan to save.
  • Make a list of all of the bills and when they are due each month. Put them on your family calendar (don’t have one? Get one! We use a desk blotter style calendar that we hang on the wall next to the computer) every month. If you are a digital family, use iCal or Outlook, and make a reminder 5 days prior to the due date.
  • Get life insurance! If you are young, it’s pretty cheap. If you get it from the same company as your auto insurance, you’ll get a discount on your car insurance, in most cases.

Misc.

  • After the gifts are opened, and thank you cards are sent, gather up all of your old pots, pans, and whatever else was replaced with your wedding gifts and hold a yard/tag/garage sale. Someone will want your old towels, sheets, pots and pans. Use the money you earn to pad your savings account.

After Hubs and I got married our car insurance went down over $100/month between the two of us, our cell bills went down about $30/month.  That little “extra” each month gave us a chance to put more money in our savings account!