Full Moon Walk Tonight?

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As I’ve mentioned in the past, we try to take a “Full Moon Walk” from time to time, especially in the summer. Well it looks like another Full Moon tonight–and on Friday the 13th at that! I’m kind of bummed that I missed the “Honey Moon” last night.

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The idea of the Full Moon Walk comes from an older book called Walk When the Moon Is Full. It’s written by a Mother who shares the adventures her and family had each time the moon was full when they’d go on their “Full Moon Walks.”

I thought I’d share in case you were looking for something different to do for free tonight.

Here’s a few tips if you choose to go out:

*Flashlights – Even though you’ll be in well-lit areas, the kids think these are fun and you never know when you might need one. If you don’t have any, dollar bins usually carry some.

*Mosquito Repellent – You may want to use some on children that are old enough to wear it.

*Small snacks and water

*Small Blanket and/or spare jackets – You never know when a chill might creep up in the weather. Also, you might find a nice spot to just sit and stare at the moon and stars with the kids.

*Bag(s) for carrying found treasures

*Camera – Take lots of pictures for a memory book of each walk

Disclaimer: Use your best judgment and all safety requirements when walking outside. Only walk in safe neighborhoods, wear clothing that can be visible to others and even though you’ll be exploring, try to stay in well-lit areas.

20 Ways to Save More Money – #3 List of Most Used And Highest Priced Items

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So we are on #3. Prior to this, I had you all make a long-term goal and a budget. As you were making that budget I asked you to save your receipts for a month. And here’s a second reason why I asked you to do that. Throughout the course of the month, you’ll find that there are several items that you frequently buy. Typically you’ll find the cycle of most the items that you buy within a 3 month period. Everything beyond that usually is just a duplicate with a random new thing that is often just something seasonal.

And now we dig deeper into our shopping habits and needs. Are you ready? Roll up your sleeves and let’s take a deeper look.

As you are highlighting those receipts, I want you to have a sheet of paper where you can tally the products you buy. If you want to get completely detailed, you can do them all. But I’m afraid that doing that might overwhelm most of you. So instead, here’s what I’m going to have you make a list of:

1) Items that are higher-priced.
2) Items that it appears you use quite frequently

I know. You feel like you are back in school and groaning over homework. But you see, our shopping habits usually stay the same over time so just remind yourself this is a one-time deal. Or maybe an annual thing if you feel over-ambitious.

As they say, there’s a method behind the madness. I’m not just having you do this to stress your day even more but because I’m going to help you save some money. Really.

When it comes to using coupons, it doesn’t take much for people to get overwhelmed. Some may take off at a gazelle’s speed when they first start off but then it tends to taper off. People get burnt out. The couponing tends to stop. So we are going to give you a new outlook. Instead of snipping coupons for everything under the sun, you are going to focus on saving money on those 2 things I listed – those higher priced items and the most frequently used. Start with those.

These are your top priority when it comes to finding a sale price, finding a hot coupon and looking for deals. And here are a few ways you can do it:

1) Find out the manufacturer of those products. Follow them via social media (Twitter, Facebook) and via email newsletter. You may want to create a separate email address for those sign-ups so your personal inbox doesn’t become a nightmare to control. You will soon see coupons for those products, special offers, etc. Keep your eyes open for coupons in your Sunday paper and printable coupons for those items, too.

2) Google those products when you are getting low on them. Example: You use Head and Shoulders shampoo. Do a Google search something like, “Head and Shoulders Deal.” Now seek out the most recently posted deal. You may stumble onto a hot deal you didn’t know existed—and maybe even a coupon to go with it. Win-win.

3) When you find a hot deal on those products, sensibly stockpile. I’m not talking a garage full of shampoo, folks. I’m talking a 3-6 month supply. A few bottles to hold you over until the next sale. Typically you’ll see a deal on products every 3-6 months.

Over time, you are going to start to see a dent on how much you spend on groceries/household items. One of the quickest ways to burn through your grocery/household budget is to be caught off guard and have to pay full-price for things. Paying $2 for shampoo sure beats $6.

The best places to start focusing on savings are personal care, dental and any canned/processed foods you buy. I beg you not to pay $4 for a box of cereal. Please don’t do it! You can usually get them for $1 – $2 with minimal work. And if you tell me that you pay full-price for toothpaste, I might physically cry. LOL. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash—all those things can easily be bought for Free – $1. No lie. We’ll get to the point of how to do that in this series. Just hang in there with me.

So I’ll keep working on finding you all deals and coupons but you need to do your part in knowing the products that you need to save the most money on. Together, we’ll get you some BIG savings.

RECAP
1) Make a list of the most used and highest priced items that you frequently buy.

2) Find the manufacturers of those items and follow them. Keep your eyes open for deals and coupons.

3) Stockpile those items sensibly. Typically no more than a 3 month supply–6 months for some items that rarely go on sale. Over time you’ll learn which ones those are.

It seems like a lot of work but knowledge is savings. You owe it to yourself to make the most of the money that you work so very, very hard for.

How Does This Save Me Money?
1) As you learn the most used/highest priced items that you buy, over time you’ll grab them at a hot price and never pay full-price for them again.

2) You’ll learn how to sensibly stockpile those items so you’ll have them on hand when you need them. That will free up your budget for other things those months. Maybe you can spend more on paying off your debt because you aren’t paying $6 a bottle for shampoo.

3) Couponing will become sooo much easier for you and you’ll stick with it. And we all know using coupons saves money!

4) By following the manufacturers and blogs looking for those items, you’ll find deals you may never have know existed–more savings!

Board Game Decathlon – Games #2 and #3

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As I mentioned earlier, my family and I have been having fun this week and next doing a “Board Game Decathlon.” 10 games. Boys vs. Girls. Winning team gets $20 to have a fun day together.

Wednesday, we played Pop The Pig. Basically the game goes something like this: You roll the dice, you pick a hamburger and based on the number on the bottom you push down on the pig that many times. Meanwhile, the pig is getting bigger and bigger and the person to make his belt pop, is the “winner.”  We played best out of 3.

A game mostly for younger kids as it helps them learn how to count and color matching. My kids loved the anticipation of would the pig pop this time or next?

Boys won this one. A big defeat for the girls as we were now down 2-0.

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Thursday, we played Big Cat Math. How this game works is that everyone gets a yarn ball card where there are 3 blank equations. You can fill in an addition or subtraction sign based on which game route you choose to go. Everyone chooses 3 numbers to put in the sum area of their card. Then you get to draw 2 cards from the cat. You work on making a valid equation such as 2+2=4. It’s all a game of luck and memory. For if the circle doesn’t work with your equations, you put it back and someone then has a chance to grab that number later if they remember where it was.

I loved how this game helped reinforce the learning of math problems and also helped the mind work backwards in some instances. *+2=6 and you had to figure out what * was.

Girls won this one. FINALLY!

CURRENT TALLY

Boys = 2 Girls = 1

So the girls are hanging in there. I was fearing a sweep!

Hope you are considering having your own Board Game Decathlon with your own family. Dust off those board games and have some frugal fun at home this week!!

20 Ways to Save More Money – #2 Create a Budget

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So I’m hoping I didn’t lose everyone as soon as they read the title word, “Budget.” Anyone still there? :)

Just thinking about creating a budget makes some people break into a panic. I often hear people say, “I just don’t know where all my money goes!” and I usually reply back, “Well, find out!” Often on paper it appears that all our bills should be paid and we should have extra savings for emergencies and cheesecake and all those good little luxuries in life. But then at the end of the month, the money is gone, the bills still aren’t paid and savings are….what are savings again? And we say, “But I didn’t buy anything I didn’t need this month.” Yet when we dig deep we realize that we $5-ed ourselves into our money disappearing. “Oh it’s only $5.” Say that 20 times a month and you’ll find yourself $100 poorer. Multiple that by a family of 4 and you are out $400 quicker than you can blink.

Well it’s time for us to pull our heads out of the sand, brush ourselves off and take a real hard, and possibly painful, look at where our money goes each month.

For those of you that use credit cards, pull out your monthly statements. For those of you that don’t, gather up all your receipts, bank statements and bills and start from there. Going forward, all of you will be keeping your receipts for at least one month. I know, it may be hard. There are times where my receipt seems to vanish into thin air before I even make it to the store exit door. But we are going to take the time to give them a safe new home until we can look into the details on them.

I started to carry an empty checkbook cover and stuffed my receipts in there. Whatever you do, you need to find a method that works for you and stick to it for keeping your receipts. Because financial knowledge is in the details. “I spent $100 at Target” tells you nothing. But perusing through a receipt to see that $20 was from that beckoning dollar spot that gets you or maybe $30 on a toy your kid didn’t need….that’s useful info. That will help you alter your shopping habits so that at the end of the month, you can afford that cheesecake you’ve been craving. (And if you haven’t been craving any, you may by the time this post is over…)

So now you have a pile of receipts. Where do you begin? Well hopefully somewhere in your house is a set of highlighters. And if not, bum some from a friend until you can get a hot deal on a set. You’ll need pink, yellow and green. And here’s the gameplan, we’ll go positive to negative:

Green = These are things you TRULY needed. They were on your shopping list. (No shopping list? We’ll get to that another day!)

Yellow = These are things that you needed but weren’t on your list. Maybe you forgot you did need tomatoes for tonight’s dinner. Or maybe the clearance rack had a tube of toothpaste you could get for almost free after coupon and you are low. Eventually you’ll analyze if these yellows could have been better planned for.

Pink = Think of pink as red. The red highlighters are too dark and make your receipt illegible. So pink it is. Now these are things that you should have stopped yourself from buying. That pair of shoes that while they looked pretty, you had 2 pairs almost like them at home. Not a need at all!

Now that you have those receipts highlighted and looking all festive, look at what you bought. Where do your green highlights lie? Over time, these are the things you’ll budget for. More than likely, they’ll break out into categories such as groceries, household expenses, personal care, clothing, pet supplies, gifts, etc. Your long-term goal is to have a receipt of almost all greens. Yeah, I’m still gonna give you some wiggle room for a few yellows because, life happens.

Your budget should include all your life necessities such as Housing, Utilities, Car Payment, Loans, Credit Card Bills and all those things listed above. You’ll have some flexible things such as Entertainment, Travel, “Allowance”, etc.

Your goal is to set a reasonable budget and do what you can to stick to it each month. And if the money runs out for that category, you need to figure out how you could have made cutbacks so the money could have stretched the entire month. I’m going to share ways throughout this series of how to make the most of your money but for now, you need to figure out where you think your money should be going. That is the top priority.

Your budget is your path each month. It’s going to help you achieve that long-term goal that you set.

RECAP
1) Pull out credit card and bank statements and receipts. Take a hard look at where you money is going. (I know, it’s painful!) And break them out into categories.

2) Take 1 month and keep all your receipts.

3) Take the time each day to highlight those receipts so you have a better idea of what type of shopping you are doing.

4) Brainstorm ways to find cut-backs on those areas where you spend too much.

What’s awesome is that we live in an era where we have access to the Internet which holds a plethora of information on how to create a budget. Seek out the way that works best for you.

How Can a Budget Save You Money?

1) You’ll have a better idea of where you money is going and find ways to make the cutbacks needed to make your money stretch farther.

2) When you get closer to the limit on a category that month, it will make you slow up your spending and think twice about what you are buying.

3) By analyzing receipts, you’ll see what kind of shopper you are and possibly learn to plan better or to do without things that are just “wants” and not “needs.”

4) You might see that you are spending money on something you can truly do without.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series!

What’s New: How to Train Your Dragon 2 at IMAX

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Looking for something to do over Father’s Day weekend as a family? How to Train Your Dragon 2 releases in theaters, including IMAX on June 13, 2014.

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The IMAX 3D release will be digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience®, creating a unique environment that will make audiences feel as though they are flying alongside heroic Viking Hiccup and his faithful dragon, Toothless.

Here are a few of the “big names” in this film: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett, Djimon Honsou and Kit Harington.

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Want to find an IMAX Theater near you? You can use this link to see if there’s one near you and the available showtimes. You can also see the latest movie clip and more.

I have heard really good things about this movie and I’m excited to see this one with the kids. I haven’t taken them to the IMAX yet and I’m thinking this is the perfect one to introduce them to the experience with as they’ll love watching all the dragons flying around.

Disclaimer: This information was provided to me by IMAX but all opinions are my own.

20 Ways to Save More Money – #1: Set Short and Long Term Goals

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It’s easy to decide we want to save more money. But before we set off on a journey of endless savings we must take a little time to plan first. Think of it like training for a marathon. You wouldn’t just open up your front door and take off running and expect to easily conquer those 26.2 miles. There’s planning involved. You need little goals along the way that will help you achieve that one big goal you desire. Start off walking a mile. Then jogging. And then taking short runs until you build up your strength.

The same principles apply for saving money. While we are all different in what works for us, in the past I have made my biggest financial gains when I have a long-term goal in mind with short-term goals to support it along the way. You need something to push you to say, “I don’t need this or it will take away from that” or “I choose not to buy that because I’d rather have this instead.”

So your first task is to take time today to stop and think about your future. What do you want for yourself in a year, 5 years, 10 years, etc. Perhaps you want to save up for a college, to buy a new house, to be financially secure so you can start a family or to just work towards a debt-free life. More than likely several of you will have this goal in mind: to quit living paycheck to paycheck. I get it. I’ve been there. Life is tough when you aren’t sure how you can make it to the next Friday’s paycheck.

Before you go further, you must think about what you want for your goals. After you have spent some time thinking, set aside an hour or so to talk with your spouse (if you have one) about his/her goals. Work together at compromising, when needed, as the goal-process is much easier when you are on the same page. From there, call together a family meeting and share your goal with your children and ask for their input and their ideas on how you can make that goal happen.

I’ll share my experience with you.

My husband and I decided that we’d like to move to a new house, one where there is a bit more room and a better school system. That is our long-term goal. But to make that happen, we need to have short-term goals of fixing up our current house and saving for all those moving/selling expenses. We looked at various areas to price houses so we could have a better idea of how much we needed to save up. We discussed our plans with our children and keep them involved in every aspect along the way. We are on one page as a family. When we are out shopping and the kids want something, they knew they must choose between using their savings or doing without that item. They understand that we need to give up luxuries for a year or two because we shared our goal with them. We sat down and mapped out what needs to happen to get from point A to point B.

These are the things that I encourage you all to do. Map out your financial marathon. Write out your baby steps you’ll take to achieve it. And give yourself little rewards along the way. I want you all to cross that finish line for your long-term goal!

RECAP
1) Call together a family meeting to discuss your future.

2) Set a long-term goal and some short-term goals to help you achieve it.

3) Reward yourself along the way.

How do goals help us save money?

1) You’ll find yourself spending less money on impulse buys if you know it will take away from your goal.

2) Knowing you have a goal in mind, you might work harder at possibly finding more ways to earn money.

3) You’ll take a better look at where your money truly is being spent and find ways to make cut-backs so you can achieve your goal.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series!

The Board Game Decathlon Begins!

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Last week I was going through my kids’ closets pulling out clothes that no longer fit and weeding through all their toys finding some I knew they didn’t play with any more so I could try to sell them at a garage sale. In the process, I realized that we had a lot of board games and we weren’t taking advantage of them as far as family entertainment. And when I say we have a lot, I mean a LOT! I let each kid “save” 10 board games and the rest went into a stack in our living room.

We decided we were going to do a board game decathlon. 10 games over the course of the month. To add to the fun, we made the decision to split into boys vs. girls teams. The winning team gets $20 for a day together to do whatever they want.  Each kid will also get to decide on their favorite game to “save” to be added into our permanent collection at the end of the decathlon.

Tonight was our first night in the board game decathlon. The kids picked Alphabug Soup Word Game as the game to kick off the event.

Who won?

CURRENT TALLY:

BOYS = 1 and GIRLS = 0

Boo. I guess my daughter and I will have to work on our comeback.

I’ll be sharing the games we are playing and the winning outcome just so you can have a little fun along the way with us. And who knows, you might find a new family favorite as far as board game.

The question is….will you do one of your own board game decathlons at home, too? :)