Cheap Birthday Party Ideas for Kids

cheap birthday party ideasAlthough cheap is sometimes synonymous with ‘bad’, it is a sentiment that is not necessarily true. If you are a penny pinching parent who wants to celebrate your child’s birthday without ending up in the poor house, here are a few ideas that will help you to achieve that happy balance between a fun birthday party and one that is inexpensive; cheap if you will.

Cheap birthday party ideas for kids.

Find a recipe and bake a cake with your child

One way to save money on your child’s birthday party is on the cake. You and your child can decide on the flavor of the birthday cake. Find a recipe you both agree on and bake the cake together from scratch. The great thing about this birthday idea is that you can make this an annual tradition for you and your child, one that they will remember and retell to friends when they are older: as a child every birthday me and my mother or father would pick out a recipe and make a birthday cake together from scratch.

Make a homemade pizza

The cornerstone of most birthday party celebrations is pizza e.g. Chucky Cheese. Although, you can purchase pizza at a reasonable price at a lot of pizza places, to save even more money consider making a homemade pizza. One party idea is to buy or make some pizza dough, fill bowls with toppings and tomato sauce and have the children make their own individual pizza.

Buy Balloons at the dollar storeinexpensive kids birthday party

The third cheap birthday party idea are the balloons. As a rule, balloons,do not cost that much if you go say a dollar store in your city as oppose to going to a party store and ordering special occasions balloons filled with helium. Going to the party store will cost you more than if you bought two to three packs of balloons at the dollar store and blew them up yourself.

Name a Star

One gift idea that is very inexpensive and is something they can cherish all their life is a star certificate. You’re naming a star NASA and then getting a nice certificate that can be framed and hung in their bedroom or even in the family room. Just go to a dollar store to get a frame and you’re set.

Pop air popcorn in a jar and rent movies

Another cheap birthday party idea is to stay home and rent a movie. Rent movies that play into the theme of the birthday party like all Disney movies or movies that has a particular actress or actor the kids love and buy a large jar of popcorn kernals to pop.

Visit Museums when they are free

Interested in a birthday outing, well get into a car and go visit some of your city’s children’s, science or art museums. But make sure it is on a day that is free, and if not, see if you can get some kind of discount.

Go to a Matinée or Dollar Movies (see more than one)

Another option besides renting movies and popping some popcorn at home is to take the kids to an early matinée or movie theaters where the admission cost is $1.00. You still have to splurge on popcorn, candy and soda pop, but with the money you save on admission you still will come out ahead.

Six Simple Things That Make Your Apartment Feel Like Home

making an apartment a homeHaving trouble finding your design style? Wish your apartment felt more homey? Try these simple solutions that add accent color, warmth and style to any space.

One of the toughest things to do is to find your style and decorate your place so that it feels like home. There are simple thing that you can do, however, that will not only make your place feel homey but also add color and life.

Softer lighting

Overhead lighting can oftentimes feel glaring and will just accentuate the bare walls of your apartment. To add a glow to your bedroom or living room, purchase a few table lamps with shades or a floor lamp.

Lamplight will add warmth to the room rather than make it feel overly bright create a comfortable bedroomand sterile like overhead lighting. If you are on a budget, you can purchase table lamps at common retailers for around $20.

You could also mix and match bases and shades to add color or style to a room.

Familiar faces

Never underestimate the power of photos to add color and interest to a room. Did you go on a fantastic trip last year and have a memory stick full of photos waiting to be seen?

Or, do you love taking pictures of family and friends but never get around to hanging them?

Print them out and put them in frames to match the decor of the room. If you can’t paint the walls or have a lot of bare surfaces, this is one of the easiest ways to decorate them.

Plus the memories associated with the pictures will make your place feel more homey.

Make it cozy

Clean lines and sharp contrast is a modern and minimalist trend, but sometimes lush and soft are more welcoming. Add pillows and throws to your couch and chairs that are not only decorative but also soft and inviting to relax on. And, you don’t want to skimp when it comes to your bed.

Whether it’s a twin or king sized bed, you can make it luxurious with soft sheets and blankets in warm colors. Your bed is the focal point of your bedroom, so choose your colors and design wisely.

And, if you have hard floors and live in an apartment in Chicago or somewhere with frigid winters, adding soft rugs will not only keep your feet warm in the winter but will also add color and design to a room.

Life

bring life to a space using plants live thingsAdd a little life to your apartment by purchasing beautiful potted plants. You can find flowers in shades to match the color scheme of your decor or choose a leafy green variety like ferns and lilies which not only add color but also make the air in your apartment cleaner.

And, if you live alone, getting a pet may be a good way to add companionship to your life as well as color. There are a variety of fish that you can select to add life and color to your apartment.

Weed it out

You don’t want to feel like you are constantly wading through clutter or clearing off surfaces just to function in your apartment. Clean out the clutter in your closets and regularly go through your mail and weed out the junk.

Feeling like you live in a junk drawer isn’t the homiest of feelings and it doesn’t do much for the decor of your apartment.

Accessorize

Other things that can add color or depth to a room include mirrors. Decorative mirrors will take up bare wall space and can make a room feel bigger and brighter.

Candles add scent and color as well, and placing items strategically on shelves or bookcases so that items are displayed rather than crammed in there for storage will add style to a room.

Make your apartment into a place that you look forward to coming home to after work or classes. Simple touches can add accent color and warmth to your apartment and make it feel more welcoming.

Go Green This Summer

my neighborhood and neighborsSearching out ways to protect the environment and leave a smaller carbon and chemical footprint.

The sound of summer in my neighborhood is the sound of lawn mowers…(usually big riding mowers), and air conditioners. The bees in my neighborhood have mostly gone elsewhere… I wonder if they have died?

The large variety of birds that I used to have in my neighborhood seem to have dwindled in numbers… where have they all gone?

The pond that I used to catch dozens of big fish in is still here, but the grassy pasture land that surrounded it is now planted on a rotating crop basis and I’m not sure if it’s safe to eat the fish I catch because of the run off.

When I talk to my neighbors about the fleas and the ticks , they tell me all about the wonderful stuff that you put a few drops on the dog’s back and it kills the fleas after they bite…. they don’t stop to consider that not only does that stuff stink, it is putting a chemical into their dog’s bloodstream that is a poison!

What ever happened to good old fashioned conservation and protection of the environment?

Well I for one have decided that I will make a sincere effort to change the size of MY carbon and chemical footprint, and hopefully can convince others to do the same. To start with, I purchased a regular “old fashioned” human powered grass cutter, the reel type. It has the benefit of being at least $200 cheaper than the cheapest gas operated mower! And it makes no noise! AND it helps you to burn calories when you mow with it, big time.

environmentally-friendly-mowerI admit, I pampered myself and bought one of the better models, with ball bearings for easier pushing and pulling. I will still use my big riding mower when I absolutely have to cover a large expanse in a small amount of time but I will definitely use my little reel mower for the steep parkings that I have along my curbside, and I will also take care of all the weeds that grow close to the house and the fence and in those small spaces where the big mower doesn’t fit.

And my little eleven year old neighbor child who desperately wants a job mowing lawns but can’t use a gas powered mower, for her safety, can mow my lawn all she wants, get a bit of change for doing so, and LOVES to push that reel mower.

As for the numbers of birds at my feeder, I have begun a planting of bushes and protective cover that will surround my feeder and I will “frame it in” with logs and let the native grasses and wild flowers grow.

This will attract birds and give them a place to duck into cover if they see a marauding cat. And because i can’t afford to buy huge amounts of birdseed I will PLANT the seeds that they love, and let the plants naturally leave their seeds in the ground below the feeder.

As for the bugs on my dog as well as the bugs in my house and yard, I use diatomaceous dust. When the fleas and ticks walk through this dust, their exoskeletons get sliced and they die. And diatomaceous dust is totally non toxic to pets and people too. See http://celestis.com.

For the mice who want to run into my basement I have stopped using poisons. Instead I use the old farmer’s trick, dishes of instant mashed potatoes or rice. Mice love this stuff, and they eat it happily. Later they succumb because they can’t belch and the rice or mashed potatoes swell up inside their bodies.

Another trick is a saucer of pop, but that needs to be replaced daily because the “fizzzz’ goes out of it and it won’t work. Sounds cruel for the mice but it surely can’t be any crueler than letting them eat poison which keeps their blood from clotting.

I have at times used “glue bars” which are also non toxic but I just can’t stand to see those mice stuck in the glue and never know what to do with them once they are caught!

My house stays cool for a long time, well into the end of May, without ever turning on the air conditioner.

Last summer I made it clear into the middle of June. The trick is to keep the blinds drawn on the sunny side of the house in the heat of the day and open the north windows at night, set a fan in the window, and bring in the cool night air.

In the morning I shut the house up and go in and out as few times as possible, keeping the cool air in the house.

I can’t do a whole lot about the disappearing bees or the farmer who plants from ditch to ditch, but at least I can do the things in my own home and my own yard to protect and preserve the environment.

These things may be small things but every little bit helps, as the saying goes, and I will try to continue to do my part in these small ways. If we all did little things, the conservation of our land might add up to a big thing!

Recycling Begins at Home

recycle and save the earthYear after year, tons of materials which are deemed garbage clog waterways, roadsides and rivers. Many of these are recyclable but unfortunately weren’t recycled.

Many people perceive that organizing a recycling center at home is such a difficult undertaking. It just takes some creativity and commitment and you’ll find that it is not really a daunting task. Even midtown homes for sale are doing it.

When you see that you are doing your part in taking care of the environment, you’ll feel better, too.

To start, here’s how:

Find a convenient area in your house, backyard, or apartment for the center. It doesn’t require much room for your recyclables. The garages, kitchen corners, storage closet, or under your kitchen sink can make good locations. Find and carefully label containers in which to store the recyclable materials.

Plastic bins or even trash cans work well for this purpose, depending on the amount of room available in your place.

Actively involve your family in this recycling process. Orient them on what products can be recycled. Show them the difference between the aluminum can bin and the tin can bin. While doing weekly chores with them, teach them to look for recyclable trash lying around the house. Encourage them to place these in their respective storage bins.

Encourage them to think of ways to reduce the amount of recycled materials that’s consumed in your home. When you go to the recycling center in your neighborhood, take them along with you so they can witness the recycling process firsthand.

Set the example at home by showing them recyclable materials can be creatively reused at home especially in organizing things. A large cardboard box can double as a compartment for their shoes, a milk carton can be used to store fish in the freezer, or a cookie can be used as a coin bank.

Make this a regular activity. When they learn that by recycling and reusing products money can be both saved and earned, they will eventually develop a thrifty and environmentally healthy habit for life.

Slash Your Electricity Bill with These 10 Tips or Secrets

saving electricity tipsHow to slash on electricity bills? Here are some secrets to save on electricity bills & a few tips to save on electricity bills include turning off lights, unplugging devices, using fluorescent bulbs and energy efficient devices. Know more tips here…

Do you get a heart attack when you see the electricity bill?

Whenever we see the electricity bill is high, we look for ways to cut down on electricity bill. Does this mean you have to change your lifestyle altogether?

Hold on…there are some very simple, easy and at the same time low-cost tips to minimize the electricity bills. Check for these secrets and save anywhere between 20% and 30% on your electricity bills.

1. Turn off unnecessary lights and appliances: Whenever you leave your home, check whether you have switched off all the lights and fans. While you are at home, ensure electrical gadgets that you are not using currently are switched off. Do you switch on the TV and leave it just like that till you finish all your errands? Put a full stop to this habit. Turn off any unnecessary appliances when you don’t use them.

2. Less wattage bulbs: You may use bulbs with less wattage. Similarly, rather lighting the entire room, you may selectively light the room. For example, why light up the entire study room when you can simply switch on the light on the study table?

3. Buy devices of the right size: I’ve seen in many places people buying things that are bigger for them than necessary. Why getting a bigger refrigerator when a small one is enough for a family of 3? The rest of the place goes unused and this consumes lot of electricity. The same applies with other appliances too. And look for electrical fittings by a certified fiberglass electrical conduit manufacturer like Champion Fiberglass.

4. Go for fluorescent lamps: I know these are a bit costly than the normal light bulbs for energy efficiencyincandescent bulbs, but are more efficient in cutting down the electricity bill and also lasts longer.

5. Lower the temperature settings: Do you use air-conditioners? If yes, lower the settings as and when possible and ensure you switch it on for only few hours. You may set it to switch off automatically after a few hours. Similarly, you can set the temperature of the freezer a little low.

If using heaters to keep you warm, lower the temperature a couple of degrees. These not only cut down your electricity bill but also help in reducing carbon footprints and global warming.

6. Turn off laptops and computers: Are you like me who uses the laptop almost 14 to 15 hours a day? Either switch it off or put it in hibernation whenever you don’t use the laptops. This can save a lot on electricity bills.

7. Run the appliances when fully loaded: Some people run the dishwasher and washing machine when the load is not even half. This consumes a lot of electricity and water. Make it a habit that you run the appliances only when they are loaded to their full capacity.

8. Proper shading to the house: We tend to switch on the fans and air-conditioners when it is hot and switch on the heaters when it cold outside. With proper shading, we can avoid the usage of fans, air-conditioners and heaters. Use curtains that will not let more light inside. This helps in reducing the temperature of the room.

9. Unplug the devices when not in use: I have seen people who simply switch off the TV, but not the main power. They feel that by switching off the TV, they are saving electricity.

This is not so. As long as the power cord is plugged in, electricity is flowing in it and this may add up to your electricity bill.

This rule applies to your washing machine, dishwasher, dryer, microwave oven, and any such electrical devices.

10. Go for energy efficient devices: Whenever you buy new devices, check for the energy stars it has got. The more energy stars the more energy efficient it is. Keep this rule in mind when buying new electrical devices. These will save your electricity bill considerably.

With these simple tips and secrets, you can really slash your electricity bill to a greater extent. Follow these tips and share it with me how these tips helped you in cutting your electricity bills.

Tips on Saving Money While Grocery Shopping

saving money on groceries tipsSmall Tips that Will Save You Lots of Money Over Time

Purchasing groceries for your family, week after week, can be extremely expensive. If you have a large family, just purchasing food can often “break the bank.” Although many grocery store chains often offer great weekly sales, your final bill can still be expensive. There are many small tips that can save a family a tremendous amount of money over time.

Planning all of your meals ahead of time allows a family to become more organized and develop a set grocery list. Once you planed all of your meals, you will know what ingredients you need to purchase. Once you make your list and take it to the store it is important that you stick to.

If you happen to see an item on sale that you know your family will use in the near future, it may be a good idea to sock up on the item; however, try to avoid impulse buying.

Before entering a store check out their weekly sales flyers. In many grocery stores, you can ask the customer service repetitive about having a flyer mailed directly to your home and this will help you prepare a list ahead of time. We have a restaurant Treebeads and have used this tactic to save a lot of money.

Many well known grocery stores often have store cards or discount cards. These cards pretty much work like coupons, without all the paper! You can generally obtain a store card by filling out a form at the customer service counter. Each week grocery stores will have special sale prices that you can only obtain by using their card.

Just about every week, coupons booklets are inserted into weekly newspapers. Clipping coupons is a great way to save money if you will use the product. Many shoppers think that because they have the coupon that they should purchase the product.

Only purchase products that you will use. Many times a competing brand will have a sale price on the same product that you have a coupon for.

If you have a large family or like to purchase items in bulk, it is recommended that you shop at local wholesale food stores. Sam’s Club is a great example of a wholesale food warehouse; however, there are many more stores located around the nation.

Discount stores and dollar stores are also beginning to carry more food items in their inventory. Often times, these stores will carry food items at lower prices then the grocery stores. Dollar General, a popular discount store, accepts coupons for the products that they carry.

Save A Lot and Aldies are popular “bag your own groceries” stores located in the Northeast region. They often offer their products at lower prices because they do not have to have a large staff. You bagging your own items saves them time and money.

Think of it this way, not only will you be saving money but bagging your own items will also give you exercise. When you are at a discount store, be sure to check out the store brand items. Most stores will grantee their products and offer you a refund if you are not satisfied.

If you compare the store brand labels to the national brand products, you will often find little or no difference in the ingredients.

Whether you are shopping at a grocery store, department store, or discount store it is recommend that you never shop when you are hungry, it increases impulse buying. If you have a set budget, bring a calculator with you to ensure that you don’t exceed your limit.

Finally, going alone will not only make your shopping less hectic, it is also likely that your shopping bill will be dramatically lower.

Strapped for Cash? There Are More Ways to Save and Earn Money

best money saving ideas for 2017What if others are investing in stocks, while you still have trouble maintaining a small amount in a savings account, let alone other investments? And the holidays are coming up . . . here are some financial tips that will help.

Saving money is a discipline, but you need to balance that with what you can reasonably accomplish.

• Try keeping a “spending diary” for one week. Write down everything you buy, from pieces of furniture to a penny gumball. Where can you cut back? Add up only the necessary items – food, shelter, transportation (to/from work only) and clothing (the absolutely necessary kind only). How much money is left? The money left after necessary expenses is called discretionary income. What do you do with that money, and why?

• Aim for a balance between saving as much as you possibly can, while not saving so much that you feel completely deprived. For instance, if you buy a candy bar every day, you might want to cut that from your spending and save the money. But, if having that candy bar allows you to work longer (and therefore get paid overtime) or forego other spending, then you may want to keep buying it.

• Look at your spending diary again. Based on what you spend for basic items, formulate a budget. You may not have the discipline to put all of your discretionary income into savings, but can you put aside 10%? Or 30%?

• Look closely at what you spend money on, with a goal towards cutting back as opposed to more austere measures. Don’t skip lunch, but if you normally buy a turkey sandwich from your local deli, can you eat a cheaper sandwich (like grilled cheese) once a week? Can you pack your lunch most days instead of purchasing it? Can you brew your coffee at home instead of paying $1.00 or more at the coffee shop near your office?

• What about your spare change? Try putting any change in a jar or other container. When the container is full, roll the coins and deposit them in your savings account.

• Do you play the lottery? Stop, and put the money into your spare change collection or directly into a savings account instead.

Have you allowed others – roommates, partners, the government – to receive more money from you than you can really afford? Be fair, but firm, and take back control of your money from others.

• Do you have a roommate who religiously gets the carpets cleaned weekly, only to present you with half of the bill, even though once every six months is OK with you? Let your roommate know, clearly (and in writing if possible) that you won’t be footing the bill for their excessively clean carpet fetish, but you’ll be happy to chip in your share every six months. Then stick to it. Be very clear about what expenses (besides the rent website) are shared, how they are divided and why. Insist that any other expenses are discussed with you beforehand.

• Do you have a partner who tends to go on spending binges, leaving you to scramble to pay bills? Talk to them and decide what to do to eliminate problematic spending. If they continue spending beyond your means and theirs, open a new bank account at a different bank and begin depositing your money into that account so you can meet your monthly expenses. Check the credit counseling resources below to help.

• Are you getting all of the tax breaks you deserve? You probably can’t afford an accountant, but check with your IRS office for free tax assistance in your area. You could be eligible for deductions, such as the Earned Income Credit, which would reduce your taxes and/or provide you with a larger refund. (You can also check out information on the Earned Income Credit at the IRS web site, located at www.irs.gov.)

If you know you ought to be saving money, but it tends to “disappear” if you have your hands on it, make it harder to access.

• Open up a “Christmas” or end-of-year account with your bank. These accounts will usually deduct a set amount (some as little as $10.00) from your checking account each month and put it in a special savings account. The money is returned to you, with interest, at the end of the year. You can also usually decide what day of the month money is deducted, so you can make the deduction before you’re tempted to spend it.

• If you are employed, take advantage of any matching contributions your employer will make to your 401(k). Contribute as much as you can up to the maximum.

• If you don’t have a savings account, open one, but open it at a different bank from where you have a checking account. Don’t get an ATM card for the savings account, but do ask for envelopes with the bank’s address and deposit slips. Make it easy to deposit money, but hard to get it out. See if the bank will make automatic deductions from your paycheck to deposit into your savings account.

Be careful about offers which claim to save you money. Do the math and be sure they actually do.

• Most manufacturers’ coupons (like the kind in the Sunday paper) are name brands that are usually more expensive to begin with, so they aren’t likely to save you much money if you already use a store brand.

• Many retailers advertise “sales”, but compare the prices of traditional in-store retailers, online retailers, and “discount” or “warehouse” retailers. Some items in “warehouse” or “discount” stores may not necessarily be inexpensive. Look for online venues that offer a dollar or percentage off your first purchase and see whether your actual price is more or less than buying the same item in your local department store. (Don’t forget to include shipping and handling charges, unless the online retailer specifies there is no shipping and handling fee.)

Consider doing some moonlighting for extra cash, and put any earnings directly into your savings account.

• Look at your belongings. Go on a cleaning spree and clean out every closet, shelf, hutch and storage space you have. Still have those goofy collectibles from McDonald’s that you pestered your parents for twenty years ago? Check out auction sites, such as eBay (www.ebay.com) and see if you can generate extra cash.

• Pick up newspapers (free if you can get them – you’re saving money, of course) and look through your local Yellow Pages. Does your area have market research firms? They frequently will pay you (and even feed you a light meal) to hear you spout off about your favorite color of wrapping paper, which cheese is best and other esoteric topics. It probably won’t solve your financial problems overnight, but the fees they pay for your opinions ($25-$100 per session) will certainly help.

Don’t be afraid to seek out help with managing your money, especially if you have problems paying your bills or have run into credit-related problems. There are many good, non-profit agencies which specialize in helping people with money problems. Two of the best that I found online are:

National Foundation for Consumer Credit (www.nfcc.org). This is actually a clearinghouse of over 1,400 local agencies.

American Consumer Credit Counseling, Inc. (www.consumercredit.com) Don’t let the “Inc.” mislead you – it is a 501c(3) organization dedicated to helping consumers with credit and related problems. Their list of “Danger Signs” gives you a good indication whether you need their help.

Saving Money: Trick Yourself into Saving Instead of Spending

money saving tipsWays You Can Save Money Without Increasing Your Budget

Saving money can seem like a daunting task. Everyone knows that it is something that needs to be done, but it seems to take so much effort. However, there are ways to “trick” yourself into saving money – without having to make major budget adjustments.

It is a matter of identifying the monetary waste that each household has and converting it into your savings, rather than just letting it slip away.

Incorporate all five of the following suggestions into your savings plan, and you’ll be surprised how fast it adds up without you noticing a big change in what is available for you to spend each month.

  1. Keep making car payments, even after the car is paid off. Most Americans buy cars by financing them. This means that a monthly car payment is built into your budget.

When the car is paid off, simply keep paying the amount of your car payment into a savings account. That money for a rainy day will add up – and you won’t be paying any more than you did each month for years before.

2. Try to use cash when possible. Have a jar set up and put all of the coins you get back in change into the jar. Then, when the jar is full, take it to a Coinstar machine or even roll it yourself when you have a free evening.

Add this money to your savings account. You’d be surprised how much can add up when you use this method of building a little extra savings.

Plus, using cash helps you “see” how fast the money is going. Swiping plastic just doesn’t have the same psychological effect.

3.Direct deposit into savings. Most employers offer a direct deposit option that allows your paycheck to be placed immediately into your bank account.

It is also possible to have a portion of that placed into a savings or money market account. Just as your retirement and benefits can be deducted, you can arrange to have money deducted from your paycheck and placed directly into your savings account. You never see it, so it is not available to spend.

4.Write checks or make payments for the big things when you get your paycheck. Many people’s mortgage or car payments are not due until the middle of the month.

Rather than waiting to pay until these bills are due, pay them immediately.

That way the chunk is deducted from your checkbook ledger or computer budget program, and you see only what is truly available to you. This works even if you have automatic withdrawal.

Deduct the amount from your finances immediately, and then you won’t spend the money, leaving it available for the withdrawal later in the month.

5.Use your telephone bill to save money. Budget a certain amount each month for your phone bill (or other utility, like electric) based on the highest amount you have paid, plus $10. Pay this every month.

The months that you are ahead, and the bill you get is less than the amount budgeted, pay the amount owed, and put the difference into a savings account.

You won’t miss the money because you have already written off in your budget.