Seven Free and Cheap Summer Activities for Kids



summer activities

Summer is right around the corner! How will your children spend their long summer days? While there is definitely a lot of value in unscheduled time running around outside in the backyard, you will want to have some fun activities to keep them occupied as well. Thankfully, fun doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are seven summer activities for kids that don’t cost much at all.

1. Go to the Library

Has it been a while since your kids have visited the library? If so, you might be surprised at just how many things they have. In addition to free books and movies, most libraries have a kids’ area with games, story time and even computers full of educational games. You can probably even find fun summer classes or programs.

2. Have a Picnic at the Park

You have to eat lunch anyways–why not make it fun? Grab a big blanket and head to the park with a picnic lunch. Bring some of your kids’ friends along too for double for the fun. Just be sure to grab a shady spot and bring plenty of drinks from home!

3. Go Bowling

If you are lucky enough to live in one of several select cities, your children can actually bowl free all summer long. You just have to buy shoes. (Tip: If you plan on going several times, just buy an extra pair of “bowling shoes” instead of paying each time.) Bowling is a great way to beat the heat and have some fun. Click here to see if Kids Bowl Free has a program in your area.

4. Take in a Matinee Movie

Alternately, you may be able to find movies for free or cheap, especially if you go in the afternoon when theaters are dead. You don’t have to live next to a dollar theatre either. Simply call your local movie theater and see if they offer any type of kids’ program or special discount. Many do.

5. Visit the Animal Shelter or Pet Store

Looking for a fun summer activity that also helps out your community? Why not visit the pets at the pet store or animal shelter? These poor penned up pups need lots of love, and if your kids love animals, they will love helping take care of them. Visit regularly and the workers might even allow your children to help with extra, fun responsibilities.

6. Be a Tourist in Your Hometown

Do you live in a city that has a rich heritage? If so, take an afternoon and learn more. Visit your local tourist center in your city to find out what little-known highlights your city has to offer and then spend the afternoon exploring them. This is a great way to make history really come to life!

7. Tour a Museum

Do you have any fun museums in your area? If so, call and see what kind of discounts or special programs they offer. Many kid-friendly museums have special exhibits, events or discount rates for kids. Your kids will love wandering around, you’ll love the educational value, and you’ll all love the air conditioning!

This summer, don’t spend an arm and a leg to keep your children occupied all summer. Check out these seven free and cheap summer activities for kids to have a blast without paying a fortune.

What do you and your children love to do in the summer? Do you have any additional inexpensive activities to add?

6 Ways to Save on Vet Bills



ways to save on vet bills According to an AP-Petside.com poll, pet owners spend more than $500 a year in vet costs. Depending upon the age and health of your pet, some of you might pay much more than that. But even though that expert assistance is well worth it, it is possible to save a few bucks (or a lot of bucks!) when it comes to health care for your pooch or kitty.

1. Shop Around for Pet Insurance – Pet insurance can cost anywhere from $25 to $50 a month, but it can be a lifesaver for your pocketbook when it comes to expensive operations and procedures. Since pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, the best time to insure your pet is when they’re younger.

2. Score Discounts with Pet Assure – If insurance is outside your price range, you might consider a more affordable option like Pet Assure. The plan offers up to 25 percent off all medical services and 50 percent off pet products from participating vets. And at just $99 a year for dogs, $79 for cats and $149 for a four-pet family plan, it can pay for itself with just a few visits.

3. Get a Written Estimate – Imagine being told your car repairs will cost $300 and then being charged $700. The same can happen with vet bills. A written estimate can help you avoid “surprise” costs and make sure both you and the vet are on the same page when it comes to your pet’s care.

4. Get Regular Check Ups – Can you save money by going to the vet more often? You bet! Regular check ups for your pet are like yearly tune-ups for your car – they’ll help diagnose smaller problems before they become expensive bigger problems.

5. Visit During Regular Hours – Emergency visits, either after hours or during working hours but without an appointment, can be costly. If your pet is truly sick or injured, definitely take him to see the vet immediately, but if he’s merely under the weather and can wait 24 hours or so, go ahead and make an appointment.

6. Take Advantage of Discounts – There are all sorts of vet care discounts available to pet owners. Those cost-cutters include senior and veteran discounts, but can also be used to save money if you’re a multi-pet owner or the owner of a stray or rescued animal. Not all vets offer discounts, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to ask!

4 Easy and Affordable Valentine’s Day Breakfast Ideas



Metal heart hanging on vintage wooden background as Valentines Day  symbol

Cereal or toast might make an easy and tasty breakfast on most mornings, but Valentine’s Day calls for a morning meal with a little more love. Luckily, there are plenty of options – for kids and adults alike – that are simple and affordable. Here are five breakfast ideas that will show your Valentine just how much he or she is loved.

1. Chocolate Waffles – When it comes to Valentine’s foods, chocolate is king (or queen). This affectionate breakfast combines chocolate with another delicious treat – waffles – to create a morning meal your loved one will never forget!

2. Almond French Toast Hearts – Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world, so why not channel the power of that French city with some French toast? But this isn’t your ordinary French toast, it’s French toast cut into hearts (I recommend using this heart cutter set). Top it off with some sweet syrup and your sweetheart will definitely know that they are loved.

3. Blood-Orange Pomegranate Mimosas – These drinks combine two key parts of the most romantic day of the year – something sweet and something red. The sparkling wine cocktail is a mixture of blood orange juice and pomegranate juice and garnished with pomegranate seeds for an extra special touch.

4. Egg-in-the-Nest – This classic kid-friendly recipe featuring an egg cooked inside a piece of bread becomes the perfect Valentine’s Day breakfast when the hole in the bread is shaped like a heart and you throw in a few ketchup hearts.

Our Financial Goals for 2015 + Money Personality Quiz!



Christmas came and went and we just finished packing up the remainder of our Christmas decorations to store away for next year. I feel like our preparations for Christmas took a while and I treasured each day that I was able to work from home enjoying my cozy, decorated home while listening to Christmas music and drinking coffee. I feel like all of the time it took to prepare for the big day was a lot compared to the actual morning of Christmas when it took literally no time to rip open all of the packages to see what Santa brought each of our girls!

Christmas

I have to be honest with you all here when I say that I didn’t quite stay within my budget for the holidays this year. In fact, I overspent due to poor planning and well, being a deal blogger. You see, as a deal blogger, I know where to find good deals so as I was posting some of those deals for you, I was buying a lot of what I was posting because the prices were too good. I knew that I could get more for less. I was very happy with my purchases this year, but I could have done with buying less.

I also spent more on gifts that I didn’t pre-plan for. There were so many gifts that I ended up buying simply because I wanted to give certain special people in my life a special gift to let them know I cared about them. While doing so, I did things like pay way too much for shipping. At one point, I shipped a $12 gift for $12.95! I wasn’t too happy with that, but I knew the recipient would appreciate the gift when they opened it up. It was definitely one of those “why did I just do that” kind of moments, but it’s in the past and I can only look to the future to improve.

Speaking of the future, it’s a brand new year and I have a lot to look forward to in 2015. My husband and I already sat down at the beginning of the year to discuss our financial goals. We looked back at 2014 and saw that we didn’t save as much as we would have liked to and we want to make changes this year.

In 2015 we’d like to:

  • continue to give 10% to the church
  • maximize our Roth IRAs
  • contribute more to an emergency fund
  • contribute monthly to our girl’s 529 college accounts
  • take 1-2 family vacations with leftover funds

I’ve already made a few important calls to get the ball rolling on these goals and I’m excited to see what this year brings!

If you are interesting in saving more in 2015, take this fun money personality quiz and come up with a list of your own financial resolutions for this brand new year!

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well being. They help you get organized, make a plan, and stay on track so you can get and stay in control of your finances. When you are confident about your money, you can save for your goals and splurge knowingly on what matters most to you.

What is your money personality? Find out here

To find advice, tips, tools and motivation to start your new year click here

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.

Jewelry and Other Accessories for Under $3 Each!



heart pendant of gold, diamond and lemon quartz

Are you looking for affordable jewelry and accessories? Here’s a list of affordable jewelry and accessories all for under $3 each! Please note that prices can change at any time, so I’ll try to update this list as often as I can!

Under $1

Under $2

Under $3

How to Create a Budget that Really Works



create a budget

According to an article on StatisticBrain.com, the third most popular New Year’s Resolution people made last year was to spend less and save more. This comes as no surprise, considering that the average American household owes an average of $7,283 on their credit cards, not including their hefty mortgage and student loan debts. (Source)

Whether you owe a lot or a little, one thing’s for certain: If you want to get control of your finances and pay off your debt, you need a budget, and you need a budget that works.

If you’re one of the many Americans who has tried to budget before and failed, you aren’t alone. Many Americans have trouble making and sticking to a budget. The good news is, creating and keeping a budget that really actually works doesn’t have to be so difficult. Just follow these five steps!

1. Write Down the Numbers

Before you can figure out where you’re going, you have to figure out where you are now. Print out the last few months of bank and credit card statements. Get out a sheet of paper and write down how much you make every month (from work, child support, loans from your parents… everything that comes in). If it varies, write down the lowest amount you consistently make.

Then, write down ALL of your expenses and how much you spend on them. This includes bills like the mortgage, groceries, and cable as well as all the little things like gas station snacks, Starbucks trips and Target runs. If you use cash and you don’t know where your money is going, put that money in a “cash” category.

While you’re writing down numbers, go ahead and write down all of your debt on a separate piece of paper as well. It’s time to get honest.

2. Set Some Tangible Goals

For most people, budgets themselves aren’t intrinsically motivating. Therefore, if you want to succeed, you need to figure out your why. Do you want to get out of debt? Do you want to be a stay-at-home mom? Do you want to save up for a nice vacation? Figure out your motivation, and then put a tangible reminder where you can see it. For example, you might put a picture of a beach house on the fridge. This will help motivate you when times get tough.

3. Adjust the Numbers Accordingly

Once you figure out what you’re making and spending, it’s time to adjust the numbers so everything fits. On a clean sheet of paper, list ALL of the things you spend money on each month, and divvy up your income into each category. Your grand total of expenses has to be equal to or less than your income (with wiggle room!) for your budget to work.

Do your best to make your numbers frugal, but realistic. After all, if your budget is unrealistic, you won’t be able to stick to it. Make sure you include a category for fun or anything else that you HAVE to have as well, even if the category is small.

Depending on how much you need to cut back, you may need to get rid of some things, sell some things, work longer hours or even get another part time job. But you CAN make it work. It might just take work and sacrifice.

4. Choose the Right Budgeting System for You

Figuring out how much you can afford to spend is the easy part. Sticking with the budget is much harder. While having a motivating goal can help tremendously, choosing the right money management system is crucial as well.

When it comes to budgeting and money management systems, you have several options. One new option I recently learned about that I love is LearnVest. LearnVest is a really neat new budgeting tool that helps you easily track your spending, analyze your habits and set and achieve your goals. With LearnVest, you can learn more about budgeting through special members-only articles and classes, visualize your progress and goals, and get the help and support you need to get back on track.

LearnVest even offers a Strategy Session with a real live Financial Planner who can help you define your goals, create a personalized budget that really works, and finally achieve financial freedom in a way you never thought possible! If you’re ready to finally get serious with your budget, you need this incredible tool.

Read more about all LearnVest has to offer here.

5. Stick to the Budget!

Lastly, once you’ve worked with LearnVest to create the perfect budget for you and you’ve gotten the personalized support that you need, all that’s left to do is to stick to the budget and wait! It won’t be long until your debt starts slowly melting away, your savings start piling up, and you experience financial freedom like you’ve never felt before! Just imagine how amazing that will feel!

Your debt isn’t going to get rid of itself, and the longer you wait, the worse it will get. The time to take action is now. Check out LearnVest and bring yourself one step closer to financial freedom.

Do you need to take better care of your finances this year? What’s standing in your way?

3 Ways to Save on Tax Preparation and 3 Smart Ways to Spend Your Return



ways to save on tax preparation

The tax filing deadline is a few months away! If you haven’t already filed your taxes, the first half of this entry will offer three tips to save a few bucks when it comes to tax preparation. And if you’re among the 75 percent of Americans who will get a tax refund (congrats!), the second half of this entry will offer ideas for three smarts ways to spend that extra cash.

How to Save on Tax Preparation

1. Shop Around – There are plenty of options when it comes to filing your taxes. Call several places to compare rates, and choose the most affordable option. In most cases, the best rate will be found at small town privately-owned tax preparers – often half the cost of the chain preparers.

2. File Your Own Taxes – For simple returns, it might make sense for you to prepare your own tax return. You can file online for free with Turbo Tax.

3. Be Prepared – Whether you’re paying someone to do your taxes or you’re doing them yourself, having your paperwork in order will help save time and money … and probably a few headaches.

Three Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Return

1. Add to Your Emergency Fund – A good emergency fund includes enough savings to cover three month’s of mortgage, food and utility bills. If yours isn’t close to that, or even if it is, you might consider using part of your tax return to beef up the fund.

2. Pay Off a Credit Card – Credit card debt is a pain, especially if that debt carries a high interest rate. Pick your highest interest credit card and use your tax return to pay it off or at least make a nice dent in your debt.

3. Fix Something – If you’ve been putting off a car or home repair because of a lack of funds, now’s the perfect time to finally get it done. That includes that leaky roof, broken dishwasher or replacing those balding tires on your car.

Want to save money in 2015? Create a free budget today!

Best Places to Find Online Printable Coupons and More Ways to Save Money This Year!



Shopping bag full of fruits and vegetables

I often get asked the question, “Where are the best places to find online printable coupons?” I search for online printable coupons often and I trust the sites listed below. I’ve been using these coupon sites for a few years now and these are my “go-to” places. If you are looking for the best online printable coupons, I recommend the following coupon sites below.

*Note: When printing coupons, make sure your printer settings are at “Black and White” and print using the “Quick Print” setting. This will save you ink. Ink can be expensive, so you want to make sure you aren’t wasting ink on coupon prints, which could be “costing” you money. Print ONLY the coupons you know you will need and use to save the most money.

1. Coupons.com

2. Redplum

3. SmartSource

4. Target In-Store Printable Coupons

More Ways to Save:

Amazon Coupons – That’s right! Amazon has several coupons that you can clip online before you check out! You can find coupons for beauty supplies, baby items, household supplies, outdoor gear and clothing, electronics, personal care appliances, industrial & scientific, kitchen, and Prime Pantry Coupons!

Ibotta – With this FREE app, You can find great rebates on your favorite products such as milk, yogurt, and lots more and redeem the rebates for REAL cash! I have this app installed on my smartphone and I use it on every shopping trip!

Favado Savings App – a mobile savings app that helps shoppers save time and money by discovering the best deals in more than 65,000 grocery and drugstores nationwide. The Favado app uses real-time couponing data to provide access to exclusive matching deals (coupons plus in-store promotions) for ultimate savings. Other features include planning tools for weekly shopping trips and insider access to unlisted deals.

Get Financially Fearless. Sign up for the FREE LearnVest Daily email to get smart money tips to help you stay organized and in control of your finances this year!

Browse through each of these online printable coupon websites and other money saving tools to find great money saving coupons!

Why should you search for printable coupons?

  • Finding printable coupons to match your grocery list will help you save money
  • You can print from home and don’t need to worry about newspaper subscriptions
  • Printable coupons are FREE to print
  • It’s easy and convenient when you know where to look

Five Great Ways to Earn Some Quick Cash



money2

Whether you have back to school supplies, birthday presents or unexpected medical expenses to pay for, chances are you will need some quick, easy cash at some point in your life. Don’t rack up your credit card and don’t mess with an unscrupulous pay day loan company. Use one of these five great way to earn some quick cash instead. They won’t provide you with an extra, sustainable income, but they will get you the cash you need fast.

Recommended Read: 55 Tips On How To Make More Money: Great Ideas to Earn Extra Cash

1. Sell Your Unused Belongings

Do you have extra furniture, clothes, toys, collectibles or other home items lying around your home that you don’t want or need anymore? Sell them in a garage sale, to a consignment shop, or on a site like Ebay or Craigslist. Not only will you declutter your home and help someone who needs those items, but you’ll make some quick, easy money too!

2. Sign Up for Inbox Dollars NOW and Earn $5

Join Inbox Dollars right now and you’ll earn $5 in your account just for joining! Then, you can do things like read emails, take a few surveys, play games, or shop to earn more. Once you reach $30 in your account, you can request payment!

3. Donate Plasma

Are you a relatively healthy individual? If so, you could make big bucks by selling your plasma. Depending on where you live, reputable companies may pay you as much as $20-$50 per visit, and you can usually go twice per week. Your body replenishes itself quickly so you aren’t out anything except an hour or so of your time. And for $50, I’d say that’s an hour well spent!

Don’t forget! While you are here, create a free budget today!

4. Babysit, Pet Sit or House Sit

Babysitting, pet sitting and house sitting are all great ways to make some quick, easy money without too much work. Depending on the arrangement, you could work from your home or theirs, full time or part time, once in a while or on a consistent schedule. This option is especially great for stay-at-home moms who are home all day anyway.

5. Take Online Surveys

You can take online surveys for cash and rewards from the comfort of your own home. I like using my rewards from surveys for birthday and Christmas presents. My favorites are Vindale Research, Opinion Outpost and Toluna!

All of these ideas are super easy to do, and there is no wait time to find a job or get paid.

Could you use a little extra cash in your pocket? Which one of these are you going to try first?

How to Save Money on Beauty Products



how to save money on beauty products

Have you ever noticed how expensive it can be to get pretty? Cosmetics are getting so pricey these days, as retailers cash in on women’s desire to look their best. A simple mascara or lipstick can cost you as much as $15 at a local drugstore, while department store cosmetic prices continue to soar into the hundreds of dollars. So what is the solution if you want to look your best for less? Below, you will find out exactly how to get pretty for pennies and how to save on cosmetics. Whether you love drugstore varieties or the department store brands, follow these tips and get a lovely look for less.

How to Save Money on Beauty Products:

1. Stack your savings.
When you shop at stores like Target and Walgreens, you can stack your manufacturer coupons (go to “Categories: Personal Care” to find beauty product coupons) with store coupons. When you do this, you are really stacking your savings. Use your coupons on top of a sale price, and you can often grab items like lip gloss and nail polish for less than a few bucks or even FREE!

2. Look for tied on freebies.
Many times when a company has a new product out, they will offer a full size sample along side one of their best sellers. For example, when Revlon had a new mascara out, they attached a full size sample to the packaging of their foundation. Look for attached freebies such as this and give a new product a try for free.

3. Join Toluna
When you become a member of Toluna, you will get the chance to sample and review many full size cosmetic products for free. Just go to “Explore” and “Test Products” to try to score free beauty products. There are pretty amazing products to try including Dove soap and beauty bars as well as toothpaste, wipes, and more!

4. Visit the companies website.
Visit the website of your favorite cosmetic companies and print whatever online coupons they may have available. Don’t see any? Email them! Tell them how much you adore their products and see what savings they may have available for you. They could very well send you samples, savings, and who knows what else!

5. “Like” your favorite cosmetic brands.
When you “like” your favorite cosmetic company on Facebook, you will be the first to know about special sales, contests, coupons, sample offerings and more. Be sure to “like” all of your favorite companies and see what sort of savings you can score.

6. Take advantage of department store perks.
Peruse your local department store cosmetics counter for generous sized samples of some of your favorite (and more expensive) products. You can also keep your eyes peeled for free mini makeovers that include sample giveaways at the conclusion. Also, look for free with purchase sales, where you can score a make up bag full of goodies for free when you buy $20 worth of products.

7. Scour for coupons high and low.
Check out the Sunday paper as well as in store fliers for cosmetic coupons. Check out packaging for peel off coupons that may be available as well. You may have some luck finding blinkie coupons in your grocery store, or even coupons from company reps as they stock the shelves. Don’t be afraid to ask for them! Keep your coupons on you at all times, that way when you find a clearance bin of cosmetics, you have your coupons to score an even sweeter deal! You can even find coupons for beauty products online at Amazon! Click below to find out what’s on sale at Amazon!

When you give these tips a try, you will be able to get pretty for pennies and really save. If you are tired of paying full price for all of your favorites, give these tips on how to save on cosmetics a try and get more of what you love for less.