Last Updated On: August 22, 2014 11:17

Yellow school buses and children with backpacks are soon to be a common sight during the morning commute for many, meaning one thing: back-to-school season is upon us. If you have school-aged kids, have you completed your shopping yet?

While the best tips for saving money on school supplies and clothes for your kids include shopping in advance and spreading out your purchases, never fear if you’ve procrastinated until the last minute again this year. Here’s a few ways you can still save some cash during this expensive season.

•    Check at home first. Your home can, and probably does, contain a stockpile of unused or barely used items you’ve purchased over the years. The best way to save money now is to take inventory of everything you’ve stuffed into that junk drawer. Pencils, pens, and notebooks from last year work just as well this year. No need to waste money on all new products when you can easily clean out that overflowing stash of office supplies.

•    Use second-hand. Garage sales, clothing exchanges, and consignment stores will be your best friend, especially when completing your back-to-school clothes shopping. It may be necessary to buy new on a few of the key items your child will need in their wardrobe, but make sure these items can be used for a multitude of outfits. Mix and match these staple pieces with your cheap finds at the sales and your child will have many outfits to keep them happy.

•    Shop without the kids. We know it’s sometimes difficult to say ‘no’ to your child on certain items; elect to go school shopping alone when you can. Even though it may not seem like a huge difference at the time, the few dollars you save buying the plain notebooks instead of the character or flashy notebooks will add up.

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Last Updated On: August 11, 2014 11:23

August brings thoughts of summer break ending and the dread of the upcoming winter months, leaving many families wanting to take a last minute vacation to enjoy the wonderful weather and their time together. With Labor Day and the conclusion of school breaks quickly approaching, prices for a family trip can get quite expensive and finding ways to save can be a little tricky. Here are a few ideas for you and your family on your next trip!

Be sure to have a plan before you set out on your adventure. Research online for the best and cheapest places for transportation, lodging, and food before you leave – and budget accordingly. Look for coupons and discounts for places you’d like to visit to save even more! Being prepared for your destination is a great start to any trip.

Reduce costs of transportation and lodging. Taxi, bus, and subway costs can add up quickly. When possible, walk to the different sites and attractions on your vacation. You’ll not only save money, but you’ll also see and experience even more of your destination as well as get some exercise! Another way to save on a vacation is to stay with family or friends. When you stay with locals, you may get tips from your hosts on great places you may not have thought to visit while on your vacation in addition to saving money from an expensive hotel stay.

Save on meals when you can. Every meal during your vacation doesn’t have to be at a spendy venue. Splurging can be fun a few times during the trip, but is unnecessary for all meals. Pack a few easy to make meals or go stock up at the local grocery store and keep essentials in your hotel, or at your hosts, for quick meals or snacks.

Remember, above everything else, a vacation is meant to be relaxing! Keeping these last-minute vacation budget savers in mind will help keep you stress free, at least budget-wise, on your next vacation.

Bookmark and Share Filed Under: Saving Money
Last Updated On: July 23, 2014 14:01

Planning to move and looking for ways to give your house more appeal to potential buyers? Or just tired of your current home, but can’t afford to move or do a top-to-bottom remodel? You’re in luck! Even if you’re on a strict budget, summertime home improvements can be accomplished to make you, or a future buyer, really love your home.

Make Small Changes
The smallest changes really can make a world of difference. Switching out cabinet handles, light fixtures, and even faucets can change the entire look of a room and give it an updated feel.

Decorate for Effect
Until you’ve dived in, it really doesn’t seem that simply painting a wall can enhance your home, but you’d be surprised. Adding an accent wall, with patterns or even just a bold color, can make it seem like a whole new living space. If you’re not into painting, adding accessories, such as pictures or wall-hangings, to the room can be a budget-friendly way to change up your home. Mirrors installed in strategic places can also do wonders in creating the illusion of a bigger room.

If you have a project in mind that you’d like to complete, check out the internet to see about the possibility of a Do-It-Yourself project. With a simple search in Pinterest for “home improvement projects,” you can get thousands of ideas and step-by-step instructions to lead you into any project you can imagine!

Focus on High-Traffic Rooms
If you are looking to remodel on a tight budget, look at working first on your rooms that see the most traffic to get the best effect. When trying to sell your home, the kitchens and bathrooms make or break a home. Updating these rooms can increase appeal in your home and some updates can be done relatively inexpensively. New paint to cabinets or vanities, new light fixtures, or new flooring can really make a difference in a room.

Boost your Curb Appeal
Simply getting your landscaping into top condition adds so much value to your home. A few strategically placed plants or flower pots can add color and vibrancy, while clearing out any clutter can update the look of your house.

Saving money while improving your home doesn’t have to push you to poor. Even for those bigger, needed projects such as new shingles or adding on, consider a Home Equity loan or line of credit to help keep your budget in check. Just remember, that even these small home improvement ideas can make you feel like you’ve bought a brand new house!

Bookmark and Share Filed Under: Saving Money
Last Updated On: July 08, 2014 10:18

High temperatures bring even higher energy and utility bills. For families looking to save this summer, it’s time to get a little creative! Check out these four tips to help you save.

    1. Use laundry appliances later in the day and line dry clothing whenever possible. Using your laundry machines and dryers can heat up your home significantly. Using them in the early hours or late evenings when your house is naturally cooler can help you not use as much energy to keep cooling it down.
    2.  Use alternate cooking methods. Using a regular oven puts a lot of warm air into your home. Get creative by using your microwave, crockpot, or take advantage of the summer and grill. All of these options use less energy and will not have your AC working overtime to combat their warmth.
    3. Visit with your utility company. Many utility companies offer different programs, discounts, or more tips to help their consumers make the best of their energy usage.
    4. Find cheaper ways to cool your home instead of always blasting the AC. Utilize your windows at effective times as a breeze through the house can make quite the difference in comfort. Fans are also a great way to get some air movement into your home. Insulate your windows and doors so when you are running the AC, the cool air isn’t escaping your home. Lastly, while they may cost more upfront, programmable thermostats, when used as intended, are a very efficient way to not waste energy during times you may not be home.

Saving money this summer on your energy bills is possible! Just be sure to follow these four tips and conserve energy whenever possible to help you save your hard-earned cash to use on fun activities instead of utility bills.

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Last Updated On: June 23, 2014 15:56

With summer break in full swing for children, parents are kept busy not only with their regular schedules but with all of the extra activities their kids participate in during the summer. While these fun activities are great to keep kids busy and active while they are not in classes, the costs of these programs can start to put a strain on any parent. From swimming lessons to softball to 4-H and FFA programs, children (and, therefore, their parents) need to purchase equipment and supplies required for each different activity. All of these programs are great for children – teaching them teamwork and social skills that may not be possible in the school setting, so finding a budget-friendly way to take part in all of these activities is a must for most parents. Here’s a few tips to save a dollar or two on your kid’s summer plans.

  • Buy used. Children grow quickly and change their minds. The expensive glove you bought for their first year of softball will last maybe a season. Don’t waste your hard earned cash on something that may be only used ten times. Search through garage sales, ask your friends who’ve had kids in the sports before, or visit a nearby used sports equipment store.
  • Carpool. Carpooling can save you both time and money. Find a parent with children in the same activities and offer to take turns dropping off and picking up kids from the scheduled practices.
  • Don’t overdo it. At the beginning of the summer, plan a meeting with your family and decide how many different activities that your budget (and sanity!) can handle. With multiple children, if you let them be in every program possible, you’ll be running around non-stop, handing out cash, and not enjoying the summer.
  • Pack your own snacks. Concession stands and fast food stops can rapidly drain your budget. For games, pack snacks. For all day tournaments, pack whole meals. This is not only a budget-friendly option, but usually the healthier option for you and your kids.
  • Start saving in advance. Planning for these activities year round will make them less of a burden come time to pay for program fees and equipment purchases. Consider starting a savings account solely for this purpose.

These summer activities and programs can add up, but if you do your research and spend a little bit of extra time, following these tips can end up helping you and your children enjoy the great weather and freedom summer brings while not ruining the family budget.

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