Budgeting Tips

Unique & Cheap Christmas Gifts Everyone Will Love

Unique and cheap Christmas gifts everyone will love

Giving cheap Christmas gifts doesn’t mean buying ugly, junky presents. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.

via GIPHY

It just takes a bit of creativity to find cheap Christmas gifts that fit into your budget and the gift receiver will love. With some budgeting and planning, you can easily stick within your budget and still get that gift list checked off!

Why You Should Focus Your Gift List Around Cheap Christmas Gift Ideas

Everyone’s had that New Year’s hangover – I’m not just talking too much food and drinks, but too much holiday spending as well. You get caught up in the spirit of the holidays, end up buying waaaaay more than you intended, and come January’s credit card bill, your bank account is officially “hungover”.

Then the buyer’s remorse and belt tightening settle in, making for a painful start to the new year.

If you’re not convinced yet, here’s some gut-wrenching statistics out there on holiday overspending:

  1. 56% of Americans will take on new debt to pay for holiday gifts1
  2. 16% will take longer than 6 months to pay it off1
  3. 34% of parents will spend an average of $500 per child!1

The worst statistic I’ve read? 25% of parents are taking extreme measures such as withdrawing from 401ks, using emergency funds, or using payday loans to buy holiday gifts1.

When did it get like this? And how do we stop it?

It’s pretty clear we need to stop it before it starts by trimming down our spending for the holiday season.

Why not choose to start January off with financial peace rather than regret, worry and a HUGE credit card statement?

It takes a bit of creativity to find cheap Christmas gifts that fit into your budget. With some planning you can easily find something they'll love! #christmas #gifts #frugal #budgeting

How to be smart about what you spend on Christmas Gifts

We all love to celebrate and show our appreciation for one another through gifts. It’s an tradition as old as the first caveman dragging home extra loin cloths made especially for his cave family, right?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving Christmas gifts. However, it shouldn’t cause you panic or wrack up a huge amount of credit card debt that you pay a ton of interest on.

Start by listing out everyone you need to buy for. Don’t forget non-family members, like teachers, coaches, neighbors, coworkers, and your boss, to name a few.

Got your list? Great. Next, decide how much you want to spend on each person. Once you add that up, you might find yourself a little overwhelmed.

See if you can either trim your list or group people on your list into subcategories. That way you think of creating or buying gifts that apply to multiple people.

For example, instead of buying individual gifts for coworkers, why not bring in one gift to share, like a dessert tray? Everyone’s covered, it’ll be cheaper, and it’s less stress and work for you. Done and done!

While the average American family spends approximately $1,000 on Christmas, there are a lot of great cheap gift ideas that you can give that can help keep you from burning a hole in your credit card.

Cheap Christmas Gift Ideas Don’t have to mean…Being Cheap

Now it’s time to get creative. Just because you’re looking to trim your gift giving costs doesn’t mean you’re going to give everyone a stale fruitcake or some plastic cheap Christmas stuff.

Think about what you’re good at, what you enjoy creating, and what you know your loved ones (or boss) will enjoy.

The trick is to find something that you know they’ll appreciate and enjoy – whether it cost $1,000 or $10.

The Best Cheap Unique Gift Ideas

Spoiler Alert! Anyone and everyone would rather spend time with you and your loved ones than to get yet another trinket. The gift of time is so much more precious than we realize. However, that being said, here are some other cheap holiday gift ideas to consider as well if you still feel like you want to give a physical gift:

 

Give the gift of a homemade meal.

I know, food sounds too easy, but bear with me. The average American is so incredibly busy balancing work, kids and home duties that we all struggle to get a meal on the table. Especially a warm, yummy homemade one on a cold winter night, right?

Give the gift of a family dinner. Prepare their favorite meal in a freezer safe dish with instructions on how to heat it, and add bread and a dessert to make it a meal.

While you’re at it, double the recipe and throw one in the freezer for your family as well. It’s a total win-win for those crazy busy holiday nights when you don’t want to cook, right?

Don’t forget that everyone loves to receive cookies, breads and cakes as well. If you love to bake, now’s your chance to give them something made with love in a beautiful container.

Give the gift of free fun.

Invite your neighbors or friends with kids to meet up at the best sledding hill in the city. Host a cookie exchange, or better yet, use your kitchen as cookie baking central and let all your friends’ kids work on frosting skills.

My absolute favorite free holiday activity? Having a sleepover under the Christmas tree with my kids.

While none of us get much sleep, it feels very magical to be surrounded by all the beautiful lights and the excitement of the tree. Every year, my daughter tells me it’s her favorite and asks if we can do it again!

Give the gift of memories.

One of my favorite money saving ideas for the holidays is to give experiences. Think back to when you were a kid during the holidays. What sticks out to you the most? Was it stuff? Or was it specific memories of times you spend with grandparents, parents, siblings and extended family?

While I can remember some of our gifts, I mostly remember very specific outings with family members. Now that some of those family members are gone, those times are truly cherished memories.

This year, we’re treating my in-laws to a train ride instead of giving gifts. My father-in-law is a huge train buff, so I know they’ll love it. There’s an awesome Chinese lantern festival here in Columbus that we’re taking my parents to. We’ll also be able to take them to see the holiday lights at the zoo for free with our zoo pass.

It’s a win-win because we’re able to give these experiences as their gifts, and they’re also getting time with their grandkids.

Check out local websites to see what free or cheap holiday activities are available in your area and plan around them.

Some frugal outing ideas include:

  • Driving through neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights
  • Caroling
  • Snowball fights
  • Sledding
  • Cookie Crawls (where businesses hand out cookies in an certain area, and you visit each one)
  • Take advantage of free activities at school, like visiting Santa
  • Look into your memberships for discounted activities, like seeing the Zoo Lights

Give them the gift of time.

We can all use a helping hand, but some of us are better at asking than others. Think about what your loved ones need most and make them an offer they cannot refuse!

Here’s the perfect unique Christmas gift idea: offer to do something they hate, so you can free up their time. Clean their gutters, help them with opening the pool next summer, or even babysit for free for date night. Trust me, they’ll love you for it!

Heck, even go so far as to make those funny coupons that they can cash in to make it official. Some other services to offer gift certificates for are:

  • Wash and detail their car
  • Pet sitting
  • Yardwork
  • Handyman services
  • Oil change
  • Run an errand for them that they hate to do

Give the gift of creativity and fun.

For all you DIY junkies who are itching to make something, now’s your chance to make unique fun gifts for cheap!

Scented bath salts, lotions and bath bombs are amazingly easy to make. Whip up a big batch, buy some beautiful reusable containers, and hand them out everyone on your list. Finding something that you can buy and produce in bulk can help save money as well as time.

Use your artistic talents (or whatever talents you may have) to make something you enjoy creating and they enjoy receiving. You can even get your kids in on the action by having them help create keepsake gifts such as ornaments. There are a ton of cute and creative ideas out on Pinterest using kid’s handprints.

Other great diy ideas for christmas gifts include:

  • Family photos in beautiful frames
  • Personalized mugs with coffee samples
  • Hand painted ornaments or home decor
  • Holiday cookies, cakes, or breads in pretty, reusable packaging
  • Hair bows, jewelry or keychains
  • Re-pot plant clippings from your garden
  • Sew clothes, towels, pot holders, or bags
  • Make bath items like bath bombs, body scrub, or soap
  • Create keepsakes with supplies and craft machines that you already have

Maybe you’re not that creative? Etsy has some cute and fun thank you printables for teachers, coaches, babysitters, and anyone else you can think of! They have cute little sayings that match up with a gift, like lip balm or a Hershey’s bar.

Once you make the purchase on Etsy, you’ll receive a PDF to download. Just add some nice stock paper to the printer, print it, cut it out, and attach to the gift. Easy, beautiful, and creative!

Also, don’t forget to check out Pinterest for homemade Christmas gift ideas.

Give the gift of a night with friends.

Looking for gifts ideas for friends? Host a holiday potluck and movie night with everyone in their best ugly Christmas sweaters. Make it BYOB and play your favorite fun Christmas movies. A great party for friends or family doesn’t have to be expensive and everyone can contribute.

Some other great frugal fun Christmas party ideas include:

  • Hallmark Movie night (Everyone loves those, right?)
  • Potluck
  • Cookie Exchange (or bake cookies together)
  • Decorate gingerbread houses
  • White elephant gift exchange
  • Spend time together while wrapping presents
  • Host a Christmas scavenger hunt through your neighborhood
  • Play “Minute to Win It” style games that are holiday themed
  • Decorate ornaments together
  • Do Christmas crafts or make presents

Give the gift of cash (kind of!).

If you must give gift cards, go to Raise.com to purchase discounted gift cards for up to 20% off! They’re 100% guaranteed for a year with purchase protection and refunds, so you don’t have to worry about anything weird with the cards after purchase. Buy these discounted cards for stores you know you’ll shop at for the holidays to save money as well!

Another idea is to cash in those credit card points for gift cards. We use ours for gift cards to gas stations for so we can travel to see family. I’ve also cashed out those points to get gift cards for family members to their favorite restaurants.

You can also earn gift cards through sites like Swagbucks. Fill out surveys, watch videos, and do small tasks to earn points towards gift cards (or cash!). It’s easy enough to do while you’re watching TV to earn some cash every evening.

Give the gift of charity.

While this isn’t necessarily a gift to family or friends, we often find that the holidays are a great reminder to give to those who are less fortunate. However, sometimes we find ourselves struggling to donate the money we’d like to.

There are several ways you can still give without breaking the bank. It’s a perfect time of year to go through your clothes, toys and other household items to see what can be donated to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Winter items that kids have out grown but are still of good use would make a kid in need so happy, not to mention gently used toys as well.

Charities need people to physically help as well. Sign up to ring a bell in front of a store or serve up hot meals to the homeless. A coworker of mine would take his kids every Thanksgiving to work at a soup kitchen. I was awed at not only his devotion to helping others, but his ability to teach his kids what’s truly important during the holidays.

Additional Ways to Save on Christmas Gifts

Let’s say your’e not crafty or don’t have the time to bust our your art supplies. You can still find ways to cut costs when shopping for unique Christmas gifts.

Just remember to use these guidelines when holiday shopping to help you from overspending:

  1. Consider shopping with cash or a pre-paid card to stop yourself from overspending.
  2. Stack your savings by:
    1. Purchasing items on sale
    2. Using coupons or Ibotta for rebates
    3. Paying for purchased with discounted gift cards
    4. If shopping online, go through through Ebates or TopCashBack.com
  3. Keep the ads for anything you purchase. If you see it cheaper elsewhere, take the ad back in with your receipt and get a price match.

Learn more couponing tips and tricks here to get the best deal possible!

Use these unique and cheap holiday gift ideas to make your holidays better this year. You don’t have to be a painful financial statistic or go overboard in gift giving to show you care. Truly, what anyone really wants is time with you and your family. And maybe a pony. But we’ll settle for time together instead. 😉

Have other unique and cheap holiday gifts ideas? Share them below, I’d love to hear them!

1https://www.fool.com/retirement/2016/12/01/heres-what-the-average-american-spends-on-holiday.aspx


Check out these frugal and fun gift guides for more gift ideas!

The 15 best farmhouse decor gift ideas for fixer upper fans
The 15 best frugal gifts for coffee lovers
The 15 best frugal gift ideas for woodworkers
10 literary gifts for book lovers under $25
10 frugal gift ideas for plant lovers
The best financial gifts for college students
The best frugal and fun gifts for your favorite teacher
The 10 best frugal gifts for massage therapists

How to Quickly Save More Money: 10 Simple Rules for a No Spend Challenge

10 simple rules for a no spend challenge

One question I get asked a lot as a personal finance fanatic (say that three times fast!) is what the rules of a no spend challenge are. While there are plenty of very specific no spend challenges you can take, it’s a very personal choice as to which one to embark on.

The key takeaway of a no spend challenge is to reduce your outgoing money by cutting out non-essentials. Yes, you’re already doing that with a budget, but during a no spend challenge you’re amping it up and cutting even more.

So what’s the difference between a budget and a no spend challenge? And why should you start one?

Need to save more money quickly? Try a no-spend challenge! Here are 10 simple steps to crush a no-spend challenge. #nospend #nospendchallenge #nospendrules

What is a No Spend Challenge?

A no spend challenge is choosing a period of time, say a weekend, week or even a month, to not spend any money. Some people choose to have allowances, like groceries and gas.

The purpose of the no spend challenge is to help you reset after a holiday, vacation, or to get back on track from an emergency or spending slip up. It can also be a great way to kickstart your savings or debt repayment on things like student loans with the chunk of money you save from the challenge.

There are three suggested time periods you can choose:

  • No Spend Weekend Challenge: This focuses on finding free activities with family or friends. It’s perfect for anyone who finds themselves spending too much on activities, especially with kids.
  • No Spend Week Challenge: This challenge entails making changes to your daily habits – whether it’s getting a coffee from Starbucks or grabbing lunch with coworkers.
  • No Spend Month Challenge: This challenge can be a doozy, but the rewards are greater. This is about starting to make a permanent lifestyle change for good, rather than just for a week. It’s about stopping habits like shopping and replacing them long term with other cheaper (or free) activities.

How a No Spend Challenge Works

No spend challenges work by setting rules for spending and then locking away those credit and debit cards. The rules can vary depending upon your needs, but primarily there’s no shopping for wants, just needs.

Some people chose to do a bit of stocking up on groceries, pet supplies and personal needs prior to their challenge.

Allowed spending on the challenge includes items such as:

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Internet/Phone
  • Groceries, if you’re not stocking up prior
  • Gas for your vehicle

Suggested items to cut during a no spend challenge:

  • Activities
  • Eating out, coffee, drinks
  • Clothes
  • Shopping
  • Ubers/Lyft
  • Hair/Nail Services
  • Anything else that’s not a need (vs. a want)

How to Get Started on Your No Spend Challenge

There are some key steps you need to do in order to ensure that your spending challenge is a success. They’re all about setting rules and making sure everyone is on the same page so there’s no miscommunication and “accidental” (ahem, side eyeing you, donuts and coffee!) spending during the challenge.

1. Figure out why you’re doing it.

Create a goal so you have something to focus on, especially if things get tough. Do you want to boost your debt repayment? Are you saving for a vacation? Figure out your long term goal. If you have that in mind, it makes it easier to focus on not spending when a large mocha is staring you in the face.

2. Decide how long you want to do the challenge for.

The point is to challenge yourself and see how far you can stretch! A month can be really difficult, but the longer the challenge, the greater the reward. If you’re worried about how difficult it might be, start off easier with a no spend weekend or week.

3. Set your rules.

Write them down and post them as a reminder. Are there exceptions, such as purchasing fresh groceries like dairy & produce? Are you setting up cash envelopes for groceries and gas? Make a list of what’s an acceptable purchase and what’s not and hang them on the fridge.

4. Review rules with your spouse/family.

Make sure everyone’s on the same page, otherwise it’s useless. It’s important that your spouse and family understand and agree to the goals, so that they’ll be much more likely to play along.

5. Use this period to eat the stock of items in the pantry/freezer.

It’s the perfect time to use up all those items that get pushed to the back of the pantry every week. Often, a no spend challenge can be used to rotate out your pantry’s stock and use up items before they expire. It’s the perfect time to get creative with your meals.

6. Research free entertainment for the kids/family.

Since having kids, I’ve found out just how expensive it can be to do anything – from eating out to an event, it can put a big dent in your cash flow. Use Google to find sites with free events in your city, have a family game night, or hit the park.

7. Put away the credit/debit cards to avoid temptation.

Just do it, as the saying goes. Don’t keep them on you. It’s just too easy to whip out a credit card and use it. Consider creating cash envelopes to help monitor and control spending as needed for things like groceries and gas.

8. Need a distraction? Use this time to get stuff done!

If you’re used to cruising sites for the latest deals, this is the perfect time to distract yourself with household activities. Clean out garage and basement, declutter and organize. Donate, throw away, and sell stuff. It’s the perfect time to pick up a side hustle selling your gently used stuff and get it out of your house at the same time!

9. Still want to buy something?

Write it down in a list and keep it. Promise yourself that if you can wait until the end of the spending period, you can purchase it. Chances are, after you’ve made it through your no spend challenge, you won’t want it anymore. It’s a great way to break yourself of those impulse purchases!

Another idea is to take the money you would have spent on that item and move it into savings. By the end of the challenge, you’ll see how much you would have spent on impulse purchases, which can be a real eye opener!

10. Move your money.

Put it into a separate savings account so that at the end of the month, you can apply it towards your goal. Don’t let it float away into the ether of checking account limbo.

No matter how you chose to do your no spend challenge, what’s important is that you are making an effort to change your spending habits. It can be really hard at first, but it’s a great way to reset your mindset and focus more on long term goals versus instant gratification.

How to Spend No Money for a Month

Spending no money for a month is a lofty goal but definitely doable. To spend no money for a month, you will need to have a budget in place where you’ve planned ahead for that month’s costs.

One of the biggest keys to success is thinking ahead. If you know you’ll be participating in kid’s events or extra curricular activities, plan ahead and pack snacks or food.

If you know you’ll be meeting up with friends, suggest get togethers that aren’t at a restaurant or cost money. If you’re looking for ideas, check out 50 free things to do on a no-spend weekend.

If you have a freebie, no spend weekends are the perfect time to cash them in. Keep an eye on your emails from retailers to see what kind of freebies you can cash in on.

Just this past week, I was able to grab an entire 12oz bag of coffee from World Market, just for being a rewards member. There’s nothing like the taste of free coffee in the morning!

Lastly, if you’re looking for even more inspiration, check out The No Spend Year: How You Can Spend Less and Live More by Michelle McGagh.  In it, she details how she set a goal for herself to just pay bills with a minimal budget for groceries. The rest she saved while she learned how to socialize and travel for free for an entire year!

Have you ever done a no spend challenge? How’d it go? What tips would you recommend? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Ready to start budgeting or want to hear more about ours? Click here to learn how we’ve paid off $26,619 of Debt in 17 Months! Or, if you’re on a tight budget, here are 11 easy ways to save money on a tight budget.

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How to quickly save more money with a no spend challenge. Here I cover the basics and what rules apply during a no spend challenge. #nospend #nospendchallenge #nospendrules

Need to quickly save more money? Try a no spend challenge! Here I cover the basics and what rules apply during a no spend challenge. #nospend #nospendchallenge #nospendrulesNeed to quickly save more money? Try a no spend challenge! While there are plenty of very specific no spend challenges you can take, it’s a very personal choice as to which one to embark on. Here I cover the basics and what rules apply during a no spend challenge. #nospend #nospendchallenge #nospendrules

The Beginner’s Guide to Sinking Funds & Emergency Funds
(& Why You Need Both)

The differences between a sinking fund and emergency and why you need both

As you’ve started diving into sorting out your finances, you’ve probably heard that you need a starter emergency fund of $1,000. You may have also heard some talk about building a sinking fund or two.

But what exactly is the difference between an emergency fund and a sinking fund? And why do you need more than one account?

Lastly, if you’re drowning in debt, isn’t everything an emergency at this point?

It’s important to not only understand the different between emergency and sinking funds, but why you need each, even this early in the debt repayment game. Especially this early in the game. Without understanding these funds and how to set them up, everything will always be an emergency. And personally, that is not how I want to live – it’s just way too stressful!

By learning about the differences between these types of accounts, where and how to set each up, you’ll be able to face any upcoming expenses – whether planned for or not – without batting an eye. Sounds amazing, right?

Most people don't know what a sinking fund is, or how it differs from an emergency fund. Here's where you'll find the differences in funds, and why you need to be putting money into both savings accounts. #emergency #sinkingfunds #finance

What an Emergency Fund Is (And Isn’t)

An emergency fund is for true emergencies. These are expenses that are unexpected and unplanned. Think of things like a job layoff, an accident, big health issues – basically anything that keeps you up at night.

Sadly, it’s not funds for when you’re too tired to cook, there’s a big sale on shoes, or when you’re forgotten that you need a haircut before a wedding.

For example, our roof was recently damaged during a storm. Since this was an unexpected expense, we took the $1,000 deductible out of our emergency fund at Capital One to pay it off, rather than putting it on our recently paid off credit card. Then we’ll use the next 2 to 3 months to build that emergency fund back up.

Emergency Fund Categories

  • Layoffs
  • Accidents
  • Emergency health bills
  • Unexpected car issues
  • Items that are both unexcepted and unknown

The general rule of emergency funds is that $1,000 is a good starting point while you’re still paying debt. Once all debt has been paid off, then the suggested amount is 3 to 6 months of expenses (or even more!). Note that I said expenses, not income. It’s about covering your bills if you lose your job or get hurt, not matching your missing income. There’s a big distinction between the two!

Emergency fund money is earmarked for after something happens. It’s those things in life that you can only plan so much for and generally show up at the worst times.

If you’re wondering if an expense qualifies, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is it an unexpected expense or was it known about it prior (like a yearly bill)?
  • Is it a want or a need? If it’s a want, it’s not truly an emergency, no matter how good that sale is!
  • Is it urgent, or can it be saved for?

A great example that’s come up in our house recently is the dishwasher. It’s original to the house, and is on its last leg. Sometimes it works ok, sometimes not. We can live without a dishwasher (in theory!). Replacing the dishwasher is a known expense at this point. It’s a want, not a need, and it’s not urgent. Based off these questions, replacing the dishwasher is definitely not an emergency.

What is a Sinking Fund Used For?

A sinking fund is money that you’ve saved up before something happens, so you’re thinking ahead and planning for expenses you know are going to pop up. Some examples are bills that aren’t paid monthly, car maintenance, and vacations.

The sinking fund method is recommended by financial guru Dave Ramsey to avoid using credit cards or going further into debt. Since it’s something you know you need, you can plan ahead and save up to cover it.

Back to the dishwasher example from before – if it dies, we’ve agreed to save up to buy a new one rather than put the cost on a credit card. That is a sinking fund. Even better, we could start saving for it now before it dies. This way we’re thinking ahead about our money, rather than starting saving after it dies, which could take several months.

Sinking Fund Categories

  • Bills that are not monthly, like water, sewer, garbage, etc.
  • Expected car costs, like tires, oil changes, tags, etc.
  • Christmas
  • Birthdays
  • Vacations
  • Home maintenance
  • New appliances/furniture
  • Quarterly self employment taxes
  • Property taxes
  • Insurance (if not paid monthly)
  • New (to you) cars
  • School clothes/fees/supplies
  • Weddings
  • Copays for healthcare

Wondering How Much to Put in a Sinking Fund?

Sinking fund amounts will vary based on several factors, including how much time you have and how much money you need in total for each purchase. I use this sinking fund formula to figure out each individual monthly savings amount:

  1. Write down all expected expenses for the rest of the year that aren’t part of your normal budget
  2. Do your best to estimate how much each will cost (reference an average of last year’s cost if possible)
  3. Add up the total, then divide by how many paychecks you have left for the year
  4. Open a separate checking/savings account and keep the money there

One thing to note is that you won’t have all the sinking funds you need immediately. The best way to handle this is to prioritize the expenses you plan to cover with the sinking fund. Arrange them by due date as well as by urgency. This way, the most important sinking fund expenses will be covered first, and you’ll have time to save up for the rest.

Once you’ve prioritized your sinking funds, add the sinking fund budget line items to your monthly budget. This way you’ll be sure to pay them first and you’ll stay on track with your savings. If you make your sinking fund contribution first, right after getting paid, you’ll find that you are much less likely for that money to go missing by the end of the month.

For example, we are going on vacation with our family and owe my parents $500 for our lodging. Since it’s not until next summer, we’re able to divide those payments up into 12. I’ve created a separate savings account just for this sinking fund and we’ll be able to save up for it easily in $50 monthly increments. That means it won’t sneak up on us and “surprise” us next summer – and no scrambling to scrap up our part of the bill!

How to Keep Track of Sinking Funds

I highly recommend opening an account with Capital One to set this money aside. You can open a sinking fund account there, and then you’ll be able to create up to 25 sub-accounts with no additional paperwork. This is extremely handy when you want to earmark money for certain funds. It also links to your regular bank, so it’ll take a couple of days to move back and forth, but it’s a great way to keep that money for its original purpose.

This way you have can separate accounts for Christmas, car maintenance, vacations – whatever your heart desires, up to 25 of them!

A big mistake that I’ve made in the past is to keep my sinking funds money in my savings account (which also housed my emergency fund and quarterly tax payments, yikes!). As you can guess, I’d dip into it without realizing I was, and next thing I knew…we’d be short and struggling to replace that money come tax time.

I finally realized that the best thing we could do is that every time we get paid, I put those different chunks of money into those separate accounts. That way, we don’t spend what we don’t have, and every quarter, I can easily just transfer the tax money back to my checking account and write a check to pay it. I don’t even have to think or worry about it – easy peasy!

A Quick Review of Emergency & Sinking Fund Examples

Emergency Funds Sinking Funds
Used reactively for the unexpected Used proactively for bills you know you’ll need to pay
Used AFTER something unexpected happens Saved BEFORE something expected happens
Examples: Job layoff, accident, big health issues, emergency car repairs Examples: Christmas gifts, vacations, home maintenance, big purchases, remodeling, extra curricular activities, anniversary or birthday presents and parties
Recommended amount is $1000 until debt is paid off; then 3-6 months of expenses Recommended amount is variable, based on known upcoming expenses

What Types of Sinking Funds Do You Need?

This will vary based on each family, but we have one for Christmas, vacation, anniversary, house updates, and taxes (I know – all the important stuff, right?). This way we can take a vacation without feeling guilty. And we can plan ahead of the kids’ extra circular activities without worrying how we’ll cover it, since they are insanely expensive.

Not everyone will have the same categories for sinking funds, or even emergencies, which is fine. What’s important is that you’ve sat down and mapped out possible expenses, and have decided to face them head on.

When Should I Start Creating Sinking Funds?

This really depends on what your debts are and how quickly (or desperately) you need money set aside for a sinking fund. We chose to wait until we were debt free to start our various sinking funds.

There are some instances where you know you’ll need the sinking funds before you can become debt free, like paying property taxes or your water bill.

There are some things that are just going to happen either way – like Christmas. Why not start a sinking fund for presents, so that in January you’re not afraid to open your credit card statement?

Having a set amount to use for presents will also curb your spending and help you keep within a budget. I’ve found that it can help me to really focus on finding creative and meaningful gifts since I’m spending less.

I also start earlier in the year to look for presents, so that I’m not last minute buying whatever ugly Christmas sweater that’s on sale (though, that is a thing now, isn’t it?). By creating a sinking fund at the beginning of the year, I have some money set aside every month that I can use to buy presents as I find them without using our credit card.

Burying your head in the sand and hoping extra expenses will go away if you ignore them isn’t making your money work for you. It’s making you chase your money, and work harder than you need to in order to get ahead. Creating emergency and sinking funds will only lead to making your finances a success, and will reduce your stress if (and when) something happens!

Ready to start budgeting or want to hear more about ours? Click here to learn how we’ve paid off $26,619 in debt in 17 months!

You can also learn more about how to use sinking funds to get ahead of your finances here.

Do you have sinking funds and an emergency fund set up? What categories do you include in your sinking funds? Comment below and let me know how you’ve made these types of funds work for you and your money!

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Why you need both emergency funds and sinking funds

How to Get Out of Debt: The Exact Steps We Took to Pay Off $26,619 in 17 Months

How to get out of debt: the exact steps we took to pay off $26,619 in 17 months

If you’re wondering how to get out of debt, look no further. Using the following get out of debt plan, we paid off over $26,619 in debt in 17 months and raised our net worth by almost $50,000. These debt repayment steps will help you to organize your finances and learn how to get out of debt.

I am a stickler for details and always want to know someone’s exact process. I’m sharing our exact steps that we used to get out of debt and stay there in the hopes that it can help someone else on their journey.

Learn how to get out of debt by following in our footsteps. We paid off over $26,000 by doing these exact debt pay off steps. #debt #finances #financialfreedom

Our Debt Payoff Journey

Our debt payoff journey started almost 2 years ago, after we had our second child. We cash flowed our health care deductible for that year, and we were tired of the struggle with the additional debt we’d been carrying for what seemed like forever.

Here we were, late 30s (me) and early 40s (my husband), and it still felt like we hadn’t hit that turning point in adulthood where you aren’t constantly playing financial catch up.

It was frustrating, and now that we had two kids to take care of, we’d had enough of struggling with getting out of debt.

We sat down and read financial books, blogs, and listened to podcasts. Our debt free journey was not a straight line in the least, but every extra payment helped us to get there eventually. We struggled through job loss and roof damage, fighting the urge to buy more, and saying no to purchases that weren’t an absolute need.

The steps to being debt free weren’t easy, but they all paid off in the end. We’re now debt free and working on fully funding our retirement funds, we have cash for some home improvement, and we’re starting investing.

So if you’re looking for tips on how to get out of debt, look no further. I break down the exact steps we took to get out of debt and stay out of debt!

How to Get Out of Debt

The biggest pieces to getting out of debt are mental. It’s about being dedicated, being able to figure out the difference between needs and want, using some tough love, and last, having a positive mindset.

Once you build up these strengths, you’ll be unstoppable. While you’re working on those, start going through our steps to get out of debt:

We added up all of our debts to see where we were starting.

While difficult, we had to face up to exactly where we were financially. Owning up to our situation was hard.

As much as I hated it, we owed up to the damage we did and decided it was time to accept responsibility for our actions and work on changing them.

Our first step in getting out of debt was to create a spreadsheet with all of our debt. Without knowing an exact amount we needed to pay off, we had no clue what we were aiming for.

We wrote down all the pertinent information on each loan, credit card, and debt owed. The spreadsheet included information such as:

  • Total amount owed
  • Monthly payment due
  • Interest rate
  • Contact information for the company
  • Due date

Having a solid starting point took the fear out of our situation. Most of our fear stemmed from the unknown – not knowing exactly how deep we were in debt. Creating our spreadsheet to pay off debt helped us to face the unknown and take the first step in our debt repayment process.

We got mad at our debt.

One thing that Dave Ramsey has 100% right about debt repayment is that you have to get mad at your debt. If you’re not angry with it, you’ll never take it seriously.

The next step in our debt payoff plans was to get mad at our debt. And we sure did. We got mad at it for everything it prevented us from doing, and everything we were missing out on.

Our love for travel had to be put aside. Education contributions for our daughters’ college funds had to be paused. We weren’t putting as much towards retirement as we’d have liked.

It killed me that we were just handing money to several companies whenever we paid interest. That’s money that we could have been using to travel, save for our kids’ futures, or to do the house updates we’d been waiting on.

It took getting mad and becoming clear in our intentions to keep us on the right path to pay off our debt.

We also treated our debt like an emergency. Unless you prioritize it and make it into a big deal, you’ll never full get out from under it and you’ll just end up in the debt cycle over and over again. By making it our family’s priority, we were all on the same page and working towards the same debt free goal.

We admitted our weaknesses.

One of the best ways to get rid of debt is to avoid debt in the first place. My husband and I realized that we couldn’t seem to stem the bleeding when it came to credit cards. So we sucked it up and put our credit cards in the freezer and vowed not to take on any more debt.

It’s impossible to climb a mountain when it keeps growing. So we decided to put the cards away so that we could stop creating extra work for ourselves.

It was a hard habit to break, but it was the only way we were ever going to stop our debts from growing and conquer them.

If you truly cannot avoid taking on additional debt then find ways to save money on your purchases. Whether it’s buying items discounted or used, do everything you can to avoid taking on extra debt you don’t need.

We prioritized our debts.

We looked at our debts and chose to prioritize them by focusing on the smallest debt first. Our family decided to take this route because we needed the psychological boost that came from crossing off those small debts quickly.

We also focused on making sure that any zero percent interest credit cards were paid off one month prior to their introductory rate’s expiration. We wanted to make sure that we would never paid that accrued interest.

While it didn’t take priority for extra payments, they did take priority in making sure we were paying enough on them every month to completely pay them off prior to the introductory period.

You can also choose to prioritize your debt by paying on the highest interest rate first. Some people feel that the savings in interest payments is greater than the psychological boost of knocking out the smallest loans first.

Last, don’t forget to consider the type of loan. If you’ve borrowed from a family member, it can be good to pay them back first, especially to avoid tension or family drama.

There’s no right or wrong way to choose how to prioritize your debts. Just take the time to make a game plan of how you want to tackle them, and stick with it.

We created a budget and game plan.

Creating a budget was our next step so that we knew how much we had each month to put towards debt. We used this exact budget workbook to figure out how to balance our bills with debt repayment.

This budget sheet to pay off debt helped us to see our progress every month. It also helped me to realize that what’s budgeted for one month isn’t going to work for another. That we needed to create a new budget every month, depending upon upcoming events and expenses.

We have failed previously with budgeting because I did a monthly budget once, and thought it should automatically work for each month after. When it didn’t, I got frustrated.

It was only after having this new budget worksheet that I realized that I needed to do things differently.

Create a budget for your family and give yourself time to get it ironed out right. Remember that it’s a living document that will change and adjust as your family’s needs do.

We printed out charts to visually mark our progress.

Now that we had a debt amount, budget and game plan, we created a debt payoff schedule. We were able to predict how soon we could pay off our debt by creating the schedule.

In order to keep ourselves motivated, we used a pay down debt worksheet. By having a printed visual to hang up and color in, it worked as a daily reminder of our goals and helped us stay on track.

Here’s a free pay off debt printable worksheet that I created that you can download to use to track your progress as well:

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!

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Use these free debt & savings tracking printables to help you track and achieve all of your financial goals!

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We created a mini emergency fund.

Something always comes up that you forget or can’t budget for. Until you can work on creating sinking funds, an mini emergency fund is important.

First we built up a mini emergency fund of $1,000 first before we started to tackle our debt. We made sure it was enough to cover a chunk of our family medical deductible or small car repairs or a couple of new tires. I didn’t want to tie up more than that when we were paying so much in interest.

After we paid off our debt we started to save our full emergency fund, which is 3 – 6 months of our expenses.

We also started creating sinking funds for unavoidable items that we knew would irregularly pop up in our budget occasionally. It was better to have that extra cash instead of creating more debt by putting it on a credit card.

We cut the budget where we could.

One of the best ways to get out of debt is to either make more money or cut your expenses. Preferably, it’d be quickest to do both.

First, we started by cutting our budget. Anything unnecessary was cut. We got rid of cable, switched to StraightTalk for our cell phones, and made a lot of other cuts to trim our budget down as much as possible.

Start by working on trimming one bill a week so you don’t get overwhelmed. Also, use services like Trim to help you trim your expenses while saving you time and the extra work. You can read about how we were able to save $240 in about 5 minutes of work with Trim here.

Also review your insurance coverage, health care deductibles, and even daycare expenses. We were able to negotiate our daycare costs so that we saved $25 a month. While it’s not much, it’s better than nothing.

We also used the Grocery Budget Makeover to help us to trim our grocery costs and eat at home more to save money.

You can read more about 13 expenses that we cut in order to save over $700 a month here.

We picked up extra jobs.

The other half of the getting out of debt quick equation is to make more money. It’s the perfect time to reassess your earnings and see where you can step it up.

Luckily, I am a website designer during the day, so I was able to pick up freelance jobs to help earn additional income. Look at ways to pick up freelance in your current industry first. It’s the easiest and quickest way to score a side gig and make extra money without too much of a learning curve.

Also, don’t forget to look for opportunities to pick up extra shifts, holiday hours, extra work, or ask for a raise. You already work there, so it makes sense to start there when looking for extra income.

There are tons of ways to make extra income to eliminate your debts. You can start by reviewing these ways to pick up extra work without too much hassle:

We learned to say no, even if we didn’t want to.

One of the hardest ways to get out of debt was to turn down plans with friends or family or pass on  opportunities to purchase items we really wanted.

It sucked and felt so awkward to talk to our family out about situation and how it affected our ability to give presents at Christmas. While we felt like we didn’t have much to give, they didn’t care. What really mattered to them was that we were together and and got to spend the holidays at their house.

It really does show that what matters is you, not the gifts you give. If you choose to follow this route, talk to them ahead of time about what the expectations are for the holidays and gift giving. Chances are you could even be providing them with a much needed financial break as well.

Or, if you choose to skip this step, make sure to plan ahead and start budgeting for the holidays months ahead, so you’re not scrambling to put gifts on your credit card. You know it’s coming so there’s really no excuse for not planning ahead for it.

Also learn how to triple stack your savings when you make purchases by doing a little research. It’s worth the time and effort to be able to save a lot on those Christmas presents!

We put every extra penny towards our debt.

Getting out of debt quick isn’t easy, so we put everything we had into it. Every extra tax refund, bonus, raise or extra cash that came our way went to our debt.

We even took some savings we had set aside for specific events and put it towards our debt. Even though it was a difficult decision to make, it helped us to realize just how serious we were to get out of debt quickly and for the last time.

We celebrated each win, no matter how small.

Every extra payment we made, every small debt we paid off were milestones worth celebrating. That doesn’t mean we went out to a crazy expensive dinner and movie every time we hit a milestone, but we found small ways to celebrate our financial accomplishments.

We did things like buying a bottle of wine or renting a movie we really wanted to see. Once we started to see progress on our debt repayment, it was hard to put money towards anything other than our debt. So we compromised by remembering to celebrate, but doing so in a way that didn’t sidetrack us from our goals.

We didn’t let setbacks stop us.

Setbacks are going to happen no matter what. No journey is ever a straight line. No matter how hard that is to hear, it was important to take everything one step at a time and deal with whatever comes up.

My husband lost his job four months into our debt repayment journey. Talk about crap timing. But we didn’t let it stop us though – he filed for unemployment, we busted our butts to temporarily cut costs even more.

We found ways to not only make ends meet, but to thrive as well.

We also had roof damage from a bad storm later that summer. Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, we just accepted it and got several estimates. We used our emergency fund and rather than get upset or frustrated, we used it as motivation to find new ways to pull in extra cash by selling stuff around the house and having yard sales.

Remember that any setbacks are temporary and don’t seal your financial fate. Big wig financial gurus like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have figuratively hit rock bottom when it came to finances – and look at them now! Remember that a setback is as good or bad as your perspective.

My husband losing his job turned out to be the best thing ever. He was miserable and hated his work. Getting laid off freed him up to find something he’s truly passionate about and he’s naturally excelling at his new workplace because he enjoys being there.

We surrounded ourselves with like-minded people to support and motivate us.

Learning how to get out of debt meant finding resources that gave us new and fresh ideas on how to approach our debt repayment. I love the support and friendship I’ve found in Facebook groups and with other personal finance bloggers. It’s so nice to have someone to bounce financial ideas off of and to discuss tactics with.

Most people don’t “get” the debt free mentality and why you’d want to live that lifestyle. That’s their loss. Ignore the side-eye from them, keep doing your thing, and work on finding your tribe.

I also find that it’s important to fill your social media feeds with like minded people as well as a reminder. It’s a great way to remember your goals and where you want to be.

Make sure to follow bloggers, read personal finance books, and listen to podcasts on personal finance to keep your fire for debt repayment burning at full force.

Learning how to get out of debt isn’t hard but it’s important to be consistent. Just like building muscle, it’s about those daily steps you take that really matter. Break it up into smaller pieces to focus on so that it’s not overwhelming.

Just like no one becomes Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight, no one becomes debt free in a week. Keep focusing on these small steps and you’ll be debt free sooner than you realize.

Have you started your debt free journey? If not, why not? What’s holding you back? Let me know in the comments below!

Learn how to get out of debt by following in our footsteps. We paid off over $26,000 by doing these exact debt pay off steps. #debt #finances #financialfreedom

How to Boost Your Credit Score Quickly

How to boost your credit score quickly

Whether you like it or not, your credit score affects your daily life. Everything from getting approved for a loan to getting a job can be dependent upon having a good credit score. This is why it’s important to learn how to boost your credit score and keep it there.

If you are a fan of Dave Ramsey, you know his stance on credit scores. If you’re not, I’ll sum it up quickly: essentially, Dave thinks you should pay for everything in cash. When you do this, your credit score will disappear, since you no longer have any accounts for it to base your “credit worthiness” off of.

While Dave Ramsey doesn’t approve of worrying about a credit score, there are still a lot of reasons to do so. Unless you can pay cash for everything – and I mean everything, like a house – you’re going to need to have a good credit score.

Until you can pay for everything in cash, it’s important to know your credit score and pay attention to it. Having a good credit score can also help you save money in the long run as well.

Credit scores are also important in determining your interest rates on loans, mortgages, cars and credit cards. If your credit score is horrible, you will not be able to get a low interest rate. Which in turn means that you’ll be paying more for the same products as people with great credit scores.

Having a great credit score means saving money in the long run. Here are the most important tips to learn how to boost your credit score.

Not sure why credit scores matter? Want to know how to boost your credit score? Learn the key factors in boosting your credit score quickly now! #credit #creditscore #finance

Why Do I Need a Good Credit Score?

Having a good credit score is unfortunately important in today’s world, whether we (and Dave Ramsey) like it or not. Just look at all the items throughout your life that your credit score can affect:

  • Your ability to get a job since employers now check credit scores
  • You ability to get a loan
  • Your ability to get a good interest rate on that loan
  • Where you buy a house, your mortgage rate and how big of a house you can buy
  • Your relationships
  • If you can rent or lease an apartment or car
  • The cost of your car or home insurance
  • If you have to put down a deposit when opening utility accounts
  • Starting a business

How to Get Your Credit Score

Luckily, you can get your credit score for free at Credit Sesame. Just answer some basic questions, create an account and login to check your score.

Credit Sesame also helps you to analyze your credit score and tells you how you can improve it. I like it because it’s feedback that’s tailored to your specific situation, which takes out a lot of the guesswork. They also provide additional services, like credit monitoring to make sure that there’s nothing fishy going on with your credit.

Easy ways to improve credit

Everyone wants to know the fastest way to fix a credit score, so let’s dig in, shall we? There are several factors that make up your credit score:

  • Payment History (35% of credit score)
  • Credit Usage (or, Credit Utilization Ratio) (30% of credit score)
  • Credit Age (15% of credit score)
  • Account Mix (10% of credit score)
  • Credit Inquiries (10% of credit score)

I’ll go into detail about each so that you understand how each affects your credit score, and how heavily it weighs on determining your score. But first, grab a copy of your credit report and credit score and we’ll get into how to boost your credit score.  

Start by Reviewing Your Credit Report for Mistakes

Begin by getting a free copy of your credit report at Annual Credit Report. You can do this once a year for free. It will not give your credit score, but you can review it for discrepancies in your credit history.

If you find any accounts that you didn’t open or that are incorrect, you need to address them immediately. Start by contacting the credit bureau that’s showing the account and asked to have it removed.

I suggest sending a letter via certified mail with copies of the credit report and any documentation showing proof of inconsistencies. Ask them to investigate the account in question. They have 30 days from receiving the letter to review the issue, and then remove it.

Contact Creditors About Recent Late Fees

If you have recent late fees, you can kindly call and ask your creditor for a pass. See if you can get them to drop the late fee. If so, it should remove the late payment on your credit report. Otherwise, those late payment notifications will stay until the loan is paid off and closed for good.

Payment history makes up a whopping 35% of your credit score. Set reminders to pay your bills on time. Print and mark up a calendar. Whatever it takes, make sure that you’re paying those bills on time every month.

Want to know how to increase credit score immediately? Start with on-time payments. Current on-time payments will impact your score more than old late payments. Get on a schedule and pay those bills first.

Not only will this up your credit score, but you’ll sleep better at night knowing those payments are taken care of.

If you aren’t making enough to cover your bills, check out this article on 11 simple ways to save money on a tight budget.

Steps on How to Boost Your Credit Score

Pay Down Your Credit Cards or Loans

One large factor in your credit score is your credit utilization. It makes up 30% of your credit score.

This means that if you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit, and a $5,000 balance, you’re at a 50% credit utilization rate. Which is not good.

The lower your credit utilization rate, the better. You want it below 30%, but lower than 10% will get you the best rates from lenders.

Do not go out and open additional credit cards to create a smaller credit utilization percentage. Chances are you’ll end up using the card and gaining more debt, and also end up lowering your credit score.

The best way to drop your credit utilization score is – you guessed it – make a payment on your credit card. Knock off anything you can in order to get that percentage to drop. This will have a much bigger impact on your credit score than getting a late payment mark removed.

Consider picking up a temporary side hustle to make some extra cash to get those credit cards paid down. If you need some inspiration, here’s a list of online side hustles you can start this weekend.

Mix Your Accounts Up

Creditors and lenders want to see a variety of accounts, including credit cards, home loans, student loans, car loans, and other types of loans. Having a mix can be beneficial to your credit score.

Luckily, this only makes up 10% of your overall credit score, so don’t run out and grab an unnecessary loan just to give yourself variety. It’s not enough to bump your credit quite that much, so don’t worry about it if you don’t have a variety in your account types.

Keep Your Accounts Open

I know this sound contradictory, but you want old accounts. If you pay off a credit card, keep it open. The older, the better.

Credit age is based on an average age of your accounts. You want to try and have an average over five years if possible. So keep those accounts open – but cut up those cards!

Credit age makes up 15% of your credit score, and it’s a relatively easy task to accomplish. It doesn’t hurt if you choose to close a very recently opened card, but definitely keep any of the older accounts open.

Having 12 credit cards isn’t going to help either. Lenders want to see a variety, not quantity. This is my lowest rating on Credit Sesame, since I only have a couple of credit cards and a mortgage. And I’m totally fine with that! It’s worth it to drop the student loan and car payments we had earlier this year.

Keep the Number of Credit Inquiries Down

Every time you apply for a new loan, credit card, or mortgage, it’s a credit inquiry. You want to keep it down to only two per year, if possible.

Credit inquiries have a 10% impact on your credit score, so don’t apply for every store credit card you’re offered just to save 30% on your purchase that day.

This also means that if you don’t have a lot of credit accounts open, don’t open too many too rapidly. Spacing them out and opening only what you really need will boost your credit score much more. Opening too many at once will lower your score and it’ll take a year to fall off your report.

How long does it take for your credit score to update?

Depending upon the changes you make and how much they affect your score, you can start to see improvement in your score within 30 days. Lenders generally report to the credit bureaus once a month, so any changes will appear monthly.

Remember, fixing your credit is going to take a little time. So the sooner you start, the better!

How fast can you raise your credit score?

The burning question on everyone’s mind: how fast can you raise your credit score? Your specific situation and the changes you’ve made will dictate how fast you can raise your score.

But weary of any companies that promise fast results. Often, they can backfire and actually cause a lower score.

If you want tips to boost credit score quickly, your best bets are paying on time and lowering your credit utilization. Those items will give you the most bang for your buck. The others might take a bit, since they are based on time.

Remember, the key to boosting your credit is consistency. Being consistent with on-time payments, your credit utilization ratio, and keeping older accounts open will be the fastest way to fix your credit score.

Having a great credit score affects so much more than being able to get a loan at a low interest rate. It can affect everything from finding a job to how you raise your kids.

It’s important to not only check your credit score through a service like Credit Sesame, but to also keep checking it. You’ll want to pay attention to any changes that appear and address them as soon as possible to keep your credit score up.

Will Being Debt Free Affect Your Credit Score?

A debt free credit score could possibly be higher because your credit utilization will be zero. However, if you don’t have a good mix of types of credit, haven’t had the accounts open long, or have opened too many too recently, your score could possibly be lower than someone with debt.

While you’re not going to find Dave Ramsey free credit score services any time soon, understanding the factors that build a credit score are important. Once you’re debt free and are able to pay cash for literally everything in your life, that score will matter whether you like it or not.

Have you done any adjustments to raise your credit score? How long did it take to see a change? Let me know in the comments!

Not sure why credit scores matter? Want to know how to boost your credit score? Learn the key factors in boosting your credit score quickly now! #credit #creditscore #finance

How to Easily Build the Ultimate Emergency Binder

Our neighbors were recently preparing to go on an anniversary cruise when they realized their printer wasn’t working. She texted me to see if I could print some paperwork for them to put in their in case of emergency binder for their parents, who were watching their kids.

Of course, I obliged. And being the nosy nebby I am, I glanced at the paperwork before walking over to deliver it.

It was a power of attorney for consent to medical care for a minor.

First off – I didn’t even know that was a thing, until I asked her more about it. And then I panicked, since our kids were visiting with grandma right then, and I didn’t even think to send along their medical cards, much less a power of attorney paper. (I know, I’m the worst parent, eh?)

Secondly, I realized that we didn’t have an emergency binder pulled together, at all. What in the world would my husband do if something happened to me? I’m responsible for paying all of our bills and keeping track of our finances. He’d have no clue where to start or where some of our account information was.

Even worse was realizing that our parents would be even more clueless as to what to do with our accounts and finances if something happened to both of us. How could they possibly care for our kids and dig through the mess that I call a workspace?

Creating an emergency binder is important for your family and finances. Without one, would you family know how to pay bills in an emergency? Get this step-by-step instruction on how to start building an emergency binder. #emergency #personalfinance #family

Why We Needed an Emergency Binder

One of my goals this year was to review all of our accounts – from insurance coverage to investments – and make adjustments as needed. And since we’re touching essentially everything, I realized it’s the best time possible to create an in case of emergency binder.

Turning 40 has made me stop and think about a lot of things, some of which I do not like to dwell on. I realize though that hitting middle age is a blessing – some people don’t get to make it this far.

At the same time, it’s important to accept that my husband and I might not always be here for our kids, even though I hate to think about it.

This is where an in case of emergency binder comes in. By pulling together all of our important information, we’re able to rest easy knowing that anything that my husband, our parents, or our kids might need to know is at their fingertips. From passwords to account information, it’s all in these two ultimate binders.

What is an Emergency Binder?

An emergency binder, or legacy binder, is where all of our important family documents are stored. It can include financial account information, passwords, social media account info, burial requests, and even letters to your kids, to name a few items.

Building an emergency documents binder ensures that if an accident or death were to happen, anything family members might need to know is right there. The last thing they should be doing is digging for important information in old file cabinets that haven’t been cleaned out in years when they’re worried and grieving.

The best part is, emergency binders can be used for more than emergencies:

  • We can pull particular pages out when we hire a babysitter to watch the kids
  • We can use it to give Grandma power of attorney to make medical decisions on our behalf while we’re out of town
  • It’ll be easier to apply for financial things like loans or open new accounts since everything is in one place
  • We can use it as a snapshot to review our insurance coverage and investment accounts yearly
  • I’ll always have our paperwork instantly pulled together when it’s time to renew our licenses at the DMV 😉

Why an Emergency Binder Makes Financial Sense

Thinking about us not being there for our daughters was difficult – but it’s also to us to leave behind organized documents. Without those, they could miss out on all of the hard work and progress we’ve made financially. If we can’t be there to take care of them, it’s important that they can live comfortably financially.

Can you imagine your kids not getting to use money you set aside because they didn’t know it existed?

We have worked too damned hard paying off debt, saving, and investing to let our money go to waste, and for such a silly reason no less.

Organizing your financial paperwork is just as important as paying off your debt or investing. Without it, you’re letting money slip through your family’s fingers should anything happen.

How to Build an Emergency Binder

Now that I realized we needed an emergency binder ASAP, I began to create an important documents checklist. However, I quickly realized we had no clue as to what information our family might need outside of account numbers and passwords.

Luckily, a fellow blogger named Chelsea from Mama Fish Saves presented a solution: a printable emergency binder PDF.

Chelsea’s in case of emergency binder is so thorough that I could have never hoped to think of half of the content on my own.

She not only covers the financial aspect of documentation, but the personal and emotional side as well. Anything your spouse, parents or kids might need to know, there’s a page for it. From the power of attorney for medical consent for a minor to a place to pull together birth certificates, this emergency binder has a spot for everything.

We chose to print our binder and divide it into two 3 ring binders. Each page has been put into a plastic sleeve, and any additional documents are in plastic sleeves as well.

Following the directions on the emergency binder PDF, we decided to split our binder into two sections. One we keep on a shelf in my office, the other in our fireproof safe.

The part that is in our fireproof safe has the important original documentation we need to keep locked and safe, such as wills, legal documents, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and more.

It truly has given me peace of mind knowing that everything is safe in one spot, and we don’t have to search to find those important documents every time we need to head to the DMV or register for something.

The In Case of Emergency Binder Downloadable PDF

Chelsea’s emergency binder is broken into two sections: the Basic Family Info piece, and the Need to Know piece.

Each of these sections has sub-sections, covering different aspects. The binder is a whopping 92 pages and includes sections on:

In case of emergency binder with featured pages

  • Household information
  • Key Personal Documents
  • Medical Information (including advanced directives)
  • Childcare
  • Insurance Policies
  • Basic Financial Information (Properties, bills, cash accounts, credit cards, debt)
  • Employer Information
  • Social Media/Website Logins
  • Investment Information (Accounts, strategy, what to do with life insurance, real estate, etc)
  • Military Veteran benefit and obituary information
  • Burial/Memorial Preferences
  • Personal notes
  • & more

I appreciate that this emergency binder printable takes so many aspects into account and has created a spot for them. It even includes a power of attorney for consent to medical care for a minor form. Now I have no excuse for not having that filled out and sent along with my kids to grandma’s house.

Why It’s Not Just Documentation

Chelsea’s emergency binder PDF covers so many aspects of those vital documents your family needs. But it also directs your family with future decision making.

One example is a page on how you suggest any life insurance money is spent. When we purchased ours, we bought enough to cover our mortgage, the girls’ college educations, and some of our yearly income.

Obviously our parents or kids aren’t going to know what our intentions were without having a discussed it. Having this paper included helps us to convey our wishes for our children’s care.

Even though my husband and I are not veterans, my father is. It’s comforting to know I have a go-to resource to know what benefits he can receive and what to do to honor him when he passes.

Another example is the letters section. Not only can you write letters to your spouse and kids for them to remember you by, but there’s an additional section where you answer questions about yourself. It includes fun, interesting things I want my kids and grandkids to know about me, like my favorite memory of them as a baby, or what I was scared of as a kid.

I loved hearing similar stories about my grandparents and cherish them like jewels. I truly believe that it’s important to have those precious tidbits to help keep a loved one’s memories alive. I know it’s always a calming and wonderful way to cope with loss and hold them near and dear to my heart.

How to Store Your Emergency Binder

We chose to split our emergency binder into two. The more commonly used piece we kept on a shelf, the other in our safe. Or you can keep it in a safety deposit box, assuming you make family members aware of its existence and where the key can be found.

Another option is to create a digital version. Chelsea’s PDF is editable so that you can type directly into it. She recommends setting up a free account at LastPass to save it there. LastPass is a password management website, so your account is encrypted and will safely store this PDF.

You can choose to use Dropbox or Google drive, but those options are not encrypted. It’s recommended that you choose a very strong password that is not used anywhere else if you choose to store it here.

Why Everyone Needs to Create an Emergency Binder

Talking with a spouse about our wishes after we pass is such a hard subject to broach. Personally, it’s an even harder discussion to have with our parents.

While it might seem morbid or awkward, the best thing you can do is discuss your wishes with them. If it’s still too difficult, get your binder set up and let them know it exists. It will help ease the conversation, and give everyone peace of mind.

It’s emotional work, and I shed a couple of tears while working on some of the sections (I also just cry very easily, just ask my husband!). However, it’s worth it knowing that’s one less thing that my family has to worry about should anything happen.

I would strongly recommend suggesting that your parents and in-laws create an emergency binder as well, so that you can carry out their wishes exactly as they want you to. This will help relieve some of the burden and stress you and your siblings will encounter when they pass.

A Sense of Relief

While it was emotional to face some of the aspects of the emergency binder PDF, I’m glad that we did. I feel a sense of relief now that I know I’ve done what I needed to in order to ensure our kids are well taken care of.

The peace of mind it gives me helps me to let go of some of that fear and anxiety I’ve been having about turning 40 as well. And that alone is worth its weight in gold.

You can buy Chelsea’s in case of emergency PDF here for $29.

Have you created an emergency binder? Or do you have questions about this one? If so, let me know in the comments.

Creating an emergency binder is important for your family and finances. Without one, would you family know how to pay bills in an emergency? Get this step-by-step instruction on how to start building an emergency binder. #emergency #personalfinance #family

Creating an emergency binder is important for your family and finances. Without one, would you family know how to pay bills in an emergency? Get this step-by-step instruction on how to start building an emergency binder. #emergency #personalfinance #family

11 Simple Ways To Save Money On A Tight Budget

11 simple ways to save money on a tight budget

When we finally started budgeting so that we could finally pay off our debt, we knew we had to trim some expenses. Our income barely covered our expenses, so we had to find the best way to save money on a tight budget.

By saving money on expenses, we had more to put towards our debt. Finally paying off our debt meant we could put more money towards the things we loved, rather than the debts we owed.

Before we get to our smart money saving tips, it’s important to have a budget in place. Without a budget, you’ll never be able to save money fast on a low income. A zero sum budget will tell your money where to go, instead of you wondering where it went. You can learn more about our budget here.

Struggling to make ends meet? Here are 11 simple ways to save money on a tight budget. #budgeting #savings #finance

How to Save Money on a Tight Budget

Once your budget is in place, the next thing you’ll do is pick out any red flags for areas that you know you’re likely to overspend.

For us, it’s groceries. So we worked on finding easy ways to cut our grocery bill. The key to saving money on a tight budget is pinpointing the most obvious overspending first and tackling those. They tend to be the easiest wins and can help motivate you to do more.

Now that you’ve tackled the easy ways to save money on a tight budget, next you’ll focus on more creative (but still simple!) approaches.

There are a ton of outrageous and unusual ways to save money out there. Rather than suggest you try a zillion and one oddball ideas, these are the top 11 easy ways that we were able to manage and save money every month:

1. Exchange services with a neighbor, friend, or family member.

Chances are you have some family members with a very particular set of skills. You know what I’m talkin’ about:

via GIPHY

(No, not those skills, but that could be interesting at your next family reunion!)

More like a mechanic, website designer, vet, or chef, to name a few. Offer to trade services with them in order to save money. For example, if your car needs repair work, purchase the parts yourself and offer to mow their lawn 3 times in exchange for them installing the parts. Or something of the sort. You get the picture.

Do not use this as an excuse to get free work out of someone! I know you wouldn’t – but I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been hit up for free website work in exchange for “exposure” or passing my business card around. Uh, yeah – sure. I’ll get to your stuff right after I get through all of these paying clients first!

While this is a great way to get services like oil changes, repair work, or other services cheap, make sure you’re doing an even trade, and don’t burn any family bridges. It’s not worth saving $30 if your grandma will never speak to you again.

2. Limit eating out, start cooking at home, and trim your grocery budget.

Listen, I get it. Grocery shopping, cooking and everything in between is about the last thing I want to add to my to-do list. But it was the biggest money suck in our budget. Being unprepared and hungry is just asking to overspend and overeat.

Buying groceries on a tight budget can be tough. The best way to trim your budget is to organize your grocery shopping and meal planning, so that you are only buying what you need and use.

Grocery shopping once a week helped us to keep enough food in the house to avoid eating out, and to meal plan quickly and easily. Figure out what timeline works best for you and start there.

We were able to use the Grocery Budget Makeover to revamp our grocery spending, minimize eating out, and save money than half of our grocery budget. You can read my Grocery Budget Makeover review here.

3. Learn to coupon and work sales so you never buy anything full price.

Couponing is not difficult and doesn’t have to be time consuming. There are a ton of great sites that will find the deals for you like The Krazy Coupon Lady, Penny Pinchin’ Mom, and Hip2Save. Sign up to their email lists and follow them on social media so you are notified of sales without having to dig for them.

Next, sign up for cash back programs such as Ibotta, Ebates and TopCashBack. Each requires you to submit your receipt or click through their site first to get cash back (when shopping online).

Stack these deals with coupons, sales and cash back apps, and you’ll never pay full price on anything again. Learn more about how to triple stack your savings here. Or, learn more about mistakes to avoid when learning to coupon.

It’s also important to stick to your budget. Try using cash envelopes or this easy hack to help keep you from overspending on your next Target trip.

4. Ask for discounts on services you use regularly, like daycare.

While it might seem like a long shot, it doesn’t hurt to ask. When my husband lost his job, our daycare expenses were almost twice our mortgage payment, making it our highest expense. We were receiving a 5% discount for having multiple kids at the daycare, but I thought I’d ask about additional discounts anyway.

While they didn’t have any other discounts available, they were able to move our youngest up to the next class just a little early, saving us $50 a month. It wasn’t a huge savings, but when you’re unemployed, every cent counts.

Figure out what your top three monthly expenses are and challenge yourself to find a discount on them, no matter how small. Every bit helps!

5. Find ways to cut your personal care costs.

If you decide that certain personal care services can’t be cut out of the budget, try to find ways to get them discounted.

For hair, massage, nail and salon services, hit a beauty school to get discounted services. Students are monitored and helped by the instructors, so no need to worry about subpar services.

Many services based schooling will provide discounted services so that their students can practice. Anything from dental work to massages can be found discounted if you do the research for what’s available in your area.

6. Cut your technology costs.

I know everyone hems and haws about cutting cable – trust me when I say I was the same. We finally did it almost two years ago, and not only have we saved money, but have learned to spend our time differently in the evenings.

We still have Netflix and Amazon Prime, but don’t sit and watching TV to just fill our time. Instead we find ourselves doing other things, like playing games together, reading books, or spending time outside.

If you insist on keeping cable, try using Trim to cut the cost without sacrificing the services you have. We used Trim to cut our Internet bill by $240 a year in about 5 minutes. Trim can help you save on cable, internet, home phone and cell phone services. Read my Trim review here, or sign up for Trim here.

Last but not least – get out of the never ending cycle of overpaying for cell phone services. This was a huge savings for us – $700 a year! We switched to StraightTalk and began purchasing our phones refurbished through Amazon, which is much cheaper than paying monthly on them through a cell phone company.  

StraightTalk uses Verizon’s cell towers, so it’s the same service, just a different provider. We just signed up for an account, ordered the correct SIM cards, put them in our phones, and started the service.

StraightTalk is a prepaid service, so there are no surprises when you get your monthly bill. We were also able to take our phone numbers with us, and even use our existing phones. Talk about  a win-win!

Saving on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you enjoy. Just find cheaper alternatives, or cut elsewhere if you don’t want to give up cable.

7. Start a babysitting co-op.

Let’s face it – when you’re cutting expenses, date nights are generally one of the first things to go, sadly. At least it was for us. But it doesn’t have to be.

A babysitting co-op is a group of neighborhood parents that exchange babysitting services. You can easily save $500 or more a year, depending on how much you go out.

It’s nice that it’s other parents, and not local teenagers. Some co-ops work on allotted hours per month, while others work on exchanges of hours. Do some research and decide which way everyone agrees to. Additional ideas and guidelines can be found online once you get your group together.

8. Cut entertainment expenses.

Now that you’ve got your babysitter squared away, it’s time to cut your entertainment costs. I love to check Groupon for local activities and discounts. They have tons of local activities that are great for date night.

Groupon is also a great place to find activities to do with the kids, as well as discounted products. I’ve found several great Christmas presents on there, as well as discounted tickets to children’s events and holiday activities.

We were able to get our daughter into a karate class for 75% off of the normal 10 session price. The great thing about Groupon Specials is that sometimes you can buy them again – so we continued to jump on the karate class special while the business still offered it.

Any time you have a local business or service in mind, check out Groupon and see if they (or a similar company) are offering any Groupons for discounted services. It’s definitely worth the discount!

9. Stop giving your money away. Avoid bank fees – whether overdraft or interest charges, or monthly fees.

ATM fees, overdrafts, annual credit card fees – all of these can add up to be quite expensive and such a waste of your hard earned money. With a little planning, you can avoid all of these fees easily.

I personally believe there is no reason whatsoever to pay for having either a checking or savings account with any bank. There are more than enough banks around that pay you interest to avoid having to pay account fees yourself.

If you’re looking for a new bank, Capital One 360 is a great bank to check out. It is solely online, but also has higher interest rates than any local bank I’ve checked out. They also allow you to make multiple sub-accounts, making it easier to earmark money for different savings goals.

As far as overdraft fees, we all make mistakes. But there’s no reason to keep making them. Plan ahead by keeping a $100 – $500 cushion in your account, and take the time to look up ATMs without fees.

10. Bundle insurance to save money and look into switching companies every year.

Insurance companies give better discounts the more services you bundle with them, much like cable companies do.

Whether you need home insurance or renter’s insurance, see if your insurance company will provide discounts if you bundle your other insurance with it. Most insurance companies will bundle any type of insurance you can get.

Also look for discounts through your employer, credit union, or even hit up a an ELP through Dave Ramsey’s site. An ELP is a Endorsed Local Provider that has to go through certain certifications to be endorsed by Dave Ramsey’s website.

We used one when my husband lost his job and we needed health insurance. It’s free to speak with them and get signed up for insurance, plus  they’re wonderfully honest. The provider we spoke to could not get us cheaper auto insurance, but forewarned us about our insurance company’s coverage on roofing. Turns out the info he gave us was true when our roof was damaged several months later.

Also make sure to check into insurance prices once a year. It might not be the best way to spend an evening, but with an ELP doing the work for you, it’ll save you a ton. Don’t forget to ask about discounts for paying your insurance in 6 month or one year increments!

11. Do a savings challenge to boost your savings.

Savings challenges are a super easy way to boost your savings and cut your spending for a quick amount of time. Think of it like a one week diet or fast.

The best thing about savings challenges is that you can do a different one each time, so you avoid becoming bored with them. Spend a month not eating out. Save all your $5 bills for 2 weeks. Stash all your change at the end of the day in a jar. Save only quarters.

Whatever your whim, your savings challenge can be however short or long you want, and with whatever rules you like. Here are 10 simple rules for a no spend challenge, and a list of 37 easy money challenges to help you smash your financial goals

 

There are a ton of other good ways to save money on a tight budget, but these address those items that are the biggest budget busters (say that three times fast!). It’s easier to cut those bigger expenses first – it’s a great motivator and you’ll see results really quickly. When you’re learning how to budget and save money on a small income, you need some quick wins to help you hang in there.

Remember to work this so that it fits your needs as you learn how to save money on a tight income. It’s not going to happen all in one day, and it tends to work in stages. Give it time, and you’ll find more and more easy ways to save money on a tight budget as you progress!

Want to learn more about what to cut from your budget? Check out 13 Quick and Easy Ways We Saved Over $700 a month

How do you save money each month? Do you have any other creative ways to save money? If so, add them in the comments below – I love to hear how everyone else approaches challenges like these!

These are the 11 best ways to save money on a tight budget and get your debt paid off. #budgeting #savings #debt

Struggling to make ends meet? Here are 11 simple ways to save money on a tight budget. #budgeting #savings #finance

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75 (Mostly) Free Things to Do with Kids This Weekend

75 (mostly) free things to do with kids this weekend

Whether it’s summer break or just an average weekend, we’re always looking for free things to do with kids.There’s just not always a lot of room in the budget to squeeze out a lot for activities.

We all know kids can be crazy expensive, thanks to daycare, clothes, and all their favorite foods we prepare that they suddenly refuse to eat and have to toss. (I know you know what I’m talkin’ about.)

Toss in keeping kids entertained, off electronics, and doing it cheaply? Yeah, sure – just add “finding world peace” to that, no problem!

I promise you though – it’s actually easier than it sounds. There are a ton of cheap things to do with kids, especially when you research the free options your city has to offer or think back to the games you played as a kid.

I’ve pulled together a list of activities to do with your kids that won’t break the bank. While most of the stuff for kids to do is free, some are just cheaper options to try if you can plan ahead:

It doesn't have to be hard to find free things to do with kids. I've covered family things to do, indoor activities, at home activities, and free things to do near you with kids #budget #kids #kidsactivities

Family Fun Things to Do

Finding things to do with kids that everyone in the family enjoys doesn’t have to be difficult. You can usually find something everyone agrees on. If not, try one of these:

    1. Create a scrapbook together. Let everyone choose their favorite photos to contribute. Work together or take turns building the pages using a site like Shutterfly. Sign up for their email list when you create your account, and wait to purchase the book until you have a coupon for a free photobook purchase to get it printed.
    2. Plan the perfect family vacation. It’s the perfect way to not only teach your kids to daydream and travel, but to set goals, research, and learn about new places. Not to mention, they’ll learn to save up for things like vacations and pay in cash instead of credit cards.
    3. Teach your kids how to braid hair. There are some crazy braiding videos out there on YouTube if you want to get really fancy. I learned to braid as a kid and it’s a skill that’s come in very handy with two daughters.
    4. Teach your kids a new skill or hobby that you love. Whether it’s playing the guitar, baking or painting, your kids will cherish the time you’ve spent teaching them something you love.
    5. Train your dog to do new tricks. This is a great way to get kids to interact and bond with the family pet and to learn what it takes to train a dog.
    6. Set up a lemonade stand. Have everyone in the family chip in some elbow grease to get the lemonade stand up and running. From picking up ingredients to making signs, everyone can contribute and work towards a common goal. Then celebrate your earnings by spending it by using it to take everyone out for ice cream!
    7. Have a field day in the backyard. Create an awesome obstacle course in your backyard with stuff from your house and garage. Invite some friends over and make it into a competition for cheap prizes.  
    8. Find a cheap movie theater. Both Regal Cinemas and AMC have $5 Tuesdays. Not that I promote bringing food into a movie theater, but…make sure you have a big purse. Ya know, just in case you need it.
    9. Have a family potluck. Have each member of the family cook their signature dish and enjoy!
    10. Play a family game of Chopped. With oddball ingredients from the pantry, have family members face off in a cooking competition to see who can whip their ingredients into an amazing meal.
    11. Family board game night. Rotate who gets to pick the game for the night.
    12. Create a scavenger hunt. There are some great scavenger hunt ideas online. One I saw recently listed close to 100 objects, each with a point value. You then had to take photos of the items you found over the course of 3 months and see who wins at the end.
    13. Challenge each other to a riddle contest. See who can stump the other. There are some classics out there that your kids won’t know yet – take advantage of it!
    14. Teach your kids to cook and try out a new recipe. Teach them to be self sufficient, adventurous and to try new things. Bonus points if they love cooking and take over making dinner for you!
    15. Host a funny family Olympics. Have events like finding a grape buried in whip cream without using your hands; a egg/spoon race; and passing the balloon from one person to another without using your limbs. There are a ton of crazy fun group/team games that don’t have to cost a lot. Top it all off with some homemade yogurt lid medals a la the office Olympics episode of The Office:

      Create your budget Olympic medals with yogurt lids and paperclips for your free things to do with kids.
    16. Find the perfect side hustle as a family. You get time together and can earn some cash for that family vacation. Win-win! Check out these side hustles that aren’t MLMs to see which ones to try.
    17. Find a local park that does movies during the summer. Several of our local parks do Movies on the Hill nights once a month. They show family friendly, recent movies that are great to take a picnic and some blankets to.
    18. Do a photoshoot. Whether it’s of the family, the foliage, or something else entirely, It’s free and a great way for you or your kids to practice their photography skills. Plus, it’ll make it easier to pick a picture for your Christmas card this year.

Fun places to go with kids

Getting out of the house doesn’t have to cost a ton. There are tons of cheap places to go with kids, it’s just a matter of finding them. Ask other parents and neighbors about fun things to do near you. Here are some fun place to go with kids that won’t break the bank:

  1. Sign up for a free kids’ bowling program. We signed up for the Kids Bowl Free program this summer, and so far the kids love it! They get 2 free games every day from June 1st to August 31st. We just have to pay for shoe rental. Plus, they offer great discounts and a family pass if you want to bowl with them.
  2. Visit the pound – just to look! If you’re not sure you can visit the pound without coming home with a new pet, maybe this one’s not for you. Otherwise, it’s a fun way to play with some animals, especially if you don’t currently have a dog or cat.
  3. Seek out a new park. We have so many parks in our area, it’s crazy. Everything from parks with water fountains for the kids to run through, to biking and hiking trails. Find a new one that you haven’t been to and explore. Our park systems also hosts a lot of free kids’ events that are a ton of fun. Last fall they had a big event where they had marshmallow roasting, leaf piles to jump in, crafts and tram rides. It was fun for both the kids and us.
  4. Visit your local children’s museum.  Check Groupon for discounts to a kid’s museum near you. This is one you might have to plan out a bit more, and only go when you have discounts, but it’s worth it with the cost you’ll save.
  5. Check Groupon for activities. Groupon runs some great deals, and they often have sales on top of it so you can stack the savings. Don’t forget to go through your Ebates link as well for even more savings!
  6. FInd free seasonal local activities. There are always a ton of free or cheap family activities around the holidays. From sled riding to cookie walks, check online to see what you can find.
  7. Give geocaching a try. Geocaching is similar to a treasure hunt using GPS coordinates to find a buried prize. All you need is a phone with GPS and some shoes fit for hiking. Learn more at geocaching.com.
  8. Take a night time walk around the neighborhood. It’s the perfect time to explore the neighborhood from a new perspective. Teach your kids about nocturnal animals and reasons why we shouldn’t be afraid of the dark.
  9. Go for a bike ride. Find a riding trail, sidewalks in your neighborhood, anywhere that’s got a beautiful view and bring a picnic lunch.
  10. Volunteer to get into local events for free. Love visiting the county fair but don’t want to pay for excessive ticket costs. Volunteer to help out. Volunteers get tickets to the events, as well as other perks such as drinks, meals and free parking.
  11. Join in free church or community activities. Check online or your library’s lobby for flyers for free events.
  12. Find a local fireworks display or parade. This is one of our favorites. There’s a great spot about 2 miles from our house where we can plunk down on the side of the road and have an amazing viewpoint every Fourth of July. The kids love it, and we make an evening of it.  
  13. Have a picnic. I’m not sure why, but the thought of sandwiches without crusts, eaten while sitting on a blanket in the park is completely thrilling for my kids. It’s an easy win though, and I’ll take it!
  14. Visit companies that provide free activities for kids. At Home Depot, they have monthly building activities for kids. We’ve built gingerbread houses, trucks, wooden calendar displays, and a mini cornhole set, which was awesome and so unbelievably cute!
  15. Pick berries, apples or other fruit at a local farm. While this isn’t free, it’s great fun for the kids. Find a schedule as to when everyone’s favorite fruits are available for picking and don’t forget the sunscreen and water bottles!
  16. Get a cheap pass to the local pool (or find a friend with one). Most community pools offer early bird discounts, as well as senior citizen discounts. Plan ahead to purchase your pass early next year, and make sure to cash flow it.
  17. Find discount passes to the zoo. Check with your employer to see if they offer discounted passes. If not, there are usually some to be found through your grocery store or a local bank.
  18. Visit the library. Our new library is amazing – it’s got a cafe inside it! They also do all sorts of awesome activities, such as tutoring, getting kids ready for kindergarten, and my favorite, a show and tell series. We recently dropped into one where they brought in a live fox and we learned about their environment, what they eat, and got to see him in action. So much fun!
  19. Hit up yard sales. It’s a fun way to explore, an excuse to dig through other people’s stuff, and  anything you pick up will be cheap!
  20. Find a local fountain to go play in. Our city has 3 different local water fountains for the kids to play in, and they love it. It’s completely free, and a nice change of pace from the backyard.
  21. Visit a local astronomy park. I didn’t even know that these existed until we stumbled upon one recently. They host all sorts of fun events at night and give you a chance to view meteor showers, stars, and other heavenly bodies through a telescope.

Indoor children activities

When it’s too hot to sit through another minute at the playground, try one of these indoor kids activities to keep them busy for cheap:

  1. Make a care package for grandparents or other relatives. Create drawings, write poems or jokes, make crafts, or take photos of the kids to send to their grandparents. They’ll love receiving them, and your family will have fun making them.
  2. Write letters. Have your kids practice their handwriting and spelling by writing a letter to an aunt, grandparent, or find a penpal.
  3. Facetime with family. Catch up with distant family and friends via Facetime when boredom or bad weather kicks in.
  4. Do DIY manis & pedis and have a spa night. My daughters love getting their toenails painted. I think I’ll wait a little longer until I let them paint mine in return though 😉
  5. Teach your kids old school string games. You know what I’m talking about – using a loop of string to do intricate weaving and whatnot that sometimes required a friend to throw a hand in there to help out. Check out some string games here
  6. Read. Read to them, have them read to you, or just declare family reading hour on a rainy day. Top off with hot cocoa and blankets to snuggle down in.
  7. Have a dance party. Turn up some sweet 90s/early 2000s tunes and get to it. Teach your kids the correct way to Roger Rabbit, Cabbage Patch, or do the MC Hammer /crazy parachute pants dance. Points if you can keep your moves fresh long enough to embarrass them at their wedding!
  8. Paint in the bathtub. Throw the kids in the tub without water prior to bathtime and let them loose with washable paints. Once they’re done, fill the bath and wash the tub (and them) easily.
  9. Do a craft. Let’s face it – I’d bet $100 that you have at least one box of craft stuff (cough, cough – try 5!) lying around. Break it out, see what you have, and hit up Pinterest for some new craft ideas.
  10. Make friendship bracelets. Whether beaded, knotted embroidery floss, or something else entirely, pick up supplies on the cheap and start creating. Trade them out with other family members and friends.
  11. Build a fort. Pull out sheets, blankets and the pillows from the couch to set up an intricate and fun fort.
  12. Bake something. If you love baking, it’s the perfect time to teach your kids the time honored tradition of baking. It’s something that takes skill and practice, but is worth the work for the reward!
  13. Have a coloring contest. Pick random pages from coloring books, and hand out 5 colors to each person. See how creative they are and what they can come up with.
  14. Host a movie night. Cover the living room floor in blankets and pillows, pop some popcorn, and hunker down to a favorite childhood movie that you’d love to introduce your kids to.
  15. Have a fashion show. Let your kids dig through your closet – or better yet, theirs – and create their own outfits. Throw on some music and create a runaway for them to stomp down while you ooh and ahh.
  16. Make playdoh, slime or floam from scratch. It’s super easy and takes generally basic ingredients to create. You can find tons of recipes on Pinterest.
  17. Declutter your house. Ok, so this isn’t exactly fun, per se – but you can set a challenge for everyone to gather 5 things in 5 minutes to get rid of. Do it daily and you’ll have a nice yard sale stack in no time! Or, sell your used electronics, books, media and music on the Decluttr app.
  18. Make ice cream from scratch. There are a ton of homemade ice cream recipes on Pinterest, and not all of them require an ice cream machine. You can even find some that are no-churn. For others that require churning, you can double ziplock bag the ingredients and have the kids play toss with them to mix them up!
  19. Learn something new off of YouTube. Find a new skill you’d like to learn with your kids and search YouTube for videos on how to do.
  20. Put on a play. Rather, have your kids put on the play and create costumes. You just be an audience participant. That should keep them busy for at least a couple of hours!
  21. Play Mad Libs. Remember playing Mad Libs as a kid? They were hilarious and a ton of fun. Plus, it’s an easy way to teach your kids the difference between nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Sneak in an English lesson while having fun! 
  22. Play card games.There’s a million different card games to play, from UNO to Go Fish and everything in between. Or, find a new game to try in a book like this.
  23. Do science experiments. There are lots of great books with tons ideas for cheap and easy experiments to do with kids of different ages. This one is our favorite and we’ve done tons of experiments with our six year old from it.

Things to do with kids at home

If you’re a homebody like me, I prefer to look for more fun stuff to do at home. There’s only so much being out in public with rowdy kids that I can handle. (Or just being out socializing anyway!) It’s important to make our house a place where we’re comfortable and have plenty to do to keep us busy. Here are some fun activities for kids at home that we enjoy doing:

  1. Homemade backyard waterpark. Set up a baby pool, water balloons, a sprinkler, and your best water guns to create a backyard oasis for the kids to play.
  2. Rearrange their bedroom with new-to-them furniture. Everyone loves a room refresh, so why not do one for your kids? Recycle pieces of furniture from other rooms or from yard sales. Switch out curtains or add a fresh coat of paint for a quick and easy facelift. If nothing out, rearrange the room for a new look. Don’t forget to use this as an opportunity to declutter and get rid of old clothes, toys and books.  
  3. Set up a Nerf gun battle. Borrow Nerf guns from friends or find them cheap and build up a stockpile. Create barriers and a maze in the backyard. Divide into teams and go to town!
  4. Have a tea party. Have your kids break out their dress up duds or princess gowns, complete with big hats and gloves. Serve apple juice in tea cups and finger sandwiches on fancy plates.
  5. Help your kids host a yard sale. Have them pull together stuff to sell, price it and set up the yard sale. Help them with getting it listed on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other yard sale sites. Let them keep the profits for their work. Use it as a chance to show them how to divide their earnings between savings, bills, and fun money.
  6. Camp out in the backyard, on the porch, or in the living room. Kids love sleeping in tents, no matter if they’re in the wild or the living room. Set up the tent complete with lanterns and sleeping bags, and tell spooky stories. Then sneak out when they’re asleep and find yourself an air mattress, at least!
  7. Have a bonfire and roast marshmallows. A classic way to celebrate summer, as well as your love of chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers.
  8. Catch fireflies. Save some glass food jars and punch small holes in the lid. Throw some grass in there and get to catching those bugs.
  9. Pretending the floor is lava. Classic and still awesome, right? Throw all the pillows off the couch and get from one end of the house to the other without touching the ground.
  10. Play tag. There’s a million variations and there’s bound to be some new ones you haven’t tried before.
  11. Play hopscotch. Break out the chalk and clear the cars out of the driveway.
  12. Break out your jump ropes and do some Double Dutch. See if you can remember not only how to do double dutch, but if you can remember the songs and rhymes you used to sing. No judgement if you have to google it, it’s been a while for me too. 😉
  13. Play any of the classic sports games. Bring out your sports equipments and play some touch football, soccer, baseball, dodgeball, basketball or a fierce game of HORSE.

These are 75 of a million cheap things to do with kids during the summer or on a slow weekend. Which are your favorite? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know!

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Finding somthing to do with the kids this weekend doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. I've covered family things to do, indoor activities, at home activities, and free things to do near you with kids here! #budget #kids #kidsactivities

The 9 Best Personal Finance Books that will Change Your Life

These are the 9 best personal finance books that will change your life (and aren't Dave Ramsey)

From Suze Orman to Dave Ramsey – and every finance guru in between – everyone claims to have the best personal finance books. But how do you find the one that fits your personal finance approach?

Whether you love him or loathe him, Dave Ramsey is one of the most talked about financial gurus out there. He’s got several books, a course you can take, even a money wallet to sort your budget envelopes.

Suze Orman is right up there too. She had a great show on MSNBC every Saturday night, as well as books and even a course she sells on HSN.

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: it’s ok if you don’t eat up Dave’s approach with a spoon. Or Suze’s. Or anyone else’s. I promise, no harm will come to you (though, I’m totally expecting to get hate mail from some Dave fans…you know who you are! 😉 )

How do you find the best personal finance books for your money personality? Start here - these books have really changed my perspective on finances, work and living my absolute best life #financialfreedom #debt #debtfree #finance

I’m not dissing Dave or Suze. But there are tons – and I mean tons! – of great personal finance books out there. I’ve pulled together some of my absolute favorite. These great finance books have really changed my perspective on finances, work and living my absolute best life.

You won’t find any shady books like the “Free Money to Change Your Life” book, but you will find proven personal finance books that are reliable with solid advice. Each book has actionable steps that you can incorporate into your finances to help you make the leap to warp speed and fast track you for retirement or savings.

1. Debt Free Forever: Take Control of Your Money and Your Life

I’ve been a huge fan of Canadian financial expert Gail Vaz Oxlade for a long time, and have seen just about every episode of “Til Debt Do Us Part” on the MSNBC personal finance lineup (check it out, it’s a great show!).

She tends to not get much attention in the US due to being geared more towards Canadians. However, she’s got a great personality and is very to the point. She doesn’t sugar coat things, and has no trouble laying it out to someone in financial denial.

But don’t let that turn you off – it just means her book is no nonsense, straight forward, and one of the best debt free books I’ve read to help set you straight.


Debt Free Forever is also one of the best books for budgeting and finance and great for people who are starting out with tackling finances. If you’re behind on bills, or can’t get your finances organized, Gail lays out a step-by-step process to help you get your ship righted.

Her no nonsense style is great for those who are sick and tired of financial struggles, and are ready to get some relief.

Debt Free Forever will help you to create a financial plan, from figuring out what you owe, to creating a plan to become debt free in less than 3 years, to setting aside money for emergencies and building sinking funds.


2. Pogue’s Basics: Money: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) About Beating the System

David Pogue has written several books that are essentially life hacks in different genres, such as money, technology, and so on.

In Pogue’s Basics: Money, there are a ton of great tips to show you shortcuts on how to save money. If you were to put every tip into play, you’d save almost $62,000 a year!

While not every tip is going to apply to your situation, there are plenty that are actionable and easy to put into motion.

The tips included aren’t your run of the mill, frugal living stuff that you can find on any website. I’ve read a ton of the best personal finance websites and books, and yet I still found a ton of money saving shortcuts that I’ve never thought or heard of.

Some of the suggestions will take additional time and research to put into place, but the savings is exponentially bigger.

For example, in the House and Home chapter, there’s a tip on using solar panels. I’ve never considered purchasing them, but Pogue points out that you can either purchase them or rent them. If you rent them, there are several companies that will buy the panels, install them, deal with all the permits, design, upgrades and maintenance for free.

The companies are getting the incentives for installation, but you’re getting power at a fraction of the cost. You pay for the electric you use, and it’s a ton cheaper than traditional electric companies charge.

It turns out to be a win-win because you’re helping out the environment, getting cheap energy, and aren’t responsible for the hefty cost of installation and maintenance of solar panels.

Pogue’s Basics: Money is perfect for anyone who’s looking for non-obvious ways to save more cash. It’s for anyone who’s read through all the frugal savings sites and is ready to take it a step further.


3. You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth

You are a Badass is a series by Jen Sincero, and is about adjusting your mindset.

While I’ll say I’m not a fan all of her ideas on how to create money in your life, there are some great methods and tactics to help you stop with the negative thinking.

It’s so easy to fall into a victim mentality, especially with finances. When I would get hit with an unexpected bill, or an accident happened, I would think – why me? And then proceed to feel sorry for myself and grumble about how we’re never going to get ahead.

With this book, I’ve learned to realign my thinking and it’s actually brought financial abundance to our lives. It sounds nuts, I know, but it really taught me to change my perspective on money.

When I worked on a more positive mindset, I was able to be more proactive. This meant I found ways to find “money leaks” in our budget, find side hustles to make extra income, and stop overspending. I also finally realized that my financial worth was more than just a number.

You are a Badass at Making Money is for anyone who finds themselves in a mental money rut and is struggling to get out.


4. Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Fully Revised and Updated for 2018

Your Money or Your Life is a bit like getting slapped in the face with some serious reality. Some people love it, and some hate it.

The premise of this financial planning book is basically that you can choose making money or living your life. If you do what is expected – go to college, graduate, get a job, house and get married – then you’re going to be “stuck” working til you’re 65 trying to keep that lifestyle going.

I love the idea of questioning your choices with money, consumerism and work. This book promotes the “FI” lifestyle (as in, financial independence). It’s purpose is to persuade you to pursue a sustainable mindset, rather than a consumerism one.

It does a great job of making you question your choices and think about your values. Retiring early and simplifying my life? Sign me up!

Your Money or Your Life has a concrete plan with nine solid steps to take to get yourself there. If you’re a fan of shooting from the hip and no sugar coating of your financial advice, this is book is a great choice.


5. Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love

Holly and Greg Johnson run Club Thrifty, a blog that focuses on becoming debt free and traveling the world. Sounds great, right? Count me in!

The pictures of their vacations are just absolutely drool worthy. It’s hard not to look at and think about following in their footsteps!

They started out in the mortuary business, and saw the financial struggles that many families faced on a daily basis. Seeing families struggle to pay for funeral services drove them to face their own $50,000 debt and pay it down using a zero sum budget.

Now, they travel the world with their two daughters and are debt free! So inspiring.

Zero Down Your Debt focuses on a zero sum budget, which basically means that your budget should equal zero at the end of the month. Each dollar should have a place to be in your budget, so that you’re not just wasting your cash and wondering where it went.

Holly and Greg walk you through financial goal setting, budgeting, and saving. This book is one of the best finance books for beginners. It’s perfect if you want to try a different budget method and are looking for financial balance between debt repayment and savings.


6. Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living

If you’re a fan of the best personal finance websites out there, chances are you’ve heard of the Frugalwoods  and their inspiring story. Blogger Elizabeth and her husband were young urban professionals who had a change of heart and learned to embrace frugality.

Meet the Frugalwoods is the story of how they made the transition from young professionals to modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont with a young daughter.

They were able to not only change the course of their lives, but they reached their financial independence goals at the young age of 32! They did so by saving over 70% of their take home pay and learning to live a frugal life.

Not only does this book cover their journey, but it provides tips and advice on how you can make similar changes in your life. The perfect book for anyone looking to get off the beaten financial path!


7. The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store

Cait Flanders is an amazing woman who has embarked on some serious personal changes. She paid off over $30,000 in consumer debt, only to end up back in the hole again.

She decided to set a very serious and impressive goal for herself: no shopping for an entire year.

The only items that she purchased during this time were consumables – meaning food, gas, groceries, toiletries, etc. Talk about some dedication!

Not only did she stop shopping, she also got rid of stuff. And the more that she cleared out, the better she felt. She also learned to make do with what she had. If it was broken, she learned how to fix it rather than throw it away.

The part that I can relate to most were the struggles she faced during this no-spend year. Normally, she turned to shopping, alcohol or food when things got tough. With her new challenge, she had to find new ways to cope. Not only is this really difficult, but so very inspiring to hear how she did it.

The Year of Less is a great way to look at what our shopping habits are doing to us. It really made me stop and think about my purchases and why I’m buying something. If you’re looking for direction on starting a no-spend period in your life, this book is truly inspirational.


8. The Millionaire Next Door

This book created an amazing financial mindshift for me, and I tell everyone about it when we’re talking finances. It is truly one of the best personal finance books I’ve read.

The authors interviewed people with a net worth of over one million. You’d expect it to be filled with the likes of the famous athletes, rock stars, and the Kardashins of the world, right?

Nope.

The people with the highest net worth are those that didn’t go to college, but own a business; folks that make $90,000 a year – not millions; and people who buy used cars that average around $25,000, not brand new sports cars.

These folks have a higher net worth, because they’re frugal and they live below their means. It made me realize that a “normal” earner like me could be very successful financially.

If I made the right choices.

The Millionaire Next Door suggests seven rules of personal finance, from living below your means to what you should consider when you are choosing an occupation.

This is a great read if you’re into chart, stats, and data. It’s easy to read and has a ton of research to back the rules in the book.


9. Rich Dad, Poor Dad


I’ll admit that I have not personally read this one (yet!), but everyone raves about it and it’s one of the most popular finance books. It is on my must read list though!

This book very much follows the ideas of The Millionaire Next Door. It questions the concepts of common money beliefs and the myths surrounding being rich. It helps to question and push your money mindset into a new way of thinking.

The author, Robert Kiyosaki, grew up in Hawaii. In his story, he discusses his real dad, whom he refers to as “poor dad”. He’s an educated man with a job, but has struggled financially his entire life.

His best friend’s dad, or his “rich dad”, did not have a formal education but was able to build a business that blossomed and helped him to become one of the wealthiest men in Hawaii.

In Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert compares the two mens’ methods and money mindsets to show us how to question our thought process when it comes to money, investing, and employment.


There you have it, the 9 best personal finance books that aren’t Dave Ramsey. Don’t forget you can pick up free personal finance books at the library as well. Did your favorite make the list? If not, throw me a comment below on which ones I’ve missed that should be added!

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!

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Use these free debt & savings tracking printables to help you track and achieve all of your financial goals!

You'll also be subscribed to the Debt Free Forties newsletter that includes budgeting and debt repayment tips and tricks. We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Need help finding the best personal finance books for your money personality? Start here - these books have really changed my perspective on finances, work and living my absolute best life! #financialfreedom #debt #debtfree #finance

There are tons - and I mean tons! - of gurus claiming to have the best personal finance books. I’ve pulled together some of my absolute favorite that changed my perspective on finances, work and living my absolute best life. #finances #financialfreedom #debt #debtfree

50 Free Things to Do on a No-Spend Weekend

50 Free Things to Do on a No-Spend Weekend

One of the first things that gets cut from every budget is expensive activities, right? Out the door goes all the lattes and visits to the movie theater. But finding free things to do turns out to be a lot easier than expected.

It’s important to find free things to do so we don’t go stir-crazy. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. There are tons of things to do instead of spending money, it’s just a matter of finding them!

I’ve compiled a list of 50 free things to do on a no-spend weekend when you’re bored and looking for free activities so you’re not tempted to spend money:

One of the first things that gets cut from every budget is expensive activities, right? Out the door goes all the lattes and visits to the movie theater. But finding free things to do turns out to be a lot easier than expected. Here's 50 free things to do on a no-spend weekend. #frugal #budget #budgeting #nospend

Free Things to do on a Saturday Night with Friends

It’s hard to find things to do on a Saturday night with no money, especially when your friends want to go out. Why not have them over and try one of these spend free activities:

  1. Set up a clothing/accessory swap. Find friends that are similar sizes and need a wardrobe update. It’s a fun way to shop without spending a dime, and a great way to clean out your closet at the same time!
  2. Host a movie night. Watch an old favorite, or find a new release on Netflix.
  3. Host a pantry clean-out potluck with friends. Have everyone create a dish using items they already have in their pantry.
  4. Have a spa night and do facials, mini massages, and soak your feet to relax.
  5. Volunteer together. Whether it’s the animal shelter, the nursing home, or helping out at a 5k, there’s plenty to do that’s free and can help out others.
  6. Start or join a running club. Tons of people are working on getting in shape. Put out a call for other runners and get started.
  7. Exchange babysitting services. Watch a friend’s kids in exchange for your own date night. Plus, it’ll keep your kids busy, so it’s a win-win-win, amiright?

Free Things to Do Anywhere

See if your town (or a neighboring one) has any free events running that you can attend. If you don’t find anything interesting, try one of these instead:

  1. Face time, text, or call an old friend or family member. It’s a great way to catch up and spend time with those you love without spending money.
  2. Take the dog for a hike, or your cat for a walk (on a leash).
  3. Explore the woods or a new park in town.
  4. Walk or bike the local nature trails. Our city has tons of walking trails, so there’s a lot to pick from. Some are paved, while others are dirt. Some wind through the woods, and others circle local parks. Each is unique and fun in it’s own way.

Free and Fun Things to Do at Home with Kids

Wondering what to do on a Saturday with no money and your kids staring at you in boredom? Don’t worry – there are a ton of ways to keep them busy without spending a dime:

  1. Tell funny stories or talk about favorite memories. Spend time telling your kids about your childhood, funny stories, and more about their grandparents. They’ll cherish knowing more about everyone and look back on it fondly.
  2. Flip through photo albums and laugh about the dated outfits and hair 😉
  3. Host a backyard water battle. Have everyone bring their SuperSoakers or use extra sponges to set up some backyard shenanigans.
  4. Make popsicles. You don’t need fancy popsicle molds, just get creative. Use paper cups, silicone baking molds, anything you can easily remove. Create your own recipe or find one on Pinterest using fruit juices, fruit, yogurt, or softened ice cream.
  5. Camp in the backyard or living room. You don’t even need a tent – just use a rope to drape a sheet and create an instant tent.
  6. Declutter. Yes, it’s work – but it’s free, and the satisfaction of getting rid of stuff in your house and getting it organized is worth it. Check out the Decluttr app to help you get rid of it!
  7. Visit elderly neighbors. Bring some cookies, lemonade, or ask if they need help with anything around the house or yard.
  8. Break out your favorite board games and have a game night.
  9. Find your local water fountains or water jets. We have a park that has waterfalls for kids to play in, and another with water jets. My kids could spend hours there!
  10. Find free passes to museums or parks. In Pittsburgh, there was a library book that you could check out, and would grant you free admission to the art museum. Some credit card companies offer a free museum day as a reward to all of it’s cardholders. Your company might even provide passes. Research which options are available to you in your area.
  11. Visit the pound or a pet store. We like to visit the pound and give the dogs, cats, and bunnies a little bit of extra love. Better yet, sign up to volunteer while you’re there.
  12. Plan a scavenger hunt. There’s several different ways to do this. One is to create clues that lead to each other. Another is to create a list of objects that they have to get pictures of. I love the second option, and I’ve seen where they assign points to each item depending on how hard it is to find. Then you can create a competition with teams, and see who wins!
  13. Create your own field day challenge at home with the kids. Set up games of horse, soccer matches, whatever sports your kids love to play. Make a day of it and hand out homemade medals or old trophies for everyone’s achievements.
  14. Learn how to make shadow puppets (or teach your kids). Find a book at the library or directions online to create a puppet show with a flashlight.
  15. Explore the neighborhood at night with your kids. Take flashlights and explore the backyard or neighborhood for nighttime animals, sounds and fun.
  16. Catch lightning bugs.
  17. Teach your kids something you love. Have a hobby you love? A favorite musical instrument? A fun card game? Or can you break boards with your head? Teach your kids how to do it too. They’ll love the interaction and will be proud of their new achievement!
  18. Play mad libs. Find some free Mad Libs online or write your own story. It’s a fun way to teach your kids about adjectives, adverbs and creative thinking with some hilarious stories.
  19. Join a summer reading program. Not only do you get to enjoy new stories and far off places, but you can earn rewards as well! Check your local library or search online for companies offering reading programs, such as Pizza Hut.
  20. Find a stream, skip rocks, and explore. Act like a kid and have fun!
  21. Create a backyard obstacle course. Use yarn or rope to create obstacles to crawl through or create different stations to test the kids’ endurance.
  22. Have a dance party. My kids love this – it’s like they’ve seen a unicorn whenever I bust out my dance moves. I’m hoping it’s because I don’t do it often, so it’s a rarity, versus it being about how bad at it I am anymore…
  23. Have a karaoke night. Pull up YouTube and find your favorite song (with or without the words).
  24. Find free local activities. Our parks do free events often, and the suburb we live in hosts events as well.
  25. Build a couch fort. No explanation needed here.

Free and Fun Things to Do Without Going Anywhere

Sometimes you just want to park it at home, after running around all week. Luckily, there are a ton of great options for some spend free time with the kids, family or friends:

  1. Give yourself a mani or pedi.
  2. Find ways to do your favorite hobby for cheap/free. Use supplies you already have or find swap sites to get the supplies for free.
  3. Plan out your next trip or vacation. Use the time to daydream and research the area, how to get there, and where to find the best deals. Create a vision board or a planner with places and activities for when you’re able to cash flow your vacation.
  4. Paint, draw, or craft. Dig out your existing supplies from projects you haven’t finished (or started). Use Pinterest for inspiration and create a new piece of art for your house.
  5. Bake for others. (Or yourself, no judgement.) If you have the supplies in your house, and the love of baking, make your favorite recipes for neighbors, friends, and folks at the nursing home or at church.
  6. Make cards for far away family members or write them letters. I love getting personal mail and it’s always a great surprise to find in the mailbox.
  7. Learn a new hobby or skill for free from videos on YouTube.
  8. Learn a new language. Find free resources through the Internet or your local library.

Free Date Night Ideas

If you’ve finally bribed or begged a family member or friend into babysitting, and are still wondering what to do on a Saturday night with no money, don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Here are my top suggestions on ways to connect with your significant other without having to shell out tons of cash:

  1. Give (or ask for) a massage. Break out the relaxing music, get comfy, and take turns giving shoulder, neck or foot massages.
  2. Have a coffee date at home. Bust out your fancy sugar and creamer and those awesome cookies you hoard in the cupboard, and have a coffee date. It’s the perfect time to chat and reconnect.
  3. Hit up free sample day at Costco – just leave your wallet at home!
  4. Go on a picnic. Use supplies you already have and find a nice park or beach to relax for a bit.
  5. Roast marshmallows or have a bonfire.
  6. Attend a free movie in the park. Grab a blanket, some popcorn and a drink – these are tons of fun and great for the family!
  7. Give geocaching a try. Geocaching is a like using a real-life treasure hunt using your GPS. All you have to do is to create a free geocaching membership, use the GPS on your phone, and your off on a treasure hunt. It’s a great way to get some exercise and have fun. To learn more, check out geocaching.com.

Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. It’s just a matter of being creative and using things you already have around the house. Whether your single, married, and/or have kids, you can find things to do in your area to still have a great time.

Looking for more free fun stuff to do? Here are 75+ (Mostly) Free Things to do with Kids this Weekend. Or, you can learn more about the rules of a no spend challenge or other no spend challenge ideas here.

Have you tried any fun and free no-spend activities? Comment below and let me know which are your favorite!

Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!

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Use these free debt & savings tracking printables to help you track and achieve all of your financial goals!

You'll also be subscribed to the Debt Free Forties newsletter that includes budgeting and debt repayment tips and tricks. We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Finding free things to do turns out to be a lot easier than expected when you're living on a budget. Here's 50 free things to do on a no-spend weekend. #frugal #budget #budgeting #nospend

Finding free things to do turns out to be a lot easier than expected when you're living on a budget. Here's 50 free things to do on a no-spend weekend. #frugal #budget #budgeting #nospendOne of the first things that gets cut from every budget is expensive activities, right? Out the door goes all the lattes and visits to the movie theater. But finding free things to do turns out to be a lot easier than expected. Here's 50 free things to do on a no-spend weekend. #frugal #budget #budgeting #nospend