Daylight Savings Begins on Sunday (Don’t Forget to Change Your Batteries Too)

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Don't forget to change your clocks on March 7th!  You should also use this as your reminder to check and/or replace the batteries in your smoke detector.

Just a friendly reminder that Daylight Savings Time begins this coming Sunday, March 7th, at 2 am (your local time).  While some of you may not change time, you will change the time zone at this time too!

In order to make sure you protect your family and home, this is also the perfect time of the year to change out those batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

 

How To Keep Your House Clean (Three Daily Routines Anyone Can Follow)

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Keeping your house clean when you are busy can be tough.  I've got the secret to helping you do that -- THREE simple routines can help you keep your own home clean (enough).

 

We all have been there.  Life is so busy that you just have to focus on the tasks at hand, which sometimes means the housework suffers.  There is no rule that says you have to spend hours cleaning your home each week.  In fact, by spending just a few minutes each day, your house will stay clean and organized.

But how do you know what you should do and how long it should take?  If you set up three simple routines to follow every day, your house will stay tidy (enough) in between those times when you do your bigger cleaning. Here’s what works for me:

1.  Morning routine.  This should be the simplest routine.  We are busy getting ready for school and/or work, so we don’t have extra time to really focus on cleaning.

Have each person in the family make his or her bed.  Each person should pick up his or her bedroom, including putting toys and books away and dirty clothes into the hamper.  The bedrooms are instantly picked up – and it is not falling onto the shoulders of just one person!

Then, load the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher, or, if you do not have one, place them into the sink.  Make sure you rinse them off before setting them into the sink (to avoid that stuck on food).  Then, wipe down the counters.  Now – your kitchen is tidy!

Finally, if you have time, toss a load of clothes into the washing machine.  Then, head out to start your day.  Even if you don’t put those into the dryer until you get home, they should still say fresh enough and not need to be laundered again.

There you’ve got it!  A few simple things you can do each morning to start your day off right and have a clean home!

 

2.  Evening cleaning frenzy. This can be fun and even a game for your younger kids.  Set the time for a specified time, be it 10, 20 or even 30 minutes.  Tell everyone to run around the house and pick up all of their items and put them away and try to “beat the clock.”  When the timer goes off, you can all then continue with your regular evening rituals – as you are done.  You might not get it all taken care of, but I am sure you will get a lot done!

You can easily change this up as you want to.  For instance, one night, you can focus on just one room and try to get it picked up, dusted and even vacuumed (or swept) in that 30 minute time frame.  Another evening, you might all take on a toilet and wipe it down.  The ideas are endless!

 

3.  Nightly kitchen and family room pickup.  Each evening, before we go to bed, we make sure the dishes are done and counters are clean.  That means if there is school work on the table, it is completed and put back into the backpack before bed.  The bills and mail are put where they belong.  The counters are always completely cleared off and wiped down.

The kids all make sure that their clothes, blankets, etc are all picked up and put away.  They may not actually be in their rooms, but they are at least in the basket at the bottom of our steps, to be taken up later and put away.  The entire main living area of hour home is always picked up before we go to sleep each night.

Why is that important?  When you wake to a clean house, it really can make you start your day off on the right foot and make it feel much less overwhelming.

 

My house is always picked up, as these are the routines I follow.  It doesn’t mean it is perfect and that is fine by me.  It is clean enough on a daily basis and gets me through until I do a more thorough weekly cleaning.

Prosado.com: Find the Right Tax Person For Your Situation!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

 

Use Prosado to help track down a tax professional or accountant for YOUR own situation!When it comes to doing taxes, for many, it is pretty straight forward and they can prepare them themselves.  However, for others, it is more complex.  Perhaps you had a large investment sale, or you moved across the country.  Perhaps you started a business or (sadly) had a business fold.  Whatever your situation, you know that it can be outside of your own realm of thinking to do your own taxes.  After all, you certainly do not want to end up with the IRS knocking on your front door!

So, how do you go about finding the right person?  For some, you can ask friends who can give referrals, but is that person really the right man or or woman for the job?  Do they really understand the complexities of your situation?  Perhaps they do, but they may not. It is important that you use the right person for your tax position.  Enter Prosado.com.  The solution to help you find the right tax or accounting services professional.

How does this site work? You simple enter your zip code into the space provided on the home page:

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Prosado.com will return a list of professionals, which include ratings and reviews.  These ratings are from not only customers, but even outside resources as well – helping you know as much as you can about the person’s professional work.  You can also review the location and profile, which can share details about work history, experience and even areas of expertise.

If you review the list and do not see anyone you think will work for you, then you do nothing more.  You can try another zip code or just click on out.  However, if you see people you might want to connect with for your work, you can proceed to the next step – -making contact!

You can contact up to four (4) professionals from your search results to help you decide who you would like to invite to bid on preparing your tax return. Once the invites have been sent, you can monitor the bids via your own personal dashboard. Your RFB (Request for a Bid) will remain active for 7 days. All bids will remain valid for another 7 days after the bidding phase ends so you can take your time making your decision.

So, what if you are looking for someone to do work other than just tax preparation?  Not a problem!  Once you’ve discussed your needs with the professionals you’ve reached out, you can then ask the person you wish to submit their fee through Prosado’s payment portal & you will have the protection of Prosado’s safe pay policy.  You can choose a tax and accounting professional with confidence since there is a 2 day money back cancellation policy (less a $15 cancellation fee).

Once you have chosen the tax and accounting professional you would like to work with, Prosado will email both you and your chosen professional all contact information. With the comfort of a private transaction, you make all arrangements with your professional to complete your tax return or other accounting needs.  Prosado has no involvement with any of your confidential papers or the actual preparation of your tax return or other accounting service, keeping the transaction safe & secure.  If after you have been in contact with the professional you chose, you are not comfortable and you’ve changed your mind, you can cancel your job. You will receive your money back minus a $15 cancellation fee.

Finally, when the work has been completed, Prosado.com will handle the payment.  You submit your payment to them and when the work is done, they will finalize the transaction and send payment to the professional for you.

With so many people  out there, Prosado.com can help you weed through the list and find the person who is right for YOU!

An Easy Way For More Absorbent, Better Smelling Towels

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If your towels are not smelling nearly as fresh as they once did, you might have build up!  Find out how to strip them clean and get those pesky odors out of them once and for all!!!

When you are drying off with your towel, you might catch a whiff from your towel, which is, shall we say “less than fresh.”  You know you just washed it so why in the world would it still smell?  Towels and washcloths tend get a build up of detergent and fabric softener.  This actually attracts smelly mildew and can even waterproof your towels.  That not only makes them smelly, but also can reduce the absorbency.

Rather than toss them away and purchase new ones, you can bring new life back to your towels with a simple solution — Vinegar and Baking Soda.  These two will work together:  The vinegar strips the detergent and softener build up.  Then, the baking soda will help remove the odors.   Before you know it, they will not only smell much better, but actually become more absorbent.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 cup of baking soda
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • Washing Machine with HOT water (do not use any other temperature setting)

 

TOP LOADING MACHINE INSTRUCTIONS

Place your towels into the washing machine and fill with hot water.  To make it extra hot, you can even boil a large pot of water and pour it into the machine to ensure it is extra hot.

Once filled with water, pour in a cup of vinegar and run the machine through a cycle.  When done, refill the basin again with HOT water.  This time, add 1/2 cup of baking soda once the tub is filled.  Run through another cycle.

Dry as usual and your towels should be as good as new!  If you find they are not, just repeat the process and it should work.

 

FRONT LOADING MACHINE INSTRUCTIONS

Place your towels into the washing machine.  Add one up of vinegar to the laundry detergent dispenser.  Run a cycle using HOT water and HOT rinse cycle.

When done, repeat the process, but use 1/2 cup – 1 cup of baking soda in the dispenser. Run again using hot water.

Dry as usual and your towels should be as good as new!  If you find they are not, just repeat the process and it should work.

 

TIPS TO KEEP TOWELS FROM SMELLING

1.  Don’t allow odors to build up in your machine.  When done with the laundry, keep the door open, if possible.  The heat and moisture in the machine can cause mildew to build up, which will transfer the odors into your towels.

2.  Do not use too much detergent.  Believe it or not, you do not need to use the amount of detergent as listed on the product label.  In fact, you can use 1/3 of the amount they recommend and your clothes will still get clean.  Not only will this tip prevent build up, but it will also help save you money as you won’t go through detergent nearly as quickly!

3. Make sure the towels are completely dry before folding and putting them away.  If they are slightly damp at all, it will create odors.

4.  Hang your towels up after each use.  Don’t just hook it on the wall, or even fold it and place it on a towel bar.  Keep it open across the bar until dried.

5.  Clean your machine.  Take the time to wash your machine to kill odors.  You can do this easily by adding one cup of vinegar to an empty machine and running hot water through it.  Then, repeat the process with 1 cup of baking soda.

If your towels are not smelling nearly as fresh as they once did, you might have build up!  Find out how to strip them clean and get those pesky odors out of them once and for all!!!

 

25 Uses For Household Vinegar

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We've got a list of 25 GREAT ways to use vinegar!  From cleaning to pest control -- this list covers it!

Most of us have vinegar in our kitchen cupboards.  It is often used in cooking and for making colors for dying Easter eggs.  However, you can use it for SO much more than that!  While there are HUNDREDS of ideas out there, I’ve got 25 of the best ways to use this (very inexpensive) product in ways you may not have thought about before!

 

1.  Make your own buttermilk.  Many recipes may call for buttermilk, but who wants to purchase a quart to use less than a cup?  You can actually make it yourself by using vinegar!

Simply check the recipe and use a bit less. For example, if you need one cup of buttermilk, simply measure it out.  Then, remove one teaspoon of milk and replace it with a teaspoon of vinegar.  Viola!  Instant buttermilk!!!!  You might want to check out all of these great baking substitutions.

 

2.  Clean your computer and mouse.  These get pretty dirty (and are germ magnets.  Before you being, turn off your components.  Then, mix equal parts water and vinegar.  Dampen a cloth and then use your fingertip to lightly wipe and scrub your screen and keyboard.  You can dip a Q-Tip into the solution to get into those hard to reach places.  Make sure you to NOT spray the solution onto your devices – always use a dampened cloth.

 

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3.  Remove ball-point pen and crayon.  If you find an ink mark across your table, or your little Picasso’s masterpiece is on her bedroom wall, you can use vinegar to easily remove it.  Just dab some vinegar onto the spot and scrub lightly with a cloth and it should buff right on out!

 

4.  Remove water rings.  There is nothing more frustrating seeing those annoying water rings on your wooden furniture.  You can remove them by mixing equal parts vinegar and olive oil together.  Use a cloth, dampened in the solution to rub out the spot.  Make sure you always scrub along the grain of the furniture.  When the spot has been scrubbed, use a dry cloth and buff it dry and to make it shine!

 

5.  Keep the cats away.  If you have an area of your home where you do not want your cat to perch or hang out, you can spray some vinegar and your kitty will not approach.  You can spray a door way to keep it out of room or even the back of furniture you may not want them to climb on.

 

6.  Remove urine.  If you have a pet, you have probably dealt with an accident or two on your floor.  You can clean it up, but the smell may still remain.  You can use vinegar to help remove the smell completely (and keep your pet from wanting to mark the same spot again in the future).

If it is on carpet or a rug, simply blot the area  until it is dry.  Then, pour a little bit of vinegar on the spot.  Blot that with a towel. Pour a bit more vinegar on the spot again and allow to air dry.  As it evaporates, the odor will evaporate with it.

If the spot is on any other floor, you will first need to test the area to make sure the vinegar will not stain.  Just find a place that is out of regular sight to do this.  Then, mop the floor with equal parts water and vinegar and then dry with a towel.

 

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7.  Removing vomit smell.  It seems that the minute your child says that his or her tummy hurts they throw up.  Of course, before you have a chance to get them to the bathroom or even a bowl to catch it.

First, clean up any pieces (I know, that is such a disgusting thought).  Then, mix a solution of 2 parts water to one part vinegar.  You might want to add a drop or two of dish or laundry soap to your solution as well, which can give it a boost.  Spray the affected area with vinegar and allow to sit (it needs to saturate).  If, in 24 hours, you still smell some of the odor, you can spray again.

You can also try the urine removal method above, which will result in pouring water onto the carpet instead of just spraying it.

 

8.  Clean your paintbrushes.  No matter how well you scrub them after painting, you might still have a few bristles which have paint on them (or you may have forgotten to clean your brush after your last project).  Use vinegar to clean it up!

Just boil 2 cups of vinegar and then place the brush in the pan and allow to “cook” for 10 minutes.  Then, wash in soapy water and it should be clean.  The hot vinegar loosens the paint allowing the brush to come clean!

 

9.  Eliminate pests.  If you have a garden of fresh fruits and or veggies, you want to keep the bugs from eating them. However, since you will be eating them, you do not want to use dangerous chemicals.  You can use a natural version instead!  You will need to fill an empty 2 liter soda bottle with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of sugar.  Then, slice up a banana into pieces and place it inside.  Finally, fill the bottle with cold water and put on the lid and shake it.  Then, remove the lid and hang from a low branch near your garden and that will attract the pests and keep them out of your garden!

 

10.  Keep animals out of your garden.  We took care of the six legged pests above, but what about those on 4 legs?  To keep out deer, rabbits and other little critters from eating your fresh foods, you can use vinegar.  Soak some old rags in vinegar and place them around the garden.  You will want to soak them weekly, to ensure the vinegar smell is fresh (which is why they do not like them).

 

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11.  Get rid of weeds.  If you have weeds growing in unwanted areas of your lawn or in the cracks of your sidewalk and driveway, you can eliminate them with vinegar!  This time, you need to use the apple cider variety and just spray the cracks and other areas first thing in the season, which can kill the weeks before they start to grow.  If you find one that has already taken root, spray a stream as close to the root as you can get and it will soak down and then kill the weed.

 

12.  Get rid of ants.  If you’ve ever had ants invade, you know how difficult it is to get them to leave. Ants are another pest which does not like the smell of vinegar.  You can use a spray bottle to cover the areas where you see them and where they may be entering your home.  If you see ant hills around the outside of your home, you can spray it on there as well – so that they do not come into your house.

 

13.  Clean your washing machine.  I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but sometimes, your washing machine will start to smell musty.  You can clean your washer by using 2 cups of vinegar.  Do not include any soap or clothes in the cycle.  The vinegar will run through the pipes and drains, cleaning them out and making it smell fresher!

Note:  If you are in doubt if you can do this on your machine, make sure you do proper research as some people have reported that the manufacturer does not recommend this method of cleaning.

 

14.  Make dishcloths new again.  If you use kitchen dishcloths (which you can’t wash using bleach), they might start to smell after many uses.  You can strip the smells and make them new again!  Simply boil water in a large pan and add 1 – 2 cups of vinegar.  Add the dishcloths and allow to boil for 10 – 15 minutes.  When done, rinse in hot water and then wash as usual.  For an added level of odor removal, allow them to dry in the sun (which can also help odors to evaporate).

 

15.  Clean your iron.  I know many people do not iron their own clothes.  However, if you are like me, it is an easy way to save money if you or your spouse needs to have pressed clothes (or like the way they look).  Mineral deposits can develop inside of your iron and steam vents.  A way to help eliminate these is to clean your iron with vinegar.

Switch on your iron and make sure it is on the steam setting.  Pour vinegar into the spout (where you normally place water) an let it steam for 5 – 10 minutes.  Then, fill the chamber back up with clean water and repeat the process.  You can also hit the steam flash button and it can help to shoot out the deposits and build up.  Just make sure you have a cloth on beneath it to catch the small particles which will come out.

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16.  Clean your bathroom.  Rather than use the harsh chemicals, you can use vinegar to clean your bathroom!  You can spray vinegar onto mildew stains and use it to scrub them clean.  Scrub your sinks and bathtubs with full strength vinegar and then follow by rinsing with water.

You can clean your glass shower doors by making a solution of 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of ammonia and 1/4 cup of baking soda and warm water.  Then, use the solution to wipe down your doors (including those horrid water spots).

You can mix a solution of 50/50 water and vinegar to clean your mirrors.  Use one cloth to scrub and then another to polish it clean.  It works best to polish with a microfiber cloth (as it reduces streaks).

Finally, pour 2 cups of vinegar in your toilet before you go to bed.  In the morning, flush it down and it can naturally clean the toilet for you!!

 

17.   Keep your car windows from frosting over.  If you do not have a carport or garage, you can keep the frost from building up on your windows.  Spray the outside of your windows with a vinegar solution (3 parts vinegar to 1 part water).  Unfortunately, this won’t stop the snow from piling up!

 

18.  Clean your wiper blades.  If you notice streaks, but your wipers are not yet needing to be replaced, it may mean that they are just dirty.  Use vinegar to wipe down the blades, keeping them from streaking your windshield.

 

19.  Deodorize your disposal and drains.  This is a fun one that my kids love to help me with – because it is science!!  Place around 1/2 cup of baking soda into your drain.  Then, add around a cup of vinegar.  You will see it bubble and fizz back up out of the drain!  Once the bubbling stops, just run hot water for a minute.  Then, allow it to sit for at least another 10 minutes and then run cold water and it should be fresh again!

 

20.  Clean your stainless steel appliances.  These always get the worst finger prints and smudges on them.  Spray with full strength vinegar and wipe them clean!

 

21.  Naturally freshen the air.  If you find last night’s dinner or the trash you forgot to take outside is still lingering, you can use vinegar to naturally freshen the air.  Mix a pot filled with 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup of vinegar.  Allow to boil until the mixture is nearly gone and the smell should disappear too!

 

22.  Get rid of fruit flies.  It always amazes me that we can be fruit fly free one minute and then have several of them fluttering around our kitchen a few minutes later!  You can actually make a trap for these pests.  Just fill a bowl with apple cider vinger.  Cover with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in it.  The flies will go in and can’t get back out.

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23.  Clean your produce.  When you get home from the store, you want to make sure you clean those fruits and vegetables before you consume them.  Just mix 1 part vinegar to one part water and put into a spray bottle.  Douse the produce with the solution and then rinse with water.

 

24.  Freshen your laundry.  By adding a capful of vinegar to your laundry (along with the regular detergent) you can freshen the clothes and even brighten the colors!

 

25. Flea control.  Believe it or not, you can even use vinegar to keep fleas away!  Mix a solution of equal parts water and vinegar and spray onto your dog’s coat.  Work it in with your hands and allow it to dry.  This will not only repel those fleas, but also help treat and heal the bites they might already have.

 

What other tips do you have to add to our list?  We know there are SO many more – so we’d love to hear from you!!!

 

 

 

How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

An easy way to save money is to make your own Laundry Detergent!  This is a simple recipe anyone can follow!

 

We all have to do laundry.  It’s a fact of life.  We all also know how expensive this must have item can be!  A simple way to save is to actually make your own detergent.  It is much easier than you may realize and costs just pennies a load.

There is a lot of information available and several recipes you can try.  I always like to make sure that these are proven before I pass them along to you.  Reader Mary found (and uses) one that works for her and she was kind enough to pass it along to me to share with all of you!

POWDER DETERGENT

1 bar Ivory soap shredded
1 cup Borax
1 cup Arm and Hammer washing soda

Mix well until the soap is well combined into the dry ingredients. Store in airtight container.  Use 1-2 tablespoons per load. Works well in both regular and HE washers.

Helpful Hint:  Cut up the soap into chunks and throw all of the ingredients into a food processor.  You can also triple the recipe so you have to make it less often.  You can substitute Ivory Soap with Fels Naptha soap, but if you have sensitive skin, you might stick with Ivory.   Thanks for sharing with us Mary!!!

LIQUID DETERGENT

1 fles napa bar
1 cup of arm & hammer washing soda
1 cup of borax

Shred the bar into a gallon of water and heat until the soap is dissolved.  Then, add in the borax and washing soda.  Let that all come to a boil and then add in another gallon of cold water and mix.  Allow to sit overnight and it will gel.  Add a little more water and mix until smooth!  Thanks to Phyllis for sharing THIS one with us too!

 

How to Make Money on Your FitBit (Or Other Activity Tracker)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Did you know that you can actually get PAID to use your activity tracker (like a FitBit,  JawBone and more)!  Find out FIVE great (free) ways to get paid for doing what you already do --  WALK!!!

Last night I made a status update on Facebook about reaching more than 15,000 steps in a single day on my Fit Bit and my friend Lauren, with I am That Lady told me that I could have made money on those steps!  She shared with me that you can actually get PAID when using your FitBit!  WHO KNEW!?!!

Check out these EASY ways to get paid for using your Fit Bit or other activity tracker!!!

1. Earn $5 from Shop Your Way (every 14 miles walked).

Believe it or not, Shop Your Way will actually give you money for staying healthy.  It is simple to get signed up, just follow these steps:

  • Visit Shop Your Way Rewards and click the orange BECOME A CLIENT button.  (Now, you will be able to get exclusive coupon codes directly from me!!)
  • Make sure you own a FitBit (you can buy one directly through Shop Your Way once you are signed up – and will also earn 1,000 points for doing so).
  • Next, you need to create an account at FitStudio.com. Just make sure you use the exact same login information you used when creating your Shop Your Way account above!
  • Now you can start to earn those points and then redeem your credit at ShopYourWay.com!!

 

2. Earn Walgreen’s Balance Rewards Points.

Another way to earn money is to connect your FitBit to your Walgreen’s Balance Rewards card.  It is easy to connect your device and start to earn points for walking!

  • Visit Walgreens.com and sign up for a Balance Rewards Account (if you do not already have one).
  • Once you have your card, create (or sign into) your account.
  • From the main screen, click on Account Home.
  • From there, scroll down to find Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices (Steps) and click the blue button EARN POINTS.
  • Click through the screens sharing information. Next you can click on connect a Fitness Tracker (so it updates for you automatically).
  • Select the type of tracker you are using.
  • Next, you will redirect to FitBit’s site and need to ALLOW the app to run (pink button).
  • Now, as you walk, you will earn points!

 

3. Earn Rewards from AchieveMint.

This is a new app I just learned about.  You simply sign up to connect your FitBit and get actual real-life rewards!

  • Visit AchieveMint and click on Register at the top of the page.
  • Enter your information on the first screen.
  • Next, you will see a link to connect your AchieveMint account to your FitBit account.  Click there and follow the steps.
  • You earn points for the activities you complete and when you reach 50,000 points, you will get a $50 Visa Card!!

I love that you don’t have to do anything more than just walk to build up those points!

 

4. Every Move to Earn Points.

This is a health rewards program which allows you to earn points via your FitBit  (and other methods).  You might even check with your insurance company or employer as some of them will even MATCH the points you earn!

  • Visit EveryMove.org and click the orange SIGN UP button.
  • Once your account is set up, you will be redirected to a page which shows various devices, including the FitBit.  Click to connect your account.
  • Once connected, you will then go and can add your Health Plan, Employer or even college (where you may earn bonus points or additional rewards if they participate).  If you do not have these, you can just skip that step.

What was great is that when I signed up, it went back and grabbed some of my prior activity, which added in some “retro-active” points for me!

The only down side to this one is that you don’t earn free items, but rather discounts on those products you may want to purchase.

 

5. Earn points to donate to charity (or keep them for yourself) through Higi.

This is an interesting app because it will allow you to earn points to redeem towards products, or, if you prefer, make a donation to a charity!

  • Visit higi.com and click the green SIGN UP button.
  • Fill out the profile information.
  • When you get to the screen to connect your device, click on the FitBit link.
  • Follow the steps to link your account.
  • Once you reach points, you can either cash them in towards discount codes or donate to a charity instead.

The great thing is that most of these apps will also work with any device you have, allowing you to earn money while staying active!

15 Cheap (or Even Free) Non-Technology Ideas That Kids Love!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Kids are plugged in all of the time these days.  From tablets to TVs to even games, they are always looking at a screen.  Here are FIFTEEN (15) ideas to get your kids to unplug -- while still having fun!!!

Is your house overrun with technology? Some days it seems like mine is. From requests to watch TV, instant message with a friend or play Minecraft it feels like I can’t get my four kids (ages 6-13) away from technology. Every time I look up their nose is in an iDevice.

I’ll share (take) the blame for that. Aside from the iPod my oldest daughter bought with her own money, I’ve provided all the funding for these pieces of technology. And I’m the one who sets the time standards by which they can be played. If I didn’t want them in the house I could easily get rid of them.

But that’s just it…I don’t really mind my kids having this technology – age appropriate of course. However, I do want to limit its use and domination over their life. If left to their own devices they would be on a device all day long. I don’t believe that’s healthy for their overall development.

So my wife and I have worked hard by setting rules for the use of technology and by trying to provide alternative, non-technology activities for my four kids to engage in. Over the last few years, it’s been surprising to see how drawn our kids have been to some activities we’ve suggested.

Some of these I’ll share with you are old standbys (no-brainers) but my kids love them nonetheless. Others you may not have thought of. Either way I hope they help you crush the technology bug infecting your kids.

 

Inside the Home Activities

 

1. Family game night. Before you roll your eyes at the prospects of a four-hour Monopoly marathon, realize it doesn’t have to be that in-depth. Yes, we’ve had drawn out games that have spilled over into day-two but that’s not the norm. Usually we are spending about an hour playing a quick game and ending it in a reasonable amount of time. Our go-to games recently have been Qwirkle, Aggravation, Sorry, Poker (I’m teaching the oldest two) and yes, Monopoly. Once the kids understand the rules and come to enjoy the game, they can play with each other when you are not available.

2. Puzzles. I’ll admit to being shocked at how attracted my kids have been to puzzles. We had toddler puzzles for them when they were young, but our rediscovery of how much fun puzzles are happened not so long ago when we received a puzzle-pack featuring 10 different Thomas Kinkade paintings.

Talk about hard! There was so much color and so many shades of light in those puzzles. But they stuck to them, even working to complete the 500-piece puzzles. Sometimes we had all six of us around the puzzle at once – arms and puzzle pieces flying everywhere.

3. Reading. We started our kids out early with reading. Of course I’m sure you’ve read about the cognitive benefits of reading at a young age. We read to them all the time as infants and toddlers. Thankfully they have all caught the reading bug and don’t mind sitting down for 30 minutes to read.

Reading can help bring the family together, especially if done right before bedtime. It makes for “quiet moments” during the day where the house is peaceful. It introduces them to new ideas and concepts they hadn’t considered before.

I even use it as a reward system. My kids often here me say “Read for 30 minutes and then you can…(fill in the blank).”

For this one, I’m even willing to break the non-technology rule. My oldest son (12) and daughter (13) both have Kindles and use their own spending money to purchase books (with our approval) through Amazon. Just make sure they aren’t sneaking it to bed after hours.

4. Constructing paper airplanes. This may be a boy thing but mine love it. I even have to keep them from flying planes in the church sanctuary that they make from the bulletins.

What’s really fun is to purchase a book with different airplane designs. They will spend hours (and all your reams of computer paper) trying to build the plane just right.

5. Build a tent or fort out of blankets. On a rainy day a couple of years ago I happened to remember from my youth how much fun I had building tents out of blankets inside our house. So I introduce the concept to our kids who were bored out of their mind. They looked at me like “What? Build a tent indoors?”

Once they understood the concept and started to build they really got into it. There is something about this activity that makes them feel like they are on an adventure. It also teaches them creativity and planning. If you have multiple kids it will force them to work together.

And the best part of all is that when they get to sleep in it overnight. That is until someone rolls over and it comes crashing down at 3 AM.

6. Give them household chores. Wait a minute? I thought you said these were activities your kids love? No kid loves being put to work!

Well maybe so, but my four kids love the money they get for the household chores we assign so I chose to include it here.

Remember, this is all about giving your kids options besides technology. And when we come home from school and they immediately want to hit the TV, I’ll always say a) “What homework do you have?” and b) “What chores do you need to do?”

The point on this one is not whether they love it or not. Rather that it slows them down from immediately seeking out a device. And you’ll get help with the housework, teach them some discipline and responsibility along the way and help them learn some skills they can put to use later. (Seriously, how many college freshmen do you know who can’t even do their laundry?)

And contrary to popular belief I believe kids can come to love work, just like some of you love your work. Just last week I received the shock of all shocks when my 13-year old daughter said, “You know it feels really good to get all your chores done…like you really accomplished something important.”

7. Cooking. Speaking of teaching them skills…cook together with your kids. I know you want to get dinner ready fast and having a 7-year old working in the kitchen usually slows things down. But I’ve found my kids love announcing at the supper table, “Hey, I helped with dinner!”

 

Outside the Home Activities

 

These are some things we’ve doing outside of the home. We enjoy being at home but we love to go places and be outdoors. Try these non-technology activities on for size.

8. Go to the park, bike or hike. I included all three of these together because that’s exactly what we do sometimes. A local park nearby has equipment to play on and biking trails. The kids play on the equipment and then bike on the trails while the wife and I walk the dog alongside them.

Personally I believe engaging with nature and outdoor activities is the great equalizer to technology. If you allow it, nature can completely disconnect you from this world for a time, relax your mind and bond you closer to others. Some of our best times as a family have been doing things like hiking up a mountain, camping, playing at the beach or simply…(see #2)

9. Watching a sunset and then see the stars come out. We watched a sunset together recently on vacation in Key West. Spectacular! But you don’t have to go on vacation for that. One happens every night. Take the kids to an open spot in the country or even someplace high up (like a downtown office building) and watch the sun slip away.

Then, see who can spot the first star. Or better yet, wait a few hours until the sky is filled and do some stargazing.  And for this one I’m also OK if you combine activity with technology. There are some great stargazing apps out there that will help you navigate the night sky and bring those constellations alive.

10. Geocaching. If you haven’t heard of this one you really need to check it out at geocaching.com. I had no idea this activity was such a world phenomenon.

It’s essentially an outdoor treasure hunt using GPS technology. (Yes, I realize once again I’m violating the premise of this article. But you as the parent can control the GPS. And really you need one – or a GPS app on a smartphone – to make this activity worthwhile.)

For this activity participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and try to find the cache (container) hidden at that location. There are literally millions of caches hidden all over the world. You should have no trouble finding one in your area. Last time I checked there were 132 caches within 5 miles of the small town where I live.

Every time we’ve done this, my kids have loved it…even when we took time on vacation to geocache. And, I’ll be honest…it’s a lot of fun for adults as well.

11. Have a campfire in the back yard. It doesn’t have to be a grand bonfire. Simply dig a 3 ft. by 3 ft. square hole in the ground in a safe place. Throw some sticks in there and you have a fire. Break out the marshmallows and your kids will sit there for hours mesmerized by the fire.

12. Attending a community social event. We’ve started to do this more and more as the kids have become older. We love concerts in the park, community festival events and parades. You might even take them to a local high school sporting event.

13. Take them grocery shopping. Oh…I can hear the groans now. The last thing I want at the grocery store is my kid.

Well, I get it. Rarely do I take all four with me. It can be a management nightmare. But during the summer months when they are home from school, I’ll routinely take one or two at a time. Here’s why:

  • it gets them out of the house
  • they actually can speed up the process by retrieving items off the shelf
  • I can teach them money management skills (comparing prices, staying within a budget, getting deals, etc.)
  • they love to push the cart
  • I reward them with something small (I usually let them buy one item – usually a snack – as a reward for helping out. Maybe that’s why they like to go.)

14. Get into a social organization or church youth group. My kids love the several hours each week they spend with friends at our church youth group. If that’s not your style, you may be able to find a social organization or teen center nearby that’s free or relatively cheap to attend.

15. Have them volunteer. This last one has just begun to happen for our oldest daughter. Once a month she will go with her grandmother to deliver food and serve at a local homeless shelter. She’s learning the world doesn’t revolve around her and her technology and that there are many needy people she can impact.

 

The Bottom Line…

If you want your kids to put down the technology you will have to set limits and provide them with options. Be creative and be prepared for some trial and error. There are hundreds of things they could do but some of those suggestions will be a BIG miss. Not everything we’ve tried has clicked.

Most importantly though realize you are going to have to be the driver of this. If technology is around they will default to it when bored. That alone speaks to the pull it has in their lives. You need to spark their imagination and draw them away from the screens (…which also means you will have to pull yourself away from the screens).

Finally know this…you have to be involved with them. If you notice many of our activities are family centric. I’m not letting the kids build their own fire, work around the stove without supervision or go hiking by themselves. I’m there with them. My wife is there with them. We are together.

That’s how it should be in a family. And really, if they are honest, it’s all your kids really want…to be with you.

What’s your favorite cheap activity? How bothered are you by the pull technology has on a child? What else are you doing to limit the reach of technology in your home?

 

About the author: Brian Fourman is a former private school personal finance and Bible teacher now turned stay at home dad and blogger. He helps individuals and families navigate the challenges of managing their money so that they can grow wealth and live with greater peace of mind. In his down time, he loves hanging out with his four kids and hearing his wife talk about all the cool things CPAs do at work. You can check him out providing encouragement and inspiration on his blog at Luke1428.com or by connecting with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

 

 

Under the Bridge — Fight Hunger and Homelessness

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Under The Bridge Meal

 

Aggressively Fighting Hunger And Homelessness Here In The United States!

Hey everyone, I’m Josh. You may remember me from Friday Finance with Josh several months ago; however, my focus is quite a bit different these days. Throughout the past several years, the American community has been great to me. At 28 years old, I’m able to work from home, enjoy the simple things in life, and not worry about finances. So, my fiancé and I decided that it’s time to start focusing on giving back to the community that has supported us along the way.

It All Started With A Turkey

A few days before Thanksgiving, 2014, Ana went out and got a massive turkey. We were expecting 8 to 10 friends to show up but, the actual number of people that came was…wait for it…ZERO! Now Ana and I had more than 20 pounds of turkey, and there was no way we were going to eat it all. So, we decided to make a bunch of sandwiches (17 to be exact) out of the turkey we had left over and bring it to the homeless for a nice Thanksgiving Dinner. That was the start of what we now call Under The Bridge. Since then, we’ve handed out quite a few more meals and got tons of people involved in the movement.

So, What Is Under The Bridge?

Under The Bridge is an ever-evolving movement. When we first started, we were just looking for ways to give homeless people a reason to look up, rather than looking down on them. Today, just over a month later, we’ve got big moves in our sights. We want to turn this into a national movement that becomes a cure rather than a band aid. Here’s what we’re doing so far to get that movement started…

Feeding Members Of The Communities Under The Bridge – Over the last few outings, we’ve really dialed down the cost of helping others. These days, we’re able to make a meal that includes every food group as well as a desert for about $2.30 per plate. As much as we can afford to, we make 50 or 60 plates and bring them to the communities under the bridges and hand them out. We’d like to make this a weekly or even daily thing; your support would really help!

Providing Warmth – Winter is the most dangerous time of year for the homeless. Currently, we’re coming up with a plan for what we call Necessity Bags. So far, we’ve decided to include hand warmers, thermal blankets, socks, deodorant, a tooth brush, and tooth paste. While we haven’t handed these out yet, we do plan to do so on our next adventure under the bridge. If you can think of anything else that should be included in the Necessity Bags, please email us at UnderTheBridge@ControlYourCity.com.

Finding Resources – Another thing that we would like to do the next time we go under the bridge is hand out printed resources. Some of the biggest issues plaguing the homeless include drug/alcohol abuse and mental health problems. So, we’re on the hunt for companies that provide assistance to people with these problems from the homeless community. We’re also on the hunt for shelters dedicated to abused women and children, employers willing to give the homeless a chance, and any other resource that would prove to be beneficial for those we meet under the bridge.

Supporting Those Who Want To Join The Movement – We are currently putting together a mailing list of people around the United States that are willing to prepare and hand out meals to the homeless community. Once the movement builds momentum and donations start rolling in at a faster pace, we will be sending uncooked food to these volunteers so that they can support the homeless communities around them. If you’d like to volunteer to prepare meals and distribute them to homeless communities in your area, please send an email to UnderTheBridge@ControlYourCity.com to let us know!

How You Can Help – Join The Movement Now!

There are several ways that you can help us turn Under The Bridge into a national movement. Choose one or more of the following to start making a difference now!

  • Support The Homeless In Your Area – One of the best ways to get this movement rolling is to bring it to the streets. Handing out anything from meals to socks, sweaters, blankets, even tarps will show the homeless community in your area that someone cares.
  • Make A Donation – As mentioned above, we would like to be able to take trips under the bridge more often, to provide much more than food, and to support others that want to help their own local communities. Unfortunately, this simply can’t be done without funding. All donations are greatly appreciated!
  • Sign Up To Distribute Meals – While we have a few people around the United States on the list, we want to support homeless communities everywhere. If you’d like to prepare and distribute meals to the homeless, email us today to let us know!
  • Tell Your Friends – We can’t start a movement without word of mouth! Tweet this post, share it on Facebook, or email it to a friend! Let’s get the word out!

Thanks for reading, everyone; I hope to see you join the Under The Bridge movement!

 

 

How To Create A Price Book to Track Prices, Deals and Sales Cycles

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

One easy way to keep track of the prices at the stores where you shop is with a price book.  You jot down the prices every week after you shop and you will start to learn those sales cycles at your favorite stores - and know where you usually get the best deals!!

Have you ever wanted to learn how to find out when those items you need will be on sale?  Believe it or not, stores usually cycle sales on schedules.  By learning how your store does this, you can always get the best deals and know when to stock up, and when to pass on those deals.

The way you do this is by creating a Price Book.  This is just what it sounds like – a book which tracks the prices of the items you need at the stores where you shop.

A Price Book is a list of the products you purchase and the prices you pay in order to watch for sales trends and cycles.

It will take time to create yours, but once you have it set up, it is easy to maintain and will help you know when those prices are at their lowest, allowing you to stock up and save as much as possible.

How Do I Make a Price Book?

You want to make sure that what you use is simple enough that you can can maintain it.  If you are a techy person, you might want to use something on your smart phone.  If you are a paper list maker, then you might want to go with a simpler method like a spiral notebook or binder with inserts.  You can even create a spreadsheet on your computer.   The way you track it is not important, it is just important that you do.

You will want to keep the list organized however, by breaking it down by department or possibly even product.  For instance, you will want one sheet for your dairy items, one for meat, one for produce, one for breakfast foods, etc.  That way, when you need to find the prices (and update it), you can easily find it.

What Is Included in the Book?

No matter which method used to create your book, you will want to make sure to keep track of key items.  These will include:

  • Date
  • Store
  • Product/Brand
  • Size (oz, product count, etc)
  • Price
  • Per unit price

We have created a form for you to use, for free.  Just click on the image below to download yours:
1

 Click image or HERE to download your free form

 

How Do I Create My Own Price Book?

The simplest thing to do is to starting keeping your receipts.  Once you shop, write down the information based upon what you purchased.  It takes a little work up front to get started, but eventually, the book will be simpler to maintain and you’ll get the hang of it.

To calculate your per unit prices, you will need to make sure you know the product size.  That might mean extra notes when you shop or updating the price book as you put your groceries away.  To determine a per unit price, take the price and divide that by the size.  For example, if you are looking at diapers you would calculate the price per diaper as follows:

$17.49 / 84  = $0.20 per diaper

You can simplify this even more by updating a price book while you shop.  Most stores have the per unit price listed right on the shelf for you.  That makes it simpler for you as you can just write down the price in your book.

Do I Ever Change the Price?

Yes!  That is the reason a Price Book works!  As you shop, you might have a price for an item listed in your booklet, but you find it on sale for less.  You will want to update that price in your book as that means there was a sale.  When you see it on sale again the next time, you might start to learn the sales cycle, such as every 6 weeks or every 12 weeks.  This is how you learn when to shop for the items you need.

How Do I Make the Price book Work for Me?

Before you shop, you will want to consult your price book to see if the items on sale are the lowest price or if you know you can get a better deal.  If your Price Book shows a lower price, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy that product.  It simply means only buy the amount you need to get by until the item will go on sale again at the lower price.

On the flip side of this, if you find that the price in the weekly ad is lower than what you show in your price book, it might mean that you not only need to update your price book pricing, but it also will let you know that it is a good time to stock up at this low price!

Does the Book do More Than Share Sales Cycles?

It sure does!  If you find a great coupon, you will know in advance about what you will pay at the store.  This helps you know at which store you want to use the coupon for the best deal.

A price book can also help with your budget.  If you find that you’ve got “too much month and not enough money” left until your next payday, you can make your list and know ahead of time what you can expect to pay at checkout.  This way, there are no surprises and you can adjust your shopping list before you shop!