Tips to Save on Summer Activities for the Kids

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If the kids are home for summer (or when they finally get out of school), they be "bored" before you know it!  We asked readers for their tips on saving money on those fun activities during the summer months!

School has let out for some and will be letting out for most everyone else soon… Since school is out/ending the kids will be home and I’m sure like us, you too, will become accustomed to the famous phrase “I’m bored.” There are tons of ideas but most cost a lot of money, or so you think. We’re here to share some tips to save on summer activities for the kids.

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are the tips which were shared by our readers.


“Check out Kids Bowl Free where you can get coupons for free bowling sent to your email all summer long! They have a family pass at a discounted price for a chaperoning adult too! It’s amazing!” – Rachel B.


“Our local library has a great summer program. They offer kids award incentives for hours read which = win-win for them.” – Carrie W-H.


“Discounted movie days are great. Often short trips to spots they hadn’t seen to in awhile is different. In Kansas City, have a picnic near one of the fountains. And don’t forget your local library, they offer many free programs for kids.” – Stephanie C.


“Our local boys and girls club is really cheap and has a year membership. She goes all day while I work. Also during the summer they offer a $35 pass which includes trips to the pool mostly as well as other day trips.” – Jennifer W.


“Check your city for free kid entertainment. Denver has days free days for the zoo, museums, music and art shows and not to mention plays with kids in mind. I’m sure other cities have similar things going on.” – Jennifer W.


My personal suggestions go along with what our readers said, check with your town/city and see what they offer during the summer. Sometimes cities will put on different events and they will be free or super cheap, also, some zoos and other places have discounts and/or a free day!

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

Five Simple Ways to Save Money While In College

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We know that college tuition is expensive -- but then there are more things like books, living expenses and more.  Here are some simple ways you can help your college student continue with his or her education without breaking the bank!


We all know that college is expensive. We are talking extremely expensive.  There is tuition, books, room and board, food…….and it all adds up very quickly!  Check out these tips to help you (and your student) save where you can!

Books. Instead of paying premium prices at the bookstore, head to Bookrenter or other online sites and simply rent the books.  You can also look into downloading ebook versions as well at a fraction of the cost.  You can find new, used, rental and even ETextbooks at Amazon as well!!

Live at home if you can.  I know, that might sound pretty extreme, but hear me out.  Don’t live there rent free.  Perhaps you (or your student) could offer to cover the electric or gas bill.  That helps mom and dad and also sets the wheels in motion for responsible living once college is over.

Avoid credit cards.  That sounds so simple to do, but it can be difficult for many students.  Companies and stores are always waving these offers in front of you, taunting you with rewards and deals.  Sure, they might help pay for that pizza you want at midnight and have not case.  However, they can easily pull you in and make you graduate under not only a mountain of college loan debt, but also credit card debt.  Adopt  the mantra – cash or nothing.

Watch for organization fees.  College is about forging friendships and networking.  While it can be great to join sororities, fraternities and other groups, but they can cost money.  Look for those with little to no membership fees.  You can still get involved and make friends and not spend a fortune.

Plan some evenings in.  When you want to hang out with your friends, try renting a moving and ordering in a pizza.  It is much less expensive than going to the theater followed by burgers and drinks.  Not only that – you can all easily split the cost which saves you even more!

By following a few simple steps, you can keep your budget in check while getting that much needed education!
What tips do you have to add to our list?

Five Tips To Save Money When Dining Out

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We all love to allow someone else to cook - but it can be expensive!  Check out these MUST KNOW tips to help you save next time you head out for dinner!!


Most people know that it is always important to save money in any way that you can.  We are cutting back in many ways, but we want to still enjoy life. One way many of us do that is by dining out. There are some ways you can save money when dining out.


1. Use a Coupon (eat on the right night of the week)

One way the restaurants get you to visit is by offering coupons and discounts.  You may find these by signing up for their loyalty club, signing up for emails or finding coupons in the newspaper.  There are also apps out there, such as Coupon Sherpa, which will help you find those coupons you need. You can even order the Entertainment Book, which offers discount coupons, including buy 1 get 1 types of offers (just order one for the location near you).  Just don’t forget to tip properly if you do get  discount.

You can also find discount vouchers on daily deal site such as GroupOn or even Living Social.  Sometimes these sites offer discounts as much as 80% off of retail.  Now, these are not normally the most popular restaurants, but it can be a great way to try some of your local eating establishments.

If you have kids, you may want to check out eateries where they offer free or discounted kids meals.  You are often limited to the day you can get these deals, but if it means your kids eat free – then it is worth it!  We’ve got a huge list you can check out right HERE.


2. Skip the Appetizer

You may be tempted to order something before the main entree arrives, however, they are usually way for restaurants to get you to spend more!  You may be able to get free chips and salsa or even bread – just ask.  This may be enough to help hold you over until dinner arrives (and will knock money off of your check).


3. Order an Appetizer as Your Entrée

Have you ever tried this?  Many times, an appetizer can be large enough to fill you up – and will cost much less than a full size entree. Add in an inexpensive side salad (or share one with your spouse or partner).  Not only will this save you money, you will eat less (which may make your waste line happy too).


4. Drink Water

Skip the soda or alcoholic beverage when dining out.  Instead – just go with water.  You can ask for lemons or limes to bring some extra flavor to your H2O).  This is not only a less expensive option (since it is free), it better for you than sugary drinks as well – double bonus!


5. Pass on Dessert

While tempting, desserts are very expensive. These can add another $8 – $10 to your check (for each person who orders).  Instead of paying the restaurant, just swing by the grocery store on the way home and pick up some ice cream  — or just tackle that left over birthday cake on the counter.


Some other things you may find is that if you visit your favorite restaurant often enough, they may start to offer discounts for being a loyal customer.  Request your favorite server and you may find a free drink or two or even a discount on your entire meal.  When restaurants count on your business and you show that loyalty, they often do what they can to keep you coming back time and time again.

What other ways are there to save on dining out?

I’m Out Of Debt – What Is Next?

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 If you are out of debt, what do you do next?  Just spend as you like?  Nope!  We share the first thing you should always do the moment you are debt free!!!

If you find that you have paid off all of your debts, let me say this — CONGRATULATIONS!!!  So, does that mean you are done financially?  Nope – not yet!

If you no longer have debts (outside of your mortgage), you need to continue building your financial independence.  That means you should have a fully funded Emergency Fund.

When you started on the path to getting out of debt, you built up $1,000 in your fund — just in case.  Now that you no longer have debt, it is time to increase this to cover your expenses in case the worst should happen (like losing your job).

A few years back, experts said that a family should have around 3 months of income saved up and if you were single save around 6 months.  As the economy has changed, and it can take longer to find employment, that has changed.

Now, everyone needs at least 6 months – if not even up to 9 months saved up.  That may sound like a lot, but if you no longer have those monthly debts to pay, you now get to pay yourself!

Do you remember when you thought getting out of debt was impossible? Do you remember thinking there was no way you could do that?  Well – you did!  And you are better for it.  Now you don’t have to send a check to someone else every month.  Instead, you get to put money into your savings account – for yourself!

The best way to do this is to just update your budget and instead of listing the debts you pay, just increase your monthly savings.  My husband and I actually have two different savings accounts.  One is our liquid savings and the other is emergency.

The liquid savings is where we make deposits for things we know we have to pay annually such as life insurance, taxes, holidays, etc.  The money will come and go in and out of this account throughout the year.  We also have an emergency fund.  That account has money going in — but does not come out (in case of an actual unplanned emergency).  For us, it helps us differentiate what we have saved and we know what we have in cash at any time.

You worked so very hard to get yourself out of debt, so do what you can to avoid it from happening again.  By planning now, you will save yourself a lot of possible financial stress down the road.  If you are not sure about emergency funds, you can read more about How to Create an Emergency Fund.

(I am not a financial advisor and the information listed within these posts is not to be construed a financial advice.   Financial concerns/issues should be addressed with a professional in order to receive advice and assistance.)

Tips to Save when Purchasing a Vehicle

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There are DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to buying a car.  Check out these tips our readers shared on what to do when you are in the market for a new one!


Purchasing a new vehicle can be scary. Often times we catch ourselves considering if now is the right time, can we afford a car payment, what if… and more. If you’ve reached the point of considering the purchase, there truly are ways to save, so consider them before hitting the car lots. Keep in mind, fully loaded, brand new and others will jack up your price, is that something you really need? So what are the ways you can save when purchasing a vehicle?

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are the tips which were shared by our readers.

Know what you really want- what is a “must” and what you can live without. Being firm in your decision and knowing what you want going in can help you better negotiate a price.” – Sarah C.


Don’t sign anything until you’ve shopped around and are happy. You can bargain with them, if they won’t budge leave and start over until you get what you want for the price you are willing to pay.” – Amanda E.




Buy a used car with low miles. The factory warranty is still good and it costs thousands less.” – Leslie A.


Save up and pay cash.” – Hilda R.


Another tip is to always check a dealers price with and compare the two. The dealer should match it!” – Tracie D.


Be informed before you go. Research the internet for prices and even look at options online to get a feel for what things are going for. Ask yourself what you need in a vehicle and what you would like to have. Don’t be pressured into add-ons that you might never use. If you know someone that works at one of the manufacturing plants sometimes they are allowed a couple friends and family discounts if buying new. Plus, they often know salespeople or about cars that are being sold used in the area. I’ve found that those people that work around cars or for a hobby keep an eye out for what is being sold.” – Stephanie C.

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

How Do I Start Talking To My Partner About Being Fair And Frugal?

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Only one of us is paying and handling the bills.

How do I talk to my partner about being fair and frugal?

In this day and age, there’s no excuse for one person to pay for everything or ignore the golden rule. However, it’s still a fairly common complaint for many people who are in relationships. When only one half of a couple is covering costs, it’s an issue that often leads to resentment. Not only that, but unbalanced spending can cause additional relationship issues, too. The only way you can start to change behavior is by addressing the situation head on.

Depending on your partner’s financial situation, he or she may not be able to split costs evenly, but under no circumstance does that mean they’re off the hook. Sit down and create both a budget and a guideline for responsibilities. If this doesn’t work, you might consider keeping separate accounts and going Dutch on whatever you share, be it a meal or a mortgage.


Ten Events Home Owners Insurance Does NOT Always Cover!

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Did you know that your home owners insurance may not cover everything?  Read up on these common occurrences so you know if you are covered (or not)!

If you own a home, you have insurance (or you should).  You know that it covers your home if there is a fire or tornado, but did you know there are many things which are NOT covered? Before you have a claim, it is important to know what they will and will not cover.

1.  Flooding.  Unfortunately, this is never covered by insurance.  If you live in a flood plain, you probably have flood insurance.  However, many people who do not live in a required area, do not have this additional coverage.  You might do some research to find out how you can pay for this insurance. You can visit the National Flood Insurance program to learn more about adding this to your insurance line up.

2. Earthquakes. Many people probably feel they do not need to worry about earthquakes, however, we have seen more instances of this in “unusual” parts of the country. I actually felt an Oklahoma quake right here in Missouri!

Your policy will not cover this type of damage. Therefore, you will need to take out additional insurance to cover your home. This is usually only an issue in areas which face higher risk, but you can ask your agent about this and if you should purchase it or not.

3. Animal Bites. Many times, your homeowner’s insurance does not cover any sort of animal bite. This is very true with some of the more aggressive breeds. You need to check your policy to see if you are covered or not. If you are not, find out what you can do to cover yourself should this ever happen to you.

4. Sewer Backups. This is one thing that actually happened to me. If your sewer backs up into your home, insurance may not cover you. If you live in a newer home, this may not be a concern. However, if your house is older, this could be more of an issue. Ask your agent about adding in additional coverage.

5. Sinkholes. With more and more stories of these instances hitting the news, it is something you need to consider. If you reside in Missouri, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky or Tennessee, you are more likely to have this potential issue arise. There are riders you can add to your policy to protect your home, should this happen to you.

6. Termites. Unfortunately, these are never covered. Those little bugs can also do a LOT of damage! The only way you can cover these costs is out of your own pocket.

7. Simultaneous events. If you happen to suffer severe wind damage and then your home floods, you may not be covered. The reason? Flood is not covered under your policy. It is what the insurance world calls “anti-concurrent causation”. This is when two events happen at the same time – one of which is not covered under your policy.

8. Burst pipes. While many times a burst pipe is covered, there are times when it may not be. If it is due to homeowner negligence, such as not leaving the heat on when away on a winter vacation or forgetting to drain a pipe, then it may not be covered. Make sure you take the necessary steps when you are going to be away (turn off the water on vacation and/or leave a small stream running while away during cold vacation months).

9. Mold. Mold is horrible and not only is it ugly, it can actually make you sick. You might check with your policy to see if it is covered. If you ever have water in your home for any reason, get it cleaned up as soon as possible to prevent mold growth.

10. Identity Theft. This is actually slowly changing with many companies, but some do not cover this. Some companies will cover the costs to get your credit restored while many will not.

No matter who you use for your insurance, you need to make sure that you talk about these instances and add in those riders or purchase additional insurance as needed. Make sure you take the time to read your own policy so that you have no surprises.

Ten Simple Tips to Prevent Overspending

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It happens to us all.  You do your shopping and before you know it - you've spent too much!  Check out these TEN simple tips to prevent overspending!

I am sure it has happened to all of us.  You are doing your weekly shopping and plan on spending only a set dollar amount.  You find a few good deals here and there and before you know it you’ve spent twice as much as you planned!  There are some simple things that you can do to help ensure that you don’t overspend when you are at your favorite store.

1.  Make a list and stick to it.  

This sounds so simple, but it is true.  Plan your meals for the week and make a list.  Take inventory of the other items you need and add them to the list as well.  You might have a good idea as to what those items will cost, so stick to your list.  When you add in an item here and there, it quickly adds up and you pay more than you planned.

2.  Know How Much You Have to Spend and Track It. 

Keep track of your spending by adding up the amounts on your phone.  This way, you’ll have no surprises when you get to the checkout lane. You can try Running Total for Android or Calculator for Shopping on iTunes.

3.  Don’t use your coupons.

No -that is not a typo.  What it means is don’t use a coupon to purchase something you normally wouldn’t.  If you don’t buy “that brand” of a product, don’t buy it simply because of a coupon (not if it will cost more).  If you don’t usually purchase a particular product, a coupon does not mean you have to purchase it.  If you are using coupons simply so you can save money and buying items you never have before, then you are not saving money.

4.  Shop at the right time.

If you shop when you are hungry, you will purchase more items than you might have planned on (and those items are usually also less healthy).  If you are planning a weekend away, you might buy extra clothing or accessories you really don’t need.  These are emotional purchases and can quickly add up.  Keeping this in mind when you shop can curb your spending.

5.  Negotiate.

This may sound like something you can’t do, but you actually can – and it works!  We have purchased furniture and electronics with cash and have received at least a 5% discount each time.  When the store doesn’t have to pay the credit transaction fee, they are sometimes willing to pass that savings along to consumers.

6.  Stay Home / Keep Busy.

If you go to the store simply out of boredom, you will spend money.  Even if you are “window shopping” you will probably head home with something you normally would not have.  If you feel the need to go to the store out of boredom, find something to do — read a book, play with your kids or even go for a walk.

7. Comparison shop.

Know where you can get the best deal on the item you need.  You can use apps on your phone and quickly compare prices in the store with those on-line to ensure you are getting the best deal.  Give RedLaser a try on your iPhone or Shop Savvy Barcode Scanner on your Android device.  Both apps are free, so you will be out no money if they end up not working for you.

8.  Define Need vs. Want.

There are items we need.  Sure, you need food, but do you need the extra box of cookies?  Sure, the sweater is really cute, but is is something you need or just something you want.  Ask yourself this question with each item you buy and you might find your spend less.

9.  Stick with cash.

When you have $100 to spend, you are much more aware of what you are placing into your shopping cart as you need to stay within those financial constraints.  Whereas, when you use a debit or credit card, you may not be as concerned with your final total.  Not only that, it hurts much more to hand over cash than it does to swipe a credit  card, so you really think twice before you buy.

10.  Save first, spend later.  

It is important to always pay yourself first.  Remember that the amount you have to spend is what is left over after you pay your bills and pay yourself.  So many do that the opposite and save after they spend.  If you always save a little, you will quickly build a nice emergency fund and can have less guilt about your spending.

How Do I Start Talking to My Partner About Money?

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Opening the lines of communication.

How do I start talking to my partner about money?

Whether you’re considering a deeper commitment or those wedding bells have already rung, having the talk about money is critical. Did you know money is one of the top reasons cited for divorce? However, just one conversation won’t do – finances are a lifelong conversation. By opening up the lines of communication about finances, you’re not only potentially saving money; you could also be saving your relationship.

You and your partner should start by gathering any financial documents and information you have to get a clear picture of your current situation – everything from paystubs to student loan documents. To avoid arguments and additional anxiety, try to remember that A) no one can change the past, and B) together, you are creating a new beginning. By laying it all out, both physically and emotionally, the two of you can make a plan for your collective future.

Once you both have a clear view of the situation, try to delegate changes according to your individual styles. If he’s the spender and you’re the saver, put him in charge of paying utilities while you manage the groceries. Remember, since the talk is ongoing, don’t be afraid to try something else if your original plan doesn’t work as well as you’d like. Together, and with a little patience, you and your partner will find a method that works for you both.


H&R Block Budget Challenge – Gives Away $120,000 in Scholarships!

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We all know how very, very expensive college is.  It just seems to go up every single year.  This makes it difficult for kids and parents to save and not to have to take out those horrendous student loans just to get an education.  There is a great way that you can try to help your child offset these costs – and H&R Block has the answer!

H&R Block has an amazing program called the H&R Block Budget Challenge.  This is a program which was created to help teens with financial management, which they can carry with them through adulthood.  During the 2014-15 school year, the program focused on budgeting.  This is a skill which is normally not learned until after many mistakes are made (if you are in debt and don’t have a budget, you may understand this first hand – I know I do)!

H&R Block did a study and found that 57% of teens make purchases with their own money, yet only 17% of them maintain a budget.  Look at the H&R Budget Challenge like a road test for financial management.  They learn how to time their student and auto loan payments, the consequences of paying rent late, how to stay within a credit limit — and so much more.  These are tools that are just as important as other topics our kids learn in school.

What makes this program different is that H&R Block gives away real money.  Over the course of the challenge, H&R Block will give away more than $3 million in scholarships and classroom grants.  The 20 top-scoring students in each simulation will each receive $20,000 for college!  That results in 120 winners!!!  The top five classrooms  can win up to $5,000 in grans.  At the end of the program, the highest scoring student will receive $100,000 — on top of the $20,000 that they won!!

This past year’s winner was just announced this past week (on May 9th).  The winner was Sean Lawrence, a St. Clair, Michigan, high school senior.  He plans on studying chemical engineering at Macomb Community College for two years and will then transfer to Western Michigan University.  His future goals include working hard at a well-paying job while investing in retirement and saving for a house and a car.

By learning real life lessons while still in school, these kids are set on the right financial path.  The idea is just to help these kids be successful in everything in life, and not make financial mistakes along the way.

If you are interested in learning more for YOUR classroom, you can head to the DollarsandSense Blog and make sure you follow them.  Sign up will launch in August of this year – so make sure you are ready!

I love that H&R Block has taken such an interest in our youth.  By helping them with the topics that are just as important as sports, math, reading and science, these kids are truly on their way.