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Father’s Day Crafts that Kids Can Make

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Father and DaughterWhat are your children going to give their dad as a Father’s Day Gift? It’s always the thought that counts, not the amount of money that was spent on the gift. Here are some cute, handmade, Father’s Day crafts that kids can make. Little kids might a little help from mom.

Father’s Day Cutout Frame
Martha Stewart has a downloadable template that you can use to make a photo frame that says “DAD”. You will need some card stock for the frame, a few paper clips, and some adorable photos of the kids.

Children who are able to use scissors can cut around the letters in the frame. Older kids might be able to cut out the inside parts. (Or, mom can help with that). Have your children help select the photos that will go in the frame. Bend two paper clips and attach them to the back of the frame, near the bottom. This will help the frame to stand up.

Decorated Rock Paper Weight
Better Homes and Gardens has a simple Father’s Day craft that can be adapted to fit the skill level of any child. All you need is a smooth rock and some fabric scraps.

Kids can use a paintbrush to paint some decoupage onto the stone. Press a fabric scrap onto it, and smooth it out. The same method can be used with decorative scrapbook paper instead of fabric. Another option is to let your kid paint the stone with different colors of acrylic paint.

Wallet Art
All Kids Network has a simple idea for a Father’s Day gift. Children can paint, or draw, on a credit card sized piece of paper or card stock. They suggest you laminate the finished artwork, to make it a bit more sturdy.

Many dads carry photos of their children in their wallet. This gift gives a dad the opportunity to carry, and show off, their child’s beautiful artwork. Check out the photos on the All Kids Network website for some cute examples.

Handprint Art
Babies grow so fast! Believe it or not, babies can make art (with some help from a parent). All you need is some card stock. Cardboard will do. Gently press your baby’s hand into some child-friendly paint. Pat that hand onto the card stock. When it dries, put it into a frame. It is sure to bring a smile to the face of any new dad.

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Frugal Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Mowing Lawn iStockFather’s Day is June 15 this year. What gift are you going to give your dad? Some dads are really easy to shop for. They always want the same thing. Other dads, however, make gift giving a bit more difficult. Here are some frugal ideas for Father’s Day gifts to consider.

Mow the Lawn
There are a lot of dads who end up stuck with the chore of mowing the lawn on their day off. Surprise the dad in your life by mowing the lawn for him. The kids can help by pulling weeds or sweeping driveways, porches, and sidewalks. Or, you could hire someone to come over and mow the lawn (and do some yard work) so dad won’t have to. See if you can get a good deal from a local landscaping company. Another option is to have your teenager do the yard work a specific number of times.

Framed Photo of the Kids
This simple idea works well for dads who happen to work in an office. You can pick up a nice photo frame from your favorite department store. Sometimes, dollar stores have lovely frames, too. Select one that will sit on a desk. Add a recent photo of the kids. Or, select a photo from the most recent family vacation. The framed photo can bring a smile to his face on stressful work days.

Gift Card
Got a dad that’s really difficult to buy for? There are some dads who are hard to buy for because they have a habit of buying stuff for themselves all the time. Other dads have eclectic tastes that make it hard to find gifts that will match his interests. You can’t go wrong with a gift card. The next time dad buys something for himself, he won’t have to spend his own money on it.

Game Time
Is your dad a gamer? What about the father of your kids? If he plays an online game that has a subscription fee, you can pay that fee for him. It is possible to purchase gift cards for World of Warcraft and other online games. Put the gift card into his Father’s Day card so he will know you have bought him more time to play.

What if he loves to play online games with his buddies, but the game doesn’t require a subscription? You can still give him some game time. Make a “coupon” that your husband can use when he wants some uninterrupted game time. Write down the number of hours on the coupon. Be prepared to watch the kids while he uses his Father’s Day gift.

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Frugal Kids Events in June

Posted on Friday, May 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Kids CraftsSchool lets out for summer vacation at the end of May or a few weeks into June. Parents are going to need to find some ways to keep their kids entertained. Children who like to create art or build things will find the following kids events to be a lot of fun. Here are some free and frugal kids events that your children can attend in June.

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow offers free kids clinics on Saturdays. Each child will receive a free apron, goggles, patch, and the opportunity to build a wooden project. You must register your child ahead of time if you want him or her to attend.

June 14, 2014: Build Toothless – Children will build their very own Toothless dragon. This project is connected to the “How to Train your Dragon 2” movie that will hit theaters on June 13, 2014. This event will begin at 10:00 in the morning.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers free crafts for kids every Saturday starting at 11:00 in the morning and ending at 3:00 in the afternoon. The event is for children age 3 and up. No reservations are necessary.

June 7, 2014: “Let’s Bug Out” event – Children will make three bug related crafts. They can build “Buggy Goggles” that have antenna. They can decorate a pre-cut butterfly with glitter and other decorations. They can also make a “Lively Ladybug” out of paper plates.

June 14, 2014: “Father’s Day Pencil Holder” – Kids can make a cute, and useful, gift to give their dad on Father’s Day.

June 21, 2014: “My Summer Break Journal” – Kids can decorate a paper journal that they can use to write about the things they do on their summer break from school.

June 28, 2014: “Summer Memories Frame” – Kids can decorate a photo frame. Later, they can add a photo of something fun they did with their family during summer vacation.

Barnes & Noble
Some Barnes & Noble stores will be having a Father’s Day Storytime event on June 14, 2014. It will feature the book Mighty Dads. There will be a Father’s Day card-making craft and other activities. Use the search on the Barnes & Noble website to see if your local store will be participating.

Home Depot
Home Depot offers free kids events on the first Saturday of each month. They are DIY workshops for kids of all ages. Children will receive a free workshop apron, certificate of achievement and a commemorative pin. Registration is required.

June 7, 2014: “Build a Pint-Size Riding Lawn Mower” – Kids will put together a small, wooden, riding lawnmower. This event will begin at 9:00 in the morning is is scheduled on a “first come/first serve” basis.

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Graduation Gift Etiquette

Posted on Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Graduate PortraitHow much should you spend on a graduation gift? Are you required to give a gift after receiving a graduation invitation, or announcement, or both? Here is a quick “brush up” on graduation gift etiquette. You may not need to spend as much money as you thought.

How much should you spend?
The answer to that question depends on how closely related you are to the graduate. According to Make College Count, if your sibling is graduating from high school, it is acceptable to spend between $15.00 and $30.00. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles of the graduate should spend between $20.00 and $50.00.

What if you are not related to the graduate? For friends of the family, it is appropriate to spend anywhere from $15.00 to $50.00. The better you know the graduate, the more you should spend. It is also worth pointing out that many people feel that the appropriate amount to spend on a gift goes up if it is for a college graduate (instead of a high school graduate).

When is a gift not required?
You are not required to give a gift if you have received a graduation announcement. The parents of the graduate are simply informing people that their son or daughter will be graduating. If you truly want to give a gift, it is acceptable to do so (but is not required). It is also fine to send a graduation card.

It is true that some parents will send announcements in the hope that it will result in more gifts for the graduate. They are technically not following the etiquette involved with graduation announcements. Don’t feel pressured to give a gift if you can’t afford to do so (or simply don’t want to).

When is a gift required?
A gift is required if you have received an invitation to a graduation ceremony or graduation party. You are expected to bring a gift for the graduate if you will be attending the ceremony or party. This is true no matter if the graduate is receiving a high school diploma, bachelors degree, or master’s degree.

There is one exception to this rule. It is if you receive an invitation to a graduation ceremony or graduation party that you are unable to attend. If you cannot go (for whatever reason) you are not expected to send a gift. Of course, you can still send a gift if you want to. Otherwise, it is not required.

Is cash an acceptable gift?
There was a time when it was considered inappropriate to give cash as a graduation gift. Times have changed! Today, it is perfectly acceptable to give the graduate a graduation card that has some cash inside of it.

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More Summer Book Clubs for Kids

Posted on Monday, May 26th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Read ConmigoMany of the summer book clubs for kids have already started. There is still time for your children to participate, though. Here are a few more places that have summer book clubs that kids can start right now.

BAM! Books A Million Summer Reading with Carl Hiaasen
How it Works: Parents can visit the BAM website and download a form that goes with their summer reading club. Children need to read 6 of the books that are on the list. A parent or guardian must sign and verify the completed form. Bring the completed form to your local BAM store.

Your Child Can Earn: a free HOOT or Chomp backpack. It is being offered “while supplies last”.

Ages: The books on the list are “chapter books”. It also includes a short selection of “First Chapter Books” for kids who are transitioning from picture books to chapter books. Teens have their own list of selections to choose from.

Dates: Kids must bring the completed form into a BAM store before August 17, 2014.

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge
How it Works: Children are expected to read books and then log the number of minutes they were reading onto the Scholastic website. To participate, kids must register with the website. They will then log their minutes onto their dashboard. The overall goal is to, as a group, beat the reading world record that was set in 2013.

Your Child Can Earn: virtual rewards that appear to be tied into the weekly challenges and challenge questions. There is also a sweepstakes aspect to the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge. Kids can earn one entry every time they reach a weekly reading milestone.

Ages: It isn’t very clear exactly what ages the summer reading challenge is for. My best guess is that it is for children who are elementary school age.

Dates: It began on May 5, 2014, and will end on September 5, 2014.

Virtual Book Club for Kids
How it Works: It is a Facebook page that is being run by Toddler Approved, Rainy Day Mum (and more). The idea is for parents to use the page as a resource from which they can make their own Summer Book Club for their children. You can find suggestions of great books for kids to read as well as craft activities that go with the stories.

Your Child Can Earn: whatever prizes you select. This is a “choose your own adventure” type of kids summer book club. Parents can offer prizes that will motivate their children to read.

Ages: The books included are picture books. This is a summer book club for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners.

Dates: Parents can choose their own start and end date for the summer book club. You can fit it around your summer plans.

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Ways to Lower Your Water Bill

Posted on Friday, May 23rd, 2014 at 5:22 pm
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Glass of Water in Kitchen'When it comes to saving money, every little bit helps! Summer weather can make your water bill increase. Hot weather makes people want to take more showers than usual and to keep refilling the “kiddie pool”. It is understandable but can get expensive. Here are some ways to lower your water bill.

Put drinking water in the refrigerator.
What do you do when you want to get a glass of water from the sink? Many people run the water for a while until it starts to get cold – and then fill their glass. There is a way to avoid wasting that water. Put a pitcher of drinking water into your refrigerator. The water will already be cold when you are ready to drink it.

Set a timer for the shower.
The shorter the shower, the less water you will use. Setting a timer is a good way to remind yourself to get in and out of the shower as fast as possible. It motivates you to wash more quickly than you typically do.

Another option is to get into the shower and get your hair and body wet. Then, turn off the water while you lather the soap and shampoo. Turn the shower on again when you are ready to rinse off the soap.

Make full loads.
You can save money on your water bill by making sure the dishwasher, or washing machine, is full before running it. This allows you to get everything clean without the need of running a second load (and using even more water). Big families that produce a lot of dirty laundry and dirty dishes should have no problem finding enough things to make full loads with!

Take the hose away from the kids.
Make it a rule that only the adults at your house are allowed to use the garden hose. Most children do not have any idea how much water they are using when they spray the hose at their siblings (or to refill a “kiddie pool”.) Now is a great time to teach your children that water is precious and should not be used as a “toy” or amusement. Find them something else to play with.

Check your faucets for drips.
A faucet that drips very slowly can quickly eat away at your budget. All those little drips of water add up! Take a moment to check all the faucets in your home for drips and leaks. Repair the ones that require it, and you will be using less water. That can help lower your water bill.

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Money Saving Ideas for Summer Barbecues

Posted on Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 at 7:00 am
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BarbecueIs your budget ready to handle the cost of a backyard barbecue his summer? It can get rather expensive, especially if you will be having a lot of guests. Fortunately, there are ways to cut down on the cost of a barbecue. These money saving ideas might be just what you need!

Don’t spend too much on meat.
Consider less expensive versions of the meat you are planning to serve. For example, you can save money by purchasing chicken legs and thighs instead of the more costly boneless chicken breasts. Another option is to serve less expensive meats like hamburgers, brats, and hot dogs. Jazz them up with some bacon or cheese, and your guests will be pleased.

Learn how to grill.
Will this be your first time having a barbecue? If you are unsure how long to grill something, or how high the heat should be, it pays to look it up before the party starts. YouTube has a bunch of cooking videos. You may want to start searching for the answers to your questions there. This “homework” may be a bit time consuming, but it will save you money. You won’t have to throw away food that you accidentally burned!

Avoid the deli counter.
Many people figure it will be a lot easier if they just stop by the deli at the grocery store and pick up pre-made potato salad, macaroni salad, or deli trays of appetizers. It might save time, but it won’t help you save money. You can make your own for less that what it would cost if you bought it pre-made.

Plastic instead of paper
People waste a lot of money on paper plates for parties. They get used once and then thrown away. Instead, stop by the dollar store and pick up some cute, colorful, reusable plastic plates. They will be sturdier than the paper plates. They can be washed after the party is over and used at the next one. You won’t have to worry about someone dropping and breaking the frugally priced plastic plates (or accidentally tossing them in the trash).

Split the costs.
One simple way to make a barbecue less expensive to host is to ask the guests to bring a dish to pass or some beverages to share. Put this request in the invitations you send out. This lets everyone know what is expected. Splitting the costs this way is perfectly acceptable for family barbecues. It might not go over so well for barbecues that will include your boss or co-workers. Choose wisely!

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Great Recipes for National Barbecue Month

Posted on Monday, May 19th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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GrillThere are a lot of things going on in May. Did you know that May is both National Barbecue Month and National Salad Month? Both fit nicely into a backyard barbecue celebration for a graduation or for Father’s Day. Here are some great barbecue recipes to try.

Grilled Bacon Jalapeno Wraps
AllRecipes has a spicy recipe for meat lovers that will make 6 servings. You will need:

* 6 fresh jalapeno peppers (halved lengthwise and seeded)
* 1 package of cream cheese (8 ounces)
* 12 slices of bacon

Preheat your outdoor grill for high heat. Spread cream cheese and fill each jalapeno half. Wrap it with bacon. Secure the bacon with a toothpick. Place it on the grill and cook until the bacon gets crispy.

Best Grilled Pork Chops has a recipe for marinaded pork chops that will serve 6 people. You will need:

* 1/2 cup water
* 1/3 cup light soy sauce
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 3 tablespoons of lemon pepper seasoning
* 2 garlic cloves (minced)
* 6 pork loin chops (fat removed).

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a deep bowl. Put in the pork chops. Marinade for at least two hours. Remove the pork chops from the marinade and cook over medium-high heat for no more than 15 minutes (or until done). The recipe suggests you take care not to overcook them. Turn over the pork chops when juices pool on the upper surface and the meat appears to be cooked half-way through.

Whole Barbecued Chicken
Kraft has “the summertime version of winter’s best comfort food”. It makes a total of 12 servings. You will need:

* 2 whole chickens (3 pounds each)
* 2 small lemons, cut in half
* 1 cup Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce
* 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
* 4 cloves of garlic (peeled)

Kraft suggests you “grill for indirect grilling” by lighting one side of the grill and leaving the other side unlit. Next, close the lid and heat the grill to 350 degrees. Trim and discard the excess fat from the chickens. Squeeze lemon juice into a small bowl. Put two of each of the following items inside each chicken cavity: lemon halves, and garlic cloves.

Put the chickens on the grill breast-sides up on the grate over the unlit area. Grill for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until done. Turn and brush with barbecue sauce occasionally (for the last 20 minutes). Remove the lemon and garlic before serving.

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Ways to Lower Your Air Conditioning Bill

Posted on Friday, May 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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piggy bank, woman saving moneySummer can bring some extremely hot days. In the midst of a heat wave, what most people want to do is turn on their air conditioning and keep it running. Unfortunately, doing so can burn through your budget. Here are some ways you can lower your air conditioning bill (without having to deal with dangerous heat).

Shut the Doors and Windows
Close the doors on rooms that you and your family are not currently using. That includes closets! This simple technique can help prevent you from wasting energy by cooling the rooms that are not in use.

Before you turn on your air conditioning, take the time to check your doors and windows. Being outside in the heat can make people forget to find out if all the doors and windows are shut before they turn on their air conditioning. Shut all windows and doors first, and then turn on the AC. As your mother or grandmother may have said: “We can’t afford to air condition the entire neighborhood!”

Cleaning is Important
How long has it been since you cleaned the filter on your air conditioner? The filter is designed to catch and collect the pollen, dirt, and dust that is in the air. Air conditioners that have dirty filters end up using more energy than air conditioners with nice, clean, filters.

You should expect to change the filter on your air conditioner at least every three months. Check to see how dirty it is monthly. There is a chance that it could get too dirty to be of use before three months have passed. Replace the dirty filters with ones that are new and clean. This will make your air conditioner more efficient.

Air conditioners need annual checkups. The best time to have that done is during the fall (after the weather has cooled off). Hire a professional to check your air conditioner for you.

Close the Curtains
Which side of your house gets the most sun? That side is going to collect the most heat. One way to deflect some of that heat is to make sure all the curtains and blinds are closed before you go to bed for the night. The idea is to use the curtains and blinds to obstruct the sun’s rays. The last thing you want is for the sun to stream directly into your windows for several hours on a hot summer day!

The parts of your home that get the hottest cause your air conditioner to work harder to cool them down. A simple task, like closing the curtains and blinds, can help lower the temperature in a room (at least a little bit). Every bit helps, because it costs money to keep the air conditioner running!

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Where to Find Frugal Summer Activities for Kids

Posted on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Summer FunIt won’t be long before your kids are out of school for the summer. What will they do all day once school is over? Parents can find safe, affordable, activities for kids in their local area. You child can be watched over while you are at work and have a fun summer at the same time.

Boys and Girls Club of America
Does your neighborhood have a Boys and Girls Club? Find out if it will be offering a summer program. The summer programs offer a safe place for children to interact, learn, get some exercise, try new things, and be watched over by attentive adults. Fees for their summer programs are typically low and affordable.

Many Boys and Girls Club summer programs involve field trips to local parks, pools, museums, and more. They typically open around 7:00 in the morning and close around 6:00 in the evening. (Check with your local one for more specific details.) This is a great option for parents who have to work during “school hours” in the summer when their kids are no longer in school.

YMCA offers summer camp opportunities for kids. Check with your local Y to see exactly what they will be offering this summer. You may learn they are offering an overnight camp that runs from a few days to a few weeks in outdoor areas. Kids are led by trained and experienced leaders who will teach them new skills and activities.

Or, your local Y might have a day camp for kids. The difference between the two camps is that this one is for kids who would prefer to return to their family every afternoon. Again, there will be new experiences, skill building, and the opportunity to make friends at the day camp.

The Library
Your local library might have a summer book club for kids and teens to participate in. Some libraries will be organizing family movie nights on the weekends. Or, they could be holding a series of fun arts and crafts classes for kids. Check with your local library to find out what is available.

Park District Programs
Many Park Districts will offer a discount on admission to public pools if a family buys a group pass. They might also offer athletic programs for kids to participate in during the summer. If your local park district includes a gym, there is potential that they will have some fun exercise programs for kids this summer. Typically, there is a fee for park district programs and a requirement that you must register your child for each one he or she wants to do.

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