5 Inexpensive Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer

Kids can be expensive. During the school year, everything from dance shoes to field trips, can feel like it costs an arm and a leg. Once school is out, your kids can sometimes be more expensive. If you’re looking to be frugal and still have fun, here are a few ways you can save and keep your kids busy this summer.

Throw backyard movie nights: Have a big TV or a projector? Add some cool yard lights and some blankets or patio furniture, and you’ll be ready to host every kid on the cul-de-sac. Or hold a family movie night outdoors, just yourselves.

Check out museums: Growing up, the word “museum” always seemed boring. But the museums they have now are far from dull! If your town doesn’t currently have one, here are some great options that may be within driving distance.

Cook something up: When the summer is heat is blazing, it’s always great to have things to do indoors. This is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids how to cook. Have them help prepare fun lunches and dinners, and one of these days you may be able to take a few shifts off from chef duty. Start with baking and you’ll be guaranteed to have some delicious treats around this summer.

Go to the park: Every town has a public park, and most of them have lots of things to do. There are also National Parks all over the country that can be educational and provide some exercise as well.

Head to the pool: A lot of neighborhoods have pools and if yours doesn’t, you probably know a friend or relative who does. Taking the kids swimming is a great way to allow your kids to burn off some energy, and also give you the chance to soak up some sun and relax.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

4 Tips for Saving Money on Spring Painting Projects

Painting is a popular spring do-it-yourself project, especially since it’s one of the easiest ways to refresh the appearance of your home. If you’re trying to sell, new paint can also improve your home’s appeal to potential buyers. Depending on the size of your project, primer, paint, and supplies can get expensive fast. To help you stay on budget, here are a few tips to help you choose paint, find good deals, and ultimately get the greatest return on the time and money you invest in your spring painting projects.

1. When choosing paint brands, compare key qualities.

There are scores of paint brands to choose from these days, ranging in price from $8 per gallon to more than $30. The price of some brands corresponds with their quality, but that’s not always the case. To choose the best paint for your project, you need to look at more than just the price tag. Here are five key qualities to look for:

  • Coverage: Many higher-end paints have built-in primers and get the job done in fewer coats than economy brands.
  • Stain resistance: Depending on what you’re painting, you may want to choose a paint with better stain resistance (for instance, high-traffic living areas).
  • Scrub resistance: Some paints dull when you scrub them, so if you’ll be using extra elbow grease on the walls, prioritize this quality.
  • Paint pros say acrylic latex paints are more resistant to the effects of temperature and moisture over time than oil-based alternatives.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the solvents paint releases into the air as it dries. A typical paint has about 150 grams of VOCs per liter; low-VOC paint has 50 g/l or less. If you’re concerned about paint fumes, this is something to pay attention to.

A great place to find all this information in one place is Consumer Reports, but you’ll also find useful reviews on non-biased handyman and do-it-yourself sites.

2. Consider what you’re painting.

Deciding which of these qualities to prioritize is easier when you keep in mind what you’re painting. Areas that won’t be seen or trafficked don’t require top-of-the-line paint, but if you want the paint job to look professional and last longer, you may want to spend a little more.

Also, consider the color change you’re making. If you’re painting over a very dark color, it could mean the difference between two coats of a high-quality paint versus three to four coats of an economy paint.

3. Use expert tips to make inexpensive paint look spectacular.

Even though the quality of paint you use matters, how well you paint can also make a huge difference. Failing to prep your surfaces properly and follow good painting techniques, can make even the most expensive paint look bad. On the other hand, using expert tips with mid-range paint can result in a professional looking job. If you’re an amateur painter, look for expert tips or — better yet, get a seasoned pro to help you.

4. Find deals on paint.

Investing in quality paint won’t be cheap. Stretch your budget a little further by looking for coupons (DIY retailers like Home Depot run regular sales). The best time to shop for paint is in the months of May, July, and September, right before the major summer holidays.

If you’re not picky about the shade of your paint, check out the miss-tint section at retail stores, where you’ll often find $35 gallons discounted as low as $15. There’s nothing wrong with this paint – it just didn’t turn out the way a customer expected.

You might be surprised to learn that you can get even get paint for free from recycling centers, where businesses tend to drop off excess paint from their renovation projects. Even if the paint is a few months old, the shelf life of paint is much longer – up to 8 years!

Like many things in life, what you put into painting is what you get out of it. Even if you’re just trying to spruce things up for your own benefit, it doesn’t hurt to use these tips to get the best possible results and save a little money in the process.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for moneyning.com

3 Money Saving Birthday Party Tips

 

Here are three tips on how you can spend less time and money hosting a party, and more time enjoying your child’s special day.

Reserve a shelter at a city park

Depending upon where you live and the time of year, a community park might be the best venue for your party. Not only will the children enjoy a day at a playground in fresh air and sunshine, you won’t have to pay to replace items broken by your little guests or for someone to shampoo red cake frosting out of your carpet.

In some towns you can rent a covered shelter with five large tables for around $35 for the entire day. That’s much cheaper than a trampoline park or Chuck E. Cheese, isn’t it? And when the party is over, toss the decorations and paper plates right into the park’s trash cans.

Serve donuts

Who doesn’t love donuts? They’re inexpensive, come in a variety of flavors, and they’re delicious. There is most likely a local donut shop nearby, with colorful donuts that appeal to kids and created a Pinterest-worthy display for your treats table.

Ditch the goodie bags

Goodie bags are not good for parents who are short on cash and time. Instead of goodie bags, buy a couple of bags of latex or Mylar balloons and a small helium tank. Before the party, fill the balloons and use them as decorations. The kids are absolutely thrilled to learn that they get to take one or two home at the end of the party … much more thrilled than they would be with a bag full of items they’ll play with for 10 seconds. The parents are also relieved of goodie bag clutter. Everybody wins!

Article Source: Heather Anderson for CUInsight.com

The Best Times to Buy Airfare

Surprisingly, there’s no difference in airfare whether buying a ticket on a Sunday, Tuesday or any other day of the week. The cheapest fares are typically found when you book about 70 days before departure.

Bargain shopping? Try to monitor airfares for travel routes during the prime booking window (4 months to 3 weeks before leaving). Destination discount fare alerts can be set up on such sites as Hipmunk.com, Airfarewatchdog.com, GoogleFlights.com or an app like Hopper. The one factor that plays a significant role in price is the time of year you plan to travel.

Here are some tips on when to buy flights for each season:

Summer

The best summer deals are in August and September, with late summer offering the lowest prices overall.

  • The average best time to buy is 47 days (about 1.5 months) in advance.
  • Prime Booking Window is 14 – 160 days (2 weeks – 5 months) from travel.

Fall

If you’re traveling in the fall (excluding Thanksgiving), you can usually wait a bit longer to book air tickets and still not miss out on the good prices.

  • The best time to buy is 69 days out
  • Prime Booking Window is 21 – 100 days from travel.

Winter

Here are tips for general (non-holiday) winter travel.

  • 62 days from your expected travel date is the best time to buy an affordable airline ticket in the winter months.
  • Prime Booking Window is 21 – 110 days from travel.

Spring

With Spring Break dates spanning March through April, finding a good deal in the spring can be challenging.

  • Exactly 3 months (90 days) from your travel date on average is the window to buy best airfare for spring air travel.
  • Prime Booking Window is 46 – 122 days from travel.

Happy vacationing!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

 

5 Things You Should Buy at Costco

About 1 in 5 products sold at Costco are the store’s Kirkland brand. According to Consumer Reports, some Kirkland products rate higher than premium brands. Here are four highly-rated Kirkland products and one other item you should be buying from Costco.

Bacon

Consumer Reports tested regular and thick-sliced uncooked bacon, precooked bacon and turkey bacon. Of all types and brands tested, only Kirkland Signature bacon was rated excellent. “It crisped up nicely and consistently and had balanced fat and meat flavors, complemented by wood smoke and a taste of sweetness,” the report said.

Mayonnaise

After you’ve stocked up on bacon, head over to the condiment aisle to pick up some mayo to make BLTs. Kirkland’s Signature Real Mayonnaise rated just as good as Hellmann’s in Consumer Reports’ blind taste tests. And, it costs 60% less.

Car batteries

Kirkland’s Signature 12866 battery, which is suitable for large Ford or Mercury cars, trucks or SUVs, aced nearly every Consumer Reports test. The $85 dollar battery almost beat out the top rated battery from Interstate, which costs $280. Consumer Reports rated all car batteries and said many Kirkland batteries performed very well in its tests.

Ice Cream

Kirkland Signature Super Premium Vanilla ice cream consistently rates 5 out of 5 stars, and Consumer Reports tasters called it “full and dense with a big dairy flavor and complex vanilla-extract flavor.” The Costco brand beat out premium brands like Breyers and Baskin Robbins, and because it’s typically sold in packages of two half-gallon containers, it’s much less expensive than Ben & Jerry’s – about 30 cents per serving, compared to $1 per serving for Ben & Jerry’s.

Eye glasses

Costco topped Consumer Report’s eyeglass store ratings, which was based on a survey of nearly 20,000 subscribers. Costco shoppers paid less for frames and lenses than those who bought their glasses from independent retailers, private physicians or specialty eyeglass stores like LensCrafters or Pearle Vision. The median Costco price for a pair of glasses was $186, compared to about $300 elsewhere.

The moral of the story, it might be time to think about getting that Costco membership. Or if you already have one, be sure to check out these products!

Article Source: Heather Anderson for CUInsight.com

5 Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending Dramatically

Trying to trim expenses can seem like a never ending task, as new expenses always pop out of nowhere. With already tight budgets, the task of reducing spending can seem impossible. You’ve already cut out your morning latte and canceled your gym membership – what more can you do?

Lowering your expenses is definitely a daunting task. While you’ll have to make sacrifices and get a little creative, it definitely can be done without cramping your lifestyle too dramatically.

Cut Up Your Credit Cards

Take a close look at your credit card collection if you have multiple cards, and decide which ones you should keep using and which ones you can cut up. First, note the interest rate for each card, and don’t use the ones that charge the higher rates. Obviously, it is ideal to be able to pay off your bill every month – but that isn’t always realistic depending on your situation. Second, take a close look at the rewards programs for each card. Such programs are becoming more and more competitive and can be a determining factor when deciding what your go-to card should be. Also, canceling credit cards can negatively affect your credit score as it lowers your credit to debt ratio. Consider literally cutting them up and forgetting about them instead of really canceling them.

Be Your Own Chef

Food is one of the biggest expenses we face and most people are guilty of spending too much on dining out. Don’t ignore this habit because the expenses can really add up. Cooking more at home can easily and drastically lower your spending.

But what if you hate cooking? Don’t worry, because you can still save. To mitigate this, cook once a week by meal prepping. Make a big batch of whatever you want and portion it out into multiple meals a week. When it’s time to eat, all you have to do is heat it up – even easier than going out.

Ride a Bike

Car maintenance and gym memberships can cost an arm and a leg. Why not kill two birds with one stone by riding a bike? Depending on where you work, riding a bike to your office could be a great option to get a workout in and save money on gas. Many big cities also now have bike sharing programs, which makes it even more convenient to ride wherever you need to go.

Reinvent Your Social Life

Socializing with friends takes time and money. Just having a single drink could cost up to $15 with tax and tip, which can really add up as the night goes on. However, there are plenty of inexpensive or free activities you can do instead. If you’re going out for drinks, consider meeting up during happy hour. While timing might not be ideal, it can cut your bill in half. Also, every city, big or small, has free events, especially during warm weather. So take advantage of them as the weather is warming up for the season.

Analyze Your Bills

Getting a bill is never a fun moment, but be sure to take a thorough look instead of quickly glancing through it. Many of us end up paying fees we don’t realize every month that could easily be avoided. Also, look carefully at your usage every month, particularly when it comes to your cell phone and utilities. Perhaps you could lower your texting plan if you’re not close to using your maximum for the month, while others can easily trim their data plans. Small details like these seem insignificant when you look at them individually, but everything can collectively make a huge difference in the long run.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com