If you ever visit our main blog, you might have seen our article earlier today where we analyze the various pros and cons of 8 top programmable thermostats on the market today.
While we tend to like The Nest Learning Thermostat the best, the ecobee Smart Thermostat and the Honeywell Wi-Fi Color Touchscreen RTH9580 look to be quality products as well.
What are your thoughts on programmable thermostats? Do you have one in your home? Do you think that they help you save money or use energy more efficiently?
Since Mother’s Day is this Sunday, we’re all thinking about what to do for the special woman in your life. No, we don’t necessarily mean your own mother (though some of these suggestions might apply), but rather, that special woman your children call Mom. Celebrating Mother’s Day as a family can be a real challenge if you want to keep away from busting your budget. This is especially true if each of your kids wants to do something different for Mom.
Don’t you worry! We’ve put together several ideas for family time activities you can complete in order to make the day extra awesome for Mom. With these suggestions, you will surely be able to make this Mother’s Day one she will never forget!
This one should be a no-brainer, right? It is so simple and easy to do! But, it does often get overlooked or discarded as a bit too cliché. Yet, most mothers simply adore a homemade card from each of her kids (and her spouse – hint!). It could be hand-drawn, painted, sketched, and/or coated in glitter. It doesn’t really matter – as long as it’s handmade, you can’t go wrong with a heartfelt card for Mother’s Day. And it definitely goes well with any other gift or as an extra touch to something as simple as a breakfast in bed treat. It also makes for special family time between Dad and the kids.
What mother can resist a gift promoting relaxation and time all alone, free from distractions? And these bath soaks are super-easy to make, so there’s no reason to brave the mall to visit a Bath & Body Works location. You can even make more than one scent and use many different color variations.
What you need:
How to make them:
Gather up enough Epsom salts to fit into your chosen container. Add some food coloring to the salts, and stir until the color is evenly distributed. Next, add the perfume or essential oils to the salts, and stir again until evenly distributed. Then, spread the salt mixture upon some wax paper to dry. It will take a few hours, but after it is completely dry, it can be put into the jar.
Technically, the scent will blend better in the salt mixture if it sits for a few weeks in the jar before being used; however, Mom can use her new bath soak as soon as it is completely dry..
Origami Flower Bouquets
True, there are few gifts more beautiful than receiving a bouquet of flowers, but they can become quite expensive, especially if you’re not interested in busting your budget. So, why not give Mom a gift of a beautiful handmade origami flower bouquet? All it takes is some origami paper (or any other kind of paper you may have handy), a willingness to be crafty, and a little time.
Don’t worry, Dads. You can easily make these origami flower bouquets with your kids, and then use some of those handy-dandy little straws that bend at the top for stems. You can even attach paper leaves to the straw stems. Check out some cool flower ideas at origami-instructions.com. We recommend the lily, because it works well with the straw stems.
The best part of this crafty gift? These paper flowers will probably live longer and stay prettier longer than the real ones.
Assorted Home Activities
Ultimately, the best way enjoy quality family time on Mother’s Day without busting your budget is to plan a few stay-at-home activities. The long-running favorite in our family is to break out a favorite board game or deck of cards. Specifically, we love Monopoly, Uno, and Skip-Bo, but we’re also kinda dorky. Whatever your flavor, you should play a couple rounds of it, and enjoy one another’s company as you do.
Perhaps after your game time is over, you can enjoy a picnic lunch out in the backyard with Mom. No need for anything fancy. Maybe Dad can grill a lovely meal while the kids prepare a few side dishes so that Mom doesn’t have to cook this holiday, and then enjoy the family time together in the serenity of the calm outdoors.
Another fun activity that Moms will surely enjoy is a movie night. Popcorn or other low-cost snacks can be made, and the family can cozy up on the couch to watch Mom’s favorite movies. If you don’t personally own the flicks, you can rent them easily than $2 through Redbox stations, located in several convenient store locations such as Walmart. You can also stream them using Hulu.com or Netflix. These services may require a small monthly fee, but it is totally worth it for a little family time on Mother’s Day. Besides, this idea is certainly cheaper than braving the prices for tickets and food you’ll find at your local movie theater.
What are your favorite ideas for celebrating Mother’s Day without busting your budget?
Top image courtesy of tawalker.
Origami Flower image courtesy of josey4628.
Family Game Time image courtesy of FamilyTravelCK.
You might be surprised how a few small changes in how you grocery shop can help reduce your carbon footprint!
Learn more here.
I’m digging this nifty infographic - it’s chock full of tips for helping you save money (and the environment, if you’re interested) when shopping for groceries.
I personally advocate for “Always Bring a List,” “Don’t Grocery Shop Hungry,” and “Don’t Get Tempted by Sales.”
Which ones do you find most helpful?
Spring is a popular time for families, couples, and friends to go on vacation. However, high travel expenses reduce the options available, especially if you don’t want to bust your budget completely. This spring, don’t miss out on your chance to leave town – instead, plan a day trip, and get the break you need at a more affordable price. We’ve provided a few interested day trip ideas throughout Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York so that you can get away from it all without letting your money get away from you.
Meridian State Park
Tucked away in the hidden hills of Central Texas northwest of Waco, this state park is perfect for a day trip to enjoy the spring weather. For only $5 a day (children 12 and under are free), visitors can enjoy fishing and/or swimming in the park’s 72-acre lake, along with plenty of room for hiking, bird watching, and more. Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic with a view or bring your overnight bag and camp under the stars before the summer heat really hits Texas.
For nearby fun, head to Dinosaur Valley State Park to view some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks in the world! This location also provides opportunities for camping, enjoying a picnic, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, fishing, and more.
Brazos Bend State Park
Always wanted to swim with the dolphins? How about the next best thing – walking with the alligators! The Brazos Bend State Park is home to a large population of American alligators, as well as other less toothsome wildlife to observe. In addition, this 5,000-acre state park surrounds six lakes that are easily accessible to fishermen. Located southwest of Houston with a cost of only $7 a day (children 12 and under are free), visitors can also enjoy camping, picnicking, hiking, biking, horseback riding and fishing. The George Observatory is also located in the park, and it’s open on Saturdays where you can enjoy a view of the stars.
Visit Erie, PA
Take the day and head to the third largest grape growing area in the US. We’d recommend enjoying the pretty views wine tasting up and down the Lake Erie Wine Trail. If you are looking for something intoxicating, you can spend the day at Presque Isle State Park and enjoy 11 miles of pristine beaches, a view of the Presque Isle Lighthouse, and top-notch bird watching – and the beaches are open Memorial Day.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Calling all history buffs! Soak up some history and sun while exploring the Valley Forge National Historical Park. See where General George Washington and his Continental Army gathered to endure the harsh winter of 1777 before battling the British once more. Entry into the park is free, but you can pay for a narrated trolley tour or take a shuttle for free that makes a continuous loop around the park. If history isn’t quite your thing, Valley Forge National Historical Park also contains six miles of jogging and bicycling paths, hiking trails, and picnic areas where you spend a relaxing day.
Storm Kind Art Center
Located about an hour from New York City, visitors can enjoy the day exploring a 500-acre landscape of fields, hills, and woodlands that provides the perfect setting for a collection of over 100 sculptures created by some of the most acclaimed artists of our time. You can spend the whole day getting lost in art for a little over $10 a person.
Head to the Adirondack Mountains
Enjoy the day outside enjoying nature by taking in the majestic scenery of the Adirondack Mountains. Outside of the gas to get you there, the trips should cost you little to nothing. Choose from hiking, whitewater rafting, bird watching, wildlife viewing, fly fishing, and so much more. Starting in May, don’t miss out on various spring festivals such as the Adirondack Adventure Festival, which is a weekend full of family-friendly activities, music, sports and more!
Meridian State Park image courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
Dinosaur Valley image courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
Valley Forge National Historical Park image courtesy of DGriebeling.
Adirondack Mountains image courtesy of Jay Woodworth.
University Help 101: 12 Ways To Save Money Well In College -
- Buy Second-Hand: You never know what cool and “vintage” things you may find. (Just avoid questionable items and undergarments/ bathing suits)
- Swap Parties: Sick of your old clothes? Organize a swap party with friends. Everyone brings nice but unwanted clothing and you all trade for what you…
And for our readers who happen to be in college, we found this collection of 12 tips to help you save money while in school to be rather helpful.
We heartily recommend #5 (Don’t put everything on credit), #6 (Use your meal plan), and #12 (Find free stuff to do on campus). And #11 (Get a job) might be a good idea as well.
12 Household Appliances You Should Unplug to Save Money -
A good thing to keep in mind. Or read upon if you weren’t aware. :)
We’ll always reblog articles that encourage people to unplug their energy vampires to help you save money on your electricity bill.
I get asked about thrifting all the time, so here are my secret thrifting tips I’ve collected over the past 15 years.
In order to actually save money when shopping at thrift stores, it helps to have a strategy. Our favorite tips in this list include #3 (Plan ahead and prioritize your needs), #5 (Know your budget), and #7 (Catch and Release).
What are your tips for hitting the thrift stores to save money?
10 Creative Ways to Reuse Extra Office Supplies -
Save a bit of money around the office with these 10 crafty lifehacks using extraneous paper clips, rubber bands, and more.
We’re fans of Tip #3 (Office Supply Jewelry) and Tip #5 (Bubble Mailers as protection for your electronics). Which ones do you like most?
Want to save money on your electric bill? Turn off the lights. Sounds simple — right? The truth is that most households waste hundreds of dollars each year by leaving lights and appliances on when they are not needed. According to the Power Home Remodeling Group, leaving a something as basic as a laser printer plugged in and ready around the clock will waste $120 a year.
If just turning off the printer can save that much, imagine how much money you can save by managing all of your electric appliances and devices more efficiently. The trick for some parents is getting their kids to understand how they can help. Below are five tips to get your family involved and start saving today.
Make It Fun
Kids love games. They provide a series of challenges with accompanying rewards that motivate kids (and adults!) to keep coming back for more. Enlist the help of the whole family to make a complete list of your electric devices and when you use them.
You can save money by using your appliances at different times of the day (especially when it’s cooler outside). Some energy providers offer special credits or discounts for “peak demand” time periods. You can also use an online calculator to help you compute your personal energy consumption once you have current rate information.
With this information, you and your family can see in real dollars how much impact turning off just one light, or a houseful, can have on your budget. Play with the calculator to see if you can save money by changing the time of day that you run the dishwasher, dryer, and air conditioner.
The goal of the game is to be the one that can find the most savings around the house. Don’t forget to add the reward — you can use part of the savings to plan a family vacation, increase allowances or treat the best “player” to something special.
Texting for Dollars
If your family is always in a rush to get out the door in the morning, a daily reminder might help them remember to turn off the lights and electronics. One way to remind kids to turn off the lights in their room as they leave for school or work is to set up automatic texts until they get into the habit. If your kids don’t have cell phones, set an alarm to go off ten minutes before they are scheduled to leave as a reminder for them (and you!).
Take a Number Please
Consistently saving money as a family depends on everyone getting involved. Count the number of lights, outlets, and devices that each person is responsible for every day.
For example, a teenager could have a dozen items in his or her room drawing electricity when not at home. Typical teen rooms have multiple lights, computers, cell phone chargers, guitars or other electronic musical instruments, fans, and alarm clocks – so there’s a lot to manage.
Make a special key tag with the representative number, post a sticky-note by the door, or find another fun way to remind kids to check all of their energy vampires before they leave their room.
Use Power Strips to Defeat Energy Vampires
A recent article in the Mother Earth News recommends that all households start using power strips for electronics. Stand-by consumption from energy vampires can really add up quickly, especially if your family has multiple computers, home entertainment systems, and several cell phones. Plugging your devices into power strips makes it easy to turn off everything at once.
Power strips simply save time and energy. Remember to flip off each power strip when you are not using appliances and devices during the day. Make it part of your nightly routine — lock the doors, brush your teeth, and turn off power strips.
That Will Be Fifty Cents Please
When nothing else works to get your kids to turn off the lights as they leave a room, aim for the wallet. Behavioral psychologists have found that reinforcement, both positive and negative, is the best mechanism to change habits.
Pick a start date: tell kids after this date that, for every time they leave the room for more than fifteen minutes without turning off the lights and/or electronics (television, computer, etc.), there will be a penalty. Place a jar or other container in a prominent place to deposit the penalty fees. Keeping the jar in the open will be a gentle reminder twenty-four hours a day, too.
If you family does not give allowances, you can always choose a non-cash currency. Each infraction could result in less computer time or television time. Choose a currency that is age-appropriate for each family member.
Turn Off the Lights and Start Saving Today
Remember to consider when you use your appliances as well as making an effort to turn off appliances and lights when not in use. According to Bankrate.com, changing the time of day that you wash clothes could lead to almost $400 in annual savings. Some utility companies offer off-peak discounts of 40% or 50%, depending on where you live.
One item that many homeowners overlook is the motion sensor night lights in the hallway. If you have pets, these lights could be coming on and going off all day as your pet roams about waiting for you to come home.
Think of it this way – anything that glows is drawing energy. If your cell phone is plugged in after it is fully charged, it’s still drawing electricity. Below are a few other energy vampires that might be gobbling up your hard-earned money while you are sleeping or away from home.
No matter how you choose to get your family involved, today is the best time to start reducing your electricity usage so that you can save money.
Light Switch Image courtesy of Derek Gavey.
In my opinion, spring is the best time of year, and this is especially true for families. Spring is the season when kids and parents alike can enjoy being outside without melting from the summer heat or being attacked by mosquitoes. Another bonus to spring is that it’s easy to be more energy efficient and save money by doing things outdoors. So, turn off the air conditioner, electronics, and lights, open up a few windows, and get the family enjoying these outdoor activities that are good for the environment and inexpensive for your family to enjoy.
Bike or walk to a park. Ditch the gas-guzzling car, break out the bikes or walking shoes, and head to the nearest park. The park is a free way to enjoy all the great colors of spring, while giving kids something active to do - all while being friendly to your environment. For families with younger kids who aren’t able to ride bikes longer distances, think about using a bike trailer. These can be a bit pricey, so check your local Craigslist to see if you can pick up a used one, or you can borrow one from a friend.
Have an outdoor picnic. Grab the family and head to the nearest park for a family picnic. If there isn’t one in biking or walking distance, then have an outdoor picnic at home. Make sure that you bring reusable utensils, plates, and napkins, or at least recycle what you do use so that you benefit the environment.
Use public transportation for the day. Choose a day to go green by ditching the car and using public transportation to explore your city. We’d recommend the library, local zoo, a far-away, park, or a museum.
Go camping. Get online to find the nearest campgrounds and camp for the night. Not only will it provide family bonding, you can hone your survival skills. For extra points with being energy efficient, have everyone leave the battery operated electronics at home.
Go without energy for a day. Pick one manageable day with decent weather and don’t use any electricity all day long. It will teach your children a valuable lesson, and you’ll be able to see where you can become more energy efficient and reduce your energy usage so that your family can save money at other times and help the environment.
Have a BBQ. You will lower your energy usage in the kitchen by cooking outside. You can make this activity inexpensive by holding this event with a few friends so that you can combine costs. You can make the BBQ green by cutting down on waste through the use of reusable utensils, plates, and napkins.
Plant a family garden. Have each member of the family select what they would like to plant in the garden and see how fun it is to watch their seedlings grow. It’s a great teaching tool, plus an affordable alternative to purchasing produce from the grocery stores. Sure, there’s some initial cost to starting a decent garden, but you’ll save money in the long run by growing your own produce, and you’ll be contributing to a greener environment.