10 Ways to Save on the Holidays

10 Ways to Save on the Holidays
Here’s 10 Ways to Save on the Holidays.

I think we all can agree that the holidays in 2020 will be a little different from previous years. The focus in almost every household is on staying safe and healthy; physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially. This holiday season should be one of caring, sharing, and remembering our priorities. On that note, here are ten ways to lessen your stress and financial worries and still be able to provide gifts for loved ones.

#1 Plan Ahead – Start your gift shopping as early as July. Look for bargains, discounts, and sales on items you know will make great gifts. If you make your gifts, begin in the summer so you’re not rushing to knit a sweater or build a cabinet in mid December! Buying gifts and materials early helps lessen the stress on your mentality and your bank account. A good idea is to buy wrapping paper, bags, bows, etc. right after Christmas when their prices are drastically reduced in stores.

#2 Set a Budget -Yes, I used that dreaded word, but it’s important to decide how much you can comfortably spend on gifts, and work toward your goal of meeting that amount. A fun idea is to label an envelope with each gift recipient’s name, starting in the summer, and gradually fill them with the cash amount you plan to spend on them. That way you slowly but surely save the money you need for holiday gifts later.

#3 Make Some Extra Cash – A few months before the holidays, start a side hustle or take a part-time job to earn extra money for gifts and holiday meals. You could also hold a garage sale or two. Make sure you save this money for the holidays by tucking it away in a secret place and only take it out when you’re ready to spend it on the holidays.

Easy Ways to Save on Christmas

#4 Make or Bake Your Gifts – There are lots of easy and thoughtful gifts you can make for family and friends. I try to bake for all of the adults and only buy for the kids in our family. I spend money on baking supplies and inexpensive but cute containers for the homemade treats. You could print special photos and frame them as gifts. You can help your children to glue seashells to wooden frames and add a cute photo of them for grandparents.

Try making wreaths or decorations for friends and family and deliver them early so they can enjoy them through the holidays. Find hardly-used bundt pans in thrift stores, wash them, and bake delicious bundt cakes for gifts (including the pan). Make a double batch of fudge and fill holiday tins as gifts. Bake cookies or brownies and place them in plastic or glass containers as gifts. Chex Mix and other snack mixes are another great gift.

#5 Give Less Gifts – It really is true: It’s the thought that counts. Instead of bombarding your friends and family with dozens of gifts, choose one or two thoughtful gifts to give them. They can be inexpensive but clever such as giving a whisk with the words “We Whisk You a Merry Christmas” as a label. Another idea is for siblings or co-workers to go together on an expensive gift for parents or the boss. Include a nice card with everyone’s holiday message written on it. For the kids, try picking out 2-3 things that you know they want. Less is more this year!

#6 Say No to Secret Santa Exchanges and Other “Cute but Unnecessary” Gift Exchanges at Work, Church, School, etc. – Don’t buy gifts for everyone you know, send cards instead. Less is more this year!

Use These Savings to Invest

#7 Do Say Yes to Family Gift Exchanges – There are some fun ideas including:

  • White Elephant exchanges where each person brings a gift and you draw numbers to choose a gift or steal one from someone else.
  • As Seen on TV where everyone brings a gift with that label on it and you choose or steal also.
  • Bring gifts with a theme like DIY, Kitchen, Garden, or Gadgets.
  • Draw names in November and buy one gift for that person

#8 Avoid Shopping in Malls or Shopping Centers – This will save you money by avoiding advertising and marketing gimmicks, and gas to drive there. Shop online and take advantage of free shipping and deals.

#9 Hold Virtual Family Gatherings – With the increased threat of Covid-19, we all need to limit our gatherings in person. I know that we’re all suffering from ‘Zoom fatigue” but it would be a great way to see your loved ones safely. You could take turns remembering a “Christmas Past” and sharing it. You could also share your hopes for future holidays. Someone could record your virtual gathering and send it out as a gift to everyone. Your precious family memories become the gift.

#10 Instead of Holding a Huge Family Holiday Dinner Try This Idea – I’m designating Sunday, December 20th as my “Holiday Open House: Covid Style.” I’m making a schedule for small family groups to come to my backyard for some holiday coffee/cocoa, snacks and cookies and to receive their gifts from me. Each small group will be allotted about 90 minutes to visit with a 15 minute sanitation and restocking period in between visits. This way, I get to see my family, share some holiday cheer, and give them my gifts. I plan to start early and spend the day spending some holiday time together safely.

Enjoy the holidays and remember to take some time to just breathe and celebrate the magic of the season!

12 Money Saving Tips

We compiled a list of 12 Money Saving Tips. It’s time to start taking action and start saving money. You can save money a lot quicker than you think and we’re going to show you how.

 

12 Money Saving Tips

  1. Do your own maintenance: landscaping, pool upkeep, house cleaning, washing your vehicle.
  2. Quit paying for cable and switch to a low cost streaming option.
  3.  Change light bulbs with LED lights.
  4. Seal air leaks within your house or apartment.
  5. Price check before you make major purchases. Most big stores will price match these days.
  6. Quit paying for a storage unit.
  7. Pay your bills online and quit paying for stamps & envelopes.
  8. Dry your clothes on a line or a shower rod.
  9. Lower water heater temperature.
  10. Use cold water settings during most laundry.
  11. Research big purchases (appliances, tech products, travel, etc.).
  12. Change air filters once per month so that air can flow efficiently. Use a filter that allows for major air flow.

 

Now you can have some starting steps with these 12 Money Saving Tips. We will show you how to use these savings to invest in your future. The more you save now, the less you will HAVE to work later.

 

Homeschool Activities For Kids

Homeschool Activities For Kids

 This summer, it’s more important than ever to engage our children in meaningful learning activities at home. As a teacher for more than forty years, I’ve seen the “summer slide” in my students’ skills and in my own children. I’m certainly not suggesting that parents continue the rigorous home schooling that they’ve been doing during the quarantine months but keeping our kids’ minds and bodies in shape until school starts again is important. I’ve put together some fun, interactive ways to keep the kids learning during the long, hot summer besides boring workbooks.

Writing Practice:

  • Buy each child a spiral notebook or composition book to be used as their summer journal. Then, ask them date each page and write an entry every day; even if it’s only a sentence or two. You could also give them a “prompt” or idea to write about.
  • Have your children write summary paragraphs giving the main points of a movie you watched, and outing you went on, or a game the family played. Summarizing skills are a component of critical thinking.
  • Encourage your children to write about the pandemic. They could write a fictional story that takes place during the Covid 19 outbreak. They could write an expository piece reflecting on their feelings, fears, worries, and experiences during this trying time. They could research the facts and write about it from a kid’s point of view.
  • Have the kids write letters (I’m talking snail mail here) to friends and relatives. Teach them how to properly address an envelope too.
  • White boards are a wonderful teaching tool to use at home. If you don’t have one, you can purchase one at Walmart or have one cut from shower board at Lowe’s or Home Depot. I like to give the kids 3-5 unrelated words and ask them to use them all in a sentence. For example: king, sandwich, village, and roller skates. “ The king was famous for eating a sandwich while he toured the village on roller skates.”

Reading Practice:

  • Family book clubs are always fun. Order multiple copies of a book through Amazon, Abebooks.com, or thriftbooks.com. Assign a chapter or two for independent reading before the next book club meeting. Have some fun snacks to serve at each meeting. When you meet as a club, discuss the characters, setting, plot, and other story elements of the chapter everyone previously read.
  • Book Celebrations are a great way to share a book that was recently read. Your child could choose from a menu of celebrations after finishing a good book such as : oral book chat with you, written book report telling about setting, main and secondary characters, plot, and resolution, designing a new book jacket including the “blurb” on the back cover summarizing the story, or a diorama depicting a favorite scene from the story. I used to pay my own children a dollar for reading and sharing a chapter book.
  • Cross-Age Reading buddies is a fabulous way for an older child to read to a younger one. The older child chooses a picture book, practices reading with expression and showing the pictures, and then reads aloud to a younger sibling or cousin. The older child builds reading confidence, and the younger one has a role model for reading fluency.
  • Another fun reading activity is the Progressive Story. One person starts the story off by introducing the setting. The next person adds the main characters, the next person lays in the plot, and so on. The story goes on and on until someone brings it to a dramatic ending. You will be amazed at the plot twists and turns a story can take when added to by family members!

 

 

Math Practice:

  • Grocery planning and shopping can be a great real-life math lesson for your children. Help them plan a few days of meals and make a grocery list. Teach them to peruse your pantry for ingredients you already have to cut grocery costs. Clip coupons or look them up on your grocery site or app to find those bargains. Then discuss your budget and estimate the cost of the meals. Make adjustments as needed. Then, visit the grocery store (or order for delivery or pick up) and make your purchases.
  • Cooking with children is another great math adventure. Teach them to halve or double a recipe for practice in fractions. Teach them to measure ingredients too.
  • To keep those math facts sharp, incorporate some exercise with your facts drills. If you have small bean bags or soft balls of some kind, you can toss them to each other while “skip counting.” This means counting by 2s, by 3s, by 4s, and so on. Pretend it’s a hot potato to add some excitement to the game.
  • Make up some multi-step math problems of your own, using family names in them. For example: Dad gave Jessica, Robert, and Tom each five dollars to spend at the dollar store. Jessica spent $3.87, Robert spent $4.92, and Tom spent $7.86. How much did each child have left? How much did they spend altogether? Another example: If Mom puts a cake in the oven at 3:42 and it bakes for 35 minutes, at what time does she take the cake out of the oven?
  • Practice finding area and perimeter by measuring various rooms in your house. Remind your children that the formula for finding area is Width X Length= Area ( WxL=A) and perimeter is found by adding up all the sides. You could also find these dimensions of tables and tv screens.
  • Two boxed games for math are Shut the Box and Dominoes. Both are available on Amazon for less than $20. Shut the Box is a strategic numbers game where players take turns rolling the dice as many times as they can to shut as many numbers as possible. The object of the game is to get the lowest score. Both of these games
  • involve eye/hand coordination and number sense.

 

 

Social Studies/Geography/History:

  • Watch the history channel together and discuss the content. There are lots of great programs about American History, the wild west, colonization, and the wars throughout time.
  • Decide on a citizenship project for your children to launch. Some suggestions are donating food to a local food bank, donating clothing and toys to a charity store, and making cards for children in hospitals.
  • Try the “Where in the World is _____________ _____________?” activity. Start by drawing a small circle in the center of a large sheet of white paper. Have the child write his address in the circle. Next, draw a larger circle around the center circle and write the city where he/she lives in it. The next concentric circle contains the state, then another circle with the country, then the hemisphere, the continent, and then earth. It gives the children a sense of their global address.
  • Look up historical sites in your state and take a road trip to explore some of them. Have your children make a tourism poster for each site or each road trip that can be shared with their class next year or just to hang up in their bedrooms.

 

Science Investigations:

  • There are so many great science experiments that you can investigate at home with basic ingredients. Here are a few websites filled with easy experiments that you should definitely check out this summer!

https://mommypoppins.com/kids/50-easy-science-experiments-for-kids-fun-educational-activities-using-household-stuff

 

https://www.weareteachers.com/easy-science-experiments/

 

https://blog.prepscholar.com/easy-science-experiments-for-kids-at-home

 

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g32176446/science-experiments-for-kids/

 

https://sciencebob.com/category/experiments/

 

https://redtri.com/classic-science-experiments/slide/1

 

Remember parents, any activity you do with your children this summer can turn into a fun learning experience. Just try to limit your children’s screen time, keep them moving, get out in the sunshine, read together, have them write about their experiences, and play games!

Super Cooling Your House

Does super cooling your house work?

Let me tell you that super cooling your house absolutely works and can save you tons of money on your electric bill. Our neighbor first introduced us to the idea, shortly after moving into our new home. We went from paying around $400 per month in the summer, to $200 or less per month. Our yearly savings on our electric bill have been cut in half.

 

Here was our electric bill before super cooling:  July 9, 2013

supercooling home

 

Here was our electric bill after super cooling:  July 29, 2020

 

Super Cool Your House

 

That is a copy of my electric bill for the month of July, in 2020 with 2 A/C units. As you can see, super cooling will save you tons of cash and keep your house cool. You might need to keep a sweater and sweatpants on during the off-peak hours, but that’s much better than sweating bullets.

Our house is powered by two separate a/c units, so we were expecting to have a pretty massive bill in the summertime. Super Cooling has allowed us to save thousands of dollars, which can be invested wisely.

 

What is supercooling HVAC?

Super Cooling your house is when you turn down your A/C to 65 – 68 degrees during off peak hours, then shut them off during the on peak hours (3pm – 8pm). Your house will retain the cold air and the temperature will slowly rise. By having your air conditioning unit turned off during on-peak hours, you are going to save a ton of money.

Basically, you freeze the house during off peak hours and shut off your AC unit during the on-peak hours.

 

How do I pre cool my house?

 

  • Contact your electric company and get placed on an energy saving plan. Each company is different, but your local company should offer something similar. This is the most important aspect of super cooling.
  • Our energy saving plan is called the Saver Choice Max plan from APS. On Peak hours are from 3pm – 8pm (This is the time of the day when you want to consume as little power as possible).
  • Off Peak hours are from 8pm – 3pm, all day on the weekends, and all major US holidays.

The way to super cool your home is really quite easy. You crank down the air as low as you can stand it during the off peak hours and then shut down your a/c unit(s) while on peak.

  1. Turn your thermostat down to a low temp, around 65 – 70F at 6am.
  2. At 2:55pm, you will want to turn off your air conditioning unit and leave it off until 8:01pm.
  3. From 8:01pm to 6am, we run the temperature at 72 degrees.
  4. Weekends are off peak, so run the a/c at a comfortable temperature, ~72F.

 

By keeping your house so cool during the off peak hours, it will take several hours for the temperature to rise. The furniture, flooring, walls, all retain the cold and help keep temps low. By 8pm, our house is around 76 – 80F and we live in the hot Arizona sun. For us, this is a small price to pay for having our electric bill cut in half. This will be our third year using the super cooling method and we have saved thousands of dollars in the process.

 

Troubleshooting:

  • You are not turning your A/C low enough for a long enough time
  • Your house is not correctly sealed. If you can spot areas where air is leaking out, you will need to get this sealed.
  • Opening the doors too much and letting hot air in
  • Cooking for long h0urs

These are some reasons why your home might not bet getting cool enough. Or your house is getting hot too quickly.