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A Frugal Family Valentines Day

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At no extra cost to you, I will receive compensation for purchases made through links on this post.  Thank you for supporting my little blog!

 

If you’ve been following me on Instagram you’ve probably learned quickly that my philosophy on parenting (and basically life) revolves around easy and cheap!  Our Valentines Day Celebrations are no different.

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I read the other day that the average person spends just under $140 on Valentines Day.  This shocked me!  I understand that it’s fun to splurge a few times a year and I am a big fan of celebrating love and budgeting for joy.…but, I really believe this can be done without spending a lot of money.

Our Valentines Day is a celebration that includes my husband and I, and our three children.  I like to include my children because I love them too!  Valentines Day doesn’t have to only be about romantic love, it can be about all types of love!

Because we celebrate as a family my husband and I don’t usually have a typical Valentines date.  BUT!  For those of you who might prefer a date night out, I have some great free date night ideas just for YOU!  I’ll add the links below!

10 Ideas for Date Night at Home

20 FREE Valentine Date Ideas

Family Celebrations

Our Valentines Day may be frugal, but that doesn’t make it any less special.  This is a message I would love for everyone to embrace.  I spend very little money, but our day is just as lovely and fun as ever.  My 6 year old has actually been counting down to the day for weeks (not joking).

Mailbox Love

Technically our valentines day traditions begin a couple of weeks BEFORE February 14th.  Years ago I bought these darling tin mailboxes at the Target dollar spot (I love Target!).  I believe they were about $5 a piece, so not super frugal, but they have lasted us for years, and have been one of my favorite purchases ever (for reals).  I found a similar mailbox on Amazon here.

We use these mailboxes to “deliver” little love notes and handmade gifts to each other in the days leading up to Valentines Day.  It warms my heart every single time I watch one of my kids put a kind note into their siblings mailbox.  Real talk…..my kids fight a lot…..so these moments of kindness are just so so special to me.  I’ll usually give them a little pencil, eraser, or some type of treat and a few love notes.

Morning Love

Our Valentines breakfast is always heart shaped pancakes (click here for my fave pancake recipe).  This isn’t anything fancy, and my hearts are never perfectly shaped….but guess what!  My kids never care.  They love their heart pancakes, misshaped and all (kids are pretty awesome this way, aren’t they??).

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School lunchboxes are packed in the morning as usual, with the exception of a few extra goodies.  I throw in a 25 cent box of conversation hearts and a little love note from me.    Although, now that my oldest is 13 and in middle school I might just put her love note in her mailbox rather than the lunchbox….I have learned that teenagers aren’t the biggest fan of mom notes in their lunchboxes….go figure!  😉

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Dinner Love

Decorating is not my forte, but I try to set the dinner table a little fancier for this holiday.  I use our nicest tablecloth (which is really a cheap one I bought from Walmart 8 years ago), I light a few candles, and cut out some red paper hearts to place around the table.

I try to keep the dinner simple, yet fun.  One year we had a heart shaped pizza, this year I will be making a chicken pot pie with the top crust decorated as hearts.  The amount of money I spend on dinner is always in my regular weekly grocery budget, so no excess spending here!  Woo!

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Frugal Valentines Gifts

Every year on our dinner table I include a small gift for each of my kids, and something for my husband.  This year I bought them each a small box of chocolates from the Dollar Tree, my daughters both received a small necklace from Jane, and I bought my son a stuffed animal from the Dollar Tree.  My husband is getting a larger sized box of chocolates and a love letter.

These aren’t anything fancy and hardly cost me anymore, but the gesture means a lot to my kids and I have found them trying to follow my example.  The past few years my kids have been making their own little valentine gifts, and they secretly place these on the table before dinner.

If you are needing a more Valentines Day Gift ideas, I have a few guides listed below:

10 Valentine Gifts for Her under $10

10 Valentines gifts for him under $10!

Gift Ideas for Teen Girls under $25

25 Gift Ideas for Tween Girls; all under $25!

25 Gift Ideas for 5-7 year old boys under $25

Mothers Day Gift Guide: 15 FREE Gift Ideas

 

This is what Valentines is all about!  Not feeling sorry for yourself if you don’t have a special romance, not spending a fortune to prove your love to someone, it’s about spending time and thought to give service and love to someone you care about.

I was going to buy some strawberries and chocolate for an after dinner dessert and activity, but it honestly didn’t fit in this weeks grocery budget, so I didn’t.  I felt a little sad, because I knew the kids would’ve really enjoyed some chocolate dipped strawberries.  But, I ultimately decided they will have just as special of a day without that one activity.

What does Valentines look like at your house?  Share a few of your celebrations in the comments.  I would love to hear all about it!

 

 

 

You might be interested in a few of my other Valentines Posts:

Yarn Hearts: An Easy Valentine Craft for Kids

Chocolate Dipped Valentine Cookies Recipe

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How to Make Your Very Own Pom-Pom Garland

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I recently discovered how to make Pom-Poms out of yarn.  These pom-poms turned out to be incredibly easy to make and so addicting!  My daughters and I spent all evening making pom poms and experimenting with different sizes and techniques.

We decided to turn these yarn pom poms into a cute garland for Valentines Day.  I love how it turned out and am already planning more garlands in other themes and colors!

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These were so fun to make, I thought I would share an easy tutorial with all of you!  I was able to use items I already had at home and didn’t need to spend any money (yay!), but you can find some quality yarn for less than five dollars and it will make hundreds of pom-poms!  I linked one of my favorite yarn brands on Amazon here.

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Take a small string of yarn (the softer yarns seem to work best!) and begin wrapping it around two of your fingers.

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Keep wrapping until the yarn looks a good size.  I just eyeballed it, but I probably twisted the yarn about 70-100 times.

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When the pom-pom looks right, cut the yarn leaving about 6 inches of a tail.  You will then push the tail through your two fingers and pull it out the other side.

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Bring the tail up on top of the yarn and push it through the top of your two fingers.  Pull it tight.

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Now, gently slide the yarn off of your fingers, making sure to keep the yarn pulled tight and kept across the middle.

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Knot the tail and wrap the remaining tail across the other middle, this will form a plus sign.  Pull it tight and knot it.  This will form four sections.  Tie another knot securing the yarn.

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Next, you will need to grab some sharp scissors.  I used my fabric scissors (aka:  “if anyone uses these for anything other than fabric they will be in HUGE trouble” scissors).  Begin cutting the loops apart in each section.  Make sure you do not cut the tied tail.  We only had this happened once, but it’s important to remember.

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Continue cutting all of the loops.  Once finished, it will not look very good and you’ll wonder if you did it right!  You did.  The pom pom just needs some fluffing.  Shake it, separate the pieces and try to fluff it out as best as you can.

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Once your little ball of yarn is all fluffed out it’s time for a haircut!  This is when you will see your pom pom begin to take shape.  Trim the yarn pieces until they are all even.  I also like to cut them fairly short, but not to short.  Play around with it a little bit and you will find the style you like.  My daughters kept theirs a little more long, it’s all personal preference.

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That’s it!  Your pom pom is done!  Isn’t it cute????  The first one takes the longest…..to be honest, I threw away my first five.  But, once I had a little practice I was able to whip them up much quicker.

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Stick some googly eyes on those pom poms and make little monsters for your kids, OR you can string it together to form a cute garland.  I chose the garland.

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After browsing through my house unable to find a string for my garland I resorted to the garage (I was refusing to spend money on this project!).  I found some string in mu husbands stash of “stuff” and it worked really well.  I have also heard that twine or even embroidery thread would work for garland.

Tie a knot at the end of your string and use the string to thread a needle.  You will then stick your needle right through the middle of your pom-pom, pull it along the string until it reaches the knot, and continue until your garland is at the desired length.

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Knot off the end and you are done!  You can hang your yarn pom-pom garland around your house, but we came up with a different idea.

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We decided to decorate one of our little Christmas Trees as a “valentine tree.”  We have been making little crafts for it all month and decided this garland would be the perfect addition!

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Let me know if you make a pom pom garland!  I would love to hear how it went.

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How to Slowly Restock Your Pantry after Completing a Pantry Challenge

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I recently completed an intense Pantry Clean out Challenge.  The goal was to cut my regular monthly grocery budget ($400) in half.  By doing this we would focus on eating the items I already had stocked in my freezer and pantry.

I was fortunate to have had many friends on Instagram join me in this challenge.  I loved watching all of the progress and having a group to encourage each other and share all our frugal ideas.  To find more info about doing your own pantry challenge check out my article; What I Learned From the July Pantry Challenge.

What’s Next?

My most asked question about this challenge has been, “Will you spend a lot of money on groceries in February to restock the pantry?”  The answer is No.  That would defeat the whole purpose of the challenge.  Today’s article is going to explain how I will slowly restock my pantry while staying in budget!

ways to restock your pantry and stay in budget

Here are five ways I slowly restock my pantry:

1.  Budget for the Pantry

I have a weekly budget dedicated to pantry stock up.  This is $15 per week.  This pantry money is taken out of our $100 weekly grocery budget.  Because it has been budgeted and planned for, restocking doesn’t require any extra money or stress.

Some weeks the pantry budget is spent at local sales.  Other times it’s stashed away to save for another week.  It all depends on our current needs.

2.  Buy Multiples

It is very rare for me to buy just one can of soup or one bag of sugar.  The way I see it, if I’m going to buy one item, and I have a few extra dollars in my budget, than I might as well grab a few more.

I do 90% of my shopping using Walmart’s Free Grocery Pick (get $10 off your first order using this link).  I love this service for about 1 million reasons (really.), but a huge reason is the ability to watch my grocery total as I add and subtract items to my order.  Whenever I am below my budgeted $100/week, I will add on a few more pantry staples.  This helps my pantry to grow and keeps me in budget.

3.  Buy in Bulk

Watch for opportunities to buy grocery items in bulk.  Many groceries will be priced much lower if it is bought in bulk.

This could be done by shopping local grocery case lot sales.  To find a case lot sale near you be sure to talk to your local grocer.  In many areas these sales might be called different names or even unadvertised.  So, don’t give up easily, keep digging and talking to grocers!

Another way I love buying in bulk is through a meat co-op.  I have recently started buying my chicken from Savory Butcher.  Their chicken is priced right and are delicious high quality.  If you need some direction of what to do with your bulk chicken read my article; What to do with your bulk chicken; including 6 Freezer Chicken Recipes.

4.  Shop Sales

When you are trying to stock up a pantry, shopping the sales and deals will make this much more budget friendly.  Whenever I find a good deal on one of our many pantry staples, I stock up (even if it wasn’t on my grocery list!).  I do it within my “pantry budget,” and only on items I would normally pay full price for.

My favorite app to check for deals is the Flipp app.  It is completely free to download and extremely user friendly.  The app is updated weekly as the new grocery ads come available.  I browse it every week to find what the sales are and plan my menus/pantry stock up around those deals.  Many weeks I can’t find anything worth buying, but other times I find some really great deals worth buying.

5.  Take Advantage of Cashback

Always, ALWAYS take advantage of the cashback apps available!  These are not huge money savers, but every.single.little.penny adds up.  Whenever I see my husband throwing away a receipt without scanning it for cashback I ask him, “Would you throw 25 cents in the trash???”   Of course he wouldn’t.  But essentially you are losing out on free money if you toss a receipt without first scanning it into the apps.

A few of my favorite cashback apps for grocery shopping are:.

Ibotta:  This is my most used app.  Ibotta offers cashback on hundreds of items every time you scan your grocery receipt.  My favorite cashback offers are the “any brand” items.  These offers include items in the dairy, produce, and other grocery departments.  *If you sign up for Ibotta using my link you will receive an automatic $10!

Checkout 51:  Checkout 51 is similar to Ibotta, in that it gives cashback on participating items when you scan your receipt.  They don’t have as many offers as Ibotta, but it is still always worth checking.                                                                                                                        *If you sign up using this link you will receive $3 when you redeem your first offer.

Fetch Rewards:  Fetch is so easy!  This is by far the most user friendly app.  All you do is scan your receipt and you automatically earn points.  These points can be redeemed for gift cards to just about anywhere.  My favorites are Target and Amazon.  I really like Fetch because you can redeem your points at as low at $3.                                                          *Use the code: W1CTU for an automatic 2,000 points when signing up.

I will be using each of these 5 strategies as I restock my pantry AND stick to my normal budget.  I’m not perfect when it comes to a grocery budget, but I’m trying!  Just like I know we all are!

What do you do to stock your pantry AND stay in budget?  I would love to hear all about it in the comments!

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20 Family Friendly Board Games, all Under $20

“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

If you know me, even at all, you know that I LOVE to play games.  I love the competition, I love the laughs, and I love spending an evening with my favorite people……while not having to spend any money.

Our little family has Family Game Night every Sunday evening.  I brought this tradition with me from my childhood and I have loved sharing it with my children.  I will usually pop some popcorn and cut up some fruit while my kids pick out a pile of fun games.  Everyone has their favorites and we try to play as many as we can.

I also love to get together with friends and family members for game nights.  The great things about games is that their is always something for everyone.  With hundreds and hundreds of games to choose from, every personality and preference can find a favorite.

Games are easy to share with others, making it so cheap for everyone involved.  Think about it!  If everyone bought just one game, and then gets together to share the games, you get to enjoy multiple games for the price of one!

Thrift stores are also loaded with games.  I can almost always find a high quality game for just a couple of bucks at my local thrift store.  They may not be the “new on the market” games, but they are always big favorites!

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I wanted to share a few of my families favorites game so that you can start your own regular game nights.  Each of these games are under $20 and family friendly!

Strategy Games

Citadels

Citadels is a quick game to play and easy to learn.  It has the perfect mix of strategy and lightheartedness.

Citadels Classic

Sheriff of Nottingham

If you are a good bluffer you will probably be great at Sheriff of Nottingham.  I am personally not a good bluffer, so this game is a little stressful for me!  But, I do really enjoy playing it.  It requires some strategy, the ability to bluff, and a little bit of skill.

Arcane Wonders Sheriff of Nottingham

Bohnanza

Bohnanza is a great game for older kids/teens.  It is a game of trading “beans” to plant in your bean fields.  It takes a little practice to learn the game, but once understood it is very addicting and has a fun strategy involved.

Rio Grande Games Bohnanza

CodeNames

Codenames is a very popular game, and for good reason.  You play on teams and use word association to try to get your teammates to guess which words you are thinking of.  It feels a little complicated when you first open the box, but it is actually really easy to learn.

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island is interesting because you do not compete against each other.  It’s a strategy game, but everyone is on the same team.  Together, as a team you try to “save” the island before it sinks.  It can get a little stressful, but I love when our little family is forced (encouraged???) to work together.

Forbidden Island Card Game

 

Party Games

Watch Ya Mouth

Watch Ya Mouth is such a fun party game.  It is impossible to play without laughing the entire time.  Promise.  It is probably one of the funniest games I have ever played.

Mad Gab

It’s easy for all ages to play Mad Gab.  The game play involves scrambled words that you sound out to try to guess the correct phrase.  It’s so funny to listen to your teammates trying to guess the phrase while they sound the words out over and over.

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples Junior is one of our families very favorite games.  It’s so easy to play and the rounds go very quickly.  Even my 4 year old enjoyed playing his cards and trying to keep up with the game.  I love that it is a game for everyone, even people who don’t like games!

Catch Phrase

My favorite party game is Catch Phrase.  The game is played in teams and you use word association to try to get your team to guess the word on the game unit.  The game goes fast and is easy for all ages.  The cool little Catch Phrase Unit even keeps score for you!  Yay!

Pit is fast paced and interactive.  You try to convince others to trade crops with you while they are trying to convince others to trade with them.  It is a race to be the first to collect all of your crops.  My kids love playing this game and it’s a great way to bring others out of their shell.

Telestrations

Telestrations is a mix between Pictionary and Telephone.  Everyone draws a word, then passes their drawing to the next person who guesses what you drew, this continues through everyone.  It’s so funny to see what the end product is!

Easy to Play Games

Cover Your Assets

The game Cover your Assets is fast, easy to learn and seriously addicting.  I’ve always loved money games and the ability to feel like a “quick millionaire.”  This is a great game for families!

Anomia

Anomia is a fun group game and works well for all personalities, even those normally quiet will start shouting and laughing while playing.  You do need to be able to read, so it is more fit for older kids.  It is small and compact which makes it easy to carry around on trips or over to someones home.

Everest Toys Anomia Card Game

Bananagrams

I absolutely love Bananagrams, or as my family likes to call it, Speed Scrabble.  It has the same strategy as scrabble, use your letter tiles to connect a words together in a grid.  But, it is fast paced and has an extra element of stress (in a good way).  If you are a fan of word games, you will love bananagrams!

Bananagrams Party Edition

Farkle

Farkle, or The Dice Game as I grew up calling it, is a game of luck and risk. The more you risk, the more lucky you might get.  It’s very easy to play, just simple rolling the dice and keeping score.  Farkle can turn into a lengthy game or played as a quick time filler.

Spot It

There is really no game like Spot It!  It is easy for all ages to play, has many different game play options, and each round goes quickly.  My kids can seriously play Spot It for hours!  We absolutely love it and I recommend it to everyone!

Spot It!

Clue

Clue is a classic, and for good reason!  It’s a good old fashioned mystery game as you make guesses trying to guess who committed the crime.  My kids love getting to go from room to room and write their suspicious in their “clue notebook.”

Kids love Exploding Kittens!  It’s simple to learn and so much fun to play.  The idea behind the game is so unique and original.  There is a little bit of strategy involved, but not necessary to enjoy the game.

Sequence

I grew up playing Sequence and it’s been fun to introduce it to my kids again.  It’s a very simple strategy, easy enough for young kids to follow.

Sequence Game

For Sale

For Sale is a game of buying properties and then selling properties.  It requires a little bit of strategy and a little bit of luck.  It’s easy for kids to understand and fun enough for adults to enjoy.  This travel version is cheaper than the original version, and more compact!

For Sale - Travel Edition

 

I’m always looking for new games to play with my family.  Comment below with YOUR favorite games!

 

Family · For the kids · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Homemade · Parenting · Recipes

Light and Fluffy Pancake Recipe

I love to make my kids pancakes for breakfast!  They are easy to whip up, VERY cheap to make, and always a huge hit with everyone in my family.  The only problem is that I am extremely picky about my pancakes!

I have spent YEARS (seriously.) trying dozens and dozens of different pancake recipes.  Some have been to sweet, others have ingredients I don’t commonly have in my house.  A few of the recipes had pancakes turn out way to flat.

I came across this recipe about 8 years ago…and we haven’t looked back since!  The pancakes are easy to make, ingredients are always stocked in my cupboards, and they turn out light and fluffy every single time!  It is a winner!

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Light and Fluffy Pancake Recipe

Ingredients

2 cups flour

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

4 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup oil

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk you can use milk, but I recommend buttermilk)

Instructions

In a large bowl stir all of the dry ingredients together.  In a separate bowl mix the oil, eggs and milk.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until mixed.

Pour 1/4 cup batter on hot griddle.  Bake until bubbles appear.  turn.  Bake the other side until golden brown.

Enjoy!

These pancakes are also so easy to freeze!  Find out how here:  Stock Piling your Freezer: How to freeze Pancakes for a Quick Frugal Breakfast

You might also enjoy my overnight oats recipe:  Quick and Easy Overnight Oatmeal

 

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25 Completely Free Family Winter Activities

 Sweet Frugal Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

I absolutely love the snow!  I love to snowmobile, sled, and snowboard.  I love waking up to a fresh blanket of new snow and the sparkle it makes in the sunlight.

The only negative about the snow is that it’s so cold!!  Unfortunately, I live in an area where it stays cold for many many months!  We all get a little stir crazy around here being cooped up for so long.   I’ve learned to get creative during these cold months to help us stay sane and stay in budget!

2019 Goals

Fun In the Snow

1.  Sledding

Try a few sledding hills around town.  See if you can find a new favorite.  Enjoy spending the day laughing with friends and family.

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2.  Snow Cave

Spend the day outside building a snow cave as a family.  You could even have a contest to see who can build the best.  Turn it into a castle, add some stairs or windows.  Get creative and have fun!

3.  Snow Candy

We fell in love with Snow Candy a few years ago after reading the Little House on the Prairie series. Simply place a bowl outside while it’s snowing.  When the bowl is full of fresh clean snow, immediately bring it in and pour pure maple syrup on top.  The syrup will harden to make a sweet treat!

4.  Winter Walk/Scavenger Hunt

Bundle up and go for a walk in the freshly fallen snow.  Make a game of it by putting together a list of different items to find; a pine cone, icicle, boot tracks, animal tracks, a snowman, etc.

5.  Snowball Fight

Have a family friendly snowball fight.  This is guaranteed to bring a lot of laughs and memories!

6.  Build a Snowman

Why build one snowman when you can build a family of snowmen???  Have everyone build the snowman that fits their unique personality!

7.  Snow Ice Cream

Search Pinterest to find hundreds of easy snow ice cream tutorials. It is a simple recipe using a few cheap ingredients.  This is a fun way to enjoy the snow…while staying indoors!

 

Fun at Home

8.  Movie Night

Snuggle up together, pop some popcorn and have a family movie night.  Watch a few old classics or try something new.  All that matters is that you are spending time together.

9.  Bake Bread

I love spending cold winter days in my kitchen baking something warm.  Try baking a loaf of homemade bread!  Lather it with homemade butter and eat it together as a family.

10.  Homemade Cocoa

It only takes a couple of minutes and a few ingredients to make a big batch homemade cocoa.  Make the hot chocolate together as a family and enjoy sipping it next to a warm cozy fire.

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11.  Family Slumber Party

Haul blankets, pillows and sleeping bags onto the living room floor.  Have a large family slumber party together.  Your kids will remember this forever!

12.  Read a Novel as a Family

My family loves to read a novel together every winter.  I usually pick a classic and read it to the kids for 20-30 minutes every evening.  A few favorites have been Little House on the Prairie, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.

13.  Paper Snowflakes

Spend an afternoon cutting out paper snowflakes and hanging them around your home.  We like to tape a few to the windows and use invisible thread to hang some from the ceiling.  You can find countless Youtube video tutorials.  This is such a fun, cheap and easy craft!

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14.  Play Dough

Make some homemade play dough at home!  Use it to build snowmen or other fun creations.  You can use my favorite recipe or search pinterest for other variations!

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15.  Indoor Picnic

You don’t have to have warm weather for a picnic!  Spread a blanket out on the floor, bring a few of your favorite picnic foods and enjoy a picnic indoors!

16.  Make a Fort

Gather all the blankets and chairs in your house and build a gigantic blanket fort.  Play games, read stories and spend the day hiding out in the fort.

17.  Make a Sock Snowman

All it takes is a little creativity and a few random items found around the house to turn an ordinary sock into a snowman!

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18. Board Games

We love board games in our family!  You can find some cheap ones at your local thrift store, but there are plenty of fun games played with just a deck of cards or dice.

19.  Make Friendship Bracelets

My kids love spending an afternoon making friendship bracelets!  You can do an easy braid or something fancier.  Be sure to make two bracelets!  One to give away and one to keep.

20.  Family Dance Party

Sometimes our family (or maybe just this tired mom! 😉 ) just needs a good old fashioned dance party!  We crank up a few of our fave dance tunes and dance the grumpy faces away!

 

Fun in Town

21. Visit the Library

The library offers a lot of free activities for everyone in the family.  Take advantage of all the many free programs and be sure to check out a book or movie while you are there!

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22.  Serve a Meal at a Homeless Shelter

There is nothing better for a child to learn than how to care for others.  Pick a day as a family to help serve a meal at the local homeless shelter.  This is such a humbling experience!

23.  Visit a Pet Store

It’s so simple, but so fun!  We love walking around the local pet store and visiting the cats, dogs, and birds.  My kids ask to go regularly and I never complain!

24.  Donate to a Thrift Store

As a family go through all of the toys, clutter, and household items.  Fill up a large box of items to donate to a thrift store.  It feels so good to start the new year fresh and clutter free!

25.  Visit a Neighbor

Do you have an elderly neighbor who might need a visit?  Or maybe someone new to the neighborhood?  As a family pay a special visit to someone needing company.  It’s a great way to brighten their day and get to know someone new!

 

What do you like to do with your family during the cold winter months????  Bonus points if it’s FREE!  Comment below with all your good ideas!

 

 

Family · Frugal Life

My 2019 New Years Goals

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of goals.  Goals keep me focused and motivated as I try to better myself.  With the new year right around the corner I decided to share a few of my new goals.

It’s fairly common for many of us to make goals….and then a few weeks later forget about them.  (please tell me that’s not just me!!)

Here are a few tricks I have started doing to make those goals actually happen.

  1.  Write the goals down
  2. Include Action Items (what steps will you take to meet these goals)
  3. Tell Someone (this keeps me accountable!)

2019 Goals

This year I decided to choose a word for each goal category.  The goal is that this word will be at the front of my mind and remind me of these resolutions.

Personal Goals

Personal 2019 Word of the Year:  Prioritize

It’s so easy to allow my priorities to slip.  This year I want to make time for the things that are truly important to me personally.  My health and daily scripture study are the two at the top of my list.

I have scheduled time each day for exercising.  I decided to do this in the evening because it just hasn’t been happening in the evenings!  I am hoping my husband keeps me accountable.  I have gotten into a habit of reading my scriptures daily, I am hoping to continue that into the new year with a focus on more STUDYING what I read.

Family Goals

Family 2019 Word of the Year:  TIME!

As much as I have tried to stop them, my kids continue to grow!!  ;( Every time I blink they seem to be a little older and a little more independent.  This year I want to focus on TIME, enjoying the time I have with my kids NOW, before that time is gone.

We have made a goal to go on a small family trip each year and have one planned not to far from home.  I am also going to work on spending more intentional time with each of my children.  I have made the goal to take them each out on monthly dates and to put my phone away when they are in the same room as me.

Business Goals

Business 2019 Words of the Year:  Organize and Monetize

My business gets two words this year!

Last year I launched my business Sweet Frugal Life on a complete whim.  I assumed nobody would care about my opinion and that I wouldn’t even enjoy it.  I have really enjoyed blogging and watching my business grow.  This year I am no longer growing it on a whim and instead want to organize it and be more professional and intentional with the time spent on it.

I would also like to learn how to turn this business into something that actually makes money!  I am learning everyday and have committed to learning what I need to do to make this business successful.

Financial Goals

Financial 2019 Word of the Year:  Growth

This is an obvious word!  We all want it! We have spent a lot of money the past few years (building a house is expensive!) and now I want to start seeing growth.

We are increasing our emergency savings by 6%, increasing retirement savings by 1% and trying to save $5,000 for a new vehicle.

 

What goals do you have for the new year?  Let me know below in the comments!

Family · Finances · Frugal Life · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Parenting

My Story: The nightmare experience that changed me from Spender to Saver

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I’ve tried to write this story many, many times.

I’ve typed, and deleted more times than I can count.

It’s hard to share about a time in my life when my thoughts were so dark, my joy completely gone, and my shoulders heavy with burdens.  This is a time in my life when I would wake up every single morning with tears in my eyes and panic in my chest.  The moment I opened my eyes was the hardest part of my day.  The realization that I was going to have to live another dark day was almost more than I could bear.

I still have some PTSD from this situation.  My heart still clenches every time someone says the word “unemployed.”  The memories come back into my mind and I am reminded about the pain and stress during this time of my life.  It is hard to talk about, hard to relive it all.

And, yet, I know that others deal with much worse.  This small trial in my life is so small compared to what others go through.  I am so embarrassed that I wasn’t able to handle it all with more strength and courage.  I am embarrassed that it affected me so deeply and sent me into a dark depression.  I am embarrassed that others go through heartache after heartache, burden after burden, all with a smile on their face……and I couldn’t even handle this.  It makes me feel weak and full of shame.  I wish I would have, could have been stronger and better through it.  But, I wasn’t.

4 years ago my husband came home and told me he had lost his job.

My world immediately came crashing down on me.  I still shed tears every October 8 at 1:36 PM.  The moment everything changed.

The next 7 months was a nightmare.

I found myself checking and rechecking our bank account.  Calculating and recalculating how much we spend each month and how much we can cut out.  Every penny spent was like a kick in the gut.

I found myself worrying about all of the “what ifs.”  What if he can’t find another job.  What if we have to relocate (for the 4th time!).  What if I have to go back to work and leave my favorite job in the world as Stay at Home Mom.  What if we will never be able to afford to retire.  What if we won’t be able to send our kids to college.  What if we have to take my daughters out of gymnastics and piano lessons.  What if we can’t afford to buy the kids Christmas presents.  What if life will never be the same again.  What if we lose everything.

I worried about my husband.  Worried about his confidence, self-esteem, and pride.  I worried about my children.  I worried about the stress and burden they would have to feel.  I worried about our future, our present, and everything in between.

We began conversations about medicaid, unemployment and food stamps.

We felt like failures.  Failures as parents.  Failures as adults.  Failures as people.

We didn’t want anybody to know.  We didn’t want the judgments or the whispers.  They all found out……but nobody said anything, and that felt almost worst.

We wanted everyone to stop pretending like everything was normal.  As neighbors would smile at me and say in passing, “Hey, how’s it going?”  I knew the response they expected was, “Good, how are you?”  When really I wanted to scream at them, “I am miserable!  My husband is miserable!  We are crying every second behind closed doors and yet here you are wanting me to smile and make fake conversation!”

Or, there was the family members who planned a family get together that would require everyone to spend a lot of money in order to come.  I couldn’t understand how anyone could be so inconsiderate.  Do they not realize that we have ZERO money coming in right now and every penny spent feels like we are one step closer to living on the streets?  It hurt.  It hurt really bad.

These are not easy things to admit.  I told you that I wasn’t in a good place at this time.  A better person would have handled it all better.  A better person wouldn’t have gotten so upset…..but I wasn’t that person, and I am ashamed by it.

Not everyone was insensitive to our situation.  Their was the neighbor that held me for 10 minutes as I cried and cried.  My sister who allowed me to vent all of my frustrations day in and day out and never judged or condemned my feelings.  My dad who hired my husband for odd jobs and used his personal connections to try to network for us.  The many secret envelopes of money that showed up at our doorstep right in time for Christmas.  We had many many earthly angels placed in our life at this time.

My husband is an amazing man and an extremely hard worker.  He immediately updated his resume and spent every single day visiting local businesses, trying to network and make connections.  He would call and stay up to date with everywhere he placed his resume.  He spent hours browsing the internet looking for any new positions posted.  He picked up every side job he could find.  He hung Christmas lights, worked for a sod company, stained a pig pen, bottled milk at a dairy plant, and hired himself out as a handy man.

We started out with the hope that he would only be out of work for a few weeks.

Weeks turned into months.  7 months went by and he began sending his resume further and further away.

He had a few interviews.  He even had a job offer, which suddenly disappeared one day.  And that was my breaking point, the moment I felt as if I had been thrown in a deep dark hole and all hope was lost.

And then a miracle happened.

He decided to look on Craigslist again (which had always been a dead end in the past).  He found a job posting for what looked like the perfect fit.

The ironic thing about this posting is that this was the very first business he stopped by that first day of being out of work.  They had told him they weren’t hiring.  7 months had changed that.

He sent in his resume.  Didn’t hear anything.  He called them a week later to check up.  He was offered an interview.

He showed up for the interview the next day and was shocked when he was greeted by two of his good friends from college.  They had graduated in the same program together, worked on research projects together, and then had gone their separate ways.  That was 10 years ago.  These friends vouched for him and were a huge part of him getting this job.

The interview went well, but we had gotten our hopes up far to many times and feared another letdown.

Three days went by without a word.  Again, my husband called to check up on his status.  He was offered the job on the spot.  This was his dream job.  A perfect fit for him and our family.  Do you believe in a higher being?  Because I do.  And, I believe He helped my husband find this job.  The friends that were vital to him getting this position, both left the company just two months later.  Coincidence?  I think not.  This all happened as it was suppose to.

Why am I telling you this?

So that you understand why am I am the way that I am.

I am a natural spender.  (Read my post A Financial Tale of Two Sisters for more info on that).  Before this experience I lived fairly frugal.  I didn’t have any debt, I made 80% of our meals at home, and I tried to save a little from each paycheck.

Yet, I didn’t stick to a budget.  I didn’t blink an eye when I would drop $200 at Target.  I impulsed shopped.  I bought what I wanted, when I wanted.  I used the phrase, “I deserve this, so I will buy it” far more than I would like to admit.  I assumed life would always be easy and there was really no reason to worry about money.

I was wrong.  So very wrong.

When we spent these 7 months unemployed and I felt all of the many heartaches and pressures of finances, constantly worrying and wondering if we would have enough to survive; I learned just how important the value of a dollar is.

I vowed to never feel that way again.

I can’t control whether my husband loses his job again or not.  But, I can control my spending and my saving.

I realized that when there’s a will, there’s a way.

We learned to live life without ever going out to eat.  I figured out how to cut my grocery budget (something I had always deemed “impossible” before this).  I learned to shop at the thrift store, to use what we already had on hand.  I learned to say “no.”  I realized just how much unnecessary spending I had been doing, and just how wasteful it all was.  I learned that all of my excuses, were just that, excuses.  When we absolutely HAD to cut our spending, we DID it!

I worried a lot about my kids.  I didn’t want them to feel these adult burdens.

Immediately after losing his job, my husband and I sat our children down and told them through tears what had happened.  We explained to them that things were going to have to change as we needed to be more careful with our money.  Our kids cried and cried as we hugged them and told them everything would be ok…..all the while I was secretly wondering, “would it be ok?????

About 5 months into unemployment my oldest child announced, “Nothing has really changed!  It feels the same as it did before!”  I was so relieved to hear her say this.

The thing is, everything had changed.  I was spending 75% less each month than I had been before.  Yet, my kids were obviously not hurting.  This taught me that kids do NOT need a lot of money spent on them in order for them to be happy.  They were perfectly content with the simple life we had created.

This is why I am frugal.  This is why I would rather have money in the bank than stuff in my house.  Saving money brings me the security and assurance that we will be taken care of if we ever find ourselves in this situation again.

I have learned that I can live on MUCH less than I had originally thought.

It is not always easy for me to live frugally.  I make mistakes, I get lazy.  But, when the thoughts and emotions of those horrific 7 months come back to my mind I am reminded that it is ALL worth it!

And THIS is why a spender learned to be a saver.  THIS is why I live a frugal life.

 

 

Christmas · Family · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Gift Ideas · Good Ideas · Holidays · Homemade · Recipes

Easy Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

Hot cocoa is such a fun staple to have in your home during these cold winter months.  My kids will spend hours playing outside in the snow and the first thing they ask for when they come inside is some hot chocolate!

Back in my “spender” days I use to buy hot chocolate mix at the store like it was nobody’s business!  Once I started learning how to save and live a frugal life I learned how to make hot chocolate mix from scratch and I have never looked back!

Not only does making your own hot cocoa save you money, it is also so quick and easy to do.  It also tastes much better than what you will buy from the store!

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Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1/2 cup powdered creamer

1/8 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Store in a tightly covered container.

To make hot chocolate:  Stir 1/4 cup mix with 3/4 cup boiling water.  Enjoy!

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We usually make this mix for our family to enjoy all winter, but it would also be a really frugal christmas gift for friends and neighbors.  Whip up a large batch, portion it into cute jars and tie a bow around it. Done!

 

Family · For the kids · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Parenting

Teaching Kids to Help with Family Chores: Including free chore chart printable

Teaching my kids how to work is a huge priority for me.  In today’s world with busy schedules and so many kids focused on screens, it’s hard to find the right way to instill a hard work ethic.

I’ve tried so many different methods to try to encourage my kids to be hard workers.  Many of those methods have failed, but the method we are using right now has been going strong for 5 years.  That’s definitely a record in my house!  I don’t know if it is teaching them the hard work ethic I desire, but I know it has been teaching them a lot about household chores and so I am happy with it!

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My cleaning system is nothing fancy, SO un-fancy in fact that it probably shouldn’t even be called a “system”! 😉

My kids have 4 main household chores that they are responsible for each week.

Bedrooms

The kids’ bedrooms are expected to daily be kept clean and tidy, including making their bed each day.  This usually only takes 5 minutes each morning, sometimes more or less.  Once a week they are required to vacuum and clean their rooms.  I always check on Saturdays to make sure they did what was asked of them and to verify that they haven’t stuffed anything under the bed or in their closets.  😉  One of my printables includes our Bedroom Responsibilities chart.  This is hung up in each of my kids rooms so they can make sure the chores are completed correctly.

Dishes

We have three “Dish Duties” that we rotate each week between our three kids.  These duties are:  Load the Dishwasher, Sweep the Floor, and Wipe the Counters.  After our nightly dinner the family all cleans up the dishes together with the kids each helping with their specific assignment.

Household Chore

Each week my kids are assigned a Household Chore.  The Household Chore is usually centered around a room in the house; one that the entire family uses, so we all need to help keep it clean.  These chores are rotated each week through each of the kids.

Our current list of household chores are:

-Kitchen

-Bathroom

-Great Room

-Basement Family Room

-Your Choice

I include a Your Choice week so that the kids have one week where they can have a little control over the area they clean.  They really look forward to this week!  The Your Choice options are:

-Do the Laundry

-Wash the Walls

-Clean the Car

-Clean out the Refrigerator

-Wash the Windows

These household chores are rotated weekly between each child.  This way everyone gets an equal amount of turns with each chore.

Paid Chore

I assign my kids one paid chore each month.  (other paid chores are given when they request it).  Our paid chores revolve around taking care of our animals (six chickens, one dog and one cat).  They will ONLY get paid if the chore is completed.  These chores are rotated monthly and the kids are paid monthly.

You can read my article Teaching Kids Smart Money Habits to learn more about my views on giving kids an allowance.

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This is how we do chores in our house.  Are my kids perfect?  No way!  Am I perfect?  Not even close!  But, we are trying.  And for now, this is what has been working for us.

I have turned my Family Chore Chart and Chore Responsibilities into free printables for you!  These are the exact charts we use!  You can get them emailed to you by following this link:  Free Chores for Kids Printables.

How to Use Chore Chart Printables

I highly suggest laminating the Family Chore Chart after printing it.  Or, you can just stick it in a page protector like I do!  😉  This way I can use a dry erase marker to write down all of the chores and adjust them each week.

You will want to cut the Clean Chores printables into sections and laminate each section.  This is obviously not necessary, but I have found it helps to keep the instructions more durable with my kids use.

I keep the chore instructions hung up in a bag for my kids to pull out of when it is their turn for that particular chore.

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I truly believe one of the greatest gifts we can give a child is teaching them how to work.  They WILL look back one day and thank you for giving them this gift.  I whined and yelled and cried and complained and told my parents they were the meanest in the world…..but I grew up….and I realized just how GRATEFUL I am that they taught me how to work!

The saying says there is more than one way to train a horse!  That falls true with kids too!  This is what works for my kids, you might find something different that works for your family.  All that matters is that we are TRYING.  Keep trying mamas!  We got this!