Birthday · Family · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Parenting

LEGO Birthday Party for Under $20

We had an exciting birthday at our house recently!  My son turned six years old!.  It didn’t take him long to decide that he wanted a LEGO themed birthday party with all of his friends..  He loves all things LEGO and I was excited to make this party all come together.

I wanted to give him a special birthday, but I also wanted to spend the LEAST amount of money as possible.  And, I DID it!  The party was a huge success, and I spent LESS than $20!  I’ll break down everything that I did and each of the expenses.

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The Invitations:  $0

Sticking with the theme we (obviously) wanted LEGO themed invitations, and to save money I committed to only using supplies I already had at home.

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The invites were made out of red and orange card stock cut into a rectangle.  I cut out six circles per card in matching colors to glue to the front.  I had a little foam eraser that wasn’t being used so I cut a small circle from that and glued it under each circle.  This helped the circles look a little more 3D and resemble a LEGO design.

Inside the LEGO invite was just a simple typed up paper with all of the party info.  It only took me a few minutes to whip it up on my computer!

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My son adored these invitations, and didn’t cost me any money Big win!

The Decorations:  $4

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I tried to go fairly simple on the decorations (these are 6 year old boys we are talking about….I don’t think they even noticed much of the decor!).

First stop is ALWAYS The Dollar Tree!  While there I bought a pack of balloons and a couple rolls of streamers.  I tried to focus on the classic LEGO colors of red, yellow, green and blue. I used these items to decorate throughout the house.

For the table center piece I grabbed a few of our mason jars from our storage room and filled them with some LEGOs from our collections.  These also ended up being so fun for the kids to build with while they were waiting for me to serve the cake.

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The total for decorations came to only $4!

The Food:  $6

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To cut costs on food, I decided to have cake the only food served at the party.  I made the cake from scratch, spent $2 on the frosting, and $3 for the Oreos used on top.

I had big goals of decorating the cake to look like a giant LEGO.  Truthfully, it didn’t turn out great…..but, my son thought it was the coolest cake ever, and that’s all that matters!

The cake was so simple to make.  I cooked the batter in a 9×13 pan and then frosted it with blue frosting.  I also frosted the Oreos with the same frosting and placed them on top so that it would resemble a LEGO.  My kids told me that the cake needed the word LEGO on the Oreos, so I used a toothpick to include write out the word.

These darling LEGO themed plates were also found at The Dollar Tree (of course!).  I had plastic cups and forks already at home so I used them on the table as well. I decided instead of buying a plastic tablecloth (like I usually do), that I would just use a fabric tablecloth that I already owned!  It worked out perfect!

Out of all the categories, I spent the most money on food.  The total came to $6.

The Games:  $2

Honestly, I don’t love planning birthday party games.  It always feels so stressful to me.  I decided to go a little more simple and stress free this year, and it seemed to work!  A plus side is simple is that also usually means less money (and I always like spending less!)!

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We started with “Pin the Head on the LEGO Man.”  It was a huge hit!  The kids loved getting to choose from the variety of fun faces.  I found the printable here.

Another fun game was “Don’t Eat Pete.”  The favorite part was getting to be the one to go out of the room and try not to eat Pete.  We made sure everyone had a turn (or two!) and it was so fun.  I found this printable here.

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Another fun (and easy) game was the LEGO treasure hunt.  I hid a bunch of our LEGOs around our yard.  The kids all ran around trying to find as many as they could.  (kindof like an easter egg LEGO hunt! 😉 )

Once we found all of the LEGOs I split the kids into two teams for a LEGO on the spoon relay race!  Each team was given a bucket of LEGOs and a spoon.  They had to walk with a LEGO on their spoon across the yard a little ways and drop their LEGO into another bucket.  The first team to successfully bring all of their LEGOs across wins!  It was so fun watching all those little boys trying to run fast AND balance their LEGO!

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Our last game was probably the favorite!  I spray painted two boxes (I bought the spray paint for $2), and then cut two holes in each box.  The kids had to stand at some tape I put on the ground and try to throw a ball into one of the holes.  This was a little hard for most of the kids, which created a fun challenge.  They wanted to play this game for a few rounds to try to get the ball in each of the holes.

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I have decided simple really is the best way to go!  I was A LOT less stressed this time and I only spent a total of $2 for all of the games!

The Party Favors:  $5

I really struggled trying to come up with a cute yet frugal LEGO themed party favor.  I was THRILLED when I found these cute little LEGO boxes at The Dollar Tree.  They came in a pack of 4 for $1, so I bought 2 packs.  I also bought three packs of Starbursts for $1 each.

I filled each of the boxes with a few pieces of Starbursts candy and the kids LOVED them!  I thought the candy would be the hit, but the favorite was definitely having their very own little box. It ended up being the PERFECT favor, and I only spent $5!

The Total:  $17

In total I spent $17!  I was so thrilled that I was able to pull this party off without having to spent a lot of money.

I’ve realized that kids REALLY don’t care how extravagant the party is….all my son wanted was to have a few friends over, blow out candles on his birthday cake, and open a few presents.

He didn’t notice that the party was all done on a very small budget.  All he noticed was that his family and friends were taking the time to show him some love.  And you know what….THAT is ALL that matters!

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Affiliate · Amazon · Family · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Homemade · Parenting · Recipes

How to Make Ice Cream in a Bag

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I’ve always said that I was born in the wrong decade!  I truly yearn for the simple life of the early 1900s.  I think that’s partly why I love being frugal.  I get so much satisfaction from growing and making my own food; and living a simpler, less materialistic life.

When we make our own ice cream it reminds me of simpler times.  It’s a way for the entire family to make our very own ice cream, no need to go to an ice cream parlor or the grocery store.  We can do it on our own!

We always have ice cream in a bag on our summer bucket list.  It’s easy (the kids can do it themselves!).  It’s cheap.  It’s fun.  I almost always have all of the ingredients on hand.  And, who doesn’t love ice cream on a hot summers day????  I know we do!

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Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag Recipe

1 cup Half and Half (I usually just use plain milk and it works just as good!)

2 TBSP Sugar

Favorite Mix-Ins:  any combination of the following

1 TBSP vanilla

1 TBSP cocoa

Chocolate Syrup

Fruit

Mix half and half, sugar and one or more mix ins (we used cocoa) in a quart size Ziploc freezer bag.

In a gallon size Ziploc freezer bag dump in a lot of ice and about 1/2 cup ice cream salt (I never measure this, I just kind of guess).

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Take the quart size bag with the ice cream ingredients and get out all the air and seal it shut.  Make sure the bag is sealed tight so no salt will get inside.  Place the quart size bag inside of the gallon size bag.

Now for the fun part.  You shake it!  This takes about 5-10 minutes of HARD shaking. It’s important to be shaking it constantly. I will usually help my little kids to make sure it gets nice and frozen.

Once the milk mixture looks frozen, take the quart size bag out and rinse it under cold water.  This helps to wash off any excess salt.

Pour it into your bowl, top with sprinkles if you’d like, and ENJOY!  I love the simplicity of this activity, and the excitement the kids get out of making their very own personal ice cream!

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!  It’s fun to try to make different flavors!  My daughter had the idea to use a little mint extract and chocolate chips in our next batch for our own chocolate mint flavor!  There is really no right or wrong combo!

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Bargain Buys · Family · Finances · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Parenting · Recipes · Walmart Grocery Pickup

What I Learned From the July Pantry Challenge

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I just finished my month long pantry challenge!!  If you’re not aware of the term, a pantry challenge is meant to encourage you to use up items you already have in your home, (pantry, fridge, freezer, shelves, etc.), instead of spending money at the store on groceries.

My goal was to save a little extra money during the month by spending less on groceries.  To do this I decided to cut my regular grocery budget of $400 a month in half.  This would mean I could only spend $200 for our family of five.  This was no easy task and I was incredibly intimidated from the beginning, but I was determined to make it work.

The pantry challenge is now officially over (thank goodness) and I am proud of how the challenge went.  I would LOVE to say that I was able to only spend $200 on groceries….but I didn’t quite accomplish that.  I went over budget by $1.98.  I spent $201.98 on groceries for our family of five….and you know what I am so PROUD of MYSELF!!!

I wanted to share all about how I was able to make it work and what I learned during the process.

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Make a Plan

The ONLY way I could be successful with this pantry challenge was to plan ahead. I’ve always been a meal planner, but I learned quickly I needed to be much more detailed about planning every snack and meal.

At the beginning of each week I looked through my pantry, made an inventory of all our food.  I wrote down the meals and snacks we could make with what we ALREADY had in the house.

I was able to eat out of the pantry exclusively about 50% of the time.  The other 50% of the meals I tried to only plan really frugal meals with only a few cheap ingredients I would need to buy.  This meal planner that I use is available as a Free Printable in my Free Frugal Living Challenge.

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Successful Meal Plans

I listed out a few of the meals and snacks I found to be the most helpful in keeping the grocery costs low.  A few of these recipes (starred) are also available for free in my Frugal Living Challenge.

Breakfasts

*Fluffy Eggs

Pancakes

Eggs and Toast

Oatmeal

*Breakfast Potato Casserole

*Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Lunch

Muffin Tin Lunch

Sandwiches

Salad from Garden

Leftovers

Dinner

*Freezer Burritos

Layered Zuchinni

Spaghetti

*Taco Soup

*Balsamic Chicken

Pasta Bake

*Taco Tortilla Soup

Grilled Chicken

*Korean Beef

*Baked Island Chicken

Snacks

Pretzels

Homemade Cookies

Energy Bites

Popcorn

Canned Fruit

Bananas

Homemade Pudding

Homemade Bread

Grocery Shopping

I am a little obsessed with grocery shopping using Walmart Grocery Pickup (hello, shopping in my PJs and groceries loaded in the car FOR ME!  Sign me up!).

With my $200 monthly grocery budget, I was only allowed $50 a week.  One of my favorite things about Walmart Grocery Pickup is the ability to watch my cart total while I’m shopping.  (I know I COULD use a calculator at the store, but I’m just not great at it….) Being able to see how much I’m spending WHILE I’m shopping was crucial for me during this challenge.

If my cart ever went over the $50 amount I knew I needed to go back through the cart and delete a few items.  This was MUCH harder to do than I had anticipated!  My family all had to sacrifice a few items we were use to having regularly in order to make the month work.

Getting the Family Involved

I would LOVE to tell you that my family was totally on board and excited about my little July Pantry Challenge Experiment……but, they didn’t really love the idea.  When they saw the amount of food I was bringing home with each grocery trip they started complaining about the lack of food.

I tried to get my kids excited about the goal and had them help me make a lot of our homemade snacks.  They liked being able to help and were somewhat excited at the thought of having a challenge.

Unfortunately, this only lasted a couple of weeks.  As the month went on they began to get a really tired of the challenge.  The biggest problem was the snacks.  They are use to having snacks in the pantry, and we just couldn’t have those this month.  I decided to make a list of snacks we did have available and I hung it on the fridge.  This helped them a lot!  I think they had gotten so use to those convenience snacks (not awesome parenting, I know) that they had forgotten about all the other great options we had.

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Even though my family didn’t necessarily ENJOY the pantry challenge, I am really glad they were able to go through it with me.  It was such a good life lesson for my kids to learn about stretching dollars and how much food really costs.

What I learned

My biggest takeaway from the July Pantry Challenge is that I CAN live on less than I usually do. Yes, it took A LOT more effort, (preparing a lot more food from scratch and a lot of time planning), but I CAN do it!  We survived.

Moving forward I have a new sense of motivation to stay in budget, shop my pantry, and really spend with a purpose.  I’ve always told myself the lie that I HAVE to spend money on this food because we NEED it……but, we don’t!  We were just fine having less food around.  I am excited to take this new knowledge and adjust my grocery shopping from here on out.

What’s Next

My pantry challenge is over!  Does this mean I get to spend a lot of money next month restocking my shelves?????  Absolutely NOT!

I will be going back to my regular grocery budget of $400 a month.  I will slowly try to restock my pantry, but I will always stay within that $400 budget.

I honestly was terrified for this challenge!  I really didn’t know if I would be able to meet my goal, $400 a month is usually a little bit of a challenge.  But I did it, and I’m so glad I was willing to try!  If you are wanting to find a way to save a little extra cash, try having your own personal Pantry Challenge.  Be sure to come back and let me know if you did it and how it went!!

Crafts · Family · for free · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Holidays · Parenting

Easy Fourth of July Craft: Fireworks Stamping

Is their really any holiday better than the 4th of July????  Sunshine.  BBQS.  Parades.  Family.  Friends.  Fireworks.  I love this holiday.

We have started celebrating a few weeks early with a couple of fun and easy Fourth of July crafts.  A lot of our crafts revolve around toilet paper tubes….because you really can’t get any cheaper than toilet paper tubes, right?!?!  This craft is one that we do every year.  It is so simple and easy!

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You will need to collect a few toilet paper tubes.  I used three toilet paper tubes so that I could have one for each color of paint:  red, white and blue.

Once I dug the toilet paper tubes out of the trash collected three toilet paper tubes, we began to cut around the bottom.  We cut thin strips, about half way up all around the tube.  Once your strips are all cut, fan them out so the bottom is flat.

Dip each toilet paper tube in paint and begin stamping on your paper.

Once our sky was full of fireworks we decided to sprinkle glitter on the paint to give it a little extra sparkle.  I used what I had at home, blue and gold.  I really liked the way the glitter helped the firework stamps to stand out.

We have our firework stamps hung up on the fridge.  It is a fun reminder of the Independence Day we get to celebrate soon!

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Crafts · Family · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Homemade · Parenting · Recipes

Peanut Butter Play Dough Recipe

My kids LOVE making play dough, and it is something we do often.  But, when we make Peanut Butter Play Dough they REALLY REALLY love it.

Peanut Butter Play Dough is such a great sensory activity for kids.  They can touch, see, smell, and even taste it.  That is my kids favorite part!  They love that they actually get to EAT the play dough.

It is so so easy to make peanut butter play dough.  It only takes three ingredients and a few minutes of your time.

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Peanut Butter Play Dough Recipe

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup honey

Mix all ingredients in bowl.  Stir well and knead until smooth.

That’s it!  So easy!  Let your kids play and enjoy!  We get out cookie cutters and knives and forks.  My kids can spend hours playing.

Fabulous DEALS Friday · Family · Frugal Life · Gift Ideas · Holidays

Fabulous DEALS Friday: Fathers Day Gifts all Under $15 Shipped!

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We have officially entered JUNE!  That means it’s time to start thinking about the perfect gift for all the fathers in our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I ALWAYS struggle trying to think of Fathers Day ideas.  A couple of years ago I started purchasing gifts for dads on Jane, and they have seemed to always be a hit.  A lot of them are easy to customize and personalize.  I started browsing today for my favorite (budget friendly!) gifts.  Here is what I found!

This personalized key chain is darling and would be the perfect gift for young kids to give to their dad.  It comes to only $13.58 shipped!

Gifts from the heart, that show meaning and love are ALWAYS my favorite gifts.  Which is exactly why I love this personalized memory book.  It comes with 45 blank pages for your child to personalize for dad with pictures and memories.  This is something as a parent I would treasure forever.  You can get it for just $8.48 shipped!

I love the look of this money clip.  What a sweet reminder for dad to carry around with him at all times.  It comes to only $13.49 after shipping.

This personalized fishing lure is the perfect gift for any dad who loves to fish!  There are 10 different saying options for you to choose the perfect one for your dad.  You can get the fishing lure for $10.99 shipped!

My husband would love this multi-tool bracelet.  This is a great option for the outdoors man in your life.  It includes several survival tools in case of an emergency, a few included are:  flint, knife, whistle, compass, and more!  You can choose your color and size that your man would want.  I just added this to my cart and it comes to $10.48 shipped!

Man Soap is perfect for all those men not wanting to smell like flowers after the shower.  😉  I like to keep a couple more “manly” scents in the shower so my husband doesn’t have to use my more “girly” scents.  These soaps have a variety of scents to choose from including “mechanics”, “mountain air”, and “sweet musk.”  It comes to just $7.48 shipped!

This is another gift I can see my husband loving.  If you have a handy man father/husband, this magnetic utility wristband looks perfect!  It comes to only $10.98 after shipping!

Let me know if you purchase anything!  I would love to hear what the fathers in your life are wanting this year!

 

Family · For the kids · Frugal Life · Parenting · Side Hustle

When FAMILY becomes more important than the SIDE HUSTLE

This week I walked away from a really great side hustle.

This was not an easy decision to make.  Not at all.

Did I enjoy it?  YES!

Did it earn me good money?  ABSOLUTELY!

Do we need the money? We can survive happily without it, but the money definitely HELPED!

Then WHY did I quit????

Let me back track for a bit.

Four years ago my husband lost his job.  It was a devastating, punch in the gut, slap in the face, completely unexpected thing to happen.  (This is a whole other story for a different day, but the experience shook me.)  I spiraled into a depression and struggled every day to get out of bed.  I was constantly worried.  Worried about our future and about our present.  Worried about how we were going to raise three kids on…..virtually nothing at the time.  This experience has shaped a lot of my views on money that I have today.

Long story short, after 7 long months my husband was able to find another job (and even a better job).  This released a huge burden from my shoulders, but I still felt guarded and uncertain.  (I even tried keeping good news from everyone I knew because I was worried about letting that guard down and didn’t want to celebrate).

I decided then and there that I was not going to leave our financial well being in the fate of someone elses hands.  I was going to begin actively contributing to the family finances.

I am a stay at home mom, and that has always been my first and most important job.  I take this job very seriously and knew I needed to keep it as a priority.

That was when I settled on teaching piano lessons out of my home.  Now, I KNOW that this little side hustle really wasn’t going to make a HUGE impact on our financial situation.  But, in my fragile worried little mind, it was calming to me to at least be doing SOMETHING to make a little money.

I started out small and only accepted a few students.  I found that I LOVED it!  I loved teaching and spending time with my students.  I also found that I loved earning money; the paycheck was small, but after over a decade of not earning money it felt really good to be having a little personal income.  I began accepting more students and grew my waiting list.

This went on for three years and I was ecstatic.  I was making money!  I was contributing to our family finances!  I had my own business!  YET, I was STILL doing what I loved most and being a SAHM.  It really felt like the perfect opportunity for me.

And it was perfect…until it just wasn’t anymore.

During my third and final year teaching piano I began to struggle finding the right balance between my job as a full time mom, and my side hustle as a piano teacher.  My kids were spending more and more time watching TV and arguing with each other (I would talk to my kids about this again and again, but it was difficult to enforce while I was with a student), and I began to feel myself slipping.  I didn’t like that I wasn’t giving 120% to my job as a SAHM anymore.  I didn’t like that I wasn’t being there for my kids in those moments I NEEDED to be there.  I knew at this point that I was going to have to give something up; I was going to have to learn to be okay with not being the mom I wanted to be, or I needed give up my piano teaching side hustle.

I chose to give up the side hustle.

Now, I am all for side hustles.  I am all for making more money.  I am all for teaching your kids responsibility and independence from you.  I just realized that the piano teaching wasn’t the right fit for ME personally.

We all have our own ideas of our lives and the type of person who we want to be….and neither way is right or wrong.  My kids spend a lot of time at school, and at friends houses and at extra curricular activities and I decided that during those few precious hours when they were at home and awake I wanted to be present for THEM.  I wanted to be able to drive them to the places they needed to be, referee their fighting, and spend quality time together.

This doesn’t mean I am giving up the side hustle.  I still feel very strongly that I would like to contribute to our family finances.  It really helps calm my anxiety to make a little bit of money.  I just need to find a better fit for me and for my family.  Something during the day hours when the kids are at school, or the night hours when they are asleep.

 

I talk a lot about saving money and making money and sacrificing to have more money.  And I agree with all of that 100%.  However, never lose focus on the things that matter MOST.  What matters most will be different to every person. Spend wisely.  Budget.  Side hustle.  Do what you need to do by all means.  But, never do it at the sacrifice of the relationships that are very most important to you.  Money comes and go.  Things wear out and break.  Relationships are what matters.  I will NEVER get back these years with my kids.  They are growing (to to fast!) and before I know it I will have all the time in the world to work as hard as I want.  But.  For now, for me.  I am choosing my kids and my family over the side hustle…..and I know I will never regret it.

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