frugal living

What the kids & I are into these days No. 2

After my previous post What the kids & I are into these days, I really enjoyed the feedback from you all about the products, shows, etc that your family is into.  So I thought I’d write another post and keep the conversation going!  So here are a few more things rocking our world right now.

Sling TV

slingWe have been cable-free for most of our 15 years of marriage, mostly because we are ridiculously cheap frugal.  So we normally have an exterior HD antenna (like this one) for our local channels and Netflix.  This works GREAT, especially since it costs a whopping total of $8/month.  The only drawback is that we can’t watch many sports.. and we love us some football around here.  So last fall we decided to cancel Netflix and give Sling TV a try.  We loved it!  I’ll do my best to explain it.  Sling TV is an a la carte live cable service with no contract.  Their basic package is $20 a month and includes CNN, ESPN, Disney Channel and lots more (see pic).  Not only can you watch shows live, but there are also many previous episodes available to watch.  You need a device to stream Sling and we purchased a Roku to do this.  If you prepay your first 3 months of Sling TV, you can get a Roku from them for 50% off (info here).

What we loved:

  • Watching live sports
  • Disney movies
  • Live news
  • Movies on AMC
  • House Hunters, Duck Dynasty and of course Fixer Upper!

What we didn’t like:

  • Commercials.  We’re SO not used to commercials since we’ve had Netflix for so long.  I am amazed at how evil some of them can be!  So I had to stay close if my kids were watching.
  • There wasn’t as much for kids as there is on Netflix.

So we kept Sling TV through the football season, then cancelled it and resumed Netflix for the kids and to save money.  We’re planning to switch back when football season is here (go Noles!)

The Book of Virtues

book of virtuesI love to read aloud to my kids.  And I love classic literature.  The Book of Virtues combines both, so it makes the perfect addition to your home library.  Right now we are reading one or two short passages each morning.  The book is a collection of “moral stories” and is categorized by character quality, such as self-discipline, compassion, etc. You will find classic poems, Bible stories, writings by America’s founding fathers and much more.  Here’s an excerpt from one of our favorite poems called Boy Wanted…

A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl.

A boy who does not smoke and has no desire to learn how.

A boy who never bullies other boys or allows boys to bully him.

A boy who, when he does not know a thing, says, “I do not know”; and when he has made a mistake says, “I’m sorry”; and, when requested to do anything, immediately says, “I’ll try.”

How great is that?!

Trikke Carving Scooter

trikkeMy kids don’t play with toys.  I don’t get it.  But I’ve given up.  The truth is that they want to be outside playing with their friends, climbing trees, building fires, chopping down trees, fishing and piling way too many people into a paddleboat.  So when it’s time to make Christmas lists for the grandparents, I’m always on the hunt for anything that they can use outside.  Two years ago I hit the jackpot with these Trikke Carving Scooters.  Granted, these things are expensive, but hear me out.  They are equally fun for my 4 year old and my 13 year old, meaning this toy has lasting power!  It can either be powered by one leg like a traditional scooter, or by standing on it with both feet and twisting your body back and forth.  And they go really fast if you want them to.  I can’t say enough about how much we love these!

 

Now it’s your turn!  What is your famiy into these days?

 

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Birthday gifts:: How I managed to cut back on what we spend

carrieschuessler.wordpress.comIf your kids are at least preschool age, you know the reality of the birthday party scene.  For the next many years, you will spend a fair amount of Saturdays sitting next to a bouncy castle, eating carrot sticks Olaf noses and making small talk to people you’ve just met.  And all these parties will require a trip to the store where you’ll try to guess which princess or super hero the birthday kid is into, gawk at how much toys cost, then realize you need to spend $8 more on a card, bag and tissue paper.  Geez, did I really just spend $30 on a present for a child we barely know?

Disclaimer: This is not a post about being stingy.  I love generosity.  And God does too.  It’s His thing for sure.  This is a post about balance and perspective.

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Forget the glitzy gifts. What kids really want on their birthday is to feel special.

Take a moment and try to add up how much you’ve spent in the last 4 months on scenarios like I described above.  Yikes. Probably more than we’d all like to admit.  Let’s say you went to 8 birthday parties and spent $30 on each one.  That’s $240. (Thanks to homeschooling, my math skillz are impressive).  So, is it fair for me to tell my daughter I can’t afford dance lessons this spring, but I can spend $240 on kids in her preschool class?  Now, maybe you’re in a great financial place and you don’t have to make those kinds of trade-offs.  That’s great.  But I’m guessing I’m not the only mom on a tight budget.

So how do we cut back?  After all, birthday parties are major social events for the preschool and elementary school crowd.  My kids count down the days, sometimes hours until they happen.  Well, here’s a few ideas:

1. We don’t go to every party.  It’s okay to pick and choose.  Go to all your besties’ parties, but maybe not to all the school ones or the football team ones or the I-think-we-met-at-the-library-once ones.

2. Start a “Gift Box.”  In my house, this is a cardboard box in my laundry room.  When I find things on clearance, I buy them and throw them in there.  Hit up the end-of-summer clearance at Target.  Grab some water guns, bathing suits, bubbles and beach toys.  Put them in your gift box and then pull them out for next year’s summer birthdays.  Instead of spending $20 on a full-price water gun, you can spend $10 and give them a water gun and a fun bathing suit.  Keep the gift box stocked all year and you’ll save a ton.

3. Think outside the toy box.  (See what I did there?)  Instead of the toy aisle, head for the craft or grocery store.  Do they love to draw?  Grab a sketchbook and good pencils with your Joann’s coupons.  Do they like to cook?  Buy them their own apron, measuring cups and cookbook at Ross.  No, these might not get the oohs and ahhs at the party, but they may get the most enjoyment later on.

4. Buy wrapping supplies on clearance.  Just a few days ago I scored a bunch of solid red wrapping paper at Ikea for $0.50 a roll.  It’s from Christmas, but who cares?  It’s solid red.  Add some bakers twine and I’ve got myself some Pinterest-worthy gift wrap.  Also, the dollar store sells brown kraft paper for $1 a roll.  Leave it plain or let your kids jazz it up with some markers.  Keep an eye out for bags and white tissue paper on clearance and stock up.  Oh, and don’t forget to save the bags you get from parties, if they are in good shape.

4. Skip the card.  I just saved you $4.  You’re welcome.  Grab some construction  or computer paper, stickers, whatever.  Sit your kid down and have them draw or write something.  Honestly, I adore these kinds of cards and they are usually the only ones we keep around here.

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My daughter received this journal about 4 birthdays ago and she still uses it! It wasn’t a toy, but it was still a wonderful gift.

5. Stop caring what other parents think of you.  Seriously, I could write an entire series on this.  Your identity is in Christ, not in the fact that your gift got the most squeals from the kid (or the parents.)  Oh, how much better life would be if we all (me included!) would live this out.

Now, there is a time that I gladly break all these rules.  When I buy gifts for family.  Nothing out of the gift box.  We go to the store, grab just that perfect gift and wrapping paper.  We might even buy the musical $6 card.  But that’s only a few times a year and I always look forward to it.

Last thing.  Can your kids remember who got them what and how it was wrapped from their last birthday?  Probably not. Do you know what kids want?  To feel special on their birthday. So skip the glityz gifts and wrapping and instead show that birthday kid that they are the most special one in the whole world, even if you’ve only met them twice at karate.

How do you manage the birthday scene?  Comment below and let me hear your ideas!