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Monthly Archives: September 2010

September 19, 2010

Ask A Party Planner: How do you throw a kids party on a budget?

invite for the party

It is that time again my children are having their birthdays. This is one of those times when I spend money. I coupon shop so I can spend money on the “things” that are important to me. The one thing that is most important to me is making memories with my family. We always have a big party for the kids so we can invite everyone important to the kids and our family. It is unfortunate that our families do not live closer so our friends are like family to us.

I try my best to have a budget and I do. I can usually do this party for about $8 a person which includes venue, lunch, crafts, and cake.  I just bought 100 invites from Vista Print they were less than $20.00 shipped priority. We are not inviting 100 people but the picture on the front will be given to people who can’t come.

  • The first thing I do to save money is combine my son’s and daughter’s birthday party. The venue is big enough and I will do one age appropriate craft for each child’s friends.
  • Crafts will serve as the children’s take home gift instead of goody bags. Goody bags are expensive and I would rather spend my money on the event then the take home gifts.
  • I always shop ahead since we do a Halloween themed party every year.  I hit the store the day after Halloween and I buy the paper goods and additional decorations.
  • Then I buy something fun each year to add to my party theme.
  • Another tip I have is to borrow decorations from  friends.
  • I also had all our family buy the children a bounce house as their gift last year so we can have it for their party.
  • I suggest planning variations of the same party each year helps to control expenses.
  • I know what kind of food to buy and how much approximately I will need so I talk to the owner at Ashland Grill, Skip and we work out a number. He is wonderful and his lasagna is the best ever!  I can’t wait!
  • Finally, we also save money by not buying our children presents.  We explain their gift is their party.

I have my coupons ready so I can put my money where it belongs towards the family instead of paying full price for diapers, wipes, yogurt… etc. I have to say my Madame Deals coupon solution and a little work allow me to make a memory my children will not forget and frankly, that is all the motivation I need to clip towards our big party.

How do you save money while building memories?

Halloween Costumes on a Budget

making dollars changes

It is mid September and October will be here before we know it! I love fall- the cooler nights and changing colors are delightful! This also means that it is time to start thinking about Halloween costumes. I try not to spend very much money on my kids costumes. I can get away with it pretty easily since they are still young. I still allow them choices but guide them in the choice of costume based on what is available. I am sure this is not easily done when you have older kids! So here are a few ideas for saving money on costumes.

Make Your Own Costume

Get creative and make a homemade costume. I have seen some really cool costumes put together by creative kids and their parents. This option takes a bit of work so start thinking now!

Ben Static Cling

My nephew created his own costume three years ago since the one he wanted did not come in time. He went as Static Cling! He wore all black and then pinned socks and fabric softener sheets to his clothing. It was pretty creative, easy and cheap!

Trade Costumes

Last year I borrowed costumes from Amee and my Sister in Law. I allowed my boys to pick their costume based on what was available to borrow. They had so much fun trying every costume on (multiple times!). You could turn this in to a huge swap. Gather your friends and family and bring all costumes from the past few years. Or if you belong to a mom’s group or club, organize an exchange. Our local mom’s group usually puts together a spreadsheet online of available costumes. Everyone emails with the details of  the costumes that they have available. It makes it affordable for everyone!

Buying Halloween Costumes

Scarecrow Costumes

Start looking for costumes now. If you like to yard sale, start looking for costumes. Two years ago my boys went as scarecrows. I found both of their costumes at Yard Sales I had attended in the summer. Another place to checkout is thrift stores and GoodWill.

There are several places to order from online. First off, start by searching on Ebay or Craigslist. You may score a good deal on a used costume if you look now. GoodWill is online as well and they have a few costume items.

Buy Costumes offers a daily deal on Halloween items. They offer Five deals a day for under $5. Check back daily for new deals! If you buy $40 or more use code vamp10 to get an additional 10% off.

Costume Kingdom is offering 10% off with code SPOOKY and they offer FREE shipping with a $65 purchase.

Pretty Party Place is another site I came across offering costumes. They are also offering 10% off is you sign up for their monthly newsletter. Shipping is FREE when you spend $60 or more and use code ppp09f.

What are your plans for costumes this year? I think we will be borrowing them or making something. I would love to hear your ideas for homemade costumes!


Now it’s your turn!

If you are a blogger, write a post about your idea for making dollars out of change. It can be on any topic as long as it has to do with saving money. Please link directly to your post and not your homepage.

If you do not have a blog, we still welcome and encourage your participation! Please leave your thoughts in the in a comment below!

This post is linked at My Coupon Teacher.

September 15, 2010

Mussels Recipe

How to Cook Mussels

How to cook mussels

What’s for dinners has become the most dreaded question after my crazy day balancing a newborn and a job. It is the first question our five year old asks and our almost two year old repeats when I pick them up from school. It is the question that I attempt to answer once a week with something different. I really try to make one new meal each week to keep it interesting. I decided I would learn how to cook mussels.

I have to make dinners that are quick and it has to be cheap and easy. They have to be healthy as well.

This week we made mussels. They are about $5.00 a bag at the seafood counter.

How to cook mussels

They are so easy to cook.

How to Cook Mussels

I just  throw them in a pot of boiling water.

Make sure the water is just covering the mussels.

Then I put in a dash of  fresh garlic and a cup of cooking wine or real wine. You can also use the recipe below for fresh homemade pesto.

When they are done the shells open.

We pair them with Spaghetti and a marinara sauce or the pesto. ( I cheat here and grab what I got on sale) You can also make your own marinara sauce.

You could also make your own wine and garlic sauce. In a sauce pan put a cup of  white wine in the pan with some garlic and a tablespoon of corn starch stir frequently. Then I throw on something green to make it look fancy usually basil. You can also use the wonderful recipe we have for pesto with basil. How about serving this with our pull apart cheesy garlic bread.

homemade garder pest

If you do not know how to make homemade pesto with basil we have the recipe for you.

It freezes well and it is perfect for dishes like this one.

Make a garden salad and Garlic beard and yummy!

Now you know how to cook mussels

how to cook mussels

What do you make for dinner when you are in a hurry?

September 6, 2010

Tips For Spending Less & Saving More

save money

Recently my husband and I have been working on ways to spend less. We are going to need a new vehicle soon but we need to pay some other bills off first. Below you will find a few simple ways to spend less and save more!

4 Tactics To Help You Spend Less

by Mrs. Not Made of Money

We all want to spend less, but it is tough to do so without a good strategy. Just like anything else, with some good strategy it becomes easier to make good decisions when it comes to spending money. Following these four tactics can help just about anyone save money on a monthly basis.

Make a Budget
There is absolutely nothing more important when it comes to money management strategy than making a budget. However, many people still do not have one because they do not know where to start or because they feel like it will limit them when they want to spend money. If the idea of a budget is no good to you, think of it as a spending plan. You still get to spend the money on the things you want; you are just going to track it more closely. Later on, you can find ways to cut your spending when you are ready.

It has never been easier to set up a budget. There are plenty of templates and types of software out there to help you get going and keep it up. Just do a search online for budget templates or software, find one you like, and get started. (One free money management service I like is Mint.)

Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions
Maybe you still have that magazine coming every month, and it goes in the trash. Or maybe you have the extended cable (or satellite) package even though you only watch 5-6 channels 90% of the time. Whatever subscriptions or monthly charges you have, take a close look to see what you actually use. Those few dollars per month down the drain can really add up over a year.

Pause Before You Buy
We all make impulse buys. We see that gadget or hear about that sale, and we think we just have to buy that item. However, if you take some time before purchasing something, you might find that you do not really need it as badly as you thought. If you see something that you want badly but do not need it, do not buy it right then. Leave the store and come back later if you still really want it. This way you can think about it more clearly and avoid buyer’s remorse.

Always Buy Used First
The internet has made it easier than ever to find used items. Before you go buy something new, make sure you go online and do some searching for a used version. Obviously, this does not work for everything, but for many items, buying used will get you a high quality item for half the price. However, when buying used, make sure you do your due diligence, and be wary of scams!

If you will follow these four simple tactics, you will find that you can really take control of much of your spending and keep more money in your pocket each month.

Reprinted with permission from NotMadeofMoney.com .

Photo: Tony Yang

September 5, 2010

Canning Salsa

I have been researching salsa recipes for canning for a few weeks now. It turns out that tomatoes are one of those borderline foods on the acidity scale. Some recipes are fine for a water bath canner and others require a pressure canner. I recently bought an All American Pressure Canner but I still need to learn how to use it properly.

chopped tomatoes

I came across a great deal on organic tomatoes for $0.75/lb. and decided it was time to take the plunge into canning salsa. I bought both the red tomatoes and the yellow/orange ones. Doesn’t it make a pretty mix? Since I did not have the time to play with my new-to-me pressure canner, I used the Ball Fiesta Salsa Mix. All I needed to add was the diced tomatoes. It is very easy and safe to use a water bath canner.

I did take out most of the tomato seeds when I was dicing the tomatoes up. Interestingly, the yellow/orange tomatoes had less seeds and juice. They were firm and very easy to work with.

salsa before canning

I did add in some extra hot pepper to give it a little zip. Otherwise you just gently boil the tomatoes and packet ingredients for five minutes. Make sure you sterilize and heat your canning jars while you are preparing the salsa.

canned salsa

For half pint jars it takes 35 minutes to process in a boiling water bath for this recipe. It makes eight half pints.

I plan to go back and see if I can find more tomatoes at the rock bottom price of $0.75/lb. It takes about 4 pounds of tomatoes to use the Ball Fiesta Salsa Mix. I paid $1.04 for the mix on clearance. So I paid roughly $4.50 for ingredients making it just $0.56 for a half pint jar of homemade salsa!