Enjoy Family Fun for Free

As a parent, it’s likely one of your consistent goals to involve your kids in activities they’ll enjoy. Of course, many of the pastimes you’d like to participate in as a family end up costing money, and with a tight economy, you may have to put some of those pursuits aside.

The good thing, however, is that there are always activities that will enable your family to have fun without breaking the bank. Be creative with family fun so your expenditure is minimal without sacrificing the excitement.

Try these fun – and free – activities:

1. Take it to the park. Whether it’s a few minutes or a few miles away, the nearest park is a great place to have free family fun. Pack all the toys and playthings that you and your kids will enjoy using outdoors. These could include kites, Frisbees, balls and badminton sets.

* Put together some easy-to-prepare treats or go all out by taking along the grill. Your family will certainly enjoy chicken salad sandwiches or grilled hot dogs and burgers.

* Remember to take along your MP3 music dock so all your family fun can be had to the backdrop of your favorite song selections.

2. Plan a backyard campout. Make it a date with your kids to have an official campout right in your own backyard. This is a fun way to simulate a true camping experience.

* Borrow your neighbor’s tent or rent one. Equip it with sleeping bags, lanterns and mosquito repellant to get the real feel of the outdoors.

* Set up a dirt-filled pit for starting a campfire. Be sure to keep it controlled so there are no issues with spreading flames. You and your family can roast marshmallows while telling scary stories around the fire! Make all your meals on the campfire or use your outdoor grill.

3. Enjoy a beach trip. In almost all cases, sun, sand and sea are free of charge! Pack snacks or meals so you won’t have the expense of stopping at a restaurant for lunch.

* Be sure to take beach toys like floats and beach balls so you can capitalize on every element of the beachfront.

* Remember your camera to capture moments like your kids doing handstands in the water or your family making its largest sandcastle to date!

4. Plan a movie night. There’s no reason to leave home for movie night once you have a TV, warm blankets and lots of popcorn. Create the ambience you want by having everything available that the movie theater would.

* Your kids’ favorite snacks are a must – popcorn, Skittles and soda pops are definite staples for a movie night.

* For added fun, why not get a few pairs of 3D glasses and enjoy the full effect of a 3D movie?

So as you can see, it’s pretty easy to have family fun with very little or even no financial input. All you need to do is show a little creativity and offer your family alternatives to the typical activities that cost an arm and a leg. You’ll save money while still allowing your family to have a wonderful time.

Why Getting Married is Financially Smart

Many people think that getting married is a financially unwise thing to do. People commonly claim that married folks pay more in taxes that those that are single. This is untrue in most cases. In fact, marriage offers a lot of financial advantages.

Here are some of the many financial windfalls of being married:

1. Health insurance is usually cheaper. Adding a spouse to a policy is usually less than having two separate policies. Since prices vary so much from employer to employer, one of the spouse’s plans is frequently quite a bit less expensive than the other.

2. Better loans go to married folks. If both partner’s work, then the bank has two incomes to consider when making loan decisions. You have access to larger loans and qualify for loans more easily and at better interest rates.

3. Your credit improves from a practical standpoint (maybe). The partner with the worse credit will see a boost in their borrowing power. Of course, the opposite is true for the partner with the better credit. But together, you’ll end up better from a credit standpoint as you increase the score of the spouse with weaker credit.

4. Auto insurance costs will decrease. Married people are considered to be less of a driving risk. The decrease in premiums can be as much as 28%, depending on where you live. On top of those savings, you’ll also have multi-car discounts and the opportunity to bundle that with your homeowner’s insurance for greater savings.

5. Greater financial security for both parties. If you’re on your own and lose your job, you typically don’t have access to another source of income. While a spouse losing a job is financially challenging, two people can live on one income better than one person can live on no income.

6. You can have a better lifestyle. With all the savings you realize, you are free to spend money on other things.

For the more frugal, there is a greater opportunity to save money. Consider the following if you both work:

* Your share of the utility bills is now half of what it was when you were single. The overall cable, Internet, trash, heating, cooling, and electricity bill are essentially the same regardless of whether one or two people live in the home. The same goes for any home maintenance.

* Ditto on the landscaping and lawn care. If you pay someone to get the snow out of the driveway, you still only have 1 driveway, but now you have two people paying for it.

* Two people in a hotel room cost the same as one. The same goes for a rental car.

* You might be able to share one personal vehicle and save a lot of money.

* With those savings, you could get a bigger house or better cars and spend more on vacations and other amenities. You could also sock away more money for the future. Having more disposable income means having more possibilities available to you at any moment.

Don’t believe it when someone tells you that being married has too many financial obstacles! Tying the knot actually has a significant financial upside. You’ll be able to realize a lot of savings in multiple areas. Those savings can then be applied to either retirement or an upgrade in lifestyle.

There are many advantages to having two incomes. Imagine the possibilities!

Preparing Your Finances for a New Baby

A new baby on the way is always an exciting and celebratory time. However, a baby can also be a huge financial challenge, especially if you don’t take the appropriate steps to prepare yourself. Keep these tips in mind when preparing your finances for the new arrival.

New Baby Expenses

1. Medical bills. Find out in advance what medical bills you’re likely to incur. This would include prenatal, delivery, and postnatal expenses. Do you have insurance? How much will it pay? If you don’t have insurance and have low income, your state has programs that will minimize the expense.

* Plan ahead. Depending on your insurance situation, you may want to have additional funds set aside for unforeseen medical issues.

2. Baby items. Here we’re talking about things like car seats, strollers, changing tables, cribs, bottles, clothes, diapers (2,700 just the first year!), rocking chair, swing, dresser, baby monitor, and more. Go out to your local store and price these items.

* Are you going to breast-feed? You may need a breast pump if you plan on ever leaving the house without the baby. If you’re not breastfeeding, you’ll need bottles, nipples, and formula.

* Do you need daycare or a baby sitter? Call around to compare costs or ask a neighbor or friend what the going rate is for daycare in your area.

Lower Your Costs

1. Borrow and buy used. Babies outgrow things long before they wear them out. You shouldn’t have any problem finding quality used baby clothes, toys, and furniture. There are even stores that specialize in used baby items. You can also check on Craig’s List.

* These used items can be much less expensive than new stuff.

* When the time is right, tell everyone you know about your happy news. You’ll almost certainly be offered plenty of baby-related items.

2. Wait for gifts. People can go crazy giving gifts when a baby is involved. You never know what you’re going to get. Wait until the dust settles before you start making purchases. The gifts you receive can be a real financial boon. Be patient so you don’t get stuck with two of the same thing.

3. Remember that you don’t need everything. Your baby doesn’t require every gadget under the sun to be safe and happy. Ask the mothers you know what they consider to be the most important items.

4. Start saving now. You can never start saving too soon. Now is the time to eliminate all those things and services that you don’t really need. Sit down and look at your monthly bills and find ways you can cut back. Reduce your expenses as much as you need to so you can save enough money to be as comfortable as possible when the baby arrives.

5. Review your life insurance and will. Sit down with the appropriate expert to ensure you have the proper insurance coverage when the baby arrives. Also be certain that your will is up to date.

Preparing for a new baby can be an exciting time. For the smoothest first year for you and your little one, remember to include financial preparations as well.

Quick Home Improvements that Make an Impact

Owning a home involves effective money management and the ability to determine when and how to complete various home improvement projects. Because home upkeep is so important to your financial investment in the home, it makes sense to complete quick home improvement projects that make an impact on your home’s appearance and value.

It’s helpful to have a small notebook or journal devoted to your plans for your home. Having a handy notebook that centers on your home will keep you focused and moving ahead to protect your investment. Any home improvements that you want to complete can be recorded in this notebook.

To spur some ideas on quick home improvements that will have a real impact on your home’s value, survey the list below. Then, you can add any additional home improvement projects you’d like to complete to your own notebook.

1. Paint the outside of your front door. A bright, contrasting-painted door says, “Welcome” as no other improvement does. The cost of painting your front door is minimal but the impact is great.

2. Clean and paint your front porch. As people approach your front door, they can’t help but notice the condition of your front porch. Is it clean? Is it painted a color that complements your home?

* Set a couple of well-placed chairs with a small outdoor table and a large potted plant on a clean porch surface and you’ve completed a quick home improvement that will make your home more inviting.

3. Pressure wash the exterior of your house. Over the years, dirt and grime gets stuck on the surface of your home’s exterior, which is difficult to remove. Pressure washing your home will clean and remove debris and brighten its appearance.

* Although pressure washing your house involves physical labor, the results will be worth it.

4. Wash all the windows in your home inside and out. Washing windows is a project that involves very little cost. All you need is a bucket, a good squeegee and some cleaning rags. Put a drop of dish detergent in very hot water in your bucket and you’re ready to begin.

* Clean windows show that your property is loved and well cared for.

5. Clean the lighting fixtures in your home. Ensure lights are switched off when cleaning them. Then, replace burned-out bulbs and worn-out lamps. Simply get your spray glass cleaner and an old cloth made from a t-shirt and go from room to room, cleaning every light fixture in the house. This quick home improvement will make every room shine.

6. Paint trim molding (baseboard) to freshen up an entire room’s appearance. Believe it or not, sometimes, all you have to do to make a room look new again is to paint the trim. Whether it’s a dark brown stain or a bright white paint, freshening up the trim will bring out the room’s color again.

Home improvement projects don’t have to be big or costly. Quick, inexpensive touchups can make a considerable impact on the look and value of your home. If you list all the quick home improvement projects you want to complete in your notebook, you’ll be more efficient at completing them. Try some of these quick home improvements to make an impact on your home.