Friday, May 22, 2009

Take A Pass And Save Some Cash

There are a lot of great tips out there on things to do to save money. What about things not to do to save money?

One thing I don't do is get expensive haircuts. I pass up Supercuts in favor of Sistercuts. My sister does a great job trimming my ends. I don't color it anymore, either. I don't have to spend hours getting my long hair dyed every four weeks, I avoid all the toxic chemicals, and the expense, and I find I don't mind the grey anyway.

No manicures and pedicures for me either. I find a simple set of manicure tools is all I need to keep my own nails neat and trim. If you like a more elaborate manicure, maybe you could give your friend one, and then she can do yours.

Another thing I avoid is tooth whitening. It weakens the enamel, and how white do my teeth really need to be? I do use a Sonicare toothbrush, which helps keep the stains polished off pretty well.

In this same category would be spray tans and botox. Lest you think I'm crazy for even thinking of these things, remember I live in Southern California. My natural pasty, wrinkled state is good enough for me.

Concerts are a no for me as well. The ticket prices make me cringe, and I hate the crowds anyway. I think I honestly enjoy listening to the CD at home more.

Ditto for amusement parks. It costs a fortune just to get in, the lines are insanely long, and I have motion sickness, so how much enjoyment can I really get out of the rides? If you have kids, you're probably stuck going there at least once in a while (make sure you have a coupon, though!) Seeing them have so much fun is worth the overinflated price.

Also in the entertainment category: movies. With today's ticket and concession prices, I rarely go to the movies. When a movie comes out that I want to see, I put it in my Netflix queue. There are so many in there I want to see, I never run out and don't mind the wait to see a new movie. Besides, that way I can lounge on my couch in my unmentionables and eat my own cheap popcorn.

With my Netflix subscription, I can also forgo an expensive cable package. They have all sorts of network and cable tv series on DVD, with no commercials!

When I go out to a restaurant, I usually skip the beverage and just order water. For a family of four, this can easily save you $10 every time you eat out.

When buying appliances, I always skip the extended warranty they try to talk you into purchasing. I've read that most appliances usually break down within the initial warranty period if they are going to.

Buying life insurance is another thing I haven't done. If you don't have any dependents, you don't need life insurance. For those with kids, though, this is a smart purchase.

Credit protection insurance is another thing I don't need. I don't carry a balance, so why would I need to pay for insurance that would make my payments if I was unemployed? If I simply took the amount of the premiums each month and put it in the bank, I would be self-insured. As far as protecting me if my card was stolen, I'm only liable for $50 anyway, and that's if I don't report the theft in the first 24 hours.

Expensive pet toys are another thing that pops into mind. I learned this the hard way one Christmas. I had bought this contraption that hooked over the back of a door and dangled a toy mouse tantalizingly in front of your cat. My cat walked over to the thing, chewed through the string holding the mouse, and ran off with the mouse. End of toy. I find a box to hide in and a milk cap or ping pong ball to bat across the floor are all that are required for a contented cat.

What if you cut some of these things from your budget and find that you miss them? If you do, bring them back! There's no need to be a martyr. It's about finding the things you really don't need to do or buy, so that you can afford the things you really need and enjoy.

What are some things you pass on to save cash? Would love to hear your comments, as always.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No School? Do Something Cool!

Pretty soon school will be out for the year. Moms everywhere are asking themselves the same question - how can I keep my kid entertained all summer? I have a few ideas.

Check and see if your local movie theater chain has a free summer movie program. Regal and AMC both offer one in certain areas. The movies usually start around 10:30 in the morning, and tickets are free! All you'll have to pay for is popcorn and drinks.

In most places, free movies and concerts are held in city parks in the evenings. Check with your local Parks and Recreation Program. We bring a blanket and a picnic.

See if your local library or bookstore sponsors a summer reading program. Most have a list of books in different age groups to be read, and offer a prize for reading some or all of the books on the list. It's a great way to keep your children entertained and sharp for school next year!

Check with your local museums and see what their free day is. Most have at least one day a month when admission is free. Enjoy the free air conditioning and soak up some culture!

Take your child camping. This is inexpensive fun for the whole family. Kids love to sleep outside in a tent and cook over a campstove. Besides, some exposure to nature is good for them. Just watch out for poison ivy!

Build a solar oven, and cook dinner outside on a hot day. I haven't tried this yet, but plan to this year! Here is a link to some simple instructions I found:

Use the sun to take photos using special sun print paper. You just place an object with an interesting shape on a piece of the special paper, expose to the sun for a few minutes, soak in water until you see the image appear, and let it dry. Here is one place to buy the paper online:

Play miniature golf. This is a fun and inexpensive thing to do, and if it gets too hot, most places have an indoor putting green.

Go bowling. Your local bowling alley has kid-size balls too. I bet most of you haven't been bowling in years and have forgotten how much fun it is! Many bowling alleys offer a free summer bowl program too, it never hurts to make a few calls and check to see if your local alley is one of them.

Pick up some thrift-store costumes and have the kids put on a play or talent show. Invite other kids from the neighborhood to the performance.

Plant a garden together. It's not too late to start one. Sunflowers, tomatoes, radishes and zucchini are particularly easy to grow. Plant a few pumpkin seeds in June, and you can harvest your own Jack 'O Lanterns for Halloween!

Get up in the middle of the night and watch the Perseids Meteor Shower. Spread a blanket on the lawn and prepare to be impressed. This year it peaks on August 13th and 14th. Look toward the northeast after midnight. During the peak, you will see about 60 meteors per hour.

Send the kids on a scavenger hunt around the yard or house with a list of items they must find. Be sure to have a neat prize for the first one to find all the items.

Three words: water balloon fights!

Try this recipe for making ice cream in a baggie. I'm looking forward to trying this too!

This should be enough to get you started. Please comment with your own great ideas. Let's banish "I'm Bored" this summer!