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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Why Purchasing Retail is a Last Resort for Me

A great jacket at a great price!

Whenever I need something, a retail store is not the first place I turn to fill my need. For one reason, shopping retail is the most expensive way to acquire goods. Retail purchases use a significant portion of my hard earned income and don't provide a bigger enjoyment of the purchase over a similar item purchased at a thrift store, garage sale, or traded between friends. In fact, I would have to say that for me, finding what I need in a less conventional way is actually way more enjoyable and satisfying.

Here is a concrete example of my philosophy to turn to retail shopping as a last resort. My little boy needed a winter jacket this year. He is four-years-old, so it is unlikely that anything I buy him this year will be worn again next year.

I was shopping at a favorite thrift store for Halloween costumes, when I noticed a rack of very nice, good condition boys' winter jackets. I moseyed on over and began to look at the jackets. I found several in size four and examined each one carefully for condition. I chose one in a camouflage pattern that was priced at $3.99. Now I only need to add a hat and mittens to be ready for winter, if we actually have cold enough days to wear a winter jacket in central Texas this year!

 Just after I bought Liam's jacket, I had to go to Target to buy ink for my printer. This is an example of an item that I generally purchase retail (though I did have a $5.00 off storewide Target coupon to use that day). As I walked through the store I noticed boys' winter jackets on display and curious about what they cost, I moved closer to get a look at the price tag. Imagine my surprise to find that these jackets, which were not substantially different in construction or quality to the thrift store jacket I had just bought, were ten times more than what I paid at the thrift store!
Nice jacket, but not ten times nicer than my thrift store jacket!
This price is easy to absorb for
my limited budget. 
If I spend $39.99 on a winter jacket when I could spend $3.99, that removes $36.00 from my budget that I could use elsewhere. I could almost fill my gas tank twice for that amount of money. My family and I live on a small income and one of the primary reasons we can do so is that we look for the most inexpensive way to get what we need. The thrift store, clearance sales, and markdowns are my allies in my war on excess spending. Every dollar I don't spend on discretionary spending is released to my mandatory spending categories such as mortgage, electricity, water, insurance, and the like.

Can you say sticker shock? ;)
One of the reasons we live on a small budget is due to choice. My husband and I value lifestyle and time to enjoy our lives over the rat race of working a forty-hour week. We chose instead to build businesses that allow us to work for ourselves mainly from home and to spend time with our family.  We are working at earning a full-time income from our part-time efforts and are creating multiple streams of income that will allow us to work wherever we go, so long as we have our computers and a decent Internet connection.

If you have a good income and can afford to buy retail, I encourage you to give thrifting a try. The money you don't spend can go towards paying off your home or car early, saving for college, giving to charitable causes, or investing.

Buying secondhand also helps the environment by reusing and recycling items that would otherwise have ended up in the landfill. No matter what our income, we all need to be aware of how our purchases impact the world in which we all live.

Do you have a tight budget or live on a fixed income? How do you cover all your bases without exceeding your spending? Do you barter, shop garage sales, or thrift stores? Tell me all about it in the comments section!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Five Thrift Store Christmas Present Ideas for Preschoolers

Yep, this is a post about buying thrift store Christmas presents . . . posted at the beginning of October. If you want to have an affordable Christmas, you absolutely cannot wait until December to start buying gifts! There are lots of really nice new and nearly new items to be had for young children at thrift stores. You'll save a lot of money while still being able to get your child/children lovely items they will be thrilled to have.

Five Thrift Store Christmas Present Ideas for Preschoolers

1. Create a dress up box.        
My little guy in all his glory as Spiderman!
(Notice that he is standing in front of the markdown
shelf at our favorite grocery store, which is my first
stop on every shopping trip)

Recently I was in a thrift store looking for a Halloween costume for myself to wear on Halloween, when I noticed most of the little kid costumes were priced at $2.99 each! Bells went off in this gal's head  and I started snapping up costumes for my little guy. I am making him a costume box for Christmas. I purchased a Buzz Lightyear costume (splurged $7.99 on this one), an Iron Man costume, a Transformers costume, and a Captain America costume, each of which cost $2.99. I am going to spend $10.00 more to add an Iron Man mask, and hopefully a Transformers mask to round out the costumes. I wouldn't be able to create this super hero dress up box as inexpensively at any other time of the year, so this is why I am sharing this gem of an idea now. You can easily create any type of themed dress up box during the Halloween season sales.

2. Make a Lego, Duplo, or other building block set

In just about every thrift store I visit, I notice small bags of building blocks- Lego, Duplo, etc. Start now to pull together a nice set of building blocks for your preschooler. Many thrift stores have sales on certain items or certain color tagged items and these sales often change daily. Check your favorite store's Facebook page or website for info on what is on special. If toys are half price, you better plan on going to that thrift store that day! In the past, I have made a Marbleworks set, an oversized "Lego" set for a toddler, and other building sets, simply by knowing what my kids really liked and going to the various thrift stores frequently. I also purchase a large plastic tub to use as the container for the thrifted building sets, again, at the thrift store if at all possible!

3. Give books

I paid $3.00 for this set of eight board books! 
Books are usually plentiful at thrift stores and many are in new or excellent condition. If your child likes a certain character (Spiderman, Barbie, Harry Potter), it is relatively easy to gather a good sized bunch of books in great condition from your favorite thrift store. One of my daughters liked the Babysitter Club books and one son liked the Animorphs. I buy books when they are on sale at half price and can give my kids a huge collection of their desired series of books.

4. Give puzzles and games

Every thrift store I visit has puzzles and games. I watch for sales on these items and stock up on high quality wooden puzzles, floor puzzles, and games of all kinds. I focus on wooden puzzles and floor puzzles because these two types are a bit more special than a simple cardboard tray puzzle and at retail price these are also quite expensive. Little kids love games but can lose interest in them quickly, so I would much rather buy them as inexpensively as possible. If the games or puzzles have beat up boxes, simply purchase a plastic box from the dollar store and print a photo of the game or puzzle to decorate the box.

5.  Give art supplies
You can't go wrong with these popular children's character
coloring books priced at only 25 cents each! 

Thrift stores often have construction paper, stickers, coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, paint sets, sidewalk chalk, stencils, etc. When I can purchase coloring books for 25 cents each or 12 cents during a half price book sale at my favorite thrift store, this is a fantastic gift item to be able to give. I look for new or nearly new coloring books and carefully remove used pages to create a pristine book.

These coloring books were new and unused throughout!
I encourage you to think thrift store when doing your
Christmas shopping for young kids this year. Your  money will go so much farther and you won't be paying for Christmas gifts long after the holiday season has passed.

I would love to hear how your shopping goes and what you found! Please share in the comments section!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ten Tips for Working from Home with Toddlers

In April 2014, my husband and I became parents to our eighteen month-old grandson. We had a lot to figure out, but one thing we knew was that we wanted to have him at home and not in daycare at such a young age. So, I began to pursue opportunities to create income from home. I started doing virtual assisting and I also went back to college in August 2014 to open opportunities for myself at a later date. I am kind of crazy like that-one challenge isn't enough for me, no sir!

I began to comb the Internet for tips on dealing with toddlers while working from home. Some ideas had merit, such as work when the child is napping or asleep. Other ideas weren't so helpful for my situation, such as put them in daycare, or wait to start a business until they are older and in school. I mean, really? That was not helpful in the least.

Here are ten tips that worked for me and hopefully they will be helpful to you too.

  1. Spend time with your child prior to trying to do any work. If I spend a good twenty minutes with my little guy, then I can count on just about the same amount of time to do some work, maybe even longer. Before I start my work, I make sure he has eaten, we have read books and played, and I have some special toys ready for him that he doesn't see often. I repeat this cycle of play and work all throughout the day. 
  2. Teach your child that when you work, he/she gets to do something that he/she really enjoys. My grandson likes to watch Daniel Tiger. When I go to my computer to do some work, he gets to watch an episode of his favorite show. I also reserve special toys for work time that will keep his interest for an extended period of time and I rotate them so they are fresh and fun when he does get to play with them.
  3. Offer a lot of praise for good behavior while you are working. I tell my grandson what a good job he did being quiet while I worked or while I was on a phone call. I thank him for making good choices so I can get my work done.
  4. Keep a consistent schedule of meals, naps (if they take naps), and activities. Children are much more compliant when they know what to expect and when. Ever changing schedules are hard on kiddos and in turn, hard on parents.
  5. Don't try to take care of your child, work from home, and do housework. If I were out of the house from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., I wouldn't be washing dishes and laundry, so I don't while working from home. You need to view your work time as work time. Don't visit Facebook, clean the house, or babysit for friends while you are working. 
  6. Take a lunch hour. Making sure you and your child are nourished is very important to getting through the day well versus just surviving. Plan the week's lunch on the weekend and have the lunches you need ready for the work week.
  7. Get dressed and dress your child. You will feel more productive and your child will realize that the day has started if you both get dressed instead of wearing your pajamas or exercise clothes.
  8. In the summer, if you can, adjust your work schedule to take advantage of summer events like free summer movies, free bowling, participating in library summer reading programs, or going swimming. These activities are enriching for your child and will give you both a sense of having had a nice summer.
  9. Don't work on the weekends unless you can't avoid it. It is important to have normal family time. If work is always intruding, your child will be resentful of your work and not as cooperative.
  10. Point out to your child how your work benefits the family. Even small children can learn to appreciate that your work provides juice boxes, toys, and other niceties. When they understand the correlation of work to things they like in their life, they deal with the fact of a parent working a lot better. 

Are you a parent who works from home? What tips and tricks have helped you to manage your days with little ones while trying to earn a living? Please share in the comments section below.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ten Low-Cost or No-Cost Ways to Enjoy Summer

Summer is here! Kids are out of school, wildflowers are abloom, and folks all over Facebook are excited about vacations.
Pink Evening Primroses

Summer is a little different for me and my husband. It isn't a big income time for us. I run an enrichment academy for homeschool students and my husband installs raised bed gardens in the spring and fall. No school means no paycheck for me and there aren't many garden installations in the summer for my Master Gardener hubby, so his income is lower too.

Less income means we get more creative in the summer. We have learned how to have lots of fun for little to no cost out of pocket.

Ten Low-Cost or No-Cost Ways to Enjoy Summer

1. Eat meals outside. Breakfast outside in the morning is a favorite with me and my crew.
2. Make your own bubble solution and blow bubbles with your children.
3. Garden! A hobby that offers nutrition, exercise, and vitamin D.
We love our garden!

4. Pop your own popcorn and watch favorite movies together.
5. Go to summer reading club activities at the local library. Ours hosts many free activities and rewards for reading.
6. Save your leftover coffee from the morning to enjoy as iced coffee in the afternoon.
7. Find a playground or park in your area with a splash pad or free swimming.
8. Go outside in the evening and stargaze.
9. Take advantage of summer movie days at your local movie theater. It does cost a bit of money but it is fairly affordable.
10. Go bowling! Go to  to see if there is a bowling alley in your area participating.

What are you doing to have fun this summer while keeping spending to a minimum? Please share your summer activities by commenting below so we can all benefit!