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Catherine Alford by Catherine Alford - 1M ago

Sometimes you want to save money fast. Maybe you don’t have an emergency fund and it’s driving you crazy. Or, you want to save up for a big vacation or a home purchase. Whatever it is, if you’re anxious to build up that savings account ASAP,  there are lots of great ways to save money fast. Below are over 30 examples!

What is the quickest way to save money?

Usually the quickest way to save money is also the simplest: look for your biggest expenses. Sometimes we spend a large amount on something because we feel that it’s expected. We never really stop to consider whether we need or want that item.

The math is simple. When you want to save money fast, you need to find the biggest money-saver for the least amount of effort. Instead of cancelling Netflix at $10/mo consider dropping your gym membership at $100/month. Rather than investing tons of time in coupons or driving all over to get the best deals, consider refinancing your home.

The idea is to find the long tent poles – those items in the budget that have a high cost for a low value to you. Making those cuts to your budget won’t have much of a negative impact on your happiness – and you’ll feel great about getting a big chunk of money back without much effort.

Once you’ve found the big expenses that can be eliminated, be consistent about cutting smaller costs. Identify the minor expenses that you can live without. Then make a plan to skip those expenses and stick with it. Your small savings won’t seem like much in the long run, but over time they’ll add up quickly.

How Can I save $1,000 Fast?

Let’s say you’ve set a goal of saving $1,000 fast. How can you accomplish this milestone in the shortest amount of time?

You’ve already taken the first step – you have a concrete and measurable goal. That’s awesome! Write your goal down somewhere obvious so you’ll be reminded of it every time you walk by.

Next, look at your budget and make a plan. First, decide what you can cut from your budget. Plan how much you will save each month and write it down next to your goal.

For example, suppose you plan to drop your daily latte and instead make coffee at home. You expect to save $4 per day, for about 30 days per month. That’s $120 a month saved at the coffee shop. You’ll have to buy some coffee to brew at home, which will run you about $20. So you’ve netted a $100 savings.

After you look at what you can cut from your budget, think about how you can make money. Do you have a big, expensive object that you could sell without really missing it? Maybe you have a bike sitting in the garage that could be sold for $100. Or a musical instrument you never play that could go for $150. Make a list of those items, take some clear pictures in natural light and post the items on Craigslist.

You can also think about taking on side jobs to make more money. Decide how much time you have and estimate how much you could make from dog-walking, freelancing (or another side hustle) each month. Write that down too!

You’ll end up with a list of three things:

  • Net monthly savings
  • One-time extra income
  • Estimated monthly extra income

Suppose it looks like this:

  • Net monthly savings: $100 per month
  • One-Time extra income: $200
  • Estimated monthly extra income: $100 per month from dog walking

Now you can figure out how long it will take you to reach your goal of saving $1,000! Once you sell your expensive items, you’ll have just $800 left to save or earn. If you can save and earn $200 per month, it will take you just four months to reach your goal of saving $1000.

You’re working with estimates at this point, so the next step is to actually keep track of your savings each month. Sell your items and write down how much you made. At the end of the month, note how much you saved by brewing coffee at home or by taking on a side gig. Track your progress toward the goal!

By setting a concrete goal, making a plan and tracking your progress, you’ll save $1,000 in no time!

Tricks to Save Money Fast

Now you have a plan to reach your savings goals quickly. Here are some practical and mostly painless tricks to save money fast!

Auto-Transfer to Savings

This is a great hack if you would like to save but never seem to have money left over at the end of the month. It’s simple – a day or so after you’re paid, transfer some money to your savings or investment account.

Even if you can only afford to save $25 a month, your savings will add up over time. If you make this simple change, you’ll have saved $300 by the end of the year without really noticing! Try slowly increasing the amount you auto-save over time to see if you notice it. This is a great – and painless – way to ramp up your savings.

Stick to a realistic budget

Budgeting is one of the best tricks to save money fast. Making a budget can solve many of the money challenges of marriage. When you both agree in advance to allocate a certain amount to eating out or shopping, suddenly the number is the enemy, not the other person!

Plus – budgeting is a proven method for saving money. When you put together your budget, be realistic about your expenses and leave room for some unexpected things to crop up. Stick with the budget and be sure to save what you have left over each month.

Go Cash-Only

It’s so easy to spend money on your credit card. Even if you track your expenditures online regularly, you may not have a running total in your head at any given time. When you aren’t truly aware of how much you’ve spent, it’s easy to keep spending.

When you use credit cards, it’s also easy to forget your budget for certain items. Was it $300 or $350 for groceries? How much of that have you already used? Unless you are very good at tracking, you probably don’t know.

That’s why it’s super handy to use cash. With a simple count, you’ll always know how much you have left in the budget.

Challenge Yourself to Skip Shopping

Do you like a good challenge? If so, challenge yourself to go a month – or a yearwithout shopping. If you’re the kind of person who alleviates stress by buying a new bag or pair of shoes, this challenge might be for you.

You’ll definitely save money if you aren’t shopping – by definition, you’re spending less! You’ll also feel great about yourself and find different rewards, like reading a book or taking a bath. What could be better?

Spend Less than Last Month

This challenge is pretty simple: just try to spend less than you did last month. If you like specific goals, set a target – like spending $100 less than last month. Then, track your progress throughout the month (budgeting apps are great for this) to make sure you hit your target.

Entertainment – for free!

It’s always amazing to me how many free activities there are if you’re willing to look. Parks and playgrounds are always a winner if you have kids. Our county even has an indoor playground for when the weather is bad.

The library is full of cool content, like kids’ story time and (of course) free books, audio books, movies and music. You can easily amuse your kids – and yourself – for a couple of hours at the library.

Check out your local towns for festivals and cultural events as well. Our town regularly has free events, parades and festivals. My family usually has a ton of fun at these events – without spending a dime!

Pack Picnics & Snacks on Weekends

When you go to events and parks on the weekend, pack snacks, drinks and meals. Sure, you have to plan ahead a little bit but it’s totally worth it! You’ll both save money and eat healthier.

Cancel Memberships

Subscriptions can hang around for a long time. They’ll usually just keep charging you, even if you haven’t used the subscription service in months. Do yourself a favor and check your credit card statements for unused memberships and cancel them. This is a great way to save big chunks of money each month!

Sell Stuff

Do you have unused items cluttering your house and garage? See if you can sell the stuff you no longer need. Take some high quality pictures in good lighting and post on Craigslist. Exercise equipment, furniture and musical instruments tend to sell for enough that they’re worth the time investment.

Sell Your Car

This one seems a little crazy, but stay with me. There are lots of situations in which you might be able to sell your car. If you’re now a 2 car family, can you make it on just one car? Maybe you and your partner can commute together, or one of you could take public transportation.

Selling your car would be a pretty big lifestyle change, but the payoff is huge. You’ll save on insurance, maintenance, gas and of course the car payments if you still have a loan on the car. That amount of money could be life-changing, even if you’re only able to manage it for a short amount of time.

Refinance your Mortgage

If interest rates are low, figure out whether you could lower your monthly mortgage payments by refinancing. If you’re paying PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) and have been in your house for a few years, you may have enough equity to waive PMI. Explore this with your lender if you think you can waive PMI – it could save you a bundle.

Save Raises and Bonuses

You’re used to living on your salary, so when you get a raise or bonus – save it! Don’t change your lifestyle with every raise. You’ll keep your expenses in check and also add some money to the bank.

Keep your Car Another Year

If you’re usually the kind of person who trades your car in before you’ve paid it off completely, consider keeping the car a bit longer. If you can make it even a year without payments, you’ve saved yourself thousands of dollars.

Switch Banks if You Pay Monthly Fees

If you’re paying a monthly fee at your bank, it’s time to switch. It may not seem like very much, but those fees add up. Many banks offer no-fee checking so it doesn’t make sense to stick with a bank that’s charging you.

Travel with Snacks

When you’re flying or driving, you often end up buying snacks. Especially in airports, it is so expensive just to buy a bottle of water and a granola bar. Plan ahead a bit and save yourself a ton of money by stashing some high-protein, healthy snacks in your bag. Don’t forget to bring an empty water bottle to fill up in the airport (after you pass security).

Start a Side Hustle

Whether you’re freelancing on the side, or providing a service to your local community, you could make money in your spare time to pad your savings account! Think about what you enjoy doing – whether it’s dog walking or graphic design – and you can probably find a way to make money doing it. Remember – there’s someone out there who doesn’t enjoy that activity and is probably willing to pay you to take it off their plate.

How Can I Save Money Every Day?

Saving money isn’t just about the big things. It’s also about the little choices you make every day that add up over time. Here are some ideas for ways you can save money every single day.

Ditch Coffee & Alcohol Out

Fancy drinks add up! You could spend $5 a day or more at the coffee shop if you like flavored coffee drinks. And alcohol can be even more expensive! A margarita – though delicious – can cost as much as your meal.

If you don’t want to cut out coffee and drinks entirely, try making your own drinks at home. Invest in some coffee equipment and syrups if you like flavored caffeinated beverages. Buy nice liquor and good mixers if you like mixed drinks. Check out the beer and wine store for interesting drinks at a fraction of the restaurant price.

Bring Your Own Lunch

It’s tough to remember to pack a lunch in the morning, but it could also save you big bucks. Even if you’re spending a modest $10 a day for lunch at a local cafe, that’s $50 a week. Remember that this isn’t all or nothing – if you can only manage to bring you lunch once or twice a week, that’s still $40+ that you’re saving every month.

Log Every Expense

Sometimes the simplest solution is the easiest – keep track of every single expense! Whether it’s a $1.00 soda or a $500 car repair, write it down manually. Sometimes just knowing you have to record an expense will make you rethink the purchase. Just like a food journal helps you eat healthy, a spending journal helps keep your budget healthy.

Save Your Pennies

Try an app that automatically transfers your spare change into a savings account. How cool is that? You spend $10.35 on lunch and the app will sweep the remaining $0.65 into savings. You can save every day without really noticing!

Make Yourself Wait

If you can’t go cold turkey on shopping, make yourself wait 48 hours before making a purchase. That will give you enough time to really think about the item you’re planning to buy. If you still want to buy the thing at the end of two days, it’s likely something that you’ll use. On the other hand, those two days might give you a chance to reconsider and skip the purchase.

“Forget” Credit Cards

I recently got a new credit card number, and of course all of the websites I usually shop on had my old credit card number. It’s such a small impediment, but in some cases the act of manually entering your credit card number gives you enough time to stop and think about your purchase. So do yourself a favor and don’t save your credit card number on any shopping websites. Your budget will thank you!

How Much Time Does this Item Cost?

Have you ever kept yourself from eating a cupcake by telling yourself it would take an hour of running to work off the calories? Well, purchases work the same way! Buying an item for $50 might seem trivial, but you could think about it differently if you realize that you’re working a couple of hours to make that purchase. Ask yourself if it’s worth that much of your time before you buy.

Decide Where You’ll Put It

Before you buy something, envision where you’ll put it in your house. How will you use this item? Do you have space for it in your closet or cabinets? Often, we buy based on an idea of how we would like to live, rather than how we actually live. When you’re forced to really think through an item’s place in your house, you might reconsider the purchase. This is a great trick for people trying to keep their home clutter-free, too!

Save Your Grocery Store Discount

Know how the grocery store always prints your savings on the receipt? Save that money! If you shop a few times a week, that can add up to a good sum without really noticing.

Find an Accountability Partner

It’s so much easier to splurge when no one is looking over your shoulder. Especially if you don’t live with a partner, it might really help to have a money-saving buddy. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to let others down, tell your friends and family that you’re trying to save or look for someone to save alongside you!

Save Pocket Change and Bills

I’m always finding change and bills in pockets when I do laundry! I’m pretty compulsive about checking pockets because I don’t want to accidentally wash a crayon or something. If this is you, put any pocket money you find into a savings jar. This could really add up – especially if you use cash frequently! If someone left it in the pocket of a pair of dirty pants, most likely they won’t miss it. That money can go straight to savings!

Do a Diet Bet

If you want to lose weight AND save money, try DietBet. You buy in to a game (usually a small amount like $10-$25). If you meet the weight loss goal, you’re guaranteed to get your money back and will most likely make a profit. You’ll win by losing weight AND you can save your monetary winnings. Talk about a win-win!

Ways to Budget

Budgeting is one of the absolute best ways to save money – but what should go in your budget, and how much should you allocate to each category? Here are some examples of budgeting approaches recommended by experts!

The 50-30-20 Rule

The 50-30-20 formula is pretty simple. You should spend no more than 50% of your take-home pay on fixed expenses like food, housing and utilities. Thirty percent of your take-home pay can be allocated to wants, like dinners out. The remaining 20% should be saved and invested. If you want to save even faster, work to reduce your fixed and variable expenses so you can put more into savings!

Pay Yourself First

The Pay Yourself First, or Reverse Budgeting approach, focuses on saving first. Before you spend anything for the month, you set aside your savings and retirement funds. Then, you pay your fixed expenses like mortgages, car payments and utilities. Next up are variable expenses like food and gas. Then you make debt payments. Anything that is left can be spent on fun items, like eating out.

You should have a very good idea of your typical monthly expenditure before you try this method, and should review what you’re spending each month. Realistically, expenses can’t be paid in this order so you’ll need to know about what your variable expenses will be each month.

Use Cash & Envelopes

It’s old-school, but people still use this method because it works. First, decide on budget numbers for each of your expense categories. In some cases, there won’t be much wiggle room (your mortgage payment isn’t changing). For other categories, consider how much you can and should be spending.

Then label an envelope for each category and put the amount budget for that category, in cash, inside the envelope. This is super simple to track because you can always tell exactly how much of the month’s budget is left at any given time. No tracking credit cards! If you don’t really know where your money is going month to month, this is a great visual as well.

Zero Sum Budgeting

With Zero Sum budgeting, you give every single dollar you earn an assigned “job” each month. Does that mean you spend it all? Of course not! Some of your income will be allocated to your expenses and some will be planned for paying down debt, savings and investment.

Every dollar should be accounted for so that your expenditures add up exactly to your income at the end of each this month. This method really takes the temptation away to splurge on something because the money is there.

Find ‘Five Minute a Month Budgeting Nirvana’

If you hate spending a ton of time on budgeting, the five minute budgeting plan is for you! This budgeting approach is incredibly simple and a huge time saver. This plan works best if you pay all of your bills out of one checking account.

At the end of each month, your bank statement will tell you how much you spent that month. Back out any money spent on saving, investing or paying down debt to get a true picture of your expenses. Then add up your last 12 months of expenses to figure out how much your family is spending per month on average.

Once you have that number, you can react. Is this number more or less than your average monthly take-home pay? How much can you save? Is it possible to reduce your expenses and allow yourself to save and investment more? If so, where?

This super simple method will help you see, it a high level, where your money is going and how it compares to your income. You’ll have to dive into the details a bit if you want to find places to save, but the five minute plan definitely helps you track the big picture.

You Can Save Money Fast

Ultimately, with some planning and budgeting, you’ll can save $1,000 in less than a year! Using these tricks to save money fast, you’ll save a small amount of money daily and find bigger monthly or annual expenses to cut. You can also make more money by taking on a side hustle. Remember, if you stay focused on your goal and try several of the methods listed above you really can save money fast.

The post 32 Tricks to Save Money Fast appeared first on Catherine Alford.

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Catherine Alford by Catherine Alford - 1M ago

I’m always looking for creative ways to save money. As a busy mom and entrepreneur who is trying to pay down student loan debt and save for the future, I am constantly learning about new ways to save. I hear from many of my readers that sometimes, saving money in small ways doesn’t feel worth it. However, a saving a dollar here and a dollar there can definitely add up and have a big impact  over time.

So, below are 50 cool and creative ways to save money. Some you might have tried already, but with 50 tips, there’s bound to be one you haven’t heard of yet! Enjoy!

Creative Ways to Save Money on Your Bills 1) Invest in a programmable thermostat

Although there’s an initial investment, a programmable thermostat has the potential to save you hundreds of dollars each year. The trick? Set up the thermostat to turn down the heat or raise your air conditioning when you’re away.

The Nest can connect to your phone, and it automatically adjusts the temperature when you’re out of the house. You don’t really lose anything by doing this, and you could save hundreds of dollars on your utility bills annually!

2) Switch to Energy Efficient or Smart Bulbs

LED lightbulbs last longer and use less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs. The price has gone down dramatically over the last few years, and it’s worth replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs as they burn out if you haven’t already done so.

If you want to invest in more tech, you can also consider smart light bulbs. These are expensive, though, and you’ll have to crunch the numbers to decide whether smart bulbs are really a better option than just…turning the lights out when you leave the room.

3) Buy Blackout Curtains

Not only do blackout curtains block light (helping everyone sleep better), they also reduce the thermal energy loss from your house by up to 25%. If you’re going to buy curtains anyway, blackout curtains are a great investment. You’ll reduce your utility bills and your carbon footprint, and sleep better too!

4) Turn Down the Water Heater

There are so many things people don’t tell you about home ownership! Did you know that many water heaters are set to heat water to 140℉ by the manufacturer? Most households only require water to be heated to 120℉ (to prevent buildup in the pipes and so forth).

You can save money on your utility bill by turning the water heater temperature down to 120℉. Turning down the temperature also decreases the risk of scalding, which is safer if you have young kids in your home.

5) Ditch Cable (but don’t oversubscribe elsewhere)

Cable is expensive! Usually it comes in a bundle with internet and phone service, and it can run $200+. With most of us streaming shows these days, cable might not be necessary in your house unless you’re really into sports.

If you drop cable, be sure to choose just one streaming service to pay for. If you find yourself subscribing to Amazon, Netflix and Hulu you may end up paying more than you would have for cable. So think about your viewing habits before you cut this cord!

6) Switch to a low-cost cell phone service

The major cell phone carriers tend to lock us in with the promise of “free” upgrades every two years, and other perks. Once you do the math, the lower cost carriers like Republic Wireless and Google Fi tend to be cheaper, even though you pay full price for the phone.

Google Fi has a seamless international call and text experience, which will save you a bundle if you travel internationally. If you’re unsure, pull your cell phone bills for the last year and calculate your monthly average data usage. Then use that number to compute the cost of a low-cost service plus a full price phone every two years. In my calculations,  Google Fi came out significantly cheaper.

7) Change air filters and clean vents regularly

Not only is it important to your health to change your air filters and clean your vents, it can also save you money! A clogged air filter can require up to 15% more energy. Professionals recommend changing your air filters once a month, so buy in bulk and do it on the first day of the month. You – and your budget – will breathe easier!

8) Install and Use Fans

If you don’t already have ceiling fans in your home, consider investing in them. The math is simple – air conditioning is a major energy hog, costing about 36 cents per hour to operate. Fans, on the other hand, require very little electricity – less than a penny per hour. You can save energy (and reduce your electricity bill) by using the A/C less and the fan more.

9) Improve your home’s insulation and windows, especially if you have an older home

A lack of insulation, especially in older homes, can allow energy to escape. Consider improving the insulation in your home’s attic and crawl space to reduce the amount of energy loss. Replacing or repairing old windows can also have a major impact on your home’s energy efficiency. A full energy audit would be a great place to start.

10) Run full loads

If you have a family, this is probably an easy one – be sure to run full loads in the dishwasher and laundry! You’ll save energy and water by doing one load instead of two or more. Like I said, if you have kids at home this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

Creative Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store 11) Meal plan and make a list!

I can’t be the only one who aimlessly wanders the grocery store if I don’t have a list. The choices are overwhelming, and I usually end up with random stuff rather than a complete set of groceries for the week. Don’t make this mistake! Random purchases here and there add up.

To prepare for grocery shopping, plan your meals and snacks for the week. Then, check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you already have. Finally, make a list of what you need. When you’re at the grocery store, stick to the list!

12) Compare prices in your area – don’t just assume!

Justin over at Root of Good does an extremely detailed analysis of grocery prices every year. He prices a basket of commonly-purchased groceries at Wal-Mart, Aldi, Costco and more and shows you the breakdown. The surprise? Costco isn’t the cheapest.

These may not be your local stores, but it’s a worthwhile lesson. Don’t assume that the discount stores, like Costco or Sam’s Club, are automatically cheaper. In fact, you may end up paying more for bulk products that you may not use or be able to store.

13) Shop online for groceries

There’s a bit of an up-front cost, but hear me out! Shopping online can actually save you money and time!  By ordering your groceries on the store’s website and picking them up outside the store, you get some huge benefits. First, you can very easily compare unit prices. Second, you skip impulse purchases. Those cookies are much less appealing on your computer screen than in person. Third, you save time and don’t have to unload your children each time you go to the grocery store.

Most grocery stores that I’m familiar with charge about $100 for a yearly subscription to online ordering and pickup. If you go to the grocery store once a week, that’s less than $2/week! And there’s no limit, so you could go twice a week, or more, reducing the cost per use further.

14) Eat out less so you can buy quality

It’s important to save money at the store, but eating a diet high in sugar and carbs can lead to much more expensive long-term health issues. Instead of eating out, commit to buying healthy foods to cook at home.  You’ll spend less money while also eating a diet of quality proteins, fruits and vegetables. Your health, and your wallet, will thank you!

15) Shop the sales

If you’re not into meal planning and can be a little creative, consider shopping the sales. This will only work for people who can come up with recipes on the fly and who aren’t easily overwhelmed in the store, but it could be a huge money-saver.

The idea: rather than going in with a defined list of items, buy what’s on sale. Chicken thighs on sale? Cool! Scoop some up. Ground beef on super special? Taco Tuesday! If you can be flexible – without going overboard – you could find some great deals.

16) Buy an Instant Pot

My kids LOVE black beans and we eat them all the time. Cans of cooked black beans don’t seem that expensive, but they add up. We finally bought an Instant Pot last year and it’s amazing! We can now buy dry beans, rice and oatmeal in bulk and then cook them in our Instant Pot. It’s a huge money saver. Also consider making roasted chicken and chicken stock in your Instant Pot! This is much cheaper than buying a rotisserie chicken at the store.

17) Use a grocery cash-back app

If you’re not already using one, check out a grocery cash-back app like Ibotta. These apps will give you rebates for shopping at big retailers like Costco, Wal-Mart and more. Since you’re likely to be shopping at these stores anyway, the cash-back apps are a great opportunity to save on purchases you already plan to make.

18) Check Unit Prices

Most stores note the unit price of an item as well as the actual price on the tag. It can get tricky if the units of measurement are different, though, so pay attention! I’ve found that grocery stores can be pretty inconsistent with their units of measurement.

This is much easier when you order online, but it can definitely be done in person too. Exercise your brain with a little mental math to make sure you’re getting the best deal!

19) Keep a running list of food on hand

I can’t count the number of times I’ve bought more of some pantry staple because I couldn’t remember if we had any at home and I didn’t want to risk another trip to the grocery store. This is such a waste of money!

To save yourself the trouble, keep a running list of the contents of your pantry or – alternately – a list of common items that you’re out of. (I find the “out of” list much easier. I put it all in Trello so it’s easily accessible for my next grocery order.)

20) Do your own prep work

Grocery stores offer lots of convenient prepared foods these days, but there’s a price. At my local store, a whole bell pepper cost about $3/lb. On the other hand, a container of sliced bell peppers will run you $8/lb.

This one is obvious but there are sneaky examples too! Next time you go to the grocery store, check your list for anything you could be prepping yourself rather than buying prepared.

Creative Ways to Save Money as a Mom 21) Buy secondhand

Kids grow fast! If you can, buy secondhand clothes. The small sizes (baby and toddler) usually aren’t worn very long, so you can often find used clothes in good shape. Check out garage sales, consignment shops and big swap meets (usually held once or twice a year). Just make sure you have a good handle on the sizes and seasons you’ll need before purchasing. You don’t want to go overboard on 2T winter clothes, only to have your sweetie in 3T by November.

You can also find used baby gear, like swings and bouncy seats. Some babies like these items and some don’t, so there are many mamas out there with gently used baby stuff to unload. You can benefit! Check out the local Facebook moms’ groups for larger items. Specialty buy/sell/trade groups can be great for clothes, cloth diapers, baby carriers and more!

There are also some great apps for buying secondhand clothes. I like ThredUp because they have a large selection of kids’ clothes, but I’ve found some good pieces at Poshmark as well. These sites are especially awesome for expensive items like winter gear.

22) Sell your unused or outgrown items

Just as you can benefit from buying used gear, don’t hesitate to sell items that your kids have outgrown! Furniture usually wears well and can be re-sold for a significant percent of the original purchase price, as long as it’s safe and in good condition. Baby gear, like swings and bouncy seats can also usually be re-sold for enough money to be worth the time and effort.

Selling clothes may be more trouble than it’s worth, money-wise, so you’ll have to assess that trade-off for yourself. For clothes, a consignment store could be a good option because, although you’ll make less than if you sold it to someone directly, you’ll also save time.

Keep in mind that some baby items – like cloth diapers and some baby carriers – actually appreciate in value. If you have a Kinderpack or woven wrap on your hands, head on over to a Facebook buy/sell/trade group. You may be surprised by how much your item is worth!

23) Swap with friends and family

If you have family or friends with kids that are a bit older or younger than yours, consider swapping items. We’ve shared car seats, swings, Rock n Plays and lots of other baby gear.  You can often trade this stuff back and forth as you each have multiple kids! It’s pretty nice not to have to buy every single thing – and good for your budget, too!

24) Cloth Diaper

Looking back, I don’t know how we did it (because it took so much time!) but we cloth diapered our twins. Cloth diapering may be more economical since you won’t have the recurring cost of buying disposable diapers. However, the up-front costs of buying cloth diapers are higher. You also need to consider the increased cost of washing the diapers. Finally, if your child will be in a childcare setting, many daycares do not allow cloth diapers. This is one to really do the math on before committing, but it could help you save a bundle if you have the time and energy to deal with yet more laundry.

25) Don’t personalize

I was born and raised in south Louisiana, and both of my kids’ grandmothers have monogramming machines. So, my kids have a lot of personalized clothes they receive as gifts. I don’t buy them myself though because personalization means those clothing items only get one season of use. The same goes for Valentine’s Day dresses and Easter shirts. As much as I want to buy different clothes for every holiday with cute phrases on them, I resist and instead buy clothes my kids can wear longer.

26) Buy off season

The retail cycle means that there are fantastic deals to be had when you purchase clothes at the end of the season for next year. I recommend skipping this tip until your kids are in size 4T. Before that, they are growing so fast that you’ll have trouble predicting what size they’ll be in a year. Around 4 or 5, the growth levels out enough that you can probably guess future sizes better. So stock up on your favorites during end-of-season clearance sales! You’ll save some money and – bonus – when the first cold snap or heat wave rolls around, you won’t be caught off-guard.

27) Be intentional

I can’t even count how many baby and kid items have been billed as “essential” and just…aren’t. Instead of buying the gear you think you need for every stage, I recommend a buy-as-you-need-it mentality. For example, you might want to wait to buy a baby swing until you actually have a baby. Then borrow a friend’s or use one at daycare to see if your child likes it before purchasing. No sense in spending the money and floor space for something your kid hates or doesn’t care about.

This rule works for older kids, too. Do they really need a toddler bed? Maybe…but maybe not. Why not wait and see? Kids are different and their needs can vary pretty wildly so save yourself some dollars and angst by waiting to buy stuff until you need it.

28) Join a local museum

Local museum memberships are a fantastic way to entertain your kids on a budget. Our local children’s museum offers a family membership for two adults and two kids at $120. Alternatively, the price is $7 per person for a day pass, so a family of four only has to go 4 times a year to make the pass worth it! Plus you often get extra member perks, like reciprocity at other museums across the country.

To sweeten the deal even further, ask for a museum or zoo membership as a gift! You’ll think of the gift-giver every time you use the membership (hopefully often)!

29) Love your library

Libraries are the BEST. Not only can you grab some fresh books for mom, dad and kids, but most libraries have really neat kids’ literacy and arts programs. Check out your local branch for a schedule!

I recently discovered that my library offers e-books for checkout as well. If you like to read on your phone, Kindle or tablet, it’s amazing to get free library books without having to actually go to the library.

If your children are school-aged, encourage them to make use of their school library as well. They can usually check out a few books to bring home, which should freshen up their reading material. And the price is right!

30) Join rewards programs

Many grocery stores and child-focused brands offer rewards programs. Check them out! You may get coupons or free items. Every little bit helps!

Creative Ways to Save Money at Home 31) Learn basic fixes

Plenty of household repairs are pretty simple if you’re willing to learn. Enlist a friend or relative to teach you easy fixes, or turn to Youtube. Leaky toilets, squeaky doors and other minor household annoyances can usually be repaired for just a little money and time. You’ll feel accomplished and save yourself the expense of hiring a repair person.

32) Craigslist It

Craigslist and local buy/sell/trade groups can be treasure troves for furniture and lightly used home furnishings. It’s amazing how frequently some people redecorate! If you’re sensitive to smoke or pets, make sure to ask whether the items are coming from a smoke-free and/or pet-free home.

If you don’t have a pickup truck or large SUV, make sure to factor in the cost of transporting large items.  Sometimes the seller will deliver for an additional fee. If not, you may need to borrow a friend’s truck. You can also rent a truck or trailer from U-Haul.

33) Learn to update furniture

If you’re crafty and want unique pieces in your home, consider learning to update vintage pieces to match your style. Refinishing or painting can completely change the look of wood furniture. Even something simple like changing the drawer knobs can transform a piece.

34) Borrow items you use infrequently

Save money and make space in your home by borrowing items you use only a few times a year. Rather than purchasing a carpet steamer, rent one every six months. See if you can borrow yard maintenance items, like a leaf blower, from your neighbors. You’ll save money (yay!). Better yet, you won’t have to find space for yet more stuff, and you’ll save yourself the hassle of maintaining those additional items.

35) Shop your house

Every year or so, shop your house! Walk through each room and think about whether there are pieces that could be used better elsewhere. As your lifestyle and tastes change, you may find that rearranging furniture or decor items freshens up your house without costing a dime!

We have a couple of great pieces that we’ve repurposed. A storage ottoman that used to live in the nursery is now the perfect toy and book storage for the living room. A chair that previously sat, unused, in the bonus room is now in a reading nook in the master bedroom. It’s super fun to think about how you can use the items you already have in new ways! And if you find that there’s a piece that doesn’t quite fit anywhere, don’t feel guilty about donating it to a new family.

36) Find a realtor or builder for discounted furnishings

Realtors and builders often have almost-new furnishings for staging homes. Occasionally, they sell these items to make way for updated pieces. This is a great opportunity to buy almost-new home decor for a discounted price. You can be confident that the items haven’t been truly used and should be very clean.

37) Paint an accent wall

Paint is inexpensive and quick to apply. Painting an accent wall can pack a huge punch for minimal time and effort. Find a color that complements your decor and go for it! You’ll probably only need a gallon of paint, depending on the size of wall and how many coats you need and the project can likely be finished in a couple of hours. A color accent will brighten up your whole space!

38) Make your own wall art

Purchase inexpensive frames and make your own wall art! Frame your kids’ artwork and hang it on the wall. Not only is this nearly free, but your kids will be so thrilled to see their art displayed in your home.

You can also find inexpensive printable quotes and pictures for your frames. Choosing wall art that represents your personality does not have to be expensive – just be thoughtful about what you want your home to say about you!

Wrapped canvas can be both a fun project for kids and look awesome on the wall. I recently bought a few huge canvases at a local craft store for about $4 each, and I’m going to have my kids produce works of art for a large wall in our entryway. I can’t wait! I’m supporting local up-and-coming artists who happen to live under my roof!

39) Edit your home

Often, you can improve the way your home looks by subtracting furnishings! Think about stock photos – they’re almost always very minimal. Hotel rooms are always soothing because they’re so clutter-free. Go through your home with a critical eye, removing furnishings that aren’t adding value to the space. When you minimize your home decor, it will be much easier to clean and your home will look so much better. Bonus – it’s free!

40) Use slipcovers

If you have a comfortable couch, but the upholstery just isn’t working for you, consider a slipcover. You can completely change the look of a room with this simple change, and it’s usually much cheaper than buying a whole new sofa. An extra benefit – if you have children, you’ll worry a lot less about spills and stains if you know you can remove the slipcover and throw it in the wash! With little kids and pets, I’m all about inexpensive but comfortable furnishings. I don’t want to spend my time worrying about the sofa getting messed up!

Creative Ways to Save Money in Your Business 41) Track your Expenses

Small expenses can add up. Thirty dollars a month here and $99 a quarter there and suddenly you’re spending more than you realize. Track your expenses and review them at least quarterly. Assess each service you’re paying for to determine whether you’re still using it or not. For example, you might still be paying for PicMonkey, for example, even though you’ve switched to Canva. Be on the lookout for services you no longer use and cancel as soon as you can.

42) Check out tax deductions

If you’re based out of your home, as most online entrepreneurs are, there may be tax deductions you can take advantage of. Don’t miss out! Research the rules on the IRS website or work with a tax professional to make sure you’re including the correct deductions on your tax return.

43) Barter with friends

Have an entrepreneur friend who’s a whiz at graphic design, while you can knock out copy like nobody’s business? Consider trading work. By doing what you’re each best at, both of you will save time. And you won’t have to pay a VA or other expert to do the work for you!

44) Pay in full

If you’re very confident that you’ll want to..

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If you found this post, you’re probably wondering how to make money as a freelance writer. Maybe you’ve tried freelance writing before, but you never got very far. Maybe you sent pitches and never heard back. Or maybe, just maybe, you want to see your writing in print but you’re scared. Maybe it’s no good, you wonder. Maybe I’ll just keep this dream to myself you say. Well, I’m here to tell you how to make your first $100 per month as a freelance writer – regardless of your experience level or setbacks you’ve had thus far.

The good news is that you can make money as a freelance writer regardless of your experience level. If you have a desire to make money as a writer, I believe that desire is in your heart for a reason. There are many ways to make money with a side hustle, but something in you wants to do that with writing. So, although I’m a bit biased because writing is my life, I think you should go for it. Here’s how:

How I Started as a Freelance Writer

Before we start, I wanted to tell you little about me. That way you know this stranger on the Internet has actually done some things when it comes to writing. I’ve always loved to write, ever since I was a little girl. Maybe you can relate? When I was little, I created a family newspaper. I had notebooks filled with poems and stories. The photographer for my wedding, who took my pictures growing up, said I was a strange kid who always had a notepad instead of a gameboy when I was in his studio. This photographer took pictures of thousands of kids in my community, but he remembered this little tidbit about me.

These days, I earn a six figure income from freelance writing, but don’t let that intimidate you. I was once in your shoes about 7 years ago, and I wanted to make money writing, but I didn’t know how.

I Got Inspiration From Great Writers

I started following a successful writer named Jon Morrow. Jon constantly had blog posts that went viral. His writing was exceptional, and I wanted to emulate him.

Jon taught me where to look for writing jobs, like different job boards, when I was just getting started. More important than that though, his work taught me how to structure the titles of blog posts in a way that made editors want to hire me. I poured through his free PDF called Headline Hacks and it helped me to start writing headlines and stories that people wanted to read. Once I started writing with some more structure and had a plan, I started to get work. 

At first, I was a freelance writer for fellow bloggers who didn’t want to write themselves. Then, I started pitching bigger and bigger websites. A few years into my freelance writing career, I started writing for The Huffington Post and U.S. News and World Report. More and more people started coming to my own blog. The more I was featured in larger publications, the more I could charge. I literally started freelance writing at $8/post. These days I charge several hundred dollars per post.

Even with all that, I still believe there’s nothing particularly unique or special about my writing. There are lots of amazing writers out there who keep me humble. There are even many freelance writers who I personally know who make the same amount of money I do. All that to say, there is room for everyone. Even if you’re a new writer, there are still hundreds of jobs and opportunities for someone just like you.

What you really need to do is simply start.

How to Make Your First $100 Per Month as a Freelance Writer

It’s not enough to like writing and to know how to create the best headline. The truth is that you can’t get paid to write until you get comfortable with pitching.

Yep, I said pitching.

You’re going to have to do this uncomfortable thing where you email a lot of people to ask for writing jobs. This is the point where you’re probably like nope, not doing that. This is the part where your brain is telling you to run the other way.

It’s because pitching is uncomfortable. Our brains like us to stay where we are, where it’s cozy. Anything outside of that makes us run for the hills.

All I can tell you from years of pitching is that it gets easier over time. Rejection gets easier over time. And, best of all, you get better over time.

How Do I Find Freelance Writing Jobs?

So, you know you want to write. You know you need some solid post ideas and some great headlines. You know you need to pitch some websites and editors. But, how do you find them?

There are a few ways to find freelance writing jobs.

  • Job Boards: This is how I got my start as a freelance writer. I checked the Problogger Job Board every single day first thing, and if there was a job I was interested in, I sent in a pitch.
  • Search for blogs in your niche with writing teams: There are some blogs where just one blogger is the main writer. There are other blogs who have staff writers. I often looked at lists of the top personal finance blogs, which is my niche. Then, I’d go to each one and see if they had staff writers. If it looked like a team of writers was writing for them, I went ahead and sent in a cold pitch.
  • Follow other writers. Like I said, Jon Morrow was the first writer I ever started following. He seemed to hold the keys to the blogging universe. Even now, he sells something called the Big Black Book which has the contact information for just about every big website and editor out there. This gave me an idea of which websites were hiring writers. Also, every time I came across a writer in my niche, I went to look at his or her hire me page. I googled them to see where else they wrote. I started compiling a spreadsheet of places that hired writers in my niche.
How Do I Cold Pitch an Editor?

There is definitely an art to a cold pitch. After all, you’re literally emailing someone out of the blue and asking them for a job. For one, I keep my pitch emails short and to the point. I tell them who I am, share examples of past work, and I give a few ideas of articles I could write for them using the principles of the Headline Hacks.

Here is an example of a very simple, but effective, pitch:

Dear [Name],

I recently came across your job ad on [blank], and I would love to be considered for a writing position at [blank]. I am a freelance writer who specializes in writing about [blank, blank, and blank.]

Here are some examples of my recent articles:

  1. [Link]
  2. [Link]
  3. [Link]

Some examples of articles I could write for you are:

  1. [Article Idea #1]
  2. [Article Idea #2]
  3. [Article Idea #3]

In addition to my skills as a writer, I am also extremely prompt. I take pride in meeting my deadlines, and I view each client I work with as a partnership. Also, I’m happy to share my articles on social media to help you reach a wider audience.

Please feel free to write back with any questions, and I look forward to discussing the opportunity more.

All the best,
[Your Name]

How Do I Create a Writing Portfolio?

If you’re starting from scratch, which is completely fine because I did too, here is how you can create a writing portfolio:

  • Medium : This is a website where you can just start writing posts and publishing them to the Internet, for free. You don’t have to pay for hosting or worry about any start up costs at all really. Put your words on the screen, and boom, you automatically have writing samples to send to editors.
  • Start your own blog: This is how I started as a freelance writer. I used my own blog as a portfolio to get writing jobs. If you don’t have a blog yet, I have this huge long post on the easiest way to start a blog (without hiring anyone or knowing how to code.)
  • Guest Post: This is where you are a guest writer on someone else’s blog. You don’t get paid for it, but it’s a great way to show that other people like your writing enough to publish it on their own websites. This is a great way to collect examples of your work all around the web, so don’t be afraid to network with other writers and bloggers. In the beginning, I exchanged guest posts with other writers so we could build our portfolios together.
Now, You’re Ready to Make Your First $100

Now you know how to create a writing portfolio. You also know how to pitch websites and editors using that portfolio. Best of all, you know how to find those editors.

You have everything you need to make your first $100 a month freelancing, so now you have to put the time in. Make a list of all the websites you want to pitch, and start customizing the email above to fit that website. When I first started freelance writing, I tried to send one pitch every day or about 30 every month. Sometimes, people would ignore me. Sometimes, people would simply say no. And, every now and then, someone would write me back and offer me a writing job.

It takes time. You might not get the very first job you apply for, and that’s ok. I do know from experience, though, that if you pitch enough editors and websites, eventually one of them will say yes. Once you get that first yes, it’s the most amazing feeling in the world! It gives you confidence, and it also gives you another website to add to your growing portfolio.

Turning Freelance Writing into a Career

There is so much more I’d like to cover in this post, but this post is already 2,000 words, and it would take forever, haha. I do have a course that’s great for beginning writers though in case you’re interested. Here’s what it covers:

  • Module 1: An Introduction to Writing for Blogs
  • Module 2: Preparing Your Portfolio
  • Module 3: How to Find & Pitch Writing Jobs for Blogs
  • Module 4: Pricing Your Services & Getting Paid
  • Module 5: Confidence and Rejection
  • Module 6: Organizing Your Topics and Deadlines
  • Module 7: Running A Successful and Legitimate Business
  • Module 8: Becoming a Full Time Writer for Blogs

Within each of these modules, I give you between 3-4 videos with sub topics like How to Define Your Goals, How to Create a Hire Me Page, How to Pitch Professionally, How to Decide What You’re Worth, Different Ways to Package and Price Your Services, How to Make Sure Clients Pay You, How to Feel Confident, How to Deal With Rejection, How to Create Hundreds of Topics, How to Manage Your Business Including Taxes and Invoices, How to Deal With Burnout, How to Know if Full Time Writing is Right For You, and many more.

This course is usually $197 but if you’re reading this post and a new, hopeful freelance writer, you can use the code NEWBIE to get 25% off (because I’ve been there and I totally know what it’s like to start out!)

Testimonials

I’ve helped many, many brand new freelance writers get their start. Here are some testimonials:

  • “When I first started working with Cat, I was overwhelmed by my goals and had no idea where to begin! However, less than one month into Cat’s coaching program I had a paid writing job. ” – Kara from The Daily Whisk
  • I began the coaching program with one content marketing client and at the end of the 3 month coaching session, I had a total of 10 clients… I was also approached by US News & World Report to join their freelance team.” Kassandra Dasent
  • “I landed 5 outstanding new clients throughout the duration of the course and received new resources and information to help me grow my freelance business.” – Chonce from My Debt Epiphany
  • “With the skills and referrals I received I was able to make $400 in freelancing income after my first month working with her.” – Syed from The Broke Professional
  • “In the three months since working with her, I’ve booked business worth 130% of the cost of her class.” – Jenna from My PF Twins
  • “I had a job within the very first week of starting, and I was able to make the money back for the course before it was even over.” – Robin from The Thrifty Peach
  • “Your course on freelance writing was just what I needed to get started. I had no idea what I was doing three months ago, and today I was offered my very first paid writing job.” – Kristi from Moderate Muse
  • “When I started working with Cat, I had no idea that I’d be able to build my business enough to quit my job in only 12 months.” – Kayla Sloan
A Final Note

Really, what it comes down to is your own work ethic and your ability to keep pitching, even when you get ignored or rejected. Being a freelance writer is more about grit than it is about your writing ability. I truly believe everyone can learn how to write better, but it’s the people who keep trying to get those jobs day in and day out that become successful.

Hopefully, this helps you make your first $100 per month freelance writing. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at any time.

The post How to Make Your First $100 Per Month as a Freelance Writer appeared first on Catherine Alford.

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Are you looking for teacher Christmas gift ideas? What about last minute Christmas gift ideas for teachers? Well, you’ve come to the right place. I absolutely love shopping for Christmas gifts, but I also know it takes a lot of time – and who has that?!

If buying Christmas gifts for teachers slipped your mind amid the busy holiday season, not to worry. This is a list of Christmas presents that you can buy on Amazon Prime!

That’s right, you can have those teacher gifts to your door in just two days, and no one will be the wiser. (And psst: You can try Amazon Prime for free for 30 days if you don’t have it already. You can cancel anytime.)

What’s On This Teacher Christmas Gift List?

On this list, I’ve actually included teacher Christmas gift ideas for preschool teachers and great Christmas gifts for teachers who specifically teach elementary school, math, science, social studies, art, PE, and even dance.

There is also a section at the bottom that’s just for gifts for male teachers. This year, my son has a male teacher, and I want his teacher to feel special and appreciated too. It’s easy for me to buy Christmas gifts for female teachers because I am, in fact, female. However, it can be a little challenging to find Christmas gifts for male teachers. So, I’ve already done the hard work for you. I think any male teacher would enjoy some of the gifts I’ve listed below!

Also, by separating the categories in this post, it’ll be easy for you to navigate to find Christmas gifts for kindergarten teachers or the right section to find a Christmas gift for your favorite art teacher or PE teacher. I hope this helps all the Amazon Prime loving mamas out there. Three cheers for shopping in your PJ’s, am I right?!

Preschool Teacher Christmas Gift Ideas

Because I have two children in preschool, I love finding unique preschool teacher Christmas gift ideas. The great thing about preschool teachers is you can buy teacher Christmas gifts that are more fun and whimsical.

When I think of a preschool teacher, I think of someone with a lot of patience, someone who might enjoy a bit of pampering. And, let’s be honest, I also think of someone who might enjoy a nice glass of wine at the end of the day to wind down.

Below are some of my favorite preschool teacher Christmas gift ideas. I hope you find something that will be perfect for your favorite preschool teacher.

The List of Preschool Teacher Christmas Gift Ideas
  • Mermaid Makeup Brush Set – $10.99 – What preschool teacher could resist this touch of whimsy? I think I’m going to buy these for my children’s preschool teachers. They are affordable, fun, and they’ve actually gotten great reviews on Amazon.

  • Hand Painted Stemless Wine Glasses – $25.89 – Like I said, if I was a preschool teacher, I’d definitely enjoy a nice glass of wine in the evening. I’ve been so impressed by the handmade Christmas gifts on Amazon lately. These wine glasses are beautiful and hand painted. I think any preschool teacher would be delighted to have them.
  • Wonder Woman Superhero Socks – $9.95 – I mean, do these really need an explanation? Preschool teachers are absolutely wonder women. These Wonder Woman socks would be a really fun gift that I’m sure many preschool teachers would love.
  • Giraffe Slipper Socks – $15.99 – Again, one of the best parts about shopping for Christmas gifts for preschool teachers is that you can have a little fun. If your child has more than one preschool teachers, there’s actually a pair of elephant slipper socks from this seller as well!
Christmas Gifts for Kindergarten Teachers

Are you looking for Christmas gifts for kindergarten teachers? Isn’t it so hard to find the perfect thing? After all, kindergarten teachers are really special. For many parents, sending their kids to kindergarten is the very first time their children have gone to school five days a week.

It’s hard to imagine how you can thank a kindergarten teacher for everything they do. After all, they will be among the first teachers to really make a huge impact on your child. Now, you don’t have to spend a lot to show how grateful you are. But, it is nice to try to find a unique gift for kindergarten teachers. After all, they probably have 500 ornaments on their Christmas tree from their students and even more coffee cups!

So, below I’ve gathered a few gifts for kindergarten teachers that they’ll love.

The List of Kindergarten Teacher Christmas Gift Ideas
  • 101-Piece Alphabet & Numbers Cookie Cutters – $14.99 – I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking about getting these for my house because my twins love making cookies. Plus, I’m amazed that you get *101* cookie cutters for just $14.99. Also, the great thing about these is it’s all numbers, letters, and holiday themed cookie cutters, so there are limitless uses for a kindergarten teacher.

  • Rose Gold Acrylic Pen Holder – $10.99 – Teachers love pretty desk accessories. I mean, they are some of the most organized people on the planet. So, why not give them something that they can use on their desk? Bonus: your child will smile throughout the rest of the year because he or she will be able to see the gift they gave their teacher every day!
  • Drawstring Backpack – $7.90 – This is great for those quick field trips. I recently went on a field trip with my kids’ classes to the farmer’s market, and the teachers were carrying backpacks filled with forms and other necessities for the day ahead. Giving your teacher a drawstring backpack is so versatile and they can use it whether they put their sandwich in it or pack it for their students’ music class down the hall.
  • Sterling Silver Initial Earrings – $13.99 – These are super sweet and simple earrings that your teacher will love. I enjoy getting personalized gifts myself, so I know they will too.
The Best Christmas Gifts for Elementary School Teachers

Now kindergarten teachers are amazing, but so are other elementary school teachers. If you want to find a Christmas gift for an elementary school teacher, look no further than the list below. I’ve compiled several elementary school teacher Christmas gift ideas that they can use in the classroom as well as at home.

The List of Elementary School Teacher Christmas Gift Ideas
  • Set of 6 Artificial Succulent Plants in Owl Planters – $15.99 – I searched high and low for really cute (but 100% artificial succulent plants in nice planters.) You would be surprised how many sellers on Amazon are selling planters but no succulents! I found this set. I think the owl planters are perfect for an elementary school teacher to have in her classroom. They add a touch of whimsy, and it’s nice to have plants around, even if they’re fake lol.

  • Lightweight Crossbody Bag With Tassel – $11.99 – The perfect, small crossbody bag that’s very versatile. Your favorite kindergarten teacher can use this gift whether they’re heading to school or running errands on the weekend. It’ll fit a wallet, a cellphone, and even a compact or lipstick.
  • 24 Ultra Fine Point Sharpie Markers – $14.99 – Most teachers love school supplies, and there are some die hard sharpie fans out there! I love these fine point sharpie marketers. They’re great for grading and writing notes home.
  • 25 Piece Wood & Rubber Teacher Stamps – $13.99 – These stamps will add a nice touch for teachers who enjoy adding a bit of pizzaz to the tests and papers they send home. This is a nice set of stamps they can use all year round for that purpose.
The Best Christmas Gifts for English Teachers

Maybe I’m a bit biased because I used to teach English, but man, I just loved looking up gifts for English teachers for this post. English teachers are my people. They love books and writing, and to me, there are so many ways to show them that you appreciate them and care.

Now, these gifts would work well if your child needs to buy gifts for a reading teacher or needs to buy gifts for a writing teacher. Teachers who fall under these categories typically enjoy the written word and appreciate some of the finer things in life. Just like the other categories, all of these teacher gifts are from Amazon Prime, which means you can get them in just two days! (Also, I won’t judge you if you buy one of these things for yourself. I’ve been eye the first one for myself.)

The List of English Teacher Christmas Gift Ideas
  • Tea Infuser Teapot Tea Cup – $10.99 – This is perfect to use while curled up with a good book. If your teacher has a microwave or an electric teakettle in their classroom (also a good gift idea!) they can use those to heat up the water for this tea cup. I love anything that’s clear glass or acrylic. I also like that this has a top, which makes it seem a little more high end, even though its under $11!

  • Pride and Prejudice Adult Coloring Book – $12.66 – This is a great way for English teachers to relax. I’ve never met an English teacher who didn’t love Pride and Prejudice, so you’re in luck here. This is a safe bet. If you want to add to the gift, you can always buy roll of colored pencils to go with it.
  • Rose Gold Ballpoint Pens – $18.99 – It always seems easier to write when you have a beautiful pen to use. IF your English teacher is also an avid writer, he or she might love these. You can pair them with a fresh, new notebook. (I’ve personally never met a notebook I didn’t like.)
  • Cute Coffee and Books T-Shirt – $19.99 – This shirt actually comes in men’s and women’s sizes. It has a fun graphic on it for the book and coffee lovers out there. I would absolutely proudly wear this myself, and I’m not even a teacher anymore.
The Best Christmas Gifts for Science Teachers

If you have a favorite science teacher, I know they’d love receiving a fun, science themed gift. There is a surprising amount of cool, creative gifts for science geeks out there. Below, I’ve shared beautiful jewelry, interesting books, and even a fun coffee mug.

The List of Science Teacher Christmas Gift Ideas
  • Rose Gold Caffeine Molecule Necklace – $14.80 – This necklace is nerdy and pretty, the best combination for a science teacher. It’s sure to get a lot of compliments and questions!

  • Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements, from Arsenic to Zinc – $13.26 – This is an interesting and cool book that science teachers might love. They can keep it in their classroom for kids to look through, or they can bring it home and have it as a coffee table book.
  • Caffeine Beaker Mug – $11.50 – This is a coffee mug that looks like a beaker. It has the caffeine molecule on it! If you have a lab teacher you love, they will probably get a kick out of this gift.
  • Science Cookie Cutter Set – $29.99 – If your science teacher has a passion for baking, how will they be able to resist these cookie cutters that can help your cookies look like atoms, test tubes, and beakers?
The Best Christmas Gifts for Math Teachers

So, I know many of you out there cringe at the thought of math, but think about how amazing our math teachers are! They have the task of taking tough concepts and teaching them to our kids. I don’t know about you, but I think they have one of the most challenging jobs out there. So, let’s be sure to pamper them a bit this holiday season with some of the teacher Christmas gift ideas below.

The List of Math Teacher Christmas Gift Ideas
  • Super Cool Math Clock – $24.77 – This clock doubles as a math lesson. Don’t you think this would make great classroom decor? I love gifts that can double as teaching tools, and I’m sure your math teacher will feel the same way.

  • Mathematics Infinity Scarf – $19.80 – Why wouldn’t your math teacher want to dress up in a scarf covered in numbers and formula? This is for that teacher who is very proud to teach math and isn’t afraid to show it!
  • Bath Bombs Gift Set – $10.69 – Bath bombs are always a great gift. After a long day of teaching math, your teacher can go home and relax with these bath bombs. Plus, this is a great price for a set of six bath bombs with hundreds of positive reviews.
  • “So Much Pun” Math Poster 4-Pack – $13.96 – I love a good pun, but math puns? That takes some skill. These hilarious and cute math posters would be great to decorate a classroom!
The Best Christmas Gifts for Social Studies Teachers

There are many different types of social studies teachers. You have geography teachers, American history teachers, world history teachers, and more. However, one thing they all have in common is that they likely have an interest in the world. And, as such, they probable appreciate all the cultures and facts that make up our amazing planet.  That’s why the gifts below are perfect for them.

The List of History Teacher Christmas Gift Ideas
  • World Map Pendant Necklace – $9.89 – This is such a pretty, affordable necklace for your history teacher or your social studies teacher. Plus, it’s a trendy double necklace to boot!

  • Pretty Thermal Mug – $18.00 – Social studies won’t put you to sleep anymore if your teacher has this.
  • I Read History and I Know Things Shirt – $18.99 – This shirt says, “That’s what I do. I read history, and I know things.” Ha! If you have a history teacher with a good sense of humor, they might enjoy this Christmas gift.
  • Organic World Of Tea Collection – $24.00 – If your social studies teacher or history teacher loves to try things from all around the world, they might enjoy this collection of organic tea. It’s a super nice set..
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Welcome back to part three of my traveling with kids series. In this series, I’m sharing some amazing places I’ve been fortunate to visit with my little family. I’m also giving you some tips and tricks of what worked for us and why we picked each location. Today, I’ll be chatting about things to do in Iceland with kids.

My friends at Radius Bank helped me bring this series to all of you. They are committed to helping families save – and grow – their money so families can do amazing things like buy houses, travel, and save for their children’s education.

If you haven’t seen my video collaboration with Radius Bank, please check out the video on YouTube. My kids make a cameo in the video and they’re totally adorable – so #worthit.

Why Iceland?

I’ll be honest. The reason Iceland was on my bucket list is kind of cheesy. I’d never considered this as a travel destination before until I saw an episode of The Bachelor.

On the show, the Bachelor couple (couples?) went to the Blue Lagoon, and I thought it looked like an incredible, must-see destination. After watching that episode, I just knew I wanted to travel there someday.

Disclaimer: My visit to the Blue Lagoon was not as steamy as it was on The Bachelor because you know… kids.

(It was still even more beautiful than it was on TV though!)

At the time, we were also living close to New York City, so the flight to Iceland was direct, inexpensive, and only a few hours long.

For that reason, we thought Iceland would be a good introduction to international travel for the kids.

To many, Iceland might seem like a destination only for adventurers, hikers, or those capable of camping in the wilderness. However, it’s also a great place for families to visit, even if they have small kids. Here are some activities I suggest:

Stroll Through the Streets of Reykjavik

We stayed in an Airbnb near Reykjavik that had space for everyone. It was within walking distance to Harpa Concert Hall (another great place to walk in and see) as well as within walking distance to all the shops in Reykjavik.

There are museums near this area, and you can also see Hallgrímskirkja which is a beautiful church.

We purchased extremely warm wool hats and mittens in Reykjavik to bring home (which still serve us well now that we live in Detroit!) My daughter also very memorably broke about 20 shot glasses at a souvenir shop in Reykjavik, which they very kindly did not make us pay for.

Ah, the joys of traveling with kids!

Try a Hotdog

Iceland has very interesting hot dogs and hot dog toppings. They are known for this, and there are lots of hot dog stands throughout Reykjavik. This makes a great, inexpensive meal or snack. Many of them put crispy fried onions on top, which gives it a good crunch.

Iceland can be expensive when it comes to food and restaurants so when you have kids, stopping at a hotdog stand can help alleviate that cost.

Visit a Local Pool

Iceland has many amazing natural hot springs, and part of the culture there is to hang out at local pools which are heated by these springs. Even if it’s absolutely freezing outside, which it is for most of the year, the people of Iceland will visit their local pools and socialize.

We visited three or four of these local pools during our stay. It was a great activity for the kids, and it also showed us what day to day life was like in Iceland.

My favorite pool was Árbæjarlaug. I liked it because it had an indoor pool area and an outdoor pool area. It was pretty cold there, even though we went in May, and so the warm, indoor pool was a welcome reprieve.

A tip: There are rules when it comes to entering the public pools in Iceland. You have to shower before getting in and after getting out. And, there is someone there watching you to make sure you actually do it correctly. (They have signs showing how.) They were quite strict about it, so just prepare yourself to get realllllly comfortable showering in front of others before you head there!

Eat Lobster Soup

Iceland has wonderful seafood. My husband read a NYT review of the lobster soup at a restaurant called Saegreifinn (The Sea Baron) and many have dubbed it the best lobster soup in the world.

The Sea Baron was a little hard to find at first. It’s tucked in a nook down by the docks in Reykjavik, but it definitely had that local feel. The lobster soup truly was delicious. One of my twins even tried it and loved it (while the other only ate bread because #kids.)

Go to the Blue Lagoon

As I mentioned earlier in the post, the whole reason I wanted to travel to Iceland was to visit the Blue Lagoon, so we definitely made this part of our trip. The Blue Lagoon even generously gave us a complimentary visit, but I would have happily paid double the amount the ticket price to get to experience something this incredible.

We spent several hours there, and the kids absolutely loved it. Young children have to wear floaties there, and ours were so happy floating around in the warm 100 degree water. The day we visited the Blue Lagoon was the best day on our entire trip. The kids were just so happy there, and it was just one of those experiences where I was just bursting with gratitude the whole day for being able to be there.

The unique color of the water coupled with the free mud masks available to everyone made it feel like a several hours long spa visit. I’m not typically a fan of visiting places twice (because there are so many wonderful places to see in the world) but my husband and I want to go back on our own someday sans kiddos. I saw many people getting professional massages while floating on mats in the Blue Lagoon, and I definitely want in on that.

See Where Two Continents Meet

Iceland has really interesting geography. We rented a car, and we mostly saw lots of rocky terrain near Reykjavik. It almost looked like we were driving on the moon at times.

If you love adventure and hiking, Iceland is great. There are many unique tours, glaciers, national parks, and more to visit. You can also see the Northern Lights during the winter months. We avoided taking long drives with the kids so we mostly stayed close to Reykjavik, but one place we did see was the Bridge Between Continents also called Leif’s Lucky Bridge.

This bridge crosses over a big rift between continental plates, essentially allowing you to cross between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate.

This is more of a photo opp, but if your kids are slightly older and learning about tectonic plates, it’s one of the few opportunities you’ll be able to show them the result of plates actively moving apart.

Final Thoughts & Advice

If you’re considering Iceland for a family vacation, I definitely recommend it. It’s an extremely interesting country and quite unlike many places in Europe. It’s definitely worth a stop if you have a layover to other parts of Europe as well.

The downside of Iceland is that it’s cold pretty much all the time. As I mentioned, we went in May and it was still chilly. Also, in May, it didn’t get dark until 11 pm so it took us longer than usual to adjust to the light and time zone.

I do think it’s a great place to take kids because of all the pools and interesting culture. And, I truly find it so fascinating how the people of Iceland have adapted to such drastic temperatures and rocky terrain and made their lives flourish here. It made such an impact on me that I even made Iceland the subject of a children’s book I wrote.

How to Afford a Trip to Iceland

As I mentioned, Iceland can be a bit pricey when it comes to restaurants and some tours as well. However, because it’s not as far away from the States as other European countries, the plane flights are relatively inexpensive.

Here’s how we made it affordable for our family:

  • We used airline miles to purchase our flights.
  • We rented an Airbnb instead of a hotel.
  • We bought groceries at the local grocery store and used the kitchen in our Airbnb to make our own meals.
  • We used our city cards to get admission to several different local attractions. (These were given to us but they are an affordable way to see several different sites.)
  • We rented a car and brought our own carseats.
  • We saved for this trip for several months ahead of time in a high yield savings account that’s completely separate from our checking account. This reduces temptation to spend vacation money and helps avoid being stressed about money on vacation. (Radius Bank has a hybrid checking account that’s good for this purpose because you can use it like a checking account but it has a better interest rate like a savings account.)

Ultimately, we had a wonderful experience visiting Iceland, and it’s definitely a place I highly recommend. If you want to read the other posts in my travel series brought to you by Radius Bank, read my post about New Orleans here and about Mackinac Island here.

What are some of your favorite family travel destinations?

The post 6 Things to Do in Iceland With Kids appeared first on Catherine Alford.

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Welcome back to my travel series where I’m sharing five posts full of tips and tricks for traveling with kids. In my last post in the series, I shared 6 Things to Do on Mackinac Island With Kids and today I’m going to share 7 things to do in New Orleans with kids.

This series is brought to you courtesy of my friends at Radius Bank who are committed to helping families save – and grow – their money. If you haven’t seen my video collaboration with Radius Bank, please check out the video (and my adorable kiddos) on YouTube.

Now, some long time readers might know this but if you’re new here, I grew up about 30 minutes away from New Orleans. So, my parents would often take my siblings and me to New Orleans on the weekends to stroll along the Riverwalk, eat salt water taffy, and in general, enjoy the scenery.

New Orleans is a great city packed with culture and amazing food. It’s a wonderful destination for kids and families. Here are some of our favorite things to do there:

Check Out Jackson Square

Jackson Square is the heart of the French Quarter. It’s where St. Louis Cathedral is located, and I love walking into the cathedral and around the square, where local artists prop up their art for sale.

There is usually spontaneous jazz music from street musicians, lots of cute shops, and mimes. There is a lot to look at, and it’s perfectly safe to walk around during the day with your kids. I’ve been going since I was little.

Have a Muffaletta on the Riverfront

New Orleans is called the Crescent City due to the bend in the Mississippi River that you can see when you stand on the Riverwalk. You can park in many different public parking locations in the French Quarter and take a stroll.

When you’re in New Orleans, you have to try the classic Italian sandwich known as a muffaletta. The best place to get them is in a little hole in the wall called Central Grocery, which has been there since 1906. My grandfather used to take my dad there as a kid to get muffalettas and my dad always took us too.

Muffalettas are enormous sandwiches so you can order a half a muffaletta and that is enough for two adults. You can take the muffalettas in a bag with some Zapps potato chips, and then go sit on a bench on the Riverfront and eat them while you watch the riverboats roll by.

Go to the Audubon Zoo

I’ll be honest; the aquarium in New Orleans is just so-so. I would recommend taking your kids to the Audubon Zoo instead. The most iconic exhibit in the zoo is the white alligator. I used to visit the white alligator as a kid and they continue to have white alligators at the zoo now.

Ride the Streetcar

Another fun thing to do is ride the streetcar. It’s very inexpensive to do so. You can hop on the streetcar in the French Quarter and ride up St. Charles Ave. to look at all the beautiful, historic mansions.

The St. Charles line streetcar is the oldest operating streetcar in the U.S. and it’s only $1.50 to ride it (you’ll need exact change).

Indulge in Beignets

Beignets are french doughnuts covered in powder sugar, and they are a New Orleans rite of passage. I’ve tried just about every beignet shop in the New Orleans area, and there is a reason Cafe du Monde continues to be in business since 1862.

We took our twins here the last time we were home, and they absolutely loved it.

Listen to Live Jazz

You just can’t beat the incredible jazz musicians in New Orleans. If you want more after hearing it on the streets of the French Quarter all day, head to Preservation Hall for an intimate jazz show.

Preservation Hall is an iconic location. It’s small, cozy, and dark with the perfect ambiance for a jazz band.

The last time I went there, I was pregnant with my twins, and my husband and I went on a mini vacation and stayed in New Orleans for two nights around the holidays. We went to listen to Christmas jazz music, and the babies jumped around in my belly the whole time. They really loved the music!

Eat Charbroiled Oysters

No list can be complete without me mentioning my favorite New Orleans restaurant: Dragos. Dragos now has two locations. They opened a restaurant in the French Quarter a few years ago, so now it’s a bit easier to get to.

I’ve converted many a non-seafood eater to oyster lover by getting them to try Drago’s charbroiled oysters. They’re the best. My husband and I will stop and eat oysters here before seeing any family when we go home. They’re that good, and I highly encourage you to stop by and order a dozen. You won’t regret it.

Tips for Affording a New Orleans Vacation

If you’d like to go to New Orleans, here are a few tips for affording it:

  • Travel Off Peak – In New Orleans, off-peak travel times are different than other parts of the country. Try to avoid traveling during Mardi Gras, the Sugar Bowl, Saints games, and Jazz Fest. Late March to early April is a good time to go both weather-wise and to avoid everything mentioned above!
  • Eat at Holes in the Wall – New Orleans has a long list of absolutely incredible five star restaurants by renowned chefs. You can easily spend a thousand dollars on meals alone and barely scratch the surface of the incredible cuisine. However, there are also many smaller restaurants that are affordable and equally as divine. Do your research to find different restaurants where you can try an affordable cup of gumbo or a plate of jambalaya. It’s hard to be disappointed when it comes to food in New Orleans.
  • Save in a Hybrid Checking Account – I always save for my vacations in a separate account for a few months before traveling. Regular savings accounts only let you have 6 transactions a month but you can try a hybrid savings account, like the ones offered at Radius Bank. These allow you to have the interest rate of a high yield savings account with the convenience of a checking account. That way, there won’t be a limit your transactions, and you can pay for everything on your trip right from your vacation account.

Of course, I’ve really only scratched the surface of things to do in New Orleans with kids. There are tons of museums, attractions, restaurants, and exhibits you can visit.

I’ve listed some easy, inexpensive activities above as well as a few pricier options like the zoo and Dragos. I enjoyed all of them as a child myself, and I’m now sharing them with my own kids. I hope you enjoy them too!

Have you ever been to New Orleans? What’s your favorite part?

The post 7 Things to Do in New Orleans With Kids appeared first on Catherine Alford.

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Have you ever heard of Mackinac Island? It’s a magical little place in Michigan where cars aren’t allowed, horses and bikes are the main form of transportation, and fudge is pretty much the primary food group. I thought it would be fun to write about our recent trip there and share some things to do on Mackinac Island with kids.

If you’re new here, travel is one of our family’s big financial priorities. We always say we’re happy to spend money on travel & education, and everything else just isn’t that important to us. This post is actually a part of a five post series, which is brought to you courtesy of our friends at Radius Bank. So, stay tuned in future weeks for some travel tips to places like Iceland, Finland, and more!

How Long Should You Stay on Mackinac Island with Kids?

First I wanted to chat about how long to stay on the island. We stayed for four nights, and I felt like that was perfect. As those of you with kids know, it’s hard to take them out of their routine!

We traveled to Mackinac Island right before Memorial Day. This meant that it wasn’t as crowded and prices were much more affordable. If you travel to Mackinac Island in the middle of the summer, you’ll pay a premium for a hotel.

We stayed at a very cute hotel called Main Street Inn. It was in an awesome location. We walked right off the ferry and crossed the street, and boom, we were there.

We booked one of the least expensive rooms, a deluxe standard room, for $115 a night. The day after we left, our exact same room went up to $200/night because it was Memorial Day and the start of the summer season.

The hotel staff was really nice. Our beds were so comfortable, and our room on the second floor was the perfect location to borrow board games and card games from the second floor game room.

My husband and I had a wild date night in the hotel full of him crushing me in Monopoly one night, and then we played Old Maid and Go Fish with the kids on the other nights.

A note about booking at The Main Street Inn: you can’t book online directly. You fill out a form online requesting a room. Then, they call you if they have one available and you put a deposit down over the phone.

It was definitely the perfect location, walking distance to everything, and they give you a piece of fudge from the fudge shop downstairs in your room each night.

Now that you know where we stayed, here are a few tips on things to do on Mackinac Island with kids:

1. Ride in a Carriage

The kids started to ask to ride in the horse drawn carriages about 5 seconds into stepping on the island. We researched carriage tours, but in the end, we decided to take a “taxi” up to the Grand Hotel instead.

A carriage tour would have been lovely, but it was around $100 for our family and almost two hours long. We didn’t know if our four year old twins would sit for that long, so taking the horse carriage taxi was a way to let them ride without the expense.

Taking a one way carriage taxi is $5 per adult and it’s free for toddler-age kids and younger.

2. Visit the Grand Hotel

Speaking of the Grand Hotel, it’s definitely worth a visit. This is a gorgeous, iconic hotel that is over 131 years old. They have beautiful gardens, a large wrap around porch, and stunning views of the lake.

It’s definitely worth exploring, and once you take the horse taxi up the hill, you can easily take a nice stroll back, since it’s all downhill!

3. Visit the Butterfly House

The Butterfly House is walking distance from Main Street. I admit, at first, I wondered if it was a tourist trap because it was $30 for the four of us to visit the small Butterfly sanctuary.

What I didn’t expect, however, was that my son would absolutely love it. When you go into the Butterfly House, they give you a little guide to help you identify the butterflies. My son called it his “map” and he spent a long, long time looking for the butterflies on the map. He was so focused and so into it. Then he asked us to go back… twice.

They also have a section where you can look at insects, turtles, and a bearded dragon. (My fearless daughter had no problem petting the bearded dragon.)

Don’t forget to ask for wrist bands when you buy your tickets. We put the wristbands on our backpacks, and that allowed us to come back as many times as we wanted before we left. This made the price and the experience worth it.

4. Try Lots of Fudge

Yeah, so, there are a lot of fudge shops on Mackinac Island. You should probably try them all… for research purposes of course.

You’ll see fudge shops all over Main Street, every couple of shops in fact. If your kids have never seen someone make fudge, this is a great free activity. You can walk into many of the shops and watch them create it before your eyes. Many fudge shops also offer free samples.

We tried several different shops and really indulged over the course of four days. There is no such thing as bad fudge on Mackinac Island, so you really can’t go wrong.

5. Take a Family Bike Ride

One of our favorite activities on this trip was taking a family bike ride around the island. It’s an 8 mile trek, and I was able to do it even though I haven’t worked out in a minute forever.

There are many bike rental shops on the island. We used Mackinac Island Bike Shop. They didn’t require a deposit, and they prorated the ride. The clock starts when you sign up with your credit card. But, it took a little time for them to get the WeeHoos attached to each of our bikes for the kids to ride in, so they restarted the clocks for us when we left, which I thought was fair and good service.

We enjoyed the ride around the island. It was quiet and peaceful with great views. The kids were a little nervous at first because they’ve never ridden in a WeeHoo before, but they were quickly giggling, having a good time, and pointing out a few things to each other.

The bike shop provided free water and free helmets for us, but I also brought snacks. We ended up stopping a few times on the journey to walk by the water, feed the kids gummies, etc.

6. Eat at The Pink Pony

We ate out for most of our meals on this trip. We brought a lot of breakfast bars and snacks which helped cut down on our food spending, but we budgeted for several meals out as well.

Although we had a few great meals, the restaurant I want to wholeheartedly recommend is the Pink Pony. It’s another one of those iconic Mackinac Island places that has been there forever, and the food is absolutely delicious.

Our son, who is a picky eater, devoured their spaghetti and meatballs. They used pasta that looked like bicycle wheels, and he was very jazzed about that having just experienced an 8 mile bike ride. I had the fish tacos, and they were truly amazing.

Not only was the food great, but the atmosphere was just beautiful. We got there for lunch a little early at around 11:30, which allowed us to get a table right by the water. The weather was perfect, the breeze was just right, the kids were well behaved, and it was just one of those moments where I was overwhelmed with gratitude for being able to travel with my family.

How We Save for Our Trips

If you want to take a vacation with your family, but you feel like you can’t afford it, here is what we do:

  • Prioritize Traveling

First, we prioritize traveling. That means that we don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, eating out, or other extras. We didn’t pay for a pool or a waterpark membership this summer. We say no to lots of things that come up in favor of saving for trips.

  • Save Money in a High Yield Checking Account

If you don’t put your travel money in a separate account, you’re going to spend it. If you wait until the end of the month to put all extra money towards vacation savings, you won’t have any left.

We set a vacation goal and then transfer a certain amount of money each month into a high yield account earmarked for vacations. High yield accounts allow you to earn more interest than a traditional checking account. The Radius Bank hybrid checking account is a great example of that (and they refund ATM fees if you want to take cash out on your trip.)

Overall, we had a really great time on Mackinac Island. We accomplished our goal to learn a little bit more about our new state of Michigan, and it did not disappoint.

Life gets busy, and like many families with two working parents, our family really needed some time to reconnect. I loved that there wasn’t a ton to do on the island. It gave us a lot of time to take walks, grab ice cream, and just spend time together.

I definitely recommend Mackinac Island if you’re looking for a charming, low key vacation with your kids. If you have any questions about our trip or tips for your own trip to Mackinac Island with kids, feel free to contact me!

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Have you ever heard of Macinac Island? It’s a magical little place in Michigan where cars aren’t allowed, horses and bikes are the main form of transportation, and fudge is pretty much the primary food group. I thought it would be fun to write about our recent trip there and share some things to do on Macinac Island with kids.

If you’re new here, travel is one of our family’s big financial priorities. We always say we’re happy to spend money on travel & education, and everything else just isn’t that important to us. This post is actually a part of a five post series, which is brought to you courtesy of our friends at Radius Bank. So, stay tuned in future weeks for some travel tips to places like Iceland, Finland, and more!

How Long Should You Stay on Macinac Island with Kids?

First I wanted to chat about how long to stay on the island. We stayed for four nights, and I felt like that was perfect. As those of you with kids know, it’s hard to take them out of their routine!

We traveled to Macinac Island right before Memorial Day. This meant that it wasn’t as crowded and prices were much more affordable. If you travel to Macinac Island in the middle of the summer, you’ll pay a premium for a hotel.

We stayed at a very cute hotel called Main Street Inn. It was in an awesome location. We walked right off the ferry and crossed the street, and boom, we were there.

We booked one of the least expensive rooms, a deluxe standard room, for $115 a night. The day after we left, our exact same room went up to $200/night because it was Memorial Day and the start of the summer season.

The hotel staff was really nice. Our beds were so comfortable, and our room on the second floor was the perfect location to borrow board games and card games from the second floor game room.

My husband and I had a wild date night in the hotel full of him crushing me in Monopoly one night, and then we played Old Maid and Go Fish with the kids on the other nights.

A note about booking at The Main Street Inn: you can’t book online directly. You fill out a form online requesting a room. Then, they call you if they have one available and you put a deposit down over the phone.

It was definitely the perfect location, walking distance to everything, and they give you a piece of fudge from the fudge shop downstairs in your room each night.

Now that you know where we stayed, here are a few tips on things to do on Macinac Island with kids:

1. Ride in a Carriage

The kids started to ask to ride in the horse drawn carriages about 5 seconds into stepping on the island. We researched carriage tours, but in the end, we decided to take a “taxi” up to the Grand Hotel instead.

A carriage tour would have been lovely, but it was around $100 for our family and almost two hours long. We didn’t know if our four year old twins would sit for that long, so taking the horse carriage taxi was a way to let them ride without the expense.

Taking a one way carriage taxi is $5 per adult and it’s free for toddler-age kids and younger.

2. Visit the Grand Hotel

Speaking of the Grand Hotel, it’s definitely worth a visit. This is a gorgeous, iconic hotel that is over 131 years old. They have beautiful gardens, a large wrap around porch, and stunning views of the lake.

It’s definitely worth exploring, and once you take the horse taxi up the hill, you can easily take a nice stroll back, since it’s all downhill!

3. Visit the Butterfly House

The Butterfly House is walking distance from Main Street. I admit, at first, I wondered if it was a tourist trap because it was $30 for the four of us to visit the small Butterfly sanctuary.

What I didn’t expect, however, was that my son would absolutely love it. When you go into the Butterfly House, they give you a little guide to help you identify the butterflies. My son called it his “map” and he spent a long, long time looking for the butterflies on the map. He was so focused and so into it. Then he asked us to go back… twice.

They also have a section where you can look at insects, turtles, and a bearded dragon. (My fearless daughter had no problem petting the bearded dragon.)

Don’t forget to ask for wrist bands when you buy your tickets. We put the wristbands on our backpacks, and that allowed us to come back as many times as we wanted before we left. This made the price and the experience worth it.

4. Try Lots of Fudge

Yeah, so, there are a lot of fudge shops on Macinac Island. You should probably try them all… for research purposes of course.

You’ll see fudge shops all over Main Street, every couple of shops in fact. If your kids have never seen someone make fudge, this is a great free activity. You can walk into many of the shops and watch them create it before your eyes. Many fudge shops also offer free samples.

We tried several different shops and really indulged over the course of four days. There is no such thing as bad fudge on Macinac Island, so you really can’t go wrong.

5. Take a Family Bike Ride

One of our favorite activities on this trip was taking a family bike ride around the island. It’s an 8 mile trek, and I was able to do it even though I haven’t worked out in a minute forever.

There are many bike rental shops on the island. We used Macinac Island Bike Shop. They didn’t require a deposit, and they prorated the ride. The clock starts when you sign up with your credit card. But, it took a little time for them to get the WeeHoos attached to each of our bikes for the kids to ride in, so they restarted the clocks for us when we left, which I thought was fair and good service.

We enjoyed the ride around the island. It was quiet and peaceful with great views. The kids were a little nervous at first because they’ve never ridden in a WeeHoo before, but they were quickly giggling, having a good time, and pointing out a few things to each other.

The bike shop provided free water and free helmets for us, but I also brought snacks. We ended up stopping a few times on the journey to walk by the water, feed the kids gummies, etc.

6. Eat at The Pink Pony

We ate out for most of our meals on this trip. We brought a lot of breakfast bars and snacks which helped cut down on our food spending, but we budgeted for several meals out as well.

Although we had a few great meals, the restaurant I want to wholeheartedly recommend is the Pink Pony. It’s another one of those iconic Macinac Island places that has been there forever, and the food is absolutely delicious.

Our son, who is a picky eater, devoured their spaghetti and meatballs. They used pasta that looked like bicycle wheels, and he was very jazzed about that having just experienced an 8 mile bike ride. I had the fish tacos, and they were truly amazing.

Not only was the food great, but the atmosphere was just beautiful. We got there for lunch a little early at around 11:30, which allowed us to get a table right by the water. The weather was perfect, the breeze was just right, the kids were well behaved, and it was just one of those moments where I was overwhelmed with gratitude for being able to travel with my family.

How We Save for Our Trips

If you want to take a vacation with your family, but you feel like you can’t afford it, here is what we do:

  • Prioritize Traveling

First, we prioritize traveling. That means that we don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, eating out, or other extras. We didn’t pay for a pool or a waterpark membership this summer. We say no to lots of things that come up in favor of saving for trips.

  • Save Money in a High Yield Checking Account

If you don’t put your travel money in a separate account, you’re going to spend it. If you wait until the end of the month to put all extra money towards vacation savings, you won’t have any left.

We set a vacation goal and then transfer a certain amount of money each month into a high yield account earmarked for vacations. High yield accounts allow you to earn more interest than a traditional checking account. The Radius Bank hybrid checking account is a great example of that (and they refund ATM fees if you want to take cash out on your trip.)

Overall, we had a really great time on Macinac Island. We accomplished our goal to learn a little bit more about our new state of Michigan, and it did not disappoint.

Life gets busy, and like many families with two working parents, our family really needed some time to reconnect. I loved that there wasn’t a ton to do on the island. It gave us a lot of time to take walks, grab ice cream, and just spend time together.

I definitely recommend Macinac Island if you’re looking for a charming, low key vacation with your kids. If you have any questions about our trip or tips for your own trip to Macinac Island with kids, feel free to contact me!

The post 6 Things to Do on Macinac Island With Kids appeared first on Catherine Alford.

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Creating a boy and girl shared room can be challenging, especially as kids get older. You don’t want things to be too girly or too masculine, but you also want it to be memorable and fun. I get it. I have four year old boy girl twins, and they’ve shared a room from the beginning.

The great news is that they both love their space and have never asked to have their own rooms. Over time, I’ve been able to create a cute boy and girl shared room without spending a ton of money.

Since we just updated their room with big kid beds, I wanted to share its most recent transformation with you. No longer do we have two cribs or two toddler beds. We have super tall four year olds who are sharing a very small room in a small house, and they didn’t last long in toddler beds.

This is where my first tip comes in. Find something in the room that can be your focal point, something fun and memorable. For us, that was their beds.

Make it Fun

Because our home is just over 1,000 square feet, there isn’t a lot of room for large furniture. In fact, we couldn’t find a way to fit two twin beds in their small room. So, enter the bunk beds stage right.

Now, I totally fell in love with the bunk bed at Pottery Barn that looks like a playhouse. It’s actually called the Tree House bunk bed, and it’s just so gorgeous, but also very expensive at $1,900. It’s just not a cost I could justify, so I started looking for something similar.

After searching for a few months, I came across these bunk beds. I almost clicked away from the image at first because the bunkbeds featured camouflage curtains that I knew the princess wouldn’t like.

However, once I read the description and realized the camouflage curtains were removable, I started to see the potential. In fact, with the curtains stripped away, it looked really similar to the Pottery Barn version, without the expensive price tag.

I kept an eye on the price, and right after Christmas I bought them when the price dropped under $600 (usually around $800.)

Here’s what the bunk beds look like in their room:

As you can see, these beds are really fun. It made the kids so excited for their big kid room. Having a large piece of furniture in a neutral color set the tone for the entire boy and girl shared room.

What I Love About Bunk Beds

What I love about the beds is that each kid gets to have their own space within the room. My daughter has the top bunk and calls it her “castle.” My son calls his bottom bunk his “cave.” They both think their space is super cool, and we’ve customized it for each one of them. We installed really simple Ikea floating shelves so they can put the books and trinkets they like near their beds.

The mattresses on the beds were generously provided by Tuft & Needle. I wanted to get them the Tuft & Needle twin mattresses because that’s the type of mattress my husband and I have.

My kids were decent sleepers as infants. We sleep trained them to be on the same nap schedule and same night schedule. But, as they got older, they started climbing out of their cribs, and transitioning to toddler beds was a nightmare. They kept ending up in our bed.

Eventually, I gave up and asked Tuft and Needle if they’d consider sending us a king mattress to try so we could have more space. They very generously agreed, but I waited a full year to let you know so I could make sure to give you an accurate review!

Initially, I was nervous to get the T&N mattress at first because I like soft mattresses. Some of the T&N mattress reviews said it was too firm, so I was worried I wouldn’t like it. But, it’s perfect. I’ve had ours for over a year now and the kids have had theirs for almost 6 months. So, I’m finally confident enough to say that we’re really happy with them. After a year of sleeping on it, I have no complaints, and the kids seem to sleep well on them too.

The great news is that once the twins got their bunk beds and their own Tuft & Needle twin mattresses,  they finally wanted to stay in their own beds! Now, don’t get me wrong, I still wake up and find one of them next to me from time to time. But, for the most part, getting them bigger mattresses and a cooler bed made them want to stay in their room. This means more and better sleep for everyone.

Create a Cohesive Look

If you’ve been reading from the beginning, you might remember that my twins had a travel themed nursery. Their nursery walls were grey, and this was before grey was cool, y’all. My mom and mother in law were horrified I was going to paint the walls grey. I did it anyway, though, and everyone eventually loved it.

Because we’ve lived abroad and love to travel, we filled their nursery with maps from all over the world. We also included pictures of us when we lived in the Caribbean, and lots of other fun mementos from friends who live in other countries. I hate to call it a “theme” because it might make people think of a tropical themed bathroom or a Mickey Mouse themed birthday party. So, let’s just call it a cohesive look.

It turns out, the travel photos and artwork were a great choice because all of that has carried over to now at age 4. This means I didn’t have to buy anything new to decorate their room, and I didn’t have to replace nursery art with big kid art.

One of my favorite parts of the room are these scratch off maps that my sister sent the kids for Christmas. You scratch off countries as you visit them. I hope they can scratch off all of them someday!

And here are just a few more pictures of the space:

Overall, I think it’s a room that will definitely grow with them. And, they really enjoyed the freedom to add their dolls and toys and books to their own individual bunk beds. This makes them feel like they get to have somewhat of a say in how their personal spaces are “decorated.”

Really, our only cost in this big kid room update was the bed. We already had their dressers, artwork, and IKEA floating shelves from their nursery. (And, we’ve brought all of it to three different states now!)

I’m hopeful that these two will keep sharing a room for a long time. I just love their bond and their friendship. And, if I can help facilitate that by making their shared room fun, I’m more than happy to do it.

Do you have a boy and girl shared room in your house? If so, how did you decorate it?

The post How to Create a Gorgeous Boy and Girl Shared Room appeared first on Catherine Alford.

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Getting engaged is such a fun time in a couple’s life. After all, you’ve found the one you love. You’re deep into planning your dream wedding. You’ve registered for all the necessities, the menu is set, and the DJ is booked and ready to give you an epic party during your reception.

You might think you know everything about the person you are about to marry and spend your life with, but do you really?

I’ve been married for over 8 years now, and I still find out new things about my husband. Just the other day, I found out he hates hard boiled eggs. I know, it was a thrilling new revelation.

I always tell new couples, though, that they need to talk about money more intimately before they get married. It’s not a secret that financial strain during a marriage can lead to marriage trouble, so before you tie the knot, sit down with your other half and talk about the ten questions below. I promise you won’t regret it!

1 – First things first, how much debt do you have and where is this debt? This is a big question and an important one. Student loans, car loans, credit card balances or any other debt needs to be out in the open for both of you. It’s good to be aware of debts in case one of you loses your job and one person has to take on all the bills.

2 – What is your credit score? If you decide to apply for an apartment or a loan together, it’s nice to know where you both stand with your credit scores. This can help to avoid any awkward conversations if you were to get declined for a loan because of bad credit.

3 – Would you rather spend money on experiences or a home? This is a great question to see where each other’s priorities are. Some people prefer to have a beautiful home and tangible items whereas others like to invest in traveling and experiences.

4 – Do you owe any family members or friends money? Getting financially involved with family and friends can cause an entirely unexpected set of issues. If you do owe money to friends or family, try to make it a priority to pay them back to avoid any tension and animosity.

5 – Do you use credit cards? If so, do you pay them off every month? Some people use credit cards for all expenses to build up credit or earn points for rewards and pay them off right away. Does your future spouse use credit cards because they don’t have money in the bank? If so, that’s a different story so make sure to get on the same page as each other when it comes to credit card usage.

6 – How do you want to handle paying the bills? Will one person be in charge of handling all the expenses, or will it be a partnership? Who will be in charge of certain bills?

7 – Will you have a joint checking account or keep them separate? For the record, I’m a huge believer in a joint checking account and always have been.

8 – Are you a saver and do you have a saving account? Whatever your degree of savings is, you should discuss having a savings account. It’s important to have an emergency fund tucked away in case you need money for medical expenses, vet bills, car repairs, or home maintenance.

9 – Do you want children? This discussion has probably happened long before you got engaged, but it’s important to talk about the financial costs of having kids. Maybe you want one child and your spouse wants three. During this discussion, think about the costs of daycare versus one parent staying at home, whether you want to send them to private or public school, and if you want to pay for their college educations.

10 – Do you have life insurance? Maybe you both have life insurance through work, but that might not be adequate. You want to make sure your loved ones are protected from a financial disaster if you were to unexpectedly pass away. If you have anyone that depends on you financially, then you should have life insurance. Most financial experts, myself included, recommend term life insurance. The amount should be 10-12x your annual salary.

Because money is one of the biggest reasons for arguments between couples, it’s helpful to sit down and get it all out in the open. It may not be fun, but it will help to avoid many issues ahead of time. You’ll feel good to have that conversation behind you and then you can continue planning the wedding!

Did you discuss these things before marriage?

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The post 10 Financial Questions to Ask Before Marriage appeared first on Catherine Alford.

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