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Avoiding the birthday “gimmes”

With three kids, we attend a lot of birthday parties. It seemed like each one was fancier than the last, and the gifts that the kids gave were getting more and more expensive. Therefore, we decided to break the chain. I sat down with my three kids, and we started something new. We decided to have a simple party at home with cake, ice cream, and games. Their guests were told not to bring a gift (cards were ok). Instead, they were asked to bring canned goods that could be given to our local food pantry. I want my children to understand how fortunate they are and to learn how to give to those in need. I was especially encouraged when two other mothers hosted parties with similar themes (items for a homeless shelter and donations for a drug halfway house). Maybe we’ve started a trend.

Marla

Subtle decor detail

Here’s a trick that’ll change the look of any room in your house. Take the light switch covers and either paint them in a contrasting color or cover them with wallpaper. It costs just a dollar or two and can make a big difference in your room.

Lori

Detergent choices

I’ve been experimenting with laundry detergents. I’ve found that if only use half of what they suggest and add some baking soda to the detergent, it cleans just fine. I think that the baking soda softens the water, making the detergent more effective. I may not know the exact reason, but I do know it works.

Bridget

Discount gift cards

Each week, I visit two sites that sell discounted gift cards. I only buy ones that I know I’ll use. Most of the time, I get a 5 to 10 percent discount. Depending on which credit card I use to buy them, I get points or cash back, too. It doesn’t save a lot, but every little bit helps. Also, I can do it while I’m watching my favorite show, so it doesn’t cost me anything.

Tammy

Thoughtful birthday present

My brother and his wife just had a child. She was taking some time off work and money was tight. Therefore, for my brother’s birthday, I went to a warehouse store and bought him a supply of toilet paper, paper towels, laundry soap, dish soap, and bar soap. I basically looked for anything that

I could find that would reduce bills for them. It wasn’t the most creative gift we’ve ever given each other, but judged by the way he responded it was one of the better ones I’ve given him.

Virginia

Spring plant swap

I love spring! I really enjoy planning out my garden. Some of my gardening friends get together in March and have a plant and seed swap. No one charges for anything. If we are willing to grow it, we can take it for free! This year, I'll host it. I will set up some tables on my patio and everyone will share what they’ve brought. Every year, I have added one or two things that came from the swap.

Leah

Double discount on property taxes

We get a two percent discount if we pay our taxes in November, but I never have enough money to do that. This year, I’m following the advice of my accountant. I’ve started putting money away in a savings account each month via auto deposit. Not only will I get the discount in November, but I’ll also earn a little interest on my savings in the meantime. I look at it as a double discount.

Nikki

Can’t afford summer vacation

I’m a single mom, and money is tight. My kids understand that we can’t afford a fancy vacation, but that doesn't mean that we can't have some special fun this summer. I'm planning on taking my two-week vacation one day at a time throughout the summer. Each day, we’ll do something special.

We’re already collecting ideas for each day. We’re using the internet to research local factories and sites that we can visit. We are also looking for fun free things to do. It might not be a $5k trip to Disney, but my kids and I will have something to remember when the summer’s over.

Gwen

IRA beneficiaries

Our kids are grown, so we figured it was time to update our will. Our lawyer told me something that I didn't know. The beneficiary listed on an IRA or life insurance policy overrides your will. Therefore, my wife and I made a point of reviewing our accounts to make sure that the beneficiaries were what we wanted. If you haven't checked your accounts recently, it might be a good time to give them a look.

Drew

Backyard play structures

For our three boys, we decided to make our own play structure. We started with a simple swing set and slide. The next Christmas, we gave them a tower and rope swing. My parents gave them a gift certificate that became a climbing wall. It's been much more affordable than if we had tried to do it all at once, and the boys have always had something new to keep their interest.

Peter

Spring roof inspection

Once the weather gets better, it’s a good time to inspect your roof. This is especially true if you have shingles. Small repairs now could delay a roofing job for a few years. If you don’t feel capable, you can call a roofing company. Most will do an inspection if they get to do any needed repairs. I also use this time of year to sprinkle baking soda on parts of my roof where mold grows. I used to scrub with bleach, but I didn’t think that was good for the shingles. The baking soda changes the pH, which makes

it hard for the mold to live.

Gregg

Prepped for next fall

Now is the perfect time to buy clothes for next fall and for next Christmas. Stores are discounting anything they have left on their shelves. I’m also going to buy new flannel sheets if I can find some on sale.

Melodie

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