FREE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES TO ENTERTAIN THE KIDS AT HOME

free educational resources for kids

If you’re like me and you have at least one school-aged kid at home you might be finding that the work provided by the school just doesn’t quite fill up the day. Idle little minds get bored fast and it can be tempting to just let Netflix or Disney + take over for you. We have enjoyed some TV and movie time while at home, but there are lots of free educational resources available to keep your kids entertained and educated.

Here is a helpful list of resources that have been made available for my family. We haven’t used all of them yet, but you might find them helpful.

FREE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES TO KEEP YOUR KIDS ENTERTAINED AT HOME

THE SAN DIEGO ZOO – While the zoo may not be open to the public right now, there is a wealth of information available on their website. Your kids can watch educational videos about animals and plants found at the zoo, and even watch some of the action live from popular animal enclosures.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS – You can find fun science experiments, video lessons on US Presidents, homework resources, and more on the site. And you don’t have to subscribe to use the site. A lot of subjects are covered on this one fun site and it’s all geared for kids!

MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM –  Watch a live camera of the bay 24 hours a day of the beautiful Monterey Bay or watch educational videos of the turtles, sharks, whales, otters, and other fish and critters that call the aquarium home.

SPEECH BUDDY – My youngest is in speech therapy but hasn’t been able to attend the last two weeks. While his therapy clinic works out the details of teletherapy with insurance we’re just at home encouraging him to talk as much as possible. A cousin told me about this resource and I really need to check it out. It has tips, games, books, and tools to do therapy at home as well as other resources to help your kids with their speech while the clinics are closed.

TUMBLE BOOKS – This one is a subscription service, but they do offer free trials to schools. Check with your school’s librarian to see if you have access to this site. Our school offered us access and it’s basically a library full of ebooks for children and teens plus it offers math stories with supplementary materials (think worksheets, games, and lesson plans to go with the book).

SCHOLASTIC – The Scholastic Learn at Home page has a wide variety of projects to do at home organized by grade level. This site is designed as a resource for remote schoolers. It includes resources for families, teachers, a list of tips and tricks, and has resources for Pre-K through grade 9. Starting April 1 Scholastic is teaming up with the Library of Congress to bring Dav Pilkey at Home for preschoolers! This is a site I will probably use going forward for my almost-three-year-old.

PE AT HOME WITH YOUTUBE – Physical Education may be once a week while the kiddos are in school, but recess is every day! While we can’t get outside every day if it’s raining, I make sure the kids are doing some sort of stretching or PE at home videos for kids on YouTube every afternoon. It’s pretty entertaining!

I WILL KEEP ADDING FREE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES TO THIS LIST AS I AM AWARE OF THEM

Look for this list to grow as time goes by. I would imagine the longer we’re home the more creative we’ll get! If you have any resources you’d like to share please do so in the comments! I’ll check them out and add them to the list.

NAVIGATING THE NEW “NORMAL FOR NOW”

navigating the new "normal for now"

I have no idea how long this will last. And I have no idea what life will look like on the other side of this. But I do hope and pray that we will come out of this period of social distancing, self-isolation, and for some self-quarantine. I hope we come out better, more empathetic, and more responsible for ourselves and our environment. Here is how my family has been navigating the new “normal for now” as I’ve decided to call it.

I’m not saying it’s been easy; there are a lot of unknowns.

TIPS FOR NAVIGATING THE NEW “NORMAL FOR NOW” AND KEEPING OUR SANITY

There are lots of ways to pass the time, but we’ve found these particular things very useful over the last two weeks. They may not all work for you and your family, but they have certainly helped our family so far. I will continue to adapt my approach on a day-to-day basis as the situation calls for it, but here are a few simple things we’ve come to rely on.

HOLD TIGHT TO YOUR FAITH

Church is not canceled, even if the doors to the building are closed. As people of faith, it would not be a good thing if we isolated ourselves from other believers or practicing our faith. Luckily we attend a church that has been quick to adapt to the ever-changing situation.

Since large gatherings are not advisable at the moment sermons moved online. Children’s church has also moved online, so I haven’t missed a worship service or sermon and our kids haven’t missed any lessons either.

Prayer is always important, but our six-year-old has really grown in this area. She often wants to say the mealtime prayer, but more often than not it is the standard kids’ prayer, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food,” but not recently. She prays her little heart out. As a mama it makes my heart feel good to know she is leaning into her faith at her young age.

 find a schedule, BUT REMEMBER TO BE FLEXIBLE

Small children tend to keep you busy, but even on the weekends filling every minute of the day without leaving the house can be a challenge. Our kids have started getting up at about the same time every day. This past week was Spring break so we didn’t operate on a schedule, but now that school is back in session and at home, we have a schedule to keep us on task.

Having a schedule to look at will help my daughter adjusting and navigating to the new “normal for now” as well. We have yet to hear when her reading group will meet for their Zoom sessions, but as soon as that is announced I already have a schedule ready to print up for her.

I made a simple weekly schedule with a free Canva template and established a routine for her to follow. Each day we will get up, eat breakfast, get ready for the day, and make beds at the same time. Zoom sessions, lunch, free time, and the daily “special” are included as well. PE is typically once a week at school, but we’re doing every afternoon. Here is what I came up with:

schedule to help with navigating the new "normal for now"

I also hope to find time to complete my tasks during these time blocks she’s working on specific tasks. I’m going to do what I always do and triage my to-do list; I figure out what needs to be accomplished most in a day and focus on that.  You can read more that in the post 10 Free or Frugal Helpful Mom Hacks.

If you are a working parent who has found themselves suddenly working from home I highly recommend a schedule for you as well. Have your school-age kids

Even this past week while we’ve not been schooling we have kept busy. My husband had a few projects around the house he had taken the week off to tackle. Our kids have spent as much time outside as the weather has permitted.

MAINTAIN YOUR USUAL ROUTINES AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

Do you have a tendency to catch up with coworkers over a cup of coffee every morning before getting your day started? Enjoy your homebrew and still have your daily chat! FaceTime, Zoom meeting, or Skype away. Chances are your work has made use of at least one of these methods to keep in touch while everyone is out of the office.

Stick with your morning routine. Don’t try to work in your pajamas or shower at a later and later time every day that passes. Keep your usual morning routine as best you can. It’ll help keep you in a healthier frame of mind.

I may not drop a kid off for school each morning, but I shower and use my daily oils as I would if I did have to take her to school. One or two days the first week of virtual school I allowed her to do schoolwork in her pajamas. Now that we’re on a schedule with her classmates I don’t think we’ll do that anymore. It’s easier to focus and get to work if you’re dressed for the day.

STAY CONNECTED TO FRIENDS AND RELATIVES OUTSIDE YOUR FOUR WALLS

It is so easy to stay connected with all the technology we have available. I’ve found that the more we’re “online” for our daily tasks the less I want to be online. Last week my daughter was on Google Classroom two hours a day, I have blog tasks, I help with the church website, and it looks like our son’s speech therapy may also be on Zoom sessions. That’s a lot of time online. I’ve been a lot less active on social media and plan to use most of that time to educate myself. And, I’ve decided that I’d rather talk on the phone or across the fence with family.

I’ve decided that now is the time to use the power of technology to better myself and expand my knowledge; I’m researching and taking free classes online to learn more about essential oils and affiliate marketing. I’ve been reading a few ebooks. I want to do all I can do to improve my skillset and add to my family’s income while staying home.

HOW ARE YOU NAVIGATING THE NEW “NORMAL FOR NOW”?

I’d love to hear how you’re doing and if you have any tips or tricks to making this whole situation easier. I feel like people who already work from home and homeschool their children are the best prepared for this situation.

I will continue to share what we find that works for us and offer any budget assistance I can. Additionally, I will try to post more frugal recipes here on the blog. Until next time, stay frugal, healthy, and if possible at home my friends! We’ll get through this and hopefully be the better for it. I’ll be back soon.

 

 

WINGING IT: MEAL PLANNING IN SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES

meal planning in special circumstances

HOW TO ADJUST AND ADAPT WHEN THE GROCERY STORE SHELVES ARE EMPTY AS WELL AS A LIST OF BASIC ESSENTIALS YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE ON HAND

I don’t know about you, but I would say we find ourselves in special circumstances at the moment in more ways than one. From self quarantines to social distancing to empty grocery store shelves, it can be hard to stick to the meal plan when what you need isn’t available. So what do you do then? What does it look like when it comes to meal planning in special circumstances?

After winging it for a few days, we’ve adapted and adjusted our expectations as well as our usual meal plan. Here is how my family is handling the meal planning situation right now.

I come up with pretty simple weekly meal plans at the beginning of every month and what I send to frugal friends on Meal Plan Mondays is typically what I cook. I’m not buying many exotic ingredients or making complicated meals.

I make what my kids will eat and our budget will allow. This doesn’t mean we eat a lot of processed junk food either. We have a few less than healthy items on the snack menu, but an overall rather healthy diet.

I keep it simple, we spend less money, and the kids actually eat. Win, win right? Well, with the current grocery situation I find myself constantly adjusting. We are by no means desperate, but I am trying to ensure that doesn’t become the case.

MAKING ADJUSTMENTS WHERE NECESSARY WHEN MEAL PLANNING IN SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES

Okay, the first rule of thumb is to not waste food. This is always the goal, but in this situation, it is more imperative. We have groceries. We have lots of unopened goodies in the cabinets to munch on. But I’m holding out.

Last week I wasn’t able to buy everything on my grocery list. That’s not a big deal; we have a modest supply of toilet paper in the cabinets to get us by and I had bought a few more pantry items after our no-spend month to build our pantry back up anyway.

So after anticipating school would be closed (it was) until at least the 30th (Spring break is next week anyway) I went into planning mode; if I can’t make it to the grocery store next week what do I need to do to ensure we make what we have lasts?

A few adjustments had to be made to the meal plan; I obviously can’t prepare meals for which ingredients were not available. I didn’t find veggie burgers our family likes at Aldi and as bad as it was at that store I knew Walmart would be even worse. So, that’s one dinner that has to be removed from the list – two weekends in a row.

I had also planned on shrimp fried rice one night, but since I wasn’t going to Walmart we just had chicken fried rice that night instead. Luckily I had already bought rice the previous week and didn’t need to wade down that aisle.

EAT THE FRESHEST AND OPENED FOODS FIRST

This may seem like a no-brainer, but try telling that to my kids! They know that there is unopened Chex mix and peanut butter cereal in the pantry. They also know they want it now. But I know we still have bagels and Cheerios from last week left. We’re eating those first.

We typically have some ramen around. Recently we’d added to our canned food stock to make an emergency kit. I do not want to open those up until the fresh vegetables and meat have been eaten. We’ve gone back to buying frozen meat and vegetables in the store in anticipation of shopping less frequently.

So yes, we technically have more options than we’re allowing ourselves, but we have fresh foods and leftovers that will spoil if we get into too many of those options too early. Does this make meals a little less boring than usual? Maybe. Do we waste less food this way? Definitely. Boring it is.

GET CREATIVE WITH RECIPES

It’s important to know what ingredients are crucial and which you can skip in a pinch if you don’t have everything the recipe calls for to fix what is on the meal plan. You can substitute lots of ingredients with just a quick Google search. No eggs? Try mayonnaise or applesauce. Most dinner dishes will be just fine if one spice or minor ingredient is missing.

Pastas are pretty interchangeable as well. It doesn’t have to be perfect when circumstances are extreme, it just has to be edible. As long as you’re putting as nutritious as possible of a meal on the table regularly try not to sweat it too much.

BUT STILL KEEP IT SIMPLE WHEN MEAL PLANNING IN SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES

Now is not the time to decide to learn elaborate new recipes that require special or hard to find ingredients you probably won’t finish. Keep it simple and basic so you are more likely to find what you need in the store or already have on hand what you need to make the dish.

It doesn’t take much to change up a meal and keep it from getting old. If you’re a creature of habit like my crew you might even take comfort in having a fairly set menu. Bonus points if most of the dishes on your menu require similar ingredients so you don’t have to add much to the list for each individual meal.

This saves not only frustration in the store when shopping during this current panic season, but money, and time as well.

meal planning in special circumstances

IF POSSIBLE SUPPORT A LOCAL SMALL BUSINESS BY ORDERING TAKEOUT

In most areas ordering takeout or delivery is still an option. If you are in a position to do so, give them some business when you can. We have made the decision to try to order takeout once a week from some of our favorite local joints, particularly the ones who have announced they’re feeding the kiddos who might not otherwise get a good meal while school is out.

We want to support these places so they can continue to do good in our area. This will also help alleviate the need to grocery shop quite as often and give me a night off from cooking. If you are financially in the place to do so and in good health I encourage you to consider doing the same.

It takes some of the stress off of you and puts money back into the local economy. It also makes meal planning in a pinch easy.

ITEMS YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE ON HAND OR BUY WHEN IT’S UNCERTAIN WHEN YOU’LL BE BACK AT THE STORE

You may be wondering what items you need to keep stocked in your pantry at all times. I addressed what needs to be in your emergency kit in Panic vs Preparation: a Minimalist’s Take. It’s a lot smaller list than you would think based on pictures I’ve seen recently of the panic buying that’s been taking place.

Revisit that list and tweak it for your dietary needs. Keep that food separate so it is easy to access in true weather- related emergencies. But there are also several items you should keep on hand for everyday cooking that have relatively long shelf lives and can come in handy in a pinch.

Just keep in mind that two weeks of groceries on hand is a safer bet than a few days to a week. Let that be our new rule of thumb. It will definitely make meal planning in special circumstances easier in the future.

If you do not bake often do not worry about buying every type of sugar or cocoa. If you have dietary issues the grains or other items will also change as well. Items you should typically have on hand include:

DRY/SHELF STABLE GOODS

  • vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil (or other vegetable oil of your choice)
  • all-purpose flour
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • cocoa powder
  • evaporated milk
  • cane sugar
  • brown sugar
  • maple syrup
  • honey
  • coffee
  • tea
  • rice (we keep brown and white)
  • pasta (we typically keep spaghetti or rotini, ramen, as well as egg noodles on hand)
  • breadcrumbs
  • crackers
  • tortillas
  • dried fruit
  • seeds (we keep flax and chia)
  • nut butter
  • old fashioned oats
  • cereal
  • broth

CANNED GOODS

  • canned beans (we don’t typically keep these)
  • canned vegetables
  • tomato paste
  • tomato sauce
  • tuna

REFRIGERATED GOODS

  • milk
  • eggs
  • yogurt
  • butter (I buy unsalted)
  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • condiments of choice (mayonnaise, mustard, any sauces for your favorite recipes)

If you aren’t much for cooking and want to keep things simple and convenient, here is the list of items our church regularly asks for in our food pantry. It can make for a great in-a-pinch shopping list.

  • macaroni & cheese
  • spaghetti
  • spaghetti sauce – canned tomatoes, whole or diced, tomato sauce
  • canned meats – tuna, chicken, Spam, Vienna sausages, etc
  • canned pasta – ravioli, spaghetti & meatballs, etc
  • soups, chili, stews, chicken & dumplings
  • canned fruit or fruit cups
  • crackers
  • oatmeal
  • cereal

JUST DO THE BEST YOU CAN AND COUNT IT AS A LESSON LEARNED

I’m sure there are many of us, myself included, who aren’t quite as prepared as they assumed they would be in a situation like this. By the time we realized we might need to be it was happening and people panicked.

Nothing good comes from panic. It can be easy to resort to fear, but let’s avoid that. We’ll all benefit from taking a deep breath and calmly assessing the situation. Don’t buy more than you need. Don’t buy more than you can eat.

And in the future, should anything prevent us from going to the grocery store we will be much more prepared to handle meal planning in special circumstances.

When we come out on the other side of this I think the world is going to look a little different. I think our approach to preparation and savings and community will all be different. I’m hopeful that that turns out to be a good thing.

 

 

(MOSTLY) SCREEN-FREE FRUGAL OR FREE IN-HOME ENTERTAINMENT

free or frugal in-home entertainment ideas

BECAUSE MOST OF MY THANKSGIVING BREAK OPTIONS AREN’T REALLY FEASIBLE RIGHT NOW…

Whether you’re home on Spring break or self-isolating here are several (mostly) screen-free frugal or free in-home entertainment options ways to keep your family occupied.

We have Spring break in a week and local schools are now closed until at least the following week.  I have a great post on How to Keep the Kids Entertained Thanksgiving Break, but a lot of those items aren’t exactly ideal options right now given the current coronavirus pandemic. This list is for me and my family just as much as it is for yours!

Here is my “don’t go crazy in March” post. And, since we’re keeping it #MinimalistInMarch, I’m trying not to get too complicated. Since our schedule hasn’t permitted much gym time for me we decided to cancel that and get Disney +; we considered it just before Christmas break and then talked ourselves out of it.

In light of that new subscription and all the viewing possibilities opened up (we don’t have cable, Hulu, or Netflix), I decided to brainstorm some screen-free activities we could do at home over Spring break. As our local parks are small and mostly play equipment centered we will likely be avoiding them for the most part.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

(MOSTLY) SCREEN FREE IN-HOME ENTERTAINMENT IDEAS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILy

1. Break out the games

free or frugal in-home entertainment ideas

All the games. We have slowly been building our collection since our oldest started school. We currently own Yeti in My Spaghetti, Trouble, Hoot Owl Hoot, and Candyland to name a few (our oldest is just 6.5)

There are also have a few decks of cards as well as Uno so Go Fish might happen a little more than I like to admit. As I work on this post I’ve already played two rounds. On a Sunday afternoon.

We considered buying another game or two on Amazon before the two weeks are up. I am specifically interested in adding games our 2.5-year-old can play too, since he typically wants to get involved, but doesn’t understand most games just yet. A classic like Don’t Break the Ice would be nice.

But, we have since put a pin in that as it would likely require a special trip to a store following Amazon’s announcement that they were suspending non-essential shipments in order to keep up with household and medical supply orders.

2. PULL OUT THE ART SUPPLIES

Last year when our house was finished a full roll of brown contractor paper was left behind. I plan to unroll that the full length of the dining table and let the kids go to town on it for a bit. That should keep them busy for a few minutes. We might even design our own board game to play while we’re at it.

I also have a small collection of pipe cleaners and pom-pons to pull out and let the oldest’s imagination take over for a bit. I’m holding back on this one for a few days, just because I don’t have an unlimited supply of these things and she’s young enough she wants to sit down and use it all in one sitting

3. READING

This is one of the free or frugal in-home entertainment options that might not be entirely screen-free. While we have a rather large selection of books for the kids, most of my reading will be done on my tablet checking out e-books.

I originally planned to go to the public library early on in Spring break and loading up on books to read throughout the week, but figure we’ll sit it out. As of right now, the library is still open but the programs are all suspended. Just the same, I think we’ll sit it out this time.

free or frugal in-home entertainment

4. DECLUTTER THE HOUSE (AGAIN)!

I know, I just did some of this a week ago, but hey, I’m sure being in the house 24/7 for a while will reveal even more unneeded items! I’m more than happy to go for another round of decluttering!

If you haven’t gotten started or if you just did a quick run-through of a few rooms when you found a spare minute, get to work on it now! You may be amazed at what you find hiding in the closet or at the very back of the shelf.

5. AFTER YOU’VE DECLUTTERED, TACKLE THAT SPRING CLEANING

Don’t tell me you’re surprised to see this one after how much I’ve talked about it on the blog and YouTube channel this month for Minimalist in March?! This is one of those things that those who typically work outside the house never have time for.

Well, you’re home, and suddenly you have all the time in the world, so get cleaning! Granted, if your kids are anything like mine no one would believe you had cleaned your house if you didn’t make a YouTube video that proved it.

I actually have more cleaning to do. You’ll know I didn’t get my cleaning supplies replenished in time if the Spring Clean With Me: Bathroom Edition video isn’t currently up on YouTube (this post was written in advance).

6. GET OUTSIDE

If you are fortunate to have an outdoor space to yourself take full advantage! We happen to have a rather large yard, playset, and some outdoor toys. I plan to get out of the house with the kids to play in the yard as much as weather permits.

Right now it’s rather muddy with more rain on the forecast, but a cool clear day still allows us to take a walk down the driveway. Fun fact; six trips up and down the driveway is roughly a mile. If I start pacing at least I’ll get my steps in for the day!

I also plan to dig out the sidewalk chalk and see if we have any bubbles. Simple activities like this can provide several minutes of entertainment. When your kids are as young as mine are, that’s a good chunk of time!

7. STAY CONNECTED WITH TECHNOLOGY

This one requires a screen as well, but this is one of those times technology comes in really handy. We had planned to visit my daughter’s old Children’s Church teacher over Christmas break, but her husband had pneumonia and was transported to the hospital the morning we planned to visit.

I will be reaching out to our dear Miss Linda and asking if she would be up for a FB or Skype chat with the kiddos over Spring break. I might even do this with a few other moms I’d planned to arrange play dates with that likely won’t happen now. Let’s be honest, sometimes the play dates are for the moms just as much if not more than they are for the kids.

8. PRACTICE A LITTLE SELF-CARE AT HOME

This mama is seriously considering taking a nice, long relaxing bath one night after the kids go to bed one night (as soon as I get their tub cleaned) and just taking a moment. Maybe paint your nails or even wash your hair if it’s been a few days.

It doesn’t really matter what you choose. It might even be another item from this list you just do on your own, but just make sure you take a bit of time to take care of yourself. Not only is it good for your mental and emotional health, but it’s also better in the long run on everyone else in the house.

If you need some ideas or recipes, check out Self Care for Mamas: Self Care on a Dime or maybe 10 Frugal or Free Mom Hacks to help get you through. I just might have to reread those myself!

a little self care

9. GET SOME LEARNING IN WHILE YOU’RE STUCK AT HOME

Take in a podcast or two, read a book, or do an online search on a subject you’re interested in, but haven’t taken the time to research. Just because you’re not able to get out and about doesn’t mean you can’t learn.

You can get a good start on learning a foreign language in a week or two’s time if you find the right program for you. There are lots of free courses online on an endless amount of subject matter to check out and expand your knowledge with while you’re stuck at home. This isn’t a screen-free frugal or free in-home entertainment idea, but it is a beneficial one.

10. CATCH UP ON SEWING PROJECTS

Or, if you don’t know how to sew learn! Have a pile of mending that’s been waiting for your attention? Now is a great time to take care of it. I myself have a stack of leggings with torn knees I plan to cut off into shorts for my daughter. Next week seems like a great time to tackle this project.

If I’m feeling brave and patient enough, I might even use it as a basic sewing lesson for my daughter if she’s interested. Those are two big ifs, but it is a possibility!

Maybe you learned how to knit or crochet but need to improve your skills? Pull those needles out and get knitting! Learn a new stitch if you just want a challenge.

11. TACKLE SOME PROJECTS AROUND THE HOUSE YOU’VE BEEN PUTTING OFF

Have some picture frames that have been propped up against the wall or in a closet for a while? I know I do. What about a painting project you have all the supplies for but haven’t started yet?

Maybe you’ve thought about rearranging furniture in one particular room (or every room) of the house. Well, you’ve got some time now. Get some cleaning done under and behind that furniture while you’re at it and tick two items off the list at the same time!

This is also a great time to organize the garage and prep for an early summer yard sale if you’ve been planning one. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to park the car back in there by the time you’re able to get back out of the house! That might be nice.

12. PLAN OUT THAT SPRING GARDEN YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED

You can do lots of research on planting times in your zone as well as pick a good spot, write out your list of items you want to plant, and figure out the layout of your garden without a trip to the farm and garden supply.

Heck, if you’re feeling good and have the tools already you can even start prepping that garden spot. When you’re able to venture out you’ll have your shopping list together and be ready to get that garden in the ground.

13. MAKE UP A GAME WITH THE KIDS

Or find a new way to play an old favorite; just last week in the car our daughter came up with an interesting way to play tic-tac-toe. She and my husband played verbally, only picturing the game board in their minds. It was a much greater challenge and made her think a little harder than when she plays on paper.

You might even teach the kids a few games you played as a kid to pass the time they’ve never heard of.

14. GET BAKING

Chances are there was no bread last time you went to the grocery store. No worries, it’s really easy to make with a few simple ingredients. I even have a recipe for you! I need to get a loaf baked this week and I might as well have the kids help me do it.

If your kids are old enough and you’re feeling brave,  set them loose in the kitchen and see what use it up meals they can come up with! This is a good way to use up items before they expire or go through more before making another grocery run.

You can also make a few dishes and freeze them for later when everything is running on regularly scheduled programming again. Your future self will likely thank you for being so thoughtful! It’ll also save you some money from what might otherwise turn into a takeout order.

If you ordered a few too many random perishable items because you were not prepared for the grocery shopping experience in the first two weeks of March then this is a great way to reduce the risk of food spoiling; get some freezer meals made.

Not a great cook? Looks like you’ve found the time to change that. This screen-free frugal or free in-home entertainment sure sounds like a tasty one to try!

free or frugal in-home entertainment

15. WORK ON YOUR HUSTLE WHILE YOU’RE AT HOME

Here is a screen-free frugal or free in-home entertainment idea that might actually earn you some cash. Devote the much needed time to your existing side hustle or find a new one. There are lots of opportunities to earn an income from home.

Now is a great time to look into them. I’m usually home, but this one I might accomplish less of with two kids instead of one home all day.

At least I got a week ahead on posts! This will take a little pressure off this week at least. We shall see how many posts happen next week! All jokes aside, I don’t plan on slowing down with the blog. I may just have to get more creative with my “working” hours in the next few weeks.

16. DIG INTO YOUR FAITH… OR (RE)DISCOVER IT

I don’t know about you, but I don’t devote near enough time to cultivating my relationship with God. Lately, I have been reading a selection of CS Lewis’ works during Lent in preparation for Easter, but haven’t exactly been consistent with it. I need to get consistent.

This week marked the first Sunday we didn’t attend church services due to the current health situation. I was very fortunate to be able to watch the church service on Facebook that afternoon when the youngest went down for a nap.

It is nice to be able to plug into a community when I can’t physically worship with them. Whether you typically worship in church or not I encourage you to plug into your faith or really seek to find your faith. It is always a reassuring feeling to be able to connect to and rely on a higher power to see you through uncertain times. I think the current situation definitely applies!

17. REVISIT OLD HOBBIES

So many of us have hobbies we have given up on or neglected due to other obligations and just… life. Why not brush off the dust and pick it back up? It may be sports equipment from your pre-kid beer league days or just a frisbee you can use with the kids in the yard.

Maybe you have some workout videos (or a whole in-home gym maybe?), jewelry making, or crossword puzzles. Or that scrapbook you never finished. Pull it out! Work on it! Have some fun!

Who knows? This might become a lucrative side hustle once you’re out of the house?! Lots of people do not have time to put together their own scrapbooks or love giving handmade jewelry as gifts. This is one screen-free frugal or free in-home entertainment idea that might actually reignite an old passion project!

18. REMEMBER THOSE LESS FORTUNATE

It’s really easy to feel sorry for ourselves when faced with new and unusual circumstances, but I can’t imagine the stress families whose children rely on school meals must feel right now with school out for an indeterminate amount of time.

Pick up the phone or get online and make a monetary donation if at all possible to a local food bank or charity. I know our local food banks were hurting before the panic buying set in and limited supplies at stores.

Call your neighbors and make sure they have enough toilet paper. Offer to leave some on their doorstep if they don’t. Check-in on people who might not be handling the situation as well. Give them your ear for a bit.

Nothing makes you count your blessings quite like spending time with the less fortunate. Maybe make it online or over the phone in this case. Tithe on a regular basis? Go online and see if your church or favorite local charity offers safe online donations.

19. GIVE YOUR CURRENT CAREER AN HONEST ASSESSMENT

Do you really love what you do? If you separate the work from the coworkers are you just there for the people? Maybe you love what you do but realize after removing yourself from the office for a few weeks you work in a somewhat toxic environment.

It may be time to brush off the old resume and rethink your career track, or maybe just your current place of employment. You may find you are perfectly happy and content to be where you are too.

That’ll make you count your blessings. Be sure to consider what opportunities for advancement are available with your current place of employment and whether or not that is acceptable in the long run.

20. GET UP AND GO TO BED ON A SOMEWHAT REGULAR SCHEDULE

This tip isn’t technically an entertainment tip, more of a survival one. If you’re like me and your kids are typically up by the crack of dawn, don’t beat yourself up for sleeping in once or twice. It rarely happens around here, so I’ll take it when I get it! You should too, within reason.

Don’t keep the kids up much later in hopes they stay asleep longer. Speaking from experience, it almost never works. You’re setting yourself up for an even harder day. Get to bed at a decent time yourself every night too.

With school transferring to virtual classrooms, we are sticking to a schedule with course work as well for our school-aged child. This should give the days a sense of normalcy and routine more than just reacting to the day.

ABOVE ALL, DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF

It isn’t easy feeling stuck at home, even when you’re a full-time parent. Be sure to give yourself some grace in this situation. Yes, the kids may end up in front of a computer or TV screen more than is usually acceptable, but just remember, this isn’t a usual circumstance.

Do what you have to do to keep your sanity during this little break from regularly scheduled programming. It’s not a bad idea to evaluate your regularly scheduled programming and count your blessings or reflect on areas you’d like to improve.

Above all, don’t be afraid to reach out to others if you need it in a safe, responsible manner. Feel free to vent on social media, send the occasional “send wine!” tweet, or just be honest when someone asks how you’re doing.

Hopefully, this list of 20 mostly screen-free frugal or free in-home entertainment ideas was helpful. If anything else, I just want to tell you, “Hey, you’ve got this!”

you've got this

10 FREE OR FRUGAL HELPFUL MOM HACKS

10 helpful mom hacks

…BECAUSE MOMMING AIN’T EASY!

No one ever said momming was easy. My mother quite accurately told me it wasn’t for wimps. Here are ten helpful mom hacks I try to use to make life (just) a little easier. As a bonus, they are all free or frugal to implement!

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

I really needed to write this post apparently… Sometimes adulting is hard. Every once in a while you just want to sleep in or watch your favorite show or spend the afternoon reading a good book but you just can’t because… you’re an adult with responsibilities.

And yes, I started this post with a toddler on my lap. Talk about an adventurous Saturday morning! So, whether you’re a new mom, a seasoned mom, have 1 kid, 12 kids, or none and just don’t find adulting fun, this post just might help.

HELPFUL MOM HACK #1 -TAKE A SHOWER

You might be thinking yeah right, but this seriously helps. I may not get my legs shaved every day, but I can honestly say that hospitalizations during pregnancy aside I have never missed a shower because I had kids. I have taken showers at 5 AM and I have taken showers at 3 PM, but I haven’t missed one yet!

One of the running mom jokes in memes and comments I see on social media has to do with not showering. Granted I have lots of company most mornings (but if they’re not with me then just what are they doing?) and rarely make it through even a short shower without interruption, but I still do it. I need it. I don’t like having greasy hair and feeling yesterday’s deodorant and it feels better even if you take the shortest of showers. This is one I have simply refused to give up.

#2 – STAY HYDRATED

The world just seems like a happier, brighter place when I’m hydrated. I also feel a little more prepared to be a part of it. By hydrated I mean 12 ounces of coffee, a shot of Ningxia Red, and a few glasses of water. Every day. Additionally, I like to throw on some lip balm for good measure. You just feel better with a little something on your lips.

Yes, I know I don’t drink as much water as I should, and am making efforts to drink more. It certainly makes a difference in headaches; while I may still get a headache from lack of sleep it makes a big difference when dehydration is not thrown into the mix.

#3 – I TRIAGE MY TO-DO LIST

No one around me may see the effectiveness of this, but I do it for my sanity, not their satisfaction. If things get out of hand (which this week they have) due to kids being sick, whatever… my to-do list gets backed up fast.

I tend to cope with this by choosing to do the most neglected or urgent of tasks. If someone won’t have clean underwear tomorrow I’ll do a load of laundry. If I can’t find the countertop I’ll reload the dishwasher.

Once that one task is done I might feel satisfied. If I’m sick I might take a break. This might ease my distracted mind enough to update the budget, finish a blog post, or do some other task. More often than not it’ll spur me into a very productive mode. But, even if it doesn’t, I got what I absolutely needed to do done.

I may have only gotten the one load of laundry washed and dried in-between breaking up squabbles or getting a meal on the table. I may have started with the dishwasher, tackled the handwash dishes, cleaned the countertops, and vacuumed the whole house. It really just varies depending on the situation. But I got the most urgent thing done, so I call it a win.

HELPFUL MOM HACK #4 – I MAKE THE BED

It may happen at 7 am and it may happen at 4 pm, but most days I make my bed. The great thing about doing this is it instantly makes the rest of the bedroom look less chaotic. It also rarely stops with just making the bed. I’ll usually move on to tidy up the rest of the room and drag the hamper to the laundry room to start a load.

I was not in the habit of making my bed as a child unless I was made to. Now I feel like if I don’t make my bed everything feels more disorganized. Somehow tackling this one simple task makes me a little more focused.

10 helpful mom hacks

#5 – REACH OUT TO OTHER MOMS

I’ve learned that when I feel stressed or discouraged it can be very helpful to speak with other moms. Sometimes just knowing you’re not the only one feeling that way makes things so much easier. Chances are it’s a common problem shared among moms. You’re probably doing better than you thought, and if not you can get some great advice.

I’ve recently made more of an effort on this to talk to other moms. And to check out Parent Twitter from time to time. The tweets are pretty funny and always relatable. I am also making more of an effort to connect with my friends on a (more) regular basis. It helps so much!

HELPFUL MOM HACK #6 – PRAY, PRAY, PRAY

This is really number one on my list of helpful mom hacks. I pray all day. I pray about everything. I don’t get enough sleep at night right now to want to get up earlier or stay up later. While I may not have a chance to read a devotion uninterrupted I can talk to God any time. So I do.

Some mornings I pray for patience so I’m kind to my kids. I may pray for strength when I’m especially discouraged or annoyed. Wisdom and guidance are usually at the top of the list. “Lord please help me guide her through this and teach her how to (insert whatever life skill necessary).”

HELPFUL HACK #7 – BETTER OIL UP BUTTERCUP

If I feel anxious I use A calming roller blend from my sweet oily sponsor. Some days I wear Stress Away over my heart. If a soothing bath is more your style it even comes in a bath bomb! I might diffuse it or Peace & Calming when I want the kids to wind down as well.

I sleep with lavender and cedarwood in the diffuser and/or massaged into my feet at night. My daughter sleeps all night with or without any help and my son doesn’t so lately I roll just lavender in a carrier oil behind their ears.

This is one of those helpful mom hacks that is more frugal when you keep it simple. Find the most effective oil or oil combination that works for you and stick with it. I don’t like to overcomplicate things when it comes to oils. Costs add up when you aren’t using them in ways they work best for you. This applies to more than just oils as well.

#8 – ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENT PLAY

No lie, I only get as much done as I do because my two-year-old will happily play independently. I can usually get one or two chores done with few interruptions. While I type this post he is cooking mega blok cakes, among other things. I can get through a full post in two or three sittings.

This isn’t really the case with my first grader, but she was my daycare child and expects constant entertainment. I get as much done as I can while she’s in school. On the weekends I sometimes get a little work done when daddy gets home from work and the kids are all over him for a bit.

#9 – TREAT YOURSELF, HOWEVER SMALL THE MANNER

I mentioned in Self Care for Mamas: Self Care on a Dime that taking the time to paint my nails (or fully removing old polish) can give me a boost. It doesn’t have to be something big or expensive to be considered self-care.

And I cannot stress this enough – please do not compare yourself to other moms. I have come to accept the fact that there will always be someone prettier, thinner, smarter (insert any insecurity here)-er than me…

And that’s okay. It does me no good mentally or emotionally to compare myself to others. The best thing I can do is just be myself. And be happy just trying to be the best version of me. This might even be one of the most important helpful mom hacks of them all.

#10 – ASK FOR HELP – AND GET THE KIDS TO PITCH IN TOO

This is one of the helpful mom hacks I need to use more often. I am a terrible delegator; just ask anyone who knew me when I was in management! I just try to forge ahead and try to do it all on my own. Slowly I’m realizing either it either won’t be done right now or I can ask for help.

I still have to remind myself I am not teaching my kids anything or preparing them for anything if I continue to do everything for them. Sometimes I catch myself (or my husband does) doing it after I’ve asked them to. Surely I am not the only one guilty of this.

So I try and resist the urge to take over. Instead, I should remind our daughter to take her dirty dishes to the sink and push in her seat. Then I endure the meltdowns when I tell her to put her clean laundry away. And she’s older I will endure the eye rolls and “why do I have to?”s when I teach her how to wash and dry her own clothes.

After all, even toddlers can help put their toys away. You just have to remember not to be too picky about the results! I’m still working on this one too. I can always reorganize and deep clean when I go through and declutter periodically.

HAVE ANY HELPFUL MOM HACKS OF YOUR OWN?

These are the little hacks I like to try to use to make momming just a little easier. I’m not great at all of them, but when I do they all help. Have any helpful hacks of your own? I’d love to hear them! Bonus points if they’re frugal!

Speaking of frugal – No-Spend February is just about wrapped up. Anyone still hanging in there with it? I have to admit this was quite a bit more challenging than I expected! And we’re pretty frugal to begin with. Be looking for a recap post coming up soon.

And don’t forget! A Life on a Dime is going to March into Minimalism next month! Be sure to subscribe as a frugal friend to get all the details on that when they go out. You will also be sure not to miss new posts and get your free meal plan in the newsletter every Meal Plan Monday! Until next time, stay frugal my friends! Take care of yourselves so you can take care of your families!

HOW TO DO VALENTINE’S DAY ON A DIME

Valentine's Day on a dime

YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DOING VALENTINE’S DAY ON A DIME!

Just like any other holiday or special occasion Valentine’s Day can get expensive – if you let it! Luckily a Life on a Dime is here for you with the ultimate list of ways to do Valentine’s Day on a Dime!

While the jewelry store ads and florists might want you to believe it’s necessary to spend a lot of money, it is entirely possible to celebrate the spirit of the holiday and show those closest to you how much you love them without breaking the bank. Here are dozens of ideas for you to choose from! Everything from frugal gift ideas to a date night that won’t break the bank.

The best part is, most of these items are from Amazon or Target! Simply use your Prime membership (or use this free trial here) or order online and choose the pick-up or drive up option from Target and save yourself the time of aimlessly wandering through store after store looking for the perfect gift!

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

GIFT & ACTIVITY IDEAS FOR THE KIDS

It doesn’t take a lot (and as a minimalist, I am not really up for a lot!) to make the kids feel special. One special treat is usually enough. My kids love activities as well, which can be a great way to prevent clutter! Here are several activities and gift ideas to choose from, some being free (if you have the supplies on hand) and all being under $15! Kids are actually pretty easy to do Valentine’s Day on a dime with.

  • Bake and decorate Valentine’s cookies together
  • Give your tween some cute items for her room such as this faux fur heart pillow or tabletop squishy lip.
  • For the toddler in your life a cute board book such as Guess How Much I Love You or Llama Llama I Love You make great choices. They’re also favorites in our house with the littles!
  • How about a craft? A kit such as this color-your-own mug or woven heart kit would also go over well.
  • Get out the construction paper, safety scissors, and pom-pons and make Valentines with the kids for school! This is a fun quality time project. Since they’re probably going to be exchanging them with the whole class why not make them unique?
  • Get your screen-tee loving boy a fun dinosaur or love sign shirt. They’re fun and can be worn year-round.
  • I know a lot of little girls who would love this bangle bracelet set.
  • If gift-giving isn’t your style (or you’re on a no-spend month with me) why not make a special breakfast with pancakes shaped like hearts or spring for a donut? The small gesture will still make the kiddos feel loved.

MAKE IT FUN!

Set up a scavenger hunt with clues around the house and make them find their own goodies. It could be something as simple as a few treats or an actual gift. The fun will be in the game!

Just keep it simple and fun. Look for ways to get the littler kids off the screen and immersed in a sensory activity. Engage with older kids and let them know you care about what they have to say. If you have a teenager a coffee date might be in order.

VALENTINE’S DAY IDEAS FOR HIM

Is it just me or do men typically seem hard to shop for? Maybe just expensive. I know my husband’s tastes and interests pretty well, I just typically can’t afford them! Here are some great ideas, all under $30 that will be sure to please that cover a variety of interests!

  • Protect the investment of his beloved air pods in this personalized vegan leather case with protective cover.
  • Why not give him a place to park his keys, wallet, and change when he walks in the door? This leather valet tray can be very helpful if your man is always looking for his keys on the way out the door.
  • For a more light-hearted approach, try these novelty pizza socks.
  • Give him the gift that keeps on giving with a starter kit from Harry’s. I got my husband a kit for Christmas and am considering switching over myself. The prices and quality are that good.
  • A comfy pair of memory foam house slippers with a hard sole make a great, practical gift as well.
  • Claim your territory with a novelty tee that says he already has an awesome girlfriend or even that this beard is taken. There are lots of fun shirts available for $20 or less.

IDEAS FOR HER

It’s not that hard to find great gifts to do Valentine’s Day on a dime for the ladies either! Here are several suggestions ranging from sweets to handmade jewelry. And they’re all under $30!

  • If you want to get sweets for your sweet and chocolates are a favorite, these Ghiradelli strawberry bark squares with layered milk and white chocolate should be a hit!
  • These vegan bath bombs would make a great treat to leave her feeling pampered.
  • If you have the time and a few pretty glass jars or canisters you can make a spa kit for your Galentine or teen in your life. All it takes to make a luxurious bath salt is some all-natural Epsom salt and a few drops of lavender essential oil. A sugar scrub can be made with just sugar, peppermint essential oil, and for bonus points a little green food coloring to set it off.
  • A personalized set of stacking rings would make a great impression! Have them engraved with your anniversary, the kids’ names… There are lots of possibilities here.
  • A unique, handmade pair of earrings such as these burnt copper hearts or these genuine leather leaf earrings would be very thoughtful.
  • This jade roller set. Jade is great for reducing puffiness and dark spots without chemicals! It’s also very popular in skincare right now. If your lady loves an all-natural approach to beauty this is a great gift.
  • I’m going to mention a great pair of house slippers for the ladies as well. This is one of those items that is worth the investment, but we’re rarely willing to make it for ourselves. I am guilty of buying a cheap two-pack of slippers and then lamenting when they fall apart too soon only to buy another cheap two-pack. No more!
Valentine's Day on a dime

DATE NIGHT IDEAS FOR A VALENTINE’S DAY ON A DIME

My husband and I have a pretty simple Valentine’s Day tradition. It works well for us as Valentine’s weekend is always a busy one and we are on a smaller budget. We have a long-standing tradition of eating pizza and sharing a bottle of wine at home. It just so happens that this year Valentine’s Day is on a Friday, which is typically pizza night at our house!

We may switch our tradition to Saturday if we are able to get a sitter. Romantic meals at home are a little bit more romantic when the kids aren’t there!

You can find ways to go out for Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank or waiting in a long line for a table. You just have to be more creative. In the past, we have gone out to eat on a different night. You get in faster and prices aren’t inflated for a special menu.

SOME FRUGAL BUT STILL ROMANTIC DATE NIGHT SUGGESTIONS

  • Pick up a meal at your favorite street vendor and take it to a local hangout for a drink. Locally we have a cider house that does not serve food but allows you to bring your own in. Occasionally they even have a food truck on the premises. We have loved going there on date nights in the past. They even have games to play at the tables and now host a comedy night.
  • Plan a romantic lunch date, maybe even surprise your honey by showing up at their office to take them out to one of your favorite spots. Day dates can be romantic too!
  • Treat them to breakfast in bed! This may be easier to do on the weekend, but the effort is sure to be appreciated!
  • Prepare a special meal together. Working in the kitchen together can also be a good way to catch up and reconnect. Set a fun, romantic atmosphere with the music and get cooking!
  • Find a deal on a half-price gift card site for one of your favorite places to eat.
  • Make a photo book of memories together and look at it over a quiet dinner at home.
  • Weather permitting have a picnic at the park (or on the living room floor).
  • Even playing a game such as Let’s Chat or The Ultimate Game for Couples can be a fun way to reconnect. There is even this Date Night Box Set with three games.

IN THE END, IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY SPENT BUT THE MEMORIES MADE

Get creative and think outside the box! Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to consist of a dozen overpriced roses and an expensive dinner date. Put more thought and effort into it and the amount of money spent isn’t as big of a consideration.

Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions of your own? How do you try to keep it in budget? Let me know if you try any of my ideas! I’d love to hear how it turns out! A Life on a Dime wishes every one of you a terrific and frugal Valentine’s Day!

Stay tuned for more no-spend February tips and tricks coming your way! If you’d like to join the challenge be sure to hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss out on the additional information as well as the weekly newsletter and meal plan! Until next time my frugal friends!

MORE SIDE HUSTLE IDEAS

MORE SIDE HUSTLE IDEAS

Hello my frugal friends! A Life on a Dime is back with MORE side hustle ideas for you! Let 2020 be the year you get your hustle on! Use these along with my original 6 Legitimate Side Hustle Ideas and these to earn yourself some extra money!

There are lots of side hustle options out there if you know where to look. And how to spot the scams. You should never pay to join any sites or be out more money than you are guaranteed to earn when working a side hustle.

The only exception I can think of here is equipment investment or site hosting fees for a blog. Even if it is just a passion project, be sure to keep it in budget!

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

#1. BE A TASTE TESTER THROUGH A LOCAL UNIVERSITY

As I mentioned in my recent Side Hustle Update, I made over $100 last year in gift cards simply by participating in taste tests through the local university’s Food Science department. It’s simple, usually takes 20 minutes, and yields $10-$40 in gift cards each test!

I find this to be a fun way to earn Walmart gift cards and purchase items that may fall outside the budget. Just check out the Food Science Department’s page on the university website for more information to get started in your area!

This is probably my highest earning side hustle to date. I am so excited that class is back in session and I have been contacted about two tests this week! It’s a two-step process being chosen with the first being a questionnaire and availability check. Then, based on your answers and availability, if chosen a second email is sent with the test time and any special instructions.

I sign in, participate in the taste test, and walk out with a gift card or cards depending on the payout. It’s simple, easy, and gives me a little kid-free time.

#2. BE A PRODUCT TESTER

Did you know you can be paid to test food at your favorite restaurants? How’s that for a tasty side hustle?! Write a simple review in exchange for gift cards to the establishment! And there are a lot more side hustle ideas with this option than I even realized.

The possibilities seem almost endless if you’re willing to put in a little effort with the research to find them. Or just click the links below for some of the ideas I found.

Review Wendy’s for a Secret Diner! Click Here!

Review Subway for a Secret Diner! Click Here!

Become a Snack Tester! Click Here!

Review and keep a iHop gift card! Click Here!

This is a good way to eat out on a tight budget!

#3. BE A MYSTERY SHOPPER!

Get paid to shop sites and places like Amazon, Costco, and more! In exchange for reviewing it you can keep up to $200 in free product! Do you want to try out a Mamaroo Bouncer? Get one free in exchange for reviewing the product!

There are lots of ways to be a mystery shopper including apps. Field Agent is a popular app that works by crowdsourcing “the smartphones of workers across the United States and six other countries to equip brands, retailers, and other businesses with fast, accurate retail information, shopper insights, and digital product demos.”

In other words, you can get paid to use your smartphone to complete a simple task while you’re out running your regular errands. I have not personally used the app, but have seen it mentioned often in the debt-free community on social media.

#4. HIRE YOURSELF OUT FOR A TASK OR TWO

Market your services with tasks such as errands, home cleaning, item removal, furniture assembly, and more with sites such as AirTasker and Task Rabbit. This can be a great way to earn money on the side when you have the time. Get paid to help someone move, deliver appliances, get some landscaping done, you name it!

You could do this one offline and offer to walk the neighbor’s dogs, help with yard work, or wash the windows. Additionally, you can try your luck in another neighborhood.

5. LAUNCH A DIGITAL PRODUCT

Have some great recipes to share? Why not release an ebook? Maybe you have an awesome idea for an app or online course? There are lots of platforms like Teachable and GumRoad to help you do just that. Build your course online and start earning money!

Set up an eCommerce site, do a little online promotion, and automate some additional income! And this is a great way to market services such as online coaching, social media management, and a lot more, so do a little research, see if there is a need for your knowledge and expertise, then get building!

If you are able to build a faithful following through a blog and earn an income sharing your knowledge and connecting with others.

#6. BECOME A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT/ WORK FROM HOME PART-TIME

Obviously this is a career field that is on the rise and worth looking into. There are lots of part-time work from home jobs on the market. A simple search on an online job site will yield some great leads on companies and the pay range you can expect for the field you’re interested in. This is also a good way to find out if you need to meet any additional requirements.

HOW DO YOU HUSTLE?

Do you have a side hustle? Maybe a passion project that has turned into a little hustle or has the potential to. I’d love to hear about it. At a minimum, my goal for my side hustles is to break even with my hosting fees and operating costs for my blog and YouTube channel.

My ultimate goal is to earn a steady income with one or more of these hustles to at least contribute to the household budget on a regular basis.

Either way, I am passionate about this little blog and my other hustles and love the challenges they bring. It keeps my mind sharper and prevents me from getting too lazy or anti-social being at home.

I’d love to hear about your side hustles or why you are motivated to find one or more! And do tell me if you take up a hustle suggested in my posts! I’d love to hear how it works out for you!

I’ll keep posting more side hustle ideas as I find them. Until next time, stay frugal and get your side hustle on my friends!

more side hustle ideas

A LIFE ON A DIME’S SIDE HUSTLE UPDATE

side hustle update

 

I’ve posted before on the need for side hustles, even offering 6 Legitimate Side Hustle Ideas in a previous post, but I haven’t quite broken down what I make on my little side hustles. I figured it was about time to do just that so this post will serve as a little side hustle update of sorts.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

SIDE HUSTLE UPDATE – 2019 INCOME

It cost about $80 to set the blog up last June and I was able to completely pay our savings back in mid-September solely through side-hustle income. I had earned some blog income at this point but had not yet cashed out. This was paid mostly through babysitting. I may have thrown some birthday money at it as well. But, one thing is for sure – from September on this little blog has financed itself! That feels good to be able to say!

SIDE HUSTLE UPDATE: BABYSITTING INCOME

I earned about $75 last year in babysitting. Again, that mostly went to pay us back for blog hosting expenses. It was a small, occasional hustle, but a fun one that also kept my kids entertained. This was most handy in the summer months.

CRAIGSLIST SALES/ KIDS RESALE SHOP TRADE-INS

I try to sell perfectly good items around the house we no longer need before donating them. I also try to trade in clothing and supplies the kids outgrow that is in good condition. I’m not going to lie; I had very little luck with either this year. I made about $20 selling a playpen with sunbrella on Craigslist last year and probably got about $30 total in trade-in value on stuff from the kids at Once Upon a Child. It’s not exactly hustling income for me, but it does help lower some of the expense of keeping the kids clothed.

cashback and survey app income update

Admittedly I am not consistent with this one. Every two weeks I scan all my receipts into Fetch Rewards and try to find deals on what I’ve bought on Ibotta. I am a bit too frugal for Ibotta, but I hold out for the “any item” deals and that occasional offer on an item I had already planned to purchase.

Admittedly I am not a heavy couponer and I do not plan my shopping around what has a cashback offer. I simply buy generic with a few exceptions and prefer to save my money rather than get some back. Most apps require $20 to cash out with the exception of Fetch; points add up to redeem gift cards. It really just depends on what gift card you want.

I have not participated in many surveys the last month or so, but plan to pick that back up now that the oldest is back in school since I am fairly close to cashing out. Here are my running totals for each app.

Ibotta – I have earned a whopping $8.60 so far.

Fetch Rewards – I have the most luck “earning” with this app even though it adds up differently. I have a total of 8,900 points, which is enough to redeem $8 in gift cards.

Inbox Surveys – I am so close to cashing out! I am currently at $16.72.

SIDE HUSTLE INCOME – TASTE TESTING

Looking back through Instagram posts I added up about $130 in gift cards from taste testing last year. Not bad! Especially considering I wasn’t chosen for any for three months after canceling last minute the day of our son’s orthopedic surgery.

Quite a bit of this side hustle money was used buying kid essentials as well as upgrading a few things to stainless steel in the kitchen. Things tapered off closer to the end of the fall semester. I hope they pick back up again once this semester is in full swing. It is a fun and easy little hustle that also allows me a little break from the kiddos.

MY NEW SIDE HUSTLE – BOOKKEEPING

I recently took on a new side hustle; I am reconciling 2019 bank statements for a family friend’s small business. This is fun to put on my old Accounting hat again and brush off some old skills I hadn’t used in a while (apart from managing our household finances and balancing our budget).

It is enjoyable and I make a reasonable hourly rate. This is also something I can do from the comfort of my own home thanks to Quickbooks being online. It is also something I am open to taking on for other small businesses should the opportunity arise this year.

So far this is my favorite side hustle as it actually earns a steadier income (for the moment while this project lasts at least) and will work well for me when the time comes to update my resume and apply for a new job. It probably won’t be till our youngest enters kindergarten, but adding experience to fill in the gaps should really help in the long run.

BLOGGING AS A SIDE HUSTLE

This one isn’t exactly a great source of income – yet. Here is a short, simple breakdown of what the blog has brought in so far.

SPONSORED POSTS/VIDEOS

Last year I made a grand total of $55 for two sponsored posts and one video. More experienced bloggers will probably sigh and roll their eyes at this total, but these were offers I jumped at made to help jump start my affiliate status. The best part? I only did sponsored posts for products/brands I already used and felt confident endorsing. I also got a few greeting cards out of the deal. Recently I made a 20 cent commission on a  sale stemming from one of those posts.

I would like to note that in making the blog pay for itself I used the money from the sponsored posts to pay for six months’ use of a PO box, enabling me to start my weekly newsletter! If you’re wondering why I needed the PO box in order to do this, anti-spam laws provide you provide an address in emails. I would rather pay $20 for six months’ use of a PO box than a monthly subscription of almost $20 to use a service that provides a PO box number for my emails. Obviously sending my home address out isn’t an option for privacy reasons.

I also used blog income to purchase a tripod with ring light for my smartphone. It has come in handy for my YouTube videos and was money well spent. I am still working out the best angles and how to get my phone to sync with the remote, but the whole thing is a learning curve when it comes to this blog and now the channel.

AMAZON ASSOCIATE SALES

I’ve made almost $14 total from Amazon commissions. I can’t really complain there. I don’t promote products in every post and don’t qualify to be an Influencer with my own storefront. I’m not really sure if that’s an eventual goal or not at this point.

GIFTED MERCHANDISE

I was gifted $100 in free merchandise that I got to pick out as an affiliate to review on the blog. I also did a YouTube video. And I absolutely love what I picked out and will put my planner to good use. One lucky subscriber will also benefit from this in the January 15 giveaway.

WRAPPING UP THIS SIDE HUSTLE UPDATE

While it seems none of my side hustles make much money, they are still important to me. Babysitting helped break up the monotony of the summer break and taste testing offers me a little time away from kids (as they’re not allowed in the testing center if they’re not old enough to wait in the lobby unattended) and provides a little spending money outside the budget for household or kid essentials.

Bookkeeping enables me to keep my brain and skills sharp and provides good resume experience during these “gap years” I am home with the kids. It also keeps me up to date with the software. It’s nice to utilize my training again.

Blogging, while it is for the moment a self-sustaining hustle, I hope will become more than that. I shared my five-year plan back in October in the post Life Goals: My Before 40 Bucket List and one of the items on my bucket list to do before the age of 40 is to become a certified financial coach of some sort. This blog is a great precursor to that and gives me a new skill set that could potentially open up doors in a different career field.

I also really enjoy the blog and the relationships I’ve forged with other content creators. it fulfills a creative outlet for this creative mind that can’t draw well and enables me to write often, which I have always loved to do. It also helps this introverted heart of mine be more social and come out of my shell some.

So while I’m not exactly rolling in the dough with my little side hustles I do enjoy keeping up with them. I plan to work on building them up this year to increase my income. What about you? Do you hustle? What are your favorite side hustles to bring in a little or a lot of additional income?

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2019 IN REVIEW

2019 in Review

2019 In Review and Best Wishes for 2020

I say this every week in the newsletter, but I can’t believe how fast the year has gone! And now not only is the year ending, but also the decade! I just started this little blog and June and it has far exceeded my expectations. I have all of you to thank for that and I am most grateful! This little post will serve as both my wishes for the new year and decade as well as a little 2019 in review post.

I want to start by saying I am so excited that I am closing out the year with my one hundredth blog post! This is a milestone I really wasn’t sure would happen so quickly, but we can thank Blogtober for that.

2019…

Oh my, so much happened in 2019. There is a hashtag trending on Twitter, #2019infivewords, and I honestly cannot sum up the entire year in five words. So here are a few highlights of how our 2019 went down.

March

  • We closed on our new house toward the end of March. It was a huge relief to get back into our own space once again. My dad had been gracious to let us live with him since the end of April 2018 while we finished the last renovations at the old house and then during the build.
  • We moved in and immediately started a giant purge. I had thought I had been minimalistic when packing up the old house, but I was oh. so. wrong.

April and May

  • I honestly can’t remember hardly anything that happened in April and May!
  • Somewhere in here, my husband started his side hustle at a local retailer.

June

  • June saw both kids’ birthdays and a backyard pool party for family and close friends.
  • As part of her birthday gift, our daughter started martial arts classes.
  • I started this blog!

July 2019 in review

  • July was a busy month!
  • Our son cut his hand and had to have orthopedic surgery to repair as much of the damage as possible and salvage at least most of the use of his thumb. The jury is still out as to how much feeling he has in his thumb, but he’s a little too young to tell us. You can read more about that here.
  • Shortly after cutting his hand our little man started speech therapy. He is talking much more now, which makes life a little easier for him and us!
  • I taught at Vacation Bible School for the first time in a few years. I taught the toddler class, so our son was with me all week, bandage and all. It was a long, but very blessed week.
  • The week after VBS our daughter started two weeks of swim lessons. I’ll be looking at different options for the summer of 2020 as this did not go well compared to her first year at the same aquatic park.
  • On the way to one of those disappointing swim lessons a “buck deer” as my daughter calls them jumped out of a ditch and ran into my husband’s front bumper and headlight. No one but said “buck deer” was seriously injured, unless you count the headlight which is still held together with packing tape.
  • My dad remarried! This was one of the brightest spots of 2019 and continues to be a bright spot. After four years alone my dad deserves all the happiness Cathy brings him and we thank God for her every day. My sister and I cooked for and hosted a modest spaghetti dinner after the rehearsal. The kids all love her too!

August

  • August saw our daughter start the first grade! We finally had a customary first day of school pictures on our very own front porch! On her first day of kindergarten, we were at my dad’s house and it was pouring rain, so all pictures were inside and hope for the picture of us standing where our front porch would one day be were dashed.
  • I turned 35, but we can just ignore that little fact and move on…
  • We set up a much-needed auto maintenance sinking fund to take care of some maintenance and repair needs. Within a week we needed a new tire and a car battery; neither expense was able to be covered by the account, but we have tried to add to it and now have enough to get some upcoming routine services done, which feels good.

September 2019 in Review

  • In September we started attending a new church. It was very scary leaving the unknown and going where we felt God lead, but it has been such a blessing. The kids love going and my daughter goes to school with most of the kids in her Sunday School and Children’s Church classes which adds another a greater sense of community.
  • We celebrated our thirteenth anniversary home with the kids this month as well. Budgetary restraints didn’t allow much in the way of celebrating, but I am already mentally planning a little 15th-anniversary getaway. I just might have to set up another sinking fund in 2020!

October

  • In October I was finally able to resume my little side hustle of taste testing after canceling the day of our son’s surgery. It was little, but much welcome sign of things returning to normal.
  • We DIYed my daughter’s Halloween costume after her Wonder Woman accessories didn’t come in.

November & December 2019 in review

  • The last two months flew by with the holidays and much-needed family time.
  • I started a little bookkeeping side hustle project and will probably look to pick up more little jobs like it in the new year.

My hopes for 2020 and my word of the year

I am really looking forward to 2020. I think it’s going to rock! We seem to have crammed a lot of stress and change in 2019 and I’m looking forward to a year of calm. Last year I used a word of the year generator and was assigned the word know. I still don’t know what that was all about! Guess I missed the point of that one. I actually had to dig around my Instagram to remember what this year’s word was! This month I took a word of the year quiz from Dayspring and based on my responses the word I was given bloom as my word of the year.

At first, I was confused by the choice and discounted it as I had last year’s word. Then I decided it was perfect and I’m going to do my darndest to make sure I bloom in whatever situations I find myself in for 2020. I kind of feel like I got a head start on my word of the year without even realizing it; I’m finding my rhythm with this stay at home mom life, enjoying this blog, and venturing out into new projects. I find all of these things challenging, rewarding, and a source of joy.

So I plan to bloom away in 2020! I hope you do too! Thank you so much for following along with me as I document my family’s journey to live life to the fullest on less. In January I have some simple goals in mind. I resolved a long time ago not to put needless pressure on myself with new year’s resolutions. I’ll probably share those in the next few days. I haven’t quite articulated them yet.

In the meantime, tell me what your word of the year for 2020 is if you chose one and how you plan to focus on it. I pray for a happy and blessed 2020 for each and every one of you and I look forward to getting to know you more in the new year and decade. And thank you so much for being a part of my life in 2019. Lastly, don’t forget to subscribe via email (the big pink button on the right of the screen!) before January 15th! That’s when I’ll be picking one random email subscriber to win the Erin Condren Budget Bundle!

LIFE GOALS: MY BEFORE 40 BUCKET LIST

my before 40 bucket list

I started a post (and made pins) on advice I’d give my younger self shortly after my birthday a few months ago. I am getting nowhere with it. Then I saw some posts on bucket lists and advice on keeping them, so I thought I’d just post a bucket list of goals I’d like to accomplish before I turn 40! I have a few months shy of 5 years, so why not?! Here is my do before 40 bucket list.

  1. Be a full-fledged work at home mom – with a regular income.
  2. Get back (and stay) in the habit of regular Bible study – I miss this! I need this!
  3. Take a trip of some sort with my husband sans kids for our 15th anniversary (just 2 years to go)! – We went to Eureka Springs for two nights for our 10th anniversary and that’s the first and only time we’ve gotten away without kids.
  4. Become a Certified Financial Coach – I want to take my love of budgeting to the next level. This seems like a logical step to accomplish the next goal.
  5. Help people get out of debt and take on clients who want to change their family tree! Yes, I can do this without a certification, but I want the added credibility.
  6. Make one new, good friend a year.
  7. Nurture the friendships I already have more.
  8. Take a girl’s trip to Ikea.
  9. Attend a DFC (Debt-Free Community) meetup in my area. I will organize it if I have to.
  10. Take the kids on a couple of vacations. So far we’ve only done day trips since we’ve had our second child. We didn’t go much of anywhere with just the one either.

I’ll be honest, I had originally thought it’d be fun to post a 40 before 40, but apparently I don’t have that many goals! This is a pretty short post, but I have been enjoying my weekend. I’m back tomorrow with another Meal Plan Monday! Have a happy and frugal Sunday, my friends!