Tidy Tuesday Challenge – Main Room Cleaning

Since we’ve got family and friends visiting this weekend, I figured this week is a good week to clean up the main room of the house. In our house the “main room” is our living room, dining room, and where the computers sit.

In your house it might just be the living room, or it may be something different. The goal here is to clean up whatever it room your guests see the most, and the room you spend the most time in.

If you are good about cleaning up your house, this might not be a big job. However, I bet there are still areas  that need improvement. How do the windows look? The walls? How about behind desks, under tables, and in drawers?

Our room happens to be a complete and utter mess right now so I doubt we’ll get to those fine details. But if you are in need of a challenge this week, go for the small spaces and tasks you don’t usually do every day.

Have fun!

Mother’s Day Treats

Need some dessert ideas for Mother’s Day? Now of course us moms don’t want to be spending the day in the kitchen, so we need something easy for the kids (and the dads) to do on their own.

See Kid and Dad Friendly Treats for some fun ideas. Not only will it keep them out of your hair so you can relax, but you’ll have some tasty treats made for you!

Mother’s day really isn’t far away – this year it lands on my mom’s birthday (May 11th). That’s less than 2 weeks away! This holiday always sneaks up on me since we are usually busy figuring out my son’s bday which is always up to a week before Mother’s Day. But this year I’m on it with plenty of reminders, so let’s hope I don’t forget!

Frugal Friday Tip

Since earlier this week we took some time and organized our bills, today I thought we’d work on lowering your bills a bit. Yes it IS possible!

First take a look at your finances and all the things you are currently paying for. Are there things you really don’t need? Sometimes we get carried away with those cheap memberships for various things thinking “it’s just a few dollars, why not?”. When I added up all my “just a few dollars” memberships I realized that added up it is NOT just a few dollars. Cancel what you really don’t need or aren’t really using to shave a bit off your monthly budget.

Next, take a look at your credit cards. If you are one of the lucky few who have always paid off your credit cards every month, congrats to you! I use to be one of them until forced into a bad financial spot (I am far too proud to borrow money from family, so my credit card was my life line). Your interest rates may look absolutely terrible right now, but you CAN get those lowered.

Most people don’t know all it takes is a quick call to your credit card companies and asking them to lower your interest rate. About two years ago mine was not a fix but a variable rate and quite a bit over 20%. (Ouch, right?). After one call I got it at a fixed 19%. Just with those few percentages I knocked off $20/mo. A few months ago I called again to have them review the account, and got it lowered another 2%.

So if you are like most Americans and have some nasty looking credit card balances, try getting your rates lowered. You’ll get your balance paid off a whole lot quicker without raising the amount you pay monthly on it.

This tip was pulled from “97 Money Saving Ideas

Tidy Tuesday Challenge – Bills and Finances

You may have noticed that we didn’t have our “Monday Organization” yesterday. Mostly because I didn’t get my challenge done, but also because I realized that Mondays just aren’t good for cleaning. Not only do we now have regular appointments on Mondays, but that’s dance night too. Time is very limited and I never really have time to get any major housework done. As a result it gets pushed to the end of the week, or completely forgotten (yes I actually FORGOT last week!).

So instead I’ve decided to move it to Tuesday, and name it “Tidy Tuesday”, where we’ll pick small ideas for tidying up your home and life. This week I thought it would be nice to take a break from the housework side and focus on an area that needs attention too – the bills.
Now for this challenge you don’t want to just make sure all your bills are paid (or plans on how to pay them and when), but go an extra step to organize yourself a bit better. Find a place for your bills like a small box, or something that holds paper. If you are like me and pay almost all your bills online, you might want to set a schedule for yourself for reminders on when you need to pay. I use Yahoo Calendar to set up reminders for other things, so I’ll be putting my bills up there today.

Something else you may need to do here is set yourself up a budget and do a little planning. That’s one of those things we all say we “need” to do, but never get around to it. So there you go, there’s the kick in the rear you were asking for.

So today get working on organizing your finances, and we’ll get back to the house next week. Have fun!

Public School or Homeschool?

This has been on my mind for quite some time. My oldest has had problems “fitting in” at public school, and behavior has gone from bad to worse in the past few weeks. We’re to the point he is now seeing an outside counselor because I didn’t know what else to do.

It’s not that he isn’t smart. Quite the opposite actually, he’s way ahead of his class in reading. Everything else he’s quite “average”, but I have to wonder if he wouldn’t be ahead in other things if he was actually LEARNING at school instead of being put in a room by himself as punishment for not falling in line.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there needs to be certain structure in a child’s life. We all have to live by certain rules, and can’t always have it “our way” on demand. We can’t just do whatever we want any time we want. Kids DO need structure.

But I have to wonder how MUCH structure is actually needed. The main problem with my son is he is very independent. He doesn’t like to be taught to, but rather likes figuring out things for himself. He takes great pride in finishing a project without help, and will go so far as to teach others how to do it. You could say he’s a leader, not a follower.

It’s becoming obvious that homeschool is a better option for him. When the kid spends most of his time in a room alone or in the office, what is he learning? This kid needs one on one help, which the school just can’t give.

I’ve witnessed how smart this kid really is. A few weeks ago I planned to have him out of school because he had an appointment with the councelor. His work for the day was given to us ahead of time. The appointment wasn’t until 1pm, so we had all morning to do the work. He’s quite a stubborn kid, so actually getting him to do what he doesn’t want to do can be somewhat of a challenge. Plus this work seemed meaningless to him, which makes the task that much harder. After some resistance, he did in fact finish his work for the day. In less than two hours! If he would have just sat down and did it quickly, it would have taken no more than a half hour. What exactly are they DOING at school anyway?

I guess at this point I see the public school as a threat to his mental health as well as education. If he’s constantly fighting the school, he’s exhausting himself and not learning anything. Right now he’s only in first grade, but how long before he is falling behind the rest of the class because his energy is spent fighting the system? How long before his social skills start to suffer because he’s in a room all by himself?

My biggest concern with homeschool has always been the social aspect. Although now I’m really starting to question if a public school isn’t hindering his social skills because he’s being pulled out of the class so much. He’s spending his recess inside because he’s fighting the work. Recess that he of course does NOT get to make up. I understand in the real world there is an order to things, and we have to do things we don’t want to do before we go play. However, when an adult finishes their work, they get free time. They aren’t shuffled off to another activity that is of little interest to them.

In conclusion I believe I have a smart, self sufficient child who is being serious stifled in the public schools. As we work our way through counseling, I’m weighing the options of keeping him in school verses homeschooling (see this article on Homeschooling vs. Public School).

What’s your thoughts?

Frugal Friday: Ditch Your Movie Channels

Do you subscribe to premium movie channels? If so, you may be able to cut your movie bill in half with this one quick tip.

First off, take a look at how often you actually watch those channels. Is it daily, weekly, or rarely? How often do you watch movies on other channels? How about renting – do you rent movies more than you watch them on TV?

Before we made the switch from HBO to Netflix.com, I realized we were hardly ever watching movies on TV and renting all the time. Our total bill was well over $20 a month for both our movie channel subscriptions and our cost for renting. That didn’t make much sense now did it?

Since we don’t live anywhere close to a Blockbuster and still have to drive 20 miles to the nearest rental store, we decided Netflix was our best option. Currently we use their 1 DVD at a time option, which costs $8.99 a month. Actually, when we first started the cost was higher and they LOWERED the cost not too long ago. Pretty amazing if you ask me – when was the last time you heard of a company lowering costs for all their members?

On average, we get about 5 movies a month right now ONLY because I keep them for a few days. I could probably squeeze in 10 movies in a month if I returned them immediately. Since I don’t have to pay for the gas to return it, this is a heck of a deal to me. Plus of course I don’t have to pay extra for new releases.

Turn around time on the movies is VERY fast. When I drop a movie in the mail to return it, I can expect another one in 2 days. Plus if I wanted to watch something else in the mean time, I could watch movies online as well.

Overall we probably have saved an average of nearly $200/year just by getting rid of all our premium channels and switching to Netflix. Plus I get to watch all the movies I want to watch instead of what they want to show on TV. MUCH better option if you ask me!

Westward – My New Game Addiction

There’s a new game on BigFish I’m addicted to. It may seem a little cheesy, but I absolutely love games like this. You really have to use your head to make the right moves.

If you haven’t played the first Westward, I suggest you download that one first. Trust me, you’ll be hooked before the free hour is up. I completed that one quite a few months ago and loved it.

Then just the other day they came out with Westward II: Heroes of the Frontier, which I knew I’d be hooked on just as soon as I tried it out. I had some saved credits from my club membership to use, so of course I bought a full copy. It’s SO much fun figuring things out and doing all the mini-quests within the game while building up a town.

When you download games from BigFish, I highly recommend buying a club membership where you are charged monthly for credits. When I get in the mood to play, I use several at a time, then leave it for a few months. It’s much cheaper doing it this way instead of buying the games individually at full price. They’ve got such a wide selection of entertaining games you WILL be able to use all those credits in a year. Plus they have quite a few games the kids love too, so it’s more for the whole family instead of just one person.

Have fun and good luck playing Westward!

How to Make Hot Wings

These are so easy to make and so yummy that I rarely buy frozen anymore. In fact, I prefer this easy recipe over frozen ANY day. I have to be in a pretty lazy mood to actually buy them!

I start with a package of wingetts, which is basically chicken wings in pieces, and I deep fry them. Whatever way you plan to cook them, just make sure they are fully cooked before moving to the next step. Adding the spice REALLY doesn’t take that long, so it’s very important your chicken is cooked.

Next, melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a pan on medium low. Add hot sauce to the pan once the butter is melted. Mix it up real good, then add the cooked wings. The amount of time you leave them in the pan is going to depend on how hot you want them. The longer you leave them in, the hotter they get. To get a nice coating, you’ll at least want to fry them for 5 mins on each side.

That’s it! Just three ingredients total including the chicken and you are done! Now of course you’ll probably want to dip them in blue cheese or ranch, so add that to the grocery list too if you plan to make these. But how easy are they? Love it!

Enjoy!

Using the Package of Buns

So I cheated. Normally I make my own buns for various sandwiches, but the other day at the store I decided to just buy the package of buns and be done with it.

It’s always puzzled me why they come in packages of 8 though. Sure it’s great for when you’ve got company and your grilling (although who only buys ONE package when you’ve got company?). But what if you are just feeding a family of three? Why can’t buns come in different number of packages? Or dare I say INDIVIDUAL packages?

Luckily it’s going to work out this time, and we may just be able to eat them all before they go bad. But this will be a first I haven’t had leftovers or not enough. The only reason it’s going to work out is because I’ll be using 2 tonight, then 3 and 3 the rest of the week. That’s ONLY because my son is currently in another state with his dad, and it’s just me and my daughter for supper tonight. He comes home tomorrow, and we’ll end up having hamburgers two nights in a row just to get rid of those buns.

I guess if you have a family of 4 it might work out if you eat two different meals that require buns during the week, but who wants to plan their meals around buns? It’s quite annoying I think, and wishing they had smaller packages. Or maybe I’ll just quit complaining and go back to making my own, so I have total control over the number we have on hand.

Thoughts?

Monday Organizing Challenge: Kitchen

It’s Monday again, and time to pick another area of the house to clean up and organize for the week! Last week we focused on the bathroom getting areas we all dread. I’m happy to report that I DID get down on my hands and knees scrubbing even though I seriously dreaded it. I didn’t get the entire bathroom cleaned, but I did do one important area – the litter box. YUCK! But boy did I feel better once it was done.

This week it’s time to focus on a much less yucky area (we hope anyway). The kitchen could use some organizing and cleaning, so I believe this is a good area to focus on this week. Organizing this room would include going through cabinets, cleaning out your fridge, giving the stove a much needed cleaning, or organizing your recycling if you keep it there.

Don’t worry about not getting it all finished in one week. The idea here is to just focus on one area or task a week without feeling like you NEED to finish the ENTIRE room. We don’t want to lose focus on these tasks, so just do what you can and move on. 😉

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