Gift Ideas to Inspire Financial Health

What do you gift a person who has everything?  When it comes to some people in your life, a little creative gift giving might be in order for the holidays.  Why not give your loved one the gift of inspired financial health? Here are some non-traditional holiday gift ideas that can help or inspire people to get in financial shape.

Investment Fun

When it comes to teaching kids about investing and the stock market, why not give them a little hands on experience?  You can gift them a small sum of money that they can invest in a “fun” company of their choice–like Disney for example–that will peak their interest.  Then you can show them the basics of investing and watching the stock market. If they are interested in the company and feel they have “ownership,” they will be more likely to take an interest in learning where their money is going.

Start Retirement Young

Another great gift for teens and young adults would be to start a retirement fund for them.  You can give them a sum of money to start their fund or you can match whatever they put in to mimic an employers match.  Whatever way you decide to do it, teach them retirement fund basics along the way, like how much they can contribute per year and what the different types of retirement accounts mean.  You can never start too young!

Help Education

A great gift for your kids or grandkids is to start a 529 Savings Plan for their education.  This gift may seem boring to the kid at first, but when they are older and don’t have to take out student loans, they will thank you.  This not only shows that you support their education, but you can contribute a small amount to the plan each year as additional gifts.

Personal Finance Books

Books about personal finance topics are a great gift for those in college, just starting out on their own or young newlyweds.  Books such as The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey or The New Retirement by Jan  Cullinane and Cathy Fitzgerald are just a couple to get started with.  Check out our previous blog post about great books on financial topics.

Giving those you care about gifts that help them financially is truly the gift that keeps on giving.  So keep that in mind next time you are on the hunt for the perfect holiday gift for a loved one.

How to Have a Budget Friendly Halloween


Halloween is just around the corner, and if you aren’t careful, it can cost you lots of money.  In fact, every year it seems more Americans are spending more and more money to celebrate the holiday.  Between the costumes, parties and candy it can add up quickly. Here are a few ways to keep the Halloween costs at a minimum while still having a fun time.

Plan, Plan, Plan

The secret to managing money in any situation is to plan out your spending ahead of time.  Holidays are no exception. Plan out which costumes you want, and find out if you can make them or if you have to buy them.  How much candy will you need? Are there any decorations you need or parties to attend? Make a Halloween budget and save up your money ahead of time so that you won’t have to scrape up the money when the day comes.  

DIY Costumes

A great costume is always a priority for kids and adults alike.  When you are planning out what you want to dress up as, consider finding creative ways to make your own costume.  You don’t have to be a seamstress to DIY a costume. Search the internet for clever or original costume ideas that won’t break the bank.  If you do decide to purchase a costume, always compare prices before you take the plunge and actually purchase one.

DIY Decorations

seems like more people are decorating their homes for Halloween with every year that passes.  If decorating is something you love to do, consider saving money by making your own decorations. Dollar stores have many of the supplies needed to make spooky decorations for a fraction of the price.  Plus, you get to explore your crafty side and have fun while making them. Just search the internet for tutorials–there are a ton out there.

Buy Candy Strategically

A few weeks before the actual holiday, many of the big box stores start putting their Halloween candy on sale.  If you are strategic with the sales you can pay way less for candy than you would if you were to buy it at regular price.  Also, look for any coupons for candy. Many manufacturers send out coupons in the newspaper for candy in the weeks leading up to Halloween, and some stores have their own coupons as well.  So, scavenge the sales papers and get your coupons ready, and you won’t spend a fortune on candy this year.

So you see, Halloween doesn’t have to break the bank.  With a little planning, you can make the holiday fun and still stick to your budget.

Cheap Ways to Celebrate Fall

Even though it’s still warm outside right now, the official start of autumn is this weekend.  Soon the air will be cooler and it will be time to celebrate all the things that make fall so magical.  Here are some ideas of fun fall activities your whole family can participate in that won’t break the bank.

Apple-Picking

Find a local apple orchard that will let you come and pick your own apples.  You will be outside in the crisp fall air, and you will get to enjoy nature as you pick the perfect apples for fall baking, or even just for snacks.  This proves to be a really entertaining activity for children.

Bake Fall Treats

This activity is a great follow-up to apple picking because you can use your apples to bake all sorts of fall treats.  Apple pie, candy apples, applesauce–the possibilities are near endless! Outside of apples, think about what you could make with other autumn produce like pumpkins, acorn squash or sweet potatoes. The internet is saturated with mouth watering recipes for the fall. Get your kids in on the action and let them make their own treats (supervised, of course).

Visit a Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin patches these days are packed with tons of different activities other than pumpkin picking.  They have corn mazes, hayrides, kettle corn and many more activities for kids and adults alike. They are basically a fall festival happening every weekend.  Find a pumpkin patch that has lots of activities and consider taking your family one weekend. If you have one close to you and want to go multiple times, see if a season pass might be more cost effective for you.

Take A Hike – Literally!

A free activity that is great for the whole family is to take a hike in a local park or forest near you.  Hikes are perfect for fall because the temperature is cooler and the leaves are beautiful this time of year.  You will get to enjoy the stunning nature of autumn as well as get some exercise. Take a picnic lunch and make a day out of it–you won’t regret it!

There are many other activities not listed here that are fun to do during the fall season.  To find out more, just search the internet for “Fall Activities in _____” and enter your city name.  You will find tons of possibilities just waiting for you to explore. Happy Fall!

How To Save Money and Sanity When Buying School Supplies

It’s hard to believe that it is that time of year again–the time of year where summer fun starts to fade into a shopping frenzy for back-to-school.  School supply shopping can be frustrating if you wait until the last minute but depressing if you start too early. So what’s a mom to do? Here are some ways to not only save money, but also save your sanity while shopping for school supplies.

Tip #1 – Beware of Discount Stores

Buying all of your school supplies at the dollar store sounds like the ultimate bargain, right?  I mean, everything is only $1–you can’t beat that! Actually, you can. After Independence Day, all the “big box” stores start putting out their lovely back-to-school displays, and that means that they start running weekly sales on all of their school supplies.  At the dollar store you can buy a 24 pack of crayons for $1. At Target, during their school supply sales, you can pick up a 24 pack of Crayola crayons for around 50 cents. Sometimes, during peak buying season, you can see them for 25 cents. Folders during these sales can be bought for 15-20 cents a piece.  So, buying everything for a dollar isn’t always the best deal. If you play your cards right and shop all of the sales, you will drastically save more money than buying at the dollar store.

Tip #2 – Check Out The Grocery Store

If you buy your groceries at Walmart, this probably won’t apply to you as much, but if you use a traditional grocery store, check out their school supply section.  Sure, they won’t have as big of a selection as the other stores, but they still run great school supply sales just like Walmart or Target. People often overlook regular grocery stores for school items, but you can often find their sales to be better than the bigger stores.  It’s just a bonus that you can pick up your school supplies while you do grocery shopping–so it’s a one-stop shop!

Tip #3 – Don’t Shop At Peak Times

Here in Alabama, we all know that late summer tradition of “Tax Free Weekend”.  You know, the three days that send chills down the spines of retail workers all over the state.  Yes, for one weekend only, all school supplies, clothing and select electronics are free of tax! That means that everyone is shopping for the same items on the same weekend resulting in chaos of Black Friday proportions.  If you get stressed out easily by the thought of getting your kids ready for going back to school, DO NOT shop on this weekend. It’s totally worth paying the extra 9 cents on the dollar to keep your blood pressure at a normal level.  Instead, shop at abnormal times like early in the morning, later in the evening or during the week. There won’t be as many people, and you will have your pick of the merchandise.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be stressful.  Just stick to these three tips and you will get everything you need without breaking the bank or you sanity.

3 Easy Ways to Save Money This Summer

It’s summertime!  The kids are out of school and it’s hot outside, and that usually means higher home costs.  If you have kids living at home, you know that during the summer months when they are out of school, they not only raise your food bill, but they also use a lot more electricity than during the school year.  The good news is there are simple things you can do to help combat those costs! Take a look at these tips to keep you cool and collected this summer.

Close the Curtains

Did you know that your air conditioner is one of the biggest pulls of electricity in your home?  When it is hot and sunny outside, perhaps the simplest way to save money is to close the blinds and curtains in your house.  This will keep the sunlight from warming your home too much and making your air conditioner work overtime. This easy method could end up saving you big time on your electric bill this summer.

Unplug the Unused

Believe it or not, there are appliances and other items in your home that use electricity even when you aren’t using them.  Ever wonder how the clock stays running on your cable box, stove, coffee maker, etc.? Even though you aren’t using these appliances all the time, they are still using electricity to run the clocks and maintain your settings.  A charger of any kind still plugged into the wall pulls electricity even when you aren’t charging anything. Obviously, the easiest way to stop this is to unplug your devices from the wall when not in use. Even if you don’t want to unplug the TV or cable box, you can still make sure all chargers aren’t plugged into the wall.

Halt the Heat

Keeping the heat out of your home during the hot summer months is not only pleasing to your body, but is good for your wallet.  Like closing the curtains, not using your stove or clothes dryer very often during hot periods can help keep your electric bill at bay.  Air dry your clothes and cook meals that don’t require you to use your stove. Both appliances heat the house more than you would think while they are in use.  This makes your A/C kick it up a notch to try to combat the heat, and the results show up on your electric bill.

So you can see that these tips are extremely basic and easy. It’s crazy to think how just small bits of energy conservation can add up to a big difference on your electric bill.  Doing these tips regularly will be very helpful in your quest to combat the rising costs of summer.