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Keeping Frugality Fun

There is nothing that will squelch the joy in frugality faster than pinching your pennies so hard you never have any fun. And if you’re planning to practice thrift for the long haul, you need to strategically come up with ways to keep life interesting, exciting and fresh. Otherwise, you’ll likely burn out before a few months are out.

Just because you don’t have a lot of money or are trying to live on little doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to have fun and splurge a little without breaking your budget. Here are a few things we’ve done:

::Have a bookstore date. We did this often back in our law school days, when there was almost-zero wiggle room in our budget most months. We’d browse books, buy a drink to share (usually paying for it with a card I’d earned through reading emails from MyPoints!) and sit and read and talk for awhile. It made for a very relaxing evening that cost us next to nothing!

::Go out for coffee. Nowadays, we don’t often have time for leisurely bookstore dates, but we use our Starbucks gift cards earned through Swagbucks for fun (and free!) dates.

::Visit the pet store. Can’t afford to go to the zoo? A pet store is a great alternative. Our children love to peer into all the different cages and aquariums — and we’ve never had a pet store owner have a problem with us just dropping by to browse.

::Plan a nicer dinner each week. If beans and rice make up a large part of your diet, plan ahead so that one night per week, you have “feast.” You could go all out and re-create food from one of your favorite restaurants at home. Or, you could keep it simple and just try a fun new recipe or make your family’s favorite dessert. If you can’t even afford that, add a table cloth, your best dishes and candles to your normal fare to make it seem extravagant. No one will probably notice you’re eating beans and rice yet again if they are distracted by the beautiful candlelight. :)

::Stop by the library. The library was one of our favorite places to frequent when we were on a very limited income. When my husband was in law school, there was little else we could afford when it came to entertainment, so we spent countless hours and evenings at the library. And we checked out hundreds of books, CDs and DVDs. Best of all, that particular library had no late fees!

::Go shopping at CVS. This might seem a little crazy, but back when I was playing the drugstore game really hot and heavy, we oftentimes used extra ECBs to splurge. And some nights, we’d divvy them up and see who could get a better bang for their bucks by hitting up the clearance section of the store. It felt like a splurge, but it didn’t affect our pocketbook.

::Have a Loose Change Date. During the first few years of our marriage, any extra pennies or nickles or dimes we had, went into a change cup that we kept in our kitchen cupboard. Once a year, when we were feeling particularly like we just couldn’t keep on living like no one else and needed some sort of pick me up, we’d take the change cup to the bank and exchange it for dollar bills.

You know that money was tight, because usually after a year of putting in our extra pennies, nickels and dimes, all we’d have would be around $7-$8 collected! But that $7-$8 could meant we could rent a movie at the $0.50 movie store and get dinner at a fast food restaurant with coupons. And you know what? A little splurge like that often did the trick to re-invigorate us on our frugal journey.

How do you keep frugality fun at your house? I’d love to hear your ideas!

photo by Maddy Lou

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Groupon: Save big on local deals

Have you signed up for Groupon yet? If you’re looking for deals in your area, you definitely should! Every day, you’ll receive a coupon offer via email which is up to 90% off an area restaurant, attraction, store or service.

I’ve been really impressed with the offers available. While they do cost something (i.e. none of them are totally free), it’s a great way to do fun things as a family — without breaking your pocketbook (provided you have the money to pay for the deal in your budget!).

Sign up for Groupon deals in your area here.

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Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds – Part 2

Missed last week’s post with Part 1 of Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds? Read it here.

Picking up where we left off last week, here are four more of our favorite children’s read-alouds:

5. The Story of Ferdinand — The girls never tire of this story and it always produces a plethora of questions on bull-fighting, bees and everything in-between.

6. Keep the Lights Burning Abbie— This is one of Kathrynne’s most-loved stories. It’s a beautiful tale of a girl who shows great responsibility and determination to stick to her commitments — in spite of great difficulty.

7. Caps for Sale — Despite how many times we’ve read this book, it never ceases to capture the girls’ complete attention. They find it fascinating. Plus, it offers lots of opportunities for us to discuss entrepreneurialism and how “way back when” people really had to get creative when it came to earning a living.

8. Bless the Lord: The 103rd Psalm — With absolutely gorgeous and detailed artwork, this book has the rich phrases of the 103rd Psalm contained in it. If your children are anything like mine, they will want to spend a great deal of time just studying the pictures.

Part 3 coming early next week…

This post is brought to you in part by HarperCollins and the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program. Kids 12 and under can join the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program and earn a free book when they read 10 books. Just fill out this form and bring it in to any Borders, Waldenbooks, or Borders express store by August 26, 2010 to participate in this program. Find more Summer Reading Programs here.

photo credit: Washington State Library

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REI: Document your summer activity and earn a prize!

Here’s another great freebie to add to the Guide to Free Summer Fun I posted yesterday:

REI stores have a Passport to Adventure Program which allows children ages 5-12 to earn a free prize when they document their hikes, bike rides and more over the summer.

This is a great incentive for your children to get out and get fresh air and exercise. Plus, reader Lesley, who emailed in about this deal, said that their family participated in this last year and the prize with a cool multipurpose tool with a compass.

Find more free summer activities here.

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