Category Archives: Family Finance

Super Easy Ways to Save for Music Lessons

Aspiring musicians, and oftentimes their parents, find themselves asking, “Why are music lessons so expensive?

Many do not realize that music teachers are usually self employed and have to take their own expenses into account. Teachers also factor in the time they prepare for each student, including travel.

Music teachers want to give their students the best experience possible and the best chance of reaching their goals-which is worth every penny. Understanding why music lessons cost what they do doesn’t make it easier to pay for them, though!

Luckily, there are some tips and tricks that can help you squirrel away a few dollars here and there to be able to pursue your musical passion. Check out a few ideas below.

The Latte Factor

Next time you think about waiting in line for that five dollar coffee at the local shop, consider brewing your coffee at home instead. Over the course of a month you’ll save enough for a few music lessons. The Latte Factor may be overused, but when you’re saving for a smaller, specific goal, it can really work. Sacrificing a latte is a small price to pay for musical success!

Eat at Home

It’s no secret that eating out adds up quickly. One of the most common times people eat out is at lunch during the work day. That ten dollars a day could be used for a month of music lessons. Make a little extra dinner so that you have lunch for the next day, or wake up a bit earlier to prepare food. The small change will lead to a big pay off.

Skip the Salon

For all the ladies out there who love a mani-pedi, try doing your own nails. This will not only save you money, but also will let you change your color whenever you want and have fun with it. Plus, if you’re learning a string instrument short nails are easier to work with.

Other Ways to Save Money for Music Lessons

Musicians know that lessons are fundamental to growth and progression. No matter your level, they are an important aspect of learning a new musical skill. These are just a few ways to save money to put towards your passion. The infographic from TakeLessons below offers some other ways to save.

For even more ways to save, Femme Frugality readers can get $20 off their first lesson package with the code GETLESSONS.

Hmmm Interesting ways to save money to afford music lessons for the kiddos!

 

This post is contributed by Natalie Hagen.

How to Save Money at Disney World

So glad I saw this before we leave for Disney World! Going to save me SO much money!

A few months back, we took a road trip down to Florida. We were going to a wedding, and a family member had gifted us a week at their timeshare in Orlando as a Christmas present. We couldn’t have gotten out of going to Disney if we wanted to.

Of course, we wanted to go. It’s just an expensive trip, so it’s not likely one we would have made on our own. We had a bit of a mixed experience once we got down there, to be honest with you, but Disney has worked to make amends for the negative experiences we had.

The positive experiences were great, though. We got to meet a bunch of characters–most of whom were awesome. One of my kiddos ended up being the rebel spy on board our ship on the Star Wars ride. And a live performance of Frozen brought us to tears.

Yeah, that last one really happened.

We did a few things to save before we went. First, the timeshare was free, and we were able to dodge the sales pitch. We also travel hacked our tickets. They weren’t free, but they were insanely cheap.

Once we got there, though, I realized that there was more I could have done to prepare. To save you from making these same follies, I thought I’d share my learned-from-experience Disney savings advice.

Cheapest Ways to Meet Characters at Disney World

Before I had gone to Disney World as an adult, I assumed the best way to ensure the kids met the characters they were in love with was by scheduling a meal with them. So we scheduled a couple of them.

We chose the cheaper buffet option when we dined at Disney restaurants to meet with characters, but it was still pricey–between $30-$60 per person.

Here’s what I wish I would have known before we left.

The Lines to Meet Characters Aren’t that Long

Find out how to meet Minnie Mouse for free at Disney World.

Minnie Mouse at Epcot was so, so great with the kids!

If there’s a designated place to meet your character of choice, you can simply wait in line to meet them and take pictures without paying an extra dime. We met…

  • Olaf
  • Mickey Mouse
  • Minnie Mouse
  • Goofy

…in this way. If I had known there would be so many opportunities to do this, I may have cut one of our character dining experiences, and saved a ton of money in the process.

From what I saw walking around the parks, the lines for these meet’n’greets weren’t that long. And we were there at the end of May, which I understand to be a pretty popular time to visit.

Dig around on the Disney Experience App before you go. You’ll be able to see where the meet’n’greet opportunities are, and a quick google search should be able to tell you if your character of choice has crazy long lines.

Worst case scenario, you can use one of your Fast Passes for extremely popular characters.

Don’t Overlook Character Performance Attractions

Disney’s attractions include a whole lot more than just rides. For example, we got to meet Belle at Enchanted Tales with Belle.

Catch storytime with Belle at Learning Express Bakery Square.

The upside to this was that our kids got an up close and intimate experience, performing a play while interacting directly with Belle.

The downside was that the line was insane. Even with a disability pass, we waited somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half after we got in line. Granted, this is an extremely popular attraction right now as the new Beauty and the Beast movie just came out, but it was still less than fun.

Arguably worth it once we got inside.

For the Frozen performance we attended, there was also a bit of a wait, though nowhere near as bad. Your kids didn’t get to meet and hug the characters for this one, though we didn’t expect that to happen and really loved the over-the-top performance.

Read the attraction description to see just how up close and personal the experience will be, and then weigh if the wait time is worth it, or if you’d rather pay to sit down and eat a meal while the characters make their rounds to your table.

Don’t Wait to Buy Disney Merchandise on Amazon

Ugh. The biggest money mistake of our entire Disney trip was not buying the kids things they wanted while we were in the park. I did want to get them a souvenir or two, but largely I told them to wait until we got home and then Mommy would buy it cheaper online.

I took pictures of UPCs and everything.

Find out how to save money on Disney Parks merchandise.

SURPRISE! Disney has a separate line of products that they sell exclusively at the parks. The internet seems to be aware of this exclusivity. When people resell items from the line, the price is way marked up.

I had promised my kids I’d get them this stuff, though. We have lots of conversations about sacrifices and trade offs when it comes to money, but this was something I had explicitly told them I would buy later in order to stave off tantrums.

Because I’m not a fan of breaking my promises, I’ve been filling in an item or two for birthdays, and Santa will probably help out a bit at Christmas. The number of presents they receive isn’t as large as it would usually be if I weren’t buying already-expensive-and-then-marked-up-even-more Disney products. But they’re happy because it’s something they really wanted, and I’m happy because I’m able to not be an evil liar.

The Things We Did Right

Central Florida is insanely hot in May. Thankfully, this was one area where I did something right.

Buy Your Own Cooling Towels

Cooling towels absolutely saved us on this trip. We got Frogg Toggs Chilly Pads, and I highly recommend them as they worked amazingly well. I would not recommend their other cooling products, though.

You wet them down and lay them around your neck. As the water evaporates, it cools you down. The water takes a long time to evaporate, too, so we weren’t stopping at a water fountain every five seconds.

Once we were inside Disney, we saw Disney-branded cooling towels everywhere–primarily donning the face of Mickey or Minnie mouse. They were $20/piece. If we hadn’t been prepared, I would have broken down and bought them, price tag be darned.

If we were going to be there, we needed them. Otherwise we would have had to cut all of our days short. Buy yours before you get into the park so you don’t get robbed. Kmart has them for half the price.

Bring Your Own Water Bottles

You are allowed to bring coolers into the park as long as it meets size guidelines and doesn’t contain glass or alcohol. We packed ours full of water. Yes, it was heavy. But so worth it.

We usually had to buy more water about half-way through the day at park prices (I’m a weirdo about fountain/tap water,) but if we hadn’t brought our own supply at the beginning of the day, we would have had to pay park prices twice.

We also found that we had enough room on all the rides to put the cooler by our feet. We weren’t riding any insane roller coasters, but even on the Dumbo and Little Mermaid rides, we had no issues.

Can you do Disney World on a budget?

Absolutely. We did it relatively affordably this time, given that it is Disney. We plan on heading back in the next couple of years. This time, we’ll have some pro experience under our belt to safeguard our budget even better.

Back-to-School Jeans for Only $8.88

Over the years, our family has come to love Crazy8–even as an alternative to consignment shops. Their clothes are super stylish, quality and come at reasonable prices which are further brought down by frequent and stellar sales.

This year, as we get ready for back-to-school shopping–

#OMGMyBabiesAren’tBabiesAnymore

–we are on the lookout for great prices to keep our budget in check. One of my kiddos doesn’t need a ton of stuff as far as back-to-school is concerned, but the other definitely needs a wardrobe update as the weather changes from oppressively hot to color-changing, autumnal temperatures.

We were so excited when we saw that Crazy8 has a killer deal on their denim products–only $8.88 for jeans!

Here are some of the favorite back-to-school styles from the Frugality household. My kids are at the age where they have their own style now. They’re probably more fashionable than their mother!

Girls’ Back-to-School Looks

Girls' back-to-school outfits on sale at Crazy8

Jean Jacket – $20.93
Sparkle Girl Tee – $5
Jeggings – $8.88

Find great deals on kids' jeans for back-to-school with this sale.

Metallic Sweatshirt – $14.93
Skinny Jeans – $8.88

Check out this deal on girls' jeans at Crazy8.

Sparkle Tee – $5
Bootcut Jeans – $8.88

Boys’ Back-to-School Looks

Crazy8 Denim Back-to-School Sale

Plaid Shirt – $7
Rocker Jeans – $8.88

Back-to-school jeans for only $8.88

Stripe Tee – $5
Bootcut Jean – $8.88

Affordable, quality back-to-school looks on sale.

Speckle Zip Hoodie – $12
Baseball Tee – $5
Straight Jeans – $8.88

Share Your Shopping Secrets

We’d love to hear from you. Leave an answer to one of these questions in the comments–we read each and every one!

  • How do you score a great deal during back-to-school shopping?
  • Do your children need a complete wardrobe overhaul, or just a few items this year?
  • What’s one item your kid would like from Crazy8? Are you happy with the price?

 

 

 

 

I have been compensated for the writing of this post. Regardless, all opinions are 100% honest and 100% my own. It’s always a great experience to be paid for promoting a product I love and recommend to my friends. Please note that all prices are current at the time of writing, but are subject to change.

Tips for Moving with Children

Last month I got to sit down with my friends at Northwood Realty for a Think Tank session on moving with children. To be honest with you, it’s something I haven’t done yet–partially because our current housing situation is affordable, and partially because Holy Overwhelm.

I have moved a lot, though, in my pre-kid life. It was great to sit down with a bunch of other moms who had been through the ringer, and real estate agents who had done it themselves as parents and helped their clients through the process more than a few times.

I feel a lot better about the whole thing now, and better prepared for next year when we take the plunge.

What we came up with was a treasure trove of knowledge gained from first-hand experience. Here’s some of the best of it:

Such a wealth of knowledge on how to move with kids! Actually feel prepared now!

Smart Prepping for a Frugal Move with Children

We’ve been saying we’re going to move “next year” for a couple of years now. But this time we mean it.

How do I know?

We’ve actually started going through our stuff. Doing so early means we won’t have to move as much–which will save us money. It also means that we’re able to list and sell all our extra stuff before the big day.

It’s a smart move, too, because it means as the seasons roll around, we’ll be able to pack progressively. Once those winter coats are off for the last time, they’ll get packed up. That’s one less box we’ll have to worry about come late Spring.

I picked up some additional tips about moving prep from the fine mothers and real estate agents at our Think Tank, too:

  • If you don’t know where to donate something, especially kids’ toys, clothing or gear, think Women’s Shelters. They often have women and children rotating in and out and always have a need.
  • Pack smaller boxes so everyone can help with the move. I always packed larger boxes and went into beast mode on moving day so it wouldn’t take as long, but now that we’ll have kiddos along for the ride I see the value in going small.
  • Get free boxes at the grocery store or other retailer that frequently receives shipments. They’re typically really strong and most places just break them down at the end of the night. You might have to come after close, but usually if you ask a manger if you can take some off their hands they’ll be more than happy to help.
  • Label and color code. It’s smart to label each box according to which room it will go into. That way, if you have friends coming to help, they won’t be guessing as to which room “Johnny’s Trophies” should end up in. But if you have preliterate children, using colored tape to coordinate with each room can be super helpful, too.

Buying a Home with Children

One thing that really surprised me was that, at least in the South Western PA market, it doesn’t really matter financially when you move. The price difference in housing is negligible, so you should do it whenever works best for your family.

Helping Kids Transition

If you want to move in the summer, though, it was advised that you start looking early. And if you want to move in the summer to help your kids transition, there were some great tips to make things run more smoothly:

  • Enroll your children in sports in their new district–and do it early. This helps them get to know people so they have some friendly faces on their first day.
  • Involve your kids in the house hunt. This can help them feel involved–and also alert you to safety hazards you may not have noticed. I will note that when my parents did this, they picked what I thought was the wrong house. And I still hold it against them. Kidding! Kind of.
  • Hire a sitter to come with you on the house hunt. This way the kids can stay involved, but the show can go on if there’s a meltdown. Pay the babysitter per house–it’s more motivating for them to stay on that way!
  • Get the children’s bedrooms set up first. It will help make their new surroundings more comforting.

Get Your Money Straight

Many of these tips go for any house hunting endeavor–it’s important to have your budget straight. When you’re figuring out how much you need to have saved before buying a home, don’t forget to look beyond the down payment and monthly mortgage payments. You’ll also need money for:

  • Closing costs
  • Home inspection
  • Escrow
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Any applicable HOA fees
  • Hand money

It’s important to be honest with your real estate agent about your financial situation, too. Many of the agents at the Think Tank said this is hard for people, because money and pride go hand-in-hand. But your agent is there to help you, and has a fiduciary duty to act in your best interests. If you’re not completely forthcoming, it will all come out anyways–potentially messing up a deal or resulting in lost time looking at houses you can’t truly afford.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR PA BUYERS: You cannot receive gifts to cover costs in the home buying process in the state of Pennsylvania. If you live in another state, be sure to check your local laws before banking on any gift money.

You’ll also want to get pre-qualified before shopping. In markets like the one we have in Pittsburgh, sellers won’t even look at your offer if you want a contingency clause added while you try to find financing.

Selling a Home With Children

Keeping your house ready for last-minute tours is stressful. Keeping it clean and ready with kids? That’s panic-mode stressful.

Here are some top-notch tips I gleaned for prepping your house to move:

  • Keep all the toys in one room. And make sure it isn’t on the ground floor if at all possible. While in reality your children may have taken over the house, no one wants to buy that reality–even if they have kids themselves. Let them fantasize.
  • Get some laundry baskets ready. Got a call from your agent saying that someone wants to come see the house in an hour? As in one hour? As in sixty minutes from NOW? If you have a couple of laundry baskets ready to go, you can round up all the toys, books and other odds and ends your kids have taken out of that dedicated room, throw them in the basket, and then throw them in the trunk of your car as you get ready to leave.
    Last-minute showings can be inconvenient, but staying flexible is key in helping your home sell quickly.
  • Don’t worry about seasonality. At least in our local housing market, there is no best time of year to sell. In fact, the agents we spoke with said the holidays were one of their favorite times to sell because the houses were done up so beautifully for the festivities. (January is also when a ton of companies do relocations, so there are generally plenty of buyers.)
  • Animals are more of a distraction than children. If you have pets, you may want to temporarily house them somewhere else. If the buyer isn’t a dog person, they may have a hard time overlooking your German Shepard while they’re trying to fall in love with your house. Or the litter your cat spilled outside the box after you meticulously cleaned it up before loading your laundry baskets into the car.
    Temporarily housing with a friend or family member is also less stressful for your furry friend, too. Strangers can be scary–especially when your pet doesn’t fully understand what’s going on.

Protect Yourself

Again: strangers can be scary. While you hope the buyer’s agent is looking out for you, you simply don’t know who is going to be in your home. Be sure to lock up any:

  • Cash
  • Checkbooks
  • Credit cards/Banking information
  • Jewelry
  • Firearms
  • Medication
  • Anything else of value or potential harm

Ready to List!

Ready to list? Here’s some things you can do to help get your house off the market quickly:

  • Have an open house immediately after you list. This helps create pressure.
  • If you can coordinate listing with your vacation, you’ve got an ideal situation. You clean your house before you leave and have nobody to mess it up for a week–or however long you’re gone. The realtors cited many examples where the home sold before the family was even back in town!
  • Continue promoting even if you have a contract. Because, unfortunately, contracts do sometimes fall through.

Have you moved with children?

Would love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

 

 

 

*I have been compensated for my time at this event and the writing of this post.  Regardless, all opinions are 100% my own and 100% honest.*

LEGO® Brick Fest Live! Review

This looks so cool! Glow-in-the-dark legos at LEGO Brick Fest Live!

Did anyone take advantage of that promo code to go to LEGO® Brick Fest Live! this past weekend?

If you didn’t–you missed out! It was such an incredibly fun day with so much to do. In the days leading up to the event, I got an earful about how cool the races were going to be, and how I better be ready to take pictures of the crashes. (Because that’s the coolest part of racing, I suppose!)

Obviously, when we arrived, that was the first thing we did. They had pre-made platforms which you built your car on top of–in four minutes. It was intense.

Racing cars at LEGO Brick Fest Live!

To  be honest, I wasn’t sure how well that vehicle was going to do. It didn’t look hyper aerodynamic even though it was super cool looking. Much to my surprise, watch who comes in first in the second race!

We also got to contribute to a couple of large-scale LEGO cities–including one that glowed under black lights–at the Inspiration Stations.

LEGO Inspiration Station at Brick Fest

These LEGOs glow under blacklights.

There were so many vendors there. I was a little bit oblivious to how many groups and businesses are built around the LEGO industry.

One that my kiddo was immediately attracted to was this station with remote control car bases that could be controlled through an app on your phone. I told them we might have to wait and ask Santa for this one if they still want it around Christmas time (it was $50), but we did get to try it out while we were there. It was pretty darn fun.

While we were there, we got to see some fine art and learn a little history:

I never knew the history of the Rosie the Riveter poster! Super interesting, and cool LEGO rendition.

And play in ALL the brick pits:

Brick pits at LEGO Brick Fest

To top it all off, we played nine holes of LEGO mini golf and got to contribute to the mosaic wall. There were patterns you could use to make a variety of cool images. We picked the Poke Ball:

LEGO Pokeball pattern

One thing to note: we were finishing up our mosaic at quarter to close. If you’re going to do any collaborative projects, I’d recommend doing them earlier in the day as they were starting to tear down right as we were putting ours up. We didn’t have any tantrums or anything over it, but I can see how something like that may happen.

This is our second year running attending a LEGO event. They’re so fun, and you get a lot of bang for your buck with the tickets. We did get our tickets for free in order to facilitate this review, but I’d be happy to pay the ticket price for a day full of fun like this one. Can’t wait to see what next year may hold!

Cities Where You Can Still Catch LEGO Brick Fest Live!

The event’s over in the Steel City, but you can still catch it if you live in any of the following areas. Click here for exact dates.

  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Austin, TX
  • Denver, CO
  • Portland, OR
  • Pasadena, CA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Richmond, VA
  • Houston, TX
  • Baltimore, MD