Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Do This 1 Thing No Matter How Tight Your Budget Is

Look, I know we are in the middle of a pandemic and for millions of Americans, times are tough financially.  People are job searching, redoing their budgets, and cutting corners.  2020 is not a year many of us will miss when it finally packs its bags and leaves.

Years ago when my husband and I got married, my dad passed down some advice for budgeting.  He said, (paraphrasing here because it was nearly 2 decades ago): "Always have some money that you each get that isn't accountable to the other one."

You need to have spending money each month that is YOURS.  

Budget tip even when money is tight

Here are the rules:
  • The amount is agreed upon ahead of time and each person gets the same amount. It might be a minuscule amount. That's fine. Write it in the budget. 

  • You get your spending money. You spend it on whatever you want.  

  • The other person does not get to complain about what you bought with your spending money.

  • If you want to spend it all at Starbucks. Fine.  

  • If you want to save up your spending money for awhile and buy something big? Fine.

Why do we need spending money in our budget?

If you don't budget spending money for both you and your partner, you will either a) overspend, b) underspend, or c) be resentful of your partner.  

If money is super tight and your spouse comes home with a $5 frappe from Starbucks, you might be ticked.  

But if it came out of their spending money, then you can't get mad---it was their money and furthermore, you have YOUR money so if you want a frappe too, you can get one!

Having your own spending money allows each person to feel free to purchase something without feeling guilty for taking money from another budget category.

How much should we budget for spending money?

It depends greatly on your budget.  Generally we now do $50 each, each month.  Sometimes we do less if a big expense is coming up.  In the early years of marriage when money was really tight, we started with $5 a month and worked up to $10.

Can we use a credit card for our spending money?

Uhh.  It should really be cash so that once it's gone, it. is. gone.  If you must use a card (or order online), be sure to write down what you spent and keep track of how much you have left.  Do NOT go into debt for spending money.  If you can't afford more than $3 that month, then you only get $3!  

Why should I listen to you?

My husband and I aren't financial advisors, we're just people who've been married for a long time, rarely argue about money (you can count our money arguments on one hand), have been poor, have been not-poor, and have no debt except our reasonable mortgage.  

Plus, technically this advice came from my dad and he's the smartest person I know.  ;) 
1 thing you have to do even when money is tight

Monday, July 20, 2020

25 Ways to Teach Sight Words

Sight words.  Words you can't "sound out."  They comprise most of what we read.  It is crucial that children learn to read sight words, but how can you do it in a meaningful and fun way?  

As a special education teacher at the elementary level, I've taught lots of sight words! Merely drilling flashcards is not going to cut it.  Don't get me wrong, flashcards are fine. Just don't try to teach sight words by using only flashcards.  Kids need a multi-sensory way to learn new words and I'm here to give you the 25 best ways to do that!  

25 multi-sensory ways to teach your child to read sight words
Ready?  Here we go!

1. Have the child use sidewalk chalk to write the word. Important: have them say each letter while they are writing it and then say the entire word. Example "t...h....e....the."  

2. Parent writes a few words on the driveway with sidewalk chalk.  Have your child use gross motor skills to get to each word. Example "Hop to 'was'!"   "Tiptoe to 'of'."  "Stand on your right leg on 'goes'."

3. Make a hopscotch board with sidewalk chalk and have your child spell and say the word they land on.

4. Post It Note Parking.  Write one sight word on each sticky note (5-8 total). Give your child a toy car.  Say "Park on....the."  Child drives the car to that sticky note.  "Park on....was."  Child drives the car to that sticky note.  

5. Spray shaving cream on a cookie sheet and have your child write the word with their finger. Bonus: The room will smell good!

6. Find a mud puddle (or make mud on a cookie sheet) and have your child write the word with their finger!  Messy and fun!

7. Use homemade dough (or Play-doh) and have your child roll out the down into a long 'worm' and then use the worm to shape the letters of each word.

8. Use homemade dough (here is my favorite recipe for homemade play-doh) and give your child clean alphabet stamps. Have them stamp the sight word into the dough.

9. Use letter beads and a pipe cleaner or string to build the words.

10. Hide sight words in Easter eggs and have your child go on an egg hunt. When they open the egg, have them read the word.
11. Have your child "sky write" the word. Point their finger and make their arm straight. Use their whole arm to make each letter. (Gross motor practice can help the brain remember!)

12. Carpet writing. Child uses their index finger to "write" the word on the carpet.

13. Magazine collage. Have child look through magazine and find as many of the target word as possible.  Cut them out and make a collage if desired.

14. Use abc stamps to stamp the words.

15. Use abc stickers (Dollar Tree and Target Dollar Spot often have big books of them for $1) to build the sight word.

16. Use a song to teach the sight word. Heidi Songs on Youtube has lots of great sight word songs. I've used "There" "His" and "She" frequently in my classroom!

17. Closed-eye writing. Have your child close their eyes and use their arm in the air to 'spell' the word while picturing it in their mind.

18. Get scented markers and let your child use those to write their words. (I like these fine tip Mr. Sketch markers!)

19. Wikki Stix are fun ways to build sight words!

20. Incorporate whole-body learning with having your child jump or hop each time they say a letter in the word.

21. Read your child a picture book. Have them snap every time they hear the sight word you are working on.

22. Play Tic Tac Toe but instead of using X's and O's, each player has a designated sight word that they write in the box.  They must say each letter and read the word each time they take a turn!

23. Play the game HeadBandz but instead of using the cards that go with it, use index cards of sight words.  Child has to say your name to get a point.

24. Here's another way to use a popular game!  Instead of using Don't Break the Ice to teach social skills, use it for sight words! Have a stack of sight word cards that your child is working on. Before they take their turn, they have to turn over and read one of the words.

25. Connect 4. You can put a little garage sale sticker dot on each piece and write a sight word on it. Players have to read their word before playing their piece.  OR if you don't want to alter the game pieces, simply set out a stack of sight word cards. Before each player takes a turn, they read a word card (just like above in #24)!

Sight words can be hard for children to learn! Here are 25 ways to help your child learn to read sight words: WITHOUT worksheets!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

1 New Habit Guaranteed to Help You Read More

I have always loved to read but yet there are so many books and not enough time!  Not to mention that the Covid19 pandemic means we're all spending more time at home. Yet there doesn't seem to be enough time?  Know what I mean?

Feeling a pull to both increase my reading time and to also practice some self-care, I decided that I should read more. 

And yet it is hard to concentrate, to immerse myself into a book. I sit down.  The phone beeps.  I read one paragraph.  My mind wanders.  The Covid19 pandemic has definitely made it harder for me to focus.  You too? 
Read more with this one simple trick

But there's one habit that you can start to help you read more books.  

At night when you are done with the kids' bedtime routine, try to sit down and immediately read for 30 minutes.  

That's the habit. Commit yourself to 30mins a night. You can set a timer, I do! You may not hit 7 nights a week. That's okay. Aim for 4-5.  It's doable. 

30 minutes. RIGHT after the kids are in bed.  The house is peaceful but you aren't seconds away from dreamland so your brain should be in a good place.

Now here's the other part of this 1 tip. We'll call it part 1b.  
If your brain is finding it hard to focus on reading right now, you have to plow through the first five minutes.  

That's what it takes for me, for my brain to shift and realize "Oh okay we aren't thinking about dying and face masks now. We are doing something else."  

Does this reading habit work?  Yes!  I've started keeping a book journal (more on that another time) and discovered that in exactly the last 4 weeks, I've completely read 6 books and am partway through another!  
Read more with this 1 new habit

Sure, some days I've read more than 30 minutes, but that half hour at night is enough to start me and more importantly to keep me fueled and WANTING to read at other times too.

tl; dr? Read for 30 mins as soon as your kids crash at night. Plow through the first 5 mins while your mind wanders. Boom. Progress through your "To Be Read" pile!

Oh look, it's my TBR pile.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Things We DON'T Buy

Not long ago I shared the 7 things we don't mind spending money on.  Cherry Coke, life insurance, etc.  Many years ago when this blog was quite new, I wrote about the things we just won't buy.  But it's time to update that list!  

We do spend a little more on cell phones now.  My husband's is provided through his work and our teenage son and myself get a $30 a month plan for a total household cell phone bill of $60 per month.  

What about things we don't buy though?  When you are looking for frugal tips and money saving advice, you'll often come across people who don't eat out, don't buy paper plates, and haven't had a name brand bag of chips for the last 20 years.  Those people are not me.  Now if it's how you choose to live, by all means, do so.  It would save you money!  But me?  I've gotta have paper plates and Pringles from time to time. 10 things we don't buy

We try to be responsible with our money while still enjoying life without going into debt.  It's a balance we all have to find!  
Here are the 10 things we don't buy.  Let me know if your list is different or similar!

1. Apps

If it's not free, we're not getting it.  Sure there are likely some fantastic apps out there that only cost a few dollars.  Nonetheless, we just don't pay to buy apps, nor do we do the in app purchases for them.  Believe me, I've been stuck on levels of Candy Crush or Cooking Craze and been super tempted by the $3 booster pack.  But I resist!  Our budget doesn't have a "Beat the next level" line item. :-D

2. Tanning Sessions

Oh how I would love to go tanning!  It evens out your skin tone and gives a "healthy" glow.  But I read about how even going tanning just once can greatly increase you chances of skin cancer.  It's scary stuff and while my chubby parts would look better tan, I don't want to die so the world will just have to deal with my bright white chub.

3. Alcohol

For various reasons, we don't drink.  Alcoholic drinks can be quite expensive, especially if you're at the bar ordering the $10 drinks.  No alcohol for us means no extra cost.

4. Cigarettes / Vape

We aren't Mormon but with the lack of drinking and smoking we might blend in with them. ha! We don't smoke or do any of the various alternatives such as vaping.  

5. Gym Memberships

Funny story.  I did the Planet Fitness thing for awhile and of all the gyms, it does seem the be the most affordable.  But.  I just didn't go enough to justify it.  So one year on January 4th when everyone was joining the gym, I marched in and stopped the membership.  #Winning

6. Lottery Tickets

For both mathematical and religious reasons we don't purchase lottery tickets or visit casinos, horse tracks, etc.  

7. Cable or Satellite TV 

There was a time when we had satellite tv. We chose Dish Network because it didn't require a contract and you could cancel at any time without incurring extra fees.  It was around $30 a month.  

We do purchase hulu/prime/netflix now which adds up to roughly $25 a month (though we share the cost with family which lowers our part of the bill). Not a huge savings but we feel like between those 3 streaming services we have enough viewing options. We certainly aren't going to add Dish on TOP of all the streaming.  If we got rid of streaming we'd have no way to watch some of our favorite shows.  

8. Leased Vehicles

We don't lease our vehicles.  Most often it's better to buy a vehicle you can afford and then you OWN at the end of the payments versus paying on something every month and then having nothing to show for it because you never truly owned it.  Sure, you can lease a nicer car than you can afford to buy outright, but...why?  I'm not trying to lose money just to show off.

9. Extended Warranties

You know how when you go to Walmart and the register prompts the cashier to ask if you want to pay $7 extra for a warranty on this Furby?  Hard pass on that.

10. The Latest Technology

Guess who owns air pods?!  No one in our house! 
Sure we have phones and streaming on our tv.  We don't live in the dark ages.  But we're also not waiting in line outside Apple stores for the latest igadget.  We wait til something has been on the market for awhile and the price goes down before purchasing.  Also?  I'm a good person but I tend to lose things and air pods seem like NOT a good idea for someone like me. :-/

budgeting tips

Friday, July 3, 2020

Friday Funnies: Cats

This week's Friday Funnies are perfect for all of the cat lovers out there!  We are more of a dog family (cats trigger bad allergies in most of us) but I got a good laugh from these funny cat pictures.  Enjoy!

Cat wanted to go outside in freezing temperatures. Quickly regretted it.

This cat brought its owner a warm chicken wing.

I aspire to be as calm as this cat when things are falling apart around me.