Wednesday, December 31, 2008

8 Frugal New Year's Activities for Kids

Waiting for the ball to drop?  Don't know how to keep the kids occupied?  Try some of these ideas:
  1. Video Game Tournament -- For more information on this, be sure to check out my post on 5 Ways to Save Money on Video Games.
  2. Coloring Pages -- Click here to print out New Year's Eve coloring pages.
  3. Snow Globe Snowman -- No Time for Flashcards features this adorable craft for the kids to enjoy.
  4. Tambourines -- Click here for instructions to make a fun tambourine craft (made with paper plates, ribbon, and jingle bells) to shake after midnight!
  5. Sparkly 2009 Banner -- Yesterday's post with directions for how to make a sparkly 2009 banner using empty cereal boxes and aluminum foil can be found here.
  6. Time Capsule -- Make a time capsule using a decorated empty coffee can.  Fill with photographs, recipes, old recordings, trading cards, etc.
  7. Start a Journal -- What better time to start a journal with a clean slate?  Click here for instructions to make a fabulous winter journal from a plain composition notebook.
  8. Make Your Own Peppermint Hot Chocolate --  This is so easy, and so frugal!  For the recipe, click here.

Lights in the Woods - An Update

A few days ago, I posted about Flint Hill Farm's Lights in the Woods event.  Last night, Mark and I bundled the kids up in layers and layers of clothes, packed everyone into the car, and drove 25 minutes to Coopersburg, PA to check it out.  For $5 per adult and $3 for children 3 and over, it seemed like it would be a good deal and a fun time enjoying a wagon ride, hot cocoa, a bonfire, etc.  And it was.  But just about everyone in the Lehigh Valley and their mother had the same good idea, which was fantastic for the farm.... but not so great for us.  Altogether, we spent over 2 hours in line for the wagon ride.  

Apparently, this was not a usual occurrence by any means, and we were told that previous nights enjoyed no lines and no waiting.  So I am very curious to hear from others who were there last night and other nights to compare experiences.  If you were there, please leave a comment and tell us about it, or send me an email.  (vdeneen (at) gmail (dot) com)  

In retrospect, it really was about $5 worth of fun.  But not quite $5 plus 2 hours of waiting + 25 minutes of driving worth of fun.  However, the girls were extremely patient and good the entire time, and Emily was super happy to be there.  We had lots of fun visiting the other animals on the farm, and spending some good quality time as a family.  It was also so fantastic to see such fabulous support for the farm, so overall I would say it was a success.  I would love to go back again next year, but I am hoping and praying that they consider investing in a second wagon!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Frugal New Year's Craft Idea -- Sparkly 2009 Banner

Emily had a great time making this sparkly 2009 banner!  You can add glitter glue or further decorate it, if desired.  To make this frugal 2009 New Year's Banner, you will need:
  1. Two empty cereal boxes
  2. Aluminum foil
  3. Pencil
  4. Glitter Glue (optional)
  5. Yarn
  6. Hole Puncher
Cut out the largest sides of the cereal boxes.  Draw the numbers on the back of the cereal box cardboard, one number for each piece of cardboard.  Cut pieces of aluminum foil into 4 inch squares.  Have your child wrap the foil pieces around each number.  Using a hole puncher, punch two holes in the top of each number and thread yarn through the holes to hang on a wall.

Monday, December 29, 2008

5 Ways to Save Money on Video Games

Emily (at 11 months) was already enjoying video games with Daddy!

Recently, we had a family video game night, and it was tons of fun.  In our household, we have a weakness for video games, and buying new games can quickly become expensive.  Mark and Emily get lots of mileage out of the ones we have, but we are always looking for ways to get good deals on video games the entire family can enjoy. 

Here are some easy ways to save money on video games:
  1. Don't Rush --  The latest titles have the highest prices.  If you can wait just a short while, the price may come down significantly.  This is particularly true for computer games.  An added advantage is that you will have access to more reviews of the game to see if it is really worth the purchase.
  2. Borrow From a Friend --  See if your friend won't mind parting with a game for a night or two.  Be sure to return the game in the same condition.
  3. Swap --  You may be able to swap games with a friend, or set up a free account at  You list your old games, mail them when they are requested, and earn credits for new games.
  4. Buy Used -- has used games starting at just $7.99 and includes free shipping until January 5th.  Games come with a new case and new manual. They are also 100% guaranteed.
  5. Rent --  If your family likes to try new games, you might want to give renting a shot.  At GameFly, plans start at $15.95 per month, and includes free shipping, access to over 6,000 games, and no late fees or other hidden charges.  You may cancel at any time.  Click here for more information.
Does your family have a favorite video game?  Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Frugal Family Fun -- Lehigh Valley

If you are in the Lehigh Valley, you might want to check out Lights in the Woods at the Flint Hill Farm Educational Center in Coopersburg, PA. Conditions were too muddy to go tonight, but they will have another run Tuesday night, December 30th from 5:30 to 8:30pm.  

Lights in the Woods includes horse-drawn wagon rides, strings of white lights throughout the woods, a bonfire, hot cocoa and other goodies.  The kids can visit with the farm animals, and the farm store will be open as well.  

Tickets are just $5 per adult, $3 per child, children 2 and under are free!   Reservations are recommended for groups of 10 or more.  

For more information, visit the Flint Hill Farm Educational Center's website, or click here for the event flyer.

Fabulous Frugal New Year's Eve Bash

New Year's Eve parties can easily get expensive, but with a little help from the Frugal Family Fun Blog, you will be able to start 2009 off with a Fabulous Frugal New Year's Eve Bash -- and be able to celebrate without the worry of extra holiday bills!    

Here are some ideas to get you started:
  1. Guest List --  To help save money, consider limiting your guest list to the people who are the most important to you.  You don't need to invite the entire neighborhood.  Two or three other couples is just fine.
  2. Free Babysitters -- When possible, take advantage of free babysitting help from grandparents or other relatives.  You could also take turns babysitting with another couple.  In exchange, you could offer to run some errands or cook for them.  This is a huge help, so be sure to thank your babysitters for all their hard work! 
  3. Invites --  Sometimes the party's budget can be blown before the party even starts just because of expensive invitations!  Instead, try and you will be able to send online invitations, track RSVP's, ask guests to bring an item, or send party updates quickly and easily. is free!
  4. Lighting --  Use lighting and decorations that you already have on hand.  You could take down the Christmas tree (to free up some space), and use the lights around the party area.  Silver garland works well.  
  5. Food --  Since your party will probably start late in the evening and go all night, you can easily skip a full holiday dinner.  Instead, offer lots of tasty homemade appetizers!  Click here for recipe ideas.  One of my favorites is Bacon-Wrapped Artichoke Hearts.  Here is the recipe:  
    Bacon Wrapped Artichoke Hearts:
    Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  Cut bacon slices in half horizontally.  Wrap each artichoke heart in the 1/2 slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Serve immediately.  You can prepare large trays of these ahead of time and pop them in the oven when the party is about to begin!
  6. Drinks --  Instead of loading up a full service bar, try serving one signature drink for the party.  Pomegranate Martinis make for a  festive drink everyone is sure to enjoy.  Click here for the recipe.  Be sure to include at least one non-alcoholic beverage.
  7. Music --  Hiring a band can be very expensive, so instead try hooking up some speakers to your computer or iPod.  Set up a playlist in iTunes and you have a very inexpensive music solution.  You could also borrow music CDs from your local public library for free.  
  8. Entertainment --  If one of your friends has a Wii, you could borrow it to set it up with some fun party games such as Wii Sports, Super Monkey Ball, or Mario Party 8.  Also, you could try some other fun games including CatchPhrase, Cranium, Taboo, and Apples to Apples.  Ask around if any of your friends have these games to see if you could borrow them.
Have any other ideas for a Fabulous Frugal New Year's Eve Bash?  I would love to hear about it.  Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Free Coffee Mondays at McDonalds

For a limited time, McDonald's is offering a free premium roast coffee on Mondays.  I am not sure if this is nation-wide or not, but the last few times they offered it, it was.  Leave us a comment, and let it know if it is in your area, or not.  Yeah, free coffee!

The Art of Re-Gifting

Re-gifting is an art. If done improperly, it is considered tacky and rude. If done properly, however, your friends will still like you and your resourcefulness will be admired. Here are some things to keep in mind when re-gifting:
  1. The recipient -- Obviously the recipient should be your main concern whether you are gifting or re-gifting. Only re-gift an item if you know the recipient will genuinely love it.
  2. Be upfront -- Be honest about what you are doing, and tell the recipient it was a gift from someone and you simply have no use for the item. Tell the recipient why you thought it was the perfect fit for him/her -- be specific.
  3. Certain items should never be re-gifted -- These include, but are not limited to: used items (these are hand-me-downs, not re-gifts), small appliances or electronics that the recipient would be puzzled to receive.
For more information on re-gifting, see 12 Rules for Re-Gifting Without Fear.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Preparing for Next Christmas

Now all the presents are unwrapped, and the holiday rush is just starting to settle down. I was tempted to just relax at home and enjoy time with the family, but the truth is now is the best time to score some awesome holiday deals at after-Christmas sales and start planning a holiday fund for next year.

You can decorate a plain 3-ring binder and use this as your Holiday Planner. Include address lists for cards, budget worksheets, recipes, gift ideas, etc. The key to saving money is to plan ahead and stay organized.

Here are some ideas to help you prepare for next year:
  1. Shop After-Christmas Sales -- Many stores have wrapping paper, cards, trees, ornaments, lights, candles, and even gifts for 50% off or more. I also stock up on holiday chocolate to chop up and use in baking, hot cocoa mix, or homemade granola bars.
  2. Set Up a Holiday Fund -- This is so simple to do and can help alleviate much of the financial strain of the holidays. Go to ING Direct to set up a high-interest savings account that is linked to your existing checking account. Set up an automatic weekly direct deposit of about $10, or whatever your family can comfortably set aside. At the end of one year, you will have saved $520 plus interest!
  3. Holiday Cards -- You can purchase these at after-Christmas sales, and you might as well go ahead and address the envelopes now. If you use the Forever stamp, you might save on postage if the rates go up again.
  4. Set up Next Year's Holiday Budget -- Make up a list of everyone you want to buy for, and how much you are willing to spend per person. has a great example of a printable Holiday Budget Worksheet.
  5. Photo Gifts -- Shutterfly has photo cards available for 20% off and photo calendars for 25% off. Get creative, upload some photos, and you won't have to stress over whether or not your cards/calendars will arrive in time for next year.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!
If you have a holiday planning tip to share, please leave us a comment and tell us about it!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

7 Best Buys for After Christmas Sales

Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday and best wishes for the New Year! Tomorrow's after Christmas sales could help save your family a lot of money for next year. Here is a quick list of best buys for after Christmas sales:
  1. Holiday Wrapping Paper, Gift Bags, and Gift Boxes -- If you have the storage for these, it is a great time to stock up for the upcoming year.
  2. Christmas Cards -- As long as there is no year mentioned, you can purchase cards for next year at deeply discounted prices.
  3. Ornaments -- Look for classic designs that never go out of style.
  4. Christmas Lights -- LED Christmas lights are a great buy because they use about 1/4 of the energy of traditional lights.
  5. Holiday Dishware -- Great buys are to be had on holiday dishware and glassware after Christmas.
  6. Artificial Trees -- Selection may be a bit limited, but you still might be able to score a nice tree for many more future uses.
  7. Holiday Chocolate -- Chop up and use in baking, or hot cocoa mix!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Frugal INSTANT Gift Ideas

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, so I thought it would be a great time to share some fabulous frugal gifts you can have instantly.  It is amazing what a computer with internet access can provide.  Isn't technology wonderful?  

Here are some frugal instant gift ideas:
  1. Magazine Subscription --  has subscriptions that start at just $6!
  2. Restaurant Gift Certificate --  I  know what you're thinking... Eating out is NOT frugal!  But, did you know that if you order before 12/25 and use promotional code HOLIDAY at, you will get a whopping 80% off!  You will pay about $2 for a $25 gift certificate.  If you place your order through uPromise, you will get a percentage back for college savings.
  3. Amazon e-Gift Certificate --  Just about everyone finds something at Amazon that they would love, so an e-gift certificate could be ideal.  Available in any denomination. 
  4. NetFlix Subscription -- Plans start at just $4.99 a month, which is a pretty good deal.
  5. iTunes --  Give the gift of music with an instant iTunes e-gift certificate.  This must be done through the iTunes store.  You can download iTunes, by clicking here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Frugal Family Activity -- Go Caroling!

Christmas is almost here and it is the perfect time of year to go caroling with friends, family, and neighbors.  If you are like me, that sounds fine and dandy, until you realize you might not know all the words to some of the classic Christmas carols!  Don't worry, to help you avoid any embarrassment, the Hillbilly Housewife has put together a Christmas Carol Song Book that you can download here for free!  (Thanks, Hillbilly Housewife!)

Also, if you are looking for a little more motivation to get started, try How to Organize a Christmas Caroling Party.  This is a fantastic way to get into the holiday spirit, and it is very frugal.

Have you gone caroling this year?  If so, leave us a comment and tell us about it!

Frugal Family Fun Blog is updated daily - sometimes several times a day.  Don't miss any of these great frugal activity ideas, become a follower of the Frugal Family Fun Blog!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

17 Frugal Gift Ideas -- Week in Review

Here is a quick review of the Frugal Holiday series posted here at Frugal Family Fun Blog:

Frugal Fun -- Lehigh Valley

A few weeks ago, I published a post entitled Frugal Indoor Activities in the Lehigh Valley.  However, I had completely forgotten about Lights in the Parkway!  Our family piled into the car last night and enjoyed this great display of holiday lights.

Lights in the Parkway runs from now until January 4th, 5:30pm-10pm and is closed Christmas Day. It is only $9 per vehicle admission, and you can click here for a coupon good for $2 off. For a family of four, that is only $1.75 per person!  When we went, they were giving out boxes of candy to the kids.  Be sure to bring a thermos with some hot cocoa.  You could even make your own peppermint hot cocoa mix!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Frugal Gift Idea -- Pretend Play Sets

Out of all of the games and toys Emily has, she seems to enjoy playing pretend the most.  I try to encourage this as much as possible because pretend play is one of the most beneficial types of play for a child's development.  Child psychologists claim pretend play helps increase creativity, memory, fine motor skills, and more! Today's project is a series of play sets that can be gathered from items you probably already have at home.  They are very frugal, and best of all, the kids really love this kind of play!  

Here are some ideas to make your own pretend play sets:
  1. Doctor Set --  Fill a small black bag with some bandages, cotton balls, adhesive tape, tongue depressors, gloves, and some empty medicine bottles.  You can paint a white cross on the outside of the bag.
  2. School Set --  Fill a basket with some paper, pencils, reward stickers, chalkboard, chalk, hall pass, report card with cardboard sleeve, and a few books.
  3. Restaurant Set --  Fill a medium sized tray with a paper pad, pencil, kid-sized apron, menu (you can laminate this), play-doh (to make pretend food), and a junior chef's hat.  You could also include paper plates.
  4. Grocery Set --  Save your old trial size cereal boxes, mac & cheese boxes, cleaned out ketchup bottles, and other small food boxes or containers.  Include some paper lunch bags, calculator, paper pad, and pencil.  Put the items in a basket so the kids can use the basket for their shopping.
To make your own play food:
  1. Try for some inspiration.  
  2. Thrifty Craft Mama includes a free pattern for felt pumpkin pie!
  3. Pizza Kit -- Try cutting a circle out of tan felt for a crust, a slightly smaller circle from red felt for sauce, and an even slightly smaller circle from ivory felt for cheese.  You can include toppings such as green pepper, pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives.

Do you have any other ideas for pretend play sets, or do you have children who enjoy playing pretend?  If so, please leave a comment and tell us about it!

Friday, December 19, 2008

$10 Target Gift Card Winner

Wow!  There were 290 entries for this fabulous giveaway, and the $10 Target gift card winner (chosen by is mhemrich from Life as Vinny's Mom!  Here was her winning comment:
I love Target. I just found your blog today, and am super excited to become a follower. You have some great ideas!
Thanks to everyone for participating, and we will do another fun giveaway soon!

Frugal Last Minute Gift Idea for Kids -- Doorway Puppet Theatre

Emily seemed to enjoy this frugal activity the most of all the gift ideas I have covered this week!  Today's project is a Doorway Puppet Theatre, and she played with it all afternoon, so I am very excited to share this with you!  

To make your own doorway puppet theatre, you will need:
  1. 3 Curtain Tension Rods -- I found these at Walmart for just a few dollars.
  2. 2 Curtains (1 Curtain Valance & 1 Shorter Curtain) -- I made these with about 1 yard of leftover fabric.
  3. 1 Dark Colored Rectangular Table Cloth -- We taped ours to one of the top curtain rods, but you could sew this into a curtain as well.
  4. Various Puppets -- The one pictured above came from the dollar section of Target!
Arrange two curtain rods near the top of the doorway with a valance curtain on the front rod, and the tablecloth on the back rod.  Add the third curtain rod with a short curtain about 2 feet below the hem of the top curtain.

Emily adored this theatre, and loved to put on puppet shows for Clara to enjoy!  It also does not take up much room for storage, which is a great plus.

$10 Target Gift Card Giveaway -- Ends Today

Today is the last day to get in your entry for the $10 Target Gift Card Giveaway!  Winner will be chosen by and contacted via email for mailing information.  Click here for details.  This giveaway ends at 6pm EST.  Good luck!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Frugal Last Minute Gift Idea for Kids -- Make Your Own Gingerbread House Kit

As mentioned earlier this week, kids love to make their own creations.  Today's project is a Make Your Own Gingerbread House Kit.  These are simple and easy to make, and they taste delicious!  Using these clever shortcuts, you can have a beautiful gingerbread house put together in minutes.  

To make your gingerbread house kit, you will need:
  1. 1 box graham crackers
  2. 1 empty 2 pint milk carton
  3. white icing
  4. decorative candy (licorice, gum drops, candy canes, peppermint candies, etc.)
Place the items listed above into a gift bag and attach the following instructions:

Using the icing as glue, attach graham crackers to cover the outside of the milk carton.  Use a plasic bag with one corner cut off to pipe icing along each edge of the gingerbread house.  Attach candy using icing as glue to decorate your house.  

You could include a bag of marshmallows to use as snow, if desired.  Kids love building (and eating) these!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Frugal Last Minute Gift Idea for Kids -- Make Your Own Cinnamon Ornaments Kit

Today's frugal last minute gift idea for kids is a Make Your Own Cinnamon Ornaments Kit!  Kids love to make their own creations, and this is a great way to get them actively involved in decorating the tree.  The ornaments have the added benefit of acting as air-fresheners and will keep their fragrance for up to 4 years!  A large jar of apple sauce and a large container of cinnamon will make several kits, and you could give one to each kid in the family.

To make your own cinnamon ornament kit, you will need:
  1. 1/2 cup store bought apple sauce -- I used a small tupperware container filled with apple sauce.
  2. 1/2 cup ground cinnamon -- You could use zipper plastic bags for this.
  3. cookie cutters
  4. drinking straw
  5. 1 roll of 1/8" wide ribbon
Fill a pretty gift bag with the items listed above and attach the following instructions:

Mix 1/2 cup apple sauce with 1/2 cup ground cinnamon and 1 Tbsp. white glue.  Use a cutting board dusted with cinnamon to roll out the dough to about 1/4" thick.  Cut your design using a cookie cutter, and punch out a hole near the top with the drinking straw.  Thread ribbon through the hole, tie into a bow, and you are done!  Let ornaments air-dry for 2 days before hanging.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Frugal Last Minute Gift Idea for Kids -- Homework Organizer

Today's frugal last minute gift idea is a homework organizer made from an empty granola bar box, and some empty baby formula tins!  This is a great gift for school-aged kids, and will help to keep them organized too!  

To make these fabulous desk organizers, you will need:
  1. empty boxes (cereal boxes, granola bar boxes, etc. )
  2. scissors
  3. pretty paper (again I used leftovers from the festive winter journals)
  4. double-sided tape
Cut boxes to desired size, and cover with decorative paper using plenty of double-sided tape.  I left some extra for the top couple of inches inside the box as well.  Repeat with any leftover tins you may have.  Some cans have sharp edges, so be careful when working with these, and be sure to cover up any sharp edges as well.

You could also cut a cereal box on a diagonal, cover it with decorative paper and use it as a magazine holder.  We used these to hold glue, scissors, pencils, scrap paper, memo books, etc.  

Monday, December 15, 2008

Frugal Last Minute Gift Idea for Kids -- Winter Lacing Cards

Every day this week I will be featuring frugal last minute gift ideas for kids.  These projects are very frugal and can be made with items you probably already have in your home.  You won't want to miss any of these great projects, so if you are not already a follower of the Frugal Family Fun Blog, click here to become a follower!  

Today's project is Winter Lacing Cards.  These are perfect for preschoolers to work on fine motor skills, and to teach basic sewing techniques to children.  To make these festive lacing cards, you will need:
  1. Empty cereal boxes
  2. Pretty paper (I used paper scraps leftover from my Festive Winter Journals)
  3. Scissors
  4. Glue Stick
  5. Hole Puncher
  6. Shoelaces
Cut cereal boxes to have two sheets of cardboard.  Draw winter shapes onto the backs of the cereal box cardboard.  You could draw stars, stockings, Christmas trees, snowmen, etc.  Cut out the cardboard.  Trace the cutouts onto the pretty paper, and cut the design out to glue over the cardboard.  You will cover both sides of the cereal box with the paper.  Use plenty of glue stick.  Once the glue has dried, use a hole puncher to punch holes around the perimeter of the design.  Try to keep the holes evenly spaced. Add some shoelaces, and you are done!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Frugal Gift Idea -- Hand Warmers

These hand warmers make great stocking stuffers, and they are easy to make!  Just heat these in the microwave for a few seconds and they will retain heat for several minutes. To make your own hand warmers, you will need:
  1. felt
  2. embroidery floss
  3. rice
  4. lavendar (optional)
Cut two pieces of felt to the size of about a deck of cards.  Using 3 strands of embroidery floss, blanket stitch three sides together.  Fill with rice and some lavendar (if desired), and blanket stitch the fourth side.  You could make a pair of these, tie them together with some pretty ribbon, and you are done!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

9 Tips to Cut Holiday Expenses

Does the idea of spending a lot of money this holiday season make you cringe? Have you been trying to save money during this tough economic time? Are you afraid the holidays will put your family further into debt? Fortunately, Frugal Family Fun Blog is here to show you how to celebrate the holidays with friends and family without breaking the bank. Here are some ways to cut expenses during the holidays.
  1. Host a Potluck -- If you provide the turkey or ham, ask friends and family to each bring a side dish or dessert to share. A potluck can be an ideal solution for a vegetarian or other guests with special dietary needs. This will not only save money, but will also save valuable time.
  2. Draw up a Budget -- To save money this holiday season, make up a list of all the people you typically shop for and determine how much to spend on each person. Also, include ideas for gifts for each person. When you go shopping, take your list with you and stick to it!
  3. Plan Ahead -- The best way to cut expenses is always to plan ahead. Take advantage of sales and start shopping early in the season to spread out the expenses over time. With a little planning, you may be able to include other non-department stores such as CVS, Walgreens, or Big Lots to get some great deals.
  4. Shop Online -- This is also a great time saver. Shopping online means you are less likely to over-spend, thanks to the shopping cart which keeps a running total of expenses. Go to to find coupon codes for some of the most popular online stores. Also, consider shopping through uPromise for additional college savings.
  5. Pick One Thing -- If your family needs an organic Christmas tree, consider purchasing it. Then find ways to cut costs in other areas. You could make your own ornaments, for example.
  6. Homemade Gifts -- Some of the best gifts I have received have been homemade. If you know how to knit or sew, take advantage of these talents to make gifts for the people on your list. A scrapbook can make a terrific gift as well. Even dry ingredients for your favorite cookies in a mason jar can make a nice gift, while saving you some cash.
  7. Wrapping Ideas -- Get creative with wrapping paper. Use holiday stamps and rolls of craft paper to make your own, or re-use comics, newspaper print, or old maps. You can use inexpensive raffia, yarn, or string instead of ribbons for a more rustic look.
  8. Gift Exchange -- Put all the family members names into a hat and have each person pick one name. Each family member only shops for the name he/she picked. This way everyone gets a gift without having to shop for the entire family.
  9. Volunteer -- While many families are struggling with money this holiday season, you may be able to give more of your time. Get the family out to a soup kitchen and volunteer some time there. This will help cultivate a sense of gratitude for the things you do have.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Frugal Last Minute Gift Idea for Kids -- Bird Watching Kit

Every day next week I will be posting a series of projects to make last minute gift ideas for kids.  You won't want to miss any of these!  These projects are frugal, and can be made with items you would already have in your house.  Here is a little preview of what to expect.

Today's project  is a Make Your Own Bird Watching Kit.  Emily was so excited to make these binoculars!  Pair the materials to make these with materials for the pine cone bird feeders, and you have the perfect bird watching kit!  She wore the binoculars around the house all day.  They are simple to make and extremely frugal.  

To make your own bird watching kit, place the following items in a gift basket:

2 toilette paper cardboard rolls
1 cork
hole puncher

Attach these instructions:
Have your child paint the cardboard tubes and cork.  Glue the cork between the two cardboard tubes, and place on a sheet of wax paper to dry.  Once the glue is completely dry, use a hole puncher to make holes on either side.  Thread through yarn for a neck strap, and you are done!

For a pine cone bird feeder kit, add the following items to a gift basket:

1 small jar peanut butter
a zip lock bag with some bird seed
pine cones

Attach these instructions:
Have your child spread peanut butter over the pine cone.  Roll the pine cone in some bird seed.  Hang to a tree with some string, and you are done!

Book suggestions:
The Little Bird Who Found Herself by Edwin M. McMahon (All ages)
About Birds: A Guide for Children by Catheryn Sill (Ages 4-8 years)

Do you have any great frugal last-minute gift ideas for kids?  Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

What to do with one leftover (and overripe) banana

Being frugal frequently means coming up with creative ways to use leftovers to avoid throwing food away, but when I realized we had just one overripe banana I was not quite sure how to use it up.  Most recipes for banana bread call for 4 or 5 bananas, and even banana muffin recipes usually call for at least 3.  Tip -- You could also store your overripe bananas in the freezer (with the skins on) until you have enough for a loaf of banana bread, or a larger batch of muffins.

However, I was looking for a way to keep my four year old occupied, so instead Emily and I whipped up this batch of banana mini muffins from scratch.  They tasted great!  

Here is the recipe:

1 large banana (overripe)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/8 cup white sugar
1/8 cup melted butter
1 handful mini chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mash the banana, and add the sugar and a slightly beaten egg.  Slowly stir in the melted butter.  If you do this too quickly, you could cook the egg, so be careful!  Combine the other dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Spoon into mini muffin pan.  Bake for about 7-10 minutes.  Makes about 8 mini muffins.

Do you have a great way to use up leftovers?  Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Target Tip -- Print Coupons at the Gift Registry

Since I posted my $10 Target gift card giveaway, many of you have written that you were not aware of how to print out coupons at the gift registry kiosk to help stretch your money while shopping there.  

Here is a great video (thanks, DealSeekingMom!)explaining how it works:

Basically, just walk over to the gift registry kiosk (located at customer service) and follow the instructions on the screen.  It is very straightforward!  This way you can get the discounts without using up ink from your home computer.  

To print coupons for Target from home, go here.

Frugal Gift Idea -- Chili Mix in a Jar

Nothing takes the chill out of winter like a warm bowl of chili! This mix in a jar is a quick, simple, and frugal gift idea everyone is sure to love. Kids could easily help to make this.  Be sure to attach a tag with instructions to make the chili. Add some big soup bowls, and cornbread mix for a terrific and frugal gift set!

Here is the recipe for chili mix in a jar:

Layer these ingredients in a 1 quart mason jar.

2 tbsp. dried parsley
2 tbsp. taco seasoning
2 tbsp. dried onion flakes
2 tbsp. cumin
2 tbsp. cornmeal
2 tbsp. paprika
2 tbsp. taco seasoning
2 tbsp. dried parsley
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 cup dried pinto beans
1/4 cup dried black beans
1/4 cup dried white beans
about 1 cup dried kidney beans (fill to top of jar)

Attach these instructions:

To a 12 quart pot add:

contents of jar
4 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large can tomato paste
49 ounces tomato juice
2 pounds ground beef (cooked and drained)

Fill the rest of the pot with water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 3 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, top with shredded cheddar cheese and a spoonful of sour cream.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

$10 Target Gift Card Giveaway

I am a huge fan of Target, and this week I am giving away a $10 Target gift card!  Keep it for yourself, or give it to a friend for the holidays.  Tip -- Be sure to go to the gift kiosk to print out coupons to stretch this gift card even further.  

Here is how to enter this fabulous giveaway:
  1. Become a Follower -- Click here to become a follower of Frugal Family Fun Blog, and you will be entered three times.  Those of you who are already followers are automatically entered three times as well.
  2. Link to me -- Use the link to me button on the right of this page to create a link to Frugal Family Fun Blog on your blog, blog about this post on your blog, or create a text link to Frugal Family Fun Blog on your site, and you will be entered 5 times!  Don't forget to come back here and leave a comment so I can see your site to verify the link.
  3. Leave a comment -- Post a comment anywhere on Frugal Family Fun Blog between now and December 19th.  You will automatically be entered once.
This giveaway ends December 19th @ 6pm EST.  Winner will be chosen by and contacted via email for mailing address information.

By the way, I am in no way affiliated with Target.  

Good luck!!

Frugal Gift Idea -- Chocolate Covered Pretzels

I am not much of a baker.  Instead, Emily and I did some holiday "baking" by making chocolate covered pretzels.  There is no measuring required, and they are always delicious.  Wrap in cellophane bags and tie with ribbon for a great (and frugal) gift!

To make chocolate covered pretzels, you will need:
  1. 1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  2. 4 spoonfuls of shortening
  3. 1 package of pretzel rods
  4. cookie sheet
  5. wax paper
Melt the chocolate and shortening in a double broiler.  Once the chocolate has melted, spoon over the pretzel rod.  Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Repeat for as many pretzels as you can fit on the cookie sheet and then place in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to harden.

Don't miss any of these great activity ideas, become a follower of Frugal Family Fun Blog!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Frugal Gift Idea -- Festive Winter Journals

Emily and I enjoyed making these winter journals.  They are so simple to make, and they came out looking great!  To make the journals you will need:
  1. Pretty paper (I used snowflake print, but any pattern will work.)
  2. Plain marble notebook
  4. Book binding tape
  5. Glue stick
Have your child spread glue stick all over the entire cover of the marble notebook, and glue a sheet of pretty paper to the cover.  Repeat with the back cover.  

The rest is up to the grown ups --  Trim excess paper with the exact-o knife.  Use book binding tape over the binding of the notebook.  Trim any excess tape with the exact-o knife, and you are done!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Give Green Holiday Gifts -- For Free!

This holiday season, promote a better environment with these green gifts that help reduce waste.  The best part -- they are FREE!
  1. Stop Junk Mail --  Junk mail uses a tremendous amount of resources.  Use to create an account for the recipient to pick which catalogs are of genuine interest, and CatalogChoice will work with companies to remove the recipient's address from their mailing list for free. has a similar free service for all junk mail.
  2. Offset Carbon Emissions for a Day --  Go to to find out how you can give the gift of being carbon free for a day - for free.
  3. A Green Email Account -- Create a free green email account  for the recipient at  This is a free email service that is provided by a wind and solar powered web hosting company.
  4. Green a PC -- Call 1-800-PC Support and a technician from will help your recipient green their PC for free.  
  5. E-Cards --  Each year greeting cards generate tons of waste.  This year, consider sending free e-cards instead.  Check out,, and to get started.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Frugal Gift Idea -- Handpainted Block Print Kitchen Towels

Looking for another great frugal gift idea?  Try these cute kitchen towels!  You and your kids will love making these, and they turn out looking great.  

To make these, you will need:
  1. Plain white flour sack towels (these can be purchased at Target for about $1 each)
  2. Fabric paint
  3. Holiday stamps (snow flakes, holly, ornament prints all work well)
  4. Paint brushes
Pre-wash and iron the towel to work out any creases.  Lay the towel on a clean, flat surface.  Using a paint brush, paint the stamps you wish to use and begin stamping the design onto the towel.  Use a small paint brush to touch up any spots the stamp did not quite get.  You can free hand other designs onto the towel, if desired.  Let dry for about 2 hours.  Wrap with pretty ribbon and you can include some dish washcloths for a cute (and frugal) dish towel set!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Coupon Giveaway -- And the winner is.....

Wow, there were 52 entries for this great giveaway!  The winning number (chosen by was 15, and that number belongs to Rhonda from Saving Cents.  Rhonda is just starting to learn how to live the frugal life, so I am glad she won the 50 coupons.  Here is her winning comment:
Hi, your blog is full of lots of frugal tips. I am new to the frugal world and am learning some...but could use all the help I can get. Thanks for a helpful blog.  -- Rhonda
Congratulations, Rhonda!  

Another great giveaway begins soon!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Frugal Activity -- Paper Dolls

MoneySavingMom recently featured a post on the McCall paper dolls, so I printed some out for Emily to enjoy.  Here she is playing with the January 1996 Betsy with two outfits -- pajamas and ice skating.  She enjoyed the maze as well.  Great frugal fun!  You can download the entire series here.

Coupon Giveaway - Last Chance to Enter

My very first giveaway is almost over.  The coupon giveaway ends at 6pm EST, so be sure to get your entry in.  You could win 50 coupons (many are for organic items)!  Details here.

FYI:  Another giveaway starts soon!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Frugal Gift Idea -- One Day Carbon Free

One Day from Brighter Planet
Visit to find out how you can give the gift of being carbon neutral for a day, for free!  

From the site:
Forget fruitcake. This year, you can spread your holiday cheer by giving presents that contribute to the fight against climate change. Give the gift of carbon neutrality for a day — it's free!

Fabulous Frugal Gift Tags

Emily and I spent some time this afternoon making these great gift tags from last year's greeting cards.  To make the gift tags, you will need:
  1. Some old greeting cards -- Many of the ones we received last year had no writing on the inside left, so we used those.
  2. Hole Punch
  3. Ribbon - I found the 1/8" wide or 1/4" wide work best.
  4. Clear Contact Paper - Optional.
Have your child cut out the shapes from the greeting cards.  You can laminate these with clear contact paper, and use wipe-off marker to have re-useable gift tags!  Punch a hole in the top of the card, and thread some ribbon through.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

10 Ideas to Earn Extra Money from Home

In today's uncertain economy, knowing how to make some extra money from your home can be a huge help towards paying those ever-increasing bills. Here are some great ways to earn extra money in your spare time without having to pay fees or leave your house. Great resources for at-home moms or college students!

  1. Write for eHow -- eHow has a fantastic Writer's Compensation Program and it is free to sign up. The concept is simple. Everyone is an expert at something. Begin posting articles about what you already know. At the end of the month, if you have made more than $10, you will be paid via PayPal. If you make less than $10, it will be carried over to the following month.
  2. Design Merchandize -- If you know your way around Photoshop, or The Gimp, consider designing your own t-shirts, coffee mugs, or other merchandize for CafePress. You can open a free shop and begin selling your merchandize instantly. When you earn over $25 you will get a check in the mail! CafePress takes care of the production and shipping of your order, and you can earn big commissions.
  3. ChaCha Guide -- If you enjoy looking things up online, consider working as a ChaCha guide. Guides earn money based on how many queries they answer. Clients ask questions via text messages, and you are the person who answers their questions. Answer as many or as few questions as you like, and guides have the ability to be paid instantly via a debit card, or paid via check after a few weeks.
  4. Amazon's MTurk -- Amazon's MTurk program lets you work as little or as much as you want, however the jobs can get boring after awhile. Once a job is approved, you will be paid instantly via Amazon gift card, or have the money transferred to your bank account.
  5. Start a Blog -- Another great way to earn extra cash is to start a blog and write about what you know. Use Google Adsense program to generate some extra income by advertising on your blog. Also, consider linking into Amazon's Associate program and you can earn commissions for referring traffic to products Amazon already sells!
  6. Trade in Your Old Cell Phone or iPod -- This process could not be any easier. Go to and find the model for your old cell phone or iPod and answer some quick questions about its condition. FlipSwap will send out a prepaid envelope mailer, and you will earn Amazon Gift Cards. It is also good for the environment to keep those old electronics out of the landfill.
  7. Write an eBook -- Digital documents and eBooks are becoming increasingly popular, and it is a terrific way to earn extra cash without leaving your home or paying fees. Use a word processing program, such as MS Word, and save your eBook as a .pdf which can be uploaded to You set your own price!
  8. Address Envelopes -- If you have neat handwriting or know caligraphy, consider earning some extra money by addressing envelopes. This can work well for political campaigns, weddings, graduation announcements, baby announcements, and more.
  9. Write Santa Letters -- Writing letters from Santa can be a fun way to earn some extra money. For an authentic touch, have the envelope post marked from the North Pole by addressing your envelope to: North Pole Christmas Cancellation, Postmaster, 5400 Mail Trail, Fairbanks, AK 99709-9999. To ensure delivery in time for Christmas, items should be received at the post office by Dec. 15.
  10. Join MyPoints -- Join MyPoints for free and earn points for visiting website links that are sent to your email, referring people, or purchasing items through the MyPoints website. Points can be redeemed for gift cards from many different merchants.
Have any other great ideas to make money from home? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Blogs We Love!

Money Saving Tips:

Household Organization:


Toddler Activities:

Preschooler Activities:

Montessori Fun:


Blogger Friends

Save Money on Baby

(Clara Sage at 4 months.  Isn't she cute??)

Let's face it, babies are expensive creatures.  Between the diapers, formula, baby food, and clothes, the cost of raising a child can really add up!  Here are some of my favorite ways to save money on babies:
  1. Diapers:  Consider cloth diapers.  I know, I know, but before you turn your nose up at the idea, keep in mind that the average child will cost about $1600 for two years worth of disposable diapers.  The cloth diapers of today are vastly improved over the ones from just a few years ago.  Cloth diapers are not that much more effort, plus they are better for the environment.  For more information on cloth diapers, check out Diaper Jungle's Cloth Diaper Guide.  If you must use disposable diapers, a good way to stock up on these is to get them for free from CVS using Extra Care Bucks.  For more CVS tips, visit MoneySavingMom's CVS 101.  Also, generic store brands are often half the price of brand-name diapers, but work just about as well.
  2. Formula:  If you cannot breast feed, try stocking up on samples.  Every time you take your baby to the pediatrician, ask for samples of formula.  Many times they keep several different varieties on hand.  If you start asking for samples from birth, you can accumulate a large collection of formulas for free.  For more formula samples, sign up for Enfamil's Family Beginnings.  When you receive $5 coupons good towards any formula, try to get the smallest container to maximize savings and pay the least out of pocket.
  3. Baby Food:  Making your own baby food is simple and easy to do.  You can find more information on making your own baby food at  To save on store-bought baby food, many people do not know that stage 1 baby food is the same as stage 2.  The only difference is the portion size.  Many times stage 2 baby food comes in a slightly larger bottle.  I like to purchase the stage 2 foods, pour some out into a bowl for a feeding and save the rest in the fridge to use the next day.
  4. Clothing:  To save on clothing, it is important to realize that newborns outgrow clothes at a rapid rate.  Also, frequent spills, diaper leaks, and food stains make purchasing new clothes seem... well, pointless really.  Try shopping at a second hand store, consignment shop, or yard sale.  Also, buying clothes out of season can be a big money saver.
  5. College Savings:  It is never too early to start saving for your baby's college education.  Consider starting a 529 plan and then automatically contribute a portion of your income.  uPromise is another great resource for college savings, and you can invite other friends or family to contribute to your child's fund by linking their store discount cards or credit cards to the account.
Have another great baby money-saving tip to share?  Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Great Mail Day!

I am so excited because today I received some great goodies in the mail!  Here is a list of what arrived today:
  1. Letter from my Aunt (she lives in Argentina).  Hola Tia Ines!!  I love getting cards from friends and family, so this just made my day.
  2. Sample of Tide laundry detergent.  To get your own sample, go here.
  3. Samples of Kotex with a coupon for $1.00 off any Kotex product. To get your free Kotex sample pack, go here.
  4. Two checks for baby formula.  Good for $5 off any Enfamil formula. Join Enfamil's Family Beginnings Program, and you will receive samples, coupons, and more!
  5. $25 Target gift card from redeeming MyPoints.  To sign up for MyPoints, and start earning points good towards gift cards, go here.
  6. Gift cards for Macy's.  2/$15 off a $30 purchase, 1/$25 off a $100 purchase, and 1/$50 off a $200 purchase.  Other money saving offers from can be found here.
  7. Billing error (in my favor) check from the hospital for $35.  I love it when stuff like that happens!
  8. Dividend check from my insurance company for $115.  NJ Manufacturers sent special dividend checks to policy holders totaling more than $61 million dollars this year.  Click here to learn more information and see if you are eligible.
Have you gotten any goodies in the mail recently?  Leave a comment and tell us about it! 

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