Spring – the time for plants and trees to come back to life and in many parts of the country families can be outside to enjoy more temperate weather and outdoor activities. And if you’re looking for fun, it’s a time full of inexpensive recreational activities.
If we just look ahead at the upcoming holidays there are plenty of opportunities for fun on the less expensive side.
Are there special Spring events in your area that tourists usually attend? Well, maybe you would enjoy them too? How about visiting an open house at a state wildlife rehabilitation center. The first time we attended, we were amazed to learn about numerous creatures that we hadn’t realized lived in our area. Are there car races, boat races, air shows, horse shows, dog shows, art shows, craft fairs and music festivals in your area? These can be fun events to attend, and if they do charge admission there are usually ways to get discount tickets. Just search a little, or consider volunteering to help with the events.
A myriad of college and high school spring concerts and recitals in April and May. Each year many college senior music majors are required to put on a final recital. These can be a lot of fun as website subscribers Beth and Curtis from Spokane, WA, experienced. “Most universities publish dates and times of their recitals in the local newspaper or online. One of our most enjoyable evenings was spent in a university recital hall listening to a solo tuba recital. It was memorable and quite entertaining — and, best of all, it was absolutely free.”
Salute the music
If you ever get the opportunity to hear one of our military bands perform, don’t miss it. They are phenomenal — and free, too.
Game Fun — Done for Cheap Anytime
Doreen Hallman from Phoenix, AZ encourages family game nights. “For years we did a monthly game night with friends and their kids. It usually consisted of a host couple and two other families, preferable with kids the same ages. Little kids can be put down to sleep and you don’t need a baby sitter. Everyone brings “substantial hors d’oeuvres” which become dinner for the night.”
You could expand on Doreen’s idea a little and take the games outside for a park night of Capture the Flag, or an afternoon of kickball, Wiffle ball or any other family friendly outdoor game.
SPRING OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
In springtime, outdoor dates or family activities could include visiting an arboretum, strawberry picking, bird watching, or hiking through fields of wildflowers, the forest, desert or mountain trails.
We especially enjoy this season as our citrus trees are in full bloom — nothing compares to taking a walk while the smell of fresh citrus blossoms waft through the air and hundreds of butterflies dart about.
It’s also a great time to make use of city parks, play Frisbee golf, volleyball, use a jogging trail or exercise equipment that many parks now have along trails. Or take a leisurely bike ride down some quiet streets or through a nature preserve. In Scottsdale we have a flood control Green Belt with a paved path where hundreds of people walk, rollerblade, jog and ride bikes for dozens of miles – it’s a beautiful area and a great place to go in the spring.
Annette just read the book “Pitchin’ A Fit: Overcoming Angry and Stressed-Out Parenting” by Israel and Brook Wayne. It’s a new book with an awesome message. This book is written from a faith-based perspective, but even if this isn’t where you’re coming from, we don’t believe it will be offensive in any way.
Parenting isn't for Wimps
Anyone who has kids will tell you that that parenting isn’t for wimps. But even the most courageous and confident parents will admit that there are times when even they feel inadequate to the task. This book is a reminder that you’re not alone and that there is hope and encouragement no matter your past experience.
LIsten to this interview with Israel and Book Wayne, hosted by Shaun Tabatt
Overcoming their Past
Israel shares some details about the abusive home he came from and how he has healed from that experience. Brook shares the perfectionist attitudes she embraced as a young adult and how she has had to loosen her grip in order to become a healthier parent.
No matter your background, you will be able to relate to this book and receive encouragement and practical tools for moving to a better place in your parenting.
The authors take the on the every-day challenges of parenting and systematically provide solutions for overcoming anger, while equipping you to embrace patience and affirmation as you deal with your kids.
Equipped to Love
We’ve never met a parent who wanted to become a “screaming-mimi,” but unfortunately that’s where many of us end up in our parenting because we’re so unaware of what’s happening in our own hearts. The Wayne’s discuss how to identify anger triggers and then how to diffuse them. They share how to motivate reluctant children and how you can keep your relationship strong with your kids even through the tumultuous teen years. Their goal is to equip us to lead our families with patience and love, which will result in a home filled with grace and peace.
I wish this book were around when we were first starting to raise our kids. If you want a renewed perspective for your parenting, don’t even wait, order a copy now, it’s that good.
Traditions are a type of glue that holds families together and builds enduring memories. The traditions don’t have to be expensive, elaborate or logical – some can be downright silly. But for kids, having consistent events throughout the year are something that adds stability and anticipation to life.
Here are 8 different crafts and traditions that are part of our family’s history.
1) Jelly Bean Trails
Jellybean trails are a real kid favorite. On Easter Eve, Steve spent at least an hour weaving five trails of jellybeans—one for each kid—all over the house. Each trail ended at an elusive basket filled with goodies. Sometimes the basket was outside in a tree or hidden in the clothes dryer. There would be a series of clues, jellybeans, another clue and more jellybeans. The picture is just one example of how we'd start a jellybean trail with either a special item belonging to the child or a cute name tag (the carpet was always vacuumed before starting this tradition).
2) Easter String Balls
Several years ago, we created beautiful colored string balls and hung them on our Easter tree . . . really just an indoor fichus tree that we decorated with lights and the balls.
We created the balls by dipping colored string in watered-down white craft glue (such as Elmer’s). The string is wrapped numerous times around a small balloon. We use small balloons purchased at The Dollar Store. When the string dries, the balloon is popped and the broken balloon pieces are removed. Because the glue on the string is dried the ball retains its shape. It’s a fun craft project for kids and they make great decorations.
3) Marble Eggs
Annette has been collecting these for years. She’s collected dozens of these stone eggs from trips to Mexico, garage sales and sales at Barnes & Noble. She now displays them on Easter grass in a cut glass bowl. Simple and elegant . . . and non-breakable . . . except for anything they might get dropped on! If you have children under the age of five years old, you may want to hold off on including these in your décor. You can get them on Amazon here.
4) Easter Centerpiece
The centerpiece on our dining room table is made up of pastel-colored pillar candles, colorful plastic eggs and lots of pastel colored curling ribbon all arranged on a white wooden tray.
5) Church Events
Church celebrations are a big part of our annual Easter traditions. A church near us puts on a Passion Play (recounting a different aspect of the Resurrection story) every year – with awesome music, drama and pageantry. Of course there are sunrise services and other church services on Good Friday to participate in.
Head versus Leaf Lettuce: Do you know which one costs 60% less?
Do you know what a good price is for a head of lettuce?
In our best selling book, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, we chronicled Steve’s test of weighing more than 200 pounds of produce to determine if bulk packed or loose produce was a better deal. We discovered savings as high as 54 percent! You can read the results here if you’re a website subscriber.
The other day, we were buying some produce and Steve decided to compare leaf lettuce ($.89 per head) versus iceberg / head lettuce ($.99 per head). We know that leaf lettuce contains more nutrients, but what we hoped to discover was the actual cost per pound for each. It was an amazing discovery.
Our decision on that day was to buy a few heads of the more expensive and nutritionally superior leaf lettuce and supplement with a couple heads of the less expensive iceberg.
If you want to learn more about the nutritional differences between leaf lettuce and head lettuce, check out these links.Read More...
How to deal with an IRS Paycheck withholding tax shortfall.
My former employers did not take enough taxes out of my paycheck each time I was paid. Now, I owe the IRS money. Do I have any recourse with my employer?
That is a frustrating situation and unfortunately it happens too often.
As much as we’d like to blame former employers, in the end, the IRS sees it as our responsibility to make sure that enough taxes are withheld from our paychecks. That is of course unless you filled out the IRS W-4 form and requested in writing to have more withheld from your paycheck.
Filling out your W-4 Correctly
The W-4 has a worksheet on it to help you determine how many “allowances” you should claim. These allowances could be dependents (children, parents who live with you, disabled spouse, etc), and calculations on deductions to income like mortgage interest. The more allowances you claim on your W-4 the fewer taxes your employer needs to withhold. You can use the IRS Withholding Calculator here to help you estimate more accurately.
The bottom line is that we as workers / wage earners are responsible to monitor and pay our taxes. As much as we’d like to blame someone else, in this case we can’t.
So even if your former employer messed up the withholding, the IRS still requires that you pay the correct amount of taxes. So what can you do?
Our goal would be to see if you can get through this without borrowing.
Do you have money in savings?
Could you work extra hours or an additional job until April 15 when the money is due?
Could you sell things on eBay or CraigsList to generate enough cash to make up for the mistake?
If you owe a huge amount, perhaps you could have a knowledgeable friend or tax advisor help you draft a preemptive letter to the IRS to set up a meeting and work out a plan.
Working before the fees are due gives you much more negotiating power than waiting for them to come after you.
As for the future, definitely sit down with someone in HR where you work or with a competent tax specialist or account and work out how many exemptions you should be claiming.
When it comes to your paycheck tax withholding, getting a small refund is the goal (somewhere in the $500 - $1200 range). Remember that a refund is not a gift, it’s really money you earned that has been loaned to the Federal Government, tax-free for several months.
On the other hand, you don’t want to cut your exemptions so close that you end up owing money again. So do your planning and watch the amount withheld.
Taxes for Independent Read More...