Get Relaxed: Get Back to Nature

     If you are trying to find a way to do things on the cheap these days, consider getting back to nature. An average family of four at Disney World will easily run you into the thousands, but a nice and quiet weekend in the mountains will cost you only half. Saving money on the grocery bill by getting back to nature is possible as well. Being “nature friendly” can save you big bucks. Here are some ways how.

Build your own food garden: Building your own food garden can be a productive and fulfilling way to save a little money. Even if you live in an apartment, window boxes full of herbs and fruit are possible. Some great things to grow on your patio are tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, lettuce, and herbs. If you have a bigger area, consider peas, squash, cucumbers, okra, and watermelon. There are lots of great websites to help. One of my favorite, www.FrugalDad.com  has great directions on a table top garden.

Visit a State Park Some of the greatest (and cheapest) times are spent at a State Park. Most smaller parks only charge $1 admission, maybe a little more, and the wildlife and activities are well worth it. Parks offer swimming, picnicking and usually have barbecues and pavilions, hiking trails, beaches, canyons, and mountains. Palo Duro Canyons in Canyon, Texas has a musical every year in their amphitheatre that is very good as well as horseback riding and hiking. Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico offers one of the most unique and large caverns in America and well worth the trip. Also, if you live right down the road from a state park, many offer a monthly or annual pass.

Go Fishing Fishing is an excellent way to save money. A one day fishing license usually runs only a dollar. Catching your own fish can be a great stress relief, even if you don’t catch anything. Also, when you do catch fish, keep them and eat them. Fish is a great lean protein filled with Omega 3s your body needs. If you aren’t into fish, consider donating them to someone who does, or just let them go for someone else to enjoy.

Go Canoeing Canoeing is a very relaxing and fun thing to do with friends and family. It brings you together with your canoe partner, helping you grow as a team. It is also great to sit back and enjoy the scenery. If you aren’t into canoeing, consider tubing instead. It is just as fun and relaxing without all the extra work; just remember that in a tube, you can’t put dry clothes or snacks.

Plant flowers with your kids, parents, or friends A garden is a wonderful way to get back to nature. Somehow getting down and dirty and knowing you are responsible for making something grow is a great way for personal growth and doing it with someone you care about helps you get closer to one another. Children love to plant flowers and to see all the neat bugs and critters that are in the dirt!

Go to the beach Everyone loves the beach but have you ever just gone with nothing but a towel? Many times when we go to the beach it becomes such a hassle. Where are we going to sit? Who is bringing the chairs? Where are we going to go for lunch? Forget all that, go to the beach with bare minimums. Lay on the towel and watch the waves, listen the the gulls and children laughing. Recognize the vast power of the ocean and get lost in it. When you get hungry, just get up and go home, or bring a sack lunch or a picnic basket, but nothing more than that. Find the simplicity of the beach and you will enjoy it so much more.

Find your way back to nature and the world will open for you. You will find it is cheaper to vacation there and a stress relief to boot. Get back in touch with your loved ones and find a way to grow closer together through nature.

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10 Ways to Save When Having a Baby

Reality check, babies laugh when you make funny faces and pooting noises with your mouth

As brand new parents you are going to want the best for your baby; you may buy the most expensive and best quality everything to show your baby just how much you love them. Reality check, babies laugh when you make funny faces and pooting noises with your mouth, they care nothing about a Coach diaper bag and a going home outfit from Vera Wang. Cheaper is better, in more ways than one. Here are some tips on how to make your newborns money go further.

1. Get Coupons and Samples: Coupons and Samples from the hospital and your doctor are a good place to start. Never throw them away, you can trade formula coupons with friends or on-line, or give them to a charity for others in need. Get your friends to bring coupons for formula and diapers to your baby shower and have a coupon tree. Get an artificial tree with clothes line pins on it and have them pin a coupon to the tree, you’ll get great deals. Also, don’t underestimate free samples, put them in your diaper bag for emergencies.

2. Take the Stuff from the hospital: When you have your baby, the hospital will bring out a bassinet and underneath is all kinds of the latest and greatest formulas, diaper bags, shirts, blankets, hats, socks, and diapers. Take them! That’s what they are there for and it will save you a good $40-$50 dollars.

3. Borrow a breast pump or ask for one at your baby shower. I know it may seem strange or even gross to borrow a breast pump, but it can save you money. One time through the dishwasher and its as good as a new one. I preferred the AVENT one-hand pump, and it comes with a bag that even years later, I use as my makeup bag. The pump also comes with two AVENT bottles, saving me from having to buy those bottles.

4. Breast feed: Breast feeding is a great way to save a little money. Pumping before you go somewhere can leave you without an emergency if you are where you cannot feed. The nutrients from breastmilk is better for your baby, and you save on weeks of formula buying. Another plus to breastfeeding is breast milk does not stain your baby’s clothes like some of the formula will, prolonging the life of their clothes.

5. Ask your friends to borrow their old baby clothes or trade them clothes for something they would need, and skip the shoes for a while. The more you can save on clothes the better. Babies will ruin clothes with spit up and diaper leaks faster than you can buy them. If you must buy clothes, consider buying the four packs of onezies or diaper shirts when around the house, and save the good clothes for outings. The side snap diaper shirts are great because you don’t have to pull them over baby’s head and get spit up on their face and hair. They are no more expensive than the pull overs and they don’t go all the way over the diaper, saving you from the leaking diaper stain.

6. Skip buying the changing table. I really thought I needed the changing table, but after the first few weeks, I changed my son wherever I was. I threw down a blanket on the couch, bed, or floor and changed away. If you already have a cabinet and such to keep clothes and diapers, there really isn’t the need for the table.

7. Go cloth or buy in bulk. If you are going to be at home with baby and don’t mind laundry, cloth diapers may be a good way to go. Yes, they are old school and not as convenient, but baby’s bottom is less likely to get a rash, and it will save money on purchasing disposable diapers. If you buy disposables, buy in bulk from a place like Costco or Sams. If you don’t have a membership, buy from Walmart, they carry some bulk amounts. Also, save on wet wipes by washing baby’s bottom with warm water with dial antibacterial soap when they have dirty diapers. It isn’t a full bath, just a little rinse off of the back side.It can make a big difference with diaper rash if baby’s bowel movements are real acidic.

8. Return Unwanted Gifts: There is no need for four diaper genies, return them and save the money for diapers and formula.

9. Make your own baby food: I never bought food. When it came time for my son to eat solid foods, I began with smashed bananas and rice and formula. Buy a food processor or a baby food grinder. Watch out that there are no chunks in the food. You can freeze all of this, put it in ice cube trays and freeze, when frozen put them in a zip lock bag and thaw as needed. There are lots of homemade baby food recipe books and web sites, but the best suggestion is, once food allergies are known, just feed baby what you are eating, just make sure there food is not seasoned like yours.

10. Don’t Underestimate the help of family and friends: Family and friends are going to be your life line. Support is going to be what keeps you afloat. If someone has half a pack of diapers left from when theirs was a baby, take them! If someone gives you coupons, take them! Reach for any hand that is out to you. It will save you in the long run.

An Update on Going Green

Get back to the old school way of thinking about your money, I assure you, you will find a better path.

If you have been following me, or even if not and you have read “The Going Green Challenge” you know that I have been on a path of  financial enlightenment called “cash only”. I had challenged myself to use cash only to watch my spending, and I have to say, It has been something of a life changer. I truly thought I would stick with this for a paycheck, get tired of it because I wasn’t really changing my habits, and go back to using my debit card. After the first paycheck of saving almost $700.00, I didn’t dare go back. I expected to meet a little resistance with my free spirited husband; however, after he saw how much we saved, he was on the wagon with me and hasn’t looked back. I truly believe this is the easiest and uncomplicated budgeting tool a person or couple can use. There is no fancy moving around of bank accounts or investing, just paying cash. All I did was decide on how much we could afford to spend on the everyday. This cash has been used to pay for food, clothes, drinks, entertainment, or anything not bills or gas. Our bank account has gone from living paycheck to paycheck to having enough to skip a paycheck and still be fine. You may not save this much early, it may take some time, but for us, it has changed our path in life. By living this way and seeing how much money we really didn’t need to spend, we have filled our BEF, baby emergency fund of $1000, savings, and our sinking funds have been started on the right path for everything we’ve wanted. This is truly how we want to live. I believe this plan is solid and for anyone. It is making do with what you have and realizing, in the end, just how much that really is. I believe that even if your budget only allows for you to save $20 a month, this is still the right path to take. Perhaps it is just what you needed to keep from being overdrawn every month. Once you are saving on those overdrawn fees, that $20 may soon turn into $40 or $60. Challenge yourself to see how much you truly save by spending only the cash in your wallet and forget you even have that pesky piece of plastic. Get back to the old school way of thinking about your money, I assure you, you will find a better path.