Wednesday, January 30, 2019

20 FUN, FREE Things To Do With Your Kids

 I've written a lot about raising kids on a shoestring budget. For instance, in December, I gave you "20 Frugal, Fun Ways to Enjoy Winter Break." We never had a lot of money to spend on "experiences". But, your children don't spell love with the letters M.O.N.E.Y. They spell it, T.I.M.E. So, today, let's take a look at twenty FUN, FREE things to do with your kids. You'll notice that some of them are seasonal. Whenever possible, I've provided actual photos of our family doing these activities.

1.  Take a hike


2.  Go on a picnic

 This has been one of our favorite family activities. For many years, we had regular Friday Night Picnics. I wrapped up whatever I made for supper and we toted it to a local park. I wrote about this tradition, here. My oldest son voted this his top growing up memory and requested one last family Friday Night Picnic the evening before he left for college.


3.  Play a board game 

4.  Have a scavenger hunt 

5.  Cook 


6.  Read a book 

My oldest son is now 22 and he is reading really complicated books at college.

7.  Dress up in costumes with them. 

Dressed for an Ellis Island day. 

8.  Work a puzzle 

9.  Go to the park 


10. Ride a bike.


11. Listen to music 

We are incredibly eclectic when it comes to music. We have introduced our boys to everything from jazz to classic rock. My oldest son went through a Gregorian chant phase and, in turn, introduced me to some genres, to which I would never have considered listening.

Bonus Idea: Hand each family member a pad of plain white paper and a pencil before the music begins. Then, as you listen, every person creates a sketch of how the music makes them feel. After the music ends, each person gets to share their drawing and tell the other family members about it.


12. Go to a free event 


13. Tell Stories

14. Watch a movie 


15. Go sledding 


16. Build a snowman

17. Go for a drive in the country

18. Go to the library 

19.  Visit friends

20. Jump in leaves

Don't forget:

Check out my post: 20 Fun, Frugal Ways to Enjoy Winter Break for more cold weather ideas!


   Your Turn! 

What did I miss? What are some of your favorite, free, family-friendly things to do? I'd love to know! Leave your tip in the comments section. 

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Create A Yearly Gift-giving Binder In Three Easy Steps

Earlier this month, I wrote a post about giving gifts. In it, I mentioned the idea of stocking up on gift items when you see them at tremendous discounts and having them ready when you need them later in the year.

So, I decided to share with you how I plan our yearly gift budget. You can do it too -  in three easy steps!

Because I love to give things away, I am going to offer you not one, but TWO free downloads to help make your gift-planning even easier and less expensive! Look for them at the end of the post.

Planning your your yearly gift budget in three easy steps.

Step 1: 


Make a list of all birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions in the coming year. I like to do this in January. Track it on the computer, your phone, or a physical calendar  (which is what we who are over the age of 50 still think of when someone says the word "calendar").

Step 2: Create a Gift-giving Binder

Here is a handy gift giving form to use when creating your binder. Yep! This is FREE downloadable #1! Make 12 copies, one for each month of the year, and place them in an inexpensive folder. Voila! All your gift information will be available in one easy location!

1.  The first column is for the date
2.  Next, add each name or event.
3.  Pencil in how much you think you will need to spend for each occasion in the third column. 
So, if you plan to spend $40 on a child's birthday, write $40 next to his or her name and birth date. If you spend less, great! Sometimes you find a great deal that is just perfect for them. Just know that you can't go over that amount.

Trust me, when I tell you this is the only way you will stay within budget! Plan ahead how much you can spend. This is not how much you would like to spend. This is how much you can spend. Don't derail your financial goals by spending more money on loved ones that you have available. I understand holiday and birthday guilt. In fact, I dealt with this issue in a post I wrote on guilt trips.

If you know that there is an item in your gift cache that is perfect for that person or occasion, then jot that down in the last column. This way, you'll remember that you already have a gift taken care of and won't needlessly spend money on another gift. Otherwise, use that column to make a notation of what gift you bought, the cost, and where you have it stored. If you buy ahead, it can save money, but only if you don't misplace the gift. 

Bonus idea: Shop your gift cache

I "shop" my well-stocked gift cache in my bedroom for most presents.This area of my closet is populated with items, which I have purchased throughout the year at super-discounted prices. You can save a ton of money on your gift budget by buying ahead and buying in bulk when you see amazing deals!

Step 3: Add it up

Total the "spending column". Then, I add 10% to that final figure to account for any unexpected weddings, showers, or babies. However, for the most part, I keep a pretty good supply of gifts on hand for these occasions. So, that additional 10% can be spent on continuing to stock my closet gift cache with more items. 

Look at the total. Does the final figure look astronomical to you? If it doesn't fit in with the rest of your budget categories, you'll need to either cut and amount you are spending on each gift or cut your list.

One more thought: Don't allow yourself to feel badly about the amount of money you have available to spend on gifts. For many, many years, our gift budget was slim (and that's putting it nicely.) But, it forced us to think outside the box, use a lot of creativity, and learn to trust God. Often, God provided the most amazing and perfect gift at an unbelievable price. So, take heart. Your friends and family certainly appreciate your kind, thoughtful gestures. They won't think less of you because of the size or cost of your gifts to them.


1. Make a list.

2. Keep it organized.

3. Plan your budget.

 4. Don't spend more than you have available.

5. Create space in your home for a gift cache. 

Don't forget your free downloads!

Download #1: Gift-giving binder organizer

Make 12 copies of this handy graphic organizer form, one for each month of the year. Then, assemble them in an inexpensive folder. Voila! All your yearly gift-giving information will be in one handy binder! 

Download #2: Monthly Guide to Discount Gift-giving

Don't forget to download your copy of the current Under the Median freebie! The Monthly Guide to Discount Gift-giving is a one-page handy graphic, which lists what types of items are deeply discounted every month of the year! You can download your copy right here! It's absolutely free and my way of thanking you for being an Under the Median reader! 

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Do all to the glory of God, 


Monday, January 28, 2019

HyVee Haul! 23 Pounds of Produce for $14.33!

You need to head to HyVee TODAY! 

I just got back from HyVee and had to share all the details of today's produce haul. I paid just $14.33 for all this produce! Keep reading! I'm going to tell you exactly what I did and explain how you can do exactly the same thing!   

My super savings strategy today was a combination of  HyVee sale items, price matched items from other local stores, and putting all these amazing fruits and veggies into HyVee's special 20% off produce bag.

Savings Strategy #1: 20% Off Produce Bag TODAY ONLY!

This deal is good TODAY ONLY, Monday, January 28th. The minute you walk into your local HyVee today, I want you to look for this bag. You'll see them stacked in prominent locations throughout the produce aisles. If you don't see any, ask a store associate for a produce bag. 

A Close Up of HyVee's Produce Bag

It's all a part of HyVee's new "Make My Monday" program. Each Monday, they offer a special 20% off bag in a specific department of the store. This week, it's produce. You'll see that I posted a close up of the colorful flyer attached to the front of the paper shopping bag. This is a generous sized bag! I was able to get every item shown at the top of this post in that bag! 

So, exactly how much did I save by simply putting my produce items in this special bag? 

My 20% off savings was $7.71!  


Savings Strategy #2: Price Matching

I wrote two posts last week about the fact that HyVee is now offering price matching. This post tells you all the details of the program. I share with you my experience in price matching at HyVee in this post. 

I cannot tell you how much I am LOVING this program! The convenience of getting all my groceries at ONE store, instead of multiple stores, is absolutely amazing! I'll show you each item that I had price matched and tell you which store flyers I used. 

Aldi Price Matches

Aldi is currently offering strawberries at $1.39 per pound. This price match alone saved me $10.44 on three pounds of berries!

I had HyVee price match these green grapes for just $1.29 per pound. My savings was $2.80.

Save-A-Lot Price Match: 

Red grapes were price matched for just $1.29 per pound. My price match savings was $3.42.

Strategy #3: HyVee Sale Items 

HyVee is offering two not-to-be-missed produce deals this week! Remember, I received an additional 20% off of these sale prices simply by placing these items into one of the produce bags. 

Cauliflower for just $.99 a head! This is an amazing deal! They were nice-sized, very white and fresh looking heads of cauliflower.  

With the 20% discount, each head of cauliflower was just 80¢! What a tremendous deal!

FREEZING REMINDER: Cauliflower is super easy to blanch and then freeze. Here are detailed blanching instructions. If you want to eat 80¢ per head cauliflower for the next several months, then head to HyVee, stock up TODAY, and then freeze your cauliflower! I can't imagine a lower price anytime soon!

RECIPE: BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER WINGS: Make buffalo cauliflower wings for your Super Bowl party! Fat Man's Buffalo Wings is our favorite! Here's a YouTube link.  In fact, his entire cookbook is a family favorite. I did a review of Meals Made Easy: Fat Man's Essential 40 Plant Based Recipes.  

 This is the BEST price in town on mandarin oranges! 3 pounds for $1.99! Today's 20% discount reduces the price of each bag to just $1.60! I got 6 pounds. 

 I get these nearly every time I am in HyVee! Look on the "Misfit" shelf and you'll find 5 pounds of sweet potatoes for just under $4.00! With the 20% off, that makes this bag just $3.20! 

We have a serious love affair with sweet potatoes in my house. We just roast and serve. No need to add any sugar or marshmallows! Sweet potatoes, in their natural form are a power house of fiber and a whopping 438% of your Vitamin A for the day! 

RECIPE: SWEET POTATO HUMMUS: If you want even MORE fiber, combine sweet potatoes with chickpeas in this easy (and delicious) homemade hummus recipe! We like to spread homemade hummus on tortillas, add some toppings, and roll up for an easy and nutritious lunch! 

The bottom line! So, how did I do?

Cost without any discounts: $38.70 

Total Price Match Savings: $ 16.66

Additional 20% off Produce Bag Savings: $7.71

TOTAL SPENT: $14.33 

Percentage Saved: 63%!

Don't Miss the HyVee Deals!

The BEST way to insure that you don't miss any of HyVee's special deals, is to sign up to receive e-mails from HyVee. When you do, HyVee will send you weekly sales reminders, special coupons, matched to your shopping habits, and notifications of in-store activities and specials. Be sure to sign up for a fuel saver perks card too! This allows you to get monthly discounts on your gas purchases. See the website for details. 

Your turn!

Have you tried the HyVee price matching offer yet? What was your experience? We'd love to know. Leave your review in the comments section.

Don't Miss Any of Our Posts! 

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Do all to the glory of God, 


Sunday, January 27, 2019

FREE Monthly Guide to Discount Gift Buying

 It's time for Another Under the Median Freebie!

Drum roll please! It's time for another freebie!

For the next 30 days, you get the chance to download my Under the Median Monthly Guide to Discount Gift Buying absolutely free! 


This great graphic will allow you to know when to shop for the best deals on gift items every single month.  

You'll discover: 

  • Savings tips for every month of the year!

  •  How to score valentine's for your kids' school parties for just 10¢ a box!

  • When to look for those magical 75-90% off discount signs!

  •   When to buy for Father's Day - *Hint: It's not in June!


    Here's a sample!


    Don't miss your chance to download the Under the Median Monthly Guide to Discount Gift Buying

     It's one page. So, it's a handy size to cut out and carry in your purse or car. And it's yours right now for FREE just for being an Under the Median reader and fan! 


    Click on the image below or go to this link


     Enjoy your download and do let me know how you like it!

     Hey! Did you miss last months' freebie?

    Last month I featured my handy, money-saving e-book: The 2019 Under the Median Guide to Seasonal Clothing Discounts.   You can still get this invaluable resource absolutely free! You'll receive this free download as a gift when you register to receive e-mails from Under the Median. Sign up under the photo of the e-book on the right hand side of our main page.  


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    Do all to the glory of God, 


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Three Things Your Laid Off Friend Needs from You

Like most families, we have been through our fair share of job changes. In February of 2007, my husband lost his job in a lay off. He hadn't done anything wrong. There simply wasn't enough work to go around.

I remember when he came home and broke the news to me. I was curiously calm. Maybe it was shock. Maybe it was faith. I really don't know.

I immediately enacted an "emergency budget". My husband agreed to do some free lance for the company who had let him go, wrapping up loose ends for them on current projects. He took every side job that came his way. He put in applications. We prayed together - a lot!

But, it was a few close friends who really helped us get through this difficult time. This post is about what they did that was so pivotal to our sense of well-being for the next three months.

1.  They let us talk.

As much as we appreciated prayers - and we did - what really kept our spirits buoyed was the ability to talk to someone who wasn't going to give us "pat answers." Being laid off is not a "formula", guaranteeing you a shiny, new job if you just follow a prescribed pattern. I recall incredible frustration as Larry applied for positions, for which he was incredibly qualified, only to hear nothing from the company. 

Our dear friends knew that sometimes we just needed to vent. They gave us non-judgemental space to do just that. We talked. They listened - really listened. It wasn't just polite nods. It was looking into our eyes and letting us know that our pain was their pain. 

2.  They brought practical gifts. 

It was almost exactly 90 days from the time Larry lost his job until he began the next. Throughout that three month time span, those who knew us well, stopped by with practical gifts. Each was special and came at just the time when we needed an additional boost of self-confidence. Here is an idea of some of the items we received.

  • A gift certificate to a grocery store
  • A gift certificate for dinner out for the two of us 
  • Free babysitting services
  • A big box of toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, or toiletries.
  • Help networking - talking to those within their sphere about possible job openings
  • Help writing Larry's resume - It had been a long time since he had looked for work
  • A special homecooked dinner at their home

3.  They checked on us often. 

 I'm not saying that you want to live on someone's doorstep. But, after the initial outpouring of support, most people will go back to living their own lives. That's when it's important that you call and check in on your laid off friend.
  • Ask them open-ended questions. 
  • Gauge their state of mind. 
  • Do they need a break from the kids? 
  • Do they need help sorting through options? 
  • Do they need you to pray for them, meet with them, or just listen to them? 
  • Don't press them for answers, which they might not have right now.
  • Rejoice when they rejoice. 
  • Cry with them when they are sad. 
  • Let them know that you will walk with them through this difficult time. 

The end of the job search. 

Three months nearly to the day after Larry was laid off, he began a new job. It paid a full 40% less than his previous position. I cut the budget accordingly and we were grateful to, once again, have a full-time income.

What about you? 

 Have you experienced a job loss? How did your friends help you through this difficult time? What is the number one thing you would tell others now about how to help someone in a similar position? Let us know in the comments section.

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Do all to the glory of God,