Money Saving Tips For College Students

Money Saving Tips For College Students

If you’ve got an incoming freshman to college this fall, understand that you’ll be crying. You’ll miss them, sure, but college is also one of the most expensive endeavors we engage in. Between books, dorms, computers, food and everything else, your little scholar will rack up a tidy sum.

That’s why it helps to save money in every little nook and cranny you can find. From saving money on textbooks to utilizing student programs, we’ve got a list that will help save your sanity (and wallet).

Money Saving Tips For College Students

money saving tips for college students

Never pay full price for textbooks

Textbooks are one of the most expensive parts of your college experience, after classes and housing of course. Who wants to buy a math book for $400 and sell it back to the bookstore for $25? Wouldn’t you rather get them at a drastically cheaper price and in turn help other students get them cheaply?

Amazon Textbooks

In a move that is true to its book-selling roots, Amazon has launched a textbook arm of its juggernaut online selling company. You can find textbooks new at markedly discounted rates, but you can also find used books for up to 90% off their sticker price.

In addition to textbooks for college students, they also have books for K-12 students, college prep guides, and ACT/SAT study materials. Finally, as we’ll explain further along, students get massive discounts on signing up for Amazon Prime, which gives you free 2-day shipping on nearly anything.

eBay

Another popular place to buy and sell textbooks, eBay will often get you the best price. There’s no MSRP when you’re a student trying to recoup some of your costs, so books are often severely marked down. In addition, if you know what books you’ll need in advance, you can avoid competing on auctions with other students who waited to buy their books.

Go digital

Textbooks are often enormous and heavy, so carrying around a bag full of them will destroy your posture AND your wallet. Digital copies are usually available for most books now, and are almost always cheaper. In fact, if you’re in say an English class and a lot of your textbooks are novels, you can often find digital novels for sale on the author’s website for a drastic markdown. Always looks for digital options first and save yourself a pain in the back later on.

Visit the library

The library isn’t just for sleeping between classes – who knew? Not only can you check out books, but many libraries now offer downloadable digital copies of books. In addition, most college libraries rent out more than just books, from e-readers to basic dormlife things like blenders. Libraries have evolved with the times, proving they’re still a wonderful resource for a cash-strapped college student.

Rent Books

Renting textbooks from the bookstore has become far more commonplace in the last 5 years or so. Renting works in a way that you pay far less than cover price for a book. If you return it in reasonable condition, you don’t owe any more money. Sure you can’t resell it, but you don’t have to shell out hundreds for a new copy and renting can even be cheaper than buying secondhand in some cases.

Online marketplaces

Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and LetGo are all online marketplaces that allow you to buy and sell pretty much anything. Check often to see if anyone has books you need. These are also great places to resell your books when you’re done with them.

The wait-and-see method

Lastly, you can always wait until your classes start to see if you really will need EVERY book on your list. Sometimes professors include books that just aren’t used that much in the class. Other times, they’re ones that you can find cheap or free access to online. Why spend $30 dollars on a book if you can find the same information in your library for free?

Get Free Stuff

We’re not talking about getting free ice cream on your birthday. No, there is a wealth of free (or cheap), extremely useful products and services available for college students.

Amazon Prime

Again with Amazon and for good reason – Amazon provides free 2-day shipping on everything with their Prime program. In addition, it’s pretty cheap and you can find just about everything you need on Amazon. The problem is that Prime costs about $115/year, which can be hard to swing as a college student.

The Prime Student is a free 6-month trial period for college students. After the free trial is up, you’re given Prime at a discounted rate for the 4 years of your college career. There’s not much to say other than go sign up now!

Microsoft Office

There are few programs that are as necessary for a college student or professional as Microsoft Office. Unfortunately, it’s also a very expensive program, running upwards of $250 or more depending on what version you buy. Luckily, college students have the option of getting the basic version for free.

Once Microsoft verifies your status (through a college email), you can download Office completely for free. Check it out and use it to write a thank-you to us later.

Deep discounts on hardware

If you need a new computer and let’s face it, you probably do, a lot of online retailers offer discounts to students. Newegg.com has great prices on high quality refurbished and new laptops for students. Dell.com also has “Dell University” which offers highly competitive pricing, free delivery, and loyalty rewards for college students.

Use Lynda to learn

Many instructors are using Lynda.com (which apparently has been bought out by LinkedIn) for teaching specifics on programs like Photoshop or CAD. While in most cases your fees will include Lynda, they offer a deep discount and free trial for students. It’s worth mentioning because Lynda has courses on virtually everything, so you can learn everything from coding to cooking for free.

48-Hour Flash Sale! Courses up to 40% off

Flex that student ID muscle

You would be surprised at the sheer amount of discounts your student ID will get you. Check with your school and see, but in most cases nearly every restaurant near a college campus will offer deals, free drinks, and discounts for students.

Open a student account

Many banks will offer some manner of free checking with incentives for college students. Even if it means setting up a new account, it’s worth it in the long run. Often if you have a job that uses direct deposit while you’re taking classes, you can find a bank running a deal where they’ll pay you to switch.

The same goes with student credit cards. Student lines of credit through your bank are great for building credit and often offer incentives for signing up.

One last thing, never pay for a checking account. If the bank you’re working with wants to charge you a monthly or yearly fee, or they have lots of little fees for withdrawals, avoid them. There are so many places that want to pay you for your business; it’s not worth your time to pay even $5 for a student checking account.

Schoola.com

Call your insurance agent

You should get renters insurance if you have anything of value, and while you’re talking to your insurer, get signed up with their student discount plan. Nearly all major insurers – Geico, Nationwide, Farmers, etc – all offer student discount programs for good grades. In some cases it can mean a drastic discount on your rate. It’s worth checking if yours offers it, and it’s worth switching if they don’t.

Figure out your fees

College comes with lots of fees. Some of those fees, however, will benefit you and you might not even be aware. Most colleges have on-campus gyms that are included. In addition, most campuses follow a great wellness model, including things like:

– campus counseling and mental health
– nurse’s station or clinic
– career planning and job finding assistance
– tutoring assistance
– printing and copying plans
– computer lab access

Talk to your school and find out what you’re paying for and make the most of it. A gym membership alone will run you $20+ dollars a month, whereas your health fee on campus is probably $70/semester and will give you access to a far better health center than the random Planet Fitness or whatever is in your town.

Public transportation is your friend

The literal worst part of using the bus is paying – tokens suck and carrying around loose cash is annoying, too. Otherwise the bus is clean, convenient, and will take you all over your city. The biggest benefit as a student is the incredible discount for a transportation pass that is available to you.

Most large cities have a “ride as much as you want” pass for a flat rate. As a student, you can expect to pay a fraction of that rate and the pass is usually good for a whole semester. For instance in Chicago, a 30-day unlimited ride pass is $105 but Ventra passes through the various city colleges are often less than that per semester.

Get a degree in being money savvy

College is expensive, that’s a known fact. It doesn’t need to be more expensive than it is, though. Through proper application of the methods above, and simply asking around about local discounts and special offers for students, you can save literally thousands of dollars a year.

If you have a recurring subscription, check to see if they offer a discount. If you’re paying for cable, stop paying for cable and just use a streaming service on WiFi.

Every bill you pay, every subscription you have, every place you shop, check to see if there are student discounts. It might feel awkward at first but if college is nothing else, it’s awkward, so get used to it and save yourself some cash in the meantime.

Oh and for the parents reading this (because – duh!) don’t forget to use Raise.com to score some discounted gift cards for things like gas.

You know your “little ones” will be calling home and asking, might as well load up now so you don’t have to pay full price later! Plus if you sign up today, you can get an extra $10 back on your first order – $10 that can then be used to pick up some tissues for that hard goodbye.

Did you implement any of these when YOU were in college?

Comment below, let me know!

23 Places That Offer Report Card Incentives

23 Places That Offer Report Card Incentives

There are so many places that incentivize kids getting good grades, especially once school has ended. I don’t know about how summer is going at your place, but wow — did the days just get longer? Well, why not make the most of it by rewarding all their hard work this last school year?

There are probably plenty of hometown places that will reward kids for doing well in school and you should check them out! We’ve compiled a list of national chains that will reward your offspring for their reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic skills this summer.

While we have tried to make this list based on nationwide chains, you should still call before you go to ensure that your local chains are participating in these programs. Also, don’t forget the report cards!

Oh, and don’t forget the kids. Kids, report card, call ahead – that’s the list!

Places That Offer Report Card Rewards

report card rewards

Sweet treats for Straight As

Baskin Robbins

Anyone who doesn’t like ice cream – assuming they can eat it of course – might be a spy or robot. Double your suspicions if they don’t like free ice cream. Participating Baskin Robbins stores will give your little scholar a little scoop for doing great in school. Check this website to find your local BR and give them a call to ensure they’re participating.

Krispy Kreme

Bring in your kids and get a free glazed donut for every A (up to 6). You can check their website for a location near you.

Bob Evans

Breakfast is literally always delicious, and it’s even better when it’s free! Well, in this case, it’s a free kids meal, but it’s still delicious. Find your local Robert Evans here.

Chick-fil-A

If your kids are like mine, nuggets are a food group. If you have a Chick-fil-A in your town, report card As can mean a free order of nuggets, which is a reasonable return on investment if you ask me.

IHOP

Look up two spots and you’ll see that we really love breakfast. Bring your kids (and their report card) to your local IHOP and get a free kids meal. Nothing says “good job, buddy!” like a bread circle covered in sugar.

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut has been bribing us to get good grades for decades and they’re not stopping yet. In addition to the Book-It program we were delighted to find out still exists, if your child has 3 As or more on their report card, they can get a personal pan pizza and a drink for free. Find your Pizza Hut and make sure they’re participating and then go eat pizza!

Applebees (sort of)

This one requires a little bit of work. The “A” is for Applebee’s program is one where your child’s teacher must apply to get these reward coupons to give out to students who excel. The nice thing is that they’re not necessarily just for good grades; the teacher can choose the criteria, so it can be improving social skills, artistic abilities, or really anything where the student has shown improvement. Still, it’s a great way to snag a free kids meal while mommy has a well-deserved margarita.

Wendy’s

Wendy’s has offered a report card reward program in the past, and our local one still does, but it’s worth checking ahead. A little research online suggests some are offering kids meals and some don’t do the program at all. Always check first!

McDonald’s

For little ones in kindergarten through 5th grade, a straight-A report card will nab them a free Happy Meal. Older kids (6-12th) get a value meal, so that’s pretty awesome. Call your local McDonald’s and see if you can McCashin on your kids’ McGoodGrades!

Ugh, that was awful.

Marco’s Pizza

A free one-topping pizza is your reward for solid school work at Marco’s Pizza. Check and see if yours is participating. If you live in an area where Marco’s is attached to Family Video, read on to see how you can get some free rentals while you’re there.

Coldstone Creamery

Obviously kids K-5th love ice cream because as established before, everyone but spies and robots love ice cream. Coldstone is offering free ice cream for good grades so now you don’t have any excuse; go get Coldstone right now and bring your kids!

Qdoba

Get a free kids meal with a good report card at participating Qdobas. While you’re there, have your little scholar teach them how to spell words.

Good Grades Score Activities

Six Flags

While not exactly a report card scenario in the strictest sense, the Read to Succeed program rewards students who complete 6 hours of recreational reading with free admission. Check it out here.

Family Video

If you recall from our segment on Marco’s Pizza, you were promised potentially free movies if you have a nearby Family Video. Fam Vid is offering up to 5 free rental vouchers for each A in a core subject (math, language, reading, history, geography, science, and spelling). They’ve had this program for years; I remember participating when I was a kid and it’s a great little reward.

Chuck E Cheese

Login to the Chuck E Cheese More Cheese rewards program here and you can get a coupon for your little scholar to get 10 free game tokens with a food purchase. The coolest part of Chuck’s programs here is that you can give these “rewards” to your kids for virtually anything. It’s a great way to praise their efforts and improvement in any category.

While you’re at, if your little one has a summer birthday, check out this Chuck E Cheese birthday party review!

Justice Stores

While not strictly something to do per se, if you have a child who likes to shop at Justice, they can get $5 off their purchase with a good report card.

Limited Too

The same thing as with Justice, a $5 off discount can be yours if you bring in your report card. Please note that this one appears to be limited to the first 30 days after your grades go out, so keep that in mind.

Rewards for bigger kids

Most of these types of report card rewards are great for little kids and a nice end-of-year treat. If you have a high school or college student, there are some pretty impressive incentives for keeping their grades up out there, too.

Esurance

If your driving-aged student maintains a B average, they you can save 5-10% off your insurance bill. That’s a big deal.

Geico

Geico seems to want to save us money in a ton of different ways. One such way is to reward your responsible student with a potentially steep discount on auto insurance. Check it out to see if you can save as well.

State Farm

Like with Geico, this reward program extends into your student’s 25th birthday, and can save you up to 25% off their insurance bill.

Progressive

Progressive has a good student discount, but only if you add your kid to your own insurance. If they’re insured on their own policy, it won’t apply, but let’s be real; you’re paying, why not reap the benefit of the responsible person you’ve created?

Liberty Mutual

Like the other programs, Liberty Mutual offers better rates for kids who do better in school. Find your provider and check to see what your kid’s good grades can save you each month.

Honestly, these are just a few of the different programs offered by various insurers for good students. The logic is that a kid getting good grades is probably more responsible, and so rates can be lowered. If you don’t have one of these companies, check with your insurance agent to see if your company offers a good student discount. Chances are good they probably do, and it really could save you a bundle.

Banks and credit unions

Getting an exhaustive list of participating financial institutions would be nearly impossible, but you can and should call yours to see if they have good student reward programs. What they amount to typically is:

  • You open a student savings or checking account with your child.
  • Over the academic year they will be rewarded with deposits from the bank for their good report card.
  • Sometimes it’s a dollar a semester for each A, and sometimes it’s a lump sum when report cards go out. Check with your institution to see what they offer.

Opening a bank account is a big responsibility step itself, and coupling it with incentives can be a big help for kids to see how being responsible in one area of their life can affect others as well. A student getting good grades is probably a safer driver, and might become a fiscally responsible person in general. It’s all connected and these programs can help make your children understand that.

Again, this list isn’t exhaustive and you should definitely check with local businesses to see what kinds of rewards they offer for your kids’ good grades.

Do you know of any big chains we missed that reward kids for good grades?

Let us know in the comments!

Frugal Summer Fun Activities for Kids

Frugal Summer Fun Activities for Kids

Ideas for frugal summer fun activities for kids have to go beyond just browsing on Pinterest and setting yourself up for failure.

When you actually start that first week of summer break, the reality sets in that there are many days between June 1st and August 30th. How do you keep your kids occupied and not tearing down your house or terrorizing your neighborhood?

More importantly, how do you keep them occupied without spending your vacation money on activities? Luckily there are so many ways to entertain kids during the summer, and a sympathetic society has made many of them cheap. We’re going to take a look at the top ways you can keep your kid having fun and maybe learning over summer break without breaking your bank.

Frugal Summer Fun Activities for Kids

kid summer fun activity ideas

Head to the library

Libraries are not just places for princesses to spend time in-between not talking to their beast-captors. They have books, sure, but now libraries have so much more. You can check out movies, magazines, and even in some cases equipment.

Many libraries have something called a “library of things” where you can borrow appliances, sports gear, and more. Beyond that though, books are hugely important to neural development in kids. In fact, even adult brains show better ability to create new pathways when they read even 15 minutes a day.

Going to the library and picking up some books, reading them and returning the next week to get more was a HUGE part of my childhood and I still look back fondly on sitting in a quiet room reading, especially when it was raining outside. Your kids will benefit from it immensely.

brown hair toddler reading book stuffed animals

Summer reading programs

Keeping in the vein of reading over the summer, there are tons of summer reading programs out there to encourage kids to read in various ways. As a kid there was the Book-It program that got you little pizzas and books and it was GLORIOUS and it STILL EXISTS!.

Now there are far more from many different companies and groups:

  • Scholastic’s Summer Read-a-Palooza – kids can read and log their minutes, earning rewards on the Scholastic site.
  • Chuck E Cheese Behavior Rewards – I have to admit, the mouse has some great motivators. Basically you track the behavior you want your kids to engage in – reading is just one – then you can print off coupons that they sign their name to and they get free play points with a food purchase. Pavlov’s mouse, amirite?
  • Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Challenge – Your kids download a journal and record the books they’ve read, and then once they’re done they can choose 1 free book from a curated selection at your local Barnes and Noble!
  • Six Flags Read To Succeed – When kids K-6 complete 6 hours of reading over the summer, they get a free ticket to Six Flags! Considering you might already be thinking about a Six Flags trip during summer break, this is a good way to encourage your kids to read before they get their brains jumbled up on a roller coaster.
  • Amazon Retail Stores Book Challenge – This one is less accessible, simply because there aren’t that many retail Amazon stores yet. However, it’s a great program that encourages kids to read at least 8 books. When they’re done, you come back for a free book from a curated list.

Though this list isn’t exhaustive, these are some of the ones that are not regionally locked. There are plenty more and in fact, if you inquire at your local library they will likely have a list of all the programs in your area over the summer.

Investigate your local museum or zoo

Often a city museum or zoo isn’t very expensive to begin with, but most will offer discounts for groups. Call ahead to your local zoo and see if you can get a group rate for a bunch of mom’s and kids all going at the same time. Our local museum and zoo both offer free admission for kids 4 and under during the summer months.

I can’t guarantee yours will have free admission, but the admission will be cheap. With a lot of interesting exhibits and animals, it should keep your kids occupied for an afternoon. Bonus points if your zoo like ours has a picnic area and you can bring food in; spend the whole day getting to know wallabies and penguins!

Home Depot DIY Workshops

Home Depot has a schedule of workshops where they teach kids how to build various things. Your littles will need adult supervision, but the projects are completely free! What’s best is that your kids can keep their crafts. The link above has a spot to put your zip code in to find your nearest Home Depot. You’ll be given a schedule of events once you click through to your local store.

Bike and Hike Days

All of the parks in our city have these days when cars are not allowed. It makes for a near party atmosphere with people grilling, picnicking, and simply enjoying the park. Contact your local park district to find out when they’re having them. They should also have a schedule of events for the summer as well for all sorts of fun things.

kinderfeets balance bike

Head to the big screen

Pretty much every movie theater has deeply discounted summer rates for kids. Some are as low as .50c, and especially if you have a local cinema, they probably have a summer movie program. These allow you to pay one flat rate for basically unlimited admission to movies all summer long.

A few of the more prominent chains offering summer kids’ pricing are:

Some are deeply discounted while some offer free movies for kids in a certain age range. AMC and Marcus actually include snacks with the admission price – $4 in the case of AMC! That’s a really good deal.

Not a fan of the theater? Set up a sheet and projector out back and have a family movie night under the stars. Check out what we recommend as the best movies for preschoolers (that the whole will love!)

Take your kids bowling

Bowling is still around in cities everywhere and thanks to Kidsbowlfree.com, you can introduce the game to your kids. Not all alleys are signed up with the program, but the ones that are offer 2 free games per day for kids all summer long. In addition to this program, most bowling alleys offer big discounts or free kids’ admission with an adult during the summer.

It’s air conditioned, it’s fun, and you get to wear fun shoes. Go see if your local alley offers the program and get to rolling balls towards pins!

Get crafty with Michael’s

Michael’s stores offer a workshop, teaching your kids to make some fun and creative crafts. It’s $3 per kid per session, and it runs from June 10 – July 26th, every Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Each day is a different theme, from whimsical craft tube unicorns to glittery slime that kids adore. Entertainment, learning, and a craft to take home is a steal at $3.

Paint some rocks

Okay so you’ll need tempura paint for this but rocks are free! Painting and hiding rocks is a fun way for kids to express their creativity and be part of a popular community, too. You can take your kids on a walk and look for rocks painted by other people. It’s always a good time finding them and swapping them out with your own.

Another family favorite of ours is to “paint” things outside and then host a carwash. Check out this post on how $5 kept my children entertained for an entire hour!

car wash kid fun

Try geocaching

A literal treasure hunt, geocaching is a popular activity that doesn’t really cost any money. The gist is that people hide boxes filled with knick-knacks and you use your GPS to find them. You’ll sign the log book you find, take something, leave something, and go on your next adventure.

You can start exactly this minute, find something awesome and get some exercise as well. Using your phone or GPS, you create a free account on Geocaching.com.

There will be a list of known caches around your coordinates, and you simply hike to find them. Some will be difficult and well-hidden but others might be easier for little kids to get to. No matter what, it’s a good time.

Volunteer

There’s never a bad time to teach your kids about the importance of volunteering. It makes them better, stronger people with a greater connection to their cities and environment. There is also no time like summer to find plenty of volunteer activities.

These can be as simple as helping serve food at the local soup kitchen or making blessing bags for the homeless. Our city’s downtown is thriving during the summer and they’re always looking for help with events. There are dozens of ways to volunteer with children, and it’s such an important (and fun!) family activity.

Summer camps

While most summer camps cost money, many park districts have “day camps” that do not. Call your local district office and see what is offered at the parks around your house. You’d be surprised at what your kids can learn over the summer like archery, wood working, or gardening.

With that said…

Gardening

Gardening on a budget is a favorite discussion topic, but it gets even better when you do it with others!

The idea of community gardens is taking over vacant, gross lots across the country. By transforming bare areas into thriving gardens, neighborhoods end up with a beautiful, green space. They also have a ton of fresh, delicious produce to share with the people who contributed.

Co-ops or CSAs are great, too. Usually a farmer will have a spot dedicated to people who either pay or volunteer their time. They then get a share of the harvest each week.

It’s like a subscription service that you have to kind of get dirty for!

Bonus: set up a worm farm and use their casings to better ensure a bountiful harvest. If your kids are like mine, this project is one they’ll love to help with!

Gardening on a Budget

Check out your local vacation Bible schools

Most churches offer free VBS over the summer to kids in the community. These are great places to learn crafts, play games, and spend some time with other kids. You can contact your local churches but I guarantee they will all have fliers and signs up right when school ends.

Call your local universities for kids’ summer events

Nearly all public universities will offer free or very low cost events for kids during the summer months. These are a great way to get your kids introduced to higher education, even if they’re a while from that.

In addition, there are lots of science-based camps that are free or offer scholarships. Particularly in fields like coding and IT, you can find lots of camps targeted at younger kids and specifically girls.

Keep them learning and having fun all summer long

They say “idle hands are the devil’s plaything” but have you ever seen a kid bored in the middle of July? Avoid that horror show by keeping them engaged and learning! Exercising your kids’ minds and bodies will make them better in the long run.

Being able to keep them entertained without having to spend a thousand dollars is a big perk, too.

What do you like to do during the summer with your kiddos?

Let us know in the comments below!

7 Strategies to Help You Budget as a Single Parent

7 Strategies to Help You Budget as a Single Parent

Working as a single parent can be a trying experience, so you want to make sure that your finances are as streamlined as possible. When unexpected emergencies pop up, your schedule, finances, and life are thrown for a loop. Take a look at these tips to help you strategize your budget as a single parent.

 7 Strategies to Help You Budget as a Single Parent

how to budget as a single parent

 

Make a roadmap

Whether you’re co-parenting or raising your child alone, make sure you have a roadmap for your new life—both for your schedule and your budget. This will allow you to be conscious of the ins and outs of your finances and help you plan accordingly. Getting prepared and organized will also help you discover areas of opportunity where you could pay off debt faster.

Create an emergency fund

As a single parent, it’s absolutely imperative to have an emergency fund ready for when something unexpected happens. The rule of thumb is to have at least three months’ worth of expenses saved up, but the more you have in your fund, the better.

Find the balance between budgeting and having fun

Just because you’re living as a single parent on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to expel extra spending that you could use to have fun with your child. In fact, you should be analyzing your budget to add that into your spending. Work a set amount of money in your budget for fun and get creative. Plan around sales and large discounts and think of out-of-the-box ideas, such as enjoying a picnic in the park, having a pizza night at home, or exploring a free museum.

Study your financial documents

You’d be surprised at how much extra spending is wasted on things like utility bills, phone bills, cable, and internet. Take a look at your monthly utility bills, appliance plans, and other home-related costs and see where you could be saving money. This could be decreasing your data plan on your phone, getting rid of your cable and using television apps like Netflix and Hulu, or even decreasing your internet speed slightly. These tiny tweaks could save you hundreds every year.

Explore the tax breaks

As a single parent, you’re eligible for several tax breaks that you may be unaware of. If your income is less than $75,000 a year, you could earn up to $1,000 in tax credit for each child. If you have children in college, you may be eligible for higher education tax credits and tuition deductions.

Discover a new career

If you’re a newly single parent, there may be a learning curve in trying to take care of your family with one funnel of income. If you want to discover ways to make more money to provide for your family, consider if now is the time to explore new careers paths. Could you take advantage of an expedited technical college to find a new career? Consider speaking to a life coach or a career advisor about different avenues you could take.

Use your support system

Know that you’re not alone in taking care of your child. It’s OK to reach out for help when you need it. Independence is what we all strive for, but in order to take care of your child, you’ll want to use all avenues possible, and that includes your support system.

blonde girl in pink dress with flower in her hair

 

Kay Pascale is a writer from Durham, NC. When she isn’t writing, she loves to read, spend time with her family, and travel.

Why Every Parent Needs an Air Fryer

Why Every Parent Needs an Air Fryer

We bought what I would consider to be a first generation air fryer a few years ago. It was fine, in that it cooked food crispy and but not particularly quickly, AND it was tiny. You could seriously only fit a couple of chicken tenders in it at a time, and it took 20 minutes to cook them, so it wasn’t efficient, either.

For Christmas this year, we tried again, only with a much bigger 5.7 quart fryer and it is a game changer. On busy nights it pairs perfectly with some frozen, not-the-healthiest-but-mama-doesn’t-have-time-for-kale food (lookin’ at you, Lean Cuisine pizza!)

On relaxing days, I spend hours experimenting with it, frying up all manner of things I wouldn’t have even considered frying.

Why Buy an Air Fryer

air fryer benefits

What is an air fryer?

At its core, an air fryer is a convection oven, using hot, circulating air to cook your food. The differences are nuanced but important, however.

An air fryer is typically shaped in more of a cone or dome, making the hot air circulate faster. This allows the outside of the food to crisp up while still cooking the inside quickly, preserving the juiciness while adding a perfect crunch. It also cooks faster than a countertop convection oven.

Most of the countertop ovens I looked at cost about twenty percent more than a similarly sized air fryer as well, and I’m not quite sure why. Convection ovens can typically go over the seemingly upper limit of 400 degrees that an air fryer has, but “frying” temperatures are usually between 350 and 400 degrees, so this isn’t surprising.

The best air fryers on the market have broad bottoms, allowing for a maximum amount of food cooked at once while still retaining the “frying” properties they boast. Because of this somewhat conical shape, they tend to take up less space than countertop ovens.

Benefits of Cooking with an Air Fryer

An air fryer cooks food faster than an oven would typically, and because it doesn’t require oil as a cooking medium, the food is lighter calorically and healthier in general.

As I mentioned earlier, you can toss in a layer of frozen chicken tenders, or fries, or whatever else you have on hand and dinner is ready in like 10 minutes.

On the model we have (Magic Chef), the timer is also effectively the “on” switch, so if you set it for 10 minutes, it shuts itself off in 10 minutes. There’s no “oh no I forgot the food” moments where you find that your salmon is blackened a bit more than you’d like; once the timer is up, it shuts off.

Fresh burgers come out juicy on the inside without flipping and splashing grease, and it reheats food more evenly (and pleasantly) than a microwave, though it takes longer.

Consider how microwave-reheated leftovers from a restaurant never taste as good, and you don’t typically want to preheat your oven just to heat up some chicken tenders. An air fryer is like your oven and your microwave had a baby and it was born being better than both of them (in certain applications). Reheating food is one of those applications!

Things to look for in an air fryer

Hands-down the most important attribute – and I cannot overstate this – is the size of the available cooking space. You can really only get the crispy benefits of the air fryer if your food isn’t stacked up on top of itself, so a single layer at a time is what you’re shooting for. This requires a decent sized basket so you’re able to cook quick, large batches. Ours is 5.7 quarts and it’s great for our family of 4, but if you have a bigger family or a party, something even larger might be ideal for you.

Ours is also manual, but there are digital ones out there as well that offer a wide range of preset cooking times and other fun add-ons.

Make sure you get a removable basket as well. Our first one didn’t have a removable basket, just this weird black insert that kinda held the food over the bottom of the fryer but not very well. The one we have now is a removable metal basked that clicks into the base and allows for total air circulation and for drippings to fall completely away from your food.

Finally, consider price when buying one. This isn’t a brand-new technology where higher price commands respect or the latest advancement. At its core, this is a very focused convection oven that fits on your countertop. Our Magic Chef was about $80, and it’s great. The only thing that you really need to pay extra for is a bigger model.

Why does every parent need an air fryer?

You’re still not convinced? Well, let’s recap then:

  • Cooks food quickly and crispy while retaining juiciness
  • Economical, especially if you’re considering buying a countertop oven
  • Heats faster, cooks quicker, and crisps up food better than an oven
  • Helps you make busy weeknight meals faster and easier
  • Reheats food so much better than a microwave
  • Healthier than deep frying by a significant amount
  • Doesn’t require oil to cook most foods

Obviously consider your needs before picking one up, but if you’re on the fence about buying an air fryer, I hope this helps you see that they’re not a fad kitchen gadget. It saves us time, calories, effort, and money and it will for you, too!

Do you already have an air fryer?

Comment below, I’d love to know YOUR favorite thing to cook in it!

Worm Farming DIY

Worm Farming DIY

Making your own DIY worm farm is easy, but it’s definitely one of those things that you’ll either be super into…or not at all. I mean, let’s be honest – worms aren’t exactly cute and cuddly.

Worm farming, or vermiculture for the fancy among us, is a great way to reduce waste, but there are many other benefits, depending on how far you want to take it. It may be a weird way to save money, but it’s certainly a fun one!

Benefits of Worm Farming

First, when your wriggly friends break down your kitchen waste, they are eating up stuff that would otherwise take up space at the landfill while decomposing. As minimal as it may be, it all adds up over time!

Your worm farm will also be amazing for those of you are into gardening on a budget. Not only will the castings be great to mix in (no having to actually buy compost!) but the liquid “tea” they generate is one of the best fertilizers you can find…and it’ll cost you nothing to keep it going!

Another benefit is that it’s a great way to teach your children to care about the environment and about those around them. While not all kids will be into worm farming, let’s be real – most will be rather excited about it! Plus worm farming is easy to set up and care for, making it a great project for even the youngest among us.

What You Need for a Worm Farm

There are many (MANY) different wants to DIY a worm farm, but the route we went requires the following:

  • 5 gallon tote with lid
  • Screen material
  • Hot glue gun
  • X-Acto Knife or box cutter
  • Heat gun (not completely necessary but will definitely make cutting the tote easier!)
  • Shredded newspaper – about a Sunday’s edition worth – soaked in water and wrung out
  • Worms – check your local resale sites on Facebook or Craigslist to find ’em. You’d be surprised how common vermiculture is!

Where to Keep Your Worm Farm

Before you start building your worm habitat, decide on where you’ll keep the critters. Do *NOT* plan to keep them outside!! A warm, dry, dark environment is best – like your basement – but anywhere out of direct sunlight that’ll stay 40 – 80 F (4 – 27 C) will be fine. They tend to generate a lot of their own heat as they break down their food, so it’s exceptionally important you keep them somewhere relatively cool, though obviously not so cold they’ll freeze.

How to DIY a Worm Farm

diy worm farm

Once you have your ideal location set, it’s time to get building!

First, if you have a heat gun, use it to warm up the area of your tote lid you’ll be cutting. It really does make a difference in getting that center cut out:

tote lid cut

Then use that center cut out to trace and cut out screen material big enough to cover the area you just cut out. From there you’ll hot glue that screen onto the top of the lid. I then used duct tape to secure it all the better – again done on TOP the lid.

tote lid cut with duct tape

Originally I went the route of just drilling holes into the lid and that was fine…until my wriggly friends started to wriggle their way out of the nice home I built them! So rude, right? Supposedly the worms won’t do that if you have a nice environment for them, but uh…no. Heh trust me, the screen is the way to go!

You can also drill and insert a spigot into the bottom to drain some of the liquid that’ll accumulate, but I just make sure to monitor the dampness every few days and will add shredded newspaper or cardboard as needed.

What to Put In Your Worm Farm

When you’re first adding your worms, you can start with whatever dirt they’ve come in and then use wet, shredded newspaper and cardboard – be sure to wring it out first as you want it wet, but no where near dripping. Fill your tote about half full with the shreds and make sure it’s fluffed up enough for the worms to move freely and have plenty of oxygen.

There’s no need to add additional dirt, yard waste, etc. In fact, it’s safer to avoid ever doing that, as you never know what sort of contaminants might be there.

You can then go ahead and add your worms, but wait a couple days before adding in any food.

What to Feed Worms

Fortunately worms aren’t too picky when it comes to food, though mine are certainly big fans of moldy tomatoes (yum…)

You’ll want to avoid meat or highly acidic foods, like onions and citrus. Also try to avoid going overboard on the coffee grounds.

Your worms will thrive best when given a 2:1 ratio of pounds of worms to daily pounds of food, but this may vary a bit. It’s best to start off with food in one corner and then monitor it to see how fast it goes. As that corner starts to dissipate, put another serving in another corner. This helps keeps the worms moving and keeps the waste well circulated.

Should you start seeing gnats or other flying friends, cut back on the food a bit and/or loosely place a piece of dry cardboard in the bin on top of the papers/waste.

worm farm tote with cardboard

As they begin to generate those castings, feel free to scoop it out and add it to your garden or indoor plants. Eventually you may find your worm friends have reproduced so much that they need a new home – this can be a great way to earn some extra cash from home or you can create a second home if your garden is in need!

Do you have any questions about DIY’ing your own worm farm?

Comment below, I’m happy to help!