Tips for Saving Money on Extra Curricular Activities


The start of the new school year brings with it the start of those extra curricular activities.  Depending on the activity, and the number of children in your household, the cost of those activities can really add up!

So how can you keep the cost down while still allowing your child to explore outside interests?

I’ve put together some great tips that I hope will help this school year!

Tips for saving money on extra curricular activities this school year


Purchase gently used equipment.  Whether your child is into sports, dance, or music, you can get a good deal on previously owned equipment.

If you are looking for sporting equipment, Play It Again Sports is a resale store that sells a variety of gently used gear, such as soccer pads, golf clubs, and tennis rackets.  Other consignment shops geared towards kids, such as Once Upon a Child, carry items like soccer cleats and tap shoes.  Don’t have one of these stores near you?  Garage sales, although hit or miss, can be a great way to find inexpensive sporting equipment for your child.  And, if you can’t find the equipment you are looking for this way, you are almost guaranteed to find what you are looking for on Craigslist or Ebay.

When it comes to buying musical instruments, consider checking your local thrift stores, pawn shops, and garage sales.  For large/expensive instruments, renting may be the cheaper alternative, especially if you aren’t sure how long your child will be interested in the instrument.  And, of course, Craigslist and Ebay also tend to have a large listing of musical instruments that may meet your needs.

Organize an equipment swap.   Have outgrown sports equipment or unwanted musical instruments taking up space?  Many school districts have an equipment swap each year where parents and students can exchange their gently used equipment.  Call the local high school to see if your district has such an event.

Limit the number of activities each child participates in.  Limiting the number of activities each child is in will not only save you money on the equipment they need to participate, but it will also limit the number of practices you have to drive children to, saving your sanity and a bit of gas money, too!

Look into alternatives for those private lessons.  Have a child that wants to take music lessons?  Instead of paying for private lessons for a beginning student, ask about group lessons, which are usually cheaper.

Or, by speaking to the music director in your school district, you may be able to find a high school student who is giving beginning lessons at a fraction of the cost you would normally pay for lessons elsewhere.

And once you find an instructor, consider having  lessons every other week instead of weekly.

One other alternative when it comes to music lessons:  check with your local chapter of the Salvation Army.  Not every chapter offers music lessons, but if yours does and you meet the requirements,  your student can learn to play guitar, piano, brass, or percussion from some wonderful musicians.


What extra curricular activities do your kids participate in?  Do you have any tips you’d add?

I’d love to hear them!


DIY Dragon Pinata



This past week my youngest turned 5.  And for his birthday he really wanted a pinata.  Not just any pinata, but a dragon pinata.

I couldn’t find a dragon pinata anywhere, but honestly I try to keep to a fairly cheap birthday party budget anyway…   So I decided to make the dragon pinata myself.

Easy DIY dragon pinata -- perfect for a dragon birthday party!



How to Make a Dragon Pinata

Originally I planned to use a paper grocery bag as the base of the dragon pinata.  But we had used up all the paper bags in an earlier craft, and I forgot to ask for more at my last grocery trip.

We did have a couple bags left from a variety of drive-thru trips this past week.  (Don’t judge, it’s been a busy week here!)

So I decided to use a large take-out bag.

Once I had the base of the pinata, I cut several 1 1/2 inch wide strips of green tissue paper.  Then I cut fringe along one side of the tissue paper strip and started gluing it into place.

how to make a pinata


When adding the tissue paper, be sure to start at the bottom of the pinata.  A small amount of white school glue will hold it firmly in place.  Be careful not to use too much glue as tissue paper tears easily when it gets soggy!

I was originally just going to draw the face on with permanent markers and be done, but once I had the bag covered in green tissue paper fringe I spotted part of an egg carton left from doing some egg carton crafting earlier in the day.

A light bulb went off in my head and I started cutting pieces.

building a dragon pinata


I cut off the ends from the top of the egg carton to form the dragon’s mouth.  2 “bumps” from the bottom of the carton formed its eyes.

After hot gluing these pieces into place I used more tissue paper fringe strips, this time in a darker green color, to cover them.  A pair of large google eyes were also added.

I filled our pinata with a few handfuls of leftover Halloween candy.  (Again, don’t judge!  It was lollipops and Smarties…Things that last!)  And then I folded the paper bag down at the top and secured it with clear packing tape.  The tape would also make it stronger when I punched the hole at top to hang it.

I decided our dragon pinata was going to be a Chinese dragon, so it still needed some horns and a tail  — no wings.

To form its horns I used a couple cardboard tubes, cutting slits along one side of each of them and using clear tape to turn them into cones.  These were attached with clear packing tape and then covered with more tissue paper fringe.

His tail was formed with a smaller paper bag that I twisted up and then covered with green tissue paper.  I used packing tape to hold it in place and then added yet more green tissue paper fringe to cover the entire tail.

Oh, and don’t forget the red “flames” for his mouth!

DIY dragon pinata



The pinata was a huge hit!  (Pun intended!)

The kids used a plastic sword to whack at it (slaying the dragon) until it finally gave up all its candy treasures.


Thinking of doing your own dragon birthday party?  Be sure to check out our dragon birthday cake!


Kids Bowl Free!


free bowling for kids

“Mom, I’m bored.”

These are words moms dread hearing over and over during summer vacation.

When it’s too hot to run around at the park, and you don’t want to spend a bunch of money, what do you do?

Go bowling!

Thanks to a wonderful program called Kids Bowl Free, your kids can bowl 2 free games every day all summer long.  That’s a lot of bowling!

This summer I decided my 2 preschoolers were ready for the challenge, so I signed them up for the program.  Did I mention it was free?  (I love that!)

So I loaded them up in the car and we headed off to check it out.

It has been a while since I’ve bowled.  Things sure have changed!

The lady at the desk was super helpful.  Pretty soon our lane was outfitted with bumpers and 8 pound bowling balls.  Once we were decked out in our bowling shoes (just $2 to rent), we were set to give it a go.

Little Peanut went first.  She gave that ball a mighty shove…  free summer fun for kids

Can you tell she was proud of knocking down the pins?

After rolling the balls down a few times, the kids decided to try the ramp.

Yes, I said ramp.  Who would have thought that they would have a ramp for preschoolers to roll the ball down?   I mean, how neat is that?  It makes bowling easy and fun for the whole family!

And you know what?

I found out my youngest is a bowling natural!  In his first game, the four-year old got 4 spares and the only strike between us! kids bowl free program

The whole place was full of moms with kids bowling — so great to see!

We will definitely be bowling a lot this summer… After all, I have to redeem myself!

The four year-old beat me! free bowling for kids


See that?  He got 97 to my 93…  And that was with me keeping the bumpers on when I bowled!


Want to bowl with your kids?  If you plan to bowl more than a couple times, save money and get the family pass, which is good for up to 4 adults, for just $24.95.  Remember, kids are free all summer long as long as you sign them up!


And, if you are looking for more free (or almost free) summer activities, check out my Free Summer Fun post.


As mentioned previously, this is a sponsored post on behalf of Kids Bowl Free.  I received a family pass in exchange for writing this post.  All opinions are 100% my own. 


Taking Stock of What I Value Most

“Oh, you’re a stay at home mom?   Boy, that must be nice.  I’d love to be able to stay home with my kids…”

I’ve heard that one a few times.

And I’ve bit my tongue when the person speaking then pulls their brand-new Smart phone out of their designer handbag or helps slip brand new designer sneakers on their little one’s feet before walking out to their brand new SUV, all so they can get home to watch whatever show they’ve TiVoed.

Yes, I know, sometimes it really isn’t possible for every mom who wants to, to stay home.  There are single parents, there are homes where mom is the only one who is working at the time, there are huge medical bills that need to be paid.

I get that.

But then there are those who really could do it, if they truly wanted to.  So I’m going to share how we afford it.

Tips on how to afford to be a SAHM


I don’t have a new car.  It’s the same one I got before we married; it has over 100,000 miles on it, and I’m not planning on replacing it any time soon.  My husband’s truck?  Just as old with 150,000 miles.

New cell phone?  Uh, no.  Mine is 4 years old now.  And it is far from high-tech.  My cell phone makes phone calls.  That’s what phones are really for, right?  Actually, it can also take pictures, too.  That was a bonus I hadn’t expected with the phones we got free with our cell phone plan.  Free.  I like free.

Speaking of that phone plan; there is not texting or Internet on it.  I guess the phone can physically do those things (Once my daughter texted “A” from my phone to her daddy’s phone when she was a year old…The kid is light years ahead of us!), but not using those features and having a basic plan saves us money.

You won’t find cable t.v. at our house, nor do we have satellite or whatever other stuff there is for televisions today.  When the government decided everyone should have digital signals, we went with the converter box.  The basic one we could get with the government issued coupon.  What sucked is we had to build a huge antennae for the converter box to even work out here… But my husband and his dad installed it all themselves, saving us labor costs at least.

affording SAHM

Notice our t.v. is over 20 years old and far from being a flat screen.

Kids clothes?  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, hand-me-downs rock!  Seriously.  So do consignment shops.  8 dollars for a winter coat that almost looks brand new?  I’ll take it!  After all, they will both outgrow their coats by the next year anyway.  Why spend 50 bucks for the latest Gymboree or Children’s Place item?

The same with toys.  Yes, my kids have had their share of new toys.  (After all, they are the only grandkids on my husband’s side of the family!)  But this year their birthday gifts from us came from the consignment shop.  I didn’t plan it, but when I saw them I knew they were perfect.  My daughter loves her My Little Pony island, and Monkey has played with his pirate ship every day since his May birthday.  How could I pass it up for 6 dollars?  And he doesn’t care how much I spent on it.  Trust me.

Grocery shopping?  Whenever possible I buy the generics.  Yes, coupons are great, but there are a lot of times that even with the coupon, the generic is just a better deal.  I admit it, I am a paper product snob, though.  I have tried our generics in paper towels and toilet paper and it just has to be the brands I grew up with for those.

Yes, the husband and I like to go out to eat, alone, when possible.  But it’s not a daily thing for sure!  Once a week, or so, we head out to catch dinner.  Sometimes we even splurge and get dessert. (Everyone needs to do that sometimes!)  If you look around you can find coupons for quite a few nice restaurants.  We have a local favorite that is family owned and always a great deal – dinner for 2 for $20 bucks is a nice treat without breaking the bank.  And we skip all the alcoholic drinks when dining out – that adds up!

Have a book habit?  The library has allowed us to have quite the reading selection without spending a dime.  (Well, except with overdues!)  And for all those kids books I want to have in our personal library without having to worry about the kids damaging a library book?  The used book store.  Love that place.

Movie habit?  No, we don’t have Netflix.  And we haven’t paid to rent a video at Blockbuster for years.  Again, the library has kept us quite happy.

Maid service?  Yeah… Don’t think so!

Designer purses?  Shoes?  Clothes?  Not my style!  And all my maternity wear?  It came from consignment shops.   I could probably count on one hand the items I have bought myself since weaning the maternity wear from my closet.  (And, yes, those items were sold again!)

Mani’s and pedi’s?  I have had one pedicure in my lifetime – oh, and it WAS wonderful!  But I can’t justify spending 30 dollars to do that on a regular basis.  Nor do I spend a lot on my hair cut/style.  Hey, if I can get the same cut during the 6 dollar special at a place like Great Clips, why go somewhere else and spend 30 or more?


Do I feel like I am giving anything up?


Not. At. All.

I really don’t think there is much on this list that I would consider, even if I had the extra money.

But, even if I’d love to have all of that stuff, being able to spend this once in a lifetime opportunity to stay at home with our kids?  THAT is priceless.

It’s just an issue of what I value most.

My kids.