Sunday, March 14, 2010

Annual Memberships and Passes Can Save BIG!

I just got my family a membership to the Denver Zoo and to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
We have had one to the zoo before, but I do not renew it every year.

If you enjoy going someplace you have probably already figured out that an annual pass can save you a ton of money. If not, now is the time to look into it!

Things to consider:

*What types of activities does your family enjoy doing over and over again?

*How often are you really going to be able to go?

*What other benefits does the membership get you?

*Is it partially tax deductible?

Here in Colorado there are so many things to do and see it can be hard to narrow it down. You can get memberships for everything from the community center to the Art Museum.

I think it is always wise to only get a couple memberships a year that you will actually use. I also like to rotate-don't get the same memberships year after year unless it is something your family is passionate about.

Sometimes I actually have to do math to figure out if a membership or annual pass will save us money.
For example, we are going to take a trip to Mesa Verde this summer. We are planning to stop at several other National Parks and Monuments during the trip. I have been to the NPS website and looked up the entrance fee for each place we want to stop. I also decided we might do another camping trip at Rocky Mountain National Forest which is also part of the NPS. Even with all those stops it looks like the Annual Pass will NOT save us money.

Another example is the Denver Art Museum. They will be hosting the King Tut exhibit this summer and fall and I really would love to take the family to see it. However, we can go to the museum itself for free the first Saturday of each month (we went once last year). The exhibit would be discounted with a membership, but not enough to make it worth it. It is cheaper for us to just pay to see the exhibit.

For the Denver Zoo, it was a no brainer. It costs so much to take the family to the zoo that it will pay for itself in 2 trips. Plus, members get discounts and free tickets for friends. Our Family Plus membership will also allow me to bring a friend each time I go! This will come in handy in the summer when DH is working. One of my good friends has a membership, too, so we can go together. Oh, they had also mailed me a "special deal" so I only paid $99.

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is one I have not done before. We have taken the kids only a couple times, but it is so cool! A membership will get us a discount on IMAX and planetarium tickets as well as other perks. We've never taken the kids to IMAX because of the cost, but we will now! The Family membership I got will come with 3 adult entrance tickets I can use to bring friends. This membership will pay for itself after two trips and one IMAX movie.

One of the best parts about having a membership or annual pass is that you aren't pressured to stay all day to get your money's worth. You can drop in whenever you like for an hour or two or even just to see certain things and then go home. You also are notified of upcoming special events and member only activities.

Here is a great website for things to do in Colorado! Have fun!!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Are You Camping This Summer?

I'm very excited to have written a guest blog article for Amanda over at The Screaming Penny! It is about saving money camping. Camping is about the cheapest family vaction around. I have been planning our summer trip to Mesa Verde and pulled together some generic tips to help all you thrifty campers out there!

Check it out over at The Screaming Penny!

Monday, March 01, 2010

March Finance Talk

5 Million Dollars In Cash Displayed At Seminole Hard Rock Casino

February went really well! It feels so good to make our money work for us. We stayed on budget and had some leftover from a few categories. The leftover was rolled over to March.

Our snowball goal for February was $1379. We were planning on putting it all to debt, but we have changed our financial plans. I will explain in a moment.
We were able to have $1694.36 towards snowballing. We also had a couple hundred in our Health Savings Account (HSA) that we used and had a dental bill come up that we needed to pay.

*Dental Bill: $197.80 PAID OFF
*Hospital Bill: $819 PAID OFF
*Emergency Savings: $1000
TOTAL: $2016.80

We have decided to save up the snowball instead of using it towards debt. This is so that DH can switch jobs in the near future. We would like for him to get his LPN licence back and get a job nursing. Working at the factory is great for now, but will not work out long-term for our family. Plus, we are worried about the stability.
After DH gets a new job nursing we will put everything in the baby Emergency Fund towards debt (above $1000).

March goals:
Snowball: $2200 ---towards savings

We are very happy that we were able to sign up for health insurance benefits through DH's new job at the factory. We will be saving about $200 per month on premiums PLUS we now have dental insurance. We have a few people with bad teeth, so this will end up being a good savings, too.

The bad thing that we have learned about the factory job is that if they are running ahead of schedule DH will only work 4 days a week. This has happened a couple times and another time he only worked half a shift. So, we may not be bringing in the income we anticipated.

How does your March look?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Project #4: Homemade Birthday Invitations

My daughter and I spent about an hour making invitations to her birthday party. She had a great time helping! It was nice to use some stuff from my craft stockpile!
I used some pink cardstock for the cards. We stamped them with a flower stamp and Versa Mark ink. Then I applied "heat & stick" and Kelsey heated it with the heat gun. Once it was sticky we poured hot pink glitter on them!

They turned out great and glitter is now everywhere!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book #3: Girl with a Pearl Earring

The third book I've finished this year is Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It's a pretty short novel and very easy to read.

I found the story subtle and realistic. I could imagine myself in the scenes where the fictional tale takes place. There wasn't a lot of action or suspense. It is a coming of age story of a girl, Greit, living in Holland in the 1600's. In concequence of an accident her father suffers she becomes a maid for the famous painter Johannes Vermeer.
I was able to read through the book in 2 days. It is perfect for anyone looking for a little escape.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book #2: An American Prophet's Record

I have finished my second book! This one was 500 pages long.

There is a new series of books being published about Joseph Smith, the LDS prophet. He lived in the 1800's and started the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sometimes called the Mormons.

Well, the Joseph Smith Papers Project is amazing in its scope. However, the books they are publishing are very much out of my price range! They have already published the first two books in the series which I periodically drool over.

I was lamenting the fact that these books wouldn't be gracing my bookshelves any time soon when someone pointed out that the journals of Joseph Smith can be had for a fraction of the cost. I quickly plunked down around $15 plus shipping for my own copy.

An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (2nd ed), by Scott H. Faulring is a very easy to read book. I like how it was done, the language was cleaned up a bit and there are ellipses to explain some words to the reader. This can be helpful since spelling was not very important in the 1800's.

The journals are so interesting to read. There were parts that were super boring, like the minutes of certain court cases. I found other court cases intriguing, so I am glad they are there. You really do catch a glimpse of the life and beliefs of Joseph Smith and the early LDS restoration movement.

I did notice that there is a lot of overlap with the History of the Church, which I have read about half of. There are some differences in the recordings, so it is still worth reading both if you are an LDS historian or fascinated by LDS church history.

As always, when reading journals I wish there was more information and details recorded. I am glad for the records and journals that we do have, though! I guess that is the history lover in me. It is neat to see how people from another time and place lived and died.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Project #3: Children's Closets & Dressers

This week I went through ALL the clothes the kids have. It took me two sessions. I think I spent about 3 hours total.

I wanted to get an accurate count of what they have so that when I am out shopping the deals I get things they need and don't overbuy anything. There are so many cute items out there and great deals that it can be tempting to keep buying even when we have enough.

So, now I have a huge pile of items to get rid of. Some I will take to the second hand shop. Everything that they won't take will go straight to the thrift store with the rest of the goods. Here is a picture of my beautiful pile!

The closets all look great and are filled with clothes that fit and look nice. Well, the play clothes may be ragged, but that is to be expected!

My oldest son's closet:

My daughter's closet. The rest of her clothes are in a dresser:

My youngest son's closet:

The clothes they have yet to grow into are in Space Bags on a shelf. This keeps them easily accessible for me and helps me remember that they are there. I love having everything organized!