Free and Fun Family Activities in Your Local Area 4/18 – 4/20

Each week I’ll post links with fun and inexpensive (or free) things to do in your local area and national deals that everyone can enjoy!

National Activities:

American Girl: April In-Store Events (Events vary by location and minimum age. Find events specific to your area online. Reservations required. For girls ages 8 and up.) This weekend includes: Isabelle’s Spring Seekers Scavenger Hunt, Isabella’s Celebration, Springtime Card Craft, Bitty Baby Story Time and more!

Bass Pro Shop: April 19th and 20th from 11am-4pm you can join in on the Easter festivities. Throughout the day there will be pictures with the Easter bunny, crafts and even an egg hunt. Make sure to check the schedule and local listings.

Guitar Center: Free Classes through their Music Mentor Series.  Register online. No age restriction.

  • Saturday, April 19th: 10 AM - Recording Made Easy for Pro Tools
  • Saturday, April 19th: 10:15 AM – Group Ukulele Lesson

Kindermusik: Try a free class (see all the information here). Kindermusik ~ Where Music & Learning Play!

  • Classes for children from newborn to age seven
  • Child development through music and movement
  • Immerse your child in a musical atmosphere of play, song, and dance – while developing fundamental skills
  • Connect with other moms, dads, and families

Lakeshore Learning: Saturday, April 19th from 11AM-3PM ~Sunny Days Light Catcher. Kids can make and take home a Sunny Days Light Catcher.

Lowe’s Build and Grow: This Saturday, April 19th at 10am, kids can make and take home a Recycling Truck. Make sure to preregister.

Michael’s Kids Club Workshops: Kids will create an original custom wood canvas. Suitable for kids ages 3 and up ($2/child).  Starts at 10 am and runs every 30 minutes on Saturday (4/19).  You can shop while they create.

Thanks, More with Less Today! 

Local Activities:

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Saving for Landscaping: 6 Steps to Landscaping Your Summer Oasis

Saving for Landscaping

It’s summer time. The sun is out, flowers are blooming and so should your yard. Don’t let your yard wither and fade in the summer heat. Increase your home’s curb appeal by giving your property a makeover. According to a 2009 paper, The Effect of Landscape Plants on Perceived Home Value, by horticulturalist Alex X. Niemiera from Virginia Tech, adding sophisticated landscaping to your home can increase its value from 5.5 to 11.4 percent depending on location. So, saving for exterior upgrades with a personal savings account  not only enhances your property’s beauty, but also increases your home’s value. Learn how to build your summer oasis with these helpful tips.

Create a realistic vision

As you start saving for landscaping, it’s important to have a vision of what you want. Start by picking a theme or style that speaks to you and your lifestyle. Are you inspired by English gardens? Have you always wanted to live in a Mediterranean villa? Do you enjoy the serenity of a Zen garden? Remember to consider your property’s size, geographic location and environment as well when choosing a design theme.

After you choose a theme, decide what outdoor activities you would like to accommodate. Do you need a place for your children to play? Are you looking to expand your rose garden? Do you love to entertain friends and throw parties? Knowing how you want to use your outdoor areas will help you determine what features you’ll need to add.

Outline a budget and open a savings account

Now that you know the type of garden you want, it’s time to create a budget, dig into the details and start saving for landscaping additions. In addition to the size of the area, consider the features you want to include, lighting, plants and materials you’ll need, and contractor fees if you’ll be hiring a professional. While you can get a 100 to 200 percent return on quality landscaping, you should avoid investing any more than five to ten percent of your home’s value.

After you create your budget, set a savings goal, open an account and start saving for exterior upgrades. Also, consider long-term, high-interest savings account options, such as certificates of deposit (CDs) and money market accounts that can help you meet goals more efficiently with higher interest rates. Below are some landscaping elements you’ll want to consider as you create your budget and start saving for landscaping.

Saving for Landscaping

Choose an attraction

Consider designing your personal, outdoor oasis around a focal point, such as a butterfly garden, pool, deck or fire pit. If you like to entertain or grill, an outdoor kitchen on your deck or patio may be a great addition. A standard deck costs an average of $15,084, but homeowners typically get about 67.5% of their expenses back when they sell their house, which is just another reason to start saving for exterior upgrades.

Select lighting

Illuminate your outdoor oasis to enjoy long summer nights, improve safety and add ambiance. If you’re on a tight budget, inexpensive tiki torches or Chinese lanterns are an affordable choice. But it might take a little more saving for exterior upgrades such as solar lighting and LED lights. These economical options are more expensive upfront, but will save on energy and replacement costs in the long run. They’re also versatile, available in different brightness levels, colors, shapes and styles, including light strings and in-ground fixtures.

Purchase new plants

Add color, aroma, shade and privacy to your yard with new trees, shrubs and flowers. For the best results, determine your planting zone, and pick the plants appropriate for your climate and design.

  • Consider potted plants and flowers or climbing vines like Jasmine for the deck
  • Plant trees that will grow to produce cooling shade and privacy
  • Choose perennials instead of annuals that need to be replaced each year
  • Create a natural border with bushes and shrubs

Remember, new plants and trees can be expensive, so start saving for landscaping ahead of time to prepare for a spring or summer garden.
Saving for Landscaping

Find the right contractor or do it yourself

Some landscaping projects can be done on your own, like digging a small koi pond, creating a rose garden or assembling a play set. For the bigger, more time intensive projects, consider hiring a landscape architect. If you’re looking for a landscape architect or a contractor in your area, tools like Firm Finder from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) are a great resource.

Once you’ve found a few qualified contractors, meet with them, check their references and get an estimate. Then you’ll know if you need to save more or scale back your plans. With an attainable vision, a sensible budget, and the right landscaping professional, your backyard oasis can become a reality in time for summer fun.

This is a sponsored post written by Citizens Bank.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Ways to Save on Meat Purchases

The following is a guest post by Rodney Southern.

Meat is getting more expensive all the time. Even if you raise your own beef, pork, or foul, the feed for them is getting more expensive. Much of the problem is that the cost to transport and process the meat is going up while income levels are going down or at least not going up. Savvy shoppers take advantage of all the ways there are to save on meat purchases. Here are some ideas.

Ways to Save on Meat Purchases | The Happy Housewife

Educate Yourself

One of the first things you need to do is educate yourself when it comes to meat. Most people go into the store looking for the pretty pink meat, indicating to them that the meat is fresh. Color means nothing. If anything, fresh meat is more of a gray color than pink. The pink you see is nothing but injected dyes. When it comes to things like steak, this is exactly the kind of meat you don’t want if you plan to cook it that day. Steak begins to break down after a couple of days, which makes it more tender. Therefore, the prettier the steak is, the less tender it is going to be.

Take advantage of discounts. Stores are bound by strict time constraints. That is why you’ll sometimes see meat that is heavily discounted because it is about to pass the time limit for how long it can be in the store. It’s still good for you to eat and it usually costs a few dollars less than it normally would. This is a great way to stock up on high dollar items like steaks.

Use Bones

When you have cooked your meal and you have bones leftover, don’t throw them away. Inside of those bones is marrow, a substance that can make tasty dishes and the reason behind the fact that your dog enjoys table scraps so much.

Cooked bones and the marrow in them are key ingredients to some of the best dishes of all, like true homemade gumbo. When you want the taste of meat but you don’t have any meat or don’t necessarily want the meat texture, the bones are exactly what you need. This also means you have at least one less meal for which to buy meat.

Use Leftovers to Their Fullest

You can easily stretch meat out over the week. In fact, you might even be able to use one single pack of two different types of meat to get through the week. For example, you might cook a ham one day and serve slices of it at dinner. The next day you can cook a beef roast and do the same. Cut up the leftover ham for ham and scalloped potatoes the following day and use a similar method for the beef roast.

Even if you end up with a bone at the end of the week, you can still use that for a meal. By alternating days and meats you get a break from the same thing every day. Nothing goes to waste, and you get to use simple ways to save money on meat.

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Rodney Southern is a long time content writer specializing in a wide array of niches both online and in print. His work has been featured on sites such as, The Sporting News and numerous others over an eleven plus year career. He also runs his own website on diabetes called Dashing Diabetes. He was the National Call for Content Winner for 2008. Southern resides in Greensboro, NC with his wife, Julie and identical twin daughters, Valerie and Brooke.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

31 Days To A Minimalist Budget: Free Kindle Download

If you love personal finance books, or are just trying to get your personal finances in order grab this free budget book on Amazon today.

31 Days To A Minimalist Budget: How A Minimalist Budget Can Cut Your Spending, Save More, And Get More Enjoyment Out Of Life

If you don’t have a Kindle, then you can still download these free eBooks to your smart phone or computer. All you need to do is download one of Amazon’s free reading apps.

Remember that Amazon prices fluctuate constantly, so verify the price before purchasing.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.