Your library is an important resource in your community, giving you access to a wide range of media for both entertainment and educational
purposes, but it’s also a great resource for more than just books and magazines.

February 1st is National “Take Your Child to the Library Day,” and this is an excellent time to dig into the resources that the library offers. For families who are looking for affordable and free ways to occupy their time, the library is a rich treasure trove. Here are some things you might be able to enjoy at your local library, most of which are free!

Participate in age-appropriate children’s programs

If you have children, the library will often have children’s programs for patrons at little to no cost. Story times, art nights, movie nights, book clubs, and special presentations are all excellent ways to engage your child and help them develop. It can also serve as a social outlet for your child and yourself as a parent. When you go to story time, you can meet other same-aged children and their families, and you just might make a new friend.

Adult programs to expand your education and knowledge

Not only do most libraries have exciting programs for children, but they often have programs for adults, too. This is a great opportunity to enjoy some entertainment and connect with other adults in your community, without spending a cent. Participate in craft nights, technology seminars, presentations from local professionals and artists, and even practical events like financial planning seminars. Increase your skills and social connections for free. You may find that some of these adult programs overlap with children’s programs, so you can all enjoy the library together.

Access technology you don’t have at home

Does your child need to copy some articles for a report? type something up, but lack a printer at home? The library has these, and you can access them. While there may be a small fee of a few cents to use printer and copier services, this is far more affordable than buying one for your home if you lack one.

Check out movies for free

Movie rental has become increasingly affordable, but it’s still an expense. At many libraries, you can check out movies and television series for no cost. Be careful to watch the due date on the
movies, because you don’t want to wrack up fines, but this can be a valuable resource for your family movie nights. And, because libraries can keep movies in their collection as long as they
want, you may be able to find an older movie that are not available through the rental box or your favorite streaming service.

Celebrate “Take Your Child to the Library Day” on February 1st

If you haven’t taken the time to explore your local library, make a family date to do so on February 1st. Call up your local library to see if they have any special events happening that day, as that can make your excursion even more interesting. For families on a budget, the
library is one of the best local resources.

 

When the temperature is too low for snow fun in the winter, you can keep your kids busy with indoor fun and still keep them away from their screens for a while. Create activities that are pure fun and encourage learning. Depending on the age of your kids, learning activities might involve colors, numbers or even the alphabet. Older children might enjoy science projects that you can do with ingredients you have around the house, or they might enjoy learning how to make cookies. Here are some examples of indoor fun you can try with your kids during the winter months.

Homemade Twister Game

Teach colors with a homemade twister game. You can find a white tablecloth at the dollar store if you don’t have one. Use watercolors, a piece of cardboard, and a round-head fastener to make the spinner. Have your kids dip their hands in different color paints and put the colored hand prints on the smooth side of the table cloth. Color the cardboard with the colors on the twister cloth. Attach a cardboard arrow to the center with the round-head fastener, making sure it’s loose enough to spin and voila!

Baking

You don’t have to wait for the holidays to make sugar cookies. You can make them into balls, flatten them, bake and decorate them after they cool. Use fun cookie cutters you can pick up at the dollar store. Your kids will learn the fundamentals of baking, while having fun decorating the cookies.

Plant a Garden

Teach your children about growing food by creating an indoor herb garden. If you can’t find potting soil, check online for peat pellets.  Use inexpensive plastic plates or bowls from the dollar store to hold the peat pellets. If you have potting soil but do not have planters, create your own out of inexpensive plastic bowls or buckets you can punch holes in the bottom, for draining.  Plant seeds you saved from last year if you are using the peat pellets. If you are using potting soil and larger bowls, have the kids grow a carrot by cutting the top off of a carrot you have from the store, and planting it. You can do the same with a fresh pineapple, potatoes and even celery. With celery, support the root on top of a glass with toothpicks- only the bottom of the celery should be in the water until the roots grow and then you can plant the celery in a pot. Save seeds from green peppers or tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. You can then dry them out and use these to plant and grow!

Indoor Camping

Younger kids will love to pretend they are going on a camping trip! If you have a small tent, set it up in the living room, along with sleeping bags so the kids can “camp out” for a night or two. If you don’t have a small tent, make one with blankets or a tarp and some furniture. While you are setting up, teach your kids the importance of survival if they happen to get stranded in a snowstorm. Teach them how to layer clothing, what kinds of things they should carry with them in a car like a flashlight with batteries, non-perishable food and water. Teach older kids how to do basic first aid. Your kids will not only learn the basics of camping, but more importantly they will know what to do if they ever get stranded in a snowstorm later in life.

If you’re headed into the new year with new fitness goals, you’re not alone. But, before you go out and sign up for a gym membership, make sure you have the kind of fitness habits you need to succeed. That can save you a lot of money and help justify the cost of a gym membership.  Remember, if you don’t go there enough to get your money’s worth, it’s really not a good deal. When you have good fitness habits and a workout regimen before purchasing a gym membership, you’ll benefit much more. It’s a good idea to keep that regimen for a while, too, so it truly becomes a habit.

Here are some great examples of exercises you can do indoors in the winter months. By taking the time to do these and get them on a schedule for a few weeks, you’ll have a fitness habit already established and going to the gym will become a natural extension of that.

Don’t underestimate the benefits of Yoga. A lot of people discount yoga and think it’s only stretching. There’s much more to yoga then just this. IT can be easy or difficult, depending on your skill level and the positions you choose to work on. It’s also relaxing and you can do it just about anywhere in your home. It’s the perfect winter exercise and a great way to get started on building a new fitness routine. You’ll get a good idea of what you body can do easily and what you may need to work on. You can also consider online yoga classes so you can get the poses and postures just right as you get started on your fitness journey this winter.

Body weight exercises are challenging and effective. Doing exercises that just use your body weight, which is also called “calisthenics” has been around for years. It recently had a resurgence in popularity. You don’t need any special equipment to do body weight exercises such as leg lifts, squats, lunges, push ups, crunches, and planks. You can pick up the exercises that are right for you or choose challenging options to build up strength faster. Doing several of these exercises a few times a week will make you stronger throughout the winter months. Then, when you join a gym, you’ll already have an established routine you can easily expand on.

Keep in mind, there are plenty of other types of exercises and it all comes down to what you like and and what you need to work on. Playing with your kids or pets, jumping jacks, choosing an online source for at-home workouts  are all great ways to get into a good fitness routine. These good habits will help you get more value when you choose a gym membership in the future.

 

50/30/20: An Easy Way to Budget

Budgeting can be a tricky thing for many people, especially if they don’t have the time or energy to carefully keep track of each penny. Those who would prefer a simplified version of the process may find luck with the 50/30/20 rule.

What is the 50/30/20 Rule?

The idea behind this rule is to put 50% of all your post-tax income toward needs, 30% toward wants, and 20% toward savings, debt or in this case, your monthly deposit into the Century program. This easy way to budget begins with mapping out the dollar amount for each category. For example, if you make $3,000 a month after taxes, you’d want to be allocating $1,500 on needs, $900 on wants, and $600 to settle your finances.

How Do I decide on My “Needs?”

Needs can be difficult to define for many people, but in general, include things like food, shelter, health insurance, utilities, transportation and general living expenses. As with any budgeting rule, the idea is to minimize the spending on these needs. For example, you may need to find cost efficient food options or carpool a few times a month to ensure you don’t go over 50%.

How Do I Keep Track?

There are only three categories to organize, so you’re merely lumping each expenditure into needs, wants or saving/ debt. Instead of carefully analyzing every cent, you only need to allocate your money so it fits into this rule. Just keep in mind that these are estimates If you go a few percentage points over in any category from month to month, it’s perfectly understandable.

How Does This Fit in the Century Program?

This budgeting plan can be a very helpful way to manage your money while on the Century program. By setting those benchmarks for yourself and earmarking 20% of your monthly income to go towards paying off debt, you may be able to add additional funds to your Century program. Adding additional funds can help Century negotiate better settlements, earlier in your program, meaning you can get out of debt even faster.

Is This Right for Me?

Not everyone can make use of this basic rule. Some people may need a more rigid structure to stick to the plan Others may live in an area with exceptionally high cost of living, making it nearly impossible to allot only half of their income to basic needs. You may need to adjust the percentages to fit the realities of your lifestyle and locale.

If you want to see your bank account come alive in 2020, there’s no better time to explore and implement new ways to save money. Instead of turning toward a traditional budget that includes coding nearly every purchase, the 50/30/20 rule can help you break down your income without the hassle.

 

Holiday cookies are a favorite treat this time of year. Whether you’ve been asked to contribute cookies to an event or
you’re thinking they’d make the perfect gift for teachers, friends and loved ones, keeping costs low can help you start the new year off on solid financial ground. But all cookie recipes aren’t created equal in terms of ingredients and expenses. To that end, we’ve rounded up a list of five budget-friendly cookie recipes guaranteed to please without
breaking the bank this holiday season.

1. Vanilla Almond Snowball Cookies

There’s s a reason why these are always the first to disappear during the cookie exchange! These winter-themed holiday cookies are as delicious as they are beautiful. They’re also easy to make and inexpensive, too, thanks to just five basic ingredients, including almonds (or the alternate nut of your choice), butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and all-purpose flour.

2. Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

These festive holiday favorites –which also contain just
five ingredients are packed with flavor thanks to the classic,
palate-pleasing combination of chocolate and peppermint. They also contain a secret ingredient that not only makes them a breeze to make, but also adds up to a soft, chewy final product: boxed cake
mix.

3. No-Roll Sugar Cookies

Rolling out sugar cookies can be frustrating and time-consuming. But what if we told you there was an easier
way? There is with this six-ingredient recipe which uses Bisquick mix, powdered sugar, butter, almond extract,
eggs and granulated sugar to make gorgeous, melt-in-your-mouth holiday treats.

4. Triple-Chocolate Cookie Balls

What’s not to love about a recipe with the words triple-chocolate in its title? Another five-ingredient go-to for bakers keeping an eye on their bottom lines,these chocolate-y confections are made with instant pudding mix, crushed OREOs and melted dipping chocolate. They’re also a great activity for the whole family as little ones will love shaping the balls…not to mention devouring them later.

5. Two-Ingredient No-Bake Frosting Fudge

Yes, you read that right.  This mouth watering fudge can be whipped up in minutes with just two simple ingredients: frosting and chocolate chips. The best part may be how easy it is to make. Just zap the chocolate chips in the microwave, stir in the frosting, press it into a lightly greased baking dish, cover, and refrigerate. Within 30 to 60 minutes your fudge will be ready to slice and go.

Some other tips for keeping costs low while doing your holiday baking this season? Watch for sales on common ingredients like sugar and flour, use coupons, scout out the stores with the lowest prices, and stock up when you see
great deals. Doubling up on recipes also saves time and money. If you don’t have a use for the extra dough now, freeze it for later use.