Saving Money When Heating Your Home

It’s January. Here in Pennsylvania it’s almost a given that we’ll have some single digit nights and below freezing point temps during the day.  It’s not my favorite time of the year.  I’m someone who is cold more often than not.  But the cost of heating can make me hesitant to turn up the thermostat.  Well that and my hubby and boys always complain it’s too hot if I turn it up.  So I resort to thick socks two layers of shirts and warm comfy pants.

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There are a lot of ways to save money on heating your home. Here are just a few:

One of the best things we did for our oil furnace was to get a programmable thermostat. We set it so the temperature goes down a little while we’re sleeping but kicks on right before everyone starts to get up and get moving for work.  When I worked full time and the 3 boys were in school we’d also have it drop a few degrees during the day and kick back on just before I got home from work.  It’s nice because you don’t have to forget about turning it down or come home to a colder than usual house.  If you’re going on vacation, you can have it set to a lower temp, say 60 degrees while you’re away so you don’t have to worry about pipes freezing but you also don’t have to use as much heating fuel.

Insulated curtains are another easy way to warm a room up a degree or two.  We have nice 2 nice size windows in our small living room. We also have hard wood floors. I kept telling my husband how that room always felt colder. We only had sheers on our windows.  Putting up insulated curtains for the winter did help take some of the chill off the room.

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Infrared quartz heaters.  We just moved into a new house in October so we’re still learning the best ways to heat our home.  We found out the family room above the garage did not have heat set up for it.  The baseboard heating elements are there but it hadn’t been finished by the people that lived here before us.  We moved out Infrared Quartz heater from our old house and decided to give that a try in the mean time.  Our family room is a large room The infrared quartz heater works well to warm the room up.  They’re safer than space heaters and don’t get very hot to the touch. You can get some with a fireplace look or just a standard box shape.  There are also different BTUs depending on the size of the area you’re trying to heat. We’ve had ours for about 7 years now. It’s been a good investment.

Check weather stripping on doors and windows.  Old, cracked, or peeling weather stripping will allow cold are to sneak into the house.

Another simple thing, if you have a door that goes into your garage from your house, make sure the door is closed.  We have to go through the garage to get to the family room. The kids leave the door in the laundry room open all the time.  I can always tell when they left the door open because the cooler temp from the garage creeps into the kitchen.

If you’re not sure where or why your home isn’t holding heat you can have an energy audit done.  An energy audit is done by a professional. They can find why your home isn’t holding heat and make recommendation for heating efficiency.  You might need insulation or more insulation, windows could be the culprit, or a draft from your chimney could let old man winter into your home.

If you have electric heat, another thing to consider is comparing electric companies.  You might be able to lock in a better rate with a different electric company. If you live in Pennsylvania, like me, Direct Energy PA can Save up to 16%* over MetEd’s electricity rate, and up to 12%* over Penn Power’s electricity rate. There’s more! Save up to 10%* over Penelec’s electricity rate!

*All savings refers to the current difference between Direct Energy’s fixed rate offer and the Utility’s current Fixed Rate for Basic Service as of January 8, 2016, and does not include any other component of the electricity bill. Utility rates are subject to change and there may be no savings following the respective official utility rate change date. Direct Energy’s fixed rates include electricity supply charges only and excludes delivery/transmission charges, taxes, and all other utility-related charges. Offer is limited and valid for new residential customers only.

As a money saver, I also noticed Direct Energy PA participates in the Plenti program so on top of electric savings you could be earning Plenti points too.  Just thought I’d point that out.

What recommendations do you have for saving money on your heating costs?


Free Things to do in Ocean City, MD

My family and I will be heading to Ocean City, MD soon and we can’t wait.  Did you know that Ocean City, MD is #5 in the top 10 US vacation spots as published by Trip Advisor?  It’s true. It’s been years since we’ve gone to Ocean City, MD so for months I’ve been planning, figuring out a budget, making a list of things we’ll want or need to take with us, etc.  (I’m a planner, I can’t help it).  Ocean City is also known as one of the best family beach vacation spots for the North East area.

Ocean City Maryland sign

Anywho, in my research I found that there are actually tons of low cost and even free things to do in Ocean City, MD.  I mean stuff you’d actually want to see and do!  Once thing at the top of our list is movies on the beach.  For 2014, there seem to be three different locations up and down Ocean City that are hosting these movies on the beach.  The Carousel, Princess Royale, and movies on he beach at 27th street.  They’re free!  Just bring your chairs, blankets, or towels and sit on the beach and watch a movie. Check the days because each one does it on a different day. You could actually do this a few times depending on how long you’re staying there.  Honestly I’ve heard of this being done other places too.  They did similar thing when we went to Myrtle Beach.  This would truly be a unique a memorable experience. Tips from veteran OC tourists tell you to take a flashlight too so you can find your things once the movies over. (They can’t just turn the lights on right?)

There are free concerts at the beach on the boardwalk.  Just bring chairs or blankets and enjoy the sound while catching a summer ocean breeze.

Don’t be afraid to search for events too. My oldest son is a real outdoorsman. He was excited to find out that the White Marlin Open will be going on while we’re in OC.  By doing just a little research we found out that spectators can go to the marina between 4-9 pm each day of the event to see the anglers bringing in White Marlin to be weighed.  My son is so dead set on going to this.  It’s free.  We even found out that you can catch a shuttle over from the convention center which will be nice for me to avoid some traffic.

There seem to be a few parks and playgrounds in the area too.  Even a dog playground!

There are beach fireworks displays and even a light show.  I would have loved to see that but unfortunately the dates don’t align with our time in OC.  Definitely check it out though if you happen to be there for one of the displays.

Of course there is the beach for lots of free fun: swimming, playing in the sand, collecting shells, beach volleyball, etc.

I found these sites to be great resources for our trip and will hopefully help you too:

Have you been to Ocean City, MD?  What did you like to do while you were there?  Did you have a favorite place to eat?

Cutting Expenses When It Comes to Kids’ Sports

I felt inspired to write this post after my boys stuck a stack of spring sports sign ups on my desk.  Looking at sign up fees, fundraiser/buyout fees, fees if you can’t volunteer, then thinking about what gear they will need to be able to play.  The expenses can add up fast.  I realize different districts, towns, and states will run things a little differently but here are some ideas to help curb expenses.

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Limiting the number:

This is the hardest one for me.  I like seeing my kids involved in sports.  It keeps them active, teaches them to work as a team, makes them feel good about themselves, and also teaches them they won’t always win all the time but that’s ok.  I have 4 kids, 3 of which are involved in sports now.  (the other is just a baby).  If you have kids like mine that want to sign up for everything they bring hom,e maybe you can give them choices or limits.  My parents told us growing up only  2 activities  a year per kid.  For my kids I give them an option: you either do winter basketball or wrestling, you can’t do both.  I think this option is good, not just financially but, for them to focus on one sport at a time and be able to attend all practices and games.

You don’t have to buy NEW gear:

There are lots of options out there for pre-owned gear.  Of course certain things like jock straps or mouth guards you’ll want to get new. Many things can be found used, but in good condition.  Our AYSO league allows parents to donate soccer cleats in good shape.  On sign up day they have a box of soccer cleats that families can go through from donations.  They are  free to take them and use them.  If you have a friend, family member, or neighbor whose  kids are involved in the same sports, perhaps you can do equipment exchanges when kids grow of things or decide not to play that particular sport anymore.  We have a cousin who gave us a pair of men’s baseball cleats for my oldest son to borrow.

Consignment shops are another option, especially those that are specifically for kids.  We have a consignment store near us called EcoKids and I’ve frequently seen gently used soccer cleats, ballet tutus, leotards, and slippers, and tap shoes.

Consider buying out of season when you can.  When it comes time for football season or baseball season you’ll be paying regular price unless you happen to see a sale or coupon.  You can get football pants, soccer balls, volleyballs, etc cheaper and sometimes even on clearance after the season.

Check the clearance racks.  It might be last year’s style or not the main colors but you can find some on the clearance rack at times.

Check your discount stores.  One of my fave places to buy my boys’ shin guards is at Ross Dress for Less.  They seem to always have some in stock.  They have name brands like Nike and Adidas for a fraction of the price of the sports equipment stores.  I normally pay only $5 for shin guards when I need to buy new ones.  Also check out sites like Ebay if you have the time to order and have it shipped.  I got my son some headgear for wrestling for about half the price I would have paid buying it from a sports equipment store.

Talk to the coaches or equipment managers.  If some of the equipment just doesn’t fit into your budget they may have a couple extras they can allow you to borrow or loan to you until you can get the equipment or until the season’s over.

Get what you NEED

Certain things are necessary for safety and performance in sports. Things like football helmets, mouth guards, shin guards, and uniforms are necessities in the sports world.  Does your kids have to have Nike wrist sweat bands, or 10 pairs of practice pants?  Most likely not.

Also find out what they are allowed to have before buying.  Our AYSO league has a hand book that spells out everything they need from the appropriate size ball for their division to what kind of cleats they are allowed to have.  Most of the sports in our area do not allow metal spikes for safety reasons.  Also the league or school may provide certain pieces of equipment. Our youth football league, the kids are issued helmets, pants, jersey (included in sign up free), and pads.  We just have to buy football cleats and mouth guards.  We also ended up getting our one son a pair of football gloves.

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Comparing costs versus alternative options

When my son brought home his baseball signs ups it read something like this:

-$30 for pre-registration $40 after specificied date

-$30 for fundraiser buyout if you’d prefer not to participate in fundrasier

–$40 fee if you do not volunteer in the concession stand as a parent helper

Ok let me tell you what works for me.  The sign ups, obviously, get them register in the preregistration time frame.  The fundraiser.  For me, this is an easy decision.  I pay the fundraiser buyout . Why?  Well there is usually a quota for how much they have to see whether it be number of items they have to sell or a dollar amount sold.  If my kids do not sell the specified amount, guess who has to make up the difference?  Yep mom.  A lot of times the fundraisers just aren’t that good.  We had to sell coupon booklets for football for both boys last year.  Each kid had to sell 12 coupon books at $5 a piece.  They didn’t have a very wide appeal.  Only local coupons that weren’t that good.  I was able to sell 3 my ex husband sold about the same so mom and dad now have to write out checks for the rest which is WAY over the buyout price. So for me, buyout almost every time because we do not know what the fundraiser will be ahead of time.    The volunteer fee.  This one’s tricky.  $40 is a lot of money in my book.  But my husband works 2nd shift, I have 3 kids to run to sports at the same time and have a hard time finding sitters for whoever might not be practicing or playing that night.  So essentially I already have to be 3 different places at any given time and sometimes it’s stressful.  I hate to commit to something and then not be able to do it.  I don’t have my kids practice or game schedules at sign up to even pretend to line up a day that might work.  To me it would almost be worth it to me to just go ahead and pay the $40.  Luckily though my ex said he’d take the volunteer spot so we didn’t have to pay that.

What ways have you found to save money in this area?





Halloween Money Savers from Sophia of Trading Cradles

 I received this article from Sophia of Trading Cradles and have permission to publish this post.  It has some nice little tips to keep the cost down on Halloween.

5 Ways for Parents to Cut Halloween Costs and Double the Fun!

Halloween can get expensive! In fact, experts claim that in 2009, on average Americans spent over $55 per person on Halloween. If you have a family of four, you know that things can ad up fast! Knowing that everyone is watching their budget these days, wanted to give 5 suggestions on how to make your Halloween half as expensive and twice as much fun!

1. Sell Your Old Costumes

What better way to pay for this year’s Halloween then by selling last year’s costume? Did you know that Saturday October 9th is National Costume Swap Day? Visit our hip online marketplace for parents at to sell old costumes and buy gently used ones. Posting a costume won’t take more than 30 seconds and the site is completely free!

2. Make Your Own Costume

Do you have a little more time on your hands? Do you like to get crafty? What we loved about this article is that it had 20 great DIY Halloween costume ideas with pictures of each costume to go along with the instructions. Take a look!

3. Give Creative Treats

There will be plenty of candy in circulation, so let’s give the dentists a break in November. Think different. Here’s a truly green way to celebrate Halloween: Give the gift of seeds that can grow into beautiful flowers. Just buy a few packs at your local nursery, separate the seeds, wrap them and give them out like little presents. It’s educational and affordable! You can surprise the trick or treaters by giving them spare change that’s been lying around the house. To make it even more fun hide a dollar bill or something special in a couple baggies and tell the kids before they pick one.

4. Make Your Own Candy Bags

As kids, we used pillowcases and the same orange pumpkin every year. The folks at ehow have some good ideas on how to create an awesome trick-or-treat bag for all your Halloween goodies.

5. Spooky Decorations

Get your kids to help with this one. Sometimes the preparation can be as much fun as Halloween night. And, if you make your house feel fun and spooky kids will enjoy themselves that much more. Here are some cool ideas from Country Living. One of our favorite ideas here is how they put costumes on the family pictures!

Remember to take photos and enter them into the Trading Cradles Halloween Costume Contest! It’s easy and you could win a $50 gift certificate that will help you save for the next holiday! To learn more about the contest visit

Create good memories with your kids, and when they grow up they can carry on the traditions that you have taught to them with their own families! Don’t forget to brush your teeth…

Trading Cradles, LLC

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Tips on how to be a "Frugalista"

So what is a frugalista? It’s someone who routinely tries to save money and live by that. Not 10% off sale on a $100 pair a shoes, I mean a real bargain hunter. Where before I may have been called cheap, or even tacky. Now saving money is much more fashionable and in fact necessary for many of us.

I find more ways all the time to save money. I find it exciting and feel like I’m doing more for my family. I’ve laid out a few tips that you may want to try if you haven’t already.

1. After holiday—Love these. For instance: Bath and Body work and Victoria secret does their after holiday sales. They usually start the day after christmas but whoa hold on their…wait a few days more. I wait until about the 28th or 29th for these stores. You’ll find great mark downs. 30-75% depending on the item. I bought myself 5 bottles of bath and body works body wash last year at this sale for around $2 ea. I put them away and they lasted me most of the year. It’s hard to find a body wash even at Walmart for $2 and you got good stuff. Victoria’s Secret–Love their heavenly perfume but did not want to spend the money. Last year I got a small bottle of Heavenly perfume for $2.99 and a heavenly body spritz with gold flakes in it for $5.99.

2. End of Season sales—Great for your kids or even yourself. Around the time they are starting to put the spring clothes out head directly for the clearance section for winter clothes clearance. I got my son a camo winter jacket last year for $5. I bought it a size bigger so he was able to wear it this year. At the end of summer clearance I got him a pair of Levi’s shorts for $6. Originally $28 at JC Penney. Again a size bigger so he could wear them the next year.

3. Discount stores–Stores like Ross, Gabriel Bros., Ollies, Big Lots. Don’t under estimate these kinds of stores. Ross is one of my favorites. I once got a pair of paper denim jeans (usually around $98 look it up if you don’t believe me) for $20. I get Nike, Fisher Price, Disney, Adidas, Reebock, and other great name brand baby outfits for between $6-$10 at Ross and that’s their everyday price. And when they have clearances it’s even better. These stores are also great places to find houseware items like linens, bed sheets, glassware and more.

4. Are you’re hobbies helping your finances or hurting?
I love finding hobbies that can make me money. For instance, learning crafts. It doesn’t take much to be able to sell at craft shows if you enjoy crafting. In PA a seller’s permit is free. Choose events wisely though, look at table fees will it be worth it for you?

Try going for walks, playdates with your kids at the park, sled riding in the neighborhood, squirt gun battles with the kids, making home made crayons, baking, blogging, home exercise programs (as opposed to going to a gym), sewing, making home made play doh, play board games with your kids…etc…etc. these things take little or no money and will strengthen your family relationship and/or make you feel better.

There’s lots of opportunities online if you love the internet. I became a ChaCha guide. Check out for more info. It’s free and I can make money in my free time online.

5. Figure out how much something will cost and compare it to the alternative. The do it yourself method may not always be cheapest. For example: My kids like to have a birthday party with their friends. I’ve found the Burger King and McDonald’s in my area will do a party for up to 10 kids for $45. Then $4 more for any additional kids. When you figure out the cost of a home birthday party–The cake, treat bags and fillers, party games and prizes, and paper products you would be spending just as much if not more than just letting somewhere like burger king handle it. Burger King provides a kid’s meal for each party guest (which comes with a toy) cup cakes, access to the play area, and at least the one by me also gives the option of a clown who does face painting at no extra cost. You save money and don’t have to do the clean up.

Home projects may be the same. Factor in the tools you’ll need, the time you’ll spend, the materials you need, etc. Most times it is the cheaper way to go but not always.

6. Free sample sites: Some of my favorites are— and You can find great coupons and good free samples on these sites. If you’re not sure if you want to spend the money on a product look for a free sample first.

7. Free sites that help you save and even earn money–
Christiania Crowns has a free invite only community. It is a vodka site so you have to be 21 or over. You can earn “crowns” by referring people to the site and doing other activities. Trade your crowns in for things like gift cards, free vodka (good gift), christiania merchandise and more:—it’s free to join the site. When you shop online go through their site to get to the vendor for example if you shop through Target on line you use the Target link on their site. You get point for shopping through their site that you can trade in for free gift cards of your choice. I ended up at the end of the year with a $100 HSN gift card I used to buy my kids Nintendo DS games for xmas.

7. You may qualify for assistance. I’m not advocating for everyone to apply for every bit of assistance out there but if you are living paycheck to paycheck there may be help. Many of these places have websites with qualification info online. Places like WIC, state programs, holiday help and more can be found online and many have printable applications.

8. Determine what is a want and what is a necessity. Having premium movie channels on your tv are probably not a need but a cell phone because you travel a lot for business probably is. What can you afford and what can’t you afford. Check out the deals and specials too. Are you really saving more money with this cable provider than that one? Is it worth it for you to have a landline phone when you have a cell phone?

9. Home cooked meals—I know what you’re thinking. I don’t have time McD’s is so much easier and this may be true BUT…it’s possible. I worked full-time and have 3 boys. My hubby works 2nd shift. So dinner was on me. And yes, for a while I did stop at Mcd’s 2 times a week. I figured out my spending in an average month on fast food and it was at least $100 considering it was about $15 a trip. I’m not saying I made chicken cordon bleu and steaks every night. There are quick items for busy families. Some examples: Cresent roll hotdogs, hamburger helper, Wanchai Ferry meals, Mac and cheese, Home made hamburges, etc. A package of hamburger helper is less than $2 at walmart and a lb of hamburger is about $2.50. So there..dinner for 4 for $4.50.

10. Gas— oh boy isn’t that something we all complain about. I mean gasoline for the car. While they don’t have coupons for gasoline, or bargain days we can watch how we run our gas and do things to improve our gas mileage. Oil changes, fuel injection cleaners, and filters are small things that can help out. Can you combine trips in a week? For example: Can you drop of your prescription, go grocery shopping, pick up your prescription all in one trip rather than making two. Do you have to go and get wrapping paper today or can it way until tomorrow when you drop little johnny off for practice? Is there a closer store you can walk to (when the weather cooperates) to get milk and eggs rather than driving 10 miles?

These are just a few of many ideas. I’m sure some of you even have ones I’ve not thought of. Hope this helps with an New Year’s resolutions this year!

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