My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Thursday, June 28, 2012


My grandmother taught me that the best way to make money is to not spend it when you have it. Easier said than done right?  Not really, sometimes it just takes a little thinking it through. With kids out of school for the summer it seems like that task is even harder because the kids are b-o-r-e-d!

Taking them places to “entertain” them can get real expensive real fast, so why not entertain them at home? No don’t park them in front of the X-box and pray the game is age correct for them, really entertain them and get them moving.

 Here are a few ideas for various age groups from the very young to your teens, or even yourself for that matter.  You will find several links in this blog, but I will also suggest searches you can do on the web for your own specific needs as the article goes along.

Help kids with projects on making things they have an interest in.  Here are a few examples we did with our kids when they were young:

Are they fascinated by outer space or space travel?

When our children were young we made replicas of the USS Enterprise from the Star Trek series out of paper plates, free yard sticks, and egg cartons.  These we spray painted silver and then they painted designs on the side.  The pattern came out of an old “Pack O Fun” magazine, which unfortunately I no longer have.  Basically the main section of the Enterprise was two Chinet type plates they stapled together, the elongated body was a piece of a yardstick and you used other cardboard or egg carton pieces to form the rest of the ship.  While I cannot supply the exact pattern the imagination of your children can. Or design any type of space ship they want.

A websearch for such crafts will reap you more than you can imagine.  Also check your local library for copies of the "Pack O Fun" magazine, it a wonderful source of kids crafts.  There are also numerous books at the library on crafts of all sorts, explore and have fun.

Once the spaceships are built they can string them together as a mobile for their room, or fly them until they take their final mission.

Viewing the stars with a whole new understanding.  One young man that spent a lot of time with our family while we were rendezvousing (pre-1840 US  Fur Trade Era Historical Re-enactments) was fascinated by the stars in the night sky as we camped.  We  invested in a star chart, and a copy of “Star Tales” by Gretchen Will Mayo and other Native American myth and lore books then each night before bedtime we would read or tell him a story from the books.  With the help of the star chart we’d locate the constellation in the sky and then discuss the story we had just read.

Another friend with the camp name of Dragonfly, made an entire ceremony out of the story telling.  Each night just at dark he would set out candle lanterns around his camp them beat a drum slowly.  This told all the children of the camp it was story time.  They came bringing their own candle lanterns and rugs to sit on.  He then told them the stories of the sky. 

This is a simple thing you can do at your own home as long as you can get a clear view of the night sky.  Star charts are now free on the web, many of the stories are too.  Or check with your local library for books on the subject, or cruise for used copies there.  I know several of my Native American storybooks we no longer use are listed there under the seller name ladydressmaker.  Other people have copies listed there too.

Not into Native American, how about the Greek and Roman stories about the stars?

Need a daytime activity? How about giant bubble wands?  Who can make the biggest soap bubble? Over the years as ‘voo traders we made hundreds of these simple bubble wands. (photo and possibly a video coming soon) The ones we made for the re-enactments had all metal and wood parts as well as yarn, but you can use plastics from around the house to make yours.

To make these you need a dowel rod, a ring from the base of a cap off of a two liter bottle or milk jug, approximately 3 feet of yarn and a bead that will fit on the end of the dowel rod snuggly and be larger than what the plastic ring can slide over easily—it is there to stop the ring from coming off as well as to hold the yarn in place.  Finally you will need a bucket or dishpan to hold the bubble liquid and Joy dish soap and water to make the liquid with.

The length of the dowel rod can either be the full 3 foot for larger children and adults or a half rod for the younger set.  The length of your yarn needs to be 2-3 times the length of the dowel rod.

Measure down from one end of the yarn to 3 inches shorter than the dowel rod you are using.  Fold the yarn at this point and push the fold through the inside of the plastic ring.  Pull the loose ends of the yarn through the loop and tighten down to where the ring is now secured to the yarn in a half hitch. 

Tie the ends of the yarn together. Make certain to not twist the yarn as you tie it into a loop.  The ring should now be secured to the yarn in an off center manner. 

Slide the ring onto the dowel rod, making sure it can move smoothly up and down the dowel rod. Making certain the shorter side of the yarn is the side touching the dowel rod place the knot from tying the two ends together on the end of the dowel rod and then slide be bead on to secure this knot in place.  You can use non-water soluble glue to secure this even tighter if you want.

When the ring is slid all the way down the “handle” of the bubble wand it should stop about 3 inches from the end of the dowel rod, bringing the yarn slightly taut.  The remaining yarn should hang down in a large loop.  The overall look should be much like a capital D.

For the bubble liquid we used just Joy dish soap and water, no glycerin, no syrup, no other additives, just dish soap and water.  This we placed in a large dishpan in approximately a 10 water to 1 dish soap ratio.  Basically it was mixed to where you can actually feel the dish soap in the water.  Those of you who hand wash dishes the feel you are looking for is when you KNOW you’ve put too much dish soap in.

Mix GENTLY, do not swish, foam is NOT your friend in bubble making.  When the kids are using it discourage them from stirring the water with the bubble wand.

Slide the ring down to the bead and dip the yarn into the water.  Some children find using a bucket easier than a dishpan. Once the yarn is well soaked pull the ring back down the handle slowly (but not too slowly), down the handle as you slowly walk.  A large elongated bubble will form.  To close off the bubble you slowly move the ring back toward the bead. 

You can have competitions on who can make the longest bubble—our record was many feet long.  OR they can walk in a circle and try to close off the bubble in a ring.  It can be done.

For the camera bug in all of you, the very best photos of this activity are on overcast days.  The bubbles refract the light and the rainbow of colors are gorgeous.

Play dough anyone? A simple websearch for homemade playdough will turn up hundreds of recipes for you.  A few drops of food coloring and a little imagination and soon an afternoon is gone.

When I ran my own search one website I came across says it is the number one play dough website.   I cruised the site myself and was very impressed with the different types of recipes they have on it.  everything from glow in the dark play dough to edible play dough.  This is far different than the basic salt and flour dough I use to make my children.

Arts and crafts from materials around the house. My children were very creative, they still are as adults.  Start a box of “craft materials” and turn the kids loose with it.  Add things like boxes from cereals, pasta, crackers, etc. Egg cartons, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, juice can lids, and the washed out juice cans, plastic containers, newspaper, junk mail, magazines, the list is unending.  Add glue, crayons, paints, a stapler and staples, colored pencils, rulers, odds and ends of yarn or string, rubber bands anything you find around the house. 

Once the crafts box is put together then choose a theme.  Something from a favorite book or movie, something they saw that day any type of theme you can think of, or let them take turns choosing a theme.

Now challenge them to make something on that theme out of the materials provided. You just might be amazed!

For the budding artist: Did you know the web is FULL of free coloring pages?  Simply put in a subject and the search term free coloring pages.  An example would be Tinkerbell, free coloring pages.

Learn a craft.  When I was 13 I went to visit an older cousin for a few weeks.  I knew how to crochet, thanks to my aunts and grandmother, and she knew how to knit.  So we traded lessons. 

This is a great activity to get a younger person involved with an older person as a mentor.  Does Grandma quilt?  Would she consider showing one of your children the basics?  No need for special materials, surely you have outgrown clothes, that could be cut up for materials.  Start with a mini quilt.

Does Uncle Joe whittle?  How about woodcarving lessons?

Sister Susie cans---the list is endless and the training would be free.

Take a hike! You don’t even have to drive to the woods or mountains to do so, take a “Penny Hike” right in your own neighborhood.  The concept is simple and can be a lot of fun. 

Leaving your front door or another starting point you flip a coin, heads you go one direction, tails you go the other.  At each next intersection, you repeat the action.  Letting a different person call the toss each time.

This is a great opportunity to have “talks” with your kids as you walk.  The talks can be about what  you see, what is going on in life right now, a recent book read, or movie seen.

Going a ways from home?  Be sure and pack water bottles and a perhaps a snack or simple lunch.
Jan who has many more suggestions, including ideas for the older kids she will post soon in OK

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