Five Steps for Documenting Tax Deductible Charitable Donations

I have several friends who as part of their holiday celebration ask their children to go through their old toys and clothes and donate them to charity. I think this is a great way to teach our kids to think of others early in life. However, many of those families often fail to realize that their donation of money or used items might be tax deductible. It does not dilute the message of donating to charity; in fact, the tax deduction option is there to encourage more people to donate as a way of thanking them for making a donation. In order for a charitable contribution to be tax deductible, you have to do a little homework first. 1. You must donate to a qualifying charity. Most organizations will gladly tell you if your donation will be tax deductible. You can also do an online … [Read more...]

DIY Entertainment Centers – Build Your Own on a Budget

What could be more fun than gathering around the big screen television and hunkering down with a boatload of movies, favorite snacks and drinks? While those ginormous television consoles that took up half the room are thankfully a thing of the past, thin, lightweight and brilliant big screen televisions continue to be more affordable and mainstream. Whether you are in the market for a newer and bigger TV or are perfectly content with your current model, finding that perfect entertainment center to house that big screen TV, Blu ray and DVD player, electronic components and large collection of movies has never been easier or more affordable.   Why spend your hard-earned money on a ho-hum entertainment center when you can create the perfect custom-made, home theater experience that fits … [Read more...]

Halloween Costumes You Can Make from Home

One of the most expensive parts of Halloween is the costume. The cost of Halloween costumes can add up quickly with the cost of accessories, makeup and the costume, especially if you have more than one child. Here are three easy costume ideas you can make at home without spending too much money. You can also learn some easy ways to save on costume expenses here. Zombie Costume Zombies are popular this year. Your teenager or your child may want to be a zombie, and this is an easy costume to put together yourself. The most expensive component of a zombie costume is the make up, but if you search dollar stores you could be in luck! Find or purchase old clothes from a thrift shop. You can go with a theme such as a prom or wedding zombies or just have an ordinary zombie. Tear the … [Read more...]

Discount Patio Furniture Using Wine Barrels

Barrels make the perfect medium for creating outdoor patio furniture because they can be very minimalistic and rustic at the same time. Creating an outdoor bar with barrels is easy, inexpensive and an amazing conversation piece to an Al-fresco dinner party. When I lived in Italy, there were wine barrels everywhere. I bought one to bring home and now use it as a prep table next to the grill. Last weekend, I was at the Stone Brewery in Escondido, CA and saw the best use of barrels as furniture: two barrels, spaced apart about 4 feet with a random slab of marble placed on top. Instant patio bar. Instant chic. Buying a Barrel at a Discount Buying a barrel direct is very inexpensive. Call a winery directly to get a quote on their barrels. I called Bernardo Winery and a few others … [Read more...]

Saving Money on Backyard Swing Sets and Play Equipment

Play equipment takes a beating, and saving money on a good swingset can be a challenge. You should definitely not skimp or buy very old equipment, but you also do not need to pay thousands or even several hundreds for an awesome swing set. There are a few sure fire ways to stretch your dollars and buy years of fun for your little one. Search for Used Toddler Play Equipment Search on Craigslist first for moving sales or in the Kids section. It is kind of hard to get a good play place on Craigslist - they go fast - but if you are faster you can score an awesome Little Tikes or Step 2 type of play place. These chunky plastic sets are durable and can really take a beating. My kids had one for 3 years and it lasted through Washington storms and snow just fine. We gave it away when we … [Read more...]

Why the Minimalist Lifestyle Appeals to Me

One of my favorite blogs is Zen Habits. I started reading Zen Habits for the productivity tips, but lately I’ve been fascinated with Leo’s posts on minimalism. If you were to come into my home, you’d never guess that I even think about minimalism. My home isn’t a disaster area, but it has plenty of clutter. It’s definitely well lived in. So why does the minimalist lifestyle appeal to me? I see several benefits. Minimalism Means Less Clutter I have lots of clutter in my house, and I hate it. I would love to actually have a place for everything, but in order to do that, I need to get rid of a lot of stuff. I don’t have a garage, and my outside storage shed is very small. So everything I store would need to fit in one of my five closets. I have to admit, I like the thought of only owning … [Read more...]