New to BFS?

If you are new to Budgeting in the Fun Stuff (BFS), please click here. It'll give you a little background and a starting point for browsing BFS. See you in the comments soon!

As Seen On

Forbes

Yahoo
DailyFinance

Get Rich Slowly

House Logic

Categories

Check Out My eBooks!!!

How I Make Money Blogging Managing Your Monthly Nut

I’ve Been Matched with Big Brothers Big Sisters!!!

It’s been a long process, but I finally have been matched with a “Little” with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS)!  You may have read about the beginning of this whole thing a couple of months ago.  Yep, it took about 10 weeks, but it is totally worth it!

Getting to This Point

I filled out the first volunteer application in mid-July, sent in all of the requested paperwork, asked 5 of my friends/co-workers (blogging buddies) to fill out reference forms, and took a quick online class and quiz all within a few weeks.  Next, I was interviewed by a match specialist and was officially approved.  Then sat around waiting to be accepted and matched.  That all took about 2 months.

Once they called me with a prospect about a month later, I accepted, his parents accepted, and then we met in person a couple of weeks later at the BBBS office for a few minutes.  I had my first real outing with him last week and again yesterday.  :-)

My Match Experience So Far

So, I obviously can’t give out too many details so nobody’s privacy is messed with, but I can write about general stuff.  I’ve been matched with a young man (about 4th grade) who is as quiet as I am loud.  He’s also as dark-skinned as I am ghost white.  So we make a fun pair, LOL.  Oh, and he seems to like me.  That’s important.  :-)

Our first outing was last week.  I’m supposed to keep everything to as close to free as possible.  So I used a gift card and a coupon to take him to Chili’s and then he picked our activity – disc golf!  I mentioned it when we met as something my husband and I played before, and my Little thought it sounded fun.  Yay!  It was really wet and Chili’s took a while, so we only played about 5 holes on the disc golf course, but it was still a lot of fun and he would like to go back sometime.  :-D

He didn’t say much during our actual time (he’s a major introvert and it will take time to open up), but his mom says that he bragged about me to everybody afterwards – so yay!!!

Yesterday, we went to an 8th grade football game that was close by.  He loves football and the weather finally cooled down to a nice 70 around here.  We had a lot of fun and even grabbed some snacks at the field.  It was relaxing.  He said he had a lot of fun.   I did too.  I think we’ll work out just fine.

Since I am out of town next week for The Financial Blogger Conference, we’ve already set up our next get together for the week after.

BBBS

I think this program is like a ton of volunteer programs I’ve worked with before – needed since these kids really want someone to hang out with, overloaded since there are more Littles than Bigs, and everyone is doing the absolute best they can.  I would totally suggest it for anybody who thinks that they’d enjoy working with a kid!  I think my Little is going to help me just as much or more than I help him.

Are you looking into any volunteer positions lately?  It makes the world feel a little better for me.  :-)

45 Activities with Kids on the Cheap

Okay, so you know that I am waiting to hear back officially from the Big Brother Big Sister program.  I’ve also been returning to super inexpensive fun on my own since we are being cheap for the next few months.  So today’s post is pretty simple.  Here is the list of activities with kids that I’ve come up with that can be done even with a tiny budget:

Activities with Kids on the Cheap

  1. Take photos to make annual scrap book.
  2. Make/paint/go on shopping trip to find a piggy bank/bank for budget.  I was thinking of making a budget of less than $20 a week and we can save the extra for more expensive outings.
  3. Pottery painting.
  4. Kids Eat Free days at different restaurants around the city.
  5. Zoo – Free first Tuesdays after 2pm from Sept through May at the Houston Zoo.
  6. Feed the ducks.
  7. Picnic
  8. Hike/Walk
  9. Petsmart/pet store events.  We can play with cute dogs for free and even volunteer our time.
  10. Library
  11. Volunteer.  The Big Brother Big Sister program will even let us know when there are openings at things they hear about.
  12. Children’s Museum – Free Thursdays from 5-8pm at the Houston one.
  13. Dollar Movie Theater – there is a $1.50 one about 10 minutes away from my house.
  14. Build-a-Bear – Can save up for a really nice one.
  15. Board games
  16. Miller Outdoor Theater (any city’s outdoor theater)
  17. Menil Collection (art museums)
  18. Swimming
  19. Garage sales
  20. Thrift stores
  21. Errands (they actually say that other people’s kids like this…)
  22. Cooking
  23. Bingo (you can get 9 cards for multiple games for a total of $4-$6 per person)
  24. Pajama party
  25. Movie night
  26. Disc golf
  27. Fly a kite
  28. Go to the beach/lake/etc.
  29. Parks
  30. Sports events.  Highschool football games are cheap and sometimes free for kids.
  31. Auctions
  32. Brazos Bend State Park (any state park)
  33. Drive-In Movie Theater
  34. Ghost stories
  35. Gardening
  36. Make our own art.
  37. Look at crafts available at Hobby Lobby.
  38. Sea Monkeys
  39. Farmer’s market
  40. Fruit picking
  41. Puzzles
  42. Geocaching
  43. Mini-Golf
  44. Weenie and s’more roast – yummy
  45. Home Depot Learn to Build classes – look up their schedule online.

Becoming a Big in the Big Brother Big Sister Program…Hopefully…

In mid-July, I decided to fill out an application to become a “Big Sister” for Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS).  I had been thinking about it for more than a year, but I just now seem stable enough to devote consistent time to a “Little”.  I had no idea what the process would entail though, lol.

Process Up to Now

Here’s the breakdown of what has been required so far to volunteer with the BBBS program:

  1. Fill out basic 5 minute application.
  2. Fill out the more detailed 15 minute application.
  3. Send in the 5 work and private/social references that they requested.  This took about an hour to find everybody’s basic info and text them all to make sure that using them was okay.
  4. Sent in a copy of my driver’s license and car insurance.
  5. Spent just 20 minutes overall of texting to make sure that all of my references received the quick info sheet that they needed to fill out about me and send back to BBBS.
  6. Scheduled an interview with a match specialist.
  7. Took the 1.5 hour online “training course” that consisted of watching 2-5 minute informational videos about BBBS, writing down video codes, and then taking a quick quiz to make sure you know not to be stupid.
  8. Had the 1.5 hour interview with the match specialist, which included answering more questions about me and my home environment and letting them know what I was looking for in a “Little”.
  9. Now I have to wait 2 weeks for a letter letting me know if I am approved.
  10. Then I’ll wait 1-5 months for a match.

My View So Far

I am actually still super excited.  :-)  I mean, there has been more involved with this than with any other volunteer program I have worked with ever before, but I understand.  I’m going to be working with a kid…they have to cover everybody’s butt.  ;-)  I just hope that I get a match sooner rather than later.  I am getting better with having patience in day-to-day stuff, but long-term patience when I am excited about something is still lost on me.

Based on the feedback I got off of my match specialist, I will be getting accepted into the program as long as everything I said checks out and I am not a secret serial killer or anything.  So I should be good to go with BBBS in a couple of weeks.  Then I just have to wait for a match.  In general, they try to find a match as close to your requirements that is within a 30 minute drive of your house.  Since I had very few requirements, my match specialist thinks I will get matched quickly, so within a month or two after being officially accepted.  I might have a “Little” as early as late September.

My Ideal Match

Since I didn’t care about gender, age, or “little” issues like ADHD, I am pretty open in their books.  My only “requirements” were that I was looking for a kid that wasn’t prejudiced (no racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) and wasn’t a “girly-girl” since I generally suck at that.  I just recently learned how to put on my own makeup, so giving me a kid that is really into fashion and style would be pretty awful to the kid.  I also mentioned in passing that it would be cool if they liked animals and food since most of my ideal outings would be around animals or food, lol.

I also declined working with severely emotionally challenged kids since this is my first time.  I was fine with kids that have a parent in prison or have suffered abuse of any sort, but I just had to say no to kids that were in juvenile detention at some point themselves or who suffered from extreme emotional disorders.  My match specialist let me know that even with my few restrictions, I didn’t really narrow the field much at all.  So, yay!

On their end, about 70% of their Littles are boys, but only 30% of their Bigs are male.  The age range for Littles that are just being assigned is 7 years to 15 years old.  Female Bigs can be used for all female Littles or even male Littles from 7-11 years old.  But, most of their female Bigs request young, female Littles.  That means that there are a ton of 10+ aged males that end up waiting for a Big for a while.

My Best Guess

Most likely, I’ll be matched with a 10-11 year old boy with ADHD, lol.  That sounds great to me, so fingers crossed!

Oh, and you can keep being a Big Sister to a teenaged male as long as you two were paired up earlier.  That was important to me because I didn’t want to be assigned to an 11 year old boy and then have to say bye when he turned 12.  Apparently, they just want you matched long enough that the boy sees you as a friend or authority figure before his hormones go all wonky.  :-D

Plans

My largest concern now is the waiting time.  So wish me luck for a late-September match!  Also, I’m already excited and making lists of cheap activity ideas…of course, I had a ton of those on BFS to steal ideas from, hahaha.  BBBS requests that you don’t spend a ton of money during your weekly or biweekly visits, so I actually searched around online and found a few awesome ideas.

One Big Sister set a $25 a week budget with her Little, and they save whatever they don’t use each week to place towards more expensive activities in the future.  I’m stealing that one (but will be setting the amount at $20 per week).  Maybe it will even help my Little to learn to budget!  I also looked up a ton of restaurants in my area that have Kids-Eat-Free days so we can stretch the budget even more.

And I started a list of free or discount activities that happen once in a while like Free Tuesday evenings at the zoo after school starts again.  Overall, I am ready to go with a ton of ideas and just need a Little to help brainstorm some more and pick the ones they like too.  :-D

What do you think?  Would you volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters?

I’m Thinking (JUST THINKING) About Having a Kid

Don’t die of shock.  This is not a statement that I am actively trying to get pregnant (I’m NOT).  I am still leaning towards the idea that children are not for me right now, but I have officially gone from “Oh, HELLS NO” to “Ummm.  Maybe?”.

My View of Having Kids

If you have been reading BFS for a while, you may have noticed that I sort of cringe at the idea of having kids.  I’ve named off a bunch of reasons over the years, but here is what it really boils down to:

My shallow reasons…Kids in general are messy, sticky, and go through a ton of bratty stages.  I also think babies are generally really ugly, poop way too much, cry way too much, and would completely screw up my figure more than donuts ever have (yep, good ol’ vanity).  Teenagers are just nuts (I still remember how I acted).    And did I mention how messy kids can be?  I really, really like my brand new, shiny house.  I’m not ready to have crayon on the walls (if I get lucky enough that they don’t use markers) or stains on all of the bedroom carpets.

My deeper reasons…I think that raising children is a huge responsibility that not enough people take seriously.  I would take it very seriously and don’t want to deal with that.  It takes time, patience, energy, and flexibility.  I don’t have all of those traits at the same time…ever.  It also means that the world stops revolving around you (you know what I mean) and it starts revolving around this little life that you are in charge of not screwing up.

My deepest reason…What if my kid wasn’t like us?  My husband and I met in the Honors College dorms on our college campus. We both were academically lazier than we could have been back then, but we have the ability to learn easily.  We both like to learn (different topics interest each of us, but we both like knowledge in general).  I also seem to be able to read people pretty well and socialize.  What if our kid isn’t like that?  What if it is disabled physically or mentally?  How would we be able to handle that without being bitter, awful parents?

Plus, Mr. BFS hasn’t wanted kids either, so it was just a no brainer.

What’s Changed?

So, what’s changed?  Nothing really.  All of my reasons against having kids are still there.  But I’m 30 and want to make sure I look at all of my options before I get to 35.  I was old enough to remember my mom having both of my younger sisters.  The pregnancy seemed pretty normal at age 32 but way harder at 38.  I know that the longer I wait, the harder it will be.  I also know that it is just easier to raise a kid before your age slows you down.

So I have been thinking.  My shallow reasons for having a kid can be handled pretty easily.  Yeah, kids are messy, bratty, etc.  And yeah, I will have a post-pregnancy belly.  But I think that stuff isn’t really all that important in the big scheme of things.

As for my deeper reasons, the older I get, the more I think I could handle taking parenthood seriously and not minding.   I also think I could give up the figurative spotlight and actually enjoy watching a new, little life get way more attention than me.  Plus, I know that my friends, and hopefully all of you, would still talk to me and make me feel special, lol.

And for my deepest reason, I guess everybody worries if their kid will be their own definition of normal.  That really isn’t something that we can control.  If I have a kid that is a lot like us, it would probably be easier.  But if I have a kid that needs more help or has some sort of disability, I guess we could handle that too without being crappy parents.  It would just be harder and probably more expensive.  I’ll just have to hope.

Mr. BFS has also gone from “Oh, HELLS NO” to “Meh”.  So he would most likely swing whatever way I do overall.

In the Meantime

So, there you go.  I am JUST THINKING about having a kid.  I will let you know if I actually make up my mind at any point.  I also know that our decision one way or another won’t mean crap if we just can’t have kids or something like that.  But making up our minds is definitely the first step.  We’ll revisit this on and off over the next few years until we really know what we want to do.

In the meantime, I will hopefully get some more time around children just to help.  I let my friends know that I am up for babysitting overnight again.  I also am attempting to become a Big Sister in the Big Brother Big Sister program.  I started the process a couple of weeks ago.

My interview with a program rep is tomorrow.  I already filled out all of the paperwork, submitted the docs they needed, and completed an online training course (with a perfect 100% on the quiz, thank you very much, LOL).  Even if having kids isn’t for me, I’ve always enjoyed volunteer work and I need to get back into it.  I stopped volunteering with the local hospice when we were moving late last year and have started getting that inner-volunteer push again.

Plus, I may not be perfect, but I think I am a pretty solid role model for kids.  And I do enjoy being around kids as long as they are not screeching or tearing up my house.  :-)  In fact, I have had a great time with kids pretty much every time I have hung out with them outside of my home in the last few years.  I hope the interview goes well and I can get matched to a “Little” soon.  I’ll let you know how this works out.  :-)

So, what is your view on children?  Yay or nay?  Did you always know?  What made or helped you decide?

Babysitting was a Blast!

So not only did I survive babysitting this past weekend, but it was actually a lot of fun!  Here was how it worked out:

The Kids

Just to remind you, I was taking care of three kids:

  • 6 year old girl – I’ll call D
  • 9 year old boy – hereby known as R
  • 11 year old boy – now called G

Hanging Out

They ended up only needing me from 1pm Friday through 10pm on Sunday night.  The original plan had me getting there at 5:45am Friday morning.  This worked well for me since I didn’t have to wake up at 4:30am Friday morning as expected.  :-)

Friday

Friday was the honeymoon period with kids.  First my friend explained the routines including the kids’ medicines and the animals’ feeding habits.  Then they headed off around 2pm and the kids and I figured out what to do.  D, R, and I played a board game right off the back called “Puppyopoly” for about an hour.  This game became a daily habit and I sort became addicted myself.  It’s like what Monopoly really should have been.

While we played, G (who is mildly autistic – like the dictionary version of mild autism, not like a “light” form of autism) kept himself busy by reading Wikipedia articles.

After the board game, D, R, and I watched a movie (“Over the Hedge”).  Then all 4 of us headed outside to the pool for an hour to two hours when the sun wasn’t as bright.  After swimming and playing around, we all changed, and I warmed up some frozen pizza.  We ate, and then G decided it was time to get on the iPad again.  D, R, and I played another round of Puppyopoly.

Then it was 9pm and I asked them to brush their teeth, gave G his night pill, and we headed to bed.  I read a few kid books to D and R.  Overall, I was beyond surprised how easy it was to get them to go to sleep!  I worked until 2am and headed to bed myself.

Saturday

The kids were up and about by 7:30am Saturday morning.  I was zombie-Crystal while I fed them breakfast, fed the cats, filled the dog’s food bowl, chased off the dog from the cats’ food, and gave G his morning meds.

I was then super excited because the kids brought up Saturday morning cartoons, so I got to nap on and off for another 3 hours!  :-)  Yay!  I also read a book for a little while since they were still super happy watching cartoons and G had found the iPad again.

We had lunch around noon, and then the kids still wanted to watch tv and play on hand-held electronics.  I knew they would get a ton of exercise at the 2 hour birthday pool party that I was taking them to at 4pm, so I totally allowed it.  :-)

My friend, Isabelle, actually texted for directions sometime that afternoon and came over right when we were leaving for the pool party a couple of streets away.  She kept me company while we chatted with the other guardians at the party, and we all were going nuts with “head checks” every couple of minutes.  I was counting bobbing kids’ heads in my sleep later on…

Anyway, after the very successful pool party with hotdogs, cake, and icecream that also sent home every kid with a water gun and bright-colored beach towel, we headed home.  Isabelle, R, and I played Puppyopoly again, D watched cartoons and then came out to keep us company, and G went back to the iPad or a hand-held device of some sort.  No one was super hungry for dinner, so we all snacked.

Then around 8:45pm, we did all the night stuff again, I read a couple of books, and they went to bed.  I seriously think that it is just too easy with them…they definitely spoiled me as far as babysitting night-times go.  Isabelle kept me company until 11pm, then she headed out, I finished some work online, and I went to sleep around 1am.

Sunday

The kids woke up around 7:30am again.  I had to fuss at D a little for trying to scream R awake.  She wanted him to make Netflix work for her and was going to get him out of bed hell or high water.  Anyway, after she stopped the don’t-fuss-at-me-crying spiel, I helped her make Netflix work, and R joined her a few minutes later.

Then I did all of the same morning stuff as before including feeding all of the living beings in the house, and read my book while they all did their thing again.  At around noon, we all had hamburgers, and then they wanted to go back to tv and stuff.  At around 1:30pm, I declared that everyone should get unzombified and asked about swimming – that got them moving!

We played in the pool for nearly an hour and a half, and we only had one bad moment when the 6 year old got too playful during water gun wars and threw a gun towards me in the pool that hit my thumb.  I screamed an obscenity accidentally when it happened, and then just told all of them very bluntly to get out while I examined my thumb and calmed down a bit.  Then I went back to the living room, apologized for yelling the obscenity, and explained that it hurts to have stuff hit you.  We all moved on.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with a game called “Headbands”, a game called something about a Circus that I can’t remember, snacks, tv and stuff, D built a fort with the dining room chairs, and then we had dinner.  Hotdogs and Spaghetti-O’s, lol.  I love kids.  We then watched “The Smurfs” and headed to bed again.  Their parents got home when I finished reading a pretty long chapter book for a night-time story, lol.

Headed Home

Overall, I only had to get stern a handful of times all weekend.  Mainly to get D to stop using her mom’s furniture like a play place and G to lower his voice when he was being bossy (which R assured me was just his autism…but I think a lot of big siblings are probably bossy, lol).  In general, the kids actually seemed to listen!  I don’t know why that surprises me, but it did.

I made sure to tell my friends that they can call me anytime that they need an overnight sitter again.  I had a great weekend and got sort of attached to the kids.  Even G seemed to warm up to me by the end and was occasionally answering the first time I asked stuff, which is rare for him.  He even said goodbye without me asking.  And the other two hugged me.  :-)  I hope my friends need a vacation at least a few times a year, lol.

Do you like babysitting?  Were these kids pretty normal or did I just get lucky?  I remember kids being way harder to take care of when I was younger, but my 30 year old self may just be a little more patient than my younger self…

Babysitting this Weekend, Any Suggestions?

We are part of a really cool group of people that hang out to board game whenever possible.  We also take turns hosting potlucks and dinner parties pretty regularly as well.  One of those friends and his wife haven’t had 3 days in a row to themselves for more than 12 years!  Holy moly!  So I will be taking care of 3 kids from Friday morning through Sunday night…

How Did I Get Into Babysitting?

Well, our friend asked me about a month ago to see if anyone could babysit this coming weekend since his regular go-to sitters weren’t available.  He has a 6 year old little girl, an 8 year old boy, and an 11 year old boy.

The only special circumstance is that the 11 year old is autistic, but he is actually the most laid back kid of the group.  I’ve been around him for half days two or three times now.  The only thing that seems different is that he can get really, really focused on something to the point of it being almost obsessive.  Like rules or making sure something was worded correctly.  But anytime it’s happened around me, I just distracted him with absolutely anything else for a second and then he moved on.  He’s just a normal little guy that sometimes has what feels like a brain glitch over specifics.

I asked our friend what the pay would be so I could pass it along to the group.  It’s $12 an hour during the day and $6 an hour for 8 hours each night.  That comes to nearly $700 since they needed someone from 6am Friday morning through midnight Sunday night!  That is a lot of babysitting…but it also is a nice chunk of change.

I Threw My Hat in the Ring

I let him know that I would cover it for sure, and that I would ask around to see who else would help me out.  He was so excited that he’ll get real time with his wife!  That made me smile.  But I also thought I could split a couple of days with other friends and the weekend would be a little easier.  Well, no one else is free this weekend, so it’ll just be me.

I babysat all through middle school, high school, and occasionally throughout college and these past 10 years.  So I am ready for this weekend, but it was a little unexpected that I’ll be handling it alone.

Before anybody yells at me for taking money from a friend, he is supplemented by the state for babysitting expenses like this once in a while because of the autism.  It’s called “respite care” money to allow parents of children with disabilities to get a little time away each month.  But they haven’t been able to get any time away for a while, so it has built up enough to cover a 3 day trip.

Ideas for the Weekend

I’ll be staying at their house the whole time, so I know we’ll have access to their normal activities.  There is a swimming pool (and life jackets), a netted trampoline, and their pets (a dog and 2 cats…lots of Claritin for me, lol).  I also know that they can play a few board games already and have a ton of coloring supplies.  The kids also know how to operate the tv and dvd player.

My general plan is to get them outside in the morning and late afternoon using the pool or trampoline.  In my experience, half the battle of watching kids is making sure they have ample opportunities to burn off energy.  During the super sunny parts of the day and at night, I’ll see what they want to do inside and take it from there.

I know I don’t need to actually keep them entertained 100% of the time since they all are a but autonomous already.  I also made sure my friend and his wife know that I will consider this a complete success as long as their kids are alive and their house is still standing by the time they get home.  I definitely am setting a low bar.  :-)

Side Notes

I do have 2-3 people on call that will drive up if necessary.  They just didn’t want to babysit the whole weekend.  So if there are any problems at all, I’ll have all of the parents’ info, my husband, and a couple of friends that have promised to help if needed.  I’ll let you know next week how this turns out.

Also, my plan is to use the money from this weekend to pay for an 11 day trip in September to visit a couple of great blogging buddies out in Utah and Portland.  I’ll be spending about 5-6 days in each place and just turn it into a blogging buddy adventure.  I’ll let you know how that pans out too.

What would you suggest for a 3 day babysitting extravaganza?

Children Have No Money Sense

The following is another guest post from My Canuck Buck.  Thank you so much for pitching in while life is nuts!  Please check out her site when you have a chance! 

Recently, I babysat my 2 nieces (aged 9 and 10) for the weekend. We took them up to see their cousins (1 boy and 1 girl – ages 12 and 11) for a short visit. My nephew had a ball hockey game and afterwards we took the kids out for a snack and to the mall.

I concluded after the “snack” part that I do not have any concept of how much fast food costs these days. For 4 kids, it cost me over 20 bucks!  And they would have eaten more if I’d let them!  Part of the issue was that I didn’t think ahead and tell them exactly what they could and couldn’t have. So, in order to not hold up the line, I just let them order what they wanted, and “Frosty shakes” for a drink cost a lot more than juice or pop.  If I did this again, I’d tell them ahead of time they can only have something from the value menu (maybe even limit it to 1 or 2 choices there so they can pick faster!) and only a small drink (no shake!).  I know it would have been cheaper to bring something, but I wanted this trip to Wendy’s to be part of the outing.

And then we hit the mall. I learned that my little nieces aren’t so little any more and are very interested in clothes, jewelry, and make up.  Normally they aren’t bad about asking for things, but I think having 3 of them together encouraged each other. So – every store they’d go in, they’d ask for something.  I managed to say “No” to everything, although after an hour, they started to wear me down.  Some things were as cheap as 2 dollars, but it was nothing they *really* needed or would value.  I have freely admitted I’m a cheap aunt in the past, but I’m willing to spend money on important things – just not junk!  I’m happy to spend money on outings, or conducting science experiments (Diet coke + Mentos = awesome explosion!), but I want it to be on something important or memorable.

In their defense, the kids did not whine or beg – they simply asked.  And since childhood is a while back for me, I have no idea if I was this bad or not!

All:  How do you deal with it when children ask for things? What’s the best technique you’ve found for getting them to stop asking?

Crystal’s Comments:  I usually tell them to buy it with their own money and laugh at the looks on their faces while they try to explain to me that they don’t have money…yeah, I would be a crappy mom…