How to Save Money on Toys as a Parent

While it is safe to say that a vast number of UK children are spoiled, doted upon, and have the privilege of growing up in a high income home in which they were never in want of toys, play things, or any other necessities of childhood, this is not the case for all. Many young children who are raised in lower or middle class financial situations have only a relative few number of toys, must share with many others, or have none at all, at least not the most trendy and expensive ones which are naturally the ones they may be begging for each birthday and Christmas.  In this day and age of ballooning technology, toys are no longer just a few marbles in a cloth bag or a stuffed teddy bear that had been passed down. The most highly sought after toys, instead, are several hundred pound video game consoles, collectible and limited edition doll houses and even iPhones and personal computers.

Because of the pressures and desires of children and the influence that their peers may have on their want for this doll or that remote control car, it is no doubt a hardship to not be able to have the toys that you want. But how can you, as a parent, provide your child with the newest and most popular toy on the market without cutting out funds from your food budget or emergency fund? There are a few resources you can turn to in this situation, whether you have few financial savings or none at all.

 

Spending What You Have Wisely

If your toy budget for your children is limited, but you want to be able to stretch your funds as far as you can without going over board, make an effort to follow a few simple rules when purchasing toys. First, try to buy off peak season. Some toy prices spike at the beginning of the summer holidays when many more children are at home, or during the winter holiday season when Christmas gifts galore are being bought. Try buying clearance toys at the end of the summer holidays when children are back in school, and saving them as presents for your kids to enjoy later. Secondly, buy secondhand. Ebay is an excellent resource for purchasing new or used discounted games, puzzles, electronics, figurines, plush characters, cards and more. Or, try your local charity shop to score serious bargains on everything from children’s books to electronic toys.

Another idea that you might want to consider to save money on toys is setting up a toy swap with friends who have children of similar ages. Some families keep their toy collection fresh and interesting by trading toys with another family every month or two, so that the children never get bored with what they have. Essentially, you are getting an entirely new toy set that will keep the kids entertained for hours, without having to spend a single pound. This sharing of the wealth is a great practice to keep up amongst families on limited budgets whose children are of similar ages and interests.

 

Affordable Solutions for Toys

There are a good many toy gifting charity organisations throughout the UK whose purpose is to provide  toys to families who cannot afford them. Supplement your children’s toys through an outlet like this, such as the Toy Trust Children’s Charity UK. Though your child may be demanding of bigger, better, more technological toys with lights and sounds, keep in mind that simpler is usually better. Spend time as a family playing classic card games or creating toys of your own like making your own teddy bear or doll out of used fabric scraps.

Little Einsteins Mission Celebration: Themed Party on a Budget

We’re going on a mission, start the countdown – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

Everyone to rocket and let’s blast off

to celebrate Jade and Jakei’s birthday!

Last year, the two little kids celebrated their birthdays with a Jake and the Neverland Pirate themed cake and snacks.  This year, I wanted to make it extra special for them and asked their school teacher if they could have Little Einsteins’ themed activities as well.  Teacher Abby, always so gracious with parents’ requests, gladly granted our request and also played party host.  Due to the procrastinator in me, the activities didn’t go as well as I imagined though. Nonetheless, the little kids had a great time and loved their “party”.   Thankfully, kids are so easy to please and to entertain. 🙂

THE CAKE

First off the list was the birthday cake.  This was the easiest for me to cross off since all it entailed was placing an order online.  The Little Einsteins birthday cake was created by Joel of Woku Cakes.  He baked for us a Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Jam and Chocolate Ganache Filling.  The cake was shaped like Rocket and was then decorated using boiled icing and fondant.  The Little Einsteins characters were also skilfully sculpted from fondant.

woku little einsteins cake

THE FOOD & LOOT BAG

Though I wanted to prepare themed snacks just like last year, we had to make do with fast food delivery as I had no househelp.  We opted for a KFC Snack Box which includes fun shots and fries, Zesto Fruit Teas, and mini-cupcakes from Shoppersville.  The KFC Snack Boxes were ordered a few days in advance and were delivered directly to the kids’ school.  Definitely, food prep this year was no-fuss.

food

The kids’ loot bags were made from A4 sized colored paper folded into a paper bag.  I found some cute animal crayons at National Bookstore and paired each one with a notepad.  I filled the remaining space with jellyace and lollipops.

loot bag

THE ACTIVITIES

The activities were meant to be fun party activities coupled with lessons about art and music.  Before each activity, I was supposed to give the kids a few trivia about European art and music.  I wasn’t able to properly coordinate this with Teacher Abby though so it didn’t go as planned. (My fault for not setting up a meeting before the event) Anyway, let me share with you our Little Einsteins themed activities.

Meet the Little Einsteins(Film Showing)

Of course, our budget wasn’t enough to hire mascots so we opted for a viewing of one Little Einstein episode.  We chose Go to Europe and this is where the rest of the activities was based.

film showing

Crafts: Bean Shakers

For the crafts time, the kids made their own music shakers using plastic plates and beans.  You may read the materials and procedure in my previous post.   A word of caution though – Make sure the plates are laced securely.  The kids and I have done this many times at home without mess so I did not anticipate the “bean spill” that happened in school.  Some of the kids’ shakers were not laced tightly and beans fell out of the shakers.  If you’ll be doing this craft activity in a school setting, I suggest you use bigger beans.

little einsteins activity bean shakers

Game: Musical Einsteins (Music by Tchaikovzky & Bach)

This is another version of musical chairs. While playing, the kids become more familiar with music by Tchaikovzky & Bach.  When the music stops, instead of sitting on chairs, the kids step on cutouts of Little Einsteins characters taped to the floor.  The host draws a character from Rocket (decorated cardboard box) and whoever is stepping on that character gets to stay for the next round.  All the other kids leave the game floor.  The last three kids left get to win prizes.

games musical einsteins

Game: Stack a Tower (Trivia on Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben Clock Tower, and Towers of Gimignano)

This is another very familiar party relay game where players stack blocks or cups to form a tower.  The players of each team take turns stacking and un-stacking the blocks until everyone has had his turn.  The first  team to finish wins the game.  To connect the game with the Little Einsteins theme, I printed out pictures of famous towers found in Europe.  However, I was neither able to show these to the kids nor to share the bits of trivia about the towers I gathered.

games stack a tower

Game: A Piece of Master (Art by Van Gogh & Monet)

This jiggle puzzle game introduces kids to the masterpieces of Van Gogh and Monet.  My husband had paintings printed on board paper which we then cut into puzzle pieces.  To play the game, the kids form groups of four and are given an envelope with the puzzle pieces and a picture of the painting.  The first team who finishes their puzzle wins the game.  Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to play this game anymore.

prizes

Game Prizes: clay, crayons, and puzzles

THE BUDGET

Last year, we spent less than five thousand pesos for their celebration so I set the same amount as my budget this year.  Though the expenses amounted to 6,500 pesos, this is still much lower than what one would spend for a kiddie party in your child’s fave fast food.  Here’s the breakdown of our expenses this year (check this post for last year’s cost breakdown):

Food (for 35 kids + 10 adults): P 4,195

                1,100     = Little Einsteins Cake by Woku Cakes(inclusive of delivery fee)

                2,475     = KFC Snackbox (P55 x 45)

                   300     = Zesto Fruit Tea (P6 x 50)

                  350       = Shoppersville Mini Cupcakes (P7 x 50)

Materials for Bean Shakers(for 35 kids):  P 527

                350         = Plastic Bowls (70 pcs)

                  27         = Yarn (2 spools)

                150         = Beans (2 – 500g packs)

Game Prizes: P 576

                176         = Rocket Crayons (6 pieces)

                184         = Clay Mini-tubs with molds (8 pieces)

                216         = Puzzle Sets (4 boxes)

Loot Bag(for 35 kids):  P 926.50

                55           = Red colored paper for loot bag (P27.50 x 2)

                148.50   = Notepads (24.75 per pack of 6)

                462         = Animal Crayons

                187.50   = Jellyace (62.50 per pack)

                78.50     = Chuppa Chups (24.50 per pack)

That’s exactly 6,224.50. If you add the cost of the paper used for the invitations, stickers, and cutouts, the total amount would be roughly 6,500.  This just goes to show that you can throw a themed party without breaking the bank.  Oh, and we’re actually saving so much more because the kids always celebrate their birthdays together.  Have I already mentioned that the kids enjoyed their Little Einsteins birthday?  Their joy is well worth all the effort and expense.

Thank You

A big shoutout goes to Teacher Abby who allowed us to celebrate the kids’ birthdays in school and who gamely played party host as well.  Thank you also  to the beautiful teachers and aides!  Of course, thank you also to Papa for taking time off from work to celebrate with the us!

teacher abby

Why Pay When You Can Get One For FREE?

I love getting freebies!  Well, who doesn’t love free stuff, really?   Moms like me would definitely love to have freebabystuff whenever we can.  But how can you get stuff for free?  Here are some easy ways to score freebies:

Go Online.  You won’t believe the number of sites that offer free product samples and coupons you can use to grab free items from online shops.  Just be careful to check for any hidden charges when availing of these freebies.  You may be paying more for shipping costs than the actual value of the product.

Answer Surveys.  I’ve received several free samples just by spending a few minutes answering surveys sent by various companies.

Join Contests.  Getting freebies through contests relies heavily on chance. Still, if you have time to spare, it won’t hurt to join a contest or two.  Join as many as you can to up your chances of winning prizes.

Join Rewards Programs.  In joining rewards programs, you not only get vouchers and coupons for discounts on purchases but also receive free products. Make sure that you fully understand the terms of the program though so you can get the best deals out of it.  Also, don’t forget to redeem your rewards before they expire.

Give Companies Feedback on Their Products.  When we find a product we have purchased to be defective or substandard, we usually call the manufacturer to air our complaints.  However, it pays also to call them when you are very satisfied with their products.  Some companies do send free products to their loyal consumers.  They just need to know that you are one of them.

Ask For One.  If there’s a new product you want to try but are wary of purchasing  a regular-sized pack, you could write the company and ask for a sample.  Most companies would be more than willing to send you samples.

These are just some ways you can save by getting items for free.  With today’s rising cost of living, it really does pay to be frugal.

 

Image courtesy of phanlop88 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Put an Extra $1,000 In Your Pocket Now!

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Image courtesy of posterize / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an extra $1,000 laying around, either in savings or to be used on something special like an anniversary trip or home improvement project? While it may seem daunting at first, it’s actually quite feasible that you could pocket $1,000 over the course of three months if you break it down little by little. Saving $1,000 in three months means you would need to save approximately $333 each month. Let’s take a look at some ways you could do that:

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Give up your subscriptions. It’s a hard thing to do (and it probably won’t be easy to get your whole family on board) but paring down your cable bill in favor of online entertainment and cutting the newspaper delivery and any magazine subscriptions could save you at least $45 per month!

Give up two meals out per month. Even a great pizza special that costs $15 or $20 is going to cost more than serving a bowl of pasta or some grilled cheeses for dinner. If you make a concerted effort to cut down on your eating out, you’ll easily save $25 per month.

Reduce your cell phone bill. Take a hard look at your plan and usage and make sure that you’re not utilizing a plan that’s too large for your family or one that’s too small (leading to high overage charges). I’ve done this a number of times and reduced my monthly bill by at least $30 per month.

Refinance. Look into refinancing options for either your car or house. If you have a four-year, $15,000 car loan at five percent and look to refinance it for under two percent, you could save $20 per month. A $200,000 mortgage at just 5.3 percent (a great rate just a few years ago) could be refinanced to 3.5% and save you over $210 per month.

Add one less lunch or coffee to the mix and you’ll easily save $333 each month. Check with your financial advisor to see if this is the right option for you.

The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else.

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This article is a guest post by Anne Perkins.  Anne is a freelance writer focused on how to live large on a little living. She writes financial savings tips for the online short-term loan company – QuickQuid. At her blog, AnnieIdea.com, you can get tips on how to take any idea and make it easier or cheaper to complete.