Family * Travel * Food

Saving Money on Teaching Your Kids How to Play Music

Parents know just how beneficial it can be for their children to learn how to play a musical instrument. Once the costs start adding up, however, it becomes clear just how expensive it can be as well. Between buying an instrument and paying for lessons, music can be far more costly a hobby than it might appear at face value.

The fact is, there are plenty of ways in which you can help your child to learn how to sing or play an instrument without going broke in the process, some of which are more apparent than you might think.

Shop for Used Instruments

The initial costs associated with learning how to play an instrument can be staggering. Even beginner instruments can range in the thousands of dollars when purchased new, and it's an awfully large investment to make when you aren't positive whether or not your child will continue to be interested in playing as time goes on. One way to lessen the blow to your bank account when shopping for an instrument is to consider buying used. Used instruments are perfect for beginners, as they allow novice musicians to get a feel for learning how to play without having to plunk down a great deal of money up-front. When shopping for used instruments, be sure to work with a reputable dealer who will be able to provide you with the right options; Craigslist and eBay should be avoided unless you are well-versed on instrument buying.

Take to the Internet

Paying for lessons can be excessively expensive over time. Since most instructors like to see their students once per week, you can expect to spend anywhere between $80 and $160 per month on music lessons for your child alone if you take the traditional route. The Internet, however, has made learning how to play music far less expensive and more accessible to those who are on a tight budget. Online guitar tutorials, theory lessons and more can be found for free or cheap on the Internet, and allow your child to work at his or her own pace. You can even create your own program for your child if you have a fair amount of knowledge about playing music yourself by pulling together information found on the web and tailoring it to their interests in ways that are not often seen in a traditional instruction format.

Go to Free Concerts

As with anything else in life, there's no substitute for real-world experience. You can spend hours in a practice room, but it'll be extremely difficult to learn the finer points of live performance without going to concerts regularly. Concerts can be expensive, however, and sometimes they aren't suitable for children. On the other hand, just about every fair-sized city offers a free concert series during the summer, with genres ranging from pop to rock to classical. Taking your children to one free concert per week is a great way to help them internalize what it is to be a performing musician - something they're not likely to learn while practicing at home. Contact your local town hall for more information on free concerts that are scheduled in your area.

While helping your child learn to play music can be a costly venture, it doesn't have to be if you take the right approach.


8 Tips for Halloween shopping online

By Scott Fitterman of

1. Maximize value with online coupons: When purchasing Halloween costumes, decorations, and candy online always search for coupon codes to save money. Make sure to review your final checkout screen before you make your purchase. Be sure to confirm the items in your checkout are correct and that your promotional codes have been applied.

2. Stay Current. Make sure your results are the most up-to-date discounts and codes online. Take note of any expiration dates for discounts and use discount websites to help you locate the newest deals for a particular merchant.

3. Take advantage of Cash back: Some websites earn commissions from sales made through the site and can share their commissions with you in the form of cash back. It’s just like a cash back credit card. You can earn cash back from thousands of online merchants. If you’re not shopping through a cash back site, you’re throwing money away.

4. Exercise caution when combining coupons with cash back: You can use online coupons and combine the savings with cash back features for extra value, but exercise caution. Some coupon codes disqualify the order for cash back benefits, so read the cash back site’s coupon details very carefully.

5. Make sure you’re really getting a deal on all your Halloween essentials: Most of the time stores offer actual discounts, but as with all things you should do your due diligence and check online to determine how good the price really is.

6. Compare Sites. If you know the exact Halloween Costume you want to buy for October, it pays to shop around at different online retailers to compare prices. Some sites help consumers by providing a list of all online stores in a particular category.

7. Pay attention to shipping costs.  Some retailers make up their low prices by adding costs to the shipping. Be sure you're getting the lowest possible overall price, by double checking your shipping.

8. Exclusivity Pays. Research before you buy to find coupon or cash back websites that offer consumers exclusive online deals for Halloween. If you don’t search before your buy, you may miss it.


Benjamin Dash Miami | November 2013

Are you a runner looking for a fun and unique challenge? Benjamin Dash in Miami might be one worth checking out. 

Benjamin Dash is an innovative 5K course running event that gives Dashers the opportunity to grab flags worth monetary value.  They will have the choice to either donate to their favorite charity or keep it for themselves. Runners will have to maneuver through a numerous, uniquely designed obstacles that will test every specific attribute that can be thought of, especially to keep the large wave of runners moving. They will then finish the race where runners will be paid for the amount of flags they have captured.

Here’s the twist, all the flags on the obstacles will have different values so participants will ever know the amount they are running with on hand. If you think that was it, you’re wrong! Runners will need eyes like an eagle for there will be charity warriors whose sole purpose is to take your flags to promote their own charity. After completion of the race, runners will be accommodated with drinks and food, as well as entertainment from a live band. If you're up for a different kind of competition, check out Benjamin Dash online to find out more. There are early registration discounts as well. Use the promotional code: BUGS747 (in all caps) for a 10% off discount.

You can find Benjamin Dash on Facebook and Twitter.

This is not a sponsored post. I just thought I would share this event with my readers that reside in Florida.
Shelly, Mom Files

How I maximize my coffee budget and still have the perfect cup each day

I love a really good, rich cup of coffee. I only require one cup a day and I get tired of the same old brand sometimes. I am a coffee snob and stay away from the low-end bargain brands. They lack the strength and flavor I require.  The whole 'use a tablespoon per 6 ounces of water' is a joke. I am more of a use 1/2 cup per 6 ounces (no lie!) As much as I love the premium brands, I can't always justify the cost. I finally found a way to get around that and not sacrifice the quality or taste. Lately I have been shopping for premium, traditional ground coffee that is on sale and try to match it up with coupons. I also purchase an espresso ground coffee that I always find on sale at Publix. They tend to always have a brand for under $3. I usually buy Cafe Bustelo, Pilon or La Llave.
What I do is mix both varieties in my regular drip coffee maker. The fact that The espresso grind is more concentrated and rich, makes me have to use less of my more expensive premium coffee.
The result is a dark, strong and rich cup of coffee every time. I have been doing this for months and even my husband noticed how good our coffee is. We are so spoiled that we have to bring coffee from home when we travel. I totally recommend this method of coffee making for those who crave the richness of Starbucks but have Walmart pockets.
Shelly, Mom Files

Kroger Buy 5 – Save $5 Event! #MyBlogSpark $25 gift GC Giveaway

Attention Kroger Shoppers! Get ready for the Kroger Buy 5- Save $5 Event from October 14th-24th. Purchase 5 participating General Mills products, and receive a coupon for $5 off your next shopping order* (coupon printed at checkout)!

Look for some of your favorite participating General Mills products like Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Pillsbury Toaster Strudel, Betty Crocker Cake and Brownie Mixes, Hamburger Helper, Totino’s Party Pizza, Yoplait** and many more! With the baking season in full swing, I plan on stocking up on some Betty Crocker cake and brownie mixes!

Promotion varies in different locations so please be sure to check your local Kroger Co. Family of Stores*** for specific deals and offers which include: Kroger, Ralphs, King Scoopers, City Market, Dillons, Smith’s, Fry’s, QFC, Baker’s, Owen’s, Jay C Food Stores, Hilander, Gerbes, Fred Meyer, Pay Less Supermarkets and Scott’s Food & Pharmacy 

* Products must be purchased during one shopping visit. To view a list of participating products see your store for details. The $5 coupon offer off your next shopping trip offer expires 1 week from the print date, with the coupon prints ending October 24th. Any offers printed on October 24th will expire on October 31st. **Yoplait items vary by state ***Excludes Food 4 Less

One Momfiles reader will win a $25 Kroger gift card to help stock up and save during the Kroger Buy 5- Save $5 Event. Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway is open to US Residents only and will end on October 11, 2012. One winner will be chosen at random and will be contacted via email. Momfiles is not responsible for any lost or stolen prizes. Good luck!

Disclosure: The gift card, information, and additional sample have been provided by Kroger and General Mills through MyBlogSpark
Shelly, Mom Files

I really need to do better

Most people think I am the most organized person they know. This might be true in some areas in my life but lacks so badly in others. I have been doing a really bad job with my food/household item spending. I think from watching Extreme Couponing and seeing all of the people in the stores with monster-sized binders I have become very turned off by it all. Strange huh? Usually shows like that and seeing people save a ton of money should be motivating. It's just not the case for me. I have decided that I need to take action and maximize my dollars. I am starting with picking one day a week to do grocery shopping. I will make an organized list and use coupons accordingly. This will mean meal planning. I think I can only meal plan for up to a week. I have been noticing the popular trend of "freezer meals". I need to look into that. If I stick to that plan maybe it will keep me out the store more and save not only on impulse purchases but also fuel.

Speaking of fuel, I was startled to see that some cities have already hit the $5 and some change bracket. That scares me since I do a lot of local back and forth driving. We decided as a family that we will not be doing much dining out or even attend birthday parties of other social events that can add up. It sounds like we are being cheap but the bottom line is what the heck do you do if an emergency hits? I know that I plan on keeping my rainy day fund! I have been very free with my spending lately and I know I need to do better. I had to go on Budget Billing with our power company since the weather has been so wacky. To say that we have not had too many freezing days I still have seen so higher than normal bills. Maybe I cook too much? Wash too much? Who knows, I just figured if I publicly talk about what I need to do I might feel pressured to keep at it.

Do you have any strategies in place to keep your finances in check? Do you have any meal planning sites you can share? Thank you, I need all the help I can get!

Shelly, Mom Files

Purex Triple Action Review

As a Purex Insider, I get to test out the newest laundry products Purex has to offer. The latest is the new and improved Purex Triple Action detergent. I put it to the test today on some bed linens. They are very light colors and this formula of Purex is supposed to give a "Bright White Clean". I washed in cold water so I could really see if this product would come through on the whitening and brightening. Sure enough it did! This is a good thing since I have not been using bleach. 

I noticed that there was no suds but that is because this product can be used in all types of machines. I don't own a High Efficiency (HE) machine (yet) so I always have to look on the bottle. Good thing it still does its job! I tried the Mountain Breeze scent and it was nice. It comes in 6 scents and I would not mind trying the Free & Clear version. All in all this is a really good product for the price. I find it on sale frequently and keep a little stock in my laundry room. 

You can check out all the latest Purex products via the web as well as get updates on Facebook and Twitter

Be sure to be on the lookout for a future giveaway coming soon right here! 

I received a product sample for review purposes and all opinions are 100% mine as always.

Shelly, Mom Files

ScoreBig with Prizey Giveaway!

Hey guys! I wanted to let you know about a promotion I am working on with PRIZEY. Some of you might already be familiar with PRIZEY if you enter or host giveaways. I love them and frequently use their service. Right now if you sign up at ScoreBig you will automatically be entered to win $200 in prizes ~$100 gift card (perfect for holiday shopping) from PRIZEY and a $100 credit to buy tickets at ScoreBig. ScoreBig is a site dedicated to saving you up to 60% on sports, concert or theater tickets. It takes only seconds to sign up for an account with your name, zip code, email address and a password. You can even sign in through Facebook. It's so EASY and FREE!!!

So what are you waiting for? You might be the big prize winner! Good luck!!
The giveaway will officially end at 11:59 PT on Tuesday, December 6. To enter you must be 18 or older and living in the United States, and that there is a limit of one entry per person.

PRIZEY is compensating me for participating in this promotion

Shelly, Mom Files


Do you really need money to have kids?

I have been chatting with friends online as well as over the phone lately and there seems to be this one topic that keeps popping up~ Finances and having babies. It appears the majority of people felt that you should be financially stable, have a house, vehicles, credit cards etc... before considering having children. I don't agree with that. I think that the number one thing you can give a child is unconditional love. Once you do that, the rest falls into place.

I am so glad I had the girls while we were young. Although we struggled financially, they never went without all the necessities. Our girls are so appreciative of anything you give them and have become very wise spenders. They are loving and compassionate individuals. William on the other hand has it all and then some. I still make sure to work just as hard to teach him all of the life lessons that we did with the girls. Now I also know some parents (ages 35+) that waited until they bought their house, acquired a cushy bank account and landed the job/career they desired. Guess what? 85% of them wished they had their babies when they were in their 20's. I have heard this from so many people I know!

My point is that babies need minimal "stuff" and a whole lot of love. I am not saying to be irresponsible and just have babies for the heck of it. Life has a way of working out no matter what your financial position might be.

What are your thoughts?
Shelly, Mom Files

Your children are really watching you

This morning I took the kids out to a few stores so that they could buy some health and beauty products. They both had their own money and the oldest one has a job so she had her fresh, new debit card. Chardie was so proud to feel like a grown-up using her own debit card and ever more so that it was her own money that she earned. Before we left for the stores Chardie asked me if I had any coupons for some of the things she needed on her list. We looked through the coupons and she selected the ones she needed. Both girls shopped very carefully by checking prices and comparing brands. If they were unsure they would go and scan the item at the kiosk. The words I kept hearing as they shopped was "this is not a necessity" or "that is way too expensive". Those words sounded very familiar to me.

After the first store we headed to the next destination. The first place the girls went to was the clearance racks. You would not believe the excitement a $3 top could stir up in a teenage girl. We took our time and looked around and they picked out a couple items each. We were taking one last look in the Junior's department and Chardie told me that she was feeling bad about spending money. She said that all of her friends that have jobs spend every dime of their paychecks and end up with an empty bank account. Chardie said she was really glad that she does not ever want to drain her account and then she tells me, "I am just like you Bawbi". That really made me very proud. My kids are smart and responsible when it comes to money. This is so important for them to learn before they get out into the real world. This goes to show that even when you think they are not paying attention to what you are doing~ they really are studying your every move.
Shelly, Mom Files

A lower food bill in the summer?

One of the first things that was on my mind with the end of the school year was feeding the kids and not wanting to spend a fortune. I was really afraid of what I might encounter. Strangely, it has been costing me LESS with the kids being out of school. I didn't think it was possible but I figured out why... When school is in session I always have to be sure that the kids have a variety of quick options for breakfast since we leave the house at 7. This means no time for home-cooked big breakfasts. I buy things like bagels, cinnamon toast, granola bars etc... Both girls took lunch from home as well as extra snacks. I am one of those moms who goes above and beyond to make sure they have quality things to eat. This is where it costs me a whole lot. Yes, school lunch would be cheaper but my kids don't eat it plus I don't want them to. There would also be the numerous times that they stayed after school for sports, activities and projects so I always made sure they had extra snacks and drinks.

Being home makes it so much easier. I can cook a good breakfast and even make ahead items like pancakes, waffles and bacon. Lucky for me my kids can eat just about anything so they tend to have whatever was leftover from last night's dinner for lunch. They drink water ALL day long (not that they don't ever drink anything else).

I think I am spending about $30-$50 less per week in food. Not bad huh? I really did not think it was possible! Perhaps since they are so busy they are not thinking about eating as much.

Has you food budget changed with school being out?
Shelly, Mom Files

Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs

If you have been reading Momfiles for some time now, you will know how important it is for our family to understand money. Our girls are doing an outstanding job in the money management department and are very smart shoppers. I received this wonderful book called Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs by Lori Mackey. It came with an audio CD that you can listen along to with the book. It's so cute because the narration is in children's voices. William is a little too young to follow along with the CD so I opted to read it to him instead. He was immediately drawn in from the great illustration. Although he does not have an understanding about the teachings of the book, he will get it over time. Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs explains all of the aspects of money management in a child-friendly way. I was thoroughly impressed with this book and I think it would make an excellent addition to any child's book collection. It would make an excellent gift for birthdays, holidays or as a "just because" gift.

In order for a child to learn about money, they must be taught early on. They will have a greater likelihood of making better decisions about finances when they are adults. You can purchase Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs here. Be sure to check out Prosperity4Kids, Inc. on Facebook and Twitter.

I received a copy of the book to review. All opinions are 100 % mine as always.

Shelly, Mom Files

It's tax season

Well it's that less than fun time of year- tax season. We have a pretty decent system of keeping up with our paperwork throughout the year to make it easier to file. I guess there still seems to be so much else we have to gather to ensure we are getting as much money back as we can as well as being thorough. I have thought about doing our taxes ourselves but I get all scared that we will mess something up. We just go up to the same place we have for years (a mom 'n pop's spot) and just pay them to do it correctly. I have always had friends and family tell me how easy it is to do yourself but there are just some things I am not willing to mess with!

So what about you? Are you one of the brave people that does it yourself or are you a wimp like me?
Shelly, Mom Files

Thrive Time for Teens Review (family style)

A couple weeks ago we received a board game called Thrive Time for Teens to review. This was perfect since we have 2 teen daughters. Thrive Time for Teens is a game geared toward teaching teens about financial responsibility in a fun way. This game involves real-life scenarios such as going to college, buying a car, giving to charity, paying monthly expenses and even starting a business.We sat down together at the dining table (snacks and all) to play the game for ourselves. Everyone had a financial tracking sheet to document everything along the way.

I will admit that it was a bit confusing at first so we suggest you read the instructions fully to understand the game better. The girls were amazed when they had to use their credit card to pay for things that they did not always have to cash for. I think they were not crazy about having so much debt! You really had to make some tough decisions about things that can impact your finances. My husband and I really enjoyed playing this game with our children. The game truly allowed our girls to learn financial concepts in a fun way instead of the typical parent lecture...believe me, the girls are happy to get out of any of daddy's lectures any way they can!!

Here's what the girls had to say:

Briahnna (age 13): "I really enjoyed this game and how it is so much like real life. I'll definitely play this game again!"

Chardonnay (age 15): "I like the game a lot. It's a great way to teach one to manage money. It's something they don't teach in school so this is a great way to learn and I love it."

Thrive Time for Teens can be purchased online for $29.99. It makes a great gift for birthdays and holidays. You can also donate a game to your favorite organization as a way of giving back to your community. We plan to play again over the long weekend. Our family would recommend this game for sure and we hope you will check it out.

Disclosure: We received a free game for review purposes and no other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% our own.

Shelly, Mom Files

I'm on a hunt!

I am working hard at saving as much money as I can for our family. I am taking my couponing very seriously and intend on stocking up as much as I can for back-to-school. I have scored so many free items like Cereal, granola bars, air fresheners, body wash, shampoo & conditioner and more! It's become a part-time job and a source of income in a way for me. The best part is that I enjoy doing it :)

Shelly, Mom Files

The recession has hit my house

If you know me well enough then you know that I can't stand when people blame the recession for everything that has gone wrong in their life. I have dealt with the rising prices of food, gas and well EVERYTHING else in the best way I can. I use coupons, shop sales, cut back on non-essentials and even re-purpose some items. Now I am totally offended that when I do laundry (usually 4 loads at a time, twice a week) that I can't find even a nickel! Man, back about 2 years ago I always got a minimum of $5 and sometimes $10. It was nice little lunch money or pocket change. Now I feel cheated. I get empty gum wrappers and lint. Like I said, the recession has hit my house, not cool :(
Shelly, Mom Files

Say "yes" to the dress at what price?

Has anyone ever seen the show on TLC called Say Yes to the Dress? I was watching an episode where a young woman wanted a $24,000 dress. Um, people have weddings that cost that much and it does not always last. I am just amazed that any woman would spend that much on a dress you wear one time. Some say you can pass it down in the family. Most women of today don't want a hand-me-down gown so where is the worth in spending that much?? I guess I better shut my mouth since I wore a no-name clearance, off the rack dress that cost me $50. If I had it to do again, the most I would spend is maybe $150-$200. I have seen too many people I know that went out and spent gobs of money on a wedding to look cute and it ended in either divorce or they have a messed up marriage mostly due to financial problems. I will take my $500 wedding over a lavish one that left me miserable. I'm just sayin'....
Shelly, Mom Files

A great way to save some money

I was looking over my cable and Internet bill the other day and realized I was paying WAY too much. It was absolutely ridiculous and was to the point that I almost felt like canceling the service! I decided to give them a call so they could break down my charges to the penny. I was paying almost eighty dollars for digital cable service. I only have one receiver and the other 2 TV's have basic cable. I about lost it on the phone. I then told them that my husband has been wanting to go back to satellite for some time and the rep immediately told me that she would transfer me to their 'Retention Dept' and I could take advantage of any promotions they are offering. Hmm, interesting. I spoke with the sales person whose job function is to save customers. I already knew in the back of my mind that if I did go back with satellite that my bill would run anywhere from $55-$65. Well at the end of the discussion my bill came down and I am now saving $26 per month for the next 12 months. You know I will be calling back in 12 months to see what promotion they are offering! There is way too much competition out there to risk losing a long time customer.

Shelly, Mom Files

Don't slam me for being a SAHM

Just a warning that the normally peaceful and sweet Shelly is not writing this post. The raw and outspoken Shelly is in charge. I have something to say to people who seem to have a big problem with the stay-at-home mom. If you meet someone who is a SAHM please do not say "Oh it must be nice". That is not a freakin compliment. Most people did not pay attention to what the word ASSume means. They like to assume because you are at home that your family is rolling in dough. This is not often the case for most of us. I stay home because I choose to. I am a very low-maintenance woman and do not feel like I have to have everything material. With 3 kids we would struggle worse financially if I worked. The cost of daycare/after care, arranging rides to and from school, cost of work clothing, additional fuel cost for travel and the list goes on.

Another assumption is that because I am home I have all this "free" time that I can sit around and do whatever I want. Granted, I do have more time than working moms however I utilize my time to benefit my family. I manage my home and always come up with more ideas and solutions for cutting costs without making the family feel short-changed. I do spend a good deal of time online but that has it's benefits as well. I don't just sit on the computer all day because I have no life.

I don't appreciate people asking me when I plan to go back to work or when I plan to put William in pre-school so I can get a part-time job. It's none of your damn business what my plans are. Again, please do not assume you know anything about my personal life. I really wish folks would realize that it is my choice and the choice of many others to stay at home for our children. I am sorry if I offended you but I just had to say what I needed. Please feel free to give your input on this subject whether you are a SAHM or if you work.

It's Friday!!!

Hey Y'all, it's Friday!! I hope you have a great weekend and I leave you with this 20 second video of your boy, "Ismail the Great". You know how he loves his money!!

*BTW, I did make him toss it in after the video. Cheap bastard!! Don't get me started before this turns into a Vent Day post!

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