Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pay $20 for $50 Worth of Custom Calendars on Picaboo - Great Gift for Birth Family?

Do you give gifts to your foster or adoptive childrens' birth family? We are planning to give photo gifts, such as photo calendars or photo books this year. Something meaningful but not expensive. Today LivingSocial is offering a great deal - Up to 60% off vouchers for custom calendars from Picaboo. This is a sweet gift idea for giving to family and friends, including birth families (who, in my experience, usually really value photographs). I've been thinking of making a calendar like this with photographs of significant people from my foster sons' pre-foster care lives, such as relatives they miss and like to be reminded of. We are lucky enough to have a good number of photographs we can scan to use for a project like that.

The details:

Pay $20 for $50 worth of custom calendars OR pay $35 for $75 worth of custom calendars. Deal good nationwide, redeemable online only.

Follow this link for the deal.

FREE Amy Butler Paper Craft Projects

If you are a papercrafting nut (like me!) or a big Amy Butler fan (also like me!), download these Free Amy Butler Paper Projects. They provide templates and instructions that can be used with any decorative paper, such as scrapbooking paper, not just Amy Butler's designs. These would be great projects to do with kids for holiday home decor, gifts and gift-wrapping. With the right paper, several of these would be perfect for Thanksgiving or other holiday placecards or table decorations.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

From the Reader Mail Bag: "How Does A Foster Family Afford to Keep A Spare Room?"

Jenna from New Jersey writes:

My husband and I were licensed as foster parents 4 months ago. We still haven't had any calls about placements, other than one for a teenager which is outside our age range (we asked for ages 0-4 and are open to medical needs). Everyone told us that the Department of Youth and Family Services was desperate for foster families, so we assumed our phone would be ringing off the hook. Foster parent friends in other states and even other parts of our state have said they were getting calls since before the ink on their foster license was dry. We're disappointed and a little concerned.
Here's the problem: We moved from our small 2 bedroom apartment to a much nicer 3 bedroom apartment right before we got licensed. We did this so we'd have plenty of room for our foster child and eventually maybe a second foster child as well. Now I'm wondering if we made the wrong choice and should  have stayed put. We are financially able to support ourselves but were counting on having the DYFS subsidy to help pay for the cost of having additional rooms to house foster children in, since in our area housing is so expensive. How do other foster families afford to have rooms open and unoccupied for long periods of time? Do you have any ideas of how we can afford to foster despite it potentially taking months or years to have our first placement?

Any ideas or feedback for Jenna, readers? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Don't forget to send in your Reader Mail Bag questions! Anything relating to raising a foster, adoptive, pre-adoptive, special needs or multiracial family on a budget is game. We also welcome questions about living green, finding deals, couponing, planning or saving for becoming foster or adoptive parents, etc. Don't forget to specify if you'd like us to post your question anonymously or using your first name.

FREE Arm & Hammer Simply Saline Neti Pot for Nasal / Sinus Irrigation

As cold and sniffles season sets in, we were happy to learn there's a wonderfully useful and generous freebie available from Arm & Hammer / Simply Saline. You can get a rebate of the full purchase price (up to $14.99) on a neti pot. Just download this form and send it with your original cash register receipt before 7/31/2013. You will get up to $14.99 back by mail as a rebate.

If you haven't yet discovered them, neti pots are simply magical. Check out this article from WebMD called "Neti Pots - Do They Work?"  They use saline and gravity to gently and safely cleanse, without force, the entire nasal passages. They are a godsend for people with sinus infections, chronic sinusitis, rhinitis, allergies, colds and dry noses. They not only loosen and remove mucus but they also wash out pollens and other irritants that are sitting around in the nose waiting to make us sicker. They are safe for children as long as they're old enough to voluntarily blow their nose after using it. Our 10 year old recently let us neti his nose for the first time when he was sick and he loved it. Using a neti pot for the first time is a strange experience (the water goes in one nostril and out the other!) but once you get the hang of it it's easy, comfortable and even kind of fun.

This neti pot freebie comes with some packets of saline mixture that you simply mix up with water in the neti pot. There are instructions online for using just sea salt or a sea salt / baking soda mixture to make your own saline, but we tend to buy the NeilMed's Sinus Rinse Pre-Mixed Packets because the convenience factor makes us more likely to actually use the neti pot regularly.

From a budget-related perspective, neti pots are a fantastic investment (or in this case, a fantastic freebie) because they result in fewer sinus infections and fewer allergies. They can also reduce postnasal drip, thereby reducing chest congestion and sore throats. Ultimately they may result in less antibiotic use and fewer doctor's visits... if that's not budget-friendly, I don't know what is!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Peanut Butter Prices Rising: Time to Stock Up?

 Image from Index Mundi

Looks like this is a good time to put those peanut butter coupons to good use... or maybe even to purchase a few of those massive Costco containers of peanut butter. As The Happy Housewife shares in a recent post, the price of peanut butter has been rising steadily due to a poor crop this year, and in the coming months it looks like we will see that significant price increase passed on to the consumer. Peanut butter is an inexpensive, vegetarian protein source that can be used in hundreds of different inexpensive recipes, from West African groundnut stew (try it!) to Vietnamese Peanut Sauce for spring rolls. If you use a lot of it, it may be a good idea to stock up.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Natural African-American Skincare & Haircare on a Budget - Part I

Part I: Finding the Best Possible Deals on Expensive but Essential Products

This is the first installment of what will be a multi-part series on caring for the hair and skin of Black and mixed-race children naturally and without breaking the bank. My boys are both Black and of mixed racial background. One has significant Native American ancestry as well, and the other is half Latino. They both have super thick, fine, soft, curly hair. Thank heavens for the curly hair typing system which has enabled us to assess which type of curls they have and find appropriate products.

Having boys, our hair issues are different than for girls. However, our boys both wear their hair "long" - As in, not in a fade or other super-short cut. The little one has ringlets. Our big guy has a mop of curls. It ranges from a little curly 'fro (friends have commented that it's more like what we Jews call the "Jew 'fro" than like what most Black folks call a 'fro) to a much longer 'do. He occasionally gets it braided when it gets long, but it doesn't hold braids for long.

I am very allergic to synthetic fragrances so our choice of Black hair products is limited. In addition, we prefer natural products for the health of our children and the environment. Here are some of the products we've been using:

We generally use the Kinky-Curly line of products, including the Come Clean Clarifying Shampoo about once every week or two, the Knot Today Leave-In Conditioner & Detangler as the boys' primary styling product, and the Curling Custard when we want their curls to be extra defined and glossy and we have a little extra time. The cheapest source for Kinky-Curly products is Target, though only select Target stores carry them. We were thrilled to find the Knot Today Leave-In for $11.99 at a local Target, whereas it's $14 plus shipping from

We have also occasionally used the deep conditioning and styling products from Alaffia's Beautiful Curls line, which we buy at Whole Foods. I like these products because they help support African women farmers, they're Fair Trade and they're sustainable. They are also more legitimately "natural" than Kinky-Curly and slightly cheaper. However, they don't perform quite as well as styling products so we usually just stick to using them for deep conditioning.

One last product we love is Curly Q's Coconut Dream Moisturizing Conditioner. It's super conditioning and smells great. It's designed for multiracial kids' hair, but I've heard of white folks with really curly, dry hair using it as well as non-multiracial Black folks. If we were stuck on a desert island with only two hair products, we'd make it the Curly Q's Coconut Dream Moisturizing Conditioner and Kinky-Curly's Knot Today.

Don't forget that there is no one entity that is "African American hair" or "biracial hair" - Black folks' hair comes in a million different and beautiful varieties, with different curl patterns, different thickness, different "shrinkage" levels, different levels of dryness. The hair of people from the African diaspora is not all the same and therefore does not all benefit from the same products. The hair grease used in many Black childrens' hairdos leaves my kids' hair looking slick, weighed down, and dirty. Similarly, the products I list above are perfect for our kids, but may not be perfect for yours.

The frustrating thing is that the products we use, even when bought at Target, are so darn pricey. We have decided it is worth it because our boys' hair looking good and being healthy is important to us, so we simply search out the best deals on them.

However, there are a few ways in which we manage to use less of these products and save more money, including alternating them with products that are even less expensive and more natural than these. We will have more posts from myself and guest posters about these super-natural and budget-friendly ideas in Part II and Part III of this series. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Saving for Adoption Costs

What are some of the most ingenious or successful ways you've heard of people raising funds or saving money to pay for adoption costs?

FREE Social & Emotional Awareness Worksheets for Kids

These FREE downloadable, printable worksheets from School Sparks look like they could be useful for Autism spectrum and Asperger's kids, and potentially for social skills development in kids with ADHD.  They focus on identifying emotions through facial expressions. They are aimed at kindergarteners but could be useful for older kids with social/emotional skills delays. For information and to download, go here.

FREE "Tt is for Turkey" Thanksgiving Printables for Little Ones

There's a great new FREE pack of printable Thanksgiving-themed files at A Heart For Home that is perfect for home school or other educational use, or just to keep the kids busy while you cook on turkey day! Coloring pages, academic activities, games, and more. It's made with toddlers through kindergarteners in mind, but some of us with older kids who are a little delayed or who don't find this kind of activity too childish might also find it useful. View and download the "Tt is for Turkey" pack here.

Too Many Cheerios? Here's An Idea...

I got a kick out of this post on one of my favorite blogs, Kosher on a Budget. Blogger Mara is a passionate coupon user. She combines coupons with store sales in order to get Cheerios for free or almost free on a regular basis. Unlike myself, she has built up quite a stockpile of cereal (I mostly only stockpile toiletries). Wondering what to do with all the Cheerios you've stockpiled from your coupon adventures or bought on an ill-advised Costco shopping spree? Mara gave her kids string and Cheerios and set them to work making Cheerio necklaces. This looks like a great project for preschoolers and is not so different from the fine motor work the Early Intervention teacher uses with my 2 year old! Can Cheerios be occupational therapy? Why yes, they sure can! As my mom always says, "How did children develop fine motor skills before there were Cheerios?"

You can also try dying excess penne pasta and letting kids string that, too. We recently made chains of food-coloring-dyed pasta to hang as decoration in our Sukkah. Lots of fun, and very doable for our toddler even if he ran out of interest several noodles in and left Ima to finish the rest of the chain.

The post also suggests adding cereal to trail mix, which with a high-fiber cereal is a great way to sneak some fiber into picky kids' diets. Commenters on the post also suggest ways to use leftover Chex and even how to use cereal in place of bread crumbs!

Save Money on Gluten-Free Pasta

Though traditionally only followed by people with celiac disease, these days gluten-free diets are widely used for digestive disorders, autoimmune disease, autism and other conditions. Gluten-free convenience foods can be extremely expensive, as anyone on a gluten-free diet can tell you. One of the best ways to save money is to not eat gluten-free processed foods but instead stick to naturally gluten-free foods like rice, vegetables, meats, beans, etc. However, there are certain "processed" foods that are staples in even the most health- and budget-conscious family's home. Pasta is one of them.

In our household, where I am the only one who eats gluten-free but I am also the one doing almost all of the cooking, our whole household tends to eat many gluten-free meals just for the convenience of not having to cook multiple meals each night. To avoid dirtying two pots for cooking pasta, on pasta night we all eat gluten-free noodles. This is fine and dandy except that it's pricy. Our favorite brand (Tinkyada) is a whopping $3.69 for a 12 ounce bag at our local grocery store. This comes out to $0.307 per ounce. Fortunately I discoverd recently that Amazon offers a much better deal if you buy Tinkyada penne in bulk. They sell Tinkyada Brown Rice Penne Pasta, 5-Pound Bags (Pack of 2) for $31.29, which is $0.20 per ounce. This 10-pound package of pasta ships for free, and saves a lot of packaging as it comes divided into just two plastic bags. I simply open the bag and pour all of the pasta into an oversized glass jar which sits on top of our pantry cabinet. Ten pounds of pasta might sound like a lot, but at the rate we eat pasta in our home it's a great money-saver for us. Ten pounds of pasta purchased at retail would be $49.12, so buying our gluten-free pasta this way saves us $17.83! Mangia, mangia!

Sad News & Good Deals. Adoption Publisher Goes Out of Business, All Books 50% Off

I was so sad to learn that Perspectives Press is going out of business on December 31, 2011. I don't know what led to this decision but I can only imagine that it's a hard time to be an independent book publisher right now. Perspectives Press is the publisher of some of the best-regarded titles in adoption, foster care and infertility. All of their titles are 50% OFF until they sell out or until December 31st. Some of their most popular works include:
 Many of their titles are also available as eBooks.

Why Do Foster & Adoptive Families Need Their Own Budget Blog?

As an avid reader of frugal living and couponing blogs, I have frequently thought of starting a blog to document my own attempts to live on a tighter budget. However, the thought recently occurred to me that as foster and adoptive families, we often have a set of financial circumstances that are different than your average family - And that regardless of financial circumstances, there are certain topics relating to budget living, green living, finance, household management, entertainment and shopping that are specific to those of us with foster or adoptive families. "Why?" You ask. "Aren't our families just the same as everyone else's except for how our children came to be in our lives?" Well, not exactly. Here are some ways that being a foster and adoptive family might impact one's finances:
  • A large number of us have children with special behavioral, mental health, educational, developmental and physical/medical needs. We may incur many expenses related to these needs, such as educational supplies, medical equipment, therapies not covered by insurance, tutors, special toys (such as sensory toys or adaptive toys), etc. 
  • Due to having young children, or having children with special needs, one parent must often stay home. This puts a financial burden on many families, leading them to seek areas to cut back their expenses and increase their income while staying at home.
  • Many of us have large families, and deal with the financial issues (such as massive food bills!) that any large family must deal with.
  • Those families with many children or who have foster children can benefit from reusing and recycling clothing and toys as much as possible.
  • Learning about inexpensive books about foster or adoptive parenting, free or inexpensive online seminars on parenting children with behavioral or attachment issues, discounts on adoption or special needs parenting conferences... These can all help families access the support and information they need.
  • For foster families, the logistics of home management and budgeting when you have a fluctuating number of children in your household who range in ages and genders and duration of stay can be very overwhelming.
  • Many of our families are multiracial, so we look for good deals on inexpensive, quality toys and books featuring children of color or multiracial families in order to help our children develop a positive self-image.
  • Foster families and families who adopt special needs children through the state may receive monthly stipends. These can be helpful with expenses but also pose budgeting challenges, especially when a family can lose this stipend at any time if their child is reunified with family or moved to a different placement.
  • Private adoptions and international adoptions can be incredibly expensive, leaving families in debt. These families can use saving and earning strategies to help themselves get back out of debt or to avoid debt in the first place.
  • Whether you have a large family or a small family with children of varying ages, foster and adoptive families can always use suggestions for free or cheap activities to do together.
  • Many adoptive and foster families homeschool, whether full-time or as supplemental schooling. Some due so because of personal or religious beliefs, but many do so because of their child's special learning, behavioral or attachment issues. They are often in search of cheap or free ideas for educational enrichment, and it's always a bonus if these ideas work for children with special needs and/or of varying ages.
Obviously there are many more ways that being an adoptive or foster family can increase our need for frugality, but I hope this gives you an idea of why I started this blog and what to expect from it. The issues raised above are topics I hope to address in future posts, and to hear your feedback on.

I welcome your ideas for posts. Feel free to alert me to sales, recipes, blogs or resources to share with my readers. And don't forget to share this blog with your friends!