Category Archives: Money

Fill Your Own Easter Basket for Under $15

Easter is right around the corner, and we’re here to help with ideas and a free printable budget. Let’s take a look at how you can fill your own Easter basket for under $15.

Select an Easter Basket or Pail and Some Easter Grass

At Running A Household, we opted for a simple Easter pail which sells for $1. You can find this at your local Walmart or dollar store.

You’ll also want to pick up some grass to line the basket or pail.  In addition to the standard green grass, you’ll find that the grass comes in many different colors.  We’ve seen the following festive grass colors: peach, yellow, purple and even aqua blue.

Fill your own Easter Basket for Less than $15

Select Easter Candy

Here are some ideas for selecting Easter candy:

  1. Chocolate Easter Bunny
  2. Peeps
  3. Cotton Candy

A chocolate Easter Bunny is a must have for all Easter baskets. Peeps are a great addition to the basket.  They come in large packages, and are relatively inexpensive.

Make your own Easter basketCotton candy is another one of those special treats that are cheap, but fill the Easter basket nicely.

Consider adding a few toys to your Easter basket

Toys and small gifts for an Easter basket vary according to the child’s age. For younger children, a coloring book and some washable markers are great.  For our basket, we added a package of Pokemon cards and a mini-Lego toy.  Other indoor toys might include Silly Putty, Play-doh, and an Easter book.  Since Easter is in the spring, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and a kite are also possibilities.

Fill Your Own Easter Basket for Under $15

Before heading out to the store, have a simple budget in mind.  This will help you stay on track and within your budget.  Here’s a breakdown of the cost to make our Easter basket:

$1.00 – Easter Basket or Pail

$1.00 – Grass

$3.00 – Chocolate Easter Bunny

$1.50 – Peeps

$1.00 – Cotton Candy

$7.50 – Toys

$15 – Total Cost for East Basket

Easter Basket Printable Budget

Before you head out to go shopping, be sure to print our Easter Basket Budget.  It will help you plan what you need and stay on budget.

Easter basket printable budget

Good luck making your own Easter basket. Happy Easter!

P.S. If you are hosting Easter this year, be sure to check out our popular article:

Hosting Easter? A Menu Planner, Cooking Timeline and Checklist You Can’t Miss

 

Donation Tracker - Cash and Checks

How to Keep Track of Your Charitable Contributions

Do you make donations to charity during the year?  If so, it might be beneficial to claim these donations as a tax deduction.  Whether you write a check or donate your used personal items, you’ll want a system to keep track of your donations.

Please note:  This information is not intended to serve as tax advice.  It is just one method to track your donations.  Please see your tax advisor or CPA for tax guidance.

Cash or Check Donations

Taking a deduction requires some record-keeping.  Don’t shy away because it takes work.  Just be sure to follow the rules for documentation.

Proof: According to the IRS Pub 526, you must keep one of the following:

1.  Bank Record  showing the name of the organization, date and amount of contribution.  A bank record can be:

a.  A Canceled Check

b. Bank Statement or

c. Credit card

2.  Receipt or letter from the organization

3.  Payroll deduction records

Receipt: In addition, if your donation is more than $250, obtain a receipt from the organization.

It’s helpful if you track your donations throughout the year, instead of trying to compile all of the information at tax time.  You can use the Donation Tracker below to organize your cash or check donations:

Donation Tracker - Cash and Checks

Donation Tracker – Cash and Checks

Non-Cash Donations

Did you do some spring cleaning recently?  If you donated these items to a qualified charitable organization, you could be entitled to a deduction.  Once again, record-keeping is essential, but not impossible.  Not sure how to keep track of your donation? You’re not alone.  There are a lot of rules and procedures.  For our purposes, we will focus on tracking clothing and household donations.  You know the ones: clothes your kids outgrew, the jeans that don’t fit you anymore, your husband’s size medium shirts.  These items decreased in value since you bought them.  We are also assuming each item is worth less than $250.

Here are some of the guidelines (from the IRS Pub 526) for non-cash donations:

  • The clothing or household items must be in good used condition or better
  • Household items include:
    • Furniture and furnishings
    • Electronics
    • Appliances
    • Linens and
    • Other similar items

The IRS also points out that “household items do not include: food, paintings, antiques, and other objects of art, jewelry and gems, and collections.”

Recordkeeping: If you make any non-cash contribution, you must get and keep a receipt from the charitable organization.  However, you are not required to have a receipt where it is impractical to get one (for example, if you leave property at a charity’s unattended drop site).

Additional records: You must also keep reliable written records for each item of contributed property. Your written records must include the following information:

  • name and address of the organization to which you contributed
  • date and location of the contribution
  • description of the property in detail reasonable under the circumstances
  • fair market value of the property

So let’s get to work.  You can use this chart to track donations of clothing and personal items:

Donation Tracker - Clothes and Household ItemsDonation Tracker – Clothes and Household Items

After listing the items on the Donation Tracker, you’ll need to determine a value.  The IRS suggests, “You should claim as the value the price that buyers of used items actually pay in used clothing stores, such as consignment or thrift shops.”  So how do you know what someone will pay for your old jeans or your husband’s shirts?  You can use a valuation guide:

Goodwill Donation Valuation Guide

Salvation Army Donation Value Guide

Need more details?  Check out the following items:

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How much does your breakfast cost?

If you could use some extra money in your wallet, start with a quick calculation of your breakfast costs.  Knowing what you eat and how much you pay can save you money.  Whether it’s buying your food on sale, or changing some of the foods you eat, there is certainly room for improvement.  Let’s get started.

A couple of years ago, I was watching a tv show about financial matters.  A person called in to discuss her money issues.  She was really trying to save money, and at one point asked the host of the tv show how much she should spend on breakfast.  The host had no idea, and could not even speculate.  Meanwhile, I had the answer.  It was $0.20.  My breakfast cost $0.20.

How did I know this?  At the time, I ate instant oatmeal, purchased on sale for $2.00 a box.  There were 10 servings in the box, so that amounted to $0.20.

So let’s take a look at the cost of some breakfast items:

Product Total Cost Quantity Per Unit Monthly Cost Annual Cost
(Per Unit *30) (Per Unit *365)
Bananas   (Costco) 1.39 7 0.20 6.00 73.00
Canteloupe 1.50 3 0.50 15.00 182.50
Cheerios (Costco) 5.69 40 0.14 4.20 51.10
Cheerios (on sale) 2.99 8 0.37 11.10 135.05
Coffee –   Starbucks 9.50 25 0.38 11.40 138.70
English   muffins 3.39 6 0.57 17.10 208.05
English   muffins on sale 3.39 12 0.28 8.40 102.20
Instant   Oatmeal 4.00 10 0.40 12.00 146.00
Instant   Oatmeal (store brand) 2.00 10 0.20 6.00 73.00
Milk (1   Gallon; 2%) 4.29 32 (1/2 cups) 0.13 3.90 47.45
Milk   (1/2 Gallon; organic) 3.69 16 (1/2 cups) 0.23 6.90 83.95
Orange   Juice (8 oz) 3.00 8 0.38 11.40 138.70
Raspberries 3.99 4 1.00 30.00 365.00
Slice of Toast – Bread on sale 2.50 20 0.13 3.90 47.45
Whole   wheat all natural 3.99 16 0.25 7.50 91.25

As you can see from just this simple list, prices can vary.  It pays to be a smart shopper.  For example, buying a small box of Cheerios for breakfast each day will cost you $135 per year.  However, if you bought it on sale or in bulk, it’s only $51 per year.  That a savings of $84 per year.

Note: You’ll want to pay attention to the Per Unit cost in the middle column.  This tells you how much it will cost to eat one item.  For example, one bowl of cereal is $0.37.  One English muffin is $0.57.  A glass of orange juice is $0.38.  A cup of coffee also averages $0.38, although this depends on how you make it.  Let’s look at some breakfast meals.

Sample Breakfast Menus

Of course you aren’t going to eat the same food every single day for a year.  So, what’s important to know is the price per serving of each item.  Here are three possible breakfast menus:

Instant Oatmeal, Canteloupe and Orange Juice

  • Instant Oatmeal – store brand ($0.20)
  • Canteloupe ($0.50)
  • Glass of Orange Juice ($0.38)
      • Total Cost: $1.08
      • Total Monthly Cost: $32.40
      • Total Annual Cost: $394.20

 Cereal, Milk, Raspberries and Coffee

  • Bowl of Cereal – at warehouse price ($0.14)
  • 2% Milk – 1/2 cup ($0.13)
  • Raspberries ($1.00)
  • Coffee ($0.38)
  • Total Cost: $1.65
  • Total Monthly Cost: $49.50
  • Total Annual Cost: $602.25

 Toast, Orange Juice and Banana

    • Toast – 2 slices ($0.26)
  • Glass of Orange juice ($0.38)
  • Banana ($0.20)
  • Total Cost: $0.84
  • Total Monthly Cost: $25.20
  • Total Annual Cost: $306.60

Calculate Your Own Cost of Breakfast

If you’re trying to save money, you’ll want to take a look at your food expenses. Print our Cost of Breakfast Worksheet.

Cost of Breakfast Chart

Cost of Breakfast

Write down a few items that you typically eat, and the price.  Use the labels on the food to determine how many servings each item contains.  Follow the worksheet to calculate the monthly and annual costs of eating each food.

How does your breakfast stack up?  Are there any changes you can make to cut your costs?

Hopefully, this will help you save some money.  Or at least raise your awareness of the price of breakfast.  And I haven’t even tackled breakfast at the drive-up. 🙂

Here are some additional articles you may want to read:

Setting Up a Pantry

The Importance of Weekly Meal Planning

Grocery List by Department – Make Grocery Shopping Easy and Efficient

Monthly Expense Tracker: It’s not what you make, it’s what you spend

 

Grill

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Do you need to buy a gift for Father’s Day?  Whether it’s for your dad, grandfather, or husband, we have you covered.  So set a budget, and check out our ideas for a perfect gift.

Electronics

  • Cell phone
  • Computer or laptop
  • Ipad
  • Ipod
  • Cell phone charger for car
  • Waterproof cell phone case

Gift Card

  • Restaurant
  • Clothing store
  • Auto parts store
  • ITunes
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Coffee Shop
  • Car wash

Grilling

  • Tools
  • Weber wood grill

Mini-Fridge for beer – Mom’s like this too, since there’s no beer in the main fridge. 🙂

Pictures

  • Family portrait for your dad
  • Take a few candid pictures of your kids.  Put them in a frame for your husband.

Tickets to game or sporting event

Tools to make his job fun or easier

  • Automatic tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Electric screwdriver
  • Drill
  • Ratchet Screwdriver
  • Compressor
  • Power washer
  • Automatic pool vacuum – Mom secretly wants this too. 🙂

T-shirt (Angry birds, favorite Nascar driver, brew pub, baseball team)

Yard Tools

  • Lawnmower
  • Weed Wacker
  • Edger
  • Hedge Trimmer
  • Tree Trimmer / pole
  • Roof rake for snow

Hobby Items: What does your dad, grandfather, or husband like to do in her spare time?

Camping

  • Tent
  • Portable gas grill
  • Sleeping bag
  • Flashlights
  • Camping chair
  • Cooler
  • Binoculars

Cars

  • Tire gauge to check air pressure
  • Battery checker
  • Note pad for dashboard
  • Radar detector
  • Automatic remote starter

Fishing

  • Fishing pole
  • Supplies: bait, tackle, hooks
  • Tackle box

Genealogy / Family History

  • Subscription to Ancestry.com
  • Subscription to Newsbank.com
  • Book to write down family history
  • Subscription to Family Tree Magazine

Outdoors: Deck / Patio / Yard

  • Adirondack chairs
  • Rocking chair
  • Hammock

Photography

  • Photoshop
  • Software program to organize pictures
  • Camera
  • Zoom lens for camera
  • Camera Bag
  • Camcorder
  • Storage – CDs, jump drives, memory sticks; and case for cds or memory sticks

Reading

  • Gift card to Barnes and Noble
  • Newest book written by his favorite author
  • Magazine subscription

Running, boating, swimming, camping, tennis, golf

  • New gear or equipment: tennis racquet, clubs, balls
  • Kayak
  • Clothing / sneakers

Non-Commercialized Ideas:

  • Breakfast in bed
  • Hand-made card
  • Drawing from children
  • Homemade cookies or cake
  • Coupons for kids to help with the following: wash car, take out trash, mow lawn

Do you have an idea that isn’t listed here?  Let us know and we’ll add it to the list.

Have a Happy Father’s Day.

Net Worth: Assessing Your Financial Health

No matter what you earn for an annual salary, it’s important to know what are you really worth on paper.  Even if your spouse or partner handles the money, don’t skip this article.  You owe it to yourself to know what you’re worth. 

What does Net Worth mean?

Let’s say you sold everything you owned.  Once you sold it, you also planned to pay back any outstanding balances such as mortgages or credit card balances.  What’s left is your net worth. 

Are you curious to find out what you’re worth?  Let’s get started.

Disclaimer:  This information is not meant to be financial advice.  We are simply sharing information that has worked for our family.  Please be sure to read our disclaimer statement.  Click here

Preparation Steps to Calculating Your Net Worth

Step 1: Print our Net Worth Reports below.  There are three pages: Assets, Liabilities and a Summary page.

Net Worth Report – Assets

Net Worth Report – Liabilities

Net Worth Report – Summary

Step 2: Next, pick a date for your report.

This is the date you are determining your net worth.  We find that December 31st works well.  Or, if it’s easier, simply pick the last day of last month.

Step 3: Gather statements from all of your accounts.  This includes bank accounts, retirement plans, mortgages, and loans.

You’ll need the statements from all of your accounts to show you the ending balances as of the date you selected.  So, for our example, we are looking for all bank account statements, credit card bills, and mortgage payments as of December 31st.

Tip: If you’re not sure where to start, grab your last federal income tax return.  Look for:

  • Capital Gains – to show investments you hold
  • Bank interest –  to determine cash in bank accounts
  • Dividend income – to find out if you own any investments like stocks or mutual funds
  • Mortgage interest paid to banks – to show any loans

Your tax return will list the names of the financial institutions where you have income-bearing accounts.

In addition, your checkbook will be helpful, or your most recent checking account statement from your bank.  This will show you the names of the financial institutions where you make credit card, mortgage and car loan payments.

Once you have the names of the financial institutions, and can start to gather the necessary statements.

 Compiling Your Net Worth

Assets

On the Assets page of the Net Worth Report, list everything you own.  Include things like your house, car, boat, bank accounts, 401k and IRAs.  Here are the main types of assets:

Cash – savings, checking, cds, money market accounts

Personal property – real estate, jewelry, cars, boats, collections

Investments – stocks, bonds, mutual funds, cash value of life insurance policies

Retirement plans – pensions, 401k, 403b, IRAs, Roth IRAs

Each item is an asset, and will need a dollar value.  Bank accounts and retirement plan values can be found on your statements.  To value your car, consider using Kelly Blue Book.  Remember that you are not listing the amount you paid for the items, but rather what the item is currently worth.

Here is a sample of assets:

Asset

Value

Savings  $      18,000
Checking  $            500
House  $    150,000
Car  $      10,000
401k  $      25,000
Total Assets:  $    203,500

 

Liabilities

On the Liabilities page of the Net Worth Report, list everything you owe.  Include things like the balance on your mortgage, the balance of your car payment, and your credit card balances.

Here is a sample of liabilities:

Liability

Value

House  $     (105,000)
Car  $         (2,000)
Credit Cards  $        (15,000)
Total Liabilities:  $     (122,000)

Net Worth Summary

Finally, on the Summary page of the Net Worth Report,  add up of your assets, and subtract your liabilities.  This is what you are worth.

Continuing with our example:

Total Assets:  $       203,500
Total Liabilities:  $     (122,000)
Net Worth  $          81,500

How are you doing?  A positive number indicates that your finances are healthy, and you should continue on this track.  A negative number indicates that you owe more than your worth.  Consider earning more income, or reducing your expenses so that you can pay off your liabilities.

Here are a few additional articles you may find helpful:

Monthly Expense Tracker: It’s not what you make, it’s what you spend

House Rules: Pay Off Your Credit Card Balance Every Month

Charts to Track Your Bills