Summer reading programs are about to start across the country. If you cannot make it to your normal library, you may have something smaller and closer that you can utilize.
Little Free Library
These tiny sharing kiosks are great. The premise is pretty simple. A landowner who loves books builds a little library. Then anyone can come and take a book, leave a book, or just browse. Check out the map here to see if there are any near you (not all libraries are shown on the map, so don’t be discouraged)!
You never know what you will find and depending on how active the area is, the stock is always changing!
They come in all different shapes and sizes too! Frugal Boy has gotten very adept at spotting them.
Some owners put a lot of work into their libraries. I really liked this one that mimics the house design.
Did I mention how fun it is to chat with the owners? In my experience, the owners have been retired and are happy to spend some time chatting with you about their libraries and life experiences. Now that is a great resource!
Shae and I strive to impart a love for reading in our children. As such, books are one of the primary activity areas in our house (the other is a Lego table).
Unfortunately, kids are pretty awful at picking up and neatly shelving books when they are finished.
I’ve watched both Frugal Boy and Frugal Girl grab the bottom most book and yank it out causing everything on top to come avalanching out. We have neatly arranged the books standing upright with the spines facing out and less than 24 hours later it looks like the above picture again.
The problem was simple. There were too many books and they were not visible enough. A little kid wants to see the front cover of a book. That is how they judge it! The title and author on the spine mean very little to them.
So I started looking around the internet for ideas on how to corral the bookalanche and make it a better experience for everyone. I really liked Simple Families method.
It is simple, practical, and easy! What’s not to love?!
First I looked at clear plastic folder holders like this, but they are $8-12 each and only hold one or two books at most without stacking them two or more deep (which utterly defeats the purpose).
There are some smaller, cheaper options like this sling rack. It measures 24″ x 24″.
I couldn’t help but think that I could build something myself. Thankfully, Ana White already did the heavy lifting by publishing some plans for a book or magazine ladder shelf (link here). I’ve used her plans before when I built a changing table.
For about $35 worth of materials, I was able to build a custom sized piece to exactly fit the intended space. 48″x48″.
I assembled it in the garage.
You may be able to scrounge up the materials from leftovers of other projects.
I brought it inside to test it out with the kids. They seemed to respond very well to it.
It is important to note that the unit leans against the wall and ultimately has to be fastened to the wall to keep it from tipping over. I used a 10° angle on the feet per the original instructions. Ana recommended in a note afterwards that 5° might be more appropriate. However, I have some networking equipment that I wanted to hide behind it, so I stuck with the original 10°.
Frugal Boy is tall enough to reach the top shelf with ease. We can put one or two of his jigsaw puzzles up there and no longer have to worry about lil sis dumping them out all over.
I finished the project up with two coats of paint that I had.
I didn’t see the need to plaster the bookshelf with bright colored alphabet letters. Maybe it is just me being a miserly old man, but I don’t think every surface in a child’s line of view needs to be a shade of neon bright.
SO MUCH STIMULI
Besides, the emphasis should be placed on the books themselves. I think it really comes back to the Simple Families blog post about teaching children some reverence for books. These are treasures that should be cared for, not dumped into a heap.
So far Frugal Boy has adapted very well to the new system.
How do you manage books in your household? Do traditional bookshelves work or have you tried something else?
Cord cutting is becoming more and more mainstream as consumers get fed up with the high cost of cable tv and incessant, interruptive advertising.
If you have been looking to cut the cable cord, or if you already have and are looking for some more sources of media, then your local library may have you covered!
Our library began advertising their partnership with Hoopla.Hoopla is an add-on service that your library may offer to you for free. Here is a bit more about Hoopla from their About page:
hoopla digital builds on that passion by providing public libraries of all sizes the ability to offer patrons an enormous selection of digital video (movies and TV shows), music, audiobooks, ebooks and comics to their patrons. For these libraries, we’ve pioneered a unique model that allows patrons to borrow content immediately, removing artificial availability constraints and maximizing the power of digital content and Internet distribution. Technologically, we focus on the latest browser, phone, tablet, and TV products to deliver the best possible experience to our user – our passion – the public library patron.
There are currently over 1,200 libraries in the USA and Canada that have partnered with them.The signup process took less than 2 minutes.
Each library sets its own Hoopla borrowing limit. For me, that means that I can borrow a total of five (5) items per month. I had to dig around the help quite a bit to find out that returning an item early does not increment your borrow quota for the month. So if I borrow five digital items today, I have to wait until the start of the next month before I can borrow anything else. Obviously this kind of stinks, but for the price (FREE) how picky can you be?
There does seem to be wide support for devices. It looks like both TV and chrome cast are both supported via mirroring from a phone or tablet.
Ok, what about the actual content available? It looks like they have Audiobooks, Movies, Music, Comics, Ebooks, and Television.While there are some bigger well known titles in the catalogue, there is also quite a bit of B and C roll material. You might get lucky and find just what you are looking for however to scratch that ear worm.
A thorough review is available here if you want to read more.
The book penned by Steve & Annette ‘Economides’ (oh please) details their overly complex allowance system that they have developed to help raise productive members of society. The book starts off well, talking about the 5/50/500 concept whereby a small child will make a $5 request, a tween will make a $50 request/mistake, a teenager will make a $500 request, a college student will make a $5,000 request, and an adult child will scale up to $50,000 mistakes/requests. The sooner that you teach money handling to children, the less costly the requests and mistakes they make later on in life will be. In their words, kids will take everything that you give them, so it pays to control the purse strings early on in life and not bail them out of smaller goof ups.
The book takes a decided turn for the worse when the authors proudly state that allowances are bad and parents shouldn’t use them, then launches into a multi chapter discussion of their family’s allowance (er point) system.
Each child earns 0-5 points a day for completing expected tasks, like getting out of bed, and at the end of the week, the parents have to tally up the points and use some weird sliding age weighted scale to turn the points into an allowance (oops, they call it a paycheck).
If you have hours of idle time as a parent and are looking to add some complexity to your life, then by all means read up on the MoneySmart Family System.
Tells parents not to bail out kids mistakes
Includes discussion of all age groups from 2-24+
Chapters and chapters of overly complex allowance systems
The really corny made up stage name
The better than thou attitude (they do personal finance consulting for their church and talk about the silly mistakes that people come to them with concerning their children)
It’s mid July and it is HOT. The obvious answer to escape the heat is to head on down to your public library, find a good book, and cross off some check boxes on your summer reading program.
I just finished, and Shae had finished before me, reading Jeff Yeager’s book, The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches, A Practical (and Fun) Guide to Enjoying Life More by Spending Less.
The author, Mr Yeager, is a retired CEO of a nonprofit hostel organization. After spending a lifetime of working in the nonprofit space, Yeager understands a thing or two about squeezing every dollar. It follows that his take on personal finance ignores the income side of the equation and focuses purely on expenses.
The book centralizes around the concept of “money steps”. The example given early on is that of the typical teenager who works a job to afford the car that gets them to the job. Yeager argues that the teenager could just stay home sans car and skip earning money (and trading time in the process). If time is money, then surely money is time. We know that we have a finite amount of time on this earth, so why waste it trading it for money?
If you are familiar with Suze Orman then you will understand when I describe Yeager’s philosophies as the anti-Orman. If you are unfamiliar with her, then here is the quick rundown. Ms Orman has penned a number of successful personal finance books that encourage readers to give up small daily expenses, like the morning Starbucks coffee. By doing so, Orman hypothesizes that the savings will snowball and secure an easy retirement. Yeager pokes at this style of personal finance. He pokes hard at it (yes he also uses a lot of old man sexual innuendos in the book). Yeager’s argument in his book, where he calls her out by name several times, is that any small daily savings will simply be spent elsewhere in the day. Even if someone has enough control not to spend that money and put it in a savings account, it’ll likely be raided at the first sign of trouble. Instead, Yeager advocates pinching dollars, not pennies. Each chapter in the Cheapskate book focuses on a major line item in our lives.
Chapter 4, Warning: Money May Be Hazardous to Your Health, examines how many money steps the typical American goes through that end up destroying their health.
Work at job, earn money -> Eat out -> Get fat -> Work at job, earn money -> Get gym membership -> etc. etc.
I had never heard of it before, and maybe it is a Jeff Yeager original, but he details his way of grocery shopping. His one and very simple rule is to not spend more than a $1/pound on anything at the store. While it isn’t an unbreakable rule, the reasoning behind it is simple. The food pyramid and cost pyramid are inversely related. The grains, rice, and other bulk portions of your diet are easy to pick up for less than a dollar a pound. Fruit and veggies are similarly cheap. Red meat is a once in a while food.
As for staying fit, he writes that everybody should do as much as possible for themselves. The yard needs mowed, that’s a great workout. Home improvement list to knock out, that should burn off a few calories. Walking and biking instead of having other people shuttle you around is also beneficial to your health.
Buy a Home, Not a Castle, hits on two major points. GPS homes, a home that requires satellite positioning to navigate, are excessive and ‘starter’ homes are bunk.
Our grandparents didn’t buy a starter home, they bought one house and lived there all their lives. Today, many people climb the home ladder. Buy a starter home > live there for 5 years > buy a bigger home > repeat repeat repeat. Not only is there the financial loss (the first few years of a 30 year mortgage are primarily interest and you don’t build much equity) but there is also the societal problem of people not putting down roots and truly belonging to a community. Why invest the time to get to know your neighbors, volunteer at an organization, or participate in democracy, when you are going to pick up and leave for a bigger and ‘better’ home in a matter of months.
Transportation, Gadgets, Entertainment, and More
These are all topics that have their own chapters. I’d encourage you to pick the book up at your local library and read it yourself. The 230 page book is a quick read (and humorous if you are into old man sex jokes). Most of the points in the book, we had already been applying in our daily lives. I guess it was more of a reaffirmation of our own lifestyle. Yes, cheapskate can be cool and was once the norm!