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Step One: SchedulingThe hardest part of planning a family night is finding a time to have it. Each member of the family likely has sports, extracurricular activities, or other obligations that keep them tied up. Find one night of the week that works for everyone. To make sure nobody forgets, add it to your calendar and send invites to the whole family. You can do this via Facebook, Google Calendar, or just a note on the refrigerator--whatever works for your family's needs. A good practice to make sure everyone remembers is to send out a group text message reminder to the whole family so that no one is left out.
Step Two: Make it fun for everyoneIf your family nights aren't "fun for the whole family" you can be assured that they won't last long. This can be hard in a family where kids are at different ages and have different interests. Games that your two-year-old loves will seem boring to your teenager, and vice versa. One way to make sure everyone enjoys family night is to alternate who gets to pick the activities. Start off with your youngest child and work your way around to yourself, this way everyone gets a chance to have a night that they can especially look forward to.
Step Three: Choosing activitiesThere are endless fun family night activities. Depending on the ages of the members of your family, you might have to stick to things that are more kid-friendly. You're also going to need to pick activities that are season and weather-appropriate. Here are some examples for family night activities that work for various ages and seasons:
- Paint night - gather the colors, brushes, and paper you need, then watch a painting tutorial together
- Game night - the most time-tested family night activity is board games. Roll the dice to decide which games to play.
- Video game night - multiplayer games that include everyone are the best option. But you could also take turns or have tournaments to play against each other.
- Ice cream - in the summer, take the family out for ice cream and a walk.
- Bake night - make enough types of cupcakes, cookies, and brownies to last the whole week.
- Backyard camping - set up your tent, build a fire, make S'mores, identify stars and planets, tell ghost stories, and whatever other fun camping ideas you can think of.
Choosing your feedersWhen choosing a bird feeder there are a few traits your looking for. It should be strong enough to withstand the weather and sealed tightly to keep the seeds dry. You’ll want a feeder that is big enough to hold a variety of seeds and is relatively low-maintenance. Hanging tray feeders are the most common type, and for good reason. They attract a variety of birds and are easy to fill and clean. A good tray feeder has a drainage system in the tray to keep seeds dry, which means you should buy a feeder with a mesh bottom instead of solid. For nectar-seeking birds like hummingbirds, you’ll want a few small feeders rather than one large one. Keep it in a well lit area near some flowers to attract the hummingbirds. They’re attracted to bright colors to look for nectar and your fake-flower feeders will seem like a good source if they’re surrounded by the real thing. If you want to view birds from inside your home, window feeders are a great option. Window feeders suction right to your window and will offer you a close-up view of the birds who will slowly get used to you being on the other side of the glass.
Keeping the squirrels awayPutting out plenty of bird feeders won’t just attract birds. Squirrels, too love to eat the various seeds that are found in feeders. You have a couple options when it comes to squirrels. First, you can just accept them as part of the nature of your yard. They, too can be fun to watch and are just looking for something to eat like the birds. If inviting squirrels into your yard isn’t something you can live with, you could try deterring them with a squirrel baffle. Squirrel baffles wrap around the pole your feeder is on preventing the squirrel from climbing up to the tray. However, some crafty squirrels can still find their way through.
It takes more than seedJust having bird seed isn’t enough to provide for birds. Having lots of trees and water is also a good way to keep the birds around. Bird baths are one option. But there are other creative ways to attract birds to your yard like a small natural pool or waterfall. Having a bubbler on your water source is also a great way to bring more birds to your yard as they will be attracted to the sound of the running water. Add these features to your yard and soon the local birds will find it an irresistible place to spend time.
Why do Americans love huge houses?It's counter-intuitive that home sizes should keep growing larger. Bigger houses mean higher prices, more maintenance, and more expensive utilities. To understand why, we need look no further than the automobile industry. In spite of the fact that larger vehicles cost more to buy, use more gas, and do more harm to the environment, people still buy bigger and bigger trucks and SUVs. There are a few reasons why. One is that they can afford to (or they can at least afford the payments). Another reason is cultural. For the most part, bigger meant better in American culture--until recently. Recently, many Americans have begun saying they would prefer smaller sized houses. That desire hasn't entirely caught up to the people building the homes, however. And even as simple living trends and the "tiny house" phenomenon gain traction, building contractors still stand the most to gain from large houses and the people with the money to build houses continue to build big to stay aligned with the other homes in their neighborhood. There are other obstacles in place for people who want a smaller house. Some counties around the U.S. now enforce minimum square footage requirements to uphold the building standards of the area. So, people hoping to move to a particular suburban area but don't want a huge house might be out of luck.
How big of a home do I need?There are a lot of things to consider if you're buying a home. Size and cost often go hand-in-hand, but even if you can afford a larger home, do you really need the space? Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine how large of a house you really need:
- Do I or will I have a family? Kids need space. They need bedrooms and places to play. The size of your family is going to be a huge factor in choosing the size of your home.
- Do I need all this stuff? Many people use their homes like storage containers. Think about the last time you moved and what you brought with you. Now determine how often you used the things you brought. Odds are you have a lot of items just sitting around taking up space that you don't really need.
- Do I have hobbies that take up a lot of space? Woodworking, working on cars, playing drums... these are all examples of hobbies that call for some leg room.
- Am I a dog person? Just like kids, pets tend to take up some room. Larger dogs and energetic dogs require more room, both outside and inside the house.
- Do I have time to keep up with the maintenance? Bigger houses means more windows to clean, more toilets to scrub, more grass to mow... you get the idea. You might find that you'd rather have a beautiful and well-kept small home than a hard-to-maintain huge one.
House title search fees, mortgage application fees, mortgage insurance, homeowners insurance, property taxes and homeowners association fees are only a part of the cost of owning a house. There is also the mortgage principal, home appraisal fee, closing costs, home inspection fees and mortgage interest to pay after you buy a house. Facing all of these and other costs takes thought.
Three simple steps to home ownership and lower mortgage payments
By preparing to buy and maintain a house, you could save big over the short and the long term. Get creative and you will see that there are many ways to save for your home. Three simple ways that you can save for your home are to:
- Open a home savings account. Do this at least two years before you buy a house. Set up an automatic deposit so that money goes into the account each time you receive your payroll check.
- Use money from your bonus check or tax return to invest in your house down payment. Start doing this early, as soon as you graduate from high school, and you could save several thousand if not tens of thousands of dollars.
- Work a second job or freelance. Invest all of the earnings from this work into your home savings account. You could sharpen your talents by using these abilities to generate income. For example, if you have design skills, you could start your own web design or marketing design company and use earnings from sales to build a down payment on a house.
Splitting the down payment with another adult you buy a house with is another way to make smart house buys. Hold yourself and other adults who will be living in the house responsible for making their portion of the monthly mortgage. Split house maintenance costs as well.
Get serious about saving money to buy your first house
As soon as you decide to buy a house, start taking steps to save for your home. For example, if you know that you want to buy a house two years after you graduate from college, start saving for a down payment while you're still in college or as soon as you graduate.
Learn how to build and manage a budget. Depending on how disciplined you are, you might benefit from working with a line item budget. If you live at home, slowly work your way up to saving enough each month to cover the mortgage on the type of house you want to buy.
Do this for two years and you could save a healthy down payment on a house. Focus on what it takes to get your monthly mortgage payments down to where they only require 25% or less of your total net income and you be financially comfortable throughout the home buy and maintenance process.
You might even have enough money to add one or more rooms onto your house, increasing the total value of your property. This single step could position you to yield a profit should you decide to sell your house.