The Best Websites to Sell Your Stuff

August 22nd, 2013

The Best Websites to Sell Your Stuff

Signing a new lease or closing on your home should be an exciting time, but it’s during this time you realize how much stuff you have.

You may realize a lot of it – like that corner bookshelf or your old bike – just won’t fit in the layout of your new place.

It’s time to sell.

You could host a yard sale, but you’re limited to a local audience. Your best bet is to sell the cyber way: the Internet. However, the best website to sell your couch is not necessarily the best site to sell those old Pyrex dishes.

Here’s a breakdown of the best sites for sellers, and what to sell on them.

Craigslist for Bulky, Hard-to-Move Items
Selling a bed, a dresser or a couch? Obviously, you’ll never be able to box it up and ship it if you sold it across the country. Craigslist is the best site for such large items. Local Craigslist posts are only really browsed by people who can visit your home and cart away the sold item.

Keep in mind: Take the posting down once your item is sold to avoid repeated calls.

Etsy for Antiques and Handmade Crafts
Etsy is a great site to set up a storefront and sell certain items. Antiques, especially jewelry, sell very easily on the site. If you have a craft – knitting, making magnets, small sculptures or anything else — you can also sell them through Etsy.

Keep in mind: You can keep your Etsy storefront once you’ve moved, and use it to start your own small business.

Half.com for Books and Textbooks
Half is known as a hub for cheap college textbooks. If you’re a recent graduate, you can easily unload those textbooks for two or three times what you would get selling them back to the university bookstore.

Keep in mind: You can also sell fiction, DVDs and video games if you want – but Half is specifically designed with books in mind.

Freecycle for Valueless Junk
Sometimes you have items that are usefu,l but essentially worthless. There’s no sense in setting up a website listing for an item that will only sell for $1. Yet the item still functions and still has value, so you don’t want to throw it away. While you could donate the item to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, you can also post on Freecycle. You might even see something you want.

Keep in mind: Freecycle is a community based around item trading and free recycling.

Threadflip for Clothing
While you can sell clothing just about anywhere, Threadflip is a site designed specifically for second-hand clothing. Browse the site to see the kind of items they sell, and post your old items. It beats trying to move a bunch of clothing you’ll never wear.

Keep in mind: Second-hand doesn’t mean old torn jeans or your faded tee shirts – they mean gently used dresses, jackets, shoes etc.

Gazelle and NextWorth for Electronics
When you’ve decided to bid adieu to your old Nokia cell phone, Playstation 1 console, or old laptop, check out Gazelle.com or NextWorth.com to cash in on old devices.

Keep in mind: Not only will you get money for electronics you’re not using, by not throwing them away you’re doing your part to keep e-waste out of the environment.

The Anything Alternative: Amazon
You can become an Amazon vendor and sell virtually anything. Amazon is a trusted retailer, and it doesn’t cost you a cent to list an item.

Keep in mind: You only pay fees when you actually sell the item, so remember that when setting your prices.

Alexander Caffrey is a guest contributor to Billy.com’s blog and freelance writer with a focus on technology and new media. Admittedly, the majority of his furnishings have come from Craigslist. He currently lives in Philadelphia, PA, but you can reach Alex via his email.

The opinions and views expressed at or through this website are the opinions of the designated authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of Billy.com, it’s employees, associates or the opinions or views of any other individual.

Making the Move – Perfect Packing

June 6th, 2012

It’s June and more people are moving this month than any other time of the year. One of the most exhausting, and most important, aspects of moving is the packing process. Many moving companies will offer to pack your things for you. While this may eliminate a lot of the work, it can also be very expensive. If you decide to save money by packing yourself, it is absolutely critical that you do it properly. Improperly packed belongings are more likely to break. Also, a lack of detailed organization will make the unpacking process more effort than it needs to be. Here are a couple tips to make sure that your belongings, and your sanity, make it one piece.

1. Before beginning the packing process, make sure that you have sufficient supplies to pack your belongings as carefully as possible. Necessary supplies include: boxes, marking pens, bubble wrap, newspaper, packing tape, scissors and a tape measure. If you plan on packing your own dishes, it is also recommended to purchase special boxes designed for packing dishes.

2. The best place to begin the packing process is to determine what items do not need to be packed. Specifically, what items can be donated or thrown away before the move? If you have trouble getting rid of things, you are not alone. Enlist a friend to help you part with your possessions, so that you can begin your new life clutter-free. Don’t be afraid to get rid of broken items, clothing that is outdated or not your size, or things that you never really liked but were afraid to part with. An unbiased friend will help you to honestly evaluate all items in question so that you can purge your home of everything that you don’t really need or want. After all, why spend money to move things that you don’t love?

3. After you’ve established what you’re not taking, begin the packing process by packing things that you don’t use on a regular basis. If you own a large collection of books, this may be a great thing to pack first. Or, if you’re moving in the summer, you may want to start by packing your winter clothing. By packing lesser-used items first, you can start the packing process as early as possible and avoid unnecessary rushing as the move nears.

4. Keep a detailed list of what was packed in each box. This list is important because it will streamline the unpacking process and make it easier for you to notice if something went missing during the move.

5. Even if you’re not packing fragile items, like your computer, by yourself, you’ll probably want to backup all of your important files to protect your data in the unlikely event that your computer breaks during the move.

6. You may also want to photocopy your important documents such as the birth certificates and social security cards of your family members so that you’ll have a copy in case the originals get lost (even temporarily) during the move.

7. After you’ve made the copies, pack all of your important copied documents in one place so that they stay together and are easy to recognize when you are unpacking. The originals should be taken in your hand luggage whenever possible.

8. Do not fill packing boxes with items totaling more than 50 pounds. Doing so will be uncomfortable to carry and may cause boxes to break.

9. To ensure the security of all items within a box, make sure to tape boxes securely at the bottom.

10. Store lightweight items inside larger items. Pack pillows into your dresser drawers, for example. This will save valuable space and make it easier to unpack.

11. Even if you’ve hired a mover to do the bulk of the work, make sure to pack your jewelry yourself. When it’s all packed, it’s a good idea to take it in your hand luggage rather than to stuff it into a moving box.

12. Consider using a wardrobe box to pack clothing that hangs in your closet. This will will enable you to pack it directly on the hanger, so that you won’t need to re-hang the clothes upon arrival.

13. A great way to visibly determine which box goes where upon arrival is to color code your moving boxes whenever possible. One way to do this is by labeling the boxes with colored permanent markers. Alternatively, placing colored tape or stickers on the boxes will enable you to determine with a quick glance whether a box goes in the master bedroom or the dining room.

14. Another way to stay organized is to pack your home one room at a time whenever possible. Doing so will make it easier to unpack things in the right place and will keep you focused during the packing process. Packing up room by room will also make the packing process seem more manageable as you’ll be able to keep a clear eye on exactly what needs to be done.

15. If you are packing an item with small parts, screws or wires, tape the loose items to the back of the bigger item to prevent them from getting lost or tangled. If possible, use duct tape or another type of strong tape that will be secure enough to hold your things but relatively easy to remove.

16. Household appliances that require liquids to function (such as steam irons or gasoline-powered lawn movers) should be drained before the move.

17. In the winter, try not to pack any liquids that may freeze during transport.

18. Pack books, CDs and records on end – do not stack them.

19. Dishes should be packed with packing paper between each dish. For best results, purchase protected boxes that are designed to move dishes, so that your fragile items will be protected from all angles.

20. Drinking glasses should be wrapped and stuffed with paper.

May Day, Worker’s Day, and Labor Day

May 1st, 2012

The first day of May has significance across the globe. Over 50 countries have national Labor Days relating to the labor movements and most of them include a day off from work.

Now, as an American, I know what you might be thinking. Clearly, Labor Day is on the first Monday of September, not May. Well, yes, you’re right. In the United States our efforts to officially switch Labor Day to the international standard of May 1st have failed. Well, the first of May has its own significance and history in our culture. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, May 1st became known as Americanization Day in opposition to communists by our very own Veterans of Foreign Wars. While Americanization Day was renamed to Loyalty Day in 1949, it wasn’t until 1958 that the U.S. Congress made it a national holiday. Also, in the same year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed it to be Law Day as well.

The primary reason that we don’t celebrate Labor Day in May with the rest of the world is directly related to its origin. In 1886 there was a peaceful rally in Haymarket Square in Chicago. The rally was in support of workers who were striking for an eight-hour work day. When the police came to disperse the gathering, however, an unknown individual threw a dynamite bomb into the group of officers. The blast, coupled with the subsequent gunfire, caused the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians, not to mention the dozens of wounded. President Grover Cleveland was worried that commemorating Labor Day on the first of May would be an opportunity to commemorate the riots. Instead, he decided to support the 1887 parade in New York City, organized by the Knights of Labor, as America’s official Labor Day.

However, the first of May has been a celebratory day since long before 1886. It is also known as an ancient spring festival in Europe, called May Day. While the details of the celebrations varied across Europe, there were some definite similarities. The most well-known of these is the Maypole. Sometimes the maypole was a permanent feature that was only utilized during the festival, but other times it was erected specifically for the festival. Certain age groups would dance around this pole to celebrate youth and the bountiful spring season. Another key feature was the May Queen. The May Queen, or Queen of the May, is a girl who must ride or walk at the front of the parade. Generally she wears a white gown, symbolizing purity, and a tiara or a crown. She usually gives a speech and is responsible for officially initiating the festivities.

While the day has a slightly different significance in countries around the world, the first of May is a special day of varying degrees in all of them. So, while you may be slaving away at your nine to five today, remember that a lot of people went through a lot of effort and sacrificed a great many things for you to be able to leave after an eight-hour day.

Your Own Garden – Petals, Peace, and Pride

March 21st, 2012

Spring has finally arrived! After spending the winter months with your living room as the center of attention, it’s nice to relax in your yard. What if, however, your yard is empty, unkempt, or just plain bland? You might be surprised to learn that crafting your own blossoming garden can be easy, inexpensive, and hugely rewarding. While professional landscapers, store-bought flowers, and specialized pots are all available options, they are not the only way to make a garden.

The first step in creating your own garden is to understand that you don’t need to overhaul the entire area at one time. The key to creating a beautiful and well-maintained garden is to add a little something every year. You don’t want to burn yourself out by taking on a full renovation at once. Start with clearing away at least a small area of maybe a couple square feet in your yard. I recommend choosing an area you can see from your kitchen or one of the windows you find yourself at often. This way you can be reminded of your hard work and stay motivated to keep improving it.

The next step involves a little research. You don’t want to spend effort on planting and nurturing flowers that don’t thrive well in your area. Your local garden center is undoubtedly full of information about what types of plants thrive in your local climate. While you’re there you should consider buying some nutrient-rich soil, but don’t feel obligated to buy any potted plants. It is always cheaper, and more rewarding, to start your garden from seeds and parts of other plants. Some plants can grow roots from sections that are disconnected from the original. Also, ask your friends! You’d be surprised how many people are willing to give away plants or seeds that they can afford to spare or no longer want. Gardening communities and organizations can be found almost anywhere and offer a tremendous amount of helpful advice, access to materials, and a pool of potential new friends with related interests.

You don’t need to plan your whole garden before you start. You can always buy a couple different types of flower seeds and see what you like best. If you are using seeds, be sure to water them more frequently than you would a full-grown flower as seeds need extra water. Be sure to note that there is a difference between annuals and perennials. Annuals have the longer period of bloom and tend to be some of the showiest flowers available, but they also die at the end of the season and need to be replanted every year. Perennials, on the other hand, usually last at least three years, but have a shorter period of bloom. Experimenting with different mixes of different types of flowers can give your garden a beautiful blend of colors that can alter and shift throughout the year based on the different waves of blooming times.

Flowers aren’t the only thing that can make a garden beautiful and unique. Yard sales and thrift stores are great places to find unique and interesting additions for your garden. Statuettes, wind chimes, and older pottery can bring a different feel to a yard. This is a very inexpensive way to add character and depth to compliment your blend of flowers. Also, be on the lookout for items like spare lumber, concrete slabs, broken bricks, and other assorted items as they can make terrific walkways, garden borders, and accent pieces if used creatively.

There are many different ways to create, build, or improve a garden and creativity plays a big role in this process. Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new ideas. Ask professionals and friends to share their experiences and successes. There is always more to learn and few things are as satisfying as watching your hard work turn into something beautiful for you to be proud of. Before you know it the sun will be shining, the breeze will be wafting gently by, and the birds will be singing. What better place to enjoy these wonders than in your private little piece of nature?

Teenagers and Money: Tackling the Issue Head On

July 8th, 2011

Teaching teenagers about money is a completely different challenge than broaching the issue with youngsters, for two Black Friday shopping tipsprimary reasons. For starters, while young children tend to cry or whine when they don’t get the latest movie-themed toy, they generally forget about this disappointment quicker than teenagers who have constant peer pressure to have the latest gadgets and fashions (which, incidentally, are more expensive than most toys).  Secondly, teenagers have a better ability to earn money by babysitting, tutoring or doing odd jobs than younger children do, which means that their approach to money must relate not only to how they spend your money, but how they spend their own.

Perhaps the most difficult part about teaching your tweens and teens about money is the fact that you’ll need to share a part of your personal finances with them so that they can understand your lessons.  If you are living a debt-free lifestyle, for example, you may want to show your child how you balance your checkbook and how you limit your expenses based on your income.  Illustrate how you choose your cell phone provider, brand of cereal and weekend activities based partially on your budgetary restrictions.

If, on the other hand, you are living with credit card debt or other abnormal loans, don’t be ashamed to show your child this side of your finances.  This may be one of the strongest lessons that you can provide, because not only will it help your teenager understand when you say no, but it may inspire him not to fall into the same situation.

Sharing your budget with an older child can also yield other tangential benefits – if your child sees how much you spend on electricity or heat, he or she may be more conscious of using and abusing these utilities.

Another issue surrounding teens and money is the question of whether you want them to earn some of their own money by working or doing chores or both, and whether you want to let them spend this money or save it.  If you plan on making your teenager pay for part or all of their own college tuition, let them know as early as possible so that they can start saving for this expense.   If not, consider letting them earn their own money and encourage them to save part of it for ‘someday’ – whether that’s for wedding expenses, traveling or splurges down the road.  Many teenagers are hesitant to give up their ‘downtime’ for work, but if you sit down and explain the needs and benefits of working you can motivate them to work some weekends and relax on others.  In fact, one can argue that the relaxing weekend will be even more enjoyable when it is doubly deserved.

Finally, it’s a good idea to teach your teenagers about interest and investing.  Most teenagers are happy to learn that their money can grow just by sitting in the bank.  However, if you’re familiar with the market and your child shows interest, it may be worthwhile to let him or her pick some stocks for small investments, and let him follow the market and choose an investment strategy.   Even if he loses a few dollars, the lesson is a good one, and should help him have a better appreciation for the money that remains.

Last Minute July Fourth Party Ideas

July 3rd, 2011

July fourth party ideasJuly fourth weekend may have already begun, but if you haven’t finished planning your July fourth party, there’s no need to panic.  It’s possible to create a festive July fourth party, even at the last minute – and I’ve got 5 inexpensive ideas that can help you turn a regular barbecue into a memorable Independence Day feast.  So before you run out to buy American flag-themed napkins or complicated fireworks, read on to find 5 July fourth party ideas that may be useful this year and in years to come.

  1. Decorate with food – Who needs streamers or decorative flags when you can let your food decorate your July fourth party?  Use strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to create delicious and cheerful desserts, or spread them out as table decorations on a white tablecloth.  Other foods in appropriate colors include whipped cream, jello, and mayonnaise and ketchup swirled in a blue serving dish.  Red, white and blue jelly beans or sweet potato and yucca chips mixed with blue potato chips (I recommend the Terra brand) can also perk up any table.
  2. 50’s theme – The US has 50 states…why not use this as a basis for a 50’s themed July fourth party?  Break out your poodle skirt, prepare some root beer floats and serve cheeseburgers instead of typical barbecued hamburgers.  For extra excitement, set up a move projector and recreate the drive-in movie experience in your own backyard.
  3. Go small – Instead of serving your typical barbecue food, why not make everything in bite-sized pieces?  Think about making mini hot dogs, mini hamburgers, buffalo wings instead of roasted drumsticks, and mini muffins instead of cupcakes.  Smaller foods allow guests to taste everything you’ve made without over-eating, and will avoid the need for clumsy cutting if you’re having a buffet.
  4. Diversify your menu – Celebrate our great country by making dishes that are indigenous to different states.  Serve creole, Philly cheesesteaks, cornbread and cobbler.  If you’re having relatives or friends who have lived in other states, ask them to bring their favorite native food to share the taste of America with the rest of your guests.  This is also a great way to minimize the work of hosting the July fourth party.
  5. Let the games begin – If you’re inviting children to your July fourth party, offering games is a great way to keep them entertained and out of trouble.  Consider a game of capture the American flag, American flag relay races or a game of American flag football.

Happy  Independence Day!

How to Teach Kids About Money (Part 1)

June 22nd, 2011

There are many difficult aspects of child rearing, but ask any parent, and you’ll likely hear that teaching children about money isTeak kids about moneyamong the most challenging.   The reasons for this are numerous.  For starters, the best way to teach children about is to lead by example, and not all parents have their own finances or spending habits in check.    Secondly, parents must teach their children not just about saving (which is a somewhat straightforward concept), but about spending responsibly (which is markedly more difficult and is often fraught with emotional complications.  And, of course, a large part of teaching kids about money is teaching them how to make money, a burden eschewed by many teenagers and illegal for many younger children.

For these reasons, I’d like to break this topic into a short series that will cover this complex topic in depth instead of glossing over the critical issues.  This article will focus on how to teach children aged 5-10 about money.  The second part will examine how to reinforce the lessons when children are aged 11-18, and the third part will address how to deal with children who don’t have a healthy approach to money despite your best efforts.

Many parents think that teaching kids about money from a young age is unnecessary because the children are too young to appreciate the lessons or to grasp the concepts.  I’d like to propose, however, that teaching children aged 5-10 about money is the best time to introduce them to the idea of fiscal responsibility, because they’re eager to learn and will be interested in the topic because it makes them feel ‘grown up’.

Lessons for children aged 5-10:

  • Hard work (hopefully) leads to a stable income.  Children aged 5-10 aren’t old enough to understand budgets or business strategies, but they are old enough to appreciate that Mommy and Daddy have to work so that they can make money to buy things for the family.  This understanding will not only reduce the resentment that some children feel when their parents are constantly working, but will set the stage for further lessons about money.
  • Don’t spend more than you earn.  Kids have a tendency to want a lot of things.  Explaining that you can’t spend more than you earn is a good way to curb your child’s constant requests.  Teach your child how to prioritize between two things that he or she wants, because you don’t want to spend money on two things so you won’t exceed your earnings.  Try not to use the word ‘can’t’ when explaining this principle, lest your child think that you aren’t earning enough and worry about being poor.
  • Money management starts at a young age.  Your child may not be able to work at a young age, but he or she can earn money at home by behaving nicely, getting good grades or doing chores.  While paying young children is a controversial policy, I’d like to suggest that doing it properly will help them learn about saving responsibly and spending responsibly.  A child who can afford his or her own gum, stickers or baseball cards will have a sense of pride, and if you can teach him how to save some money in the process, you’ll be well on your way to raising a fiscally responsible young adult.
  • Good things come to those who wait.  Don’t let your child use his or her money for instant gratification.  Instead, explain why saving up for a larger purchase will feel even more rewarding and exciting.  Teach your child how to set economic goals and to work towards those over a set period of time.  With an end in sight, goals will seem manageable and your child will stay focused while learning a valuable lesson.

Free Summer Concerts, Bowling and More

June 17th, 2011

Free summer events 2011With the last day of school looming, now’s the time to confirm your summer schedule and get the kids excited for the weeks ahead.  I recently wrote about some free summer activities that you can do anytime, which prompted some of my friends to ask about free summer events which are often sponsored by some of the nation’s retail giants.  Here are some of the 2011 summer freebies available for children of all ages (and their parents).  Enjoy!

  • Cultural Events Sponsored by Target – All year long Target sponsors cultural events in cities nationwide, and the summer is a great time to take advantage of these events if you haven’t done so all year.  Depending on where you live, you can enjoy free museum entrances, concerts and theater performances.  Click here to find free events in your area.
  • Entrance to National Parks – On June 21, the National Parks Service is offering free entrance to national parks to celebrate the first day of summer.  Many national parks never charge an entrance fee, making them an excellent option for exciting, free summer activities.  But those that do require an entrance fee will be free next week, so take advantage if you can.
  • Bowling – As in year’s past, kids can enjoy up to 2 free games of bowling each day, courtesy of Kids Bowl Free.  Advance registration is required, so make sure to sign up now.
  • Concerts – Dozens of cities nationwide are offering free summer concerts.  I’ve kicked off your search with the free concert schedules in the cities below, but making an effort to find some in your area can really pay off.
  • Buffalo

    Dallas

    Denver

    Los Angeles

    New York City

    Miami

    San Diego

    San Jose

  • Summer Reading Challenges – There are always a plethora of summer reading challenges for kids that offer prizes to kids who read a certain amount of books.  My favorites include HeBuddy, Barnes & Noble and the TD Bank summer reading program.
  • $1 Movies – Instead of being free this year, Regal Cinemas is offering $1 children’s movies on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at participating theaters.

How I Sold My Car (Without Really Trying)

June 10th, 2011

On May 18, 2011, Yahoo! News published an article about how high used car prices make this an ideal time to sell your car. Car for SaleFortunately for me, this was exactly 5 days after I sold my car.  I knew that the car was worth a decent sum, but I didn’t realize that the relative market price this year is higher than in years past.  Still, I had figured that it was a good idea to sell my 5-year-old car while it was still in good condition, with relatively low mileage, and without the need for major repairs.  And this proved to be a wise decision.

I spoke to several car salesmen, all of whom wanted to pay me significantly less than book value, undoubtedly so that they could resell the car at a reasonable price while still turning a profit.  Since I wasn’t in a specific rush, I decided to advertise it locally, and to post it on a used car website, asking a few hundred dollars under book value.  I figured that if I didn’t sell it relatively quickly, I could always lower the price or (gasp!) return to one of the car salesmen.

Even though I wasn’t in a specific rush, every day that nobody called felt like an eternity.  When the calls did start coming, most of the inquiries were from people hoping to pay thousands of dollars below book value.  Considering that I’d never had a single problem with the car (except for some flat tires), I made the ‘brave’ decision to wait longer, in the hopes that a savvy consumer would realize the value in the car.

About 3 weeks after I’d posted the car online, I got the call I’d been waiting for – a buyer was willing to pay our asking price if his mechanic approved the car.  During the inspection, I felt like I was the one being tested.  Did I maintain the car properly?  Were there any hidden flaws that I was trying to conceal?  Fortunately, the mechanic proclaimed the car to be as good as ‘almost new’, and suddenly I was carless.

It’s been nearly a month now, and I haven’t yet gotten a new one.  I have my eye on the one that I want (a used car, but 4 years newer than mine), but it’s not yet available.  In the past month, I’ve tried to focus on how much money I’m saving on gas and insurance, and to appreciate the value of my time a bit more.  It takes me longer to get places now, but I find a surprising beauty in the way I’m no longer rushing all the time, since I know I can’t be.  I also sit in less traffic and have found that I am buying less at the grocery store, since it’s harder to get it home.  Overall, I’ve found this to be a (slightly stressful but) positive experience, and if you’re considering selling your car, I hope you have an equally successful one.

Lessons Learned:

  • Patience is a virtue.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of keeping your car in good condition.
  • Keep the paperwork from every maintenance – this is a great way to build customer confidence.
  • Advertise your car in 1-2 places each week.  Publicizing it everywhere at once will prevent fresh eyes from seeing it if it’s not sold immediately.
  • Keep a car salesman’s phone number on hand in case of emergency.

Another 7 Free Summer Activities for Kids

June 2nd, 2011

Free summer activitiesLast year I wrote about summer freebies that were designed to keep your children entertained without breaking the bank.  And while many of those activities are available again this year, I thought it wise to consider 7 new free summer activities for kids, to spice things up a bit.  Below are some ideas that I had – if you have others, I’d be happy to hear them!

  • Scavenger hunt – Look at a map of your neighborhood or a nearby area, and consider what interesting things you can find with your children.  Make a list, then set out by car or foot to find them.  Depending on the ages of your children, you can include landmarks, interesting people, animals or signage.  Assign point values to each item depending on how hard it is to find, and designate a winner based on whichever child finds the most items on the list first.
  • Volunteer – This activity may not be appropriate for children under age 5, but most children can appreciate the beauty (and excitement) of volunteering from a relatively young age.  Choose one organization to volunteer with and commit to going one day or afternoon each week during the summer, or create a list of interesting places to volunteer, and head to a new one each week.  Some kid-friendly options include soup kitchens, public parks that can benefit from little collection, or organizing a bake sale to benefit their favorite charity (or yours).
  • Write and record a short skit – Most children love to be creative, and to have your undivided attention.  Why not let them create a short play and have you record it to send to the grandparents (or other loved ones)?  This is an excellent free summer activity because it encourages your children’s creativity and creates memories that they can take with them.  Don’t be afraid to let the preparations and ‘rehearsals’ take more than one day.  Let your kids plan it out over the course of days or weeks.  Who knows how long it can keep them busy?
  • Go for a hike – There are many beautiful state parks that offer free admission and easy hiking trails.  Why not encourage your children to get moving while enjoying all the beauty that your state has to offer?
  • Host a sleepover – Warning: there’s a high likelihood that letting your child host a sleepover will cause extreme fatigue and possibly crankiness the day afterwards.  However, if you plan to have a relaxed day after the sleepover, your child likely won’t mind, and you can enjoy a day without serious programming.  There’s also excitement before the sleepover, so you can plan a low-key day the day before as well.
  • Teach your children to cook – Most parents don’t have time to teach their children how to cook during the school year because time is short and the work is long.  But one of the most practical free summer activities is teaching your children how to cook.  Show them how to measure fractions of liquids and solids, how to separate eggs, and of course, how to clean up.  You may be surprised at how eager your children are to make dinner in the following days!
  • Get wet – If you have a backyard, why not turn on the sprinkler and let the kids water your lawn – and themselves?  One of my favorite activities as a kid was a “Slip n’ Slide”, a plastic strip attached to a hose that allowed you to slide across the yard without getting grass stains.  Alternatively, let your children have a water-balloon fight or play some water-based relay races.  There is a plethora of things to do with water on a hot summer day.