Kristen Pope - The Penny Hoarder

When you think about high-paying jobs, do you think of becoming a doctor or lawyer, or hitting it big in the tech industry?

You don't have to go to medical or law school, or move to Silicon Valley, to earn a high salary.

Choosing a Career? Consider These 13 High-Salary Jobs

If you're a student or you’re considering a career change, consider one of these professions.

1. Air Traffic Controller: $122,410

If you're detail-oriented and love all things aviation, consider going into air traffic control. This high-responsibility career pays off with a mean annual wage of $122,410.

You'll be responsible for guiding some of the 87,000 flights in the U.S. skies each day and following policies and procedures to ensure flight safety.

To head into this field, you must be a U.S. citizen, start the FAA Academy by your 31st birthday, and be able to pass background checks and medical exams.

You’ll also need three years of higher education as well as some work experience -- but you don’t need a college degree.

2. Accountant or Auditor: $76,730

Analytical skills are key to a successful career as an accountant or auditor. In this field, you'll prepare financial statements, interpret records, give advice and help individuals and businesses with their costs and budgets. You'll also examine financial records and make sure people and companies pay their taxes correctly and on time.

To pursue this career, which comes with a mean annual wage of $76,730, you'll need a bachelor's degree.

Many accountants also pursue certification as a Certified Public Accountant. Earning a CPA has a number of career advantages, including typically earning a 10% higher salary than people without the license.

Each state has different fees associated with the exam and licensing procedure, and many people opt to take a preparation course or purchase self-study materials. In Minnesota, it can cost more than $3,000 to become licensed.

3. Healthcare Administrator: $109,370

Ensure hospitals provide quality care by going into healthcare administration. This field pays around $109,370 per year and you'll need a bachelor's degree, typically in healthcare administration or management.

Many administrators also go on to earn a master's degree in a related field to boost their qualifications and become even better candidates for high-ranking positions.

4. Dental Hygienist: $73,440

If you're detail-oriented and don't mind peering into patients' mouths every day, you might do well as a dental hygienist.

This career, which pays an average salary of $73,440 per year, involves cleaning and examining teeth as well as educating patients about how to take care of their pearly whites.

You'll need an associate's degree and a state license. Each state has different licensing rules, so be sure to check with your state for up-to-date requirements.

5. Packaging Engineer: $85,110

This specialty within the engineering field is a blend of industrial engineering, industrial design, material science, marketing and logistics. Expect to work from broad design conceptualization right on through product placement.

You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, but you can expect to earn $85,110 a year if you pursue a degree in this field.

6. Data Scientist: $124,150

Working with data to mine information, spot a variety of different trends and work to help businesses succeed is what data scientists do each day. For this, they earn a median wage of $124,150.

However, in supervising roles, they can earn quite a bit more. Data scientists leading a team of up to three earn $140,000 a year, while those leading 10 or more earn $232,500 per year, according to a Burtch Works 2014 salary study.

7. IT Manager: $135,800

Spend your days planning, coordinating and managing computer activities for a median salary of $135,800 per year as an IT manager.

You'll generally need a bachelor's degree in computer or information science and work experience, and many IT managers also have graduate degrees.

8. Business Operations Manager: $116,090

This lucrative field helps companies manage day-to-day and long-term business performance. Expect to spend your time switching between managing policies, materials and personnel.

You’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in business or logistics, and you can earn an average yearly salary of $116,090.

9. Physician Assistant: $101,480

Work with doctors to diagnose patients, write prescriptions and help patients recover from illnesses and injuries. You'll need a master’s degree from a physician assistant program, but you'll earn a mean annual wage of $101,480.

10. Information Security Analyst: $92,600

Work with companies to maintain computer security, respond to security breaches and viruses, and help preserve digital privacy.

These pros earn a mean annual wage of $92,600 for their efforts keeping companies digitally safe. You'll generally need a bachelor's degree in a related field to get this gig.

11. Construction Manager: $99,510

Spend your days managing construction projects, coordinating and supervising personnel, sticking to a budget, and making sure you’re on track to complete projects on time.

You'll earn a mean annual salary of $99,510 in this field. Many people earn this job by working their way up the ranks from entry-level construction positions.

12. Actuary: $114,120

If you love working with data and statistics, consider a career as an actuary. You'll spend your days analyzing data on accidents, mortality, disability and retirement statistics, and use that information to forecast risks and liabilities.

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree and to pass a series of qualifying exams. Actuaries earn a mean annual salary of $114,120.

13. Political Scientists: $112,250

Spend your days analyzing political systems, including their origins, development and operations. You may even use your expertise to conduct public opinion surveys and analyze election results. Expect a mean annual wage of $112,250 in this field.

Many political scientists work for the federal government, research agencies, or colleges and universities. Others are consultants or work for local government offices.

Your Turn: Are you a student or career changer interested in any of these fields? Let us know in the comments!
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Why toss things in the trash when you could repurpose or recycle them?

April 22 is Earth Day, and one great way to celebrate is by recycling items you might usually throw away.

In addition to diverting items out of the waste stream and keeping them out of landfills, you could also make extra money or help out worthy causes.

From scrap metal to ink cartridges, bullets to construction materials, you can recycle a huge variety of items in exchange for cash or goodwill.

Ready to see how recycling can pay off for you?

Find a Collection Point

Though some recycling centers are closing, you can still find places to recycle a wide variety of items for cash.

To find a recycling center near you, head over to Earth911.com and plug in the item you’re looking to recycle as well as your location. The site lists collection locations for everything from antifreeze to ammunition.

Of course, you won’t get paid to recycle everything, but it’s important to properly dispose of potentially hazardous items.

Prepare Items for Recycling

Check with your local collection point to see whether you have to prepare your recyclables for the collection center in any specific way.

Some centers require you to remove bottle caps, rinse and bag bottles in certain increments, or sort and tie together cardboard. Check the rules before you go to save time later on.

Be sure to properly bag items that may make a bit of a mess. Even if you thoroughly rinse all your bottles and cans, there might be a bit of water and other residue on them; transport them in bins or bags to protect the interior of your car.

If you’re donating a cell phone or other electronic item, be sure to clear your personal information from it, including contact lists, voice mails, text messages, photos, passwords, downloads and anything else you wouldn’t want random strangers to access.

Back up your information on your new phone, your computer or a cloud-based service, then restore your phone to factory settings before recycling it.

What to Recycle for Cash

Depending where you live, you can get paid to recycle certain items.

Here are some common options and how to recycle them.

1. Scrap Metal

Scrap metal is one of the more profitable materials to recycle. For this reason, scrap metal theft is not uncommon and even community recycling dumpsters have been raided in search of the metal.

Many local recycling programs fund their programs through scrap metal collection, so be sure to check your local rules or laws about collection.

Copper, steel and aluminum are just a few of the scrap metals you can recycle for money. Google your local area and “scrap yard” to find a local scrap yard that may take whatever metals you have.

Once you’ve rounded up your metal, find out if it’s ferrous or non-ferrous by seeing if a magnet sticks to it.

If it does, the metal is ferrous and likely a common metal like steel or iron. These items typically aren’t worth that much, but it’s still important to recycle them.

If the magnet does not stick, you likely have copper, aluminum, brass, bronze or stainless steel on your hands. These metals are more valuable.

You can make money recycling a variety of these metals. Be sure to contact your local scrap yard to see what it accepts and learn its procedures for drop off.

2. Bottles and Cans

One Penny Hoarder writer made $1,500 cashing in soda cans he collected at work. You, too, can make money by rounding up bottles and cans, whether from work, friends and family, at events or just your own home.

California offers 5 cents for most plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans smaller than 24 ounces, with 10 cents for 24-ounce or larger containers. It’s technically a bottle deposit, but many people don’t bother to collect their refunds, so it’s easy money for bottle and can collectors.

Michigan has a 10-cents-per-bottle recycling rate, which has prompted people to illegally smuggle in empty bottles purchased out of state to cash in — this was even the plot of one “Seinfeld” episode.

Many states have a deposit or pay for recycling cans and bottles, so be sure to check your local area for rates.

3. Car Batteries

Advance Auto Parts offers a $10 store gift card to customers who bring in their unwanted used car batteries (light-duty truck batteries are also accepted).

If the company doesn’t have an outlet near you, call your local auto parts stores to see whether it offers a similar deal.

Some scrap metal yards test and sell used batteries they collect, though this price can vary widely.

4. Ink Cartridges

A number of office supply stores, including Staples and Office Depot, accept used ink cartridges for recycling. Staples offers $2 back per cartridge, with a maximum of 20 returns per month, though you do have to spend $30 on ink there over the previous 180 days.

Office Depot offers 200 points for up to 10 cartridges a month, but you must also make a $10 qualifying purchase during that month. Most in-store and online purchases count, but certain exclusions (such as gift cards and postage) apply.

There is no limit on the number of cartridges you recycle, but you will only receive points on the first 10 per month. You can use your points toward a number of different perks and discounts.

5. Electronics

Eco-Cell is one of many companies offering cash for old cell phones and other electronics. The company accepts working or broken phones, tablets, rechargeable batteries, circuit boards and a variety of other electronics.

Even if an item is broken or was submerged in water and is now unusable, Eco-Cell will accept it. The company wants to divert these electronics from landfills and properly dispose of the toxic components and metals in each item.

While it doesn’t list its prices, Eco-Cell does offer a revenue share on the items, and its FAQ recommends calling in for a quote.

Many cell phone providers, including Verizon and AT&T, have trade-in programs where you can receive a voucher, gift card or other reward for turning in your old phone. Amazon Trade-in could also help you earn gift cards.

A number of charities also accept cell phones, whether to re-purpose the phones or use the funds from their recycling to benefit others. HopeLine has donated 180,000 phones to domestic violence victims and survivors. Cell Phones for Soldiers will refurbish and sell your old phone to active-duty military members and veterans.

If a phone is too old or broken, Cell Phones for Soldiers sells it to recyclers who strip it for parts and dispose of its metals responsibly. The proceeds from the sales go to purchase international calling cards for troops and “provide emergency financial assistance to veterans.”

And of course, you could always sell your old phone yourself.

6. Quirky Recyclables

When you think of recycling, you probably think of bottles and cans. But you can recycle weird items ranging from wine corks to food packaging, too.

Look around and see what you may be able to cash in on!

Your Turn: Do you recycle items in exchange for cash or other benefits?

Disclosure: You wouldn’t believe how much coffee The Penny Hoarder team goes through. This post contains affiliate links so we can keep the grinds stocked!

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The next time you’re in the grocery store, pick up a bottle of conventional bathroom cleaner and take a look at the label. You'll likely see unpronounceable ingredients and warnings galore. While you’d prefer to use something a little more eco-friendly, the natural cleaners on the next shelf are much pricier. How can you use better cleaning supplies without destroying your budget?

Thankfully, you can ditch toxic and expensive store-bought cleaners for some of these eco-friendly, family-friendly DIY cleaning products and techniques.

A few basic ingredients, including baking soda, borax, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, essential oils, and more can help transform a dirty house into a sparkling one. Whether you want to clean your carpet, bathroom or kitchen, these cleaners are easy and inexpensive to make from simple ingredients that are far less toxic than store-bought formulas.

Of course, some of these ingredients and cleaners are still not anything you would want to inhale or consume, so be sure to take precautions. Wear gloves (and eye protection when necessary), work in well-ventilated areas, avoid inhaling fumes, rinse thoroughly and keep the products away from kids and pets. Just in case, be sure to keep the U.S. Poison Control Center's number handy: 1-800-222-1222.

1. Glass Cleaner

Keep those windows and mirrors spotless with this homemade formula from Good Housekeeping.

You'll need:

  • 2 cups water

  • ½ cup white or cider vinegar

  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol (70% concentration)

  • 1-2 drops of orange essential oil (optional)

  • Spray bottle

Add all the ingredients to the spray bottle. When it's time to clean windows and mirrors, simply spray the mixture on a soft cloth or paper towel and wipe down the glass.

2. Grease Cleaner

This heavy-duty formula will help get the gunk out of oven hoods, grills and more.

You'll need:

  • ½ cup sudsy ammonia (available commercially or make your own)

  • One-gallon container

  • Water

Put the sudsy ammonia into the one-gallon container. Add enough water to fill it. It’s that easy -- this solution is ready to use. Just dip in a mop or sponge, soak up some solution and use it to wipe down greasy oven hoods or other greasy items. Then, rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Be sure to fully rinse and dry items before using them. You may want to use gloves when preparing and using this solution. Also, be sure not to inhale any fumes.

3. All-Purpose Cleaner and Deodorizer

Scrub down kitchen counters, appliances and even the refrigerator with this simple solution made from basic kitchen ingredients.

You'll need:

  • 4 tablespoons baking soda

  • 1 quart warm water

  • Container to mix them in

Mix the baking soda and water together in a container. Then, simply moisten a sponge or cloth with the mixture and use it to clean.

Toilet Cleaners

Toilets can be tough to clean. DIY Natural suggests a few different methods to clean your toilet, including everyday cleanings, heavy-duty scrubs and a quick-clean strategy.

4. Everyday Toilet Cleaning

This solution uses the antibacterial properties of tea tree oil to disinfect your toilet.

You'll need:

  • ½ cup baking soda

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar

  • ½ teaspoon tea tree essential oil

First, get a spray bottle and add the vinegar and tea tree oil. Spray this mixture all over the toilet, including the seat, lid, handle and bowl. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, sprinkle the baking soda in the toilet bowl and scrub with a toilet brush. Use a cloth to wipe the vinegar and tea tree mixture off of the seat, lid and handle.

5. Deep Cleaning

If your toilet is stained and needs a deeper clean, use this mixture.

You'll need:

  • ¾ cup borax

  • 1 cup white vinegar

  • 10 drops lavender essential oil

  • 5 drops lemon essential oil

Mix all ingredients together. Flush the toilet to get the inside wet and then pour the mixture into the toilet bowl. Let it sit for several hours or, better yet, overnight. Do not use the toilet during this time. After the mixture has been in the bowl for several hours, scrub down the toilet bowl and flush again to rinse.

6. Quick Clean

If you don’t need a full clean, or time is of the essence -- it’s only been a couple of days since a deep clean, or your in-laws just texted that they’ll be over in ten minutes -- use this lightning-fast method.

You'll need:

  • Baking soda

  • Vinegar

  • Spray bottle

Keep some vinegar on hand in a spray bottle and a box of baking soda nearby for this quick clean method. First, spray vinegar on the outer surfaces (seat, lid, handle) and inside the toilet bowl. Let it sit for several minutes. Then, sprinkle baking soda in the toilet bowl, scrub with the toilet brush and flush. Next, wipe the seat, lid and handle clean with a cloth.

More Homemade Cleaners

For even more ways to keep your home sparkling while saving a few bucks, check out Good Housekeeping's list of 25 DIY home-cleaning techniques, from how to deep clean bathroom grout, to sprucing up the kitchenware, to making your own wood polish or even cleaning a wool rug with snow.

Your Turn: Do you use DIY cleaners in your home?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Winter storm Stella is taking aim at parts of the Northeast U.S. this week and could dump as much as 18 inches of snow in some states.
It’s tempting to huddle under a blanket, order a pizza and wait for the worst to pass.

But there are also plenty of ways to cash in on such an epic storm, from shoveling driveways to offering transportation.

Be sure to check the legalities in your area -- and have proper insurance and signed liability waivers when necessary -- but prepare to make some money when the snow falls.

Most people won't be out and about during a big blizzard, so think about how to reach potential customers at home with your advertising.

Use Facebook to run a hyper-local ad campaign targeting your neighbors. Post your services on Craigslist, local online community boards or neighborhood Facebook groups.

Or take the old-school route (which is still effective!) of going door-to-door, passing out flyers and explaining your services.

1. Clear Snow

When this much snow falls, you can count on days of shoveling following the storm.

While shoveling sidewalks and driveways (and digging out cars) is physically taxing, it can also be lucrative. The going rate for snow shoveling is $25-75 per hour. Many people have no desire to spend a few hours shoveling their home out after a storm, and others are physically unable to do so.

Consider offering a special deal (or free shoveling services) to low-income senior citizens or others who may be unable to clear their own snow. It's a great way to get some buzz while doing a good deed, much as the owners of Portland Oregon's Plaza Cleaners discovered when they received a massive amount of positive publicity for offering free dry cleaning to unemployed people with upcoming job interviews.

YouTube offers tips and techniques on the best ways to shovel snow. Be careful to use proper techniques so you don’t get injured! Snow blowers are also worth their weight in gold.

To go the extra mile -- and maybe earn a tip or two -- sprinkle ice melt on sidewalks and driveways.

Also, leave a card or small flyer with your customers. You can print them out cheaply at home or order affordable business cards from Vistaprint at 100 cards for $16.

Next time there's a storm, your clients will have your information handy, and they’ll also have it at the ready to pass along to friends and neighbors, telling them about your great shoveling job and attention to detail.

2. Plow Driveways and Parking Lots

While most anyone can shovel, operating a plow requires specialized training and equipment. If you have a truck equipped with a plow, plenty of people and businesses will hire you to clear snow.

Look to local businesses with large parking lots and residents with long driveways as your primary customers. Operators typically charge $30-65 per driveway -- more for especially long and curvy driveways.

Where I live in the Rockies, we typically receive more than 500 inches of snow per year. Plow operators here in Jackson, Wyoming, generally contract with clients at the beginning of the season and agree to terms, including when to plow, which is typically when there are four or more inches of snowfall.

Each time we have significant snowfall, the operators automatically plow, with no need to even call the property owners since the terms were set up in advance.

A big storm is also a great time to start your snow plowing business. Have cards or flyers ready to hand out, and be sure to keep track of your clients' information so it's handy for next fall (when you can contract them for the next winter season). If you come through for them when they really need it, that's a great way to begin a longer-term contract.

3. Run Errands for the Homebound

Just because most transportation has ground to a halt doesn't mean people don't still need to run errands. From medicine deliveries to stocking up on extra groceries, people still need a few essentials during the storm.

If the roads are in decent shape, and you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and good winter driving skills, consider running errands for neighbors and other customers.

Even if the roads are closed and impassable, if you have a good set of cross-country skis (and possibly a sled for larger hauls), you can still get around (and get a great workout) while running errands for people.

You might even consider teaming up with a store that is open (or a pharmacy) to offer your delivery service. You could either market yourself on your own or take advantage of a service like Task Rabbit that will match you up with people who need help running errands.

While there might be strict rules about transporting some types of medications, if someone just needs some more Nyquil, that's an easy request for you to deliver. Also, consider teaming up with restaurants to offer special snow delivery (via skis when necessary).

4. Sell Shovels, Snow Brushes and Ice Scrapers

If you live in a climate that doesn't normally have a lot of snow, you might not have great tools for clearing it. Heavy-duty snow shovels, snow brushes, and ice scrapers are a few things that are hard to come by if you live in a normally fairly temperate climate.

Next time you're on vacation in an extreme climate, stock up on some of these heavy-duty items (or order them online), and have them ready to sell (or rent) next time a big snowstorm comes around.

Apps like letgo make it super easy to sell stuff online.

Shoveling with a sturdy, reinforced, heavy-duty shovel makes a world of difference over attempting to use a dinky $2 shovel one that cracks and snaps halfway through.

5. Rent Out Snowblowers, Sleds and Other Winter Gear

While people might easily shell out some cash for a sturdy snow shovel, they may only want to rent a snowblower for a short length of time.

Consider renting out snowblowers, and other winter gear, even heavy winter clothing. Also, consider renting out “snow toys,” including skis, snowshoes and sleds.

6. Sell Snacks and Drinks

Cook up a pot of chili, bake some homemade cookies, brew up some coffee and hot cocoa, grab some bottles of Gatorade, and go around selling refreshments to people hard at work shoveling snow.

Put together a few pre-made s'mores kits, including graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows and skewers, and market these to families with stir-crazy kids who would love to find a family-friendly and memorable way to enjoy the storm.

S’mores kits are selling for around $30 online (plus shipping), so providing door-to-door service should be worth a premium.

7. Sell Firewood

In addition to providing cozy ambiance, firewood can provide a valuable heat source if the power goes out. With high winds and ice, there's a good chance a blizzard will lead to an outage, so be prepared.

By offering firewood, you can help your neighbors stay warm and make money. Have several delivery options in mind. If the roads close, using cross-country skis and a sturdy sled with a tarp bungeed down over the wood, you can offer a premium (and profitable) delivery service.

Urban dwellers are especially likely to purchase pre-chopped firewood. In many parts of Washington, D.C., for example, people go door-to-door selling firewood, and residents snap up the wood for their fireplaces at a rate of $50 for two stacked piles.

Make it easy for people, and they're likely to buy. Be sure to include some kindling and your card in case they want a re-supply.

8. Help Stranded Travelers

Every time there’s a huge snowstorm, countless travelers are stranded. Some storms can cancel flights for days, leading to chaos for travelers. But there are ways to make the experience of being stranded a positive one for travelers.

If you're comfortable with the idea of renting out a room, consider putting people up in your home for an affordable rate.

Try a service like Airbnb, and you could earn a few hundred dollars. This works best with someone you can verify, but some people are comfortable hosting strangers in their home, too.

Another option is to provide snow-related activities for stranded travelers. Offer sled rentals or snowmobile rides. Getting out and enjoying the snow is far more pleasurable than being holed up in a hotel room, watching daytime television all day.

9. Sell Your Storm Photos

Take photos and videos from the storm and sell them to news agencies.

If you have truly exceptional storm photos, call up your local news stations and publications (even national ones) and offer to send a watermarked version for their consideration. If travel is snarled, news crews can't be everywhere, and they may be willing to pay for your epic storm photos.

Also, look into stock photography options, where you can earn $1 or so per photo.

10. Babysit for Desperate Parents

Just because there's a giant storm doesn't mean all parents can stay home from work.

Offer your babysitting services to neighbors and friends, watching their kids if they're called off to work, and earn around $15 an hour.

You can even promote the fun, snow-related activities that you'll do with the kids, including sledding, making snow angels, building a snowman and making s'mores.

11. Provide Pet Care and Pet Sitting

Some pet owners have to head to work during a big storm, and others are physically unable to walk their dog through large snow drifts. When their dog is at home bouncing off the walls, pet owners may want to hire someone to take their pup for a walk.

A pair of snowshoes or skis can certainly come in handy for storm dog walking.

“I love animals and helping people out, so this is a perfect way to make money during a big storm,” said Melanie Reed. “I am always out skiing and snowshoeing, so getting paid to walk a dog while I'm on skis or snowshoes is even better.”

And, if the winds are blowing, some pets will be scared if they're home alone all day. Offer to care for pets in their home or yours. You can even watch several pets at once, increasing your earnings.

12. Offer Transportation

Just because the city has shut down doesn't mean no one has to get anywhere. Offering transportation via four-wheel-drive or snowmobile can be a lucrative service during a big storm.

One friend had a colleague who desperately needed to get somewhere during a big storm, and a neighbor provided a snowmobile ride down their two-mile-long driveway to get to the main (plowed) road.

Another option is to throw some chains on your tires, shift into four-wheel drive and drive with Uber to get people where they need to go.

Your earnings will be calculated by adding a base fare, plus time and distance traveled after your pickup, and Uber charges a service fee (20-35%, depending on your city)..

If you want to give it a try there are a few things to keep in mind. You must be at least 21 years old, have three years of driving experience, have an in-state driver’s license, a clean driving record and be able to pass a criminal background check.

Finally, your car must be a four-door, seat at least four passengers (excluding the driver), be registered in-state and be covered by in-state insurance.

Here’s a link to apply with Uber.

13. Make Money Online

Take advantage of a day home from work to make money online instead of watching a Netflix marathon.

Use the time off to create and sell a short course, sign up for special offers, or even cash in on playing video games.

14. Earn Cash at Home

You don't have to go online to make money at home. Take advantage of a snow day to clean out your closets and garage, seeing what you might be able to sell.

Search for old comic books to sell (and maybe even make $8,000), find clothes to sell on consignment, and search for '80s and '90s toys to cash in on.

15. Make Money Crafting

Use the snow day to knit, crochet, quilt, create clothing or bags, or whatever strikes your fancy. Market these items online or sell your creations in local shops.

You might even take advantage of a snow day or two to pick up a new hobby that can turn profitable. For example, learn how to knit, or even practice repairing your own clothing.

16. Create Storm Souvenirs

Create a design or two about “Surviving the Snowpocalypse” and take to Cafe Press or another on-demand printing site to produce storm souvenirs. Create beanies, T-shirts, mugs, or other items that might appeal to a few locals, and could be a hit with big-city tourists.

You may want to keep your design broad enough to apply to people throughout the storm-hit region. Put up a few ads on Facebook and other services, and sell your products in shops online and at local retailers. Voila -- you’ve created a clever online business!

17. Monetize YouTube Videos

Demonstrate your favorite snow-shoveling technique or show off your epic snow castle on YouTube.

Create a viral snow-related video or learn from Grumpy Cat's owners about how to make millions via YouTube.

18. Help With Clean Up

Blizzards pack a punch and, with high winds, they can leave a trail of wreckage and damage. Help your neighbors out and make a profit by offering your services to clean up the mess and repair the damage.

From chopping and hauling away downed trees (which you may be able to keep for firewood), to repairing downed fences, and picking up wayward shingles that have blown off roofs, there is plenty of work to do after a storm.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite way to earn a few extra bucks during a snowstorm?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

As the days start getting just a little bit warmer, it's time to start preparing for a great season of gardening. Growing vegetables at home can help you save money and know exactly what you're eating. Plus, it’s rewarding to harvest a feast you've grown yourself!

You don’t have to have a big plot of land in the countryside to grow delicious vegetables. Once, I lived in a small urban apartment and was able to grow a feast of tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplants and more in pots right on my porch.

Ready to start growing vegetables and pretty much cross them off your shopping list for the summer? Here’s how to start a vegetable garden.

Find Your Zone

Before you get started on your garden, take a look at this handy map to see what climatic zone you live in. The zones show the climatic conditions in different areas, based on the average low temperatures in the winter, and tell you what kinds of plants will grow best in your region. With this interactive online map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just type in your ZIP code to find out your zone number.

Be sure to consider plants to grow that thrive in your zone. If you live in Michigan but want to plant mango and lemon trees outside, you may end up disappointed when they fail to thrive. Work with your climate, rather than against it.

You’ll find plenty of plants that thrive in almost all climates, so do a little research. Ask around at your local garden shop, where staff can likely provide the best advice on veggies and fruits varieties that grow best in your zone.

Also consider how your zone will affect your timing. Burpee's vegetable catalog features interactive information telling you when to plant each vegetable for the area in which you live. For example, the site tells me that in my particular zone (zone 3), I will need to sow my cucumbers in mid-June. If I lived in Orlando, I could start planting my cucumbers right now. Those few months make a key difference, since if I planted cucumbers now, they would quickly die.

Gardening for Beginners: First, Decide What to Grow

Part of setting up your garden is, of course, figuring out what you'd like to grow. You’ll only have so much space, so you’ll want to make the most of it! Choose to plant foods you enjoy eating, and consider the impact on your bottom line by planting these cost-effective vegetables.

Consider your garden’s location. Evaluate how much sun you have and what times of day different areas of your yard or garden receive sunlight. Different plants have different sun and shade needs. For example, basil and bell peppers like full sun, while arugula thrives in shadier areas.

Your garden’s size is also an important factor. Different plants have different space requirements. Some plants, like corn and broccoli, prefer a foot or two of space between rows, while beans only need half that space. And leafy plants, such as spinach and lettuce, are often just fine when they are planted only 4 to 6 inches apart.

Also, think about how often plants need to be watered and what is realistic with your schedule. If you won't be around much, be sure to get lower-maintenance plants, and if you're planning on leaving town for a chunk of time, think about who may be able to help water your plants when you're away. It would be a shame to let months of work shrivel up when you're on vacation for a week.

Short on Space? Have a Potted Plant Garden

You might not have an extensive backyard to grow a garden. But this doesn't mean you can't enjoy homegrown tomatoes and other veggies this summer! It's possible to grow a bounty of tasty treats from pots right on your patio, or even inside your home.

Be sure to consider the sun and shade you have available, as well as the space needs of the vegetables you choose to grow. It's also a good idea to specifically ask at a garden shop if the plants you're considering growing typically do well in pots in your climate.

Gather Your Tools and Seeds

Now that you know what grows well in your area, how much space you’re working with and what you'd like to grow, it's time to start gathering what you'll need to put your garden together.

Think about seeds or starts, soil, fertilizer, mulch, a watering system (which can be as simple as a watering can or a mason jar, or as complicated as a sprinkler system), and any tools you may need and don't already have (shovel, hoe, rake, etc.) A local gardening shop can share in-depth information on the fertilizing combinations and items that will work best in your particular area for the plants you plan on growing.

Once you have an idea of what you need, think of ways to save money on these items. Many plant stores have sales in the springtime, but also consider Craigslist, FreeCycle, garage sales, Facebook garage sale groups and other ways to source these materials inexpensively (or even for free!).

Be mindful that used gardening supplies, such as pots and shovels, can harbor diseases and pathogens that can be transmitted to your plants. For example, if you use a tool or pot that previously held or touched contaminated soil or a diseased plant, your plants may be susceptible to becoming infected.

Be sure to thoroughly clean all the dirt off and wash everything well before using. These sterilization guidelines will help “disinfest” certain gardening items from certain pests.

Prepare Your Garden

Prepare the soil by evaluating its texture and cultivating it to allow air in and provide drainage. Consider using mulch to keep out weeds and enhance soil fertility, and add a layer of compost to help fertilize your garden. Compost is usually free -- you can collect veggie scraps and yard waste all year to create this “black gold.”

Consider Raised Beds

Raised beds help keep vegetables high and dry in areas with a lot of soil moisture. They also help keep neighboring plants, such as grass, from taking over your vegetable garden, and reduce soil compaction since you're not stepping on the garden itself to access your plants. And then there’s the added benefit that raised beds mean less crouching during garden maintenance, weeding and harvesting.

If you'd like to build your own raised beds, follow these simple directions for different options. It doesn't have to be a huge construction project, though. You can create raised beds by using logs to create an outline and then filling it up with soil. Concrete blocks can also do the trick, as well as a number of other simple materials.

Planting a garden doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s a simple way to save money on food. Plus, there’s nothing like biting into a perfectly ripe tomato straight off the vine, or serving a salad fresh from your backyard. Whatever you decide to grow this year, enjoy it!

Your Turn: What tips do you have about gardening for beginners?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

While most people don’t think of St. Patrick’s Day as a particularly expensive holiday, things can sure add up quickly if you want to celebrate in style with your family.

The most festive place to celebrate would likely be Dublin, Ireland, where the four-day, mid-March St. Patrick’s Day festival brings visitors from all around the world.

Plane tickets from New York City to Dublin start at $700. A hotel room would cost at least $70 per night for five nights, then there are the costs of dining and sightseeing.

And, if you want to get a good view of the parade (which, of course you do, since you flew all the way to Ireland!), grandstand tickets are 60 Euros each (nearly $70). It would be easy to spend well over $4,000 to bring a family of four to Ireland for the festivities.

8 Inexpensive St. Patrick’s Day Activities for Kids

But it’s not necessary to spend a fortune or travel across an ocean to have a festive St. Patrick’s Day with your family. Instead, enjoy these fun and almost-free activities with your wee ones, from joining local celebrations, to learning about Irish history, to making these crafts and recipes at home.

1. Head to a Parade

For over 250 years, Americans have held parades to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The first St. Patrick's Day parade was held in 1762 in New York City, as the city’s Irish population grew rapidly with more and more immigrants settling in the U.S.

Continue that tradition this year by bringing your family to a St. Patrick's Day parade near you. The two biggest parades are in New York City and Chicago. Chicago even dyes the river green for the holiday!

This year, Chicago's celebration will be held on Saturday, March 11, while New York is sticking to the traditional March 17 date.

You’ll find many other parades throughout the nation, so check your local newspaper for more information. Parades are generally free to watch, though you might want to spring for some green beverages and snacks afterward.

2. Learn a Little Irish History

Do you know about the 1177 Norman Invasion of Munster? Might as well brush up on your Irish history with free Irish history podcasts.

These podcasts (available on iTunes and online) feature stories about everything from Norman invasions to daily life in the medieval frontier, with categories including “The Story of Ireland” (featuring history from 800 AD to the 12th century), “The Norman Invasion of Ireland,” as well as “Modern History.”

Kids might also enjoy National Geographic's website with fun facts about Ireland. Once you’ve all absorbed this trivia, you’ll be ready for any leprechaun-themed questions on your favorite game show!

3. Have a Pot 'o' Gold Treasure Hunt

Send your wee ones on the hunt for their own pot 'o' gold with this memorable activity that is sure to become an annual tradition in your house.

You'll need:

  • A wooden or cardboard “treasure chest” (a cardboard box will work just fine)
  • Green craft paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Things to decorate the “treasure chest” (glitter, acrylic gemstones, markers, stickers)
  • Treats for “treasure” (gold coin candies, etc.)
  • Paper and markers (to create clues)

Here’s how to put it together:

1. With your kids, paint the “treasure chest” with green craft paint and allow it to dry. You can add glitter and stickers, or glue acrylic gemstones to the chest to make it more festive.

2. When your kids aren't looking, stuff the chest with treasures, including gold coin candies. Find a good hiding spot, and leave clues throughout the house, with each clue leading to the next clue. For example, leave a note about “The next clue is near Fluffy’s favorite place” and leave the next clue on the windowsill where your cat loves to soak up the sun. Leave several clues that progressively lead to the treasure's hiding spot.

3. Once everything is set, enjoy the hunt!

4. Make Shamrock Necklaces

Don’t get pinched for not wearing any green! Here’s a fun option: handmade shamrock necklaces.

You'll need:

  • Green and white construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Yarn
  • Glitter, markers and stickers for decoration

Creating this necklace is simple:

1. First, grab some green and white construction paper and use scissors to cut out several sizes of shamrocks.

2. Use a hole punch to create a hole in each paper shamrock, then use yarn to string them together and make your very own St. Patrick's Day necklace.

3. Use glitter, markers or stickers to decorate the shamrocks, and enjoy wearing your necklace.

5. Create St. Patrick's Day Carnations

This fun craft is also a science experiment -- so it’s entertaining and educational.

You'll need:

  • White carnations
  • Green food coloring
  • Water
  • Vase (or jar)

Here’s what to do:

1. First, mix water with a few drops of green food coloring in a vase or jar.

2. Place each carnation's stem in the water, and predict what will happen.

3. Watch over the next few hours as the green coloring spreads through the stem, and into the petals of the flower.

4. Once the flowers are green, you can display these festive carnations, wear them in your hair or decorate with them.

6. Bake Irish Soda Bread

This traditional bread was baked in different shapes in different parts of Ireland, with northern regions favoring a flattened, rounded disc with four triangles, and southern regions embracing a round loaf with a cross atop it.

Enjoy your own crusty, golden loaf of Irish soda bread with this tasty recipe.

You'll need:

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup margarine, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a baking sheet.

2. Using a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine.

3. Add 1 cup of buttermilk and egg, turning out dough on floured surface and lightly kneading.

4. Make dough into a round and place on baking sheet.

5. In a separate bowl, mix butter with ¼ cup buttermilk, and brush the mixture on top of the loaf. Use a knife to cut an “X” on top.

6. Bake 45-50 minutes, testing for doneness after 30 minutes (then regularly afterward) with a toothpick (by inserting the toothpick in the middle -- when it comes out clean, it's done). Feel free to brush more of the egg and buttermilk mixture on the loaf as it bakes.

7. Make Corned Beef and Cabbage

This classic Irish-American dish was first created when Irish immigrants sought to find a lower-cost alternative to a traditional Irish stew that featured Irish bacon (similar to Canadian bacon) and potatoes.

Pork was very expensive in the U.S., so creative cooks substituted beef in the recipe instead. Cabbage was added as a less expensive potato substitute that absorbed the rich flavor of the beef. People fell in the love with the dish, and it became so popular that it was a featured menu item at President Lincoln's 1862 inaugural dinner.

For this modern recipe, you will need:

  • 3 lbs corned beef brisket with spice packet
  • 10 red potatoes
  • 5 carrots, peeled and cut into 3” chunks
  • 1 large head cabbage, cut into small wedges

Here’s what to do:

1. Get a large pot or dutch oven and put the corned beef inside, covering with water.

2. Add the spice packet and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 50 minutes per pound or until tender.

3. Add whole potatoes and carrots, cooking until almost tender.

4. Add cabbage and cook for 15 more minutes.

5. Remove meat, let rest for 15 minutes.

6. Place vegetables in a bowl, then cover. Add broth and slice meat across the grain before serving.

8. Prepare Irish Potato Candy

Despite not containing potatoes or being from Ireland, this simple, no-bake confectionery treat was developed in Philadelphia by Irish immigrants, and it remains a St. Patrick's Day tradition in the City of Brotherly Love.

These delicious cinnamon-coated sweets resembles miniature potatoes and are often rolled into potato shapes and served in a “potato sack” (a brown paper bag).

You'll need

  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 ½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

Here’s what to do:

1. Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla together.

2. Slowly add the powdered sugar.

3. Then, mix in coconut and stir until well-blended.

4. Form tablespoon-sized balls, roll in cinnamon and roll each one into a potato shape.

5. Place the pieces onto a foil-lined cookie sheet and chill until set. Keep them in the refrigerator until serving time.

Your Turn: How are you planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Do you have any other kid-friendly activities to share?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Keeping a lawn or garden green and growing isn't as simple as splashing a little water on the grass once in a while.

Dedicated home landscapers often find themselves laying down weed covers, mulching, watering, aerating and fertilizing lawns and paying for supplies in addition to expertise and labor. Professional lawn care can cost $100-$200 per month.

But instead of shelling out $2,400 a year to keep their backyards looking great, these innovative home gardeners found their own tricks to keep plants lush and happy all year long.

Here are five pro tips for landscaping on a budget.

1. DIY as Much Landscaping as Possible

Ryan Willis has found doing everything himself when maintaining his 7,500-square-foot yard in Knoxville, Tennessee, is the best way to save money.

“The biggest cost savings for me is that I do everything myself -- from mowing to seeding, fertilizing, planting flowers, hardscaping, etc.,” he says.

Willis administers three treatments to his lawn throughout the year. In early spring, he puts down seed and fertilizer. The tall fescue seed costs $75 and the starter fertilizer with weed preventer is $50, and he uses a broadcast spreader (a one-time $40 expense) to apply them to his lawn.

Early in the summer, he adds “weed and feed” fertilizer for about $30, followed by a fall fertilizer application to help roots during the winter (another $30).

In addition to fertilizing and other do-it-yourself treatments, GreenPal CEO Bryan Clayton finds another, more innovative way to save money: aerating shoes.

"A pair of aerating shoes cost[s] around $50,” he notes. “However, if you wear these while mowing your yard every week in the late summer and early spring, you can save up to $300” versus the cost of paying a professional service.

2. Consider Artificial Grass

While many enjoy the process of caring for living grass, others may prefer to skip most of the maintenance altogether and opt for artificial turf.

Despite the potential for long-term savings, installing an artificial lawn can be a significant upfront expense. The exact price depends on the amount of labor involved, which largely depends on the type of soil, rocks and roots in the area.

Purchase Green’s Chad Vander Veen says his company's artificial grass is generally $1.50 to $3.50 per square foot, but “a typical installation, when looking across California and Nevada, will run between $6-$10/square foot,” including the necessary labor.

The national average to install artificial grass is anywhere between $5-$20 per square foot, according to home improvement site HouseLogic, depending on a number of factors.

Many homeowners find the low cost of maintenance over time appealing.

Vander Veen says once installed, artificial grass doesn't require nearly as much maintenance as conventional grass.

Since artificial lawns don't need mowing, he explains, you won’t have to pay for a mower or gas, not to mention fertilizer and pesticides.

One of the biggest savings is on water.

“A $200 per month water bill can be essentially cut in half by eliminating lawn irrigation,” Vander Veen says.

“Most homes in California use 50% of their water on irrigation. Over 20 years, the expected lifespan of a high-quality artificial grass, that can mean $24,000 in savings.”

However, artificial grass isn't completely void of maintenance. Owners should rake their lawns once a month with a special broom (around $25).

Many also buy a bottle of cleaner to remove stains or pet messes from the lawn. Vander Veen says a gallon bottle, which costs about $40, can clean up to 6,000 square feet.

3. Choose Perennial Plants

When it comes to your garden and landscaping, plant perennials instead of annuals, suggests Anthony Smith, owner of Nursery Enterprises.

These hardier plants survive from year to year and can lead to a smaller plant bill since you won’t need to constantly replace them.

“To keep your yard looking sharp on the cheap, instead of continually replacing dead or worn-out annuals, consider switching to woody perennial plants, like bushes, shrubs, vines and trees,” Smith says.

“The pretty colored plants may look spectacular for a short time, but eventually, they will look just as spectacularly dreadful.”

4. Plant Edible Greenery

Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti uses flowering herbs and a vegetable garden to keep her yard looking good while also providing a source of food.

She calculates she spends around $200-$250 per year on various costs, like plant starts and seeds.

However, the retail value of the produce she grows is around $750 per year, so her garden actually saves her about $500 annually.

5. Buy Mulch in Bulk

Spending money on unnecessary supplies is one common way to overspend when you’re landscaping on a budget.

Buying more than you need -- or not enough, which requires extra trips to the store and/or shipping expenses -- can rack up your bill.

Kurt Heckman's company, vCalc, sought to find a solution to this common dilemma. The company created an online calculator to help people figure out just how much mulch they’ll need.

At most home improvement stores, bags of mulch cost about $3.33 each for 2 cubic feet, according to Heckman. He says bulk mulch is less expensive at $35 per cubic yard.

“That’s comparable to $1.54 for a 2-cubic-foot bag, or a little less than half price,” Heckman notes.

He also says some jurisdictions require bulk loads of mulch be covered in the back of trucks driving down the road, so be sure to throw a tarp on top to avoid a costly ticket.

Finally, Heckman recommends making your own mulch by turning fallen wood into wood chips.

“This is noisy and can be dangerous, but it’s also the cheapest source of mulch,” he says.

“For $66 and a little gas, say $70 total, you can make several cubic yards (6) of mulch in four hours and eliminate yard debris while you’re at it. That’s half the price of bulk mulch.”

Your Turn: What are your best tips for landscaping on a budget?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

When Constance Amedore had her son two years ago, she pictured him wearing bright, knee-high socks, much like the basketball socks she used to wear.

When she shopped around to snag a few pairs of the socks she had in mind, she couldn’t find what she was looking for. And none of the socks she found were very good about staying up.

“The only socks I could find were either gender-specific socks, or socks that wouldn’t stay on,” Amedore says. “After a few months of frustration, I decided to design my own baby socks that were gender neutral, bright, and stayed up!”

Her sock enterprise soon turned from a simple mission into an actual company, which she called Little Royal Two, in honor of her two children.

[caption id="attachment_40729" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Constance Amedore created her children's sock company "Little Royal Two," because she had trouble finding socks for her baby boy that were stylish and stayed on.[/caption]

But the business wasn’t just a hobby. Amedore found a high demand for the socks -- the company sold 10,000 pairs during its first year of business, and made $25,000.

Since it began in 2014, Little Royal Two has expanded to five countries and 38 states. Its biggest order? A subscription box company specializing in baby products bought a whopping 7,000 pairs of socks.

But Little Royal Two wasn’t (and still isn’t) her full-time job -- Amedore works as a special education teacher by day.

Starting a Side Business Selling Baby Socks

When Amedore started her company, she didn’t have a business background, so she taught herself everything.

“I never had any formal business training, but I Googled every aspect of what I needed to know to open a business, and just went with it!” she explains.

Amedore used Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to spread the word about her business, along with email marketing campaigns. She spent a lot of time analyzing exactly what she wanted her product to be, and her husband contributed a few ideas, as well.

She spent a year Googling manufacturers, asking companies for prices and samples and fine-tuning the products, ultimately settling on a manufacturer in China. But, it still took a while to make sure the factory was producing the exact socks Amedore had in mind.

“We went through many samples to make sure the socks were excellent quality, washed well, and stayed up, and were the exact colors we were looking for,” she explains.

“It took a lot of time, sleepless nights and communication through email, but I am really grateful to my manufacturer for all her hard work and so happy with the product we have created for our customers!” Amedore says.

Her first sale was to a mom she knew, who was thrilled the socks stayed up.

“The first sale gave me reassurance that Little Royal Two would be a success,” Amedore says.

While she still does most of the work herself, Amedore sometimes brings in people to help with certain projects. When she’s seeking a specialized skillset for a project, she doesn’t hesitate to hire professionals for photo shoots, website work and even public relations.

The PR professional she worked with was able to get the knee-high socks onto the pages of magazines and popular “mommy blogs.”

Satisfied Customers are the Best Marketing

In addition to social media, the company is also working to include the socks in a number of “baby boxes,” the popular variety packs sold within the U.S. and in other countries.

Amedore approached several box companies and has been featured in Bluum, Citrus Lane, and Sassy Bloom (from the U.K.).

“These boxes go to moms and dads looking for baby products for their babies and toddlers,” Amedore explains, adding that marketing directly to parents or those expecting is the way to go.

She encourages other entrepreneurs looking to get featured in baby boxes to contact a variety of different companies that feature similar products and see what each needs in terms of quantity, size, and pricing.

Amedore says she received many orders from people who received the socks in the boxes because, after trying them out, they wanted more.

But one of the top ways the brand has grown is from satisfied customers. The majority of sales, aside from the baby boxes, come from social media.

“Many moms who buy socks from us will post a picture of their child in our socks on social media,” she says. “It is so kind of them and makes me so excited to see their child happy in our socks.”

Balancing a Side Business

How does she balance her business with her day job as a special education teacher, while also parenting two young children along with her husband?

Setting priorities is the key to getting the most important things done, Amedore says.

“I think the real answer is that when you are passionate about different things, you can make anything work,” she says. “I just try to prioritize my time the best I can for the people most important to me.”

In order to keep everything running smoothly, Amedore has also mastered the art of time management and scheduling her days to include everything she wants to get done. This often means Little Royal Two business happens after her kids are fast asleep.

“After I get home from school I play with my kids and connect with my husband,” she says. “I love to cook for them, too, and keep up with my housework. When the kids go to bed I run Little Royal Two.”

She also loves everything she does, from her teaching job to her business and family life, which also helps the balance.

“I love my family so much,” she says. “I also feel so blessed to work with children with severe autism. Each day I give my best to make a difference for the kids I teach and they make a difference in my life too.”

As for her side job, she says business is doing great and each month is busy. Sock sales vary by season, but she usually still sells a couple hundred pairs each month. She’s hopes to expand to other baby apparel in the future.

Your Turn: How are you balancing your side gig?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

It all started with an ice storm.

Curtis Stone was living in Montreal, Canada, when the city was hit by a storm that left everything covered in two inches of ice.

“The city was in pandemonium for days, the grocery stores were almost empty, and I realized how fragile the food system was,” Stone says. This experience led him to learn about growing his own food and, ultimately, start his own small organic farm.

In 2010, he established Green City Acres in Kelowna, British Columbia, a small city in Canada’s fruit-growing and winemaking region. By 2012, he was producing 50,000 pounds of food a year -- and making $75,000.

Becoming an Urban Farmer

[caption id="attachment_34791" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Urban farming/urban farmer Katie Huisman[/caption]

At first, Stone turned to YouTube to learn how to live off the land and grow things organically.

“I didn’t know anything about farming when I started,” he says. “I read books, watched tons of videos, made tons of mistakes and kept going on.”

In 2008, he moved to Kelowna from Montreal. Soon after, he biked from Kelowna to Tijuana, Mexico, visiting homesteads, ecovillages and organic farms along the way.

“I was inspired by what was possible,” he says. When he returned to Kelowna, he began developing his farm.

Maximizing a Small Urban Farm

[caption id="attachment_34793" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Urban farming/urban farmer Curtis Stone[/caption]

Green City Acres actually isn’t just one farm -- it includes six locations, all within a square kilometer (about one-third of a square mile).

“It’s a decentralized farm,” Stone says, explaining how he uses mainly the front and backyards of homes, including his own. He’s added a passive solar greenhouse, cold storage and harvesting areas to boost efficiency.

The greenhouse allows Stone and his team to grow microgreens and herbs year-round.

Because of the small amount of land -- the whole farm totals less than 0.4 of an acre -- Stone uses “bio-intensive” farming methods.

“‘Bio-intensive’ means giving the crop only the space needed to get to full maturity,” he says. “The beds are densely planted, and we’re growing everything in a 30-inch wide bed.”

The densely packed plants act as mulch and help retain water, prevent erosion and suppress weeds.

An added bonus?

“It has ergonomics built in,” Stone says. “A person can comfortably straddle it and work… You can walk in and out of plots, crossing over beds easily. We’re focusing on crops that require a lot of planting, replanting and harvesting, and we need to be able to get in and out of plots.”

How He Makes $75,000 a Year from Only 15,000 Square Feet

[caption id="attachment_34790" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Urban farming/urban farmer Curtis Stone[/caption]

Green City Acres grows about 20 different plants, which have a few general characteristics in common.

Stone focuses on crops that are ready within 60 days and have high yields (generally 2-2.5 pounds per square foot).

He also makes sure to grow plants that demand a high price per pound.

“We’re not growing things like potatoes and winter squash,” he explains. “We’re growing cut salad greens, fine fresh herbs, microgreens, cherry tomatoes.”

Stone also aims to grow crops that have long seasons.

“If we’re growing a tomato variety, we want a tomato that we can have from the beginning of June to the end of October,” he says.

The final key characteristic is popularity.

“We’re only growing crops that people demand,” he says. “I’ve experimented with growing 80 different types of vegetables and found at the end of the day, if you don’t grow what people want, you’re not going to make money farming.”

Stone sells his produce to niche grocery stores, farmers markets, restaurants and CSA programs.

How to Start Urban Farming

[caption id="attachment_34788" align="aligncenter" width="648"]Urban farming/urban farmer Curtis Stone[/caption]

If you want to grow a profitable urban garden, Stone advises you to start small.

“Start with a small piece of land,” he explains. “It doesn’t have to be much. The most ideal way is to start with one or two backyards.”

He encourages people to use the 30-inch bed and some of his other methods and scale these techniques to demand.

“Start with half a bed of arugula, start with a small diversity of crops, but don’t get too crazy,” Stone says.

He recommends starting with around five crops, adding that the best ones for beginners to grow are salad crops, like red Russian kale, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach and arugula.

“With five crops, you can have maybe 10 different products, which gives you optionality,” Stone explains.

“If you’re short on this one this week, just add it to the salad mix. That’s a really easy way to get started and get things growing.”

Following the Market

[caption id="attachment_34789" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Urban farming/urban farmer Katie Huisman[/caption]

Ultimately, Stone lets the market tell him what to grow.

“Let the market pull you instead of having an idea and going out to sell,” he says. “Let it tell you what to grow and what people want. If you understand the techniques and are able to learn on the fly and change your production based on what the market is telling you, you can be profitable very quickly.”

Stone encourages new farmers to start at farmers markets, but only if they’re not packed with others selling the same types of crops.

Green grocers (like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s), small restaurants, owner-operator cafés and collaborative CSA programs are a few alternate markets he suggests.

“The key is to never start in a saturated market,” Stone says. “Go where you can carve out a little niche.”

In addition to his farming work, Stone has also created a niche for himself in guiding others to become farmers. He published an Amazon-bestselling book about his techniques, and also offers a 10-week self study course for “farmpreneurs,” which about 200 people have taken.

Your Turn: Have you ever tried urban farming? Can you share any tips for other would-be growers?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

When you think of antique plates, what comes to mind?

Do you think of “demure ladies posed in proper positions and big fluffy dresses,” as artist Angela Rossi does?

Rossi envisions another, weirder life for these old plates, which she collects, upcycles and sells on her website Beat Up Creations.

Think Pee-Wee Herman’s image beneath a floral spray, a mountain lion posed in a three-piece suit or a portrait of Spock on a bed of pink and yellow roses.

This isn’t just an obscure side hobby. Over the past six years, between her Etsy sales and wholesale income, she’s earned an average of $225,000 a year in revenue.

And her customers are impressed. She has more than 3,200 reviews on Etsy with a five-star rating.

How Did She Start This Business?

[caption id="attachment_30919" align="aligncenter"]Weird art Image from Beat Up Creations[/caption]

Rossi came up with the idea when her mother retired as an antiques dealer and she saw the vintage plates her mom was parting with.

They were all beautiful with hand painted details, gold accents and delicate porcelain, but in reality they did not exactly match my modern, urban style,” she says.

“So, were they useless? No, I must make them cool again… alas, the idea began.”

Now Rossi turns trash into treasure, creating unusual plates, teacups, prints and sculptures, which she then sells online.

She makes good money with her designs. The Yoda and the Nymphs Portrait Plate goes for $110 while a Pee-Wee Herman plate goes for $125.

For unique plate collectors on a budget, Portrait of a Shih Tzu is only $39, and a pack of playing cards with even more quirky animal portraits is only $15.99.  

Humor Inspires Her Art

[caption id="attachment_30920" align="aligncenter" width="639"]Weird art Image from Beat Up Creations[/caption]

Where does Rossi find all the creative ideas for her designs? Humor guides her work.

“I love the idea of taking a traditionally formal piece and bringing some humor to it,” she says. “It is really about revitalizing these beautiful vintage plates, altering them to be a bit more fun and contemporary.”

Many of her works feature animals in human clothing, from a three-piece suit-clad mountain lion to a raccoon dressed as a young boy for a school photo.

I am definitely inspired by pop culture, anthropomorphism and classic antiques,” she says.

“I tend to view people as animals and can usually remember a person by the animal that they remind me of rather than their name or other quality. It came naturally for me to want to use anthropomorphic creations on the plates.”

How She Finds Her Materials

[caption id="attachment_30922" align="aligncenter" width="637"]Weird art Image from Beat Up Creations[/caption]

Rossi discovers her vintage and antique plates at antique stores, thrift stores and estate sales, incorporating her mixed media portraits into each plate’s design. She spends about $30,000 a year buying plates.

While she scouts vintage plates from certain stores, Rossi’s sculpture components can come from anywhere. She uses broken china and jewelry, doll parts and even trash to craft her unique 3D creations.

Growing the Business

When she began her business, Rossi wasn’t expecting to sell many items. In fact, she didn’t plan to sell a single one.

“I never expected to sell one thing, seriously,” she says. “Crafting was always just a side hobby that I never gave much thought to.”

That changed when she listed her first sculpture for sale on Etsy. Within a few hours, someone bought it.

“I was ecstatic,” she says. “This was the first time anybody showed interest in my crazy things. I come from a family of classically trained painters and I was definitely a black sheep that was considered inartistic.”

A year after she opened her Etsy store, she’d sold more than 1,000 items, including plates, art prints and sculptures.

Now her business is mostly wholesale, with her products sold in 150 stores around the globe. She also has a dozen licensing contracts and sells a few hundred plates each month.

Advice for Aspiring Upcyclers

[caption id="attachment_30924" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Weird art Image from Beat Up Creations[/caption]

Rossi advises people who are interested in recycling and upcycling their own crafty creations to give it a go.

“Do it, do it now!” she says. “Give it a try, if it doesn't work out then it doesn't work out... There really is no startup cost unless you consider the hefty 20 cents to list an item on Etsy.”

She also finds joy and creativity in transforming trash into treasure.

“Upcycling, for me, means taking unloved, thrown out and abandoned items and altering them into something cool and contemporary,” she says.

“I see a bright future for all the world’s discarded ‘junk’ if artists and designers continue to make amazing inventive upcycled objects.”

Your Turn: Have you started a business some people might consider unusual? We’d love to hear about it!

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

What’s better than curling up with a good book?

Or, better yet, a series of books? “Little House on the Prairie,” “The Baby-Sitters Club” or “The Boxcar Children,” anyone?

But books can get pricy. How can you find books for your little ones to read without spending a fortune?

By getting free books, of course.

While it’s great to support authors whenever possible, sometimes buying new books just isn’t in the family budget -- and you don’t want to deprive your kids of the love of reading.

Use these strategies to get free kids’ books. Some are physical books and others are PDFs or ebooks, but they all offer great ways to give kids access to a wide variety of reading material -- without spending a cent.

1. Imagination Library

Dolly Parton loves reading so much, she wants every child to have the opportunity.

In 1995, the country music superstar started Imagination Library to give free books to children in her home county in Tennessee. She wanted to help preschool-aged children develop a love of reading, even if their families couldn’t afford books.

Each month, her organization mailed a book to each family, so the kids would look forward to their special delivery and “feel the magic that books can create,” the organization’s website says.

In 2000, she expanded the program, partnering with local communities to send more than 60 million books to kids in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Local partners include preschool programs, libraries and service organizations along with many other groups.

To get free books for your child, register online, search for a local program and follow the instructions.

2. Free Kids Books

Download free PDFs from this online library of kids’ books.

With picture books for toddlers, books with pictures and words for bigger kids and chapter books for young adults, this site has something for everyone. You can even get coloring books.

The site recommends printing the PDFs and stapling the pages together -- or reading them on a tablet or other electronic device.

Books on the site are either submitted by authors, in the public domain or have a Creative Commons license that allows sharing. Some books also include links so you can purchase a physical copy if you’d like to support the author.

Titles include “Fairy Circles: Truly a Fairy Tale,” about fairies in the Namibian desert, a nonfiction book about penguins, and even a playful tale describing what Santa does during the summer.

3. Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program

Kids in first through sixth grades can earn a free book by filling out the “Summer Reading Triathlon” reading journal.

Just have your kids answer a few questions about the longest book they’ve ever read and what book makes them stretch their imagination the most to complete the journal.

After your kids fill it out, bring it to a Barnes & Noble store between May 17 and September 6 to earn a free book from a selected list.

4. Read Conmigo

Immerse your children in pre-k through fifth grade bilingual reading by signing up for Read Conmigo.

If you live in California, Florida or Texas, the program will mail you a book every four months.

Online resources like bilingual activities and educational tools are available to everyone, regardless of location.

More than 108,000 parents have signed up for the program since it started in 2011.

5. Reading is Fundamental

Reading is Fundamental partnered with ustyme to allow free access to 50 classic ebooks.

These classic books include “Goldilocks,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs,” and some are also available in Spanish.

Kids can even read along with a favorite adult using the ustyme app to make live video calls!

6. Little Free Libraries

Neighborhoods all over the country are adding Little Free Libraries.

These small shelves allow people to share books and always have something new to read.

Find a free library near you, leave a book you’ve finished and grab a new one to share. Different libraries will have different offerings.

7. Craigslist, Freecycle and Facebook

If you’re looking for some kids’ books, why not put up a “wanted” post on Craigslist, Freecycle or even Facebook?

Plenty of people have books they’re not using and would be happy to share, but it’s not on their minds unless you ask.

8. Libraries

Of course, your local public library has plenty of books to borrow for free.

This is a great option for families who like to constantly switch up their reading selections.

But some libraries will even have books you can keep, such as older books they’re planning on tossing out.

Ask your local librarian if they may have any available.

9. Amazon Free Books

Amazon has a ton of free kids’ books available for Kindle downloads.

Just search for “children’s books, Kindle edition” and sort price “low to high” to see all the freebies.

Plenty of books are available to download, from “Wiggly the Worm” to “The Rabbit Ate My Homework.”

10. Amazon Prime Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

Amazon Prime members can borrow books for free through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which allows users to borrow one book each calendar month.

The program offers a wide range of kids’ books to pick from, but you’ll need a Kindle (and a Prime membership) to read them.

11. Project Gutenberg

While mostly for older kids, Project Gutenberg has a wealth of free downloads available.

Type “children” in the search field and classic kids’ books will appear, from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” to “Peter Pan,” “Anne of Green Gables” and many other favorites.

The site offers a total of over 51,000 ebooks to download for free, including many books for kids.

Your Turn: Do you know of any ways to get free kids’ books?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. By checking out this featured content, you help us bring you more ways to save!

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Kids’ lunches can be pricy if you opt for school-served cuisine or pack an expensive bagged lunch they may not even eat.

So how can you send your child off with a nutritionally sound meal they'll likely eat -- without spending tons of cash?

Follow these tips from parents and nutritionists to save on a healthy, tasty meal for your child. You can also make an extra and have a quick and easy lunch for yourself!

Plan Ahead and Prepare in Bulk

Packing a low-cost and nutritious lunch is no sweat for Tara Allen, a registered nurse, certified health coach and certified personal trainer who specializes in women’s and children’s health.

“The foundation to packing easy, affordable and healthy school lunches for kids includes planning ahead, smart shopping, and bulk cooking and preparation,” Allen says.

“A few extra minutes taken on the weekend, for example, will set the whole week up with a variety of balanced and nutritious options that can be thrown together in a pinch.”

She recommends kids’ lunches include protein, healthy fats and produce.

“With two or three proteins cooked and on hand for the week, veggies and fruit washed and cut, and a few healthy fats on hand, a lunch can come together in less than five minutes!” she says.

For affordable healthy fats, she recommends buying avocados when they’re on sale (and freezing them until needed), as well as bulk nuts.

Another great option is homemade hummus, which only takes 10 minutes to make (recipe below). Allen recommends serving the hummus with carrots sticks, snap peas, whole-grain crackers and an apple.

“The hummus can be frozen in ice cube trays and kept in the freezer for up to six months,” she says. “This makes it easy to pop a couple of these cubes into the lunch box so they will thaw in time for lunch.”

She estimates the entire meal costs $1.85. Plus, it features healthy fats, two vegetables, one fruit, protein and whole grains.

Tara Allen’s Homemade Hummus Recipe:

Ingredients:

One 15-ounce can of chickpeas

The juice from 1 large lemon

1/2 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. (You can use a blender, but you will need to scrape down the sides several times to redistribute ingredients).

2. Add more water if needed for desired consistency. Freeze in ice cubes trays and transfer into a container or bag to store for up to six months in freezer.

“Kids love this meal as it gives them a variety of flavors and textures, allows for some dipping fun, and finger foods are fun and snack-like,” she says.

Keep It Kid-Friendly

Sari Davidson-Crevin, founder and CEO of BooginHead Corporation, often feeds her hungry kids turkey-cheese pita pockets for lunch.

She simply spreads low-fat cream cheese inside a whole-wheat pita and packs in a few roasted turkey slices, some baby spinach leaves and a few cucumber slices.

She estimates this recipe only costs $1.46 per meal: turkey deli meat = 80 cents, spinach = 10 cents, pita pocket = 25 cents, cream cheese = 11 cents and cucumber = 20 cents.

She recommends pairing it with dried apricots or banana chips and a low-sugar beverage along with a cold or freezer pack to keep the meat and cheese fresh.

“Kids go crazy over this easy and nutritious lunch,” she says.

“It's one of my kids' favorites. There's something so wonderful about the combination of the turkey and cream cheese -- [they] love it! They also love the crunchiness of the cucumber. The spinach is just a bonus.”

Reuse Containers

Carol Ann Hafner saved money packing lunches for her son by using deli containers.

“When my son was young, I tried to pack his lunches in a variety of containers that came from the grocery store take-out grill and deli-type purchases,” she says.

Not only were these containers free, they also saved money by preserving food, preventing sandwiches and other delicate items from getting squished and going to waste.

“The containers were sturdier than just wrapping foods,” Hafner says.

Use Leftovers

Pack leftovers from dinner the night before, such as roasted chicken in a sandwich or a handful of leftover salad veggies.

Hafner often packed leftovers for her son’s lunch. Sometimes, the meal ended up looking so appealing that other kids would ask him where his mom bought his lunch. Hafner later found out her son actually sold some of his meals to peers during summer camp!

Make Homemade Desserts

Caterer Pam Layton McMurtry and her husband, a registered dietitian, have seven children and estimate they’ve packed more than 15,000 lunches for their kids over the years.

If you’re going to pack a dessert with lunch, she recommends making it at home to have a healthier option and save some cash.

“[Desserts are] often the thing that is eaten first, so make it good,” she says.

“It's usually more economical to bake and bag whole grain cookies and treats like granola bars. … If you go commercial, try to get treats with whole grains. When you bake, you can substitute a third of the flour with whole wheat flour without a noticeable difference.

“You can also bake with only whole grain flour. Look for recipes with coarse texture like oatmeal cookies. You won't even notice the difference and you avoid preservatives and chemicals like dough conditioners. Try sending trail mix or nuts for dessert.”

Add Something Special

Whatever you pack for your child’s lunch, McMurtry recommends adding a personal touch.

“Include a note and let your child know you love them, are proud of them and give them encouragement,” she says.

Your Turn: What are your money-saving tips for preparing healthy school lunches?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.