Fun Things to Do in Baltimore for Free (or close to it)

by Stacy Tharp 26. March 2012

It's official, Baltimorians - spring has sprung!  For those of you who have had your snow gear out and ready to go for that big snowstorm that you just knew was going to hit…it’s time to give that up.  Put your snow boots away and get out your rain boots.  Trade in that snow shovel for a gardening hoe, and hurry up and drink all your leftover hot chocolate.

While you prepare yourself for spring, local businesses and organizations are preparing themselves as well.  Spring brings a ton of festivals in Baltimore and other fun activities for you and your family to enjoy.  Us folks here at 1st Mariner Bank have come up with a list of a few of our favorite spring activities in Baltimore and the surrounding areas.  The best part?  Everything is FREE (or close to it).


Privateer DayFells Point Map

What’s the difference between a pirate and a privateer?  Find out on Saturday, April 21st at Fell’s Point Main Street’s 8th annual Privateer Day.  From 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. you and your family can enjoy a variety of fun, free activities.  There will be live music and battles, ship tours, food and craft vendors, and lots more.  Once your children are privateered-out, drop them off at home or in the gated children’s playground and enter the adult Thames Street Grog Garden to enjoy your favorite ales and live music.  You can also purchase a button for $5 to unlock fantastic deals at over 20 participating Fell’s Point bars.  Visit the official Privateer Day website for more details.

Can’t make it on April 21st?  Here are some other free festivals in the area:

Maryland Avenue Spring Festival (Annapolis, April 22nd)
Towsontown Spring Festival (Towson, May 5th & 6th)
Laurel’s Annual Main Street Festival (Laurel, May 12th)


Baugher's MapBaugher’s Orchard & Farm

Llamas and peacocks and goats, oh my!  These are just a few of the animals that you will find at the free petting zoo at Baugher’s Farm.  Located in Westminster, Baugher’s Orchard and Farm is known for its seasonal Pick Your Own fruit, fresh pies and pastries, and homemade fudge and ice cream.  The petting zoo allows children to learn about and feed various animals.  Opening day is set for April 20th.  Visit Baugher’s website for more information and updates.

Like what you see?  Here are some similar ideas:

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar
The Great Frederick MD Flea


Ripkin Stadium Map Aberdeen IronBirds

How ‘bout them Birds?  Nope, not those Birds, the OTHER Birds.  Enjoy all the fun of watching professional baseball without the Major League price by attending an Aberdeen IronBirds game at Ripken Stadium.  Some of the benefits include an up-close view of the action, no huge crowds, free parking, and group discount offers.  The IronBirds’ season doesn’t begin until June, but if you are eager to see a game soon, check out some of the other local minor league teams.  Many teams begin their season in early April, including the Frederick Keys and the Bowie Baysox.

Here is a complete list of Maryland’s Minor League Baseball Teams, as well as other baseball-related museums and sites:

Maryland Baseball Sites


We know that there are tons of other fun Baltimore festivals and other spring activities.  Be sure to leave a comment below or on our Facebook page to tell us what great deals we missed!

Spend It or Save It? What to do with your tax refund

by Wade Barnes 12. March 2012

Average Annual Tax Refund

It's that time of the year again, and if you haven’t already started working through the process of filing your taxes, now is the time.  While it likely isn’t the most favorite chore you’ll tackle this year, it might be one that pays off.  According to the IRS, the average tax refund this year is about $3,000.  Some might argue that getting a tax refund isn’t the best way to manage your money throughout the year, as you essentially gave the government an interest free loan.  Nonetheless, using your tax refund wisely can greatly benefit your financial position and might even help you get a bigger refund when you file your taxes next year.

Resist the urge to spend the money before it hits your bank account.  Most certainly avoid refund anticipation loans unless absolutely necessary to deal with an emergency, as these are expensive and might even leave you owing more money than you get back in your refund.  Consider having the money refunded via direct deposit from the IRS directly into your bank account.  Direct deposit isn’t only a safe way of receiving your money, it is also the quickest way of getting your refund from the IRS.

Once you know how much you can expect to receive in your tax refund, make a plan and consider spending the money in the following three categories to invest in your future.

Emergency Fund

Nobody wants to think that something bad might happen, but it’s always a possibility, and planning for an emergency in advance can help lessen the burden if it happens to occur.  Experts suggest you should have 3-6 months of salary tucked away in an emergency fund.  With this money in savings, you should be able to offset hardships that could come from illness, unemployment, or other unexpected events.  Another way to plan for an emergency is to stock up on nonperishable food items and household supplies that are not only good for natural disasters but can provide a source of stability if an unexpected event, such as job loss, was to occur.  While providing for an emergency isn’t a fun way of spending your tax refund, according to Maslow, by securing fundamental needs we can move on to talking about ways to maximize your full potential.

Invest in Yourself

There isn’t much in life more important than your future, so be sure to spend some money to ensure your future is strong.  Consider going back to school or taking a class that can help you learn new skills or techniques that will help advance your career and earning potential.  Attend a conference relevant to your industry – not only will you be exposed to cutting edge information, you’ll also be exposed to networking with people you may not have otherwise met.  Spend some money to update your professional wardrobe.  We all know first impressions are important, so be sure your professional attire is sharp.  Invest money in a retirement account.  Even if you love your job, the time will come when you want some time for yourself.  By investing in a retirement account, you can look ahead to life after work.

Tax Deductible Activities

Consult your tax advisor on this topic, but there are ways you can spend your tax refund that could potentially reduce your future tax burden.  Tackling home improvement projects like purchasing energy-efficient windows or doors, adding insulation, and installing energy-efficient appliances or solar panels are all good ways to improve your home and potentially lessen you tax burden.   Consider saving for or buying a house, as there are many tax benefits to being a homeowner.  Make a donation to your favorite charitable cause.  Not only will you feel good about making the donation, you’ll being doing good for the community.  Many self-investments that are career oriented might also help reduce your tax burden.  Again, consult a tax advisor to understand the details, but using your refund to improve your house, your retirement, or your community might mean less tax in the future.

While the above activities are all important, it is just as important that you treat yourself too.  Don’t blow it all on a weekend in Vegas, but make a smart plan to further your financial progress and after making smart investment decisions, do something to reward yourself as well.

Spring Forward With These 5 Energy Saving Tips

by Renee' Anderson 9. March 2012

Breakdown of Your Energy Bill

Saving energy was one of the original purposes of Daylight Savings Time. With the days being longer, it’s thought that you use less energy to light your home. Well, that’s one way to save energy in your home, but according to Energy Star, lighting generally only accounts for about 12% of your energy bill.  I don’t know about you, but I could use some other ideas! With my spring project list expanding, I would really love it if my BGE bill would lighten up ($50 off my BGE bill = $50 towards my new deck).

Here are some tips on how to save energy:

1. According to Energy Star, heating and cooling accounts for close to half of the average household’s total energy use. Keep your thermostat set at 68 degrees or lower in the winter and 78 degrees or higher in the summer to see your energy bill decrease.

2. As we finish out the winter season, open your blinds during the day to let the sun in. As the weather gets warmer, you got it – do just the opposite and keep the blinds closed.

3. Wash your clothes using cold water, and run your washing machine and dishwasher at night to take advantage of off-peak hours. Some newer dishwashers have timers that you can set to run at night.

4. Take shorter, cooler showers.  Besides saving energy, this is also a refreshing way to cool off on hot summer days.  If you can’t live without your hot showers, keep reading – we’ve got you covered.

5. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.  While they cost a little bit more than conventional incandescent bulbs, they are a huge energy saver.  According to The Home Depot, compact fluorescent bulbs use approximately 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs and last about ten times longer.

You can get a more detailed guide to saving energy in your home from BGE Home’s Energy Saving Center.

Be sure to click on the Energy Saving Tips link, and download this brochure.

The tip that was screaming at me? Stop waiting for warm water (before your shower, washing your hands and face, etc.). Waiting for warm water can waste thousands of gallons a year. A hot water circulator pump and timer can provide instant hot water and help reduce your overall water usage.

Looks like I need to look into one of these hot water circulator pumps!

What are you going to do to save energy in your home?

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