Thursday, July 31, 2008
1. Hotels/ motels/ Inns: there are a lot of sources of deals for a regular hotel room. I would make sure you sign up for all the loyalty programs. They often offer easy ways to earn points for free nights. I am a member of all of them, but I tend to stay loyal to the Holiday Inn Priority Points program. I have a VISA that earns me points and when I travel for business I try to stay in a Holiday Inn property if possible. It is super easy to redeem points in this program - in fact I have never been blocked out at all. Also, if you stay in a Holiday Inn Express it typically only takes 15,000 points and you'll get a free breakfast also.
If you don't have points I would try a similar method of booking a room as I explained with airfare. First check http://www.travelocity.com/ or http://www.expedia.com/ to find the properties located where you are staying. Find the best price, then call the hotel directly to see if they can offer you something better. Often they can. Another alternative is to log onto the hotel website and see if they have a web only deal. If you aren't sure where to stay (in a city you don't know it can be especially hard) check out some of the travel boards like http://www.frommers.com/ or http://www.fodors.com/ and get some advice. Other moneysavers are http://www.entertainmentbook.com/ or Triple AAA.
2. Timeshares: If it's just my husband and myself on a trip, we usually stay in a hotel (using points), but if it's the whole family, we usually use our timeshares. I know what you are thinking - there is no way a $25,000 timeshare is a moneysaver. However, if you do your research, you can buy a resale timeshare for about $1500 - $7000 depending upon the brand. This is what we did. I spent a good year researching my options using resources such as http://www.tug2.net/ and determined exactly what I wanted to buy (for me it was Fairfield points). Then, I went onto ebay and started bidding. It probably took me a dozen auctions before I won one at the price I wanted, but I did eventually pick one up for $1500. Because my system is Fairfield I can trade in my points in increments as low as 28,000 to RCI in exchange for weeks at other properties in their system. I probably couldn't get Hawaii at that exchange, but I've had no trouble picking up 1 or 2 bedrooms in Orlando, Michigan, etc. In fact, through the board I mentioned above along with a board specific to Fairfield, I've managed to figure out how to stretch my one week into 3 to 5 weeks a year. Adding in maintenance fees, RCI exchange fees, etc. it ends up costing us about $360 a week. This is for a very nice, 1 - 2 bedroom condo with pools, activities, etc. If you can't afford the maintenance fees or aren't interesting in committing, you can typically rent a timeshare on ebay, http://www.redweek.com or http://www.tug2.net.
3. Friends/ Family I'll be honest, to me this isn't really a vacation, but it can help cut costs! A good example is our last trip to Florida. We drove and since it's a 15 hour drive, we stopped and stayed for two nights with friends in Altanta (about halfway). We had a nice visit, the kids played and it broke up the drive. If you do stay with others, please be a thoughtful guest and pick up after yourself, bring along a nice housewarming gift and take the family out for a meal!
4. Camping We aren't big campers, but this is a viable way to take a very inexpensive vacation. You will need a tent, but you can usually borrow one, pick one up at a garage sale or even on clearance at a discount store. Other than the tent, you can make do with what you have at home - blankets, pillows instead of sleeping bags, a cooler for food, etc. No need to go spend a fortune on expensive camping gear.
I know I just touched the surface in this post, but I hope I've shared some viable options of ways to find a great, inexpensive place to stay for your trip. If there is any interest, I'd be happy to delve futher into any of these topics in a future post.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
More details at their website!
- Find a chair - there is a perfect spot in the front of my office for a nice big chair and a half. This would be a great spot to take a quick work break, read late at night without bothering my DH or for my kids to read books while I work.
- Rearrange furniture - I have a floorplan, just need to take the time to do it.
- Clean up the piles - there are about four or five "piles" that need sorted, put away, etc.
- Sort and purge files
- Put all old pictures in albums (not scrapbook, just put them in photo albums)
- Sort & purge supplies
- Finish organizing supplies in the credenza in the office - this is where I am currently keeping the bulk of my supplies and I'd like to get them all in there
- Buy plastic page protectors, pages and put together all the finished pages in an album
- Create space on the bookshelf for an "idea book/ files/ etc."
If I can accomplish all this, I will be thrilled. Looks like I have about one item from each category to do each week - that seems doable. I'm traveling now, but I'll post pictures of the current space next week when I return. That should help keep me accountable.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
1. Do you have a bunch of empty hangers in your closets? I am especially guilty of this in the kids closets - all their clothes come on hangers, so why do I feel the need to keep the old ones once they've outgrown the clothes. Seriously, is a 4T top going to fit well on a 0-3 month hanger? So, throw out all those old hangers. If you are really into a neat closet, find a hanger you like, buy the number you need and get rid of the rest. You can take them to Goodwill or try a thrift store or dry cleaners to possibly recycle them. Here's another idea? When you buy something new, if you don't have enough hangers you should automatically get rid of one old thing - a new way to enforce that "one in, one out" rule!
2. Wire shelf over the washer and dryer to hang clothing. I have the Duet washer and dryer which I love, but are so tall that I can't reach the shelf above them. So, my DH is going to replace that shelf with one of those wire ones - I can reach up there with a hanger to hang a shirt to dry. That should eliminate all the shirts always hanging on our bathroom shower rods and in the doorways!
3. Is your pantry a mess? Use baskets or even those small plastic drawers to organize small items like spice packets, mixes, etc. This is especially useful if you have wire shelving in your pantry! I have one basket on the bottom shelf where I put individual snacks for the kids - baggies of crackers, boxes of raisins, granola bars and once in a while fruit chews. The snacks are easily accessible and it looks nice!
Have a great Tuesday!
Monday, July 28, 2008
The only things I am going to plan out specifically for the kids are to carve out a bit of one on one time with each of them over vacation - just an hour or two each of undivided attention will be fun and special. We'll see how it goes.
Next month is cleaning/ organizing my office and scrapbooking. As I sit here and type and look around I know I have my work cut out for me!
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Head over to: http://www.cheerios.com/promotions/challenge/EntryForm.aspx
to sign up for a free box of Cheerios and some coupons!
Stopped by Walgreen's and CVS today after church. I didn't think the deals looked great at CVS, but I did pick up the free Revlon makeup. I had a $3 off coupon from CVS and a $2 one from the paper, so I paid $5 and got a $9.99 ECB - a profit is always nice! At Walgreen's I spent some of my Register Rewards on the rebates from the August book. It will be nice to roll those back into a Walgreen's card since they expire soon.
Our fun for the day is heading to Pizza King for dinner. My daughter loves this place and since we haven't eaten out for a week we thought we'd head over as a family.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Total spent out of pocket: $89.21 for 48 packages of diapers, 1 bag of yogurt covered pretzels, 1 box of Wyler's light drink mixes, 1 bag of Kissables and (2) - 6 packs of toilet paper. I ended up with $80 in Register Rewards. Pretty sweet!!!
It was fun and since we drove down to the city to mow my grandparent's lawn and visit them, we spread our trips out over 4 more Walgreen's today. We also made sure not to take all the diapers - I hate it when the shelves are cleared and I'm trying to do a deal.
Other good deals today - sold magazines and books at Half-Price Books and made $6.00. The kids each also got a book there for the reading program. Plus, we made a quick stop at CVS (since they are always across the street from Walgreens) and I picked up 6 packs of Trident gum - on sale B1G1 and I had 3 B1G1 coupons, so those, plus a cute little clearanced picture frame was $1.61 and I got $3.00 in Extra Care Bucks (ECB's) back.
It will be so nice for the next year to not have to worry about running out of diapers and not have to run out and pay full price just because we need them! We are so blessed we could float the $89 out of pocket to save so much in the coming year.
Friday, July 25, 2008
We also got our free Vivanno drinks at Starbucks - for registered card holders they are giving away a free Vivanno drink today and tomorrow, and there was a bounce house across the street for a group promoting a new football team - so the kids got to bounce for a while.
All in all a good start to the weekend!
Thursday, July 24, 2008
How to get there?
Okay, so you know where you are going and probably have a rough idea of what you will do, so how will you get there?
There are several options: car, plane, train, bus are the obvious ones, although I suppose you might also be able to share a ride with someone or bike (depending upon the distance). For the average person though it will probably be one of the first four.
Before you decide think about where you are going - how far away it is, and what type of transportation you will need when you are there.
There are advantages (cost and otherwise) to all forms of transportation. You should know based upon your needs and location which is the best form for you, but I'll outline them all:
- Flying: Advantages: quick, great for long distances. Disadvantages: expensive, you are limited on what you can bring along, you'll need transportation when you arrive
- Driving: Advantages: more room, easy (no security lines, parking or ride to the airport, etc.), less expensive than flying. Disadvantages: Will take away from actual vacation time, can be boring for long distances, higher gas prices can hurt, if you visit a city or location where you don't need a car you still may have to pay for parking.
- Train/ Bus: Advantages: less expensive than driving (typically). Disadvantages: at mercy of train/bus schedule, will take more time then flying, you'll still need transportation when you arrive. I rarely take a train or bus, so I don't have a lot of experience for this category.
How I decide whether we drive or fly:
- If we are gone a long time (ex: 24 days in June) and will need transportation we would probably drive - adding the cost of a rental car to plane tickets would be prohibitive. Plus with that long of a vacation a few days of driving are acceptable.
- If it's a quick weekend trip that is more than seven hours away we would probably fly.
- If we are going to a location where we don't need transportation (i.e. large city) we would consider flying (depends upon cost).
- If it's just my husband and myself and it's a quick trip, we might fly - two tickets are a lot less expensive than four and we don't need to take as much stuff.
Some resources to find the best deal:
Flying: I always check at least two websites such as http://www.travelocity.com/<> or http://www.orbitz.com/ Once I get the lowest rate there, I'll go directly to the suggested airline website. Usually you can book the same fare on their website minus the $5 - $10 fee the travel website charges. I also keep a matrix of my airline miles and whenever I have enough for a free ticket I'll look into that option. In week 7 of this series I'll share some ways to get miles without actually ever flying.
Driving: I actually prefer to drive, and I'll usually drive if I can. There are ways to make the trip more fun and we'll talk about that in week 8. If you decide to rent a car (and this will also be useful if you need to rent one after flying somewhere), here is how I get the best rate: First I do a search on one of the travel websites (like Travelocity). I'll check the best rate. Next I go to Priceline and try to name my own price for a MUCH lower price than Travelocity suggested. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't work then I'll look for coupons - an Entertainment book has typically been my best source. http://www.entertainment.com/ I'll check on rates using the coupons and book the best deal. When renting a car make sure and consider taxes - they can add up quickly.
Here's an example:
Next week we are going to California and need a car. Rates were running about $525 on Travelocity for a full size which is what I like to have to hold the two car seats. I tried Priceline at $20/ day - which would make the price around $200. No luck. So I used my Entertainment coupons and did a bunch of searches on the different companies. At the third company I searched I found the car I wanted for $240. I knew this was a good price based upon my searches on Travelocity/ Expedia/ etc. I went ahead and booked it. Total savings for an hour of my time: $285!!!
Some more great resources for checking rates:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Go to http://www.refundcents.com/
If it's something you are interested in subscribing to, I'd love it if you'd use me as a referral! Just go to the link on the Right Hand side of my blog called Fun Gifts and click on Refund Cents -Thanks!!
Enjoy your sneak peek!
So, buy 3 packs of diapers at $5.99/ each $17.97
Subtract the $5/2 July coupon -5.00
Subtract the $5/2 August coupon -5.00
Total out of pocket $7.97 + tax
Plus, you'll get $5.00 for your next trip!!!
I'll be over there bright and early Friday morning!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
1. Create an attractive landing pad - when you walk into your house, I'm sure you have an area where things just automatically pile up - keys, mail, purse, etc. That's your landing pad. Often this is an area that is always a mess. So, why not make it attractive? For example - designate hooks or a small basket for keys and another basket for mail. Add a pretty container to set change or other small items in. Use things you have around the house or find something inexpensive at a garage sale or Goodwill. Then make it a habit to clean this area off at least once a week. I'm actually in the process of moving my landing pad out of the kitchen and into the mud room.
2. If you are a daily coffee drinker set up a coffee station (or ditto for tea). Put your coffee pot near your water source, then stock a nearby cabinet with your mugs, filters, coffee, flavorings, etc. Keep everything within easy reach.
3. Don't just pay your bills online, get your bills online. This eliminates paper ever entering your house.
When I return from my next trip I'll start posting my progress as I complete projects.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Last night we took the kids to enjoy the fun. For under $20, we all had dinner and dessert, my daughter played three games (and actually WON all of them), and she got to make a little sand art necklace. We also spent a lot of time in the animal barns admiring and even learning a little about all the animals. My little 4 year old daughter even got to walk a Llama - she felt very grown up doing that!
This is something we look forward to every year. Even if you live in a city, search around and you might be able to find a county fair in a nearby suburb!
As I'm out of town most of this week on business, my family fun will be crammed into Fri/ Sat/ Sunday. But still - I'm going to make the most of what time I have available so we'll have some fun on those days. And, on one of those days at least a portion of the day will be a girls day - my son had his time alone with Mommy, so my daughter gets hers also! I'm still in the planning stages, but it will be fun and inexpensive!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Later in the evening, we went over to CVS and made the three photo books advertised with the ECB - I ended up spending $1.52 out of pocket for all three books and 10 digital prints. They are very cute! Two we are calling our "Summer 08" books, and one we made as a gift for my SIL.
Tomorrow after church is the fair - that will be a lot of fun!!!
Friday, July 18, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
1. Who is going on this trip? Is it just adults? Will kids be going? What are their ages?
2. How long do you have for this trip?
3. What kind of vacation do you like? Do you like to relax a lot or keep busy? Shopping? History? Beaches? etc.
Once you've answered these questions, you should have a pretty good idea of the type of place you want to visit, and maybe some of the types of activities that your travleing party would enjoy. Next I would consider if you need someplace within driving distance or if you can afford to buy plane tickets. Get out your map and highlight some of the areas that pop out at you based upon your transportation mode and type of place you want to visit (i.e. city, beach, historical area, etc.).
I know I'm going to drive, I live in Indianapolis and it's the whole family going. We like to keep busy on vacation by shopping, sightseeing and doing some fun family activities. So, I'll look at my map and pick out a few cities within driving distance - Chicago, St. Louis, Columbus, Louisville, etc. Or, I might pick a distance I want to drive - say 200 miles and draw a radius around Indianapolis to see what is within that range.
My next step is to do a quick web search of those locations to see if anything interesting pops out at me. I'll usually check a few good travel boards like http://www.frommers.com/ or http://www.fodors.com/ and also do a google search on each city/ county for tourism information. I always ask my friends and family if they know anything about some of the locations I'm thinking about.
Usually after a bit of research (no more than a few hours) I feel pretty comfortable with one of the ideas as the choice for this vacation. I haven't planned out activities at this point, but I have a general feel for what the location has to offer and I will have bookmarked or made a note of anything special for further research. Often I find great stuff for many locations, so I put them in a file for future reference for a future trip. I'll run my thoughts by the rest of the family and if everyone thinks it sounds like the place to go, we'll start the next part of the planning process.
This might seem like a lot of work at first, but I find it fun and I've been researching vacations for so many years now that I can skip a lot of the preliminaries and just look at the map and pick a place to go - I've already done some homework to discover what many places have to offer.
Another thing to remember is that with a little creativity and a good attitude, you can have a great vacation just about anywhere, even by staying at home and exploring your own city or nearby locations via day trips - my motto is that there is always something fun to do, you just have to look! So don't worry if your budget or gas prices are keeping you near home this year, you can still have a terrific getaway.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
On the flip side, I did spend some one on one time with my DS yesterday - we hit the park and played and had a picnic - it was GREAT! Then, this morning, I took both kids to the pool - which was a lot of fun for all of us. Sunday when they return we are going to the fair as a family. So, I'm keeping on track with my monthly goals, and this trip to Grandma's was already planned.
Next week I'm going to have to really make an effort not to get sucked into work the whole week - it's tough because of course the company doesn't care about spending time with your toddlers, but I'll do my best and remember the long hours are only for a short time period! If only I could get by on less sleep and work at night while they sleep . . .
Thursday, July 10, 2008
- it exposes kids to new experiences and ways of living
- it creates strong family memories
- it allows you to spend a lot of family time together without the everyday distractions
I have always done a lot of traveling - as a kid, we didn't have a lot of extra money, but we would load up my Aunt's travel trailer or the tent and take off for several weeks each summer. In the winter, we'd drive down to Florida to visit my grandparents. These are some of my favorite childhood memories.
So, over the next few weeks, I'll cover my thoughts, ideas and suggestions on the following topics:
1. Where to go?
2. How to get there?
3. Where to stay?
4. What to eat?
5. What to do?
6. Misc. tips
7. Real life trip examples
Hope you enjoy this series and get a few helpful tips to get you on the road!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
To review . . .
- increase my energy level
- create a fitness routine that encompasses all aspects and that I can maintain with my lifestyle
- create a "habit" of regular exercise
- do all this without spending a fortune
How did I do?
- I think my energy level is better, although if that's from more exercise or better sleep who knows?!?
- I have created a fitness routine - I regularly walk in the mornings with my DS and I'm taking a twice weekly kickboxing class; I still need to work on additional strength training and yoga/ flexibility
- I have been actively thinking about fitness (i.e. walk to CVS Monday night) and my routine has become a "habit"
- I am spending $40 a month for kickboxing, and the walking is free. I also found a great resource for "free" workout videos on cable TV http://savemoneybehappy.blogspot.com/2008/06/exercise-resource.html
All in all, not bad - definitely better than I have done in previous months! Plus, I think the changes I have made will stick.
In keeping with the fitness theme, here is a great resource for fitness magazines on the cheap!
Everyday, they have a deal of the day, so if you keep watching, both Fitness and Shape magazine will eventually come up. You can get the subscriptions for less than $5 a year!!! It takes a while for the magazines to start arriving, but the ones I have ordered do eventually come. Once I've read them and copied any information I'm interested in, I sell them to Half Price Bookstore - so I'm out even less! Enjoy!
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
1. Wednesday morning we are going to go to a free kids concert at a nearby park.
2. Friday morning we are going to play with water outside (sponges, balloons, paintbrushes, etc.)
3. We picked blueberries last weekend and while we are bagging them for freezing, I thought we could do some simple math (i.e. two blueberries plus two equal four, if you have 5 blueberries and eat two how many do you have? etc.)
Next week will be the special time for my DS, and the week after for my DD.
On a related note, last night we decided to walk to CVS for our weekly ECB trip. It's only about a mile away, and so we loaded up the double stroller and headed over after dinner. It was terrific! My DH played with the kids while I did my bargain shopping, everything fit under the stroller, and we got some good exercise and conversation on the way there and back. This will definitely become a new tradition for us!
Monday, July 7, 2008
Monday - Leftover beans and rice, leftover homemade pizza
Tuesday - Mystery shop
Wednesday - turkey (yep, out of the freezer), mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce (freezer)
Thursday - Stuffed pork roast (freezer - out of The Sonoma Diet cookbook - it's stuffed with feta, roasted red peppers and spinach), salad, barley
Friday - Steaks on the grill (freezer), corn on the cob, brown rice
Saturday - street festival downtown
Sunday - Shrimp linguine with pesto sauce (from last year's batch of pesto out of the garden!)
Breakfasts will be steel cut oatmeal, veggie egg scrambles, cereal
Lunches will be leftovers for the most part - I may start planning them also, we'll see
Sunday, July 6, 2008
This promises to be a fun month for me! Not that I won't continue to try to eat healthy and exercise regularly, but my focus for the month is to spend more quality time with the kids.
I actually feel like I spend a lot more time with my kids than many working mothers - and I can truly say I really enjoy them and I like to be with them. But, I often feel like I'm "stealing" moments or planning fun things at the last minute. I'd rather be ahead of the game!
My current plan is to try to be more organized and plan ahead a bit more. So, on Monday morning when I plan out my work week, I'm going to add in a few extra "appointments." I will plan at least one "family fun activity" during the week (weekends always consist of something fun to do as a family), I will add in one weekly "learning and fun" activity for the kids, and once this month I will make sure and spend some one on one time with each child.
For reference, I have a four year old DD and a 19 month old DS. If this works, I'll continue to do it on a weekly or monthly basis - we'll see what seems to work best.