Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Which Birthday Freebies to enjoy?

Well, as I mentioned yesterday, many companies send freebies for your birthday if you sign up for their email list, "club", etc. So, how do you decide which ones to partake in?

My suggestion is to make a list of your favorite restaurants/ stores and then look them up. No point it getting a bunch of "free" stuff you'll never use, so make it useful - make it companies you like and would visit anyway!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Freebies on your birthday!

Well, since my birthday is next week (and it's a big one ending in a zero!), I thought I'd start sharing a few fun extras you can enjoy the month of your birthday.

Many restaurants and stores offer freebies and/or coupons if you sign up with their e-club and share your birthday. Today, I'll share a few of my favorites and later in the week a few ideas on how to best utilize them!

Starbucks - since I love me some coffee, this is a no brainer - with a registered card, you'll receive a card for a free coffee the month of your birthday. Even just a measly little $5 card will work as long as it's registered online.

World Market - if you have a world market nearby this is a great offer - they will send you a coupon for $10 - yep, just a free $10 for anything in the store

Coldstone Creamery - free ice cream - what's not to love about this? The way their coupons work they are good for two weeks, and since my son and I have birthdays a few weeks apart I can usually make it work so we can both get our free cone on the same day!

These are just a few, but they are goodies, so I encourage you to go sign up right now!

I'll share some more later in the week!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (short week)

Short week of menu planning around here as the kids are heading to Grandma's for Fall Break and DH and I will probably go out or make a few of our standby's that the kids aren't fans of (Thai Peanut chicken is always on the menu when they are gone).

Monday - lemon pasta with shrimp and arugula/ salad
Tuesday - homemade pizza
Sunday - chili with all the fixings (cheese, onion, sour cream, jalapenos, cornbread

I'm also going to finish up with canning apples and a I have a counter of the last of the tomatoes to deal with - I think salsa is my best bet.

Be sure to check out Organizing Junkie for much longer and more detailed menus!

Great deal on your Christmas Cards

Start digging out your best picture, because Mamapedia has a great deal going on to help out with Christmas Cards. You can buy $40 worth of photo books, holiday cards, etc. for $20 at Kodak Gallery. I purchased one and will make up my Christmas cards this week - that's one item off the to do list, paid for and completed! Go to Indianapolis as your city to see the deal.

Hurry though, you only have a day left to purchase!

Oh, and one of the best parts is you can designate 5% to go to your child's (or any other) school!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Earn Free Groupons!

Okay, I think it's obvious how much I love Groupons so I was excited to hear about a new contest via Real Simple. Click on the link and you can enter a contest to win $500 in Groupons - that will go a LONG way! Plus, if you get 5 friends to sign up, you will earn $10 in Groupons (note they do say while supplies last).

Plus, another bit of good news. When I clicked on today's deal, I noticed that my city is going to start a Saturday and Sunday deal of the day - check your city to see if they are also.

Have a fun weekend - we are up to all kinds of Halloween parties this weekend, so hope the weather holds for us!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Use your memberships wisely

Since I started talking about memberships yesterday, I thought I'd continue in the same theme today.

If you do decide to purchase a membership (or annual pass), make sure you use it wisely. What do I mean by that? Well, aside from ensuring you'll get your money's worth (i.e. visiting the place enough times), there are some other things you can do.

A few ideas:
- Check online or call and ask about member specials - for example, one of the museum memberships we own allows for free entrance into special events, another offers member only early entrance hours

- See if you can save money on other local attractions with your membership (I touched on that yesterday, but often even non-related attractions will offer a discounted rate)

- Ask if you can get friends/ family members in for a reduced price

- Check to see if there are discounts on classes or workshops - several places we've been members of offer children's programs at a discount for members - the kids have loved attending those!

- When you do visit, pack your lunch or a snack and remind your kids that you aren't buying items in the gift shops. It kind of defeats the purpose of saving money by going frequently if you pay an arm and a leg for concession food or toys. Our kids are so used to bringing our lunch they don't mind at all - it's like a "picnic" for them. As for gift shops - I'm not sure they know they exist as we avoid them!

Finally - use them! If you are on a limited budget consider asking for a membership for a Christmas or Birthday gift, and then GO!!! If you can only afford one a year, rotate locations for variety each year. To me, the best part of having a museum membership is I feel like we can go for a few hours, enjoy ourselves and then leave - it doesn't have to be an all day event and I don't have that pressure of "getting my money's worth" by staying all day!

Check out Frugal Friday at Life as Mom for more ideas!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Save Money on Entertainment

As you probably all know by now, I love to go do things with my family, but I also love to save money, and let's face it - events, museums, etc. are EXPENSIVE!

One of the ways I save money is by purchasing memberships. If there is a place we want to go, I always check the membership price and do a cost analysis to see if it makes sense to buy a membership. For example:

Membership to nearby Science Museum: $65 for a year
One day entrance for our family: $28

So, if we will go more than 2x in the next year, the membership is a better deal. Typically, once we purchase the membership we end up saving lots more because we'll go to that location when we are looking for something to do since "it's already paid for." But, sometimes, we pay full price or find a B1G1 free coupon and use that instead - depends upon if I think we'll visit the place enough times to make the membership worthwhile - don't spend extra money on a membership if you won't really use it (been there, done that!).

These days, if you keep your eyes open, you can score even better deals on memberships! For example, yesterday the membership for the example above was on sale on Groupon for $30! Of course I purchased it, because not only do we only have to visit twice, but this particular membership included free or reduced admission to 250 other science museums. Since I know we'll take several long and short vacations this summer, I've paid for a number of admissions to various fun museums - including some of the biggies in Chicago like the Field Museum! What a deal - thinking ahead will really save me in the long run.

I'll try to remember to add up our savings over the year - it will be fun to check back next year and see how much we really save!

I'm such a fan of Groupon - if you haven't checked it out yet, please do so - and remember to check nearby cities or places you will vacation in the near future also. These links take you to my referral page, but if you aren't comfortable with that, just go to the main page - it's a great place to find a fun bargain.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Some fun, easy dinners this week:

Monday - homemade pizza
Tuesday - date night
Wednesday - linquine with shrimp and arugula (I'll post if it's good)
Thursday - chx enchiladas
Friday - burgers/ potatoes/ caprese salad (last of the tomatoes I suspect)
Saturday - local fundraiser dinner
Sunday - roast chicken

Breakfasts will be cereal, eggs & bacon, bagels and pumpkin pancakes!

For more ideas, visit Organizing Junkie

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Midwest Skiing

How fun - one of my goals for this month was to write and publish a travel article. It's just Associated Content, but still, I did it - very fun! So, here it is - all about skiing in Michigan (place of our annual ski trip):

Skiing Article

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Healthy Success!

So, since July I've been trying not to drink any Diet Soda. I had my last one at Harrah's casino in early July. It was wonderful, but I'm convinced the Aspartame isn't good for me and really, Diet Soda is just a bunch of chemicals overall, and since I don't allow my kids to drink pop I felt like I was setting a bad example. I thought I would never be able to do it, but now it's 3 months later and I think I've succeeded in kicking the habit.

At my SIL's Friday night, we ordered pizza and she served us Diet Pepsi. Not to be rude, I took a few sips, and I can honestly say I didn't like it! I gave it to my husband and switched to water. I don't drink tea or regular soda, so eliminating diet soda has substantially increased my water intake (a secondary goal).

In fact, I'm sitting at Paradise Bakery right now enjoying a cold glass of ice water with a slice of lemon. Truly refreshing.

I have found one time when I've "missed" diet soda. That's when I'm out shopping - often I would be thirsty and grab a soda to carry around while I shop. I could do coffee, but that tends to fill me up. I don't feel comfortable asking for an ice water without buying something else (that I probably don't need or want) and I don't like bottled water. I try to remember to bring my stainless steel bottle but sometimes forget. For now I'm going without, but this is a problem I need to solve - any suggestions would be appreciated!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Easy week mostly from the freezer!

Monday - shrimp linguine with pesto (had to use up the basil before a predicted frost!)
Tuesday - pulled pork, cornbread (with honey butter), potato salad
Wednesday - out with the family (probably pizza)
Thursday - beef stew
Friday - sausage and broccoli slaw
Saturday - fish tacos, chips and salsa/ guacamole,
Sunday - roast chicken, veggies (whatever looks good at the farmer's market), sourdough bread

I might switch Friday and Saturday around - we'll see how the week goes. Breakfasts will be oatmeal, eggs and toast, sourdough pancakes, and muffins and fruit.

Visit Organizing Junkie for more great menu plans!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A new place to relax

We have a screened in porch on the back of our house. When building we went back and forth on adding it on as it was quite expensive and completely unnecessary. I have to say that it has constantly been one of our favorite "rooms," and my husband and I have often said it was "well worth the money."

As soon as the weather is nice, we start heading out there for our dinners. When the kids finish, they can swing on the playset and we can easily see them while we relax over the rest of our meals. I often take prep work (snapping peas, peeling apples, etc.) out there to do while the kids play.

However, after a few years of use, things were looking a little sad. I didn't want to spend a bunch of money because, well, it is a screened in porch - all the elements hit it. And, I'm not interested in running out there every time it rains to bring everything inside. So, instead of a big overhaul, I made a few small touches that made all the difference!

My table and chairs are old (eleven years old). However, they still work just fine, so I don't want to rush out and replace them. The cushions (blue and white striped) are pretty sad. So, I just turned them over! On the backside is a nice chambray blue - still in great condition. I purchased a clearance circular placemat at Kohl's for less than $1 and used it in the center of the table to cover the hole for the umbrella. On that I placed a simple candleholder I had on hand and filled it up with shells. I think I'll change the centerpiece to something more fall like this week when I do the rest of the house.

In one corner is a chest to hold the cushions in the winter. I left that there as it's useful and weather resistant. The other corner is bare, but I think I'll stick a simple small table to hold drinks or condiments while we eat. On the wall connected to the house, I'm on the lookout (on Craigslist and garage sales) for a baker's rack. I can use it to house all the kids sand and outside toys in a few simple boxes. That will clean up the toy clutter while keeping them handy.

I strung up some decorative lighting and in the evening we can use that to eat by. Finally, I cleaned up my herb garden (which is right out front of the porch), put stepping stones made by the kids in it and new plant markers (made with free paint, paint sticks and sharpies).

Eventually I'd like to tile the porch and add a rug under the table, but I'm waiting until the kids are a bit older and not running through the room constantly with dirty feet.

So, aside from a few items I need to purchase when I find a good deal on them, it's done and looks great. Oh, and so far I've only spent $1!