Saturday, December 31, 2011

Preparing for the New Year - Day 5

Well, hopefully by now your house is looking great and you are feeling ready.

Day 5:

Do a quick clean up. Today, spend an hour (or less) picking up, running the vaccum, dusting and cleaning the kitchen floor. This way you will wake up tomorrow to a nice clean house - with an organized pantry and fridge and hopefully a bit less clutter! Perfect way to start the New Year.

Come back next week for some exciting changes - I'll be posting something new I've been working on early next week. Until then, enjoy the night, and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Preparing for the New Year - Day 4

Are you enjoying your clean frige? I know I am. In fact, we decided to try something new this year for the freezer. We are lucky enough to have a freezer in the basement, so we decided to keep the upstairs freezer strictly for food we will eat in the next two weeks. Things tend to get lost in it and I end up throwing them away, so hopefully this will help. Downstairs will be storage, and upstairs will be food to be eaten quickly.

Day 4:

Clean out your pantry. Bet you knew this one was coming! I almost always do this on New Year's Day - I'm not sure why, it just happens that way. Same as the fridge, start at the top and work your way down. Pitch anything that is expired, organize by category (baking, snacks, breakfast, etc.) and consider throwing away (or giving away) anything you deem as unhealthy.

I have been slowly eliminating processed food from our diet, so this will be my final removal of most of it from the house.

I know my pantry is a mess, so I'd better get downstairs and get started now! Good luck!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Preparing for the New Year - Day 3

How much did you clear out? I took a bag of items to Goodwill and listed about a half dozen on Craigslist. I also filled up a rubbermaid container with items for our next garage sale (already tagged and ready to go!). Felt great and the house looks much cleaner without as much clutter!

Day 3:

Clean out your fridge. Today, we'll jump into an area that I know needs cleaned out regularly at my house - the fridge!

This is how I'm going to do it: First, I'll take everything off of the top shelf - check expiration dates and toss anything that is expired. Then I'll clean the shelf and put the items back on that shelf (if they belong there - otherwise they stay on the counter). Next, I'll move on the the next shelf and so on until the shelves are finished. Finally I'll do the door. If there are items that can be combined (i.e. two jars of mustard), I'll combine them.

Once the fridge is finished, I'm going to move on to the freezer and follow the same process. As I'm checking items, I'm also going to make a note of things that need to be used up (literally make a note on a piece of paper). Then, when I plan the menu for next week, I'll be sure to include those items.

Stand back and admire your clean fridge!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Preparing for the New Year - Day 2

Did you get through all your returns? We were done by noon and it was such a GREAT feeling!

Day 2:

Clean out some stuff! Today, my suggestion is to do a quick survey of your house and see if there is anything you can eliminate - take to Goodwill or sell. I wouldn't spend hours going through your whole house, but I bet if you walk through each room and look around, you can get rid of quite a few things you are no longer using, don't really like or just don't need.

Then, bag them up and take them straight to Goodwill (or at least put them in your car for the next time you head that direction), immediately tag them and store for a future garage sale, or list on Ebay or Craigslist.

A little less clutter and a little more cash (or at least one more tax write off for 2011) is a great way to prepare for 2012.

I won't have a post tomorrow, but I will have a few more suggestions Thursday - let me know how much you were able to clean out!

Preparing for the New Year - Day 1

With just a week left until next year, it is a great time to get yourself ready. With just a little bit of work each day, you can start off 2012 feeling ready to go!

My philosophy is why wait until January 1st to start fresh? Why not get a head start now? So most days this week, I'll be posting a tip with a project to work on that should help you feel ready to meet 2012.

Day 1:

Put away the Christmas presents. While you are doing this, determine if you (and your kids) will really use each gift. If not, return it today (or at least put it in a bag in your car to return later in the week). I know it's a hassle to get out and do returns, but the stores tend to be a bit more liberal this week, and instead of waiting until it's too late to do any returns, you'll feel great to have it finished!

My plan for the day is to make myself and my hubby a nice cup of coffee, put away the gifts, decide if there is anything we need today while it's on sale (wrapping paper for next year, birthday presents we'll need in the next few weeks, etc.) and then go out to conquer our returns and a little bit of needed shopping - we'll have a list which should keep us from purchasing unneeded items and by the end of the day we'll only have the new items in our house that we want or need.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Gift Card Promos Save YOU money!

This tip is really from my hubby - he is the king of this one . . .

You know how there are so many gift card offers right now? Buy $25 in GC, get $5 free and the like? Well, even if you don't need gift cards to give as gifts, you can use these deals to your advantage.

Next time you are out to dinner and the restaurant you are dining at has this promo, check it out - if it's a good deal, I'd suggest heading to the bar and picking up enough to cover your dinner that night. Then, use the gift card you just purchased to pay for your meal.

You were going to pay for dinner anyway right? So you've spent the same amount of money, and now you have $5 (or whatever the deal is) to use later!

Here is a great example:

We had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings Wednesday with some friends and we knew our bill was going to be $30 - $40. So, my husband went to the bar, purchased two gift cards for $25 each and received two mystery cards (guaranteed to have at least $5 each on them). When our bill was due, we paid with the gift cards. Now, we have about $20 left on one gift card, plus at least $10 with the free card. So, we'll be able to come back for dinner in January and have our meal paid for!

A few caveats so you don't waste your money:

1. make sure you like the restaurant and would want to return

2. don't do too many of these deals - most of the bonus cards are only good in January or January and February, so you could easily get yourself into a situation where you can't use them all

3. don't buy the deal just to save money if you can't afford it, often you will purchase more in gift cards than your bill - great if you can just use them later, but if you can't afford the extra cash now . . .

4. don't lose the gift cards or bonus cards!!!

5. keep track of what you have purchased and make sure you use the bonus cards before they expire

Enjoy your holiday season!

Monday, December 19, 2011

My favorite gift!

I often talk about how much I like "doing" versus "buying," so this year I decided to create a special gift for my family in that vein (even my hubby doesn't know about this one).

I saw a similar idea somewhere on the internet (if I knew where I'd post a link!), but it was more for dating - I tweaked it for my family.

I took 12 envelopes and wrote the month on each one. Then, inside each envelope I wrote a note to my family outlining a fun family event we would do that month. Included in the envelope are also gift cards, cash, tickets, etc. - whatever is needed for the outing. I put the envelopes in a pretty basket (recycled from my closet) so it will be something we can leave out in plain view. My plan is that on the first of each month, we can sit down over dinner, dessert, whatever, open the envelope and then schedule the event.

I'm hoping it will become a fun activity the kids look forward to and encourage more fun family times. It's been a fun project for me coming up with new ideas and gathering the supplies for each month. The daily deal sites like Groupon, Living Social and Eversave have been invaluable!

So, here's to one fun thing planned for 2012: A Year of Family Fun!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Share the Christmas Spirit!

Something I like to do each year is share the Christmas Spirit with the people that help out my kids daily - but maybe don't have daily interaction with them. I'm talking about the school office staff, nurse, principal, etc.

Most people do something for the teachers, but without the office staff, the schools wouldn't run - so make it a point to do a little something for them. They really appreciate it!

A few ideas:

1. Make some coffee cake and pick up a Starbucks (or local coffee shop) traveler with all the fixings - a nice little breakfast is always welcome!

2. This year, I made sugar cookies (with homemade buttercream icing) and am dropping them off this afternoon with a Starbucks traveler - who wouldn't love a little afternoon cookie and coffee break! Total cost: $14 for the coffee as I had already made the cookies for our family.

3. Pick up an inexpensive plant (Poinsettia's are nice this time of year) for them to place on the desk - they can enjoy it all month! I saw them at Meijer for $3.33 yesterday - very affordable.

4. Have your child make a card thanking them for everything they do - this can be very meaningful as they often don't feel as appreciated as the teachers.

5. A jar of candy for their desk - use all the great drugstore deals right now to fill it up!

Another thought on this - if you take food in, I'd suggest taking it the week before Christmas break starts - often the school will do special treats or breakfasts the week of break, so it's nice to spread it out a bit for them.

Don't let the Holidays pass you by!

How to decide what to do this season? There are so many fun events going on that it can be hard to narrow down what to participate in. It seems like every year there are more parties, events and visits to add to the list. To help you out, I have a few holiday planning suggestions:

1. Ask your family. Just because it sounds good, or because you've always done something, doesn't mean you should do it. So, ask your kids and spouse what they would really like to do this month. It might surprise you. We've made a list for each of us of "must do's" and then we have another list of "if we have time" outings. This way, I'll ensure we each do what is most special to us, and if there is extra time or we end up with a free night, I'm not scrambling for ideas.

2. Put it on the calendar. This is another biggie. I've found that if I don't make specific plans (at least for the "must do's"), odds are good we'll get busy and before we know it, the month is over and we missed out on something special. Putting it on the calendar also helps with scheduling - you can see at a glance if you have too much planned for one weekend but another is light. Then, if need be, you can rearrange things before you get in the thick of it!

3. Take it easy. I can't stress this tip enough. Yes, there are a lot of fun and good things to do this season, but sometimes a lazy day at home watching a Christmas movie and snacking on popcorn and hot chocolate is just as memorable for your kids. Plus, planning a few low key days will keep everyone healthy and stress free!

4. Enjoy yourself. Remember, these are memories you are making, so you want them to be good ones! So what if everything doesn't go as planned or if you miss out on something. If you take the time to enjoy your family and your time together, you are going to get what you want out of the holiday season. It's just not worth it to get upset or panicked if things don't go perfectly - in fact, sometimes the "bloopers" in life become the best and most memorable parts of your family history!

So, before it's too late, make some cocoa for the family, sit down with the calendar and plan out the rest of your month!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Preparing for the New Year!

Yes, I'm thinking ahead!

I love the new year - it's another chance for a fresh start. I like to plan (as you all know!), so I've started thinking about what I want to accomplish in 2012. Some things I had planned for 2011 didn't happen, so those will roll over - others are new.

I'm also starting to think of a theme. I often create "theme's" for my year - it's a fun way to plan, reflect and add new experiences.

A couple of examples:

2011 was the year of completions and adventures

2010 was the year of the weekend getaway

In 2008 I had monthly goals - I liked that one and may try that again this year

So, expect to see posts on this topic in the next few weeks. I've found that by thinking about it ahead of time, I'm not stressed on the first - I can go into the new year with a plan of attack!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar

I have seen so many cute Advent calendars on the internet this year - how to decide??? Since I've been fighting this cold, I haven't had the energy to do much, but I didn't want to miss out on the Advent fun, so I decided to use our normal Advent calendar (that my SIL made for us) and I've tucked little notes in some of the pockets with activities we will do on the day the note is pulled.

For instance, today was day 1, so I tucked a note in with the ornament that said "family game night - play a game together". Some of the notes involve a craft or cooking (like make cards or make fudge), some are an activity (decorate the tree, go look at Christmas lights) and some are service oriented (take dinner to friends, bless a neighbor). I looked at my calendar and placed the notes based upon our schedule - so for instance I know we're getting our tree Sunday - hence the tree note goes in on Sunday. I put the "make cards" note in a few days before teacher gifts will be delivered, etc.

The kids were super excited to find the note this morning - they had already been looking forward to the tree itself so this was a real bonus!

Maybe next year I'll get all crafty, but in the meantime at least I'm making this year special!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ebay = Christmas!

Whew! It was a crazy and fun weekend. Sadly I ended up with a bad cold, so moving slowly today. I did manage to list a bunch of ebay auctions last week, and they close today through Wednesday, so hopefully that will be a little extra Christmas cash! Plus, hopefully others will get some good deals on Christmas gifts or clothing for their little ones!

More to come later this week when I'm back up to speed!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving. I'll be at the in-laws tomorrow, then out shopping Friday!

This year will be a breeze as I have very little to purchase. Still, I'm one of those crazy ones who love to be out in the excitement. My husband and I head out with a couple of friends and we cross everyone off our list. Then, Saturday we wrap everything, hide it in the basement and I am done with shopping and wrapping for the rest of the month. It is always a crazy (but fun) couple of days, but SUCH a relief to be able to enjoy the Christmas season without the stress of holiday shopping

I'll be back next week with some tips on how to schedule your holiday season, and some thoughts on fun Christmas activities!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Amazon's Black Friday List

Want to pass on the craziness of the stores (or going out in the middle of the night or even on Thanksgiving this year!!). Then check out Amazon's Black Friday deals - your gifts can be shipped right to your home and you can shop in your jammies!

Shop Amazon's Black Friday Week

Friday, November 18, 2011

Starbucks B1G1

Don't forget that through the 20th, you can get a free Holiday drink at Starbucks when you buy one between 2:00 EST and 5:00 EST.

This is a great deal - I stopped by yesterday and picked up two. I put one in the fridge with a little note for my hubby - I knew he wouldn't see it until this morning so it would be a nice surprise.

As a FYI, these drinks heat up beautifully!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Happy Day Project - Recap

What a fun and inspiring project to be a part of. I am so grateful I read about it and decided to participate. Although it was sometimes crazy to try to "fit in" each act, I was very glad after that I had done so.

Of course the many darling printables made it so easy - and what terrific ideas from everyone else who participated.

My favorite was taking the gift to my neighbor - that definitely had the most personal connection for me. Plus, it is so easy to do!!!

My kids loved selecting a gift from the Compassion Christmas Catalog. My daughter has decided that next year she wants to give a cow - because you know they always have milk!

I definitely felt grateful for the many wonderful blessings I have in my life - my children, my health, my ability to do these small things for others.

Thanks to this project, I've been inspired to try to keep going. I plan on making a monthly goal to do one small act of service each week. For the next few weeks it will be easy - there are so many opportunities around the holidays. But, after that it gets harder. So, my plan is to come up with a list of things I can do and just put them on my calendar in 2012. Hopefully that will help me keep on track - and I hope it can become something I look forward to each week!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy Day Project: Day 7

Another great idea by Life Rearranged! Put together bags to keep in your car to hand out to those in need. Things we take for granted like toothpaste, snacks, a warm hat, gloves, socks, etc. would be so appreciated by someone who doesn't have any of that.

My kids are I are going to work on this one together. My plan is to put together a few kits for each car and keep them between the front seats - that way, if I see a homeless person on the side of road, I can just hand it over - along with a giftcard.

I hope it blesses someone!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Happy Day Project: Day 6

Today is all about blessing those who serve. There are all sorts of people out there - firemen, mailmen, crossing guard, etc. who help our lives go smoother.

I decided to bless my daughter's teacher. She has made a transition to a new school much easier for my daughter and is truly one of those teachers who LOVE their kids.

So, I ran a Chai Latte over to her during her prep hour - I knew this was her favorite drink. It definitely made her smile.

Visit Life Rearranged for more ideas!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Day Project: Day 5

A bit behind on posting these, but I'm still participating (although I did take a break over the weekend!).

Friday the project was all about water. We take water for granted - it's easily accessible for all of us.

However . . .

For many people, it is not so easy to get clean, fresh water. So, take a look at the following link and consider donating just $10 to Charity Water will give someone clean water for TEN years. The main page for the campaign is at this link: Charity Water. That's just a few bottles of water if you still buy bottled water. Wow. So, get out your reusable water bottle and use it for the next few weeks (or forever if you can make it a habit) and put that $10 you would have spent on bottled water to better use.

Locally, give out water to someone who looks like they could use some - the crossing guard at my child's school is the one I'm sharing with. I know this goes against what I just said about not buying bottled water, but this is a gift, so I'll make an exception. Or, give them a reusable bottle full of fresh cold water - that way maybe they will start using the bottle over and over too! Check out the post at Life Rearranged for her ideas and the super cute printable by Living Locurto to use!

Go share water today!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Day Project: Day 4

Books, books, books - we have them in EVERY room in our house.

I love books, I love to read and I love that my kids both love it as much as I do. My husband . . . that's a different story. I often say I wonder how I ended up married to someone who doesn't like to read - craziness!!!

This day's project
touched my heart. Please go look at the post to learn more about it. There are two parts - one to give a book to a friend, and the second to donate a book to The Joyful Life Library. I was very excited to see one of my local hospitals on the list, so that was an easy donation - Mike Mulligan went out to them. I remember reading it with my brother as a kid and loving it, and my son loves it as much as I did. Hopefully my little donation will help other kids get as much enjoyment out of story time with this book as our family has.

The Joyful Life Library has made it so easy to stock the PICU of various hospitals - they have links to wish lists on Amazon, so it's just pick a book, pay and it will end up right where it is needed.

I have to say, midway through I am really enjoying this project. It is a great way to practice gratefulness and giving. Also a terrific example for our children. I think this is something that would be a good weekly goal - pick a project each week and donate/ share/ etc. I'll be thinking more on that!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Day Project: Day 3

Following along on the Happy Day Project from Life Rearranged . . .

Yesterday was the day to give a gift card to a homeless person. I think this is a great idea. I've always been hesitant to give money to homeless people, but since I've had kids, I have a snack bag in the car and I'll sometimes hand out a granola bar or piece of fruit. The thought of keeping a few $5 gift cards to McDonald's or someplace similar never occurred to me.

Since I don't see homeless people often, I couldn't actually pass out a card. What I could (and did) do however was purchase a few to keep in the car.

The other suggestion for the day was to shop the Compassion Christmas Catalog. I love this and I'm going to participate, but I'm going to have my kids help me select what to buy - so this part will happen tonight instead of yesterday.

Please check this out - what an easy way to spread hope without even leaving your home. And at least think about the gift cards - imagine how good you feel when you receive a gift card from a friend. Now, imagine how you would feel if it meant you'd get a warm meal and you hadn't had one in quite some time . . .

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Day Project: Day 2

This was a fun and super easy project!

Thanks to Life Rearranged and Hope Ink, I printed out these cute little cards and sent them off in the mail. One went to my nephew who is away at college and the other to the family mentioned in Life Rearranged's post. My heart just goes out to them - to be battling Stage 4 cancer with three little ones . . . wow.

I hope the family was blessed by everyone participating in this project. Can't wait to do Day 3!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 1: The Happy Day Project

I'm following Life Rearranged's Happy Day Project - join in!

Yesterday's project was treats to a neighbor. My next door neighbor recently had an accident and has been home recovering for a few weeks. It was a very rainy and dreary day, so I made up some Mexican Coffee Mix, printed out the tag from Mique of 30 Handmade Days, wrote the instructions on the back and ran it over.

She loved getting the little surprise and was deep into a book I had loaned her a few weeks ago. I told her to make up a cup of coffee and settle back into the couch.

What an easy and fun little project - I'm inspired to do something like this every month.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Goals for the Week

Last week I didn't set goals or use my daily to do list, and I suffered. I found myself spending too much time aimlessly browsing the internet, rushing to figure out dinner and not getting much actual work done. It was also very hard to get myself motivated.

I did get some things done - I ran every morning (which was GREAT), I made some meals for the freezer (something I've been wanting to do for a while) and I had some fun times with the kids. So, it was still overall a good week, just not a GREAT week.

So, back in the swing:

This week:

Super clean both bathrooms
Buy CD's to start backing up photos on my computer
Make photo book for Grandma's for Christmas
Participate in The Happy Day Project
B-day party Sunday for my little guy!
Clean up work emails
Post ebay items for the month
Organize paper piles in office
Menu plan for the week

Doable I think, and enough to get me feeling on top of things! Notice I didn't post my exercise or yoga? I think I can (fingers crossed) consider those habits - I've been very consistent for a few months now. If I fall off the wagon, they'll go back on the list as a to do item.

We'll see if this helps me feel more accomplished come next Monday!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chocolate??? Oh Yes!!!

Love chocolate? Me too! And amazingly enough, this post isn't about Halloween - what to do with that candy is a whole other post!

We just got back from a fun weekend getaway in Hershey, PA. So, yes, we had plenty of chocolate. I thought I'd give a quick rundown on the fun things to do as well as ways to save money at this location (and really any others as well).

The town of Hershey is all about chocolate - Hershey chocolate that is. Even the light posts are Hershey kisses! That being said, there is a lot to do, but a lot of it is pretty expensive!

Before the trip, I did a bit of research online - this definitely helped us save some money. I went to the Hershey World website and clicked on the coupons page. I was able to print off some very valuable coupons! I also checked my Entertainment membership (the online version of the Entertainment book) and found some additional B1G1 free coupons.

We stayed at the Bluegreen timeshare (courtesy of one of my ebay timeshare purchases).

The first day we were there, we visited the Hershey Museum - this was very pricey, but we were able to save $10 by using Foursquare on our phones - we each could take $5 off admission. There was an exhibit called the Chocolate Lab where we made our own candy bars - the kids loved this. After a day at the museum, we hit the grocery store to stock up on breakfast and sandwich fixings for our condo. Our evening entertainment was a swim in the condo pool and a movie and popcorn in the comfort of our living room (with a fireplace!!!).

The next day we decided to head to Easton, PA to visit the Crayola factory. I am so glad we did as it was my favorite part of the weekend. Although it isn't much of a factory tour, there were so many fun crafts and activities, we spent two hours just playing and creating. Very fun!!! When we arrived I asked if they had a AAA discount. They did, but they had a better "walk up" deal which was $2 off per admission. So, scored another $8 in savings! We ate lunch at McDonald's - not fancy but the kids loved it, and sandwiches in the room for dinner.

That night we went to Hershey Park in the Dark - the kids got to ride the rides, trick or treat and just have a blast! Once again, tickets were expensive, but before we left the condo I called the park and asked if there were any discounts (AAA or other). They didn't have an AAA discount, but the lady I spoke to told me that if we bought our tickets ahead of time at Giant grocery we could save $4 per adult ticket and $3 per kid. So, a quick 5 minute stop at Giant and we saved another $14 (plus didn't have to wait in line to buy tickets at the park).

We woke up Saturday to SNOW - lots of it!!! After a hearty breakfast in the room, we headed over to Chocolate World. Once again, a very pricey day, but my research at home paid off here. We used B1G1 free coupons for the Chocolate Tasting ($20 saved) and would have used my B1G1 free Trick or Treat Trolley coupons except it was canceled due to the weather - oh well, next time! I also had printed out a coupon for 20% off at the Dessert creations. They had a cute cake pop creation for only $3 - really a great deal - it included two cake pops, a bowl of chocolate syrup for dipping and a topping. Plenty for the kids. I used the coupon (saved $.60) and then I had another 20% off coupon so we passed that on to a family heading upstairs.

After all that chocolate, we moved on to the outlet mall for a bit of shopping - first stopping at the management center to show them my AAA card. That scored us a coupon book. We didn't spend much, but did save at least 20% on everything we did purchase thanks to the booklet. Once we were done, we gave the leftover coupons to another family - hopefully they were able to use some of them too!

So, we had a great time, did a lot of fun things, and also saved a little money in the process. I estimated I spent less than an hour researching savings, making phone calls, asking questions and printing off coupons and we saved $52.60 not counting our outlet mall savings - pretty good return on investment!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Need a new planner? A pretty one?

What a fun deal! Today (and probably for not much longer) Plum District has Erin Condren products on sale $25 for $50. Just scroll through the Everywhere deals until you find it. Use the code FABULOUS at check out for an extra 10% off. Then, if you are new to Plum District, use this link and you'll get $5 - so you can end up with $50 of products for only $17.50 - $22.50.

The planners are expensive, but so nice - and at $17.50, well I can afford a pretty planner for 2012!!! If you don't need a planner, there are holiday cards, stationary, etc.

Plus, right now on the Erin Condren website, if you order a 2012 planner, you'll get the remaining 2011 months for free!

Note: this is my link to Plum District, feel free to go straight to the site if you are more comfortable with that route.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Daily Deal Tips

I know we all love to save money - who doesn't. And those daily deals are so exciting! 50% to 75% off! Hold me back!


If you don't use the deals, or don't need the deals, you aren't saving money - in fact you are WASTING money. So, before you jump in, I'd suggest the following:

1. Keep a running list of the deals you have purchased and when they expire. That way you won't be scrambling at the last minute to book an appointment or use up a Groupon. I've found that a simple list by date of coupons purchased sitting on my desk works well. Then, when I plan out each month's goals, I check over the list and see what I can/ want to use that month. Just make sure to keep your list up to date.

2. Think before you purchase. That $10 may not seem like much, but if you purchase one a day, it really adds up - $70 by the end of the week! Ask yourself the following:

- do I need this?
- is it something I've wanted to try or do?
- would I purchase it without a coupon?
- can I afford it? If you can't afford an extra $10 now, DON'T spend it!!!

3. Don't buy right away. Wait a few hours to give yourself time to get over the excitement. Yes, you may miss a deal or two, but that's pretty rare.

4. Talk with your spouse and/or friends. Just because you find something exciting or fun, if it's a group deal, they might not. Then you end up with no one to go with (been there, done that!).

By keeping these things in mind, you can easily purchase only the best deals for YOU and YOUR family and feel good about letting the others get away.

Even with a few mistakes here and there, overall I've really enjoyed these daily deals and had some really fun experiences I wouldn't have had without them, so I truly am a fan!!! Just proceed with caution and you can add some fun and money saving measures to your life.

In addition to Groupon, my other favorite site is Living Social - click on the link and you'll get an automatic $5 on your next deal for signing up!

Note: signing up through the above links is through my referral - please feel free to go directly to the site if you are more comfortable with that option.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Great magazine deal for little ones!

Does your little one love getting mail? Mine does and every day he asks me if he got anything in the mail. Today's deal on Savvy Source (another daily site) is a magazine subscription for $9 to Turtle. We've gotten it from the library before, and it's quite cute.

To save even more, like the deal on Facebook and they will take another $1 off. So, I picked up a subscription for my little guy for $8. Well worth the excitement for him a few times a year when he actually gets his own mail!!!

Check it out: Savvy Source

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Holiday Fun on a Budget

With the holiday's coming up, it's time to start thinking about how your family will spend their time. Although Christmas is a biggie, for many families Halloween, Thanksgiving and even just the Fall season are also times to celebrate. In addition, there are SO MANY events going on - how do you pick which ones to do? How do you decide how much of your entertainment money to spend? Well, here is what we do:

1. Talk as a family about which things you really want to do this year. You might be surprised at what your kids tell you. When I asked my kids, they mentioned Pumpkin Day as a must do. Pumpkin Day is a day I made up for the kids one October (changes each year as it depends upon when I have the time) where we make pumpkin pancakes for breakfast, cut up a pumpkin for seeds and have pumpkin bread for our after school snack. Cost is the price of one pumpkin! I really didn't realize they looked forward to it until I asked.

2. Once you've made your list, decide when you'll do each thing and how much it will cost.

3. Finally, try to take a few family walks or bike rides while you still can. Even a picnic at the park - those are the events you'll remember this winter when it's cold and dreary!

A few ideas of places to look for seasonal activities:
- the newspaper
- online - do a search for your location and "festivals or events"
- nearby churches and schools often offer no cost or low cost events
- check with any local museums, zoos, etc. (especially if you have an annual pass)

Enjoy the season! I'll post later this month about some of the Fall adventures we've had!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Start each day with balance

How often do you wake up frazzled, start your day off in a bad mood, and just feel out of kilter before the day even gets going?

I know I used to feel like this many days. I'd wake up with my mind already racing through my to do list to figure out what to do next. I also had a lot of neck and shoulder pain on a daily basis.

Well, this summer, when I couldn't run for a while due to some health issues, I decided to try daily yoga. Nothing crazy - just a few minutes each morning stretching, relaxing and slowly wakening my mind. After my yoga I brew my coffee and move right into my current bible study (or if I'm running late, get the kids off to school and then come back to coffee and bible study).

I have to say, my experience has been astounding! I have much less pain, I tend to start each day feeling blessed and centered, and if I miss a day (which is really rare), I feel a bit off all day and I MISS the yoga.

So, how to start? It's really so simple. At first I just did a few sun salutations - as little as 10 minutes, not even bothering with my mat. I still do this if I'm traveling. Then I progressed to a guided 20 minute session DVD. The DVD I use (and highly recommend) is A.M Yoga for Every Day of the Week. Each session is 20 minutes long, perfect for a beginner, and still a great early morning warm up for a more advanced yogi.

I encourage you to give this a try - try it for a few weeks or a month and see if it makes a difference in your attitude!

This is my affiliate link, but if you aren't comfortable using it, you might try ebay or Gaiam as other ordering options - I really love this DVD and hope you will too!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Month - New Goals!

September went very well for me (although I'm not sure where it went!).

My goals were for the most part met!!!

I didn't do well at going to bed at 10:00 - that is continually a struggle for me. I know that when I go to bed late, I'm just stealing from the next day. So, that one is going to be a priority - I'd really like it to be a habit before the holidays.

So, on to October:

1. Go to bed by 10:00
2. Daily yoga (definitely a habit by now - more on this later)
3. Exercise 3 - 5x a week (need to add in more cardio)
4. Do a snack experiment (look for this post later this month)

1. Send out 6 agent proposals
2. Work on book platform
3. Ebay - week 2
4. Complete 2 health histories (for IIN classes)

1. Date night 1x week
2. Family fun 1x week (usually we do many more!)
3. Individual time with son 1x week
4. Individual time with daughter 1x week

1. Finish laundry room (almost done!)
2. Clear out two shelves in basement storage closet
3. List all big items for sale on Craigslist

1. Daily devotions
2. 1 hospitality act per week

If I can get a few of these items to be simply a routine (like my yoga), I will take them off the calendar for next month so I can focus on something new.

Here's to a great October!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Running behind . . .

Woke up late this morning - I guess I'll have to start setting the alarm. I like to wake up with the sun, but today there was no light at 7:00!!!

Typically when I wake up late, I feel panicked for the rest of the day. Today however, I vow to do things differently. I've looked at my to do list I created last night and I'm going to cross two things off of it. If I get them done, great, if not, no sweat!

I also made a nice breakfast (at 9:30, but still!), I'm getting my work done - one thing at a time and I'm planning on taking a 15 minute devotional break before lunch since I didn't get to it this morning.

We'll see if these small changes can turn a crazy, rushed day into a normal, relaxing day. I may even go light a candle!!!

My ebay auctions end today, and normally I'd make sure and get them all boxed up and ready to ship tomorrow, but we'll see how the day goes - some of that might happen tomorrow. A few don't have any bids yet, so it may be a small month.

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Ebay auctions!!!

Well, for the third month in a row I've posted some new ebay auctions - amazingly I've had 18 - 20 items to sell each month!!! Great way to clear out the clutter and make a little cash on the side. Some already have a few bids - with days to go!!!

This month I listed some cute boys and girls clothing, shoes and some Halloween items! I also have a few oddball auctions. We'll see how they do!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Packing your own food while traveling - crazy?

So, what do you think? Is it crazy or over the top to pack your own food while traveling?

I'm off on a business trip this week, and before I left for the airport I packed myself a sandwich, grapes, packs of instant oatmeal, and several baggies of dried fruit.

I did feel a little silly at first, but by packing my own food, I was able to pass up the unhealthy (and expensive) airport food. I arrived at my destination full and without that sick feeling of eating a bunch of junk.

Plus, all this week I've been enjoying my dried fruit for snacks and oatmeal for breakfast instead of resorting to the stale M&M's in the vending machine or the sickly sweet cinnamon rolls on the hotel breakfast buffet.

So, even though it might feel a bit odd, try it - packing some of your own food and snacks will save you money and save your health!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Earn Rewards and help the environment

A really cool program that I have enjoyed for some time now is called RecycleBank

Just sign up and do various tasks such as recycle, take quizzes, learn about environmental issues, etc. and you earn points. It is very easy to earn enough points for some pretty cool rewards. For example, right now they have a back to school promo where you can quickly earn over 100 points. This is enough to get a few valuable rewards - $2 off a Kashi product or a free Oatmeal from McDonalds for example.

If you are lucky, your community's recycling program has joined forces and you can REALLY rack up the points quickly.

Check it out - it's a great way to earn neat rewards while helping out the environment!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Whole Foods Deal!!!!

Wow! This is an amazing deal if you have a Whole Foods nearby. Today, Living Social has $20 at Whole Foods for $10. I shop at Whole Foods regularly - they have some great specials and buying my bulk items (spices, oatmeal, flour, etc.) there has often been a good deal. Plus, I love their cheese section. If the link doesn't pop up for you, search under Indianapolis, IN for the daily deal.

Don't miss this one - it's only available for a short time!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Setting Goals

Often I post about goals I have set - typically for a year or month, although sometimes I'll do weekly goals also.

I've found that setting goals really helps me stay accountable and accomplish much more than if I just let life happen. What works for me is breaking my life down into a list of various roles/ categories that are meaningful to me and then setting 1 - 4 goals for each category.

At the beginning of each month, I'll create my goal list for the upcoming month (based upon my annual goals), then at the beginning of each week, I'll break those monthly goals into smaller steps. This keeps me moving along each week, meeting my goals, without being overwhelmed.

Do I accomplish everything on my list? Nope, rarely. However, I do accomplish most of the items and definitely more than I would without my goal setting.

Here's an example of a few of the categories and goals for September:

- go to bed at 10:00
- yoga daily
- exercise 3-5x week

- deep clean/ organize laundry room
- create new/ updated budget

- daily devotions
- 1 hospitality act each week

and so on for the other categories. Then for the next step, this week I have on my list:

- schedule an additional workout session (already have 2 on the schedule for the week)

- clean linen closet in laundry room (2 shelves a day)
- track spending and upload into budget (which was created last week)

- get up at 6:00 and begin day with bible study
- take cookies/ tea to teachers at daughter's school Monday afternoon

So, you can see how I am slowly pegging away each week and day at my monthly goals.

This works for me because I love organization and lists. However, even if you don't go into the daily detail that I do, I encourage you to at least list out your monthly and weekly goals - just by committing to them on paper, you are more likely to be reminded to act and will likely achieve more!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Free Photo Card

This is a cool little freebie from Shutterfly. Just log in (or sign up), create a card (uploading a picture) and during checkout use the code CARD4U. You will have to pay shipping - I made a cute Birthday card for my husband with a picture of the kids on the beach during one of our recent vacations. After tax and shipping I paid $1.06. Much less than a card at the store and much more memorable.

This would be great for grandparent's, thank you cards, etc.

Oh, and don't forget to go through Ebates - if you purchase more, the rebate is currently at 16%!!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do you like to learn?

It feels like fall this week - we actually had a 40 degree difference in temperature from Saturday to Monday. I love fall, so although that is a bit drastic, I don't really mind.

In addition to the cooler weather, fall makes me think about back to school. I love to learn, and in the past year I've really made it a point to try some new things by taking classes. Often they are only for a day or a few hours, but they really give me a chance to learn, be creative and have fun. Plus I have something new to talk about and share with my friends and family. Some that I've done just this year: jewelry making, cooking, painting, various exercise, wine tasting and now nutrition (IIN).

There are so many resources out there for new ways to learn at a low cost - I buy coupons off of Groupon, Living Social or Eversave. Often local stores offer free or low cost classes too. For instance, today I got my weekly email from Michaels craft stores and it contains a link to classes and events. Even joining a bible study or book club is a great way to learn something new!

So, in conclusion, I encourage everyone to challenge yourself to try something new this fall - maybe you'll find a new passion or hobby - but regardless you'll enjoy the novelty of learning and experiencing something different!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Is Fall Here????

Wow, September 1st - how did that happen? I've been trying to get up earlier this week and it has been so nice to be ready and have breakfast for the kids before they wake up. Zucchini Waffles today - they were delicious, but the kids couldn't get past the bits of green, so I just added a few tablespoons of cocoa and told them I changed theirs to chocolate waffles. They gobbled them up!

Heading to my parent's house Saturday for their annual neighborhood garage sale - it's a big one. We typically make a few hundred on our stuff and buy a few things at the others. Nice way to start the month.

I love Fall - it feels like a great time to start fresh - and we are doing a lot of "starting" new things this month.

Goals for September:
1. Work on publishing my book - finally getting momentum on that!
2. Get up by 6:00 to have time for daily yoga, bible study and be ready before the kids.
3. My hubby and I are back in our savings mode - we've taken out $200 each cash for the month for spending. When it's gone, it's gone!
4. Starting my classes at IIN - so excited about this!!! I get to go back to school too!!!

Hope everyone else has a great start to their fall!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Free Yankee Candle!!!

Here is a great gift - would make a nice little present with a cup of coffee or tea for your child's teacher.

For a limited time, through shop at home, you can get the WILD deal (on the front page) of a yankee candle votive for $1.49 with free shipping and get the $1.49 back as a rebate. There are only a few scents available, but still a fantastic deal!

I love shop at home. It's a lot like ebates, but the rebates tend to be a bit higher.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Great deal at Chili's!

Here is a great offer at Chili's for joining MyPoints. I love MyPoints - just by clicking on emails each morning I easily earn enough points to get a giftcard or two a year - I typically use it for giftcards to Rainforest Cafe/ T-Rex - expensive meals at a place our kids love to visit when we are in FL.

Check it out! $10 for a $20 Chili's gift card!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Busy weekend ahead!

Well, soccer is starting in full swing this weekend - three games between the two kiddos!

Last year I was dreading soccer - I had memories of the boredom endured at my brother's games. However, with your own kids playing, it's a whole different story!

It's so fun to watch them and I'm excited to see how they do with a season under their belts and a half a year of growth.

The weather is supposed to be perfect too - we may have to fit in a picnic between games Saturday and something fun Sunday evening to kick off the third week of school.

I typically search out a few fun things to do each weekend - we may or may not do them, but at least if there is time and desire I have a game plan. So, I'm off to the web to see what's going on!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Auctions end today!

My ebay auctions end today, some have bids, some don't, so hoping for some last minute action!

Today is a beautiful day out, so I've treated myself to a cup of coffee and some fresh air at Paradise Bakery - oh how I love being able to work from anywhere!

This is my favorite time of year - the humidity drops, but it's still lovely and warm. This week I'll be starting to plan for some of our annual fall fun family outings! Stay tuned for some fun ideas!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ebay week!

Well, I've listed my monthly ebay items - quite the variety this month, some Gymboree, some Vera Bradley, some Fisher Price Story Reader books, etc. Hopefully I'll do as well as last month!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Clean Eating Deal!

Back to my normal healthy eating . . . (after those Cheryl's cookies!). Tonight, Tanga has a hidden deal on Clean Eating magazine. Right now you can get a one year (8 issues) subscription for only $5.99. Just enter the code EAT when you checkout. This is a great deal on a great magazine. I've gotten a few months of it and really enjoyed it.

Just a warning that prices on Tanga change as more and more people buy, so go there early if you want in on this deal! Also, read the fine print carefully to make sure you are fine with what you are purchasing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More freebies!

Okay, not totally free and definitely not healthy, but yummy! Go to this link and choose the Try Free cookie deal at Cheryl's cookies. Six of their yummy cookies and you only pay the $6.95 shipping. This would make a great little gift for someone also!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wow! Free cheese or butter!

This is a deal!!! Take this survey from KerryGold and get a coupon for free cheese or butter.

As an aside, I LOVE KerryGold and in fact it's the only butter I buy. I like that the cows are pastured - most butter is from factory cows. It is expensive, but worth it in my mind.

Go to the link quickly - this won't last!!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

What did you do for yourself today?

Did you take time to do something for yourself today? If not, I encourage you to do so - even if it's just 15 minutes of reading before bed, or a quick walk after dinner.

Today the humidity was down for the first time in a while, so I grabbed my bike and went for a ride - it was fabulous! I felt so energized and refreshed afterwards!

Enjoy this beautiful day and try to start your week off on a high note!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Daily Deelz

Check out this cool new site - it's a group buying site but works a bit differently than others. You get $5 credit now for signing up, so I'd suggest signing up now while it's launching and keeping your eyes out for great deals - I'll share any I find!

Daily Deelz

Health and Nutrition

So, what did I decide to do? I decided to combine several of my passions and take some courses in Health and Nutrition. Specifically I signed up for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition Course designed to give you certification as a Health Coach. I'm excited because I love to be a student and I love to learn. Even if I only use the information for my friends and families benefits it will be a win in my book. If I decide to branch out and offer Health Coaching to others, all the better.

Instead of just waiting and thinking about doing something new, I'm glad I stepped out an did it! It's a pretty intensive program - about a year long with hundreds of hours of coursework - but very interesting (at least to me) content.

I'm sure I'll come here with plenty of healthy tips and suggestions as I embark on this new adventure! But of course, I'll still be saving money and having fun along the way!!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


What were my ideas? I had lots of them:

- working at my church (they need a part time education director)
- personal trainer or yoga instructor
- writing a cookbook, cooking blog
- writing a saving money book/ blog
- wellness or health coach
- personal organizer

I thought hard about all these options and even did a bit of research into most of them. I have a lot of (what I think) are terrific ideas and I can see ways to make some money doing any of this, however I didn't think it would be enough to replace (or even make a dent into) my current job. So, I sat on it for a while (like a year) until this week things seemed to fall into place for me . . . to be continued.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What's stopping you from pursuing your dream?

I often post (and talk) about this topic - life is short, and I truly believe we should make the most of it.

However, it's easier to talk about it than to do it. So, this week, I made a big leap of faith. As I've often mentioned, I have a good job that pays the bills and gives me a lot of flexibility, but I'm not passionate about it.

So, what to do? Just look at it as a job? Or take a risk and try something new? For the past few years I've tried to convince myself to just do the work, love the benefits and focus on the rest of my life. But . . . I wasn't energized, I dreaded working and I was always wishing for that "out."

I decided to look at my passions and see if there was a way to earn a living with them.

First, my passions:

My faith
My family
Saving money
Having fun
Health and nutrition
Reading and learning

Most of the opportunities that encompass these topics I came across didn't pay well - and maybe that isn't the most important thing, but if I'm going to get my family on board, I have to at least make enough money to cover most of my current job. So, I started brainstorming around these passions . . . what did I come up with? Stay tuned and I'll continue this LONG post later this week.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

$162 profit!!!

Yeah!!! After paypal and ebay fees, I cleared $162 this month - very exciting! And I got rid of a pile of items just sitting around in my office waiting to be cleared out. A few outfits didn't sell - I'll try them again next month along with a few toys and things I've gathered. Some of my best auctions were a lot of 11 Junie B. Jones books (my husband picked them up at a garage sale for 50 cents each) that we had duplicates of - sold for $18!!! My other great sell was a wallet (Vera Bradley) that I used for a season and sold for $23. Granted it was double that new, but I wasn't using it anymore and it was still in great shape, so better $23 than $3 at a garage sale!

It was fun and easy thanks to tips from Yard Sale Mommy! If you are interested in selling items on ebay, I highly recommend her site!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So, what's left?

Well, in the last three weeks of summer (really 2 and a half . . .)

1. Indiana Beach - another local amusement park
2. Gaming center (video games/ tokens)
3. Bounce Planet
4. YMCA Pool
5. Art class
6. Pool playdate - wait we did that today! Cross it off!
7. Campfire (waiting for a below 90 degree day)
8. Camping (ditto from #7)
9. Bike ride to park (still need cooler temps)
10. Summer party with neighbors
11. Splash pad
12. Pet store
13. Make ice cream
14. Cooking class
15. Picnic (cooler temps!)

I better get the calendar out eh?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our Summer List

How can summer be almost over??? Crazy! In early June, the kids and I sat down and created a list of things we'd like to do this summer. Will we get to them all? Probably not, but even doing half of them will make for a fun, memorable summer!

Here is what we've done so far - tomorrow I'll post what's still on our list.

1. Holiday World (nearby amusement park - SO MUCH FUN!)
2. Putt putt - thanks to Groupon, we went twice!
3. Chuck E Cheese (I got out of that one, hubby took them while I worked).
4. Play with friends (multiple times!)
5. Library Story Time - we've been regulars this summer
6. County Fair
7. Swimming class
8. VBS
9. Children's museum

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ebay Auctions Ending soon!

Well, my ebay auctions end tomorrow and Thursday. Some have bids and some don't, although most of them have a number of watchers! Hope to have a flurry of last minute bidding!

It was fun to list some things - I have some more toys and such I may try next month. I think if I can keep it to once a month and list them all on the same day it might be a fun little vacation fund project - we'll see!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Garage Sale Update and Ebay

Well, so far, VERY successful - in 3 hours we sold almost $400 - and it is HOT!!! My daughter made a little profit on cookies and water, so she is quite happy.

Now it's time for a pool break with my son!

Along with the garage sale, I've listed some of the better items on ebay - take a look!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Garage Sale Season!

Wow! We are clearing out the garage and having one mega sale this year!!!

No kidding we will have something like 20 tables of stuff to sell. It's super hot around here - close to 100 degrees everyday, but hopefully that won't stop traffic - we need to move this stuff out of the house!

Wish us luck!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Menu for the week!

Back to menu planning - I've been doing it, just not posting it. It's such a habit for me, I'm not sure what I'd do without a plan for the week!

Monday - hamburgers, spinach dip, corn (from the summer - yum!)
Tuesday - fish tacos, refried beans, canned salsa (from summer)
Wednesday - roast, sourdough bread
Thursday - chicken fried rice
Friday - homemade pizza
Saturday - out
Sunday - ham and beans, cornbread

Easy and all family favorites!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yogurt - not a success

Well, my yogurt was a failure. Bummer I know. I'm not sure what went wrong - it smells and tastes like yogurt but it's just liquid - it never gelled up. I even tried straining it - no go. I may save part of it to add to smoothies, but I'll have to give the actual yogurt making another go I guess.

Next up - working on my photobook - I know I can't mess that one up (hopefully I didn't just jinx myself)!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Completion and Adventures - 2011

I know it's been a while - what can I say, the holidays happened! Then starting off the New Year on the right foot, etc.

But today I'm back and going to update you a bit on what I've been doing.

Instead of specific "resolutions" for this year, I've decided I want it to be the year of "Completion and Adventures". I often plan a "theme" for the year - for example last year was the year of "The Weekend Getaway".

So what do I mean by that? Really two big "goals" and hopefully many of the things I do will help guide me towards them.

First - completion. There are so many projects and ideas I have started and never finished - or maybe just thought about but never took the next step. I made a list of them and will start chipping away - one a month or so until they are finished. These tend to be concrete items like:

- create a blogging plan
- publish my book (yes, I have written a book on saving money)
- complete my Fall 2010 photo book (woefully behind - this is typically done in Nov)
- get through some of my reading list
- clean up and organize the household (tackling a bit at a time)
- organize my groupons/ eversave/ etc. deals (don't want to miss any)
- take on more responsibility at work and increase my annual rating (and bonus)
- analyze and best manage my timeshares/ airline & hotel points/ etc.

You get the idea. I just made a big list and am "scheduling" one or two for each month of the year. Some of them will appear multiple months (like reading and cleaning), but many I will be able to just do and then check off.

On the list for this month are the fall photo book, get through some reading, clean and organize the kitchen (half finished) and organize the coupons.

The second part of my "theme" is "adventures." This is also very broad - it encompasses many of the things I've always wanted to try (mild adventures though they may be) as well as taking advantage of new opportunities that come my way. I started this one with a list of things I've always wanted to try and have tentatively "scheduled" at least one a month. I'm also taking advantage of groupons or other deals for unusual things that sound like fun but I wouldn't normally try. For instance I just bought a deal for an "art and wine" night - you take an art class while enjoying a special related cocktail for the evening.

A few items on the list:

- making homemade chai mix
- making yogurt
- running a 5K
- go snowshoeing
- take a wine class

and on and on . . . right now I have some milk in the crockpot to make yogurt with. It seems simple but I've always been too much of a chicken to try it. Isn't that silly? Afraid to make yogurt?

So, look for more posts on these topics and join me on some of my successes, failures and adventures in 2011!