Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer Fun!

The festive 4th of July bike parade in the parking lot of our church- thanks to Melanie for this great photo!

Okay, we're coming into the end of July now- anyone in a summertime fun rut? Sometimes it takes a little imagination to make your own summer fun, so I thought I'd share a few fun (and FREE!) things that we have done this summer, and some things I've heard about people doing. Please share your own ideas in the comments section!

1. Bike Parade- my friend Drea had the great idea to gather all of the kids in our playgroup at our church parking lot and have them decorate their bikes for a bike parade. She then had the younger kids sit on the curb while the older ones rode their festive bikes and threw candy to the little ones, and then they switched- the younger ones rode and threw candy to the older ones. It was great fun- the kids had a blast decking out their bikes (crepe paper streamers, pipe cleaners, decorative wire with stars on it, balloons, etc.) and then the candy just made it even better! A fun morning was had by all. We decided that next time one of us would bring a cd of marching band music to play during the parade. The possibilities are endless!

2. Pool Party- We held an impromptu pool party at our house about a month ago- I invited a few friends over to play in our kiddie pool, and I invited them to bring their pools/slip-and-slides, etc. We just made PB & J sandwiches for the kids, and everyone brought side dishes (grapes, cheese, pretzels, etc.) and we ate a picnic lunch. It was very relaxed and fun, and there are few things that really bring that summertime feeling than a bunch of kids running around the backyard in their swimsuits! I can't wait to do it again!

3. Treasure Hunt Hike- A hike in the woods is always an adventure, but especially if you're under 4 feet tall! A few weeks ago, a few friends and I got our kids together and met at a nearby park where there are some walking/jogging trails that go through the woods. We had our kids dress in "hiking clothes" complete with their backpacks and baseball caps, and then we handed out some egg cartons for them to use as their "treasure boxes." Their goal was to fill each spot in the treasure box with something special they found on the trail- by the end of it, the boxes were filled with berries, leaves, rocks, sticks, pine cones, acorns, flowers, and more! It was a great opportunity to have fun learning about nature, and encouraging even the littlest ones (1-2 years) to experience different sights, sounds, smells, and textures. We were also able to talk with the older ones about what is safe to touch and eat, and what is not safe. 
Halfway along the trail we stopped for a rest and ate our "rations"- a snack we had packed in their backpacks, and then we went back to a pavilion by the playground where we sat at picnic tables and the kids showed each other all of their "treasures". It was a fun, interactive experience for all of us!

4. Free Movies!- There are lots and lots of movie theaters around that offer free (or super cheap) kids' movies in the summer, and if you're not sure if you have any in your area, check into it! If your local theater doesn't offer it, get some other moms on your side and approach the manager about starting it- there are always hundreds of moms and kids that show up at ours each week. I love it because my 2yo and 4yo can get the opportunity to see a movie in the theater without me worrying that they'll be too loud or they won't like it and we'll have to leave- all the kids are loud and nobody cares, and if they do get tired of watching it (they usually do about halfway through) we can just leave. It's also a nice option for those rainy days!

5. Camp GonnaWannaFLY- For you flybabies out there, this is nothing new, but for anyone that is curious about this fun camp, check out She will give you some great ideas for your at-home camp, including weekly or daily themes (colors, music, nature, etc.) and fun camp rules and activities for the campers that are not only fun, but get the house clean and organized as well! I read about one camp whose motto (you have to get the campers to decide on a motto) was "Make it fun and it will get done!" The campers did things like trading "mess hall duty" and cleaning each others' "bunks"- I really wish I could remember all of the different things I read about- just check out the site!

6. Playground Tour- This is something I've read about but we haven't tried it out yet- you make a list of all of the playgrounds in your area and then either over a course of a week or the course of the summer, you visit each one and have fun! If you have older kids you can even make a rating system and decide which ones you like best. It is fun to discover new places to play near where you live!

So I hope these ideas give you some renewed excitement for your summer fun! Enjoy the warm weather and sunshine while it lasts!

What are some fun free things you do in the summertime? Leave a comment and share!

NOTICE: All Couponing Posts Moving to My Other Blog!

Hello, friends! For those of you who come to read of my couponing adventures, I would like to announce that I am moving all couponing content to my other blog, "Gettin' Deals". I had started that blog awhile back and not really posted on it much, then I started using this as my primary blog and I've been posting my deals here, but I feel the couponing does not really fit my goal with this blog, and so I would like to move it to its own location. I will still occasionally post about couponing here- perhaps do a series about how to get started, or just how I fit it into my schedule, things like that- but the weekly deals and other pertinent posts will primarily be on the other blog. 

Be sure to come back here for ideas on how to make your thrifty life beautiful, and leave lots of comments! I love comments!

Have a beautiful day!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Quarter, Nickel, and Two Pennies

That's how much I spent at CVS this week! I had to go to a different store because I was hoping to get the photo book deal and my usual store said their Kodak kiosk wasn't working. The store I went to is notorious for being out of stock of deal items (must be more people like me in that area!) so I wasn't able to get some of the deals I wanted, like the Cheerios. Oh, and it ended up being a bummer too because their kiosk didn't have the software for the photo books.

But no problem, because I spent $11 in ECBs, $0.33 out of pocket, and I got all of this with $12.50 in ECBs in return that I'll use next time. The anti-itch spray was just something we needed- not on sale. :-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Thought That Counts

This is a little thank-you gift I made for a neighbor who took care of our dog while we were out of town last week. I bought the cool jar at Goodwill for $2, then decorated it with some leftover paper scraps, ribbon, and some embellishments from the dollar store. My kids helped me make the oatmeal cookies that filled it!

I am a huge fan of making gifts for people, not only because it is thrifty, but because I believe that a handmade gift using your own unique talents can be not only more meaningful but also of a higher quality than a store-bought gift.

Over the last few years, as I have become a wife and a mother and a homemaker I have tried to develop talents that I can use to create unique homemade gifts. Not only has it been a lot of fun for me to learn new things, but I have also been able to enjoy the process of gift-giving far more because I am giving of more than just my monetary substance- I am giving of myself: my time, my talents, my creativity and my heart.

I think I have knit scarves for nearly everyone in my family, as well as a few baby hat and scarf sets. I even had one friend who told me that the scarf I made for her baby helped him with a physical condition he had called torticullis (kind of like a permanent crick in the neck) and his physical therapist wanted to know where she could get the baby scarves for all of her little patients! Other gifts I have made include fleece ponchos, theraputic neck warmers (sewn bags of rice and dried herbs), sachets, scrapbooks, hand-drawn sketches, painted wooden home decor signs, and probably many more things that I just can't think of right now! 

One handmade item that really sticks out in my mind is not one that I made, but one that was given to me- a set of blocks for my son from my brother and sister-in-law. They made them out of two-by-fours, and they simply cut them to various sizes and shapes and then sanded them down. They gave them to my son for Christmas probably 3 years ago and he still plays with them nearly every day. I still get friends asking me where I got such wonderful blocks- I think my brother and his wife could have a business on the side! But the most important thing about that gift to me was that it was truly from the heart- my brother is an architect and his wife is an artist, and so they wanted to share something they love with their little nephew, and I know it took several hours of hard work, but now my son has something from them that he will always cherish and enjoy, and will probably be able to pass on to his children and grandchildren.

So I would encourage everyone to think outside the box, utilize your talents and skills, and challenge yourself to put your heart into the gifts you give. 

Do you have any unique and creative gift ideas? Leave a comment! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Week for the Beginner Couponer

For those of you who have given a thought to giving couponing a try, but don't have a huge stash of coupons from the last three months, this is the week for you, specifically at Rite Aid! Rite Aid has a few great deals using coupons from last Sunday's (7/13) paper. Thanks to for these great deals!

First, you need to understand about the Rite Aid Single Check rebate program. It has an odd name, but all it means is that throughout the month (the rebates change by calendar month) whenever you purchase a rebate item (identified in their monthly rebate flyer) you enter the information from your receipt online, and then once you have entered all of your receipts for the month, you can submit them and they will send you a single check- it's all in one check, not a lot of little rebate checks for individual items. Hence the name, "Single Check Rebate".

So here are a few deals for this week!

Electrasol Powerball Tabs or Gelpacs- on sale $2.99
Use $2.25/1 coupon from 7/13 SmartSource insert (an insert is a coupon section in the Sunday paper)
Get $2 Single Check Rebate #257
Free plus $1.26 overage after coupon and rebate!

Lysol Neutra Air Spray 10 oz.- on sale B1G1 (Buy One Get One Free)
Buy 2 and use B1G1 coupon from 7/13 SmartSource insert
Get both free after store sale and coupon! (I have had clerks try to not let me do this before because they don't think the register will accept it, but I just kindly ask them to try it and it always works!)

L'Oreal Vive Pro Hydra Gloss Shampoo/Conditioner- on sale B1G1
Buy 2 and use B1G1 coupon from 7/13 SmartSource insert
Get both free after store sale and coupon

My Rite Aid trip this evening was not entirely successful because they did not have the Lysol or the L'Oreal shampoo in stock, but I was able to snag a few other deals. Out of pocket I spent $8.58 (includes tax) and I should be receiving $7.49 back in rebates. So I spent about $1 for the Electrasol, Tone hand soap, Crest Whitening Expressions toothpaste, and 2 packages of maxi pads. Not a bad night's work! Lucky for me I have several other Rite Aid pharmacies in my area that I can check with to find my other out-of-stock items. I would hate to miss a freebie!

Hope this helps any newbies out there! Be sure to post a comment if you try it out and let me know how it went!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Water, Water, Everywhere!

Lately I've been on a bit of a kick to increase my food storage. I'm Mormon, and being self-reliant and "temporally prepared" is an important part of our religion. Well, I'm also getting into "going green" and I recently read something that inspired me to do both- for free! 

In the LDS family home storage pamphlet entitled, "All Is Safely Gathered In", it reads, "Store drinking water for circumstances in which the water supply may be polluted or disrupted. If water comes directly from a good, pretreated source then no additional purification is needed; otherwise, pretreat water before use. Store water in sturdy, leak-proof, breakage-resistant containers. Consider using plastic bottles commonly used for juices and soda." (read more here)

Well, it sounded like a great idea to me, especially since my husband recently made a connection with a guy who can get him his favorite sodas for really cheap, so he's drinking a lot of them! I just rinse out the bottle with warm soapy water and then refill it with clean water from the tap. And I now have a nice collection of water bottles sitting on my counter.  Now if only I had a place to store them...

It's funny though, whenever I do things like that, my motivation comes from this idea that someday I could be in the midst of a disaster emergency, where food and water will be scarce and the only thing that my family has to survive on is the items I have stored. I always wonder if that one extra item will be the difference between life or death. Wouldn't I just kick myself if it came right down to it and one of my precious little ones was wasting away from hunger or thirst and I just knew that had I filled one more water bottle, they would be okay? It really makes you think...

For others of you preparing for TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It), what are some ways that you have found to bulk up your storage without thinning out your bank account?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Free Decorating Book

Thanks to Money Saving Mom for this link- get a free decorating book here (just click on "order book"). I love free stuff! :-)

Home Blessing

I just finished my Home Blessing Hour a little while ago and I decided it would be a good topic for my blog. My goal is to share ways that I have found to have a beautiful life while not spending tons of money. I believe that one of the simplest (and completely free) ways to achieve beauty in your life is by keeping a clean home. But I know firsthand that it's not that simple for everyone. Let me tell you a story...

As a child and a teenager, I had never been one to keep my room clean. It wasn't that I didn't care- I did! I just couldn't seem to keep it clean. So when I got married, that translated into my home. I wanted it to be clean, and I could spend all day on a Saturday scrubbing it down from top to bottom and it would sparkle! But by the end of the next day, it would be a complete disaster again. When my husband and I first moved into our house, I wasn't working because we were planning on starting a family. So it was just me at home all day, no kids, you'd think the house would be clean, but no such luck. And it would frustrate me to no end. I grew up in a clean house, and I could see my friends' houses all clean. Why was it so darn hard for me?? I felt like there was some kind of switch in my brain that needed to be flicked. Sometimes I felt like someone had forgotten to install the switch altogether! Then my husband would get home, see that the house was still gross, and he would start cleaning it. Then I would feel REALLY guilty, because it should have been MY job, not his. He had just been at work all day, and what had I done? I felt beat down, worthless, angry at myself.

And then I found FlyLady.

FlyLady taught me to FLY. FLY stands for "Finally Loving Yourself". I hadn't realized how much I didn't love myself until I started to change my attitude. FlyLady is a FREE website and Yahoo group that changed everything for me. I could go on and on about the FlyLady system, but instead let me just share a few of the things that I learned from her.

1. My perfectionism was my downfall. First, I had no idea I was a perfectionist. I mean, if I was then my house would be perfect, right? Turns out, no. The reason my house was a mess was because I had an "all-or-nothing" attitude. I thought that I couldn't just take my dirty dish and put it in the dishwasher if there was already a sink full of dishes. I would have to do the whole sink of dishes before I could put something in the dishwasher. What was the use of putting my shoes in the closet if there were already 3 more pairs of shoes all over the floor in the hallway? I didn't see that I didn't have to do it all at once. The mess blinded me, and I felt like my only two choices were to clean it all, which was completely overwhelming, or to just let it go. Well, most of the time I chose the latter, which left me with CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). 

2. Housework done incorrectly still blesses your family. FlyLady showed me that it's okay to just do one thing at a time. It's okay if it's not perfect. It's even okay if you're the only one who notices what you did. I can make the choice to put one dish in the dishwasher. That's one less dish filling my sink. But the interesting part is this- once I put one dish away, it wasn't hard to put another one away. I also learned that mopping the floor doesn't require a bucket full of hot soapy water and mop that needed to be wrung out. If nothing else, I could just take a damp towel and scoot it around the floor with my feet. Would the floor be perfect? No. But would it be better than it would have been had I done nothing? YES! Knowing that I didn't have to be perfect was the most freeing feeling.

3. You can do anything for 15 minutes. I would look at that sink full of dishes and just know it would take me at least an hour to get through it all. So I never wanted to start. But FlyLady said all I had to do was fifteen minutes. I knew I could do it for 15 minutes. So I set my timer, rolled up my sleeves, and dug in. Well, as the number of dishes in the sink dwindled, I kept glancing at the timer, convinced that it must have stopped or something. But much to my surprise, I put the last dish away and still had 2 minutes left, so I wiped down the counters and started the dishwasher. I was amazed! 15 little minutes! I had been putting off the job for days for 15 little minutes worth of work! I have found this to hold true with most dreaded tasks. Even if it does take longer than 15 minutes, that first 15 minutes gets the ball rolling and it is no big deal to finish up, but sometimes I stop myself anyway, just to make sure my perfectionism isn't creeping in again. I don't want a 15-minute job to turn into an hour because I get carried away!

4. Babysteps are the key. Sticking with my dish example, it's amazing how fewer dishes you have at the end of the day if you just put them right in the dishwasher as soon as you're done using them. And then that 15-minute job gets broken up into just a few 30-second (if that!) jobs. Through my daily routines that FlyLady has taught me, I have been able to gain control and babystep my way through my days. If I am in a hurry and just toss the dishes in the sink, I don't allow myself to just give up. The next time I go to put my dishes away I take the extra minute or two and put the other ones in too. I may falter, but I just get right back up and try again.

I knew I had turned the corner when a friend was at my house with her children and one of them dropped a cracker on the floor. My friend told him he could pick it up and eat it because "Kasey's floor is always clean." I just had to pause for a moment and think about what she said. Then I looked around- my floor was clean. My whole home looked really nice. What a long way I had come!

So today I did my Home Blessing Hour, which has really become a pleasure for me. For one thing, I know I'm only cleaning for an hour. But my favorite thing about it is how peaceful my home seems afterward. Every Monday morning I turn on some music and take one hour and spend 15 minutes on each of the following: vacuuming, mopping, dusting, and taking out the trash/general pick-up. I don't spend long on any one thing, I just move from task to task, and when I am finished, it feels like a clean breeze has blown through the house, freshening up everything. My kids have really gotten into it to- I give them rags and squirt bottles and they help "clean". They also use their toy vacuums, and then they run all over the house with me helping me gather the trash. Gone are the days of gunky floors, inch-thick dust and overflowing trash cans. 

Let me post a disclaimer: My house is NOT perfect! Far from it, in fact! But I don't beat myself up anymore. I just keep plugging away, taking my babysteps and doing the best I can each day. And I know that's good enough. I can Finally Love (My)self!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Brief Summary of my Kroger Trip

I was hoping to get some photos of my Kroger haul, but I finally gave in and put everything away- it was taking up too much counter space! But here is the rundown of what I got:

1. 8-roll pack of Sparkle paper towels
2. 4 jars of Ragu pasta sauce
3. 6 cans of Chef Boyardee pasta
4. 2 bottles of Lawry's Marinade
5. 6 cups of Yoplait yogurt
6. 3 Totino's party pizzas
7. 2 boxes of Johnsonville breakfast sausage
8. 1 bottle of Suave shampoo
9. 1 bottle of Suave conditioner
10. 1 McCormick garlic sea salt grinder

Hmm...I think that's all, but I feel like I'm forgetting something...oh, well, if I am then I'll just edit this post later! Okay, so total before coupons and my store card was $43.70. After coupons and store card it was $19.60! I had the sausage for breakfast this morning and it was quite delicious. Oh, and we grilled chicken for dinner with the marinade. Very tasty. :-)

Let me give you an idea of how this works- the great thing about Kroger is that they double coupons up to 50 cents. So, for example, the marinade that is usually $1.50 or so was on sale for 10/$10, or $1 each. There was recently a coupon in the paper for $0.50 off any Lawry's marinade. Therefore Kroger doubled my 50 cent coupon to $1, making the marinade completely free! I love it when that happens.

Not everything turns out free, but the key is to match coupons with sales. Another favorite site of mine is, I use this site for 2 things- first, the weekly store lists that list the weekly sales matched up with newspaper coupons. These lists show you the percentage you can save on an item, and I usually make my shopping lists from the site. The second tool this site has is the grocery coupon database- this is the coolest thing! If I need to see if there has been a coupon out recently for an item, I just go on the site, click on the database, choose my region and I immediately have a searchable database of all non-expired newspaper coupons. Very useful and FREE! 

So this is just a little intro to what I do with coupons, and I am hoping to soon post some more creative and crafty money-saving ideas, so check back soon!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Recent CVS Trip!

One of my fun hobbies (though it's also a useful hobby because it really benefits my family) is couponing, and for those of you who don't know what that is, it's basically taking coupons and matching them up with store sales in order to get rock-bottom deals on grocery and drugstore items.

Just to give you an idea of how this works, my most recent trip was to CVS, and I spent $1.33. I purchased all the items in the photo- Bic Soleil razor, 2 boxes of bandages, 1 tube of toothpaste, a 4-pack of the razor refills, men's aftershave, and Right Guard Professional Strength deoderant. The total before sales and coupons was $33.53, so I saved $32.20, or approximately 96%. And I received $17 in Extra Care Bucks that I can use like cash toward my next purchase.

I do my couponing at CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, Food Lion, and Rite Aid. Occasionally there will also be good deals at Wal-Mart and Target. It takes some time and some planning, and a LOT of coupon clipping, but I love the excitement of getting the great deals, and I love how much money it saves our family. Later today I'll hit Kroger and Food Lion, maybe Walgreens too. I'll post the results here tomorrow!

If you think couponing might be a fun hobby, check out Money Saving Mom. She has taught me everything I know! I read her site daily to see what good deals pop up. Be sure to first read her how-to articles so you can get an idea of how it all works, then just jump in! I will continue to post here on my blog about the deals I get, and I am always open to answering any questions about couponing! 

Interesting...I just glanced at my CVS receipt and it says that my year-to-date savings with my extra care card is $791.14. How about that.    ;-)

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