Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Money Saving Tips (my interview with Anna, from the crazy popular blog andthenshesaved.com)

Anna Newell Jones
I am super excited to be interviewed by Anna Newell Jones from http://www.andthenshesaved.com/ . Not only am I a fan of the blog but she is one of my long time bff's. Spanning 12 years back when we shared a 1 bedroom apartment in our college days. Yes, that is right. We shared a one bedroom apartment. Our twin beds looked reminiscent of the married couples rooms from the 1950's. She was my maid of honor in my wedding and I was a matron of honor in hers. Good ole' memories. I continue to cherish her friendship today, and always turn to her for sound advice. You all can too! Go on over and check out the interview on her page as well. Look around her blog and pick up some wonderful tips on getting out of debt. She is on her way to being famous (already is in my eyes).....and I get to say I shared a bedroom with her! She was just on the Nate Berkus show this month. Not to mention Clark Howard, Dr. Drew and other popular news articles and magazines in the past year. So like I said I am not only super excited but also honored that she is interviewing me!!

- How has your spending changed since becoming a mom?

Spending has changed quite a bit since I became a mom. For one thing we went to one income. There are more expenses with kids as well so therefore I naturally spend less on things like pedicures and clothing for myself and more on activities for the children. Its still fun and entertainment but just in a different form.

- What are your top tips for saving around the house? 
I'm sure every family has their favorite ways to save. Mine may not be for everyone but the top tips that have been great for my family are:
  1. Breastfeed. There are many benefits to breastfeeding including financial because formula can be pricey.
  2. Cloth diapers. It's more up front initially but saves in the long run.
  3. Make things from scratch. A few ingredients can make a lot of things that if bought prepackaged at the store you pay for the extra packaging. Example; pancake mixes.
  4. Meal plan. I'm not perfect at meal planning but I try my best. This keeps you on track and then you are less likely to be at a loss for dinner and resort to 'take out' which can add up and be less healthy. We eat dinner at home every night expect for the rare occasion of eating out on a weekend.
  5. Shop around for best price. I'm not a fan of driving from one store to another to get the best price because honestly getting two kids in and out of the car multiple times is not worth it to me. However I do take a mental note when I am at different stores to see who carries what cheaper. When I am in need of those items I can plan my outings accordingly.
  6. Shop garage sales,consignment stores and discount stores for kids toys and clothes. Even if you want brand name clothing you can typically find them in great condition at a lot less at a consignment store. It does take more research to find the best stores but it's worth it. They outgrow their clothes so quickly that it's nice to not spend retail all of the time. I will admit it took some time to adjust to this concept, it was one thing I did not like doing at all before I had kids but now its sort of like a fun scavenger hunt for the best find. I found a barely used Pottery Barn Crib Bumper for $5 at a garage sale last month. They retail for $100. I was super stoked about that find!
  7. Exercise at home or with the kids instead of having a gym membership. Every once in awhile I start thinking I want a membership and there may be a time when I get one again but right now we live in a place that has pretty good weather the majority of the year and I am able to take advantage of that by running outside for my exercise. Another favorite of mine is to put on music and have a dance party.....just like back in our college days Anna!! The boys love it and dancing around with a baby in my arms and a toddler on my back is definitely exercise and a great stress reliever!
  8. Join moms groups. It has been invaluable to me. Having other moms to talk to and have that support is so helpful. It also opens doors of savings you may not think of. Such as a babysitting coop that I started with one group I belonged to. It came in handy beyond my imagination when I unexpectedly was called to jury duty for an entire week when my first son was around a year old.
  9. Use the library. Our library allows your child to get his own card and it doesn't incur late fees which is an extra benefit. We checkout books and DVDs on a regular basis and that way we never grow tired of reading or watching the same things over and over. Of course we still buy books to add to our personal library and have our "favorite" stories but it's nice to keep things fresh.
  10. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Nick (my husband) and I are recyclers and want to instill that in our children. In general I was raised in a "waste not, want not" type of home so it carries over into how I run my household. Examples; I use cloth napkins. We can wash them and they make a set table look pretty. I still use paper towels for things but also using cloth helps me cut down on how many rolls we go through. We never buy water bottles unless we are having a party with a lot of guests. I can sew, so I mend things that are mend able. We eat our leftovers. The last example sounds silly but I know a lot of people who don't like leftovers. Which I understand but with a little creativity you can actually change the leftovers enough that they seem like a new dish.
- What are your favorite free (or cheap) activities to do with kids?
My favorite activities are nature based; parks, walks, camping. Nature walks with my sons and then using our discoveries to make crafts is one of my favorite things to do. I also love to utilize the free or cheap activities that the cities we have lived in offer.

- Do you use coupons? Got any tips about how to use them, where to find them, etc... ?
I do use coupons. Not every shopping trip but on occasion I will see great coupons and I will include those items in my grocery list. For example; last week target had $1 off fresh vegetable and $1 off fresh fruit, they happen to have bagged organic baby carrots marked down from $2 to  $1 and so with my coupon I was able to get them free, same thing with organic bananas that same trip. I got 2 lbs free. I also check the coupons that target gives out along with your receipt. They often have great coupons that when paired with coupons from the mail end up getting me free Starbucks. That is my favorite coupon of all! I mostly save by checking the flyer's the grocery stores send out. The grocery store I go to the most has a lot of in store sales that I take advantage of. We are lucky to have some great local produce open air markets here that I shop at as well. They are locally grown fruits and vegetables and other products that are more cost effective since they are not being shipped as far. Nick and I also like to use groupon for dinners out, entertainment tickets or other non grocery items.
- Whats the biggest challege with being thrifty and having kids?
 I guess the biggest challenge is wanting to give our kids every opportunity in life. For us that  ends up being programs that I feel are particularly important but cost money. Music class, art programs, gymnastics and other similar programs. We know we want them though so it just becomes part of our budget.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bird Watching Binoculars

This morning Asher and I made binoculars to watch the birds. It was a quick craft and since he was really needing extra mommy time this morning it was the perfect thing. This first week back from our vacation has been challenging getting back into our routine. I guess having a mommy for a week that doesn't have any daily chores plus a houseful of family to entertain and cuddle him makes the transition back to our normal schedule a little tough. So a little morning craft added to the day hopefully will add that extra special something to get through the day relatively whine free.....here's hoping!

The items needed for the craft are simple and most likely lurking somewhere in your craft drawers

  • Construction paper. Cut in half down the center. Can also use empty toilet paper rolls. Great reuse idea.
  • Stickers, Crayons, paint
  • Glue, tape or a stapler
  • Twine or string
  • Hole punch (or just use scissors)

How to:
  • Have your child decorate each piece of paper using what they choose.
  • Using a glue stick, glue one side of the paper to the other making a cylinder shape.
  • Glue the tubes to one another.
  • Punch a hole on the outside end of each tube at the same spot
  • Measure the amount of twine needed for each child and tie the ends to the tubes.

Viola! Bird Watching Binoculars

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On the Road Again

This summer is all about travel. We figured up that we will have been somewhere every month since May through December. Whew! That is a lot of travel. Our most recent trip was to Missouri to see my niece graduate. What makes this trip even extra significant was that Nick could not go with us so I braved it alone with the two boys! That is 11 hrs one way with an almost 3 year old and a 4.5 month old. We survived and I must admit I feel pretty proud and confident now that its over. I thought I would share the things that made the trip easier and the things I learned along the way....the hard lessons.
Meet Me in St. Louis
1. Bring new toys and snacks that the older kids have never seen or tried. It's the novelty factor. I go with dollar stores toys because I can get a handful and if they get lost or broken on the drive it is not a big deal.
2.If you have a DVD player bring plenty of movies. I know letting your child watch hours of TV is not ideal but if you are in survival mode then I feel you can cut yourself some slack.
3. Don't try to have a set time to get to your destination. If the kids are screaming and melting down trying to rush to make a certain time is going to make the situation much more stressful! This was one of my tough lessons learned!
3. Have cash but pay for gas with card. It is much easier to use the card than pay cash especially when you unload the kids make it through the gas station after having to stop and look at each item to finally check out, a half hour later, load up the kids, get to the gas pump only to realize the clerk did not turn your pump on! Then you have to politely decline all the strangers that offer to "sit with your kids" ( they really do that!!, note to stranger: go inside and tell clerk the situation rather than think that a person wants you to stay with their children.) Now you then must unload the kids and take them inside the store and have them witness Mommy freaking out and yelling at the clerk.....ha ha....just day dreaming. I am not usually a violent person but after standing in the searing hot sun trying to get the attendants attention while counting down the travel minutes I will get before my baby needs to nurse again, does something to a person. This moment was when I really realized the need for tip # 7.
4. Have a backpack for the toddler that has a "tail" or leash on it. Admittedly I was weirded out by those before I had kids but let me tell you it was a life saver on this trip and many others.
5. Have a wrap or sling for the baby. The back pack and wrap combo helped me when I was needing to unload bags and check into a hotel room with out being able to leave my children. Typically with  Nick we can tag team the checking in and bag unloading but I didn't have that luxury this trip.
6. If you don't have a gps try and borrow one. It helped when I needed to know how far the next rest area/gas station was.
7. Most important tip: Breathe, relax and enjoy yourself!

Good Luck and Happy, Safe Travels

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Homemade Bath Tub Paint

Ashers store bought bath tub paint had ran out and not wanting to throw the bottles away I decided it would be a fun project to make our own. Plus side is that you know exactly whats going in it.

Body soap
Food coloring (or you can make your own natural dyes using food. ie, beets, blueberries)

Use 1/3 cup soap for each dye batch.
Add cornstarch until it is the right consistency
Add food coloring
Fill old tub paint bottles or buy clear ketchup and mustard type containers and using your computer and plain address labels create your own "brand". You can title soaps after your kids names for extra fun.

My first post. Yay!

All is quiet in the Pauley house, a rare moment. My husband Nick and my two little boys Asher (almost 3)and Cole (4 months) are sound asleep in our bed. So I am taking this opportunity to start my first post on my new blog. I was telling my bestie Anna from http://www.andthenshesaved.com/ that Mommy Blogging is a sport! Take yesterday for example, I thought I had a few stolen moments to type a few things and I was pretty excited thinking about what I might get to write about. I sat down at the computer and on Que,Asher who somehow always knows when I am about to get on the computer, wakes from his nap to come and see what I could possibly be up to without his help. It is the same with a phone call, which I am betting all other parents know exactly what I am talking about. 

Now this is where the sport begins. Asher wants me to hold him, which I gladly do, except for some reason to hold him at the computer means he shifts from side to side. Making me dodge his body with each punch of the keys. I am leaning my head as far to one side as possible to see the screen while little arms drape around my neck in more of a vice grip than loving one. My hair begins to be tugged as I receive raspberries blown onto my cheeks with my almost 3 year old managing to giggle with excitement, yet topped with whining to really drive his point home. No Mommy at the computer, ever!!!! Starting to realize my attempts to blog may be over Asher hops down from my lap and sits on the floor. Giving me a second of hope, only to push the off button on the computer and shut the whole operation down. Mommy time 1 Blogging 0.

"Oh well" I sigh. The only reason I am wanting to write a blog anyway is to chronicle this amazing, special and lets be honest, sometimes challenging phase of life. Its moments like these that give me something to write about.

It all played out so perfectly and as I was explaining it to Anna later that night over laughs I realized maybe I like the idea of blogging better than actually doing it! I do know I am in awe of all the other amazing mommy blogs that are out there and usually am stumped at how they manage it all. Any tips?? Do tell, please.