Friday, February 25, 2011

“Free Stuff” E-mails

When I started seriously looking at what things I could find out there for free, I signed up for a couple of e-mail services that promise to send you leads on great free stuff.

After a couple months of daily deleting these e-mails from my inbox, I unsubscribed this week.  The one I did like was from PG&E, and the first time I was there to sign up, I got to choose a pack of products to sample.  It included things like mouth wash, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, tooth whitening gel, etc.  I really like some of the products, and it came with great coupons. 

I signed up to get a sample of three different BIC pens.  They never came.

I signed up to get offers of free products from LivingWell, but all I am getting is junk “information” mailings, and offers of coupons.

Then I signed up for “free parent stuff” and “free stuff”, and I have to say, that personally, I found them useless.

Maybe there are better ones out there? Do any of you have some that you love?  Oh well, it was worth a try!  For now, I have unsubscribed from these particular ones, let me know if you discover one that is interesting!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Homemade Glass Defogger

Defogger, is that even a word?  Anyway, I ran across a neat tip when I was looking for something to prevent the condensation from building up on our front storm door.  Fun as it is for the kids to write their names in it, I was looking for a way to keep it from getting all fogged up.

After cleaning the glass, put a small glob of conditioner on a cloth and buff it into your windows ( or mirrors too!).  Rub in circles, buffing in until it’s all cleared and shiny clean.  The thin layer of conditioner left makes a barrier against the glass, which keeps fog from staying!

We always seem to run of shampoo faster than conditioner since not everyone in our house uses both, so this was a neat way to use up some of the extra.  It works with baby body wash too!

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Hate Mistakes!

Blame it on my “only child” personality, but I am hard on myself when it comes to mistakes.  I don’t like ‘em!  I want to avoid ‘em.  I have been learning to be easier on myself and admit that it’s ok to make mistakes.  I’m learning it’s ok to laugh at myself sometimes, and that I don’t always have to do things perfectly.  Sometimes (gasp) I aim at 80%, instead of expecting perfection.

Ok, I am being light hearted about it, but it is a struggle for me.  Some areas are easier than others to accept, though.  I don’t care if I miss patches when I cut the lawn.  I don’t care if my van isn’t clean ( good thing too, if you could see it!)  I don’t expect my hair or make up to be perfect.  But, for me, doing the “right thing” is very important. 

I have been learning, that sometimes, I just need to admit that I have been doing something wrong, correct course from where I am, and move on.  I have to stop beating myself up, because, hey! I’m only human.  There are some areas, though, where that is harder.

Parenting, for one.  Oh, it’s EASY for me to admit where I have done, or am currently doing stuff wrong.  But it’s not always easy to see where I should go from that point on.  It’s hard to see what is the best course sometimes, and this is one thing I want to do well.  I am trying to take Dr. Kevin Lehman’s advice and stop aiming for being a perfect parent and be a “good enough” parent.  I make lots of mistakes, and I am able to admit that, even to my kids, and ask for forgiveness when I’ve done wrong. ( He has lots of great books on all kinds of topics by the way)

Money is another one of these areas for me.  I want to do this right.  I want to to stop making the mistakes we have made in the past.  The right road is a bit clearer on this one : stop over spending, plan better and save.  Easier said than done, but I know what I am SUPPOSED to do!  Admitting this one, however, is harder.  It’s hard on my pride to admit I can’t afford some things.  It’s hard to tell my kids about the mistakes we’ve made with money, but important.  It just makes me feel so stupid to look back and see how many BIG mistakes we made, and if I had a time machine, I would slap my 19 year old self on the head!!

Why do money mistakes make us feel so stupid?  Lots of people I talk to say they hate discussing options at a bank,or with a financial planner, that handling money makes us feel inadequate and stupid.  Why does this area, more than so many others, hold such power to influence how we feel about ourselves as a person?

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Lately, I have started feeling overwhelmed by the amount of electronics in my life.  The amount of time we as a family spend watching TV, using the computer, and playing video games seems to build until it reaches a threshold where it’s officially too much.

My kids turn on the TV when they get up, and watch as they get ready for the day.  Then, its on most of the day, even when no one is watching it.  If we get busy playing something, the sounds of one show or another seems to draw them into to “seeing what’s on”.  My now 2 year old will bring us the “mote” and say “ tee-lee?”.

Everyone at our house enjoys video games. Most often, when I declare it time to turn of the TV, I hear, “Can I play DS or Wii instead?”.  With an entire house full of toys, its mind boggling to me that those are always chosen first.

I’m not innocent either!  I leave my computer on 24 hours a day, usually with the internet on, and Facebook going.  If I am busy playing with the kids, I am often suckered in by those little red notices that someone has posted something, or sent me a message.  Instead of a useful tool, Facebook often feels like an addiction!  I feel weird if the computer is totally off.

Last year, for Lent, I gave up TV and Facebook.  I learned some interesting things.  first, the withdrawal symptoms go away after a bit.  Secondly, I learned just how dependant I’d become.  As a busy mom, it is often fastest and most convenient to stay in touch with my friends over Facebook.  But, it can become pretty superficial instead of a true friendship pretty quickly.  I realized that I come to rely on it as my main and almost only source of communicating with friends.  I don’t make an effort to call friends, or touch base with them, or make coffee dates as well if they are not on Facebook.  I definitely felt cut off from what was going on with most of my friends when I gave up Facebook!  I felt isolated at home with the kids when I didn’t chat with anyone on the computer off and on throughout the day.   Third, I realized how much of my time I had been wasting.

Going TV-free showed me a few things too.  Mostly, just how much time we are wasting as a family.  I also noticed how many opportunities we were missing out on, like enjoying crafts, reading or other activities instead.  I really doubt that at the end of my life I will wish I had watched just one more episode of some show!

Certain parts of the year are worse for this than others at our home.  We definitely spend more time plugged into things in the winter when it’s often too cold to enjoy outdoor things.  Our family really loves being outdoors, so once spring arrives with it’s nicer weather, we all enjoy going out instead.  During the summer months, we play in our yard a lot, and enjoy local parks and lakes.

Starting last fall, when I felt so sick because of this pregnancy, our TV time started to creep up again.  I knew it wouldn’t help down the road, but honestly, I just did what I needed to do to cope with being sick while entertaining an 18 month old.  Most times in my life, I have enjoyed the feeling of just being in my home, or anywhere, with no background noises.   While I thoroughly enjoy music, I have been very comfortable in silence.  Now I find that I feel anxious without the TV, or music, going in the background.  I feel antsy in the quiet, and even if I want to read a book, I often have the TV on at the same time.  It’s like an addiction!

I have officially come to the point where I am sick of this.  I hate when the kids stop paying attention to a conversation because they are drifting to the TV.  I hate that I feel weird if the house is quiet, if we are playing without music on, or if the computer is not powered up.  There is nothing innately wrong with the TV, the computer or the video games, but it’s time to re-focus my family’s time.

I’m thinking of giving up or strictly cutting down on our electronics time as lent approaches, to make more time for the things our family finds important, like devotional time, family and friends, reading, playing and crafts.  I have determined to be more intentional about being a friend, and I want to catch up on my letter writing.  My God, my family and my friends deserve my un-distracted attention!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saving Money Takes Time!

Lately, I have been feeling so sick of thinking about money.  It takes so much time to make all these changes in our life.  Some days, I feel like it’s all I have been thinking about “ how can we do this or that cheaper”," “ How are we going to pay for that”, and “ We just can’t afford that” seem to be taking up a lot of my mental space.

I know that since we are just starting this journey, this is a time where there is a lot to do.  Calling the credit card companies was a smart thing to do, but it used up my time.  Making different appointments, searching for cheaper deals and re-planning some things are necessary,

and I am glad we are doing this, but these all take time too.

I enjoy making the things we’ve been giving as gifts, and the use of my time is definitely a benefit to my family.  Again, more time thinking about how to make or do something inexpensively.

A lot of these things, once done, won’t need my focus again for a long time.  However, I think that my time will still be in demand.  Shopping around for deals on things we need will be a focus for a long time yet. 

While we are making steady progress in this journey, it has been slow.  As I said to my husband, I wonder when we will get to a point that it is not such a constant focus.  Daily, it feels, there is some financial pressure, plan or thing we need to discuss.

I don’t want to get bogged down, or discouraged, though.  While I would love for changes to happen quickly, I knew that wasn’t realistic.  It took us many years to get here, so it will probably take us a few to get out of it too.  It was encouraging to me to read about others who decided to stop being in debt and live without credit.  I love the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting.  I was reading the other day about the Duggar’s financial journey, and how, once they decided to get out of debt, it took them seven years.  I’ve only been doing this for 7 months! I’m going to pray about my discouragement, and focus on the progress that we have made, and choose thankfulness instead.  I know that thinking about our finances differently than we did in the past will be a life long change that is worth making.  I will teach my children, and they too will reap benefits many times over. 

I think, we are about to reach a plateau, where a lot of the big changes are made, and then it will be a time of simply continuing to do the right things.  I am looking forward to focusing more on simply enjoying my kids, playing with them without my mind wandering to my financial to-do list.  I want to apply my brain to other family and faith matters.

When I started blogging, I wanted it to be about Faith, Family and Finances, not just finances. As our frantic pace stage evolves into more of a steady payments stage, I hope to have more blogs on the Faith and Family aspects too!  If you’ve been on this road too, I’d love to hear your story!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Nifty Thrifty Gifty: Barrettes

This is a simple craft I enjoyed doing with Colleena last week.  I actually attached them to her valentines, but they would be cute for any occasion.  I simply took some of the foam shapes we have in our craft supplies and let her choose how to glue them onto barrettes that I had picked up at the dollar store.

We did hearts, for Valentine’s Day, but little girls love hearts all year, and they would be cute in other shapes too.  I operated the glue gun, and Colleena designed them.  It cost me $2 to make twelve sets of barrettes.

It was a lot of fun!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


BookSneeze.  I don’t know how they came up with that name.  It’s a resource for bloggers to get FREE books to review.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE books.  The idea of getting them free intrigues me, so I signed up.  In return for a free book, that I can choose from a list of available titles, I will need to post a review on my blog, and on one of the qualifying book sites ( like Amazon or christianbook).

I don’t know how many will be ones that catch my eye, but I am looking forward to it anyway.  The first title I chose was “ Regret Free Parenting”.  A friend of mine is reading this book, which is a Christian view on raising children well, but not obsessing about doing this job “perfectly” and not beating yourself up over mistakes.  I’m looking forward to it’s arrival!

As soon as I read it, I’ll tell you what I think, as well as whether the mandatory reviewing was worth getting the free book!


   Do any of you blog for books?  Which site? And what do you think of the experience?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Planning for Birthday Gifts

I just wrapped up my latest poll, where I asked everyone to share how much they plan on spending on the gift when your child is invited to a classmate’s party.  The results don’t surprise me too much, and I’m kind of glad to see that I’m about the same as everyone else.

2 people say they plan on spending under ten dollars.  2 people say they plan on spending between 20 and 30 dollars.  Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, planning on spending between 10 and 20.

If I write it in as a budget line, I plan on $20, hoping to stay just under that.  I don’t plan on the ten dollar range, but I LOVE it when that is what I can spend.  It seems like if I have to go today and find something, I spend $20, but if I am able to shop around and look for a while, I can find neat stuff for $10.  Awesome sales under the $10 mark are things I pick up for the gift stash.

This week at superstore, their hot wheels trick track pieces, which are normally $29 are on for $7.  I grabbed one for the gift stash, so this will be one great present for under $10!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Home Haircuts?

I miss my hairdresser.  Besides all the usual reasons to love having my hair done ( it looks nicer, those awesome salon products, and that wonderful feeling from having someone else wash your hair with that water sprayer…) I miss going to my hair dresser because she is such a great friend of mine.  When I decided to grow my hair out, she gave me a great cut that is still holding up well after several months.  I did make a coffee date with her just to go out and visit.

As much as I miss a fresh hair cut, it is something I can do without right now.  My kids, however are starting to look like a trio of cousin its.  Ok, its not that bad, but they all really need a trim.  Baden’s hair is past his eyes.  Maybe he’s taking after Shawn, planning on a haircut once a year?  My hairdresser friend is amazing with kids, and her prices are the best anywhere, better than the school even.  No matter how reasonable her rates, I still just can’t afford it.

This has me pondering home haircuts.  I cut Shawn’s hair once when he was in tech.  His friends recognized a “girl friend cut your hair” cut right away and ribbed him for it a lot!  I didn’t think it was that bad, but the teasing prompted Shawn to make me promise that I would “never attempt to cut the hair of any living thing ever again.” ( Seriously, I don’t know what he was complaining about, the man grows his hair to his shoulders, then buzzes it off once a year anyway…)  Never the less, with three kids it now seems he is willing to reconsider his strong stand against me holding a pair of scissors.  Not on his own hair mind you, that he had done last week at the local walk in hair dressers, but he’ll consider the kids…

So, here is the point of this whole thought train.  Those of you who cut hair yourself, yours or your kids, or your spouses… I need your help!  I think I can handle Colleena’s, it’s long and straight, and I can just trim all the way around as evenly as I can.  She needs almost 10 inches cut off, so I have lots of room for error. 

I’m not sure I’ll even attempt Lily’s.  Her curls probably need more layers than I can manage, and I’m not sure how much to trim off.  It’s down to the middle of her back right now, and I’d like it to end up curling just above her shoulders.  The long curls have become too much to manage, and the fight to brush the tangles out everyday is too hard on both of our nerves.  I hate pinning her down to comb her hair and having her scream the whole time.  Should I trim just a bit, and see??

My fear level for doing Baden’s hair lies somewhere in the middle.  I THINK I can use a shaver to trim the sides, and just use a longer shave at the top?  Those of you who have done little boy’s hair, what advice can you give me?  And do any of you have a hair trimmer I can borrow?

Can I just use a good pair of sharp scissors? For the girls', do I really just cut it all the same length?  HELP!  Maybe I should get Shawn to man the trimmer…then he wouldn’t be able to blame me… heh heh heh!

I guess, if I really mess it up, I still know that my wonderful friend would fix it for me!

Cost Break-Down: Coffee

This one scares me a little.  Not that I buy coffee so often that the comparison to home-made will be shocking, but soon, you will know what an unnatural amount of sugar I put into my coffee :) , hee hee!

I don’t actually go out for coffee, but I was interested in just what my morning java fix really costs compared to grabbing a coffee on the go.

I buy Maxwell House coffee, and unless I really can’t help it, I wait until it goes on sale for $5.97 a can.  I measured what we normally scoop into the coffee pot, and it’s 75g of grounds ( or about 3/4 of a cup) for a full pot.  That means, I get just over 12 pots from a can.  $6/12 is $0.50 a pot. 

Then I measured my favourite mug.  It holds just under 2 cups of coffee with enough room left over for all that milk I am going to pour in there.  That’s 15 ounces, about the same as a large coffee from Timmie’s.  I would be able to fill my mug four times from the amount of brewed coffee in my pot.  So, that’s $0.12 a mug.

When I have creamer, it’s a treat, but most of the time, i use regular milk at home.  I glug in about 1/4 of a cup, which costs $0.06.

Please don’t hold it against me, but I put in two big tablespoons of sugar. What can I say? I need to be sweetened up, ha ha!  That’s about 1/8 of a cup, which costs $0.04.

Ok, here’s my grand total for this morning’s coffee : 22 CENTS! Pretty cheap in my opinion!

Since I don’t even know,  would someone please tell me: what does a large coffee sell for anyway?  Now I see why they call it a “latte factor” in your budget!  I’m sure if you grab coffees to go, it could really add up!  If you normally buy coffee, what would you save by making it at home instead?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Homemade Toy Cleaner

Washing up the little prizes I bought for Baden’s Birthday Carnival, I was reminded of a toy cleaner I have been using for years, and thought I’d share it with you. 

Mix half water and half mouth wash.  That’s it.  Spray ‘em, dunk ‘em or wipe ‘em, and the toys are clean.  I saw this on a cleaning show years ago and have been using it ever since.  The alcohol in the mouth wash sanitizes the toys.  You can rinse them, but if you don’t, you won’t worry about anything left on the toys being toxic.  Once the alcohol evaporates, all you are left with is the flavour additives from the mouth wash, which are completely safe!

Buying used toys, big or small, I really like knowing I can clean the toys well before my kids use them.  I never know what has been on there, or what they have sprayed on it to clean either.  Especially nice to use on things that are a pain to clean individually, and those things you KNOW are going to get chewed on.  I once made a big batch of this solution, and dumped the entire bin of hot wheels into it.  I let them air dry on a towel, and VOILA! Clean cars!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Beating the Budget Busters: Birthday Party # 1

At our house we have birthday season.  Baden’s big day starts it off, and then in about 6 weeks, both girls and Shawn’s birthdays fall over four days.  During the months of February and March, we have lots of extended family members and friends who have birthdays.    Yup, it’s birthday season.  Some years, Easter even falls in there.

Most years, it’s a definite budget buster.  This year, I am setting an amount that I expect to spend and trying to stick in it.

I LOVE throwing my kids birthday parties.  Sometimes we have a big bash, and others we have a smaller crowd and do an activity.  Almost always, the party is at our house, I have never paid to rent a facility ( pool, bowling alley etc).  I think I am saving those types of parties until my kids are older.  Some of my friends have rented gyms, which I think is great.  You get lots of space and fun things to do, and you don’t have the clean up… but it’s not in the budget this year.  Recently, Baden has been to some birthdays held at our new soccer center in town.  I think it’s a great deal, for $60 you get use of the facility and lots of the equipment so kids can run and play.  A great way to burn off energy for winter parties.

I love planning the party, and choosing a theme with my kids.  This year, Baden wants to have a winter carnival.  His birthday is up first, and is what I am currently planning.  We have lots of little games planned for his friends to play.  I am using either toys we already have , or things we can make pretty easily.  Bean bag toss, Nerf gun target shooting, and fish pond are a few that we have planned.  I have have a “race car tire change challenge” that I made for Baden a few years ago.  Shawn painted a car on a huge piece of cardboard, and I glued two pop bottle necks on as “bolts”.  We made several cardboard “tires” with holes that fit over the bottle parts.  Kids have to unscrew the bottle cap, trade the tire for a new one and screw on new bottle caps.  A cute and silly little game, but very fun!  I think we’ll try face painting too.  One or two more stations and that will fill time nicely.

I planned the party to avoid any meal times.  This will definitely help keep the cost down.  I plan to have everyone over to play for about two hours.  That should be lots of time for games and cake.  I’ll make sure to have a couple snacks on hand, and probably a bit of pop.  While buying cans is easier, it’s cheaper to buy a 2L bottle and pour it into cups.

I bake the cake myself.  While this uses up lots of my time, the cake itself costs just a couple dollars in supplies, and I blend that into my grocery budget.  I usually have all the ingredients on hand anyway.  I am one of those crazy cake ladies.  I have lots of fun making big shaped cakes for my kids.  I have to get a better idea of what Baden wants today, then it will take me 3 or 4 days to bake, cut and decorate it.

I don’t do gift bags for guests.  I polled my friends informally last year, and I think most of us agree.  It’s the birthday kid’s special day, why do the guests need gifts?  The guests usually end up going home with a little something anyway.  For example, last year, Colleena had a tea party where all the girls made beaded bracelets and necklaces to wear.  They took those home.  I think that’s all that is really needed.  Since this party is to be a carnival, there will be little prizes at each station.  Baden’s friends can take these home, so I don’t feel I need to make up an official “gift bag”.

I’ve also been thinking about what to give Baden as a gift.  We’ve been reading the chronicles of Narnia books with the kids.  A local school is having a play this week, “Narnia” and I think we may buy tickets and take the kids to that.  This fits into my idea that I would like to give my kids a chance to DO things, instead of HAVE things.  We also have a few things still in hiding that would make great gifts for him.  Last summer we bought an air soft rifle at a garage sale ( I think that’s what it’s called) that shoots little plastic balls.  Shawn cleaned it all up, and I think Baden will have a blast shooting at the targets.

So far, I think I have it covered.  Venue, activities, snack, cake, prizes, gift… all taken care of.  I have budgeted $50 for party costs, and $50 for the present for Baden.  I’ll let you know if I stay within my goal!  My kids enjoy a simple old fashioned party, a chance to play together and be with their friends.  I don’t think it has to be complicated or expensive to be fun.

What do you plan for birthdays?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Poll Results: Purchasing Used Items

Ok, so my second poll is finished up, and I think the results are interesting.  13 people answered the following question:  Which of the following would you consider purchasing used?

Kids Clothing (13),Your Clothing(11), Bathing Suit (2), Kitchen Items (10), Furniture(12), Vehicle(13), Shoes (4), Toys (12), Books(12), Jewelery(7), Video Games and Movies (11).

If you’re wondering, here are the items I purchase used : kids clothing, some of my clothing, bathing suit, kitchen items, furniture, vehicles, toys, books and movies or video games.  For me, a lot depends on where I am getting the item used.  I have been given or purchased used maternity clothes.  I was given a maternity bathing suit from a friend of mine, which didn’t bother me, but I’m not sure if I could buy one used without knowing who it came from.  Same with shoes.  If they are in great shape, then I have no problem with used shoes, but I wouldn’t buy a pair that was too worn in.  I have all the shoes I need right now, so I can’t even remember the last time I looked at shoes when we were shopping for used items.  Kitchen Items don’t bother me, since they all can be washed, same as toys.  I love buying toys used, since they are often a better price, and many trendy toys are used for such a short period of time.  In fact, this is the only way my kids will get trendy toys from me.  Furniture I have no problem buying used as long as you can tell its very clean.  Every time we have purchased used furniture, it has been from someone we knew.  Books : why not? They depreciate faster than a new car!  Video Games and movies? All the time! I got some used jewelery at our merge and purge party. I don’t buy much jewelery, but I would always look at used items, and most of them can be soaked in rubbing alcohol to clean if you need to.

Ok, that wraps up why I do what I do.  I was surprised by a few of the answers.It makes me curious about why you would or would not consider some items.  Especially books and video games or movies.  Are these things you just don't buy at all?  What factors influence your decision on used items? (Price, cleanliness etc)

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