Traveling on a Budget

Our family tends to travel a lot. Some of this travel is by choice and some is by necessity. Most of our travels are planned well in advance which allows us plenty of time to save. However this was not the case for our Thanksgiving trip to Michigan. We decided that this was an important trip on November 3rd, two week before we needed to travel. Here are the ways we used to save money on this short notice trip.

1. I spent around 4 hours or more trying to find a hotel on priceline and the other “cheap hotel sites”. I had two huge things working against me, first we were two weeks away from the trip and the second was this is a holiday weekend. I finally decided to call the hotel we usually stay at. I was able to get a room for all five of us and the dog and breakfast for less than $100 a night which is our good price. After having success calling the first hotel, I called the second with the same results. The average price per night was $100! Tip#1- Call the hotel direct and ask for pricing.

2. Gift Cards- We continue to attempt to use Swagbucks on a regular basis. Each month the first gift card is discounted to 2200 or $22 for a $25 card. Starbucks is always a favorite so we try and keep around $50 loaded to it at all times. I also took advantage of some promotions, and this helped our budget a great deal. We had around $150 in gift cards for this trip and even managed to combine with sales to stretch it a bit further. My suggestion is to purchase gift cards ahead of time an keep a stash for trips and other surprises.

3. Pack a Cooler- The average price of a soda is between $1.50 and $2.00. Just by packing drinks and water, we saved at least $100. I also packed sandwich items and frozen burritos in our cooler. We were able to eat breakfast in the hotels and then ate one meal from the cooler or even left-overs so we ended up eating an average of one meal a day out while traveling. Even if we would have eaten fast food for each meal we saved at least $40 a day by bring a cooler.

4. Pack snacks- We like to eat while driving and crunchy snacks help keep you awake. I have a snack bag that stays in each vehicle but for a trip we ended up making individual size bags of chips and popcorn. This worked well and was much easier than trying to carry large bags and eat from them.

5. Check gas prices and make a plan. We discovered that it was cheaper to buy gas ahead of time then waiting to fill when we had to.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

There is no doubt in my mind how blessed we are as a society, a country, a family and even personally. I could list a million things that I am thankful for but does that make me any better of a person or blogger. I personally don’t think so. I know I am blessed and I need to use gratitude every day all day and not just one day a year. So instead of a list of things I am thankful for, I am going to tell you some special event and things that are happening in my life.

We are currently in Sandy Springs Georgia which is just outside of Atlanta. Both the older girls have work commitments so it is just Matt, myself and the not so little kids. We spent today with Matt’s sister, her family and Matt’s Dad. The kids had a truely special treat by going to “Legoland” with their two older cousins this morning. They really enjoyed it and I honestly could not be sure who had more fun the big or little kids. The rest of the day was spent enjoying conservation and tine with family that always loved not always close enough to share with.

I am also extremely grateful for a daily devotional given to me by my sister in law called “Daily Gratitude”. I can’t wait to start getting a daily reminder of who and why I am blessed.

The plans for tomorrow are very vague at this point but I do know that we have “Afternoon Tea ” schedule at the American Girl Bistrow, my girls are so excited and so am I.

Thanksgiving- 02/21/2016

Our Sunday School lesson this morning was from Priscilla Shirer, The Armor of God.   I was reminded, ok slapped up side the head, with the truth about thanksgiving. I am so abundantly blessed, that I should never have to think about the things I am thankful for but they should bubble up all during the day. With all things, practice never hurt so here is a short list for today.

  1. The awesome ladies in my class, who are not afraid to be real and who share experience and the idea that we are all sisters of the King.
  2. My new van, which has a nail in the tire but is still driving without any weird movements.
  3. A husband, who is not only available to take the above van to get it fix bright and early Monday morning but who will also fill it with gas before exchanging it for his older van while I am working.
  4. A warm house with an abundance of food and drink. We talked about our first world problems at lunch today.
  5. A job, I enjoy and feel allows me to make a difference, hopefully a positive difference in at least one person’s life daily.
  6. An unexpected free weekend, which allowed me to catch up on several different items and still enjoy some downtime today.
  7. Friends both in real life and on social media who keep me accountable.

Five Things Friday- Shopping

One of the things that I consider a real special treat/requirement when visiting Michigan is a trip to “Bronner’s”. This year, I was able to add several new pieces including a house to my snow village.  I can’t wait to get home to add these pieces to the ones that I already have in place.

Matt choice one store to visit on Black Friday- it was a local sporting store called “Dunhams”. He purchased 3 Michigan State t-shirts and a pair of work boots for $48!

I am planning on adding a second tree  to the house this year and decided it will be a “Disney”  themed tree. I have slowly been collecting Disney ornaments over the years and purchased several new items including a tree topper today at the Disney Store  outlet. If time permits, I am also going to check on line for any other awesome deals.

Zach is growing again, this time all his shirts are too short.  I have purchased a couple of new shirts for him and a sweater to wear at Christmas, but am planning to switch out all his 4T shirt for the new 5T ones that I have been collecting over the past couple of months.

I have spent the most time ever shopping for clothes for myself this trip. I am excited to be able to purchase things several sizes smaller but also a little afraid that if I am not careful I will quickly outgrow these items. I guess this is motivation for me to keep working out on a regular basis.

Thanksgiving Trip Part #1

After our last trip to Michigan, that you read about here, I will be the first to admit that I was not at all excited to plan or start out on a second this year. But I am very pleased to say that we have enjoyed this trip.  We did have several bit of excitement on the trip up. The first of which was totally my fault, or I should say my lack of ability to back a vehicle. After checking gas prices, we stopped in Virginia to fill up. I did not check behind me as I had to quickly move the van to a different gas pump and managed to back into a very large green pole with two warning signs on it.  The good news is that the only damage was to the brake light that never worked right any way but now will need to be replaced for a third time  this year.  The only excited on the OHIO turnpike came at the end when I tried to hand over a Canadian quarter, I am still trying to figure out where I got one to start with? The trip itself lasted about 15 hours which was not bad considering we stopped every two hours or so.

We spent Wednesday shopping, at Bronner’s and Birch Run so at least I enjoyed the day. I have been able to find some awesome deals that  I may share in a separate post later. Thursday was spent playing in the hotel pool and with family, just the way it should be!

Count Your Blessings

This has always been one of my favorite hymns and I really feel the need to be thankful today so I am going to just “count my blessing name them one by one”….

  • Matt
  • Each one of my five children Amanda, Haley, Lily, Kendall and Zach…they each are a blessing from God and I love each one the same!
  • My job… yes it is stressful but I still go to work each day to a job that I really enjoy and I get to work with my best friend!
  • Time to spend at home working in the yard and just being with my kids. This past weekend, I spent more time with the little ones than without. I enjoy working outside and then just hanging out in front of the television.
  • Central Air- I remember many of the years that I struggled to get the window unit clean and work. And I am even more thankful for the heat in the winter time. I still recall the winter that we ran out of oil for the old heater several time and had to sleep at my parents just to stay warm.
  • Clothing for each of the kids and even better a line item in the budget to purchase new clothing if need. In the past few years, I have been blessed with lots of second hand clothing so the need is not as great. But again I can recall a year that I had to ask for money just to buy clothing for Haley.
  • Brothers and sisters in Christ that are praying for me daily.  I will never have to face difficult time alone… God is always with me but he has also supplied hands and feet in our church family.

Things I am Thankful for!

This week the line “I will praise you in the storm.” has come to my mind several times. Things have gotten a  little crazy over here with my work and the kids activities but I honestly don’t think our family is in the middle of a storm. But still the need to be thankful is a good things so today, I am going to be thankful!

  1. I am thankful for 3 children happily playing together outside on the trampoline!
  2. I am thankful for the bright sunny almost warm weather that we have today that is allowing Matt to work on my car.
  3. I am thankful for Matt, he is my friend, lover and partner in crime. He also is an awesome cook and not to bad at fixin things either
  4. I am thankful for God supplying not only a job that I enjoy but also the extra income we need through Matt’s website business.
  5. I am thankful for a church family that is encouraging and support but also very unique and different!
  6. I am thankful for being able to go shopping at Walmart and not have to count each penny as we spend it!  I am still sticking to my budget but know that by choosing to pick up Oreo cookies and Cheese Doodles we still have money to cover our expense is a blessing.
  7. I am thankful for my parents, who continue to support and encourage me even as an adult.
  8. I am thankful for several freezers and a pantry full of food that is available to eat.

Care to join me?

Visit with Santa

We were excited to visit with Santa at Bronner’s as well. The system that they used was so nice and made the day much easier. First, an adult, regristered each child that wanted to see Santa. Next they were provided with a name tag, each tag had a different symbol. Ours was a gingerbread cookie, others included a santa hat and holly. We continued to shop Bronner’s until the overhead page announcing that Santa was now seeing kids with the gingerbread cookie was heard, approximately 45 minutes after we regristered.  Next we stood in a very short line for approximately 5 minute before seeing Santa. Lily had already been questioning me if this was the “real” Santa and Zach even checked his beard to make sure. Santa spent lots of time talking with the kids and even shared a secret about Rundolph. Here are a couple of pictures.

CVS-Awesome Trip

So if you have been catching up on reading the blog lately you will remember from yesterday that I really spent more than I planned at CVS on Thursday. I was not to upset because I knew that I would use the ECB in the next couple of weeks to make some really good deals. Today I took my first trip, I was also able to grab a couple of rain checks that I cashed in today. Overall I spent $3.36 and saved $90 for a 96% saving, even better all the items are thing we use regularly.  I did split my transaction up into 2 just to make it easier for me to use the ECB.
       Transaction 1
4 bags of Combos on sale 1.50 each received a $2 off 4 bags at the red coupon machine
Revita Lens contact solution 8.99 (8.99 in ECB back)
1 Poster board $1.19
1 Breath Right Strip 12 count (raincheck from Thanksgiving)
1 LA Looks hair gel (Raincheck from Thanksgiving)

USE $22.89 in ECB and $2 off coupon above
Total out of pocket 0.29 (tax was $1.10)

   Transaction 2
2 Packs Pampers Cruisers $9.50 each (2.00 off 2 coupon)
1 Tide with Bleach $5.94 (2.00 coupon)
2 Panatene Shampoo/Conditioners $3.94 (1.00 off 2 coupon)
1 Nyquil liquid and tablet pack $9.99 (3.00 off coupon from red box last week)

Used Coupons above plus   33.45 in ECB from Above and Thanksgiving
Total out of pocket $3.07, In addition I received a $10 gift card for spending 30 in P&G products and will also get a free pack of diapers for buying  6 next time I scanned my card.

I still have approximately $20 in ECB and will do the P&G gift card again this week.

So Much to be Thankful for..

This will be my last blog post on the things I am thankful for this year…although it really shouldn’t be because I need to have a grateful heart all year long. I do have plans for several more post on this extended weekend. But to stick to the topic here is the extended list of things ( I have been posting each Friday in Novmeber so in total this will make 24, don’t forget to catch up !)
1. Being at home for this Thanksgiving. Matt and I have been together now for 8 years, in each of the previous years except 2009, we have travel to Michigian to celebrate with his side of the family. I LOVE each and every one of those folks but it is hard to travel with small kids. So I am thankful for cooking my own dinner in my own house this Thanksgiving
2. Having time to enjoy my husband. Matt and I plan to spend a good portion of the day tommorow shopping together. Haley is baby-sitting, with pay so she is also thankful for this chance to earn some extra money. One of the benefit of traveling together is the extended time in the car in which we talk and get caught up with each other. So instead we are going to each shopping and maybe even a meal out alone during this busy season.
3. Friends that have the same interest as I do. I really enjoyed meeting both Sandy and Dana at CVS this morning and rushing through the store grabbing the deals we wanted to share!
4. Crock-pots. They are a huge time and money saver. (More details on this soon)
5. My children growing up as friends, the older girls are starting to become mature friends. I am happy to see them want to spend time together and not always fighting over clothes. I LOVE watching the younger ones play! Yes I enjoy having 5 kids!
6. God’s blessing in my life. Several years ago Matt and I attended a small group that used the book “A Blessed Life.” We have struggled to live in this manner and in all honest are really enjoyed this blessed life!