Nifty vs. Thrifty

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My great trip to the mall!

I don't normally do the typical blogging of what my day consisted of. I think that what I normally do would be pretty boring to read normally but I had to share my morning with you!

I went to the mall this morning with Siena. I pulled into the parking lot expecting mass quantities of people and instead the lot was empty. What the heck?!?! Then I realized that even though I had put in practically a full day, the mall wasn't open yet because it was 9:55am! I went to Gymboree and returned a $50.00 coat that I bought Sienna (why I thought she needed a$50.00 coat, I am not sure!). Next, I went to the food court because I wanted something. I wasn't technically hungry or thirsty but I wanted a treat! I decided on a Starbucks grande gingerbread latte (no fat milk and only 2 pumps of the syrup, no whipped cream). It was $4.95! Almost as much as a lunch would be. So, I decided if I'm going to pay that much I might as well enjoy it. I sat down with Siena. Watched her play and savored the taste of my special treat! I looked at the beautiful tall Christmas tree all lit up and listened to the wonderful Christmas music.

Next, I walked into the Gap and immediately was told about the wonderful B1G1 free sweater deal! Oh, so hard to pass up! The sweaters were $34.95. That's not bad I thought. I picked out 2 sweaters I really liked (they were SOOO cute!) and was on my way to the register. I stopped myself and thought "do I REALLY need this?". Of course the answer was no, so I put them back and walked out of the store. I said to myself "that was a good decision! Good job!" (not out loud don't worry!) It actually felt very good to know I was being responsible with my money.

I left the mall with such a good feeling! Not because I had a hot outfit to wear tonight but because I was doing the right thing and had spent some quality time with Siena!

Why don't I do this more often I wondered?

So many times we are doing 10 things at one time and forget to enjoy all the many treats life has to offer! Remember to stop and smell the roses and count your many blessings!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Gifts and tips-how to budget for the holidays

Feeling stressed and depressed about the holidays? Wondering how you're going to pay for all gifts you need to get? STOP!!! Enjoy the holidays! Simply Siena has researched MANY resources and has all the answers to help you along and allow you to enjoy!

1. Set a budget and stick to it. Be realistic. In these days of economic hardship, people should understand if you are in a difficult financial time. Sit down and make a list of everyone you need to buy for including teachers, hairdressers, etc. All of these can add up quickly.

2. Be creative. Take a minute to think about what each person really likes. I was a teacher for many years and I remember the most creative, heart felt gifts more than any expensive ones I was ever given. Last year, my aunt gave us a recipe of my grandma's (who has since passed) "top secret" chocolate chip cookie recipe. I loved it and it didn't cost a dime!

Include the children. This is a wonderful time for children to learn the value of giving. Older kids can learn the value of money (if you set a good example). If you overspend and then don't have money for bills- you will be setting an example that it is ok to be irresponsible (of course easier said than done!). Everyone wants to make their kid have the biggest smile and excitement when they open their presents but think of the big picture and don't spend money you don't have. This is a great opportunity for them to learn financial responsibility and also a lesson that time and love are the best gifts of all. Just don't be surprised if they don't thank you for not getting them the xbox they wanted so badly :) !

Go to an arts and crafts store and have your kids make something (although be careful-items can add up fast in those stores!)

Use pictures to make a collage or photo album. has great deals on items you can put pictures on (grandmoms especially love this!)

3. Use online resources. Here are the best websites which have been featured in Newsweek, Rachel Ray, Good Morning America, and Consumer Reports for 2009. I checked out this website and couldn't believe that discounts on all the stores I shop at. Definitely a good site. A great website for homemade, unique items at GREAT prices. Don't me scared by "homemade"- these items are very nice! My friend really likes this website. Just remember there's no returns.

There are many more out there but I haven't found any that really seem easy and worth the time. Please post a comment if you have one you really like!

4. Buy more than one item at the same store. Many stores including Kohls, Old Navy and Macy's often have deals where you can get a significant discount if you spend a certain amount (usually $75.00 or $100.00)

5. Who to tip and how much? Follow this general rule when tipping those whose services you use often:

Teachers (including coaches, music teachers, etc.) - a gift from your child

House cleaners - up to one weeks pay

Trash person - $10-30 (if private)

Mail delivery person - USPS employees are not allowed to accept cash but can accept gifts up to a $20 limit.

Regular babysitter - one week's pay plus a small gift from your child

Hairstylist: Cost of one haircut or an equivalent gift. If you're an infrequent customer, simply double your usual tip.

Here's a website with lots of other helpful information for tipping!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Keeping the Holidays Peaceful with In Laws

It's that time of year again! The holidays are often a time when stress levels are high, money is low, and everyone is streched in a million directions (then we add in lots of quality time with family and the in laws that you might not always see eye to eye with!) While the holidays can be a stressful time, they don't have to be! If we set healthy boundaries, communicate effectively, and bring positive energy, the holidays will surely be a success. Here's how...

First of all, step back if you can, and remember that your inlaws are a very big part of your significant other's life (as well as your children) and they love them dearly. That will never change. You MUST be respectful towards them (even if you feel they are not respectful to you). You're significant other needs to see that you are respectful to them and your children need to see it as well. If you get frustrated with your inlaws, try NOT complain to your spouse. Vent to your friends. That only puts him in the middle and complicates the issue. If one of your inlaws says something that you don't like or something you think is rude, it helps to approach them directly about it. It may be a misunderstanding, or it may be an inappropriate comment but addressing it will help to move forward in a positive directions.

When addressed in a direct but respectful way, you will likely reach a common ground. Try saying something like, "When you ask me about the way I do things often, it feels like you are putting me down. Maybe I'm misreading your statements?" These conversations are VERY difficult to have, however, holding resentment is not going to get you anywhere and can create turmoil between you and your husband. Asking these kind of questions can be a subtle but effective way of setting boundaries with a loved one such as an in law.

Setting boundaries is very difficult but very important. If you feel that you have addressed and set boundaries (but they are ignored) than perhaps it's time to take a different approach by thinking of how you can limit your interactions or seperate yourself from taking things personal on certain occassions for the sake of your family. Taking the high road is usually the best way to go but don't give up on confronting your issues. Chances are, you will need to have many more "difficult conversations" with those who don't always respect your boundaries. Maybe one day they will get it...but they may never change (and that's ok!)

It may come down to only speaking occassionally or at holidays but you owe it to your significant other and your children to make sure that you approach the issues to attempt to resolve them. If you do not feel comfortable having them babysit in your home for instance, make other arrangements and explain to your significant other that you would prefer to hire a babysitter than to risk the chance that bad feelings might occur with the inlaws. Explain that you care about your relationship with your inlaws and you don't want to jeoperdize it by pushing the limits, when it may be best for all to ask a neighbor to care for your child (or children).

Setting boundaries can feel very uncomfortable if you grew up without many boundaries, but it does get easier as you do it more and more. If this seems difficult (or IMPOSSIBLE!), practice a script and say it in the mirror. It sounds silly but can often help with these difficult conversations.

Want to avoid these conversations? It is often much easier to avoid these conversations all together (believe me-I've done it) but it will not help things in the long run. Also, remember that little eyes are watching and learning how to handle difficult situations. How do you want them to handle difficult situations? Do you want them to think that if someone is not treating you the way you like than you should avoid it and/or complain to someone else?

Remember that there are things about your inlaws that have made your significant other who he is (and thats the person you fell in love with!). Enjoy your holidays and make it a positive experience for your family! You have the control to make it a good one!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Plan Ahead and Avoid Overscheduling

Notice this child's face is not a happy one?

I went for a walk with my friend last night who's daughter just went back to school. I asked her when she would be able to walk again and she quickly became very flustered talking about picture day, back to school night, swim team tryouts, and viola practice. The tone in her voice immediately changed and I could sense the stress in her voice.

Although my daughter is not in school yet, I totally get how it can be so stressful to balance family life with school aged kids sometimes. When I was a nanny, I remember seeing countless activities and commitments filling up the calendar in the blink of an eye. When your child is eager to try something new, you want to jump at the chance to give them the opportunity.

This morning on Good Morning America, a psychologist was talking about how stressful back to school can be on parents and how children become stressed as a result.

So, what can we do to avoid these struggles? Here are some ideas..

1. Think before committing to anything. These days so many after school activities are a huge commitment both financially and responsibility. Remember, there will always be other opportunities if you miss this one!

2. Talk to your kids. Find out exactly why they want to sign up for the activity and let them know all the expectations. If you feel like they have to follow through til the end of any activity then let them know that is the expectation.

2. Assess all the logistics. Look at the big picture. Will this activity affect bedtime? Will this affect meals? Will this affect homework time? How many hours of practice are needed? Commute time?

3. Is this really what my child wants? Am I doing this to fulfil a childhood dream of mine?
This is always a tough one to come to terms with but if you can be honest with yourself you will all be happier in the long run.

4. Can my child handle this? I have a friend who has one child who does extremely well when her schedule is packed with commitments. In fact, this child's grades fall when they are not in a busy routine in the evenings. Her other child, however, does not do well with many commitments and needs a lot of down time to complete homework and relax. Knowing your child can help you to consider what's best for them at different stages of their life.

To sum up my feelings on the issue, do your due diligence and follow your intuition. If your child is interested in a certain sport but the commitment is too much, look for an alternative such as a different school or someone who might be interested in doing a few lessons in your home for a few extra bucks (without such a big commitment).

Embrace this wonderful time in your child's life and enjoy watching them grow and learn all the many wonderful things that they enjoy and feel proud of.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Saving money on groceries and still keeping my sanity

Call me crazy but I do not see the point of coupons. In fact, I despise them. Every time I try to save money with coupons I end up with an expired coupon or forgetting to even present the coupon. It drives me nuts and creates a lot of frustration.

To shop simply, I skip the manufacturers coupons and shop conscientiously with in store sales. I take advantage of the store brand items which are often much cheaper than the name brands. I do check the circular for in store coupons but that's about as far as I go in coupon clipping.

Choosing a store that seems to have the best prices for the things I purchase most helps keep my life simple. Shop Rite is the grocery store I seem to get the most bang for my buck. Shop Rite has a baby club that gives $10.00 back if you buy enough baby items during a certain time period (which is easy to do with diapers and formula!) Many other grocery stores offer similar baby clubs which add savings to your shopping trip.

Shopping from a list and setting a budget ahead of time forces me to be creative and take an inventory of what items I have in my kitchen before going to the store. I try to plan my recipes for the week and try to use things that are going to go bad in the next week or two. I plan a meal or two for the week based on whatever meat is on sale that week.

It seems to me that different stores are better for different families. For instance, the Acme in our area constantly offers Buy 1 get 1 free deals which would help a large family but does not help my family of only 2 adults. However, Shop Rite's baby club suits us better. Shopping in wholesale stores such as Costco can bring savings to large families but does not really offer savings for small families.

Independently owned produce stands can be cheaper but they often have limited hours which are not conducive to most working people.

I know many people are going to take issue with these ideas saying that they save a lot of money clipping coupons and jumping from grocery store to grocery store. I have seen people on the news that end up practically having the store give them money. I do not understand how they do it!? I do occasionally clip coupons and check out the sales going at other stores nearby but I feel like it's a part time job which I don't have the patience for. I find keeping things simple helps me keep my sanity.

OH, of course, never go to the store hungry! You will want to buy EVERYTHING!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Keeping a simple perspective

I am not a numbers person. When I was in college I took probability and statistics 3 times until I finally passed by the skin of my teeth. However, sometimes it helps me to think of things in a mathmatical way. For instance, if I'm feeling guilty about something crappy I ate or a mistake I made with my daughter (which is quite often by the way!) I ask myself to look at the big picture. I might ask myself am I making MOSTLY good choices when it comes to my daughter?

When I'm struggling with life and wondering if I am doing the right things I picture a pie chart. I take into consideration the way I'm spending my time. If I were to draw a pie chart and drew how I am spending my time, does it look the way I want it to? If I'm spending MOST of my time complaining about something than I need to reevaluate my role in that particular situation. If I am spending MOST of my time with people who are not positive for me than I need to reevaluate my relationships.

This concept can be applied to food. Look at the food pyramid. It is far from a diet plan and yet it gives a great visual representation of how your diet should be. If you follow the recomendations for the food pyramid you will inadvertantly loose weight. Notice they use the word "sparingly" meaning moderation.

What about money? Is your money being spent MOSTLY on things that help you work toward your goals or are you wasting money on things that are not important?

Everyone makes mistakes and everyone needs to veer off the path occasionally so don't beat yourself up for a few bad choices. What matters most is that you are heading in the right direction overall. Sometimes stepping outside the box and taking a look at the big picture can help keep you on the road to your success.