7 Tips for Black Friday Shopping

Black and Friday

Two simple words that when put together cause much debate.

Whether you like Black Friday or not, you have to admit there are some good deals to be found.

I’m not saying that you “need” these deals, but they do exist.

The key to successful Black Friday shopping is to know what you want and not get sucked into spending on things you don’t need or want.

tips for Black Friday

Worse yet is buying something that isn’t in fact on sale, but retailers lead you to believe is a great sale.  To better help you prepare for Black Friday, I have six tips to make the most of your Black Friday shopping.

You could just go and shop, but following these tips could save you money, headaches and time.

Trust me Black Friday can even be fun, especially when you get free money afterward just for shopping on Black Friday (Ebates, Kohl’s cash, gift cards).

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What To Buy in December To Save Money All Year

Did you know there is one thing you need to buy for yourself in November and December that can save you money all year long?

I bet you didn’t because even the best of bargain shoppers overlook it.

Are you ready for it?

What to buy in December . . .

Gift Cards.

Yes, if you buy gift cards around the holidays you will likely receive free “money.”

Say what?!

Free money that can’t be right Megan.

How does that work?

Well, it’s easy and just requires a little extra cash. If you don’t have it now, plan for next year. You can save up just like you do for your regular Christmas savings.

Start to pay attention to the places you usually go to (i.e. restaurants, spas, car wash, stores).

This is how it usually works:

Chili’s offers you a free $5 gift card if you purchase $25 in gift cards.

Culvers offers you a free value basket if you purchase $25 in gift cards.

Maggiano’s offers you a $20 gift card if you purchase $100 in gift cards.

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My Fall Favorite Things


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Autumn is in full force in the Midwest. The leaves are changing and falling. There is a crispness to the air, and our heat is already on. Fall is one of my favorite seasons because it is the most beautiful. Mother Nature shows off in the fall in the Midwest.

In honor of my favorite season, I wanted to share a few of my favorite things for this time of year.

And no it’s not going to be a list of pumpkin spice things, though there may be one pumpkin thing on the list.

Without further ado five of my favorite things are:

Cuddle Duds

How is it possible that I wasn’t introduced to the wonder of Cuddle Duds until December 2016? I’m fairly certain I would live in them if it were socially acceptable. They are not for my job, well at least the part of my job that isn’t work from home. Brian bought me a pair of Cuddle Duds for Christmas last year. I have never worn them under any other clothes on a cold day. I have turned them into my absolute favorite pajamas and lounge around the house. They are so comfortable and perfect for a good snuggle under a blanket on a chilly morning with a good book.


I will caution you that while Cuddle Duds are amazingly comfortable there is one downfall.

They are very forgiving.

Meaning if you have a little Thanksgiving dinner they won’t remind you to stop. If you are one of those people who monitor their weight/size by how their clothes fit, you cannot wear Cuddle Duds all the time. You may quickly realize that your jeans and button up dress pants no longer fit. However, in your world maybe that’s not a downfall. Put on your Cuddle Duds and head out for Thanksgiving. You can eat whatever you want and still feel comfortable in your pants.

These can be bought many places, but be sure to watch for sales on Black Friday. Then they will be on sale again as winter comes to an end.

 

Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Tea

I was introduced to this tea by one of the amazing women on “Sorta Awesome.” This is one of my all-time favorite Podcasts. I have been known to try many new things based on their recommendations. While I do not drink coffee, but in the fall and winter, I do enjoy a hot beverage. Sometimes it is hot chocolate, but that can have additional calories that I may not always want. I occasionally drink tea, but always the flavored ones.

When one of the Sorta Awesome ladies was raving about Harney and Sons hot cinnamon spice tea, I decided I should give it a shot. I ordered some online because I couldn’t find it at my local grocery store. It is delicious. If you like cinnamon – the taste and smell – you will love this. It was an experience for my taste buds and my nose. I don’t drink tea every day, so the large container lasted me an entire year.  Frugal hint: Use the same tea bag for multiple cups of tea, it is just as strong several cups later.

Pumpkin Fluff

I know, I know I’m fulfilling a stereotype here. I love fall because of something pumpkin flavored, but if you like pumpkin and haven’t tried this, you are missing out.  In fact, I never liked pumpkin (and I still don’t like pumpkin pie) until I tried this.

Pumpkin fluff is easy to make and involves three simple ingredients. You need to get one regular size container of cool whip, one box of instant vanilla pudding mix, and one 15 oz container of canned pumpkin.  It does not matter if you choose fat-free or sugar-free of the above ingredients. It works the same.  Let the cool whip thaw a little bit. Then dump these three ingredients into a bowl and mix. If you don’t want to eat it right away, refrigerate it. It will keep for several days.

Pumpkin fluff can be eaten alone with a spoon or serve it with graham crackers, vanilla wafers, pretzels, or ginger thins (a type of cookie found in the cookie aisle).  I prefer gluten-free pretzels (yes they are better than regular pretzels). (frugal note: you can find gluten free pretzels at a great price at Aldi

The pretzel with the pumpkin fluff is the perfect mix of sweet and salty.

 

Neti Pot

How is it possible I have not ever mentioned the Neti Pot to my readers? I am a HUGE supporter of Neti Pot and nasal irrigation, yes that’s right I said nasal irrigation – it’s a thing.

As a survivor of chronic sinus infections, I cannot rave about the glories of a Neti Pot enough.

I used to get several very bad sinus infections a year. They knocked me down for days and days – one time even five weeks. Brian introduced me to the Neti Pot couple of years ago, and I was skeptical. To watch someone use their Neti Pot is the most disgusting thing. It took a while for him to convince me that it was a good idea and worth the gross factor.

Once I got over the weird feeling, I appreciated the freedom to breathe it gave me. Yes, it allowed me to breathe through both nostrils (most times, if even for a few seconds), it got rid of a lot of built up junk in my sinuses and relieved some of the sinus pressure.

Every time I start to get congestion I start using my Neti Pot once a day. It has not eliminated sinus infections from my life, but it has greatly reduced the occurrence of them. A Neti Pot was the first recommendation my Ear, Nose, Throat doctor gave me when I first went to him, but at that time I was already using one.  So, yes it is doctor approved and in fact recommended.

When using a Neti Pot be sure to have your own- no sharing Neti Pots with family members. Ours are labeled with our names. You must use distilled water in them and make sure to dry them completely before putting away. You can purchase the sinus rinse packets or make your own.

If you ever suffer from nasal congestion or sinus infections, you owe it to yourself to try this out. I’m not going to lie, it is weird at first, but you will get over that when you see the benefits.

 

Scenery

I LOVE the scenery in the fall. It is the most beautiful season, in my opinion. I enjoy summer for all of the activities and the warm weather, but summer has nothing on the beauty of fall. There are so many opportunities for great pictures. Proof of God’s existence is in the beauty of fall.

 

 

 

Take a moment and enjoy fall. What are you favorite things about fall? Comment below, because I’d love to add things to my favorite season.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. Thank you for your support in this way!

How To Organize Games and Puzzles

How do you organize games and puzzles?

Wait, you’ve never thought about it?

Take a moment and imagine all the games and puzzles your kids have and the boxes them come in.

I bet you are thinking about all of the space they take up.

Now if you were to open the box of most kids games you will realize there is a lot of space.

 Did you know there is no rule that says you must keep those items in their original boxes?

Unless you are really worried about the resale value, then it’s time to think about repackaging puzzles and games so they can be organized better and take up less space.

Let’s start with puzzles.

At our house, the girls and I LOVE putting together puzzles and we have quite a few of them.

Our big, Melissa and Doug puzzles, get to stay in their boxes. They stay in their boxes because they are the huge floor puzzles and they store best in their boxes. If you haven’t tried a Melissa and Doug puzzle, you are really missing out. They are fun because of how big they are, and the quality is second to none. Seriously, I have never been disappointed with any Melissa and Doug product.

Smaller puzzles get put into Ziploc or Hefty zipper bags. (Side note: get a great price on these after Holidays) Then the small image is cut off the box and affixed with packing tape on the front. T

his allows me to put several puzzles into a Sterilite drawer, which fits nicely on a shelf in my daughter’s closet.

It’s much easier for kids to put the puzzles away, even easier if you go with slider bags. Have you ever watched a small child try to put the lid on a box for a game or puzzle? Inevitably, you end up having to tape and reconstruct the box because of how they try to shove the lid on and the corners break.

The puzzles also take up less room when put in bags and placed in drawers.

Alright onto games.

Some of our games do stay in their boxes because it makes sense. However, many do not.

We are a game family. Therefore the number of games we have on hand may be substantially larger than your collection.

 

Another option for storage is stackable baskets. With a simple label you can organize all of those different card games or small games (Barrel of Monkeys, Yahtzee, etc)

stackable baskets

Perhaps storage of games is not an issue in every home, but if it is I hope these ideas have helped you.

Take a couple of hours on a Saturday and get the kids to help and you can completely reorganize your kid’s games and puzzles. They will be easier for the kids to get out and they will take up less room.

Debt Snowball Progress – October 2017

debt snowball progress-interestDo you know how I got my husband on board to pay off our debt faster?

One word.

INTEREST

I sat down and showed him how much of our monthly payment was going towards interest every month and how much was going to principal. I also calculated how much interest we were paying every year. It was a crazy amount of money to pay for the convenience of lower payments.

At the point that I got him on board, we were paying $4,000 a year in interest. Two thirds of our payment was going towards interest.

YIKES

We have been working our debt snowball for so long that I have completely forgotten how comfortable we were just paying the minimum for years upon years.

I was reminded of this, this past week when I talked with a recent college graduate that I been her advisor. She asked a question about if her loans would still kick in (she was in the glorious 6-month window of not having to pay yet) if she took classes for her Master’s Degree.

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Halloween Deals

Did you know there are great deals to be had the day after a holiday?

Yes, the stores immediately mark down items for quick sale. The markdowns typically start 50% and may get as high as 75% or 90% if you are willing to wait.

Everything that is related to that holiday goes on sale.

Halloween deals

As we gear up for several holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s), there will be several opportunities for stocking up on items at discounted prices.

Here is your guide for what you can be stocking up on after Halloween.

Costumes:

If you have children or grandchildren or are a teacher with a dress-up area, you will want to check out the discounted costumes. Target has some great quality costumes that we have bought over the years.  They are great for playing dress up all year long. If you plan to go to Disney World within the next year, it is the perfect time to get character costumes for your children. Last year we bought an Elsa and Belle dress for our daughters. We put them away and surprised the girls before we left. I guarantee we spent far less money buying them after Halloween on discount than if we had bought them in June before our trip.

Halloween deal on costumes
The girls in their dresses at Disney World. Both bought 9 months before our trip for less than $30.

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Three Simple Solutions for Clutter

Why do you have clutter?

The million dollar question, right?

No, not really.  There is a simple answer.

You have clutter because you put off making decisions and you don’t have good systems in place.

I bet it’s not because you actually like clutter, and if it is then stop reading. You don’t need my help.

Think about it.

That pile of papers and miscellaneous items in your kitchen, what is all that?

I bet it is all papers that you put there because you didn’t know what to do with them.

Maybe some require action be taken, and you didn’t have time to do the action right away. Maybe some you weren’t sure if you should keep and others, well, you simply got distracted. You set them down and never returned to figure out what they were or where they were going.

If you are not a successful minimalist – and I argue some of them still struggle too – you will always have clutter.

It is what and how you deal with the clutter that will determine how messy and unorganized your home is.

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Set Up a Donation and Resale Station

Every home should have a donation and possibly resale station.

Why?

Because every home has excess stuff that needs to be dealt with.

No matter how often we declutter our homes and donate items, it is a never-ending process.

There will always be things your family “outgrows,” whether it is clothes, toys or items around the house. Our tastes and needs change over time.

The sooner you recognize and accept this, the sooner you deal with your household clutter.

You need to set up a donation/resale station in your home.

This is a spot where all items that you are donating or selling (varage sale, Craigslist, LetGo, eBay, etc.) are stored.

Technically, it is probably two separate areas: one for donations and one for items you are selling.

Some of you may decide that it is not worth it for you to sell items and you just want them out of your house as fast as you can. Another factor in determining whether you should have a resale station is the amount of free space you have in your home.

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My Little Daughter with a Big Personality

The choice was before me.

Let my child be herself or stifle her personality.

What do I do?

This is a choice that is before me more often than not. God gave me two unique children with a LOT of personalities.

Amelia relaxing

But I asked for it. In fact, I prayed for it.

When we were pregnant with Cassidy, I prayed that we would have a child with personality. Sure I prayed for her health too, but I wanted a kid with personality.

Have you ever met a boring kid?

Be honest, you have.

Well, I have met many of them over the years working in day cares and schools. I knew I wanted a kid with personality and boy did God listen.

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What is Good Reads?

Do you love to read?

Do you keep a list of books you want to read?

Do you ever find yourself picking up a book and trying to remember if you already read it?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you MUST check out Good Reads if you haven’t already.

The number of avid readers I have talked to recently who did not know about this website shocks me.

So today, I want to take the time to explain what Good Reads is, the features of it, and how I use it.

What is Good Reads?

It is a website, which also has a convenient app, where you can track books.

You can create “bookshelves” for yourself. You can set up an annual reading challenge. The site allows you to see reviews of books from every day readers like yourself. You can add your friends to your network so you can see what they are reading and how they are rating books they’ve read. Good Reads will make recommendations of books for you to read based on other books you’ve finished.

The features:

Bookshelves- If you click on the book icon that says “my books” you can create shelves. When you select a book you click on the down arrow next to “want to read.” This will allow you to pick which bookshelf to put a book. You can select one that is pre-set or create a new shelf.  I keep my shelves pretty simple. They are: Want to Read, Currently Reading, Read, and Abandoned Reading.

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