First Week of College, and Beyond!

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I survived the first week of college! After ::cough 17 years cough:: a long time, it’s quite an adjustment getting back into the swing of studying, doing homework, and all of the other things that go into being a mom, wife, blogger/Influencer, and special needs advocate for my big kiddo.

I wanted to share with you some things that have helped me, and the family adjust to the change.  It’s just two classes, but that’s 10-12 hours a week of studying, reading, and homework outside the classroom, and that time comes out of the time I previously spent with the kids, working on the blog/social media, petting the cat, ya know, mom stuff.

Bitty is now going to preschool two days a week. Our city’s Parks and Rec department has a drop off preschool two days a week. It’s approximately $150 for 8 weeks, which is a great price, and she is in a class with 13 other kiddos her age, several of them she knows from her daily visits to the local YMCA Child Watch. While she is at preschool, I have three hours to work on school work. It’s amazing to be able to read and work on my homework in peace. If you need a few hours to get work done, check your local Parks and Rec department for this type of preschool.

Family: As someone who has family nearby, having my family able to help out with school pick ups and therapy drop offs, it is a Godsend. My parents, brother and sister-in-law have really stepped in and helped us with the kids and house. Last week Miss Sally (my car) needed new front and rear brakes, and two new tires. Thanks to my Sister-in-law, niece, and my parents I didn’t have to walk home with Bitty (5 miles with a 3 year old- No thanks) or call an Uber.

Schedule: As a family, we have a shared calendar on iCal, in which I put all of the kids appointments, weekly commitments, birthdays, deadlines. In addition, I also have a calendar (this one) in the master bathroom on my cork board. Yes, I have a cork board in the master bathroom next to the vanity, so we can see whats on the schedule for each day.  Having everything in the palm of my hand (on my phone), and in a place that is visible to us (calendar) has really helped keep us focused and on task.

Remembering my Skill-Set: I’m not reinventing the wheel here. To maximize my productive time, I make sure to use my previously honed skills: Meal Planning, Meal Prep, setting out everyone’s clothes the night before, making lunches the night before, organizing areas of the house to help us get out of the house in the morning on time.

So while you may see less blog posts until I get in the full swing of it all, but I’m still posting on Social Media like a madwoman.

I want you all to know that it doesn’t matter what your age, if there is something you want: College, new job, more time with your family, vacation.. Do it! Change can be scary, but believe in yourself and have a plan! It might be rough at first, but stick with it.

Enough motivational speaking from me, I have homework to do!

Talk Back: What have you done recently that moved you out of your comfort zone?

Back on Track for Fall! and a $25 Amazon GC Giveaway.

For most of our kids, school has either started or will start in about a week. I’ve had a rocking summer with the kids, but it’s time to get settled back into a routine for the family. I am a huge proponent of routines for kids. Having one for our family has really helped calm and allay fears of the unknown, which is huge for kids with ASD.

Not that everything has to be exactly the same every day, but knowing what will happen within a time frame gives kids (and some adults too) a certain sense of calm.

I posted at the beginning of the summer about our schedule, and it really helped. Our school year schedule is a little different, but most of our appointments are the about the same time each week.

A few other things that help us keep on track during the school year:

Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 8.41.01 AM.pngHaving grab and go lunch items at hand. In the pantry, there is a basket filled with all kinds of lunch/snack items. Crackers, cookies, squeezy pouches, fruit snacks, fruit leathers, cups of PB/other nut/seed butters, pretzels, juice boxes, etc. On the counter we’ve got a trifle bowl (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made trifle in the past 11 years-but… it makes a great fruit bowl), that we will with lunchbox sized fruit: apples, tangerines, and occasionally pears. I keep the bananas separate on a little hook/stand.

I also keep a stash of frozen tubes of yogurt in the freezer, and a grip of cheese sticks either pre-packaged or home-made, depending on which is cheaper, in the fridge. What’ a home made cheese stick? Buy a big block of cheese, grab a large, sharp knife and cut the cheese into hunks resembling commercially made cheese sticks. I wrap them in saran wrap and keep them in a large zip top bag in the dairy drawer.

It takes about 15 minutes to organize the lunch stuff once a week, and it saves me a lot of time each morning.

A Pretty Solid Meal Plan. I’ve posted about meal planning so many times, and honestly, it really does help. I get a lot of magazines in the mail (free of course), and most of them are cooking magazines. I try to add a new recipe into the mix weekly.

Exercise. I know this sounds weird, but, for me, exercise is my me time. We go to our local YMCA, and the kids go to child care for up to two hours. I do an hour of cardio (and catch up on email, Facebook, or bring along a book), then do weights for about 20-40 minutes. It’s a chance to focus on my body and health. Sometimes I grab my travel bag, and toss it into my gym bag with a couple towels and go take a shower after my cardio. Taking a shower without little people interrupting you is one of life’s small luxuries. Whatever makes you happy and allows you to escape a little each day, I encourage you to explore it. 

Coffee. I’m one of those people that has to have coffee every day. It’s part of my daily ritual. I drink at least 30 ounces of coffee a day: hot, cold, heck even room temp., I don’t care. It can even be decaf. I set up to coffee maker before bed, and when we get up in the morning, there is a hot, fresh pot of coffee. And we don’t have a fancy coffee maker either… This is the coffee maker we have.

Giveaway: Let’s celebrate back to school! I’d love to hear about how you get back to it after school starts. Leave me a comment below and enter to win a $25 Amazon GC* here (This link may not be mobile friendly)! I’ll choose a winner on September 4th, 2018. 

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*Winner subject to verification of entry tasks. Winner must reside in the USA. $25 Amazon GC will be rewarded as a digital Gift Code, emailed to the winner.

How to organize the dreaded toy mess!

One of the things I pride myself on is how we are able to quasi-control the toy mess in our home. It’s a lot of work, but we have a pretty good system, and it might work for you too.

Stage 1: Contain the mess! First of all, a few years ago, hubs bought a bunch of 20 quart Steralite containers with snap on lids at an auction for a song. So, we separated all of the toys by type and put them in boxes with a lid.

IMG_5483Obviously the Legos and Thomas the Tank Engine toys go into larger boxes because, well, we have tons  more then will fit in the 20 quart containers. We also re-use random plastic containers, like these plastic jugs that hard pretzels come in, the large bottles that Nesquik powder comes in, and dishwasher tab boxes.

Stage 2: Label! We label everything. All of the original totes have Kidecals labels, but the newer /larger containers have different labels. I try to do labels that have drawings of the toys too, so it’s easier for non-readers to know what’s in the box without opening them.

I used the terminology that Lil’ Man uses for his toys. The box marked “Guy Men” has action figures and little toys (like his Sesame Street “guys”), and “Mean Animals” (Plastic/Vinyl animals of various sizes).

IMG_5486_2Some of the toys that don’t get a lot of play (or annoy me), are stored in the closet. I rotate the less frequently played toys through, so that all of the toys get loved.

IMG_5485_2Stage 3: Limit Access! Another thing that helps is that we have a three toys at a time rule. Lil’ Man can have three types of toys out at a time. Right now, it’s guy men, mean animals, and cars.

 

 

New Year’s Resolution #7: Get Organized

Throughout December, I’m going to be posting about New Year’s Resolutions. Each post will have tips and tricks to help you navigate through your resolutions to become more successful at all of your frugal endeavors!

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#7 is a resolution that I thought would be closer to the top of the list: Get Organized.

For some people that means professionally, financially or personally.  I can’t help you with your professional life, but I can help you with some tips to getting your finances and personal life organized.

balancing-a-checkbook-paying-billsOrganize your Finances:

You really can’t start to save money unless you get your finances in order.  I cannot stress how helpful setting up a budget has been for our family.

There are a few companies that offer free budgeting tools: I like both Manila and Mint. Check both out and see which one suits your families needs.

Calendar_0Organize your Personal Life:

Use a calendar.  It doesn’t have to be a paper one.  I have a paper calendar on my desk.  I write all of our play dates and appointments, parties, and other functions outside of the house on it. That way I can see at a glance what’s going of for the week. If you’ve got a smart phone, you can utilize the calendar feature. iPhones can sync to the iCal on your desktop computer. If you opt for it, iCal will pop up reminders on his phone and the computer. He uses it for business and home.

  • If you want to use a calendar online, Google’s Calendar feature is great, especially if you use Gmail.  It can add appointments, reminders and birthdays from your email into your calendar and it will remind you of them!
  • If you don’t use Gmail or Google, Facebook has a great calendar under the events tab from your FB feed.  It shows you upcoming events and birthday and it’s easy to plan or add an event with the “+Create Event” button.
  • If you are looking for Coupon Organizational methods, I’ve written about how I organize my coupons here.
  • I am always getting packages! I signed up for a USPS.com and now I get a text when a package ships and when it arrives! It’s a great way to keep track of packages that you are expecting.

How to organize and store coupons

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A lot of you will start 2016 with the goal of saving money by couponing. Here are a few ways that you can organize your coupons to help you achieve your goals.

There are several methods to store your coupons when they are in your home before you go to shop, and there are several more methods for storage when you are out shopping.

Here are just a few examples of organizational methods:

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Inserts filed whole by date

Whole insert: Leave the inserts whole, and file them by date.  You may wish to put each insert  in a tabbed folder and write the date along with the type insert such as SS (Smart Source), P&G (Proctor & Gamble), or RP (Red Plum). Example: 6/6/10 SS I recommend this method for those of you starting out, or if you don’t have a lot of time dedicated to couponing.

Clipped by dated: Filed in a similar fashion as above, but all coupons from each weeks inserts are clipped, put into an envelope, dated, and filed either in an accordion folder or filing/bank box. This can be a time saver when you need to pull coupons from a specific date.  You may choose to have all coupons from the same date filed together, or you may wish to file each insert (Red Plum, Smart Source, Proctor & Gamble) separately. Example: Clipped 6/6/10 All or  Clipped 6/6/10 SS

The next two storage methods are usually done when coupons are stored inside baseball card inserts in a large three ring binder.

Clipped by category: Coupons are clipped and then filed by category.

Clipped Alphabetically: Simply file the coupons alphabetically, either by product name, product type, or manufacturer.

 

Storage Methods

There are several methods for storage of coupons.

If you file whole inserts, you may wish to file inserts in an accordion folder or filing/bank box by date. This is the method that I use, and that I have used for over 10 years. As I have less time to dedicate to couponing, it keeps me organized and able to save the most money (and time!).

If you clip your coupons here are just a few examples of storage methods:

Coupon wallets are commercially available at office supply stores or mass merchandisers.  Coupon wallets  are small, reinforced accordion file with tabs. They can fit inside most purses. Organize the coupons by category or alphabetically.

Use a 3-Ring Coupon Binder with plastic page protector inserts (like these), and use tabbed dividers for the category dividers. In the front, you can put a pad of paper inside for your shopping list, a zipper pouch for pens, pencils, scissors and a calculator.  3-ring binders that zip shut are great too!

Individual envelopes- I do not recommend this method to anyone just starting out. Start with envelopes (I use #10 envelopes) and write the name of each category on the front in large, easy to read letters.  File coupons by category in the corresponding envelopes, Once you have all the coupons sorted and filed, store the envelopes in a plastic tub, shoe box, whatever is easiest for you. This is by far the most time consuming method for storing coupons.

When you clip coupons and file them you can go one step further and arrange them by expiration date, amount of coupon, or alphabetically. It’s up to you.  If you have multiples of the same coupon, consider paper clipping them together.

Coupon Basics: Categories for your coupon storage system

I’ll be posting a series of articles on couponing basics and how to get your coupons organized so that you actually USE THEM and save money (ya know, instead of just collecting dust and eventually getting recycled).

So let’s get started by talking about organizing your take to store coupons. I use a small accordion file like this:Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.19.01 AM

I tend to organize my coupons based on how my favorite grocery store is laid out.

Here is a sample layout of a grocery store:Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.27.39 AM

I have given examples for each category:

Fruit and Vegetables- includes Bagged Salad, pre-cut fruit and vegetables, dried fruit, refrigerated soy products

Sauces / Dressings / Condiments- includes Mayo, mustard, BBQ sauce, salsa, salad dressing

Canned Goods & Soups- includes Canned beans, canned raviolis, canned tuna or chicken, canned or powdered soup and Ramen.

Pasta / Rice / Boxed Meals- includes Spaghetti, noodles, Hamburger Helper, Asian or Italian style boxes meal kits (such as Tai Pei or Romano’s)

Cereal / Breakfast Foods/Juice- includes Oatmeal, cream of wheat, juice boxes, bottled juice, Instant Breakfast

Flour / Baking / Oil/ Mixes/ Spices- includes cake/brownie mix, Bisquisk, graham cracker pie crusts, Jello and pudding, spray release, flour, white and brown sugar, Splenda

Beverages- includes soda, energy drinks, sparkling water, diet drinks, powdered beverage mixes (Kool-aid and Crystal Light), chocolate milk mix (liquid or powdered)

Meat- includes fresh or frozen beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, fish, sausages/brats, pre-packaged cold cuts, breakfast sausage (link or patty), bacon, ham

Frozen Food- includes frozen veggies and fruit, pizza, diet foods (such as Lean Cuisine), individual and family sized entrees, ice cream, popsicles, frozen meat free  alternatives, ice

Dairy- includes milk, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, coffee creamer, butter, margarine/spread, pudding/jello cups, tubes or packages of cookie dough, canned dough

Cookies/ Crackers/ Snacks- includes pre-packed portions (such as 100 calorie snack packs), cookies, crackers, popcorn, chips, pretzels, nuts, trail mix

Baby- Includes formula, diapers, wipes, baby care products, baby food and toddler food and snacks

Bakery/Bread- includes bread, tortillas, pita, sandwich thins, English muffins/crumpets, bagels, rolls, donuts, croissants, French bread, freshly made cookies, cakes and other desserts

Deli- includes deli Meat, cheese, hummus, fresh guacamole, fresh salsa, bagel chips, packaged specialty cheeses (Goat and blue cheese), hot and cold deli salads and foods (such as fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, take and bake pizzas, salad bar, olive bar, freshly made sandwiches)

Personal Care / Medicine- Includes over the counter medications, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, tooth paste, tooth brushes, hand soap, loofahs/bath poufs, bubble bath, lotion, shaving cream, razors, feminine products

Paper Goods / Containers- Tin foil, plastic wrap, disposable food containers, toilet paper, paper towels, paper napkins, plastic silverware, paper plates

Cleaning / Other Household Supplies- dishwashing liquid, dishwasher detergent, home cleaning products (pine-sol, ammonia, bleach), laundry detergent, mops, sponges, brooms and dustpans, candles, scented home sprays, air fresheners.

Miscellaneous- You can use this section for restaurant coupons, specific store coupons, rebates.