Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to save money on Christmas Photos

When baby T was born, we dutifully signed up for the JC Penney Photo club, since we figured we'd be having his photo taken a lot. I was completely freaked out by the first photo shoot- Christmas shots with my 6-week old and husband. I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised with how well they handled everything. I didn't really like having to stand there and pick my photos right then while trying to bounce a fussy baby, but we made it through and got some semi decent shots. His Easter shots were okay too, but nothing to write home about. His one year photos, though, were a mess! I had trouble scheduling the photo session since I wanted to go in the same day. Their on line service doesn't allow you to do that and no one from the THREE studios I called felt the need to call me back. Ug. When we finally did get in, the photographer was less than enthusiastic and the shots that we got were mediocre at best. My husband wanted to be in charge of choosing the images and print package we got, so we spent a lot more than I wanted for mediocre photos. To add further insult to injury, when I went to pick the photos up, the woman at the studio was so incredibly rude. I've never been chastised quite that was as an adult, and certainly never as a paying customer. The entire experience left me looking for a better alternative to high priced mall photos.

I checked out a few professional photographer's packages and found them to be a little too pricy for our budget right now. All I wanted was for someone to take decent photos of us and give me the images- with all the various sites out there for photos, I didn't need someone to print them for me. It was off to Craig's list for me, where I was able to find a student photographer who was willing to meet us at an area park and spend some time taking photos of the three of us. She would provide a CD of edited images and all right to the pictures. For $35. If I wanted her to come to our home, she would bring a second student (for safety reasons- smart girl!) and charge $50. Two photographers for $50, in my own home! Perfect! We had our photo session in the park a few days ago and I already have my images. There are some amazing shots of our son- candid and smiling! It was far less stressful than trying to get him to stay still in the studio and I didn't have to deal with rude people. Homerun!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WFMW- Pandora internet radio

LOOK MOM, NEW BLOG POST! (Haha- it's been two whole weeks!!!!)

I'm not sure how I missed out on this whole pandora thing for so long. It's AMAZING. My father-in-law mentioned it the other night since my brother-in-law set things up for him. I'm kind of sick of every single song on my iPod, so I thought I'd give it a try too. AMAZING! Go to here now and set up your own account. (DISCLOSURE: I get nothing if you click on that link. You get great FREE music!)

Here's how it works... simply tell Pandora your favorite song or musician and it will create an entire radio station around your selection. As long as you're connected to the internet, you've got your own personal station. You can add artists or songs to your initial selection to get more variety. You can also tell it if it plays a song you don't like and it will NEVER play that song again.

Here's where it gets really cool though... if you have a fancy phone with internet capability (i.e. BlackBerry, iPhone, Palm Pre), you can go to www.pandora.com from your phone and get the same stations you've set up on your home computer on your phone. It does warn, though, that the amount of data exchanged is HUGE, so you need to make sure that you have an unlimited data plan. My husband says it also can be a drain on your battery. My phone (and probably yours too) has a headphone jack, so I can listen to the music on my phone OR I can plug my phone into the AUX slot on the car and have my own personal radio.

I've even set up my 14 month old with his own radio station. I've nixed anything too annoying, so we mostly get mellow, fun songs. With my phone, if there are not any headphones plugged in, the songs will just play over the phone's speakers. I threw the phone in the side of the jogging stroller today while we were out and it was nice for him to have tunes to jam to while mommy was running!

There are a few ads that run from time to time, but they are infrequent and SHORT. I am more than happy to hear a few ads to get free music! Pandora works for me!

For more WFMW tips, visit We Are THAT Family.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Christmas Gifts that don't break the bank!

Kaley over at Cha-Ching on a Shoestring is posting a series about how she'll be spending less than $50 on Christmas this year, basically by using all the great resources she's accumulated through the year. This has really inspired me to start looking for ways to save without scrooging this Christmas. Here's what I've done:

Search & Win
  • Cashed in my Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards. Swagbucks is a site that allows you to search and earn "Swagbucks" just for searching the net! If you're not yet a member, I encourage you to join by clicking on the banner above. You'll be on your way to your own Amazon gift card in no time, and I'll get a little bonus in my Swagbuck account too. (Thanks.)
  • Cashed in my "MyPoints" for Amazon gift cards. MyPoints is a site that lets you earn points by reading emails that they send and visiting various sites. You can also earn points through shopping with MyPoints and even printing coupons! I like that I can not only earn points, but that I also learn about new websites that I might not otherwise have come across. (If you join through the link above, I'll get a one time referral bonus. Thank you.)
  • One of those new sites that I found through MyPoints, was Early Moments. They are offering membership into their Baby Einstein Playful Discoveries program. You pay only $4.99 for shipping and receive 2 high quality board books, a cloth book, music CD, tote bag and Playful Discoveries Cards. There's no obligation to buy anything else. I ordered this for our little guy a few weeks ago, with every intention of putting it under the tree for him. I received the package today, but half the contents were lost in transit! I called their customer service department and they said that they will be sending me an entire new package. They were easy to deal with and I have high hopes going forward. I know that there is some controversy around Baby Einstein, but we enjoy their DVDs *sparingly*. We also have another Baby Einstein touch and feel type board book that baby T enjoys. If you have a baby on your Christmas list, this is a $5 gift that will feel like a lot more! By the way, I don't get anything if you order from the above link.
  • I am seriously thinking about buying a Leap Frog Tag Junior system for baby T. Coupon Carol has the details on how to get one at Target for under $15. It seems like a good price, but I don't know a whole lot about the toy itself. Anyone else know anything about this toy?
What are your plans for the holidays? How are you making the most of every penny this year?

Walgreens MONEY MAKERS this week/ month!

So I haven't been doing the whole Walgreens thing lately. I decided that I'm a CVS girl and that's that. I don't have room for two drugstores in my life. Then I got news of some fantastic deals at Walgreens this week and I'm sucked right back in! Here's the scoop:

Deal # 1- Almay One Coat Mascara

These are ringing up differently at various stores, but here's how it worked for me: Buy One mascara at $6.99, get the second free. The shelf stated that Almay items are buy one, get one 50% off, but they rang up buy one, get one free. There is a $4 off coupon in the monthly Walgreens coupon book. Since you are buying two items, they should take $8 off, for $1.01 overage. You need to have something else to buy as they will not actually give you cash back. At my store, the coupon didn't work when the cashier scanned it, but he entered it manually with no problem. This is the deal that I was expecting when I went into the store, but then, when I checked out, I also got $5 RR! I paid $0.97 for two mascaras and a Diet Coke, and got $5 RR back! WOO HOO! This deal should work through Saturday. (Thanks to Coupon Cravings for the details. Crazy Coupon Carol also has information on the $5 RR.)

Deal #2- Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion

With my newfound $5RR windfall, I headed back to Walgreens today to do this deal (also thanks to Coupon Cravings):

Buy three 6 ounce bottles Lubriderm Fragrance Free Daily Moisture Lotion at $3.79 each. Use three- $2 off coupons from the 10/11 Redplum insert or printable here, get $8 RR! There is also a $1 off Walgreens coupon available in the Diabetes & You Magazine, but I couldn't find this in my store. Even without those coupons, I still got free lotion + $2.63 overage in RR. My hands are so chapped these days, due to constant washing, so I am thrilled to have such a high quality lotion to use and even more thrilled that it was FREE. This deal should work all month long.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 2, 2009

You get as good as you give.

One of my biggest struggles as a SAHM is the lack of recognition that I receive. I'm not looking for a purple heart or anything- this isn't Iraq or Afghanistan, I know. BUT it's also not like my one year old son says, "Gee mom, thanks for changing my diaper for the tenth time today. It really feels great when I'm not all wet." Nope, instead I carry him, kicking and screaming, into the bedroom, pin him down, rip off the old diaper and strap on the new one while trying to make sure that he doesn't wriggle his way off the bed.

My husband is much more likely to ask why something DOESN'T get done than appreciate something that DOES. I spent a good chunk of my son's nap time last week mopping the miles of tile that we have in this house. It took two dirty water buckets, but I got ALL the tile clean at one time. First time since we moved in about 10 months ago, I'm embarrassed to admit. The next morning when I woke up, I really enjoyed seeing ALL the tile clean- no dog drool, no crumbs ANYWHERE. I asked my husband, "Don't the floors look nice, hon?" His response? "Let me go look at them- yeah, I guess so." He was there while I was mopping- it's not like he came home and I expected him to notice- he knew that I had mopped the floors. And yet instead of just giving me the praise or recognition that I was looking for, he felt the need to actually inspect the floors.

We had a little discussion a few days later where he accused me of not being supportive. He was probably right- I probably could have been more kind in what I said, but there are times when I feel like I've got nothing else to give. I've mopped, cooked, cleaned, wiped, changed and laundered til I'm blue in the face and it seems like no one notices. I certainly don't get a paycheck at the end of the week for a job well done. And there are times that I just feel like I cannot possibly do ANOTHER thing. So when my husband needed me to be supportive, and I was feeling completely unsupported and unencouraged, I told him, "Sometimes you get as good as you give."

Then came yesterday's message at church. The reading:

Matthew 5:3-10 (New International Version)

3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(from Biblegateway)

Now, I'm not exactly sure that Jesus was talking to the SAHM when he said all this, but it sure spoke to this SAHM. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers." It looks like I was right- you really DO get as good as you give.

And it's even more powerful when you read it in The Message:

Matthew 5:3-10 (The Message)

3"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

4"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

6"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.

7"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.

8"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

9"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.

(Still from Biblegateway)

"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for." Strong stuff there I think. And maybe not a paycheck, but something I'm banking on this week.