Yep. You have probably heard this a million times before (especially if you are a Mom) but usually when people say that  it’s okay to say no, they are talking about over extending yourself.  I am talking about something  a little different.  Let me explain.

Last week my son came home with a permission slip for a field trip.  This wasn’t any old field trip.  This field trip was to the Science Center and it costs $25 for him to go!  Now let me say that I am not opposed to field trips.  They are great!  Kids get to experience new things with their classmates and they usually have a good time.  Here are the reasons that I chose to say “no” to this field trip:

  • Cost:  okay, ummmm $25?  Really?  I thought that these places were supposed to give schools some kind of discounted student rate? On the actual Science Center website, the price for a student is $20 (literally – I just went to their website and checked).  Why is it MORE for him to go with his class than with me?  What the heck is that about?!?!?!?!?!?
  • They only gave ten days to get the permission slip back with the money.  I could have scrounged for it somewhere in my budget and come up with it, but it just seems like they would have given a little more notice than that. Many people only get paid every two weeks and would not be able to come up with the $25 in time.
  • We live here.  We have lived here all of Ben’s life.  We have had a family membership to the Science Center for several years.  He doesn’t need to go again.  Really, he doesn’t.
  • For $25 I can take both of my kiddos to the local second run movie theater and get them all the snacks they want and catch two or three movies (and probably still have a  dollar or two left over)

I explained all of this to Ben, and he is okay with not going.  I told him he could hang out with me for the day and even pick out a Redbox movie or two.  That pretty much sealed the deal.

In short, field trips have their place.  They are educational. I get it.  But right now is not the time for a $25 field trip to a place that my son has been to many times before.  I can think of other things to do with that money that my kids would enjoy more.
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This post is long overdue but because I am such a fan of ALWAYS getting the most for my money, I am going to post it anyhow!  Keep in mind that when you are trying to get the  best bang for your buck, the best value may not be the one you think it is!

Last year, for Dane’s birthday, I wanted to get him tickets to a hockey game.  He is a HUGE fan of the sport and I thought it would be fun to totally surprise him! I am not much of a sports fan, but I know I could make it through one game of hockey.  So the search for tickets started.

I quickly realized that tickets to an NHL game were out of the question and so I decided to look for good seats at a local Solar Bears game here in Orlando.  I really didn’t want to get my tickets via Craigslist because I personally like to have some sort of buyer’s protection to fall back on, so I looked on Ebay.  I noticed that there were cheap tickets and then there were “Legends” seating tickets.  Now, I had NO idea what that meant so I did a little research and boy was I in for a surprise!

Regular tickets for a Solar Bears game run about $17 per ticket for just a regular seat, in the nosebleed section.  Once I started digging deeper, I started seeing the “Legends” tickets and I found a “Buy it Now” pair of tickets for $70 total.   Now knowing that I could have gotten a pair of tickets in regular seating for $34 or so, you are wondering WHY would she pay double that? Trust me, I have FABULOUS reasons!

The Legends suites here at the Amway Center are incredible!  This is what the Legends tickets included:

  • All-inclusive food and beverage (FULL unlimited dinner buffet as well as popcorn, chips, pretzels and a dessert bar * unlimited soda, beer and wine)
  • One (1) parking pass for every two (2) seats
  • Private box area exclusive to Legends Suites members (GREAT seats to watch the game)
  • Private, exclusive suite located on the Loge & Club Level (where the buffet is served and you can also sit there and eat and watch the game instead of going to your box seat)
  • Access to club lounges and club restaurant
  • Private restrooms on Club Level

Now, let’s look at the math:

  • Value of dinner buffet, snacks and drinks EASILY over $25 per person = $50
  • Value of parking pass = $15
  • Value of actual seating tickets = $35
  • Value of private restrooms = Priceless 😉

I paid $70 and the value of these tickets was well over $100 (seriously the food was incredible and this is a place where one beer costs $10!).  If we had gone to dinner first it would have easily cost us over $50 at even a casual dining place like Olive Garden.  This is a situation where I paid extra because I knew it was an all-inclusive deal and it would make an AWESOME birthday gift!  We had a great time and would definitely do this again (if the price was right!)!

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I worked hard last year to make sure that I had enough money to buy nice gifts for my family for the holidays.  I researched purchases, earned some Amazon giftcards through swagbucks (you can see here how to get a free tv like I did from swagbucks) and saved a little cash each month so that I would not have to worry about how to pay for gifts.  All of this planning paid off!  I got some really great deals!  One of the deals I was most excited about were some Beyblades that I bought for Ben and my nephew.

They were super cool!  They lit up!  They spun!  The packaging said “Let it Rip!”  I kept thinking how neat they were that they lit up when you pulled the strip and how cool they would look when they were spinning in battle!  I knew the boys would be thrilled!

Christmas day went off without a hitch. Sure enough, the boys were excited about the super cool, new Beyblades! “Wow!  They light up!  Yeah!”  They had so much stuff to play with that they didn’t actually open the Beyblades until that evening. My sister called and asked if we had opened the Beyblades yet.  Nope. Not yet.  She said that they didn’t work.  What?!?!?!?!?  I tried them in the store !  They light up great!  They spin great!  She said “Yeah but they are just flashlights.” WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?

Sure enough I tried Ben’s Beyblade and all it did was spin and light up.  Nowhere on the packaging that it came with (it has since been changed) did it say that it wasn’t a “real” Beyblade.  It was only a flashlight. How disappointing.  I immediately emailed the LARGE toy company that owns the Beyblade name.  They sent me a response that they don’t manufacture ALL the Beyblade items and they couldn’t help me.

I emailed them back again saying (name of LARGE toy companies deleted where ***** are):

“So, although ***** is all over the Beyblade name, and I bought a Beyblade branded product, there is nothing you can do for me as a consumer? How is that possible? That is insulting. I have never even heard of ***** ****** ********** and they certainly aren’t mentioned on the Beyblade website (where it says ****** everywhere). I am beyond irritated. This is NOT right! I would think that a toy company that manufactures the Beyblade items would want their customers to be satisfied? How can I get a resolution to this issue? There must be something you can do. It is hard for me to accept that a company as large as ******, who makes the Beyblades items for children, just doesn’t care that they disappointed children on Christmas day and that they are not interested in correcting the issue? Seriously? ESPECIALLY since the EXACT ITEM that I purchased was listed as a selection under Beyblades on the subject of the email I previously sent you (you know, where I am supposed to select the product I am emailing about. WHY would the EXACT ITEM be listed there if you don’t provide customer support for it?) There must be something you can do to make this right. Please let someone else review my complaint and come up with an alternative solution because your previous response is unsatisfactory. Thank you in advance for your help with this matter.”

Long story short, they apologized and sent us two REAL replacement Beyblades.  Don’t take NO for an answer.  Be polite but state your case.  You have the right to complain if you aren’t satisfied with an product or service you have purchased.
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I love to save money! I am always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to stretch a dollar even further than I can now. Needless to say, whenever I can catch an episode of TLC’s “Extreme Cheapskates” I tune in and look for new money saving ideas.

Recently, I watched an episode about a man saving as much money as he could.  His most memorable stunt happened when he took his wife to the movies.  He paid for their tickets at a discount theater.  Then he went to go get their snacks and drinks.  Well that’s when it got interesting.  He went out to the garbage can outside the theater that their movie was in and took a popcorn bucket and large cup out of the trash!  He dumped the contents out and rinsed out the cup in the bathroom then took them to the concession stand to get his “free refills”.  Okay. Um. ICK!

Here is the clip from the show:

He never purchased the items to begin with.  He used a popcorn bucket and drink cup that someone else had purchased and then thrown away when they were done with it in order to get free popcorn and a drink.  I admit, I take our candy into the movie theater but I always buy popcorn and a drink for my kids and I to share.  Personally, I think that taking items out of the trash and presenting them as if you were the original purchaser in order to take advantage of the “free refills” is stepping over the line.

The movie theater that the kids and I go to most of the time is pretty cheap.  For us to get tickets, popcorn, soda, hot dogs and nachos comes to a TOTAL under $20.  I think that is reasonable.  The popcorn is about $5 and I LOVE saving money but I am not sure that I would ever feel comfortable using someones popcorn bucket that had been in the trash can.

Anyone out there have an opinion on this ? I would love to hear your comments on this!
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how to decrease electric billI live in Florida.  Land of the high power bill. I am always looking to learn new ways on how to decrease electric bill.   Over the summer, the power bill for our rental goes up to well over $200 (the highest bill this last summer was $293 – for ONE month!).

As you can see in the above picture of my water heater costs about $42 per month to run ($508 per year divided by 12 months).  For the most part, during the day, I am the only person home and don’t NEED hot water for anything.  I know from previous experience that turning off the water heater during the day can definitely save money on the power bill, so I decided to start doing that again.

Basically, I turn the water heater on at about 4 p.m. every day.  It takes about a half hour for the tank to be full of hot water.  Then, when everyone comes home from work and school, they take their showers.  After dinner, I wash all the dishes and the water heater goes back off at about 7 or 8 p.m. I do this by turning the water heater breaker off in the main power box inside our utility room.

As long as you wait about half an hour after the last shower is taken before you turn the water heater off, there should still be a full tank of hot water. That usually lasts us until the next evening when I turn the water heater back on again.

This may seem a little inconvenient at times, but it is definitely a money saver!  The first month I tried this, I got our lowest power bill yet in over three years!  The bill was only $105!  That is out lowest winter month power bill EVER!
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how to get a free tv

Yes, there it is!  I got this Sceptre X325BV-FHD 32-Inch 1080p 60Hz LCD HDTV (Black) for FREE!  I am going to show you how to get a free tv too!  You can do this!  I am not even going to charge you ~ LOL!

All I did was this:  I signed up for Swagbucks.com .  Then I used Swagbucks to earn points and I turned those into Amazon gift cards which I used to buy this TV!  No cash out of my pocket!  Of course, I also made sure that I got it at a sale price (saved $30) and with free shipping (saved another $15) and because I ordered from Amazon and I live in Florida, I did not have to pay sales tax (saved $13)!

I have been using Swagbucks.com for two years now and have never had a problem at all with their site or the gift cards I earn.  I know a lot of people wonder if these type of sites are legitimate or worth it and I can safely say that Swagbucks is TOTALLY LEGITIMATE AND WORTH IT!

Swagbucks does offer gift cards to other stores and restaurants and they even offer Paypal cash!  I just happen to prefer Amazon gift cards.  If you would like to sign up for Swagbucks for FREE and earn some giftcards of your own or get a free flatscreen tv of your own (or an Ipad, or whatever your heart desires), just click on the banner below and start earning!
Search & Win

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After having four kids, it occurs to me that I might know a few tips and tricks that might not be so obvious to most people.  The other day, I was driving Ben home from school and I realized that I carry a lot of stuff in my vehicle that most people don’t.  I consider these items minivan essentials in my life!

  • A large cup in my front cupholder .  This plastic cup is bright yellow and I don’t use it for drinks.  I use it to hold odds and ends such as:  a few paper clips, a rubber band or two, dental floss picks, a pair of nail clippers, pens, a pencil, safety pin, tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, a small note pad, band-aids, a hair elastic and other little bits of stuff.
  • One of those plastic rectangular baby food containers with a lid that I keep all my loose change in to use for tolls
  • An empty kleenex box that I use to keep extra restaurant napkins in (like when we get something off the McDonald’s dollar menu and they give me fifty napkins but I just need one).  These napkins work better for messes than kleenex does
  • A travel size container of baby wipes
  • An envelope in my glove box that holds current fast food coupons
  • A regular sized bottle of drinking water and a box of crackers or cookies or grahams * this prevents me from having to stop because a child is whining “But Mom, I’m starving NOW!”
  • Jumper cables, an extra quart of oil and a gallon of water (in case of overheating)
  • A blanket for family outings like going to see 4th of July fireworks, etc.
  • My reusable shopping bags (for when I go to Aldi’s or Save a Lot)

So, what about you?  Is there anything you keep in your car or van that makes your life easier?

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Ben is a HUGE Lego fanatic!  He gets the free Lego Club magazine every other month in the mail (if you want to get a FREE Lego Magazine subscription for your little Lego fan, CLICK HERE to go to Lego.com and sign up).  He also likes to go to the store and drool over the latest huge Lego sets.  Why do they make these Lego sets for kids so HUGE?  There is no way Ben could put those together, let alone keep track of all the pieces.

A few months ago, I stumbled across the solution to Ben’s dilemma:  bagged Lego sets.  The bagged Lego sets can be found anywhere from Walmart to Toys R Us and usually are priced $5 – 10.  Not only are they affordable, they are smaller kits so the child is more likely to finish building the item.  They come in all the different Lego themes like Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc. so you are sure to find one that your child would love!

My main reason for buying these little bagged kits is so that Ben can have the fun of playing and building with Legos and I don’t waste money on kits that he will lose pieces to.  If he doesn’t keep all the kit pieces together, it’s not a big deal to just add them to our big box of Legos.  Also, this way, when I see that he is starting to keep the pieces together for each separate kit and is learning to be responsible, then I will start to buy him the larger boxed kits as he matures.

If you would like to see the bagged kits I am talking about, you can click here to see the bagged Lego kits that Amazon offers

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The wishlist is a very important part of my family life.  With four children of my own and my first grandchild on the way, holidays and birthdays tend to always function on wish list overload.  Right now there are so many toy catalogs and flyers out and about and Ben seems to find them all!  That sometimes makes it difficult to decide what to purchase when the “i wants” are changing on a daily, if not hourly basis.

I am an active list maker.  I find myself writing down gift ideas all year long.  This includes writing down things that I want.  Of course, most of the things I want are books, movies or cd’s.  Here is how I handle and organize all that information into a FREE and easy to use format that allows me to get the most for my money, no matter who I am buying something for.

  • Family members make their wish lists for birthdays and holidays and we make sure that everyone gets a copy of all the lists (email, facebook, website posting, text, phone call, whatever)
  • I tend to research gift ideas on my childrens wish lists in advance of when I actually am going to purchase them.  This is so I know what the regular price of the larger items are and so that I am able to recognize a good sale when I see it!
  • I go over to Amazon.com and log into my Amazon account.  I keep a wish list over there that I am constantly adding and deleting items from.
  • I will add the larger items to my wishlist so that I can easily look at the wish list and see what all the current prices are with one click of a button.
  • In the case of books, cd’s, movies and video games:  I use a wishlist over at Half.com     If you have never been on Half.com  let me give you a brief intro.  Half.com is owned by Ebay so if you have an Ebay account, you use the same info to log into Half.com  Over at Half.com you are able to get dvd’s, cd’s, video games, books, and even vhs tapes for as little as 75 cents each (plus shipping)!  Half.com is the FIRST site I visit if I am shopping for any of these types of items.
  • Once it is close enough to the actual holiday or birthday I check my online wishlists again to see how the prices are and plan my buying strategy, make my purchases and have them sent to the house. This really eliminates SOOOOO much hassle and overspending and I usually have money left over!
  • If I am just looking for some books or things I want for myself (no holiday or anything) I will pull up my Half.com wish list and then look to see which of those books my library has.  Then I place them on hold at the library and delete them from the wishlist.  That way I can read them for free! If the library doesn’t carry the book that I am looking for then I will compare prices on Half.com and Amazon.com to see which one is the best price.
  • POINT OF INTEREST:  I also tend to sell books, cds, dvds, video games, etc that we are done with on Half.com  it works a little bit different from Ebay but I actually like it better!  There are no “listing fees”.  They just take a commission off the item when it sells.  They also have a set shipping amount that you get credit for, etc.

Hopefully the wish list tips I have shared will allow you to get organized and get more for your money this holiday season!

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Alright, by all accounts I consider myself quite good at finding the BEST deals but I have to confess:  I do not shop Black Friday deals. Yes, it’s true.  I will not be shopping on Black Friday 2012.

I have only shopped on Black Friday two times in my life.  Once with my now ex-mother-in-law (over 20 years ago) and just last year.  I did not plan to shop on Black Friday either of those times, it just turned out that way.  Here is how I found out how to make sure that I am getting the BEST prices on the items I am going to buy:

The time I went Black Friday shopping with my ex-mother-in-law, I bought one item and then saw it on sale for a LOWER price the following week!  I was determined not to fall for that trick again!  Every year since that event, I look at the Black Friday sales fliers and circle and save the ones with items I want and sure enough, a week or so later, I find the same item for a LOWER price than the one that was in effect on Black Friday!

Last year, my kiddos were at their Dad’s house and I happened to look at the Walmart flier and saw literally two things that I thought were good deals that I could use.  So, I leisurely drove over to my local Walmart at about 3 pm to see if the stuff I wanted was still available. The parking lot was only half-full (I guess everyone else was already done shopping !) so I found a spot and walked in.  No crowds. I found the items I was looking for (a cell phone for my daughter and some tee shirts for Ben) and went to check out.  No lines! I was in and out of there in less than 1 hour.  And I got some really good prices!

For some reason most people think that the best prices are during Black Friday but every retailer will tell you that it is not true.  Even Consumer Reports says that the Black Friday 2012 deals “don’t seem so special.”  Even if the deals were good, is it really worth going out on Thanksgiving or waking at 3 a.m. to go to the store to deal with mobs of people to try to get an item that is just $5 less than it will be two days from now?  In my opinion, no.  I value my family and sleep more than $5.

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