Must-Have Halloween Decor for Under $10!

Must-Have Halloween Decor for Under $10!

Halloween decorating is our family’s all-time favorite part of the year!! We have an entire closet filled with totes of halloween decor in our house and I love it. What I don’t love, though, is spending money on something that only comes out for a few weeks each year. So today I’ve compiled a list of my favorite Halloween decorations – all for under $10!!

Disclaimer: The following are affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission should you click through and make a purchase. This in no way impacts your purchase price or my opinion of the products.

Halloween Decorations on a Budget

First things first – if you’re not a member of Amazon Prime, sign up for your free trial TODAY! If you’re on the fence, be sure to read my article on Twenty Different Ways to Save with Amazon Prime!

Let’s kick things off right – this tombstone set shown above has 56 (!!) pieces and yes, it’s under $10!

See on Amazon

Creepy Cemetery Signs

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Trick-or-Treat Sign

How cute is this sign?!

Find it on Amazon

Halloween Pillow Covers

I’m a big fan of pillows and blankets – like seriously, if anyone ever needs a present idea for me, pillows and/or blankets are the way to go!! So when I saw these pillow covers, I knew I had to have them.

See on Amazon

Green Goblin Door Cover

 Plastic Brain Jello Mold

 We used this at our last Halloween party and it went over so well!! It’s reusable and less than $4. We even made some jello worms to go with it – so fun!

Halloween 3D Sticker


Believe it or not, this spooky sticker is ONLY $2! Such a steal!!

Get It on Amazon

Zombie Door Cover


Buried Groom and Bride Props (Set of 2)

Fun Halloween Stamps

Perfect for trick-or-treaters, gift bags, or just to have on hand for your own kids!

Haunted House Window Cover

frugal halloween decoration ideas

String Lights

Our house is ALWAYS the most lit up house in the neighborhood regardless of the holiday or season. I love using purple and orange lights to celebrate the Halloween season!

Black Lace Spiderweb

Glow in the Dark Spooky Eye Stickers


If you’re feeling mischievous, put one of these on your bathroom mirror before bed and wait until someone wakes up in the middle of the night to go potty. hehehe

Ghost String Lights

Heh have I mentioned yet that we REALLY love lights?

Spooky Arm Yard Stakes

Pumpkin Porch Light Cover

 Keep your porch lit up but still spooky and fun!

Paper Lanterns (Set of 6)

Restroom Door Cover

 

Such a fun way to designate where the bathroom is while enjoying a bit of spooky Halloween humor!

Orange and Black Pumpkin

See on Amazon

Witches Hats (Set of 5)

You’re reading that right – you can snag FIVE witches hats for LESS than $3!!

 Hanging Halloween Decor

Zombie Figurines (Set of 18)

How amazing are these?! Use them for Halloween decor, a fun diorama (the teacher will love it, I’m sure!) or you can set up your own spooky village using the tombstone set I mentioned above.

Cute Zombie Basket

If you prefer to go the cutesy route with Halloween, this basket is a must-have!!

Zombie Head Bowl

 

 Heh and if you prefer not to go the cutesy route, this bowl makes for a great serving dish!

Realistic Skull

Last year we buried a pallet in dirt, stuck the hand stakes mentioned above in the pallet, then placed this skull at the top with a strobe light. Super cheap, but super creepy!

Mini Pumpkins (Set of 6)

 Ghost Vinyl Sticker

 I had to wrap this up with one more cute one – seriously who wouldn’t swoon over this?!

Comment below – I’d love to know YOUR favorite Halloween decoration!

35 Uses for Vinegar

35 Uses for Vinegar

When not turning into wine, vinegar is my second favorite use for grapes (and getting that nasty gunk off ’em!) Vinegar also makes for a fantastic part of a salad dressing and it’s a nice way to marinate some meat, but it’s a high-performer elsewhere in the house as well. That said, please note that my suggestions below are just that – suggestions. Don’t use vinegar on something without spot-testing first as I am in no way liable should you use vinegar in a way that causes unfortunate results.

With that out of the way, we use so much vinegar in our house that we have to buy huge jugs of it from Aldi almost every week so we can use it on things such as…

Vinegar Uses – Home and furniture

De-decal your windows – If you like to put up window clings during the holidays, or your children love to put stickers on…everything, you can use vinegar to remove all traces! Simply apply undiluted vinegar to the grimy aftermath of the stickers or decals and let it sit for 5 minutes. A credit card or other thin piece of plastic will help you scrape off the bits and then a good scrubbing should remove the rest of the remnants.

Erase pen marks – Undiluted vinegar and some elbow grease can remove your children’s artwork from hard surfaces. It may take a few applications and some assurances to your kids that you still love their art, but it works!

Undustify your blinds – Venetian blinds are the worst to clean, but you can make it far less terrible with vinegar! Get a bucket of equal parts vinegar and water, wet the fingertips of a cloth glove or a rag, and use your index finger and thumb to glide along each slat. The vinegar helps get rid of the oil and dust incredibly well.

Spruce up wood (haha, “spruce”) – Wood ages like anything else, be it paneling or furniture. A mix of 1 cup warm water, 4 tablespoons of vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil will help bring it back to life. Mix it up and wipe it onto the wood with a cloth. Let it sit and soak for a few minutes, and then buff it up with another dry towel.

Hide scratches in wood – A mix of undiluted vinegar and iodine (small amounts) can conceal scratches in wood. Use more vinegar for lighter woods and more iodine for darker woods, and then apply with a small brush (a nail brush works well).

Keep your computer clean – Get rid of oil and dust buildup on your electronics with a mix of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar. Use the mixture to dampen a cloth and wipe down your electronics and accessories. Don’t use a spray bottle, and don’t overly saturate the cloth. Again, I’m not liable for bad results, so be smart here and use common sense!

Clean carpets – A mix of 1/2 cup vinegar with 2 tablespoons of salt will remove minor carpet stains. Simply mix the two together and rub into the stain with a cloth and then let it dry. Once it’s dried, vacuum it up.

Vinegar for the Kitchen

Pickle EVERYTHING – If you have a bumper crop of peppers, onions, or (of course) cucumbers from your garden on a budget, you can whip up a pickle in an instant. Mix 1 cup vinegar with 1 cups water, 2 tablespoons salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar, and bring it all to a boil. Chop your veggies and add them to jars (you ARE re-using jars from the store, right?), and pour the brine on top. Let them cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge. After about 3 days they’ll be delicious and pickley.

Perfectly poached eggs – Poached eggs are really delicious but it’s super easy to obliterate the egg on accident. Adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar to your water along with 2 teaspoons of salt, and adding your egg in just before the water reaches a boil will help keep the egg together. Cook for about 2 minutes for a nice soft poach, or 3-4 for if you like them a bit firmer.

Clean your garbage disposal – You can’t really scrub your disposal for at least several good reasons. Fortunately, lemons and vinegar will do it for you. Take an ice cube tray and put a wedge of lemon in each cube. Then, fill each cube up with undiluted vinegar, and freeze them. When they’re good and frozen, pour 1/2 cup of bakin soda into the offending garbage disposal, add 3-5 lemon cubes and run the disposal until they’ve stopped rattling. This will do a great job of deodorizing your garbage disposal.

Unclog your drains – 1/2 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, poured directly into the clogged drain (you can use a funnel) will help unclog drains. Once the commotion and bubbling stops, run hot water from the tap. Wait about 10 minutes, and then run cold water. This is also a great way to deodorize your drains (particularly if they’ve been clogged for a while).

Fight that grease! – Getting rid of grease from your hard surfaces doesn’t require harsh cleaners. Simply wet a cloth with an equal mix of water and vinegar and wipe down the greasy surfaces. It may take some muscle, but it will work. It’s also a great idea to mix up a spray bottle of 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 cups water, and 3 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid. Use this daily on surfaces to keep them clean and repel grease.

Clean your nasty microwave – If microwaved food explosions have you in the pits, place a bowl with 1/4 cup vinegar and 1 cup water into the microwave, and then turn it on for 5 minutes (on high). The steam it creates should loosen any food or stains and they should easily wipe away with a damp towel or sponge.

Disinfect all the things – Undiluted vinegar is a very potent antimicrobial. If you read my post on interesting ways to save money, you know that we use vinegar as a cleaning solution every day! Wipe down surfaces you cut raw meat on, especially counters and cutting boards, with undiluted vinegar. Creating a spray bottle full of undiluted vinegar for optimal disinfecting is another way to help kill nasties like staph, e.coli, and salmonella. A solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar is also very good for disinfecting kids’ cups or sippies that can harbor mold growth. Just let them soak and wipe them down.

Make metal magnificent – Silver soaked for a few hours in 1/2 cup white vinegar with a tablespoon of baking soda will regain it’s luster. Be sure to wash it off in cold water and dry with a soft washcloth. A paste of vinegar and baking soda (equal parts) can be applied to copper and brass to remove tarnish. Again, this might take some elbow grease but it’s very effective.

Sanitize water bottles – If you use BPA-free, reusable water bottles day-to-day, you really need to keep them sanitary. Every few days, fill it 75% full with equal parts vinegar and warm, soapy water. Shake it up well to get into all the crevices and then let it sit for half an hour. Rinse it thoroughly with warm water and let it air dry.

Clean kitchen shears – Don’t use water to clean your scissors or kitchen shears – it will rust them. A better idea is to use undiluted vinegar and wipe down the blades and then wipe them dry. This will also disinfect them. You can use this for regular scissors as well, as rusting is not good for them, either.

Ungunk your can openers – Can opener blades are disgusting, let’s just admit to that. You can make them reasonably not-disgusting again by using a toothbrush and undiluted vinegar to scrub in all the nooks and crannies. You may need to scrub a lot, but a douse in cold water should remove all that gunk afterwards.

Get rid of gnats (fruit flies) – Whatever you call them, those tiny little bugs are the bane of kitchens everywhere (especially if your husband forgets to leave a dry piece of cardboard over the top of your DIY worm farm…) Make a vinegar trap to catch and eliminate those little buggers! Take a jar with a lid, poke some holes in it, and fill it about halfway with apple cider vinegar, and place it where they’re the worst. If your kids eat yogurt a lot, you can also re-use those cups before they hit recycling – pour about a 1/4 inch of ACV into a coffee mug, poke two or three holes into the bottom of a cleaned yogurt cup, and then put the cup into the mug. It should do a fantastic job of getting rid of them, no matter what you call them.

Clear the air – If you burn food or simply cook something smelly, you can boil 1/2 cup vinegar with 1 cup water until it’s evaporated (or very nearly). It will get that smell right out of the air and remove all traces of that sardine-and-cabbage casserole your husband burned yesterday.

Clear away mineral deposits in a teakettle or coffee pot – Boil 2 cups of undiluted vinegar in your tea kettle or in a pan to then pour into your coffee pot. Let it sit for a minimum of 4 hours but overnight works well, too. Rinse it out the next day and it should be sparkling clean.

Naturally non-stick – Boil a cup of water until it evaporates in a frying pan to give it a natural non-stick coating that lasts on average about a month.

Homemade cottage cheese – Bring 1 gallon of whole milk to a near-boil (around 190 degrees Fahrenheit), then pour in 1/2 cup of vinegar. Once the mixture is cool, it will be separated into curds and whey. Pour it through a strainer and add the curds to a bowl, mixing in salt and whatever other spices you want. A smidge of cream here makes it smoother, but it’s not necessary, and it’s read to eat!

Clean Your Car with Vinegar!

Prevent frost in the winter – At night, spray your windows down with a solution of 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water. This will help prevent frost from forming and it will help reduce the impact of ice buildup. It’s not going to stop snow from building up, but at least you won’t likely have a hard layer of ice to deal with after clearing snow away.

Windshield wipers – Dirty wipers will streak your windows and that’s pretty much the exact opposite of their intended use. A cloth soaked in undiluted vinegar, wiped up and down the blades a few times will get rid of the grimy buildup and get your wipers back to fully functioning fabulousness.

Remove old bumper stickers – If you’ve got the ghost of an old bumper sticker sticking around, undiluted vinegar applied directly on top and to the sides will help get it off. Use a thin piece of plastic like an ice scraper to remove the paper parts, and then reapply the vinegar to get the sticky icky glue-bits off, too.

De-grime wheel wells – If you’re prone to muddy driving, chances are good your wheel wells are less than sparkling. That’s okay, because a solution of 1:1 vinegar to water will help clean them off and also aid in repelling dirt!

Laundry Room + Vinegar

Deodorize that washer – So it’s not doubt that washers can get stinky. You could use bleach but vinegar is far safer and not likely to ruin clothes if it doesn’t get washed out completely. Run an empty small, hot wash cycle and add 1 cup of undiluted vinegar. If you can, add a second rinse cycle to make sure it’s all gone.

Pre-treater for stains – Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, and 1/3 cup borax in a spray bottle, directly apply to stains, and then let it sit for at least an hour before throwing in the washer.

Deep-cleaning towels – Mildew buildup can still leave towels smelling awful, even after being washed. To remedy this, toss your towels by themselves into the wash. Turn the water on hot, and use 1 cup undiluted vinegar and 1/2 cup baking soda to wash them 1 full cycle. This will banish your mildew and get them smelling like things you’d want on your body again.

Destinky stinky shoes – Spray the insides of the offending footwear with 1:1 vinegar to water solution and let it sit overnight. Then, add a few drops of an essential oil of your choice to a cotton ball and put it in the shoes and let THAT sit overnight. The vinegar solution should kill odor-causing bacteria and the cotton ball should give your shoes a much more pleasant scent.

Miscellaneous Uses for Vinegar

Remove dry skin from your feet – This one is weird and I know it’s going to sound weird, but bear with us. 1 cup of Listerine and 1 cup vinegar with 2 cups of warm water makes a foot soak you’ll soak in for about 15 minutes. Then, apply a pumice stone or foot file and the dry, dead, gross skin should come right off.

Non-toxic weed killer – Fill a spray bottle with undiluted vinegar and then add 1-2 teaspoons of dish soap, and apply to weeds and the ground around them. The acetic acid in the vinegar will burn the weeds and alter the pH of the soil, killing the root, too. This solution is non-toxic, but it will murder any plant it touches, so be careful what you spray it on. Dish soap helps it stick to the plant, and the pH imbalance will wash out after a good rain, making the ground suitable for planting again.

Disinfect your mops – If you have mops with removable heads, you can use vinegar to disinfect and deodorize them. Simply toss them in your washer, add a cup of vinegar and wash on “hot”. They’ll be whiter, brighter, and actually CLEAN.

Everyday scented spray cleaner – Take an empty spray bottle and fill it with 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar, 1 tablespoon of dish detergent, and the peels of lemons, oranges, or other assorted citrus. Let that soak for a few days before using and you’ll have a great, all-purpose cleaner that smells divine.

 

15 Seemingly Weird Ways to Save Time & Money!

15 Seemingly Weird Ways to Save Time & Money!

When it comes to saving time and money, everyone has their own little rituals and tricks that work for them. Whether you clip coupons to save money or pre-pack your gym bag and keep it by the door to save time, you’ve surely got a couple of these rituals yourself. Surely everyone shares some of these habits – they’re pretty commonplace.

What about the more fringe time or money savers, though? I’m not talking about re-using paper towels or renting your dog out as a clown (talk about frugal horror stories!), but what about never buying kids’ clothing from department stores? Ever considered raising worms to recycle your produce and make some top-quality fertilizer? Does it get weirder? Read on to find out some of our best-kept secrets for saving time and money and please note that the links below may be affiliate links, which means I could earn commission should you click through to make a purchase.

Unique and Interesting Ways to Save Your Family Money

Interesting ways to save money

Create an easy meal plan

Creating a meal plan is of course one the best ways to save time and money, but you can take it one step further by stacking the meals together so that one rolls into another. Monday evening roast a whole chicken with potatoes and onions, maybe some carrots and then use the leftovers. How, you might ask? Simple! Prep the leftover meat for enchiladas or fajitas the next day, and then take the leftovers and make bone broth. With a little pasta and some veggies, that’s 3 meals from one chicken.

Meal plan stacking is taking one great meal that has leftovers and making another great meal from them. Did you have shrimp tacos for dinner Tuesday? Make gumbo on Wednesday. Big pot roast with tons of leftovers? Toss it into the crock pot with some adobe seasoning and peppers, and have carnitas the next night. It will save you money and time AND be delicious!

Vinegar Uses

Vinegar has literally dozens of household uses, and at about $2/gallon, it is one of the best investments you can keep under your sink.

vinegar bottle aldi

Of course you can use vinegar in cooking but if you take an empty spray bottle and fill it with 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water and add some citrus peel or tea tree oil, you’ll have a cheap, incredibly effective cleaner and disinfectant. Most of what you’d buy in the store is about 5% acetic acid (white vinegar), which will kill most germs, but if you really want to be sure, you can look for something a bit more powerful. Health food and green living stores will often sell stronger vinegar.

Cleaning fruit with vinegar is also a great way to remove the waxy grossness from apples and a lot of the pesticide residue from both apples and strawberries. Considering both the aforementioned fruits routinely make it on the dirty dozen list for most contaminated foods, giving them a quick wash in a 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar solution can really decrease the pesticides your family ingests. Vinegar will also help your strawberries stay fresh longer!

Invest in a Water Cooler

We bought a water cooler when we had our son because we wanted an easy source of distilled water. Flash forward four years and we’re still using it daily.

We did the math and the water cooler was cheaper over the expected two years of needing bottles than filters for a faucet-mounted system. The trick is after using the jugs (we bought them at Lowes), instead of swapping them out for new filled ones ( at $6.99/apiece!) we disinfect them with vinegar and refill them at about .25c/gallon at a local grocery store.

The cooler we bought also has a tap for hot water, which makes it great when I’m in need of my daily matcha tea fix or just a nice cup of chamomile before bed!

Make Notes on Your Food

This one sounds ridiculous, but consider the number of times you look at something in the fridge and simply can’t remember when you cooked/opened/bought it. We realized we were throwing out stuff that might still be good, so we bought a Sharpie specifically for the kitchen. We glued a magnet to it so it sticks to the fridge and whenever we have leftovers or open a container, we date it. This makes sure we know when things are still good and when we should actually toss them.

Because my husband follows a keto diet, we also tend to have at least three containers of heavy cream in our fridge at any given time. It can be incredibly frustrating to have to open two containers only to realize its the third one that’s already open. It’s a simple thing, but marking the cap with an “O” really helps save time each and every day!

Vermiculture – Yes, We’re Talking Worm Farming!

If you’re unfamiliar with vermiculture, you’re likely not alone. It’s a fancy word for “worm farming” and it’s a really interesting way to reduce your food waste. It’s surprisingly simple to raise worms, and though they’re not cute and cuddly, they DO provide some fantastic benefits for growing your own garden.

Essentially the worms break down organic waste like apple cores, vegetable scraps, etc. into nutrient-rich castings which you can use as a fertilizer. They also produce a sort of waste fluid called “worm tea” that is a wonderful addition to plants, making them healthier and more vibrant.

blonde boy smiling brown hair girl smiling worm farm

We set up our worm farm using a couple totes, but you can also buy relatively inexpensive ones online if you don’t have the desire to DIY. 

If you DO want to DIY, you’ll want to check out this post on how to start your own worm farm.

Vermiculture is great because it helps you reduce your food waste while also making your garden significantly healthier, and if you don’t already garden, it’s a nice extra bit of encouragement.

Toilet Paper Tube Projects

Got some kids stuck in the house all day with nothing to do? Toss some art supplies at them and give them toilet paper tubes!

Ok, maybe that alone won’t help, but toilet paper tubes are very versatile pieces of cardboard. Some ideas include:

Poke two holes in the top (opposite each other) and run a string or piece of yarn through them. Smear peanut butter around the outside of the tube and then roll them in birdseed, and voila! You have a quick, simple bird feeder that will absolutely attract some feathered friends to your yard.

Decorate the outside of one by gluing on a strip of leftover fabric and use it to hold your excess extension cords, or when you store them!

Fold the undersides in at one end and fill them with soil, and use them as seed starters in the late winter to get a jump start on that garden!

Stuff them with dryer lint to use as campfire starters!

Use your imagination for a variety of artistic endeavors – their shape lends itself well to making candle holders, for instance. With some interesting decorations you can have a spooky candle holder for Halloween, a cheery one for Christmas, or a turkey for Thanksgiving. Of course use battery operated candles!

Encourage your children to use their imaginations and you’ll be surprised at what they’ll come up with. My kids love to create monsters with lots of googly eyes, of course!

Garage Sales

As long as we’ve had kids, we have been very intentional about buying presents and clothing ahead of time. Every time we’re at a garage sale, if we see something that will fit them, we typically pick it up if the price is right. I’m honestly not sure if our kids have ever had brand-new shoes, and that’s 100% fine with us.

If you have kids, trust me – you will WANT to sell all the clothes you get, and you’ll feel WAY less bad about selling them for .50c apiece if you bought them for .50c apiece.

garage sale

The “Present Tote”

Another way we make use of garage sales though is by taking a look at what toys and games our kids might eventually like. When they’re really little this is especially easy, but basically just buy up any cool toys or games you see that are super cheap, and store them in a “future presents tote“. For instance, we found about $50 of Play-doh toys and accessories for $5 a garage sale, and it happens that our kids love the stuff. Boom, big Christmas gift, bought and paid-for.

While you shouldn’t just buy anything all the time “because it’s on sale”, if you get a really good bargain on something you know your children will love, it will save you money in the long run. 

Multitasking Hurts

The single biggest time saver (and mind saver) you can invest your energy in is to avoid multitasking. Multitasking simply doesn’t work! There may be a few exceptions to the rule, but we’re essentially single-core processing units; undivided attention to a single task proves much better results than trying to do multiple things at once. Not only will you have better results, you’ll also get it done faster and more accurately, and then you can move onto the next task with undivided attention!

Make Use of In-Store Pick-Up

This one is two-fold — first of all, using in-store pick-up will help you avoid impulse purchases while also better ensuring you don’t forget something on your list because you’re too busy minding the kids to remember you need dish soap. It’s also a huge time saver, but did you know it can also save you money? Whenever you do in-store pick-up, check with Ebates first and you may very well earn a percentage back on your purchases (meaning FREE money!!)

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Using Gift Cards through Ebates

Speaking of Ebates, this is a great way to stack up your savings.

If you know ahead of time that you’ll be shopping at a certain retailer, be on the lookout for discounted gift cards through sites like Raise.com. Even if you don’t do a lot of online shopping, be sure to check out Raise.com – if you know you spend money on a regular basis somewhere (like a certain gas station!), why not buy gift cards for yourself and save even more?

For example, I recently purchased a $50 Sears Gift Card for $41.90. Then I made a purchase through Ebates for $53, using mainly that gift card and earning myself a nice $4.24 back. So instead of spending the full $53, I’m actually only looking at a total deficit of $37.66 – a savings of nearly 30% and that’s just on one purchase!

Sign up via my referral link for Ebates and you’ll earn an extra $10 back on your first purchase! Worried about a catch? There is NONE! Check out my Ebates review to learn more.

Use Bubble Wrap on Windows

Seems silly, yeah? Heh or maybe you’re like me and think it just seems fun! When I first heard about this trick, I was skeptical. I’m a fan of using shrinkwrap packs to insulate my home against the winter cold, but when you have bubblewrap for free thanks to holiday packages, I figured I’d give it a shot…and it worked! Click to learn more about how to use bubblewrap on your windows as insulation.

Winterize Your Home: The Bubblewrap Method

Winterize Your Home: The Bubblewrap Method

No Inside-Out Clothing!

This one might seem a little neurotic but I consistently demand that no one throw inside out clothing into the wash. While it might only take two seconds to flip the clothing right-side out, those seconds certainly add up when you have to do it as you’re folding an entire load. Make laundry easier by asking your family to right their clothing before it goes into the wash.

Six Smart Tricks to Tackling Laundry, Make Doing Laundry Easier and Faster, Do Laundry Quicker, Spend less time doing laundry!

Click to read more laundry hacks!

Sell-By Dates

It’s not secret that we love Aldi, and one of the things we love is that they drastically mark down their meat when it’s close to the “sell-by” date. Without getting into food waste politics and such, I will say that food doesn’t magically become inedible when it’s passed it’s “sell-by” date.

When you see great prices on food at your grocer, pick it up and freeze it, or work it into your current meal plan. Obviously use common sense when it comes to food, but don’t consider food automatically spoiled just because it’s 12 hours past the sell-by date.


Invest in Amazon Prime

One of the best ways to save time and money is to shop online. I do believe in shopping local whenever possible (particularly at our Farmer’s Markets) but I’m a work-at-home mom with two very young children – I’m lucky if I remember to brush my hair every day, let alone have the stamina to leave the house. Amazon’s reach is wide, and it makes getting what we need fast and affordable. Prime does that to the next level – offering free 2-day shipping on almost anything you buy from Amazon is a huge deal. The price is $99/year if you elect to enroll annually, or $12.99/month, and while that might seem steep, it does offer a great amount of discounts, including the free 2-day shipping which will pay for itself. You can check it out for yourself with this free 30-day trial!

 

What are some weird ways YOU save time and/or money?

Comment below and let me know!

Why You Need to Buy Future Presents for Your Kids

Why You Need to Buy Future Presents for Your Kids

We have totes for everything – storing holiday decorations, keeping the umpteen feral cats in our neighborhood warm during cold winter nights, planting small varieties of tomatoes, etc.

It’s not quite as bad as my mason jar habit, but it’s getting there…

Then one summer, we found an extremely value-priced Imaginext playset at a garage sale and my love of totes jumped to a whole new level.

We made the $2 plunge and bought the toy for our son, but as “luck” would have it, he was being extremely sh*tty contrary that day, so a new toy wasn’t in the cards for him. While we pondered where we could store this fairly sizeable and yet 99%-cheaper-than-new playset, my thoughts strayed to a large, grey tote we had in our attic.

So with the toy safely stashed in our 150-year-old attic, away from prying hands and nosey toddlers, we decided we’d simply give it to our son for his next birthday, which was in a few months. As per routine, we went out the next weekend to garage sales and found a really cool toy guitar for our daughter. Again, it was I think a dollar, but we don’t like the habit of giving our kids presents for no reason, so up to the attic it went.

Thus, through the magic of simulated time-travel and a knack for spotting good deals on gently used toys, the Future Present Tote was born.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission and be able to afford coffee tomorrow. And Mama needs her coffee…

But What About Buying New Toys?

When I was a kid, I’d always get a combination of hand-me-down toys and new toys for holidays/birthday. (I also got socks and stuff, but I try to block out the more sadistic traits of my family and focus on the good.)

Whether the present was a brand new doll or a tea set from Goodwill, I never knew the difference because it was always new to ME. I mean, it’s possible my toys were judging each other on being shiny and new like some Mean Girls/Toy Story crossover, but who was I to get involved?

As a parent, though, I totally understand why my mother or grandparents might have opted to give me second hand stuff – toys are expensive.

Not only is the cost an issue, but new toys are…well…sorta wasteful, don’t you think? When you buy a used toy or doll, you cut down on package waste, and you might save an item that was otherwise destined for the landfill. You put money directly into the hand of an actual person, rather than a huge corporation. And, if after their presents are opened, your child decides within a few months they no longer like Power Rangers, you are out like $10 instead of $100+.

The New Adventures of Old Toys

If you have older children, I can see why you might hesitate on giving them “used” toys, but you’d be surprised what you can find at garage sales and online resale sites that are actually in really great shape! For example, when I worked at PBS, I went on a huge Bob Ross kick and ended up buying a Bob Ross paint set.

brunette girl wearing a bob ross shirt

I was really cool in my early 20s…

Once I realized that maybe I wasn’t so great at painting happy trees, I decided to sell it — nearly new and at a third of the cost! Something like that would make for a great gift for older kids.

On the other end of things, if your children are young enough, you can also “retire” certain toys to the future presents box when they get new ones. This frees up space, reduces clutter, and allows you to keep them interested in a lesser amount of junk well-loved toys and stuffed animals. Then, after a while you can reintroduce the old toy and watch them regard it with renewed interest.

Fantastic Deals and Where to Find Them

Where to stock up on future presents is probably the most fun part of the whole experience, aside from the money you’ll save. We love spending a Saturday morning perusing garage sales during the summer – it’s a great way to score deals while also enjoying sunshine and exercise as a family! Typically, we find some decent things in the fall, but those first spring garage sales are where it’s at.

People are very eager to clear their house out after winter, and especially since Christmas’ excesses and new toys are somewhat still lingering, you can get some really cool stuff dirt cheap.

save money kids clothing article link

Another opportunity is Facebook’s Marketplace feature. As your kids’ birthdays approach, run a few casual searches on their favorite things and you’d be surprised at what you can find. We picked up a Doc McStuffins playset for my daughter for $1 that would normally go for $30 were it brand new. It’s in pristine condition, not missing anything, and the family was happy to get rid of it as their children had grown out of it.

Granted, it’s a bit bigger than the tote, but the concept still holds true – she got it for Christmas and ADORES it.

Give Totes a Chance

This isn’t the first nor last time I’ll wax poetically about the usefulness of totes, so you might as well get on board. Pick up a tote and pick a hiding spot, because this method of money saving is a keeper.

The only downside is of course that if you don’t hide it well, and I mean really well, it’s like a time capsule treasure chest for sneaky little hands. Aside from that, though, get yourself a future presents tote and start saving money for your future in the present.

Oh and also you could use it to…

Totes My Goats!

brunette girl hugging goats happily

Sorry, I had to…

Do you buy your kids presents way ahead of time and then hide them?

Do they ever find them or do you consider yourself a parenting ninja? Share your secrets in the comments below!

Why I’m Not a Multitasking Momma

Why I’m Not a Multitasking Momma

Is it possible to stop multitasking and get more done? Well, as a work-at-home mom with two preschoolers, this may come as a shock to you but —

I don’t believe in multitasking!

Insanity, right? But as a mom and as an efficiency strategist, I want to share with you why I think we need to stop seeing “ability to multitask” as a strength, because frankly…

Multitasking is impossible.

When you think of multitasking as more than just “chewing gum and walking at the same time”, you’ll quickly realize it’s not actually multitasking at all, but task-switching. And when you’re asking your brain to CONSTANTLY switch gears, it’s no wonder you’re exhausted all the time and feel like you’re getting nothing accomplished.

There are certainly times in which you can do two tasks at one time – checking e-mail while jogging on the treadmill, for example – but even that only goes so far. If you had an important e-mail to write out, you’d almost certainly wait until you were done exercising. It’s the same reason you turn down your radio when you’re driving and think you may be lost; your brain can only stretch so far when attempting to do more than one thing at a time.

Multitasking is not efficient.

It’s also important to note that multitasking is also incredibly inefficient; the more you try to “multitask”, the more apt you are to make mistakes.

How many times have you accidentally used baking powder instead of baking soda because you were trying to make muffins while checking your child’s homework and also writing out a grocery list? Or how many times have you misplaced your keys because as you come into the house you’ve suddenly got three people wanting ten different things? It’s not just the stress that makes you feel frazzled, but it’s your inability to break the multitasking habit.

Speaking of stress, though…

Multitasking is stressful!

Multitasking stresses you out, not just from the mistakes you made, but also going back to one of my original points: you’re exhausting yourself and your brain.

When you try to multitask, you use up what’s called your “working memory”, your auditory and visual-spatial memory. Because of this, you’re basically bottlenecking your thought processes, but rather than filtering them through one at a time, you’re trying to jam them through all at once – hence the stress.

Along those same lines, just as you’re more apt to make mistakes, you’re more apt to inadvertently ignore other things going around you when you try to multitask.

For example, I originally fleshed out this idea of banning multitasking while on a walk with my son. Do you remember the viral video a few years ago about counting basketballs and in the middle of it, a gorilla walked by and almost all of us missed it? It’s because our brains were so focused on the basketballs that we missed the “beauty” of the gorilla.

So likewise, when you’re looking down at your phone while waiting for a bus, you may miss the love of your life walk by. Or maybe you’re watching TV while reading this post, and you’re losing out not only on some productivity tips, but you’re wasting your time by even trying to process what it is I’ve written.

Should we stop multitasking altogether?

Despite everything I’ve said, I don’t mean that you should stop multitasking all together, because let’s face it – there are times when multitasking is a MUST (whether we like or not!)

Take this morning, for example:

Kids woke up when I did at 7am and I offered them 30 minutes of “tablet time” in exchange for the freedom to knock out a few e-mails to my clients.

They agreed to it…until 7:10am when I heard “MOMMMMM! I’m STARRRRRVING!” (This comes from my oh-so-dramatic 4 year old son.)

“Okay, bud,” I responded, “Do you want some cereal?”

“Hmmmmmm….how about french toast?” he said with his signature charming smile.

“No,” the 3 year old piped in, “Pancakes!”

Oy…

So now instead of writing that email, I had to settle a debate between the children regarding which kind of breakfast bread they wished to consume.

(Spoiler: We settled on french toast with the promise of pancakes tomorrow.)

brown hair toddler reading a book

My daughter doesn’t take my multitasking advice; she prefers a bit of light reading with her breakfast…

And of course as I started to make french toast, I realized I should also feed the dog and the cat. Oh and finish up some dishes. Oh and see if dinner requires any early prep work today. Oh and….

My e-mails!!

So rather than trying to juggle it all at once, I took a breath, grabbed my headphones, and used voice-to-text to map them out while the smell of butter and cinnamon filled the early morning air.

And as I was talking out my e-mails over the sound of egg-battered bread hitting the skillet, I found myself smiling. Because even though life is often a bit chaotic, it’s exactly what I’ve always wanted.

I’m my own boss (if we don’t count those two little ones who call me “mom”) and I get to spend my days not only living out my own dreams, but helping others do the same. All at my own pace, by my own choosing.

So do we multitask…or no?

If you’re like I was a few months ago, maybe the thought of not multitasking has never even crossed your mind. Or maybe you read this post and thought “DON’T multitask? HA! Yeah right…” But why not give it a shot?

I challenge you to try going just ONE day — it’s only 24 hours! — without multitasking. Meaning no podcast playing while you drive to work. No Facebook scrolling in the bathroom (gross). No folding laundry while watching TV. Only single-tasking allowed!

I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how difficult it is. Our brains have been trained to want to multitask, no matter how harmful it may be to do so. It’s like when you try to quit sugar – you don’t realize just how addicted you are to it until you try to stop.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a toddler eager to serve me some play-doh cupcakes. 😉

blonde toddler holding playdoh

Oh but before I go – what do you think…

Will you try to quit multitasking for a day? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!