Friday, July 30, 2010

Parties, Parades and Fairs OH MY!

Tis the season...for spending your life away at all the wonderful summer festivals and parties!!! I looooove summertime in our city. SO MANY fabulous things to do. But there are a few things you can do to keep costs down and still have a great time!

Oh those wonderful small town kids love them because they still throw candy off the floats! They don't at the Ex parade (Aug 10th, don't miss it!) but we attend several fair days in the surrounding area and let me tell you, bring a shopping bag. They can be a little... generous, shall we say? And I have never been one to ply my children with candy so, what to do? This tip goes back to my Easter post...remember C-O-N-F-I-S-C-A-T-E? I let them carry the bag around all day, chomping on taffy, sucking on suckers and trying to figure out how to blow bubbles. Then when they crash later on at home I take the bags and separate all the candy. There is the bag that goes in the lunch cabinet (parades never have anything suitable for this, just Grandma's Easter's baskets and stockings do), the {small} bag of acceptable treats that are suitable for after supper, rainy afternoons, etc and then there is the mother load bag. The bag where the majority of the candy goes, hidden away on the very top shelf of my cold storage room and I use it for Halloween. I am a huge Halloween nut. I love the treat bags we make for the nieces and nephews, I love the costumes, I love driving all over to see the Aunties, Uncles and Grandparents and eating ourselves sick with those evil but delicious mini chocolate bars. It's just a fun family night! So of course I also used to strive to have the best candy on the block because when we were kids it was a big deal. There was the pic-a-pop house, the full size chocolate bar house, the house that gave away the coupons for the small fries at McDonald's. You knew which houses rocked and which ones gave out the stale Halloween molasses candies from 12 years ago. So in the first few years of our married life I spent a lot on Halloween. The house was decorated to the nines {I still do that} and the candy was outrageous. And we would get on average...6 kids. Are you kidding me??? But really, less and less kids are trick-or-treating these days and if there are more, they sure haven't been at the last 4 houses I have lived in. So I thought to myself, "Self, what is the most important thing to you on Halloween?" And the answer to that is of course to give my own children the best time ever. So I focus more on decorating our house, carving pumpkins {the boys did their own last year!}, roasting seeds, baking monster cookies, doing the costumes and visiting friends and family. We make a point to not even be home on Halloween now and I put out a HUGE bowl of candy on our front step with a friendly sign wishing everyone a Happy Halloween and to please leave some candy for the next kids to come along. But I have always wanted to set up a video camera to see if it's the first, second or third kid who dumps the entire bowl into their bag. LOL

Long story short, over the course of the year I collect an insane amount of candy for my Halloween stash. It saves us on average around $50 to $100 per year depending on what candy you buy. One year I gave out full size chips and chocolate bars. Together. And I was finding we had over half left over, even when I was super super generous. So instead of wasting money buying stuff I will just eat later anyway, I avoid the extra calories and give out what we already have. It's a win-win situation!

Another money sucker...the exhibition itself. Oh my but that can be a trying day. One year I tried to be super frugal about things to one treat per person, 2 rides, 3 games, one prize, etc. I said "NO!" 857 times and when we left everyone was crying. And I still spent $125. For a day where nobody had fun. Nobody appreciated the time together. It was hot, miserable and nobody got to do what they wanted. So I pose this question to you: Who is the exhibition for anyway?

I have come to the conclusion that the Ex is for us adults to get out for an evening and feel like kids again. I have plans to attend this year sans children. Did I put that bold enough? LOL There is a concert I want to see at the bandstand, some major disgusting calories I want to consume, I looooove the "infomercial building" as I call it and one night during the week I am going to be a "Creative Superviser" for the showcase of arts. Which really just means Corinne and I are going to sit and chat with each other while doing a few little projects while people browse around at the art exhibits. And maybe they will ask us what we are doing. :0) I got a free pass for the day for my volunteer work {volunteering=free stuff!} and I fully intend to take advantage of it. Walk around holding hands with the Hubs feeling like we are dating again. We will spend far less than what we would spend if we brought the boys...unless Hubs let's me buy stuff in the informercial building. LOL But, long story short you need to analyze if your children are really at an age to enjoy something like this. I know, I know, I am a Mum too. I like to give my children all kinds of cool experiences and spoil them with my time and effort. However {and this is a big however} is what you are doing actually for them or is it for you? Some kids just can't handle the overstimulation of the fair so why would you force them to participate in the face painting just so you can get photos for the scrapbook?

Before you make the Ex a family excursion, ask yourself these questions:

*Can afford it?

*Are the kids old enough?

*Are you going for them or for you?

If you answered yes all the way around and are headed out {with sunscreen and hat of course} here are a few tips to save some dollars:

*Pack a backpack with your own drinks. On average a small drink is $4. Times 4 people. $16 for drinks that last 8 seconds. And if you are there for several hourse you can bet you will be doing that at least 3 times. And that's if you say NO 12 times. That's almost $50 just in drinks. Bring your own!

*If you like to do the rides, plan ahead and buy the superpass. As soon as you do...what...more than 5 are riding for free. I am not up to date on how many tickets rides are these days...but a pass is $38 in advance and in my previous experience it cost around $7 for one midway ride.

*Pick the meal you want to eat at the fair. It's a very pricey day if you go right at lunch when everyone is starving and stay until supper. Plan ahead.

*Take in the free stuff! There is all kinds of free entertainment to be had! Seek out the reptile show, the sharks, the wandering clowns. Walk through the art exhibits. You are there...see it all!

*Choose the day that is best for you. They have special rates on different days that can save you a few dollars.

*Save yourself the frustration of parking and take public transit. It's free with a superpass and pretty cheap without one. And if you have the kids with you trust me, they will love riding the bus. If that is not an option, carpool. If you have more than 5 people in the vehicle, parking is free. Take advantage!

*Come heavily armed if you are bringing the children. Pack that bag like you have never packed it before...wet ones, washclothes, changes of clothes, waterbottles, bug spray, sun screen, camera, extra batteries, sunglasses, small first aid me, if you are all comfortable and well prepared it makes for a fabulous day! And don't forget the double stroller. Even my 5 year old can't walk a whole afternoon at the fair.

Do you have any tips for having a fun day at one of these huge festivals? Share them! And have a fabulous rest of the summer!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Looking forward to CHA?

The Craft and Hobby Association show. Where the best of the best show up to reveal their latest and greatest! Have you been checking out the sneak peeks yet? Here are just a few of my faves {so far}.

The new lines by Bo Bunny are catching my eye...especially their new wraps and trims!

And Mr. Tim Holtz never fails to impress...I am really looking forward to the configuration boxes. Imagine the possibilities??? Wouldn't it be great to have a box to represent each of your children with all kinds of mementos from their growing up years? Many, many firsts to collect for!

And of course more of the dies from Sizzix. I already own a couple of the Tim Holtz dies and thought there wouldn't be too much more that would be truly versatile and not so themed or specific to his brand. Well, I was wrong! A die that cuts a tag that he uses in his 12 tags of Christmas. Genius! Last year we lucked out and Just Scrap It ordered them in for us but the year before they were very difficult to find I ended up using smaller ones...didn't create the same effect. Now I won't have to worry about it! What are you looking forward to this CHA? Tell me all about it!

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's Frugal Friday and the Laundry Soap Saga continues...

If you are friends with me on Facebook, about once a month you see the laundry soap thing on my status. I do make my own laundry soap but let's just say it comes with it's own set of challenges. For one, I have dirty little boys in my house. And a dirty big boy too. Lots of dirt and grease on the pants...and the soap recipe that I started out with did just fine at removing said stains. Right on! But after a week or so I was headed to the gym with freshly washed workout clothes that stunk to high heaven. And I didn't notice until I got to the gym and put them on. Oh. My. WORD. Ok, that is a challenge that needs to be addressed immediately. So after fiddling a bit I adapted the amounts of ingredients and it seemed to do the trick. Thank the heavens. But I still wasn't getting that "Fresh washed" smell and the Hubs was starting to mention that he missed the smell of the bought stuff. Here's the thing...we can afford to buy laundry soap. It's not a big deal. But I save where I can and that was one area I thought just because you can doesn't mean you should. Buy it I mean. We were spending $240 a year on laundry soap. That does not include stain removers, fabric softener or any other laundry type accessories. After I discovered the homemade stuff that figure plummeted to about $20 a year. Then I had to adapt the amounts for the stink factor and it climbed to about $40 a year. So that is a savings of $200. Sigh. What to do? I did break down and buy a bottle of soap and fabric softener to conduct several small experiments.
A) Do you really get as many loads as it says on the bottle?
B) How much do you actually have to use to get stuff clean and smelling great?
C) Could I continue to use my homemade stuff and just augment the smell factor with a tablespoon of fabric softener to make the Hubs happy?
D) How much would it jack up the laundry money to do C? How many loads in a bottle of Gain fabric softener?

B has been going actually need very little to get the suds going, get stuff clean and have it coming out smelling great. I am filling it to just below the 1st line in the cup, the one they say to use for small loads. Well, I do a huge load and that still does the trick. And C is actually already confirmed. I had a few loads of homemade soap left when I got all the store bought stuff so YES, I can augment the smell with the softener while still getting my clothes clean with the homemade soap. So with Sharpie marker in hand I will keep track of how many loads I actually get out of each bottle and will report back in a future Frugal Friday. Don't forget to save a few pennies and use that sunshine to dry your clothes! And then you even get a bit of free exercise when it starts to rain {in the sunshine} and you have to dash outside and rip everything off the line in record time. Don't ask how I know this...let's just say the neighbours got a bit of free entertainment. :0)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Simple Summer Pleasures

I love the SUN! I wanted to document this day of just lazing on the beach and watching the kids make tiny footprints in the sand. We need to scrapbook the small things that make us happy because years from now we will not remember these things and the feelings they created. It's a little overcast today, a good day to make laundry soap. Have a happy summer all! xox
ETA: Wow, I have no idea what happened to that photo between Picasa and here. I will hopefully clear this up and post a new photo soon! Sorry for the poor quality.

Friday, July 16, 2010

To gift or not to's a loaded question.

With summer comes a LOT of anniversaries. What to get? What to do? We have a "no gift" agreement for ours that the hubs loves to break but we do try to go out for supper or I cook something special. A small splurge to celebrate our special day. It doesn't have to cost a lot, but no matter what you spend there is still the agonizing decision of what to do.

One of said anniversaries is that of my dear sis-in-law and her sweet hubs. They have a mortgage, a mini van, a budget and children. Sound familiar? My sis and I go back and forth with each other about our feelings, what makes us happy and what our hubs can do {or not do} that make us light up. Or just make our lives easier. So she calls me the other day and definitely had something to gush about. And I have to admit, my already high admiration level for my brother-in-law went up exponentionally. He is a wonderful man but this was the icing on the cake.

So my sis looooves crossword puzzles. Initially she was doing sudoku and actually was the one who got me hooked on them several years ago. Recently she has switched to crosswords and her hubs noticed. In a big way. For their anniversary he made her her own crossword puzzle and all the clues were all about them before they had kids. What was our first lunch together, where did we meet, that sort of thing. I melted into a puddle on the floor when she told me. It was FREE. It was THOUGHTFUL. And she said she fell in love with him all over again. Sigh. Another fabulous example that things do NOT have to cost money to touch your heart. Bravo sir, you have raised the bar for other hubs around the world. xox

Friday, July 9, 2010

Loyalty pays!

You've heard me preach before about how instant gratification {and our insatiable quest for it} ruins our budgets time and time again. If something is that important to us, it is worth working for. If it's not worth working for obviously it wasn't that important to you in the first place. So waiting to make a purchase also forces you to really analyze whether or not you need that item. That's how it's been for me over the last 10 years with my cell phone. You also read all about my complaints about this very item in THIS POST. I know, reading 2 of these is time consuming but if you are not familiar with the cell phone post please read it first. It fully explained why I have kept this phone for so long. Now I am going to explain why I am getting a new one today. That's right. Write this day down, make a scrapbook page commemorating it, I am going to have texting capabilities! And it is all thanks to 2 people down at the Telus store. Justin and Amy were just fabulous. I walked in with my regular chip on my shoulder. My "Don't laugh or I won't buy anything" attitude. I just thought there was no way I could get a better package because of that all holy "billed by the second" thing. Well people, it's not easy to admit when you are wrong but sometimes it's necessary. I was wrong. Amy started out by showing me some phones that would suit my needs and how I could get them for free or at a discount and explaining the different packages. Justin was doing his thing on the computer and asked if he could interrupt us. Will it save me money? LOL But of course, interrupt! He suggested that since I had been with them for so long {the longest off contract he had seen} that I should give the Loyalty and Retention section a call to see if they could put together a better package for me. Wow. I've never actually had a salesperson tell me how to spend less money before. They sent me on my way and I hopped on the phone. It took a few hours of back and forth between Telus and Amy at the store because I kept bothering her to ask questions but eventually I was offered an amazing package just to sign another contract. So my other post still stands...don't rush to sign things just to satisfy that instant gratification. But when you are in a position to gain by signing, think it over, talk it over with the Hubs and weigh the pros and cons. The pros in this case far outweigh the cons of signing and losing my by-the-second billing. 200 anytime minutes, evenings and weekends free, unlimited texting, caller ID, voice mail and 75 free long distance minutes every month for only $25+tax. I can certainly handle that...since my regular monthly bill to date has been $30 and up depending on my usage.

So I wanted to give HUGE props to Justin and Amy with Telus. You guys ROCK! Thank-you for making my "new phone" experience a GREAT ONE! Even though there are fabulous new gadgets released all the time, it was so worth it to delay replacing my phone. I feel like I got an excellent deal and that I worked for it. Which makes it that much sweeter!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mum, we're BOOOOOORED!

This Frugal Friday post is brought to you by the makers of Advil. Do you have a headache from your summer vacationers yet? LOL

Free summer fun! You know it's out there, you just have to go jump on it!

* Garage saling. Not free if you buy something but the kids will love the hunt. I give my kids each a toonie and they can buy whatever they want. Good family fun. And if you happen across something you have been looking for you can just add it to your frugal finds!

*Grab your public library schedule. Puppet shows, reading incentive programs, prizes, parties, etc. They all have summer programming and we can't wait!

*The Leisure Guide. Our local guide has all the free days for different attractions in the city. Mark them on your calendar and take advantage! Now to truly enjoy this, you have to make a day of it and plan ahead. Don't try to "quickly" zip over to the zoo on free family day, it won't be fun. Go early, pack a picnic, bring some little activities for the kids for potential line ups. It's worth it.

*The mall can have free things too! Ask at the info desk about special appearances of all your fave characters. Dora and Diego were the last ones we saw. Again, planning ahead and going early is a MUST. My girlfriend and I hauled our kids (all 7 of them) out at 8am for a 10:30am appearance. We packed a huge picnic breakfast for our crew and they coloured. A few people ended up ahead of us due to some VIP online contest thing {which we hadn't heard about} but we got in, snapped a few photos and were out in no time. The kids loved it!

*Speaking of online stuff...take advantage of websites! Google what to do in your area. Lots of community associations have fun day in the park.

*Speaking of parks...USE ONE! And not just the one close to your house. It is such an adventure to head out to a new playground/paddling pool/spray park. Go armed with your bug spray, sunscreen, snacks and water to make the day hassle free.

*Amp up your own backyard fun. Your computer isn't just for Facebook. Google recipes for different play dough {edible, yum!}, do a little pudding painting {on yourselves!}, do a scavenger hunt {complete ones are downloadable} or make some hats out of old flyers. It doesn't matter what you do...interacting with your children is priceless.

*Nature walk anyone? Check around for your local conservation area. Hike some trails, spot some birds, take some photos.

*Love history? Every city has some kind of historical society interested in passing on the stories of yesteryear. Some have an entire centre dedicated to it. Check it out! Take a walking tour and learn about the history of your very own hometown. You may learn things you never knew before.

*Stores can have free things too. During the summer, bookstores hold free readings for kids. Get a hold of their summer schedule!

*Got a science geek on your hands? I do! Get on that Google again...set up a science lab right at your kitchen table. Some food colouring, vinegar and baking soda will keep your little Einstein busy for hours. Great rainy day activity.

This really is just the tip of the iceberg! If you are in the Saskatoon area, check out the SaskMom website. They are AMAZING!!! Not everything they promote it free but there is such a wealth of info on that site. So much summer fun awaits and it doesn't have to break your budget. Plan for those special events that have a price tag...but just know that it doesn't have to be every day. "Mum, we're BOOOORED" shouldn't make your wallet cringe! Have a great one!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yes I AM!

Canada is 143 years young today so you had to know this was coming: {Don't forget to pause the music on the right}

Happy Canada Day!!!