Top Pet Products Not to Skimp On

Check out this list of top pet products you should not skimp out on.I first adopted my dog Molly, I was so excited. She was the first dog in the first kennel at the SPCA, and the only dog in the group not barking. My fiance and I were instantly drawn to her.

We continued down the row of kennels, looking into the cages and seeing dogs of all different shapes, sizes and energy levels, but none of them got our attention like the little black and white dog in the first kennel.

After walking her around outside of her kennel for a few minutes, it became even more clear that this was the pup for us. She wasn’t spayed, and the shelter wouldn’t release her until she was, so we shut her back into her cage, and put our name down for her with the office staff. She’d be ready to pick up in a few days, but in the mean time, we were off to get her supplies.

That was six months ago, and since then, I’ve learned a lot about the huge industry that is pet products. For every genuinely useful or essential product, there are ten poorly constructed or downright pointless products sitting right next to it on your shelf or screen. So, today I’m going to go through some of the pet products I think are completely worth spending money on, and, just for fun, some that aren’t a good investment.

A Strong Collar

Our first stop when picking up Molly’s supplies was to Walmart, where I picked up a typical collar with a plastic buckle. Within one week, the flimsy buckle was snapping loose. So back we went, to replace the cheap-o collar with one with a strong metal clasp.

Tartar Busting Bones

Poor dental hygiene can lead to costly teeth cleanings and other nasty diseases if left untreated. To combat this, invest in some tartar busting bones. The rough surfaces naturally clean a dog’s teeth when chewed on, and keeping tartar at bay early on means cheaper long term dental care (better breath too).

High Quality Dog Food

Now, I’m not saying you need to go out and buy the $30 bag of organic, free range, human grade dog food. But in the arena of nutrition, dogs aren’t that different from people. Poor quality food contributes to poor quality health, and an unhealthy dog is an expensive dog. High quality food also contributes to better breath, a shinier and softer coat, and less…erm…waste.

A Dremel Nail Grinder

Unless you want your floors, couches and skin all scratched to hell, you need to clip your dog’s nails. With some care and positive training, nail clipping can easily be done at home, without any need for a trip to the groomer. I bought a pair of cheap nail clippers, and their dull edges means I have proceed with nail clipping very carefully in order not to hurt Molly’s little paws. To make the project easier yet still save hundreds at the groomer, consider investing in a Dremel Nail Grinder instead.

The Furminator

Pets shed. A ton. I have a long haired cat and a short haired dog in four hundred square feet of living space. To cut down on the crazy amount of hair that can accumulate ridiculously quickly, good quality brushes are a must. The furminator is great for that.

Things That Aren’t a Good Investment

This, this, this, oh and this (although that one is kinda cute).

Not everything that is put out by the pet industry is a worthwhile investment, or even remotely useful. In fact, most of it is probably crap just released because pet crazy people love to spoil their animals. To make your dollar go further, make sure to invest in high quality items that will keep your pet healthy, and help you save money over the long term.

What’s your number one indispensable pet item? I want to know!

The post Top Pet Products Not to Skimp On appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Game Changing Mom Life Must Haves!

As busy moms, we need to cut the time, trim the cost, and lessen the mental load, and here are the mom life must haves to help you do it!

Ugh! You just crossed off two items on your to-do list (yaaa!), and then you immediately added four more on to it! #momlife Seriously, you feel like you’re bailing out a sinking battleship with a sippy cup, and there’s no end in sight. Or so it seems…

Every good General knows you need the right tools & resources to win the war, so it’s time to fill your arsenal with the best mom life must haves! These are the things that will help you triumph over errands, chores, and mealtime! All while helping you feel calmer and happier, settling your racing mind, giving you the space to do what’s most important!  

Yes, snuggling your kiddos, kissing on your honey, or maybe hiding in the bathtub for 2.5 hours reading a good book and eating chocolate. Hey, self-care is in, right? So sit tight, and get ready to rock your to-do list!

game changing mom life must haves

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How to be a better mom (by having the right support)

Whoa, that’s a loaded statement! I mean, “be a better mom” implies that you’re doing a bad job now, right? NO! We are all doing the best job we can in the life we have right now. No one wakes up and says, “I want to be mediocre today”! No, we want to do a great job every day. Yet, sometimes, at least for me, I fall short.  

Some days I’m exhausted, have too much on my schedule, or run out of brown sugar, so no cookie baking today (true story, huge tears ensued from my 5-year-old). When these days happen more than I would like, I know that I need to sit down and recalibrate. Take stock of the common themes, look for overlapping reasons why the $hit keeps hitting the fan, and then figure out what I need to do to get back on track.

Usually, either I need a mini-vacation (sigh), or I need to check out my tools and see where I need more support and even some tools that I may have forgotten about. I call these my mom life must haves! I’ve rounded up my best tips, tools, and resources on the items that help me be a better mom!

When I say “better mom,” I mean…

  • less frazzled, more calm
  • less scatterbrained, more organized
  • less tired, more energized
  • less scroungy, more stylish
  • less last minute, more prepared
  • less mediocre, more badass!

Being a better mom can mean anything that you want it to mean! Don’t let my own definition put restrictions on your best version of you! You can use my ideas to be a jumping-off point, and then tailor them to your own personality and goals!

Take advantage of Amazon Prime Day for huge savings!

I know that spending money on ourselves is hard. I will convince myself that I don’t really need something, or that the money would be better spent on a new thingamajig for my little one. I don’t know why I feel guilty spending money on myself, I just do sometimes.

One thing that always helps me feel better about spending money on myself is if I get it at a good deal! I love saving money! (yes, I’d save a whole lot more if I didn’t buy “it” at all but sometimes we need something! Especially when that something makes our life better or easier! So that’s why I am super excited about Amazon Prime Day!

What is Amazon Prime Day?

It’s a two day event where Amazon offers up steep discounts on millions of products across all categories! People use this time to stock up for holiday gifting, or to splurge on normally expensive items. If you’re a Prime Member you get early access to some of their deals so if you have been thinking about getting a membership, then now is the time! Don’t forget to snag your free 30 day trial!

When is Prime Day this year?

It’s October 13th & 14th this year, but if you’re a Prime Member you’ll get early access!

I am so happy to say that Amazon will be supporting small businesses this year too (sounds counterintuitive but hear me out). Small Businesses can be a partner shop on their platform, and if you purchase starting now through October 12th, if you purchase $10 worth of items from a participating small business you will get $10 credit to use on Prime Day! Check out all the small business partners here!

Amazon Prime Day Deals

Now the following items aren’t a part of my own person list of mom life must haves, yet so many people swear by these. Starting today, Prime members can shop early offers and deals everyday leading up to Prime Day on October 13 & 14.

  • Amazon Devices: 
    • Get two Echo Dot devices for $39.98 
    • Fire TV Recast for $129.99 to store up to 75 hours of HD programming.
    • Save up to $100 on Toshiba 43-inch Smart HD Fire TV Edition TV for $179.99.
    • Insignia 43-inch Smart 4K UHD Fire TV Edition TV for $199.99;
    • Save $40 on Echo Show 5
  • Amazon Music: For just $0.99, Prime members who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited can get four months of the premium streaming tier with unlimited access to more than 60 million songs ad-free, and now a wide selection of popular podcasts.
  • Audible: Prime members can save $50 on a year of Audible Premium Plus. Audible members will also get access to the Plus catalog, featuring more than 10K Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts, all at no additional cost.
  • Kindle Unlimited: New customers to Kindle Unlimited save 50% off a 6-month subscription.

The main question with Prime Day Deals, is did you want this item before you heard about it on Prime Day? Or did you simply see it and think “ohhhh, shiny!” Remember, it’s only a deal, if you were going to buy it anyway!

Mom life must haves for the home

1. Family charging station

mom life must have #1 - family charging station
4 1/2 stars with 4,300 ratings

Hercules Tuff Charging Station

  • charges up to 80% faster!
  • charge six devices at once
  • gift-ready packaging
  • includes 4 Lightning Cables, 1 Type-C Cable, and 1 Micro-USB cable perfectly sized to keep your space organized

This is honestly one of my favorite things, and I’m not usually a gadget person. If my phone isn’t in my hand, I always know where it is, the family charging station is the natural place to put it down, so it’s an easy habit to start. There’s no worrying about your hubby or kiddo walking off with your charging cables! Plus, it makes mealtimes more family-friendly.

We can sit down to a meal without having our phones on the table or in our pockets, where it’s so easy to start scrolling or get sidetracked by notifications!

Time Saved by less distractions and mindless scrolling!

2. A great handheld vacuum

mom life must have #2 - a great handheld vacuum

Black & Decker Max Pivot Handheld Vacuum

  • Lithium battery for strong suction that never fades
  • cordless
  • 4 stars with over 12,000 ratings!

I’m not a Roomba vacuum kind of person, even though the concept sounds great. I don’t trust them 🙂 I don’t think they’ll do a great job, and I’ve heard the horror stories of them eating cords & carpets. So that means a handheld vacuum, which sounds lame as they don’t usually have a lot of power. Until I found this one, the Black & Decker Pivot! He’s lightweight and super fast to pull out of the pantry for a quick clean up!

Honestly, this vacuum is amazing! I got mine for Christmas 2015. Yes, 5 years ago, and I can still say it’s amazing! It has so much power to it; it vacuums up everything! I’ve only had the battery run out one time; it was when we were moving, and I cleaned the whole house for the entire day. So I don’t blame it 🙂

I hate to admit this, but I didn’t know that there was a removable filter that you had to take and shake out for the first two years. Yes, I emptied the chamber, but I didn’t know about the filter. I didn’t notice it, and it still worked great!  Shhh… don’t tell anyone how dumb I was!

Besides, you cant lift a Roomba up and vacuum huge spiders off the ceiling like you can with this handheld vacuum! (Just this past week, it was two mornings in a row that I had to climb on the bathroom counter and get ’em!)

Both time & money saved, as it’s very convient for a quick clean and money saved as this is a quality vacuum, and I expect it to last a long time!

3. An Amazon prime membership

This sounds so silly, as everyone must have it by now, right? Nope, they don’t, but it’s such a lifesaver! Every one should find a way to fit this into their budget. It’s $119 a year for an annual subscription or $12.99 a month. But the main question busy mom’s ask is, “Is it worth it?”

“The actual value of Amazon Prime is estimated to be around $784 annually after all of its individual perks and benefits are considered, according to a recent analysis by JPMorgan”, says Business Insider. So the resounding answer is yes! Click here for your 30 day free trial to Prime.

You get free shipping, two-day shipping, movies, free ebooks, music, file storage, and more! Prime members also get extra discounts to Whole Foods and member-only deals.  

Plus, there’s Prime Reload, which gives you 2% by linking up your debit card and reloading your “available shopping balance” from there! Saving money without the lure of a credit card is a great option!

Their Subscribe & Save program also offers great perks! You pick out which items you order all the time, like bar soap or diaper pail liners, and you signup to get them regularly delivered to your door; with this you can save up to 15% on these purchases!  Amazon Prime Family also offers 20% off diapers and special baby registry benefits!

Don’t forget to look for available Prime Membership discounts:

  • Prime Discounted Monthly offering is just $5.99/month for qualifying customers with an EBT or Medicaid card
  • Prime Student has a 6-month trial and then $6.49 a month 

Amazon also has their Signature Visa, where you get 3% back at Whole Foods, 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores. 1% back on utilities and all other purchases (see terms & conditions for current details).  

Don’t forget you can get a 30-day free trial on all Amazon Prime!

Money saved! You will find great deals on Amazon, but you might need to spend some time digging through reviews and products.

4. Easy & fast dinners

Meal kits certainly aren’t new anymore, so the novelty has worn off. They’re not just for “fun” anymore, but they are a lifesaver! And there are so many different companies you can choose from, meal kits for any diet and lifestyle!

We like EveryPlate, as it’s one of the cheapest out there at $4.99 a serving! Meal kits save me so much time and brain angst (is that even a thing?). But you get me, I mean I would waste so much time trying to figure out what to make for dinners for the week. Then I have to go buy it all, and the prep it. Ugh! My brain hurts just thinking about it!

With EveryPlate, it takes me 12 minutes every month to go into their dashboard and pick my meals. That’s it. The recipes are easy to make, tasty, and I feel good about not serving up a frozen pizza or take out every night.

We have also started trying Dinnerly too. I’m not into blindly following brands, I like to be sure that I am getting the best deal for the best value out there! So of course I am going to try the competition! Dinnerly and Everyplate are similar in cost, program, and quality.

YET, Dinnerly just started offering extra protein portions (in case you want to make a little more). AND, they just started offering desserts too! This next week I signed up to get a caramel apple spice cake and the following week pumpkin pie cheesecake bars! (fall flavored treats are my weakness). Click the here to start making meal time easy (finally!) and treating your family!

Don’t get me wrong, meal kits have their drawbacks, sometimes the cucumber arrives soft, or it’s not enough for my hubs, but overall it’s a great option, and it totally works for us!

We also use our trusty old slow cooker! It’s still great for making a good amount of food that we can use as quick leftover meals throughout the week. Things like chicken fajitas, or three-bean chili, or mac & cheese are great options.

This slow cooker is great as it’s programable for temp & time. Then when it’s done cooking, it switches to warm mode, so you don’t overcook your dinner! It also comes with a temperature probe, so if you’re cooking meats you can be doubly sure it’s fully cooked!

On my wish list is this Instant Pot; I mean, it has 4 1/2 stars with over 100,000 reviews! That’s crazy, right! Besides, any gadget that says it’s perfect for beginners is for me!

Time & money saved! But more so, my sanity as I hated trying to decide what to make for dinner!

Mom life must haves for our kids

So we wouldn’t be busy moms if it wasn’t for our kiddos, right? These things are ones that I love, and have made this crazy journey a lot easier!

5. Honest Company products 

mom life must have #5 - safe products for our kiddos - The Honest Company
4 1/2 stars with 4,000 ratings
mom life must have #5 - safe products for our kiddos - The Honest Company
4 1/2 stars with 3,500 ratings
mom life must have #5 - safe products for our kiddos - The Honest Company
4 1/2 stars with 7,000 ratings

So this sounds corny, but I honestly love Honest Products! Actress Jessica Alba started the brand. Honest’s bio page says, “When she couldn’t find one brand to trust for all her everyday needs, she had to create it. And she knew that there had to be others out there looking for safe products, simple solutions, and clear information about their choices, just like her.”

Did I ever tell you that I am a natural skeptic? When someone says their product is safe and uses only the best ingredients, I look to the experts to tell the truth. I use the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep app on my phone all the time for this! I scan the barcode of an item, and it tells me if it’s considered safe by their 3rd party unbiased testing. EWG is a “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.” Their app doesn’t have every product in its database, but they have a lot (mostly in the beauty and cleaning area). 

When I am standing in Target and looking for something for my kiddo, I scan all the brands to find the one that is the least toxic, and then I go to Amazon to check out the reviews on that item. If people love it, then I buy it!

I just used it this past month, we stayed at my mom’s house for a few days, and my daughter used their bubble bath; she loved all the bubbles. But a few days later, she broke out in a rash, sure enough, I found it was rated an 8 (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst). Whoops!

So I went to target and scanned a few and settled on The Honest Company’s lavender bubble bath, and it was rated a 1! I bought it, and it worked great (as much as a bubble bath works), the bubbles lasted forever, smelled great, and she loved every second of it! (oh and no rash!)

I bought…

  • The Honest Company Truly Calming Lavender Shampoo & Body Wash
  • The Honest Company Truly Calming Conditioner
  • The Honest Company Truly Calming Bubble Bath

I feel great about these products as I know they’re safe (peace of mind is priceless), work great, and don’t cost a fortune!

Mental space & time saved! As I don’t wonder anymore (or feel guilty) about knowing that the products I use on her are safe!

6. The best safety in the industry

mom life must have #6 - the best in car seat safety
Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat
5 stars with 1,800 ratings
mom life must have #6 - the best in car seat safety
Britax Boulevard ClickTight convertible
4 1/2 stars with 3,300 ratings

Along the same vein of keeping our kiddos safe, I researched a lot of items when I was pregnant, and one of the most researched items is a car seat! I finally chose the Britax B-Safe 35 (funny story here), and then when she got older, the Britax Boulevard ClickTight convertible car seat.

I honestly spent way too much time agonizing over the car seat choices. I wanted the best for her without spending a fortune. Yes, Britax is a teeny tiny bit expensive, but a car seat is so important, as a bad car seat can have horrible repercussions!

Anyway, funny story, so I was agonizing over which to choose for weeks. One day, as I watched TV, a clip about Prince William & Kate came on, as they just had their first baby. The TV shot was of them standing at the top of some stairs, walking down and outside to their car. Prince William was holding the car seat, and I recognized the colors (black & red) of the car seat.  

I paused it, screenshot it, and zoomed in; sure enough, it was a Britax B-Safe! Within two minutes, I was on Amazon and ordered it! If this was the brand & model that the Royal Family trusted, then this was the one for me! Problem solved, no more worries!

All of their models’ rates very high for safety, their quality is great, and they are easy to use!

Peace of mind! Knowing that I have done everything I can to protect my daughter, while in the car, is important to me!

7. Car Snacks

mom life must have #7 car snacks - packaged nuts
4 1/2 stars with 2,000 ratings
mom life must have #7 car snacks - whole grain fig bar
5 stars with 76 ratings

A busy mom’s best friend is without a doubt her car snacks! Car snacks for the kiddo and absolutely car snacks for us!

Car snacks keep everyone happy, and they keep you out of the drive-through! Oh, and did I mention that when your kiddos are eating the snacks they’re not asking you 459 questions!

I have two go-to’s for this.  

  • Emerald nut mix, variety pack 100 calories packs. Right now, it’s $9.44 for the box of 18 small individual packs. That’s $.52 a pack.
  • Nature’s Bakery Whole Grain Fig Bar – these are the best, as they don’t harden into rocks when your car has been sitting out in the freezing cold. They don’t melt in the summer, and they don’t crumble and get a mess everywhere! Plus, they’re tasty and not total garbage nutritionally speaking! 

Time & money saved, as you’re not stopping for fast food! More importantly, I can say that the magic of car snacks has saved my own personal sanity!

Mom life must haves for ourselves

8. An organized life

If I had to get married again (and not to my husband), I would marry Trello! Seriously, I feel that strongly about this app! If you’re not familiar with Trello, it’s basically a place where you can put your entire life & brain to help keep you organized!

Picture this; it’s like a giant whiteboard with lists and sticky notes, links, files, and images. It’s sharable so you can work with people on projects too! It gives you the big picture and zero’s in on the tiny details. It’s for desktop and mobile, and it’s free! Yup, FREE!

If you have a daily planner or 489 sticky notes, then you have to check out Trello!

If you absolutely love your pen & paper style organizing, then check out my Brain Dump printables! It’s for when you’ve got way too much swirling around in your brain. You lay it all out in formatted sections, and it helps you plan, prioritize & delegate your to-do list!

Time & sanity saved! I don’t forget things nearly as much (but I’m not perfect).

9. A delicious nutritional home run

mom life must have #9 - a good protein powder
4 1/2 stars with 800+ ratings

Garden of Life Sport Certified Grass Fed Clean Whey Protein

  • vanilla or chocolate flavor
  • 24 grams of protein
  • no added hormones, sugars, or rbst free, and gluten free
  • delicious! (truth!)

As busy mom’s we’re run ragged sometimes. So much to do, and it’s easy to forget about taking care of ourselves. Or we push it to the back burner, always meaning to get to it later, but never actually doing it.

Ugh. Fail.  

We know we feel better when we take care of ourselves, yet it’s hard to prioritize yourself over your to-do list (at least I do). So make a promise to yourself to start taking better care of you! For me, that looks like having a healthy smoothie! For you, it could look totally different, and that’s fine!

My favorite protein powder is Garden of Life Whey Protein Powder, I don’t need anything crazy with 78 grams of protein, I just need something to feed my body, without a ton of crazy chemicals. (Yes, I do realize that protein powders are processed, but this is a very well respected brand, and it was recommended to me by super knowledgeable staff at a natural grocery store.)

“We start with what goes IN our products—true, whole food ingredients. But we don’t stop there. We also pay very close attention to what we keep OUT of them.  And once again, we look at food—real nutrition food. When is the last time you picked up an apple, turned to read the ingredients, and saw a list of chemicals?  If it’s not in your food, then we don’t want it in our supplements.  We use third-party (never self-affirmed) certifications to prove we are clean!” (source).

My base recipe…

  • 1 scoop of protein powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds

Then either…

  • 1/3 can pumpkin puree with 1 tsp of pumpkin pie seasoning

Or

  • a handful of frozen mixed berries with 1 tsp of vanilla

These smoothies are a part of 21 Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide, which I did last year! I felt so good about focusing on my health and I plan to do the program again (as life happens, right).

For those of you a little wary of the can of coconut milk, I want you to try it at least once. It’s delicious, and it fills me up all day long! Yes, it has a lot of fat in it, but so many vitamins and nutrients. I’m not a food or weight loss blogger, so I won’t try and convince you of the scientific health benefits.  

It’s delicious (truly, I’m not exaggerating), and it makes me feel great, and it’s healthy! That’s good enough for me. Besides, when I make it in my Vitamix, cleaning up is super easy! I just give it a quick rinse in the sink, pour some dish soap in it, fill it with hot water, put it back on the base, and turn it on for 40 seconds! No taking apart pieces and scrubbing it! (of course, if I use dairy, then I do put it through the dishwasher)

Time saved! Smoothies are quick and easy, plus I feel good knowing that I am taking care of myself so that I can have the energy to take care of my daughter and answer her 45,871 questions!

10. Chug Chug Glug

mom life must have #10 - a good water bottle
5 stars with 16,500 ratings for standard mouth
mom life must have #10 - a good water bottle
5 stars with 225 ratings for wide mouth

That’s code for drink more water! We all know this; it’s been drummed into our head with 1000 hammers. Yet, it’s still true; we all need to drink more water!

I love my Hydro Flask! It keeps my water cold for FO-EV-ER! It never sweats, I have dropped it a billion times, and it only has one dent (haha). I love the lid with the loop, as I can hang it from my mommy hook on my little one’s stroller. (Mommy hooks are great too, you can hang anything with it!)  

My current one I’ve had for two years, and the only reason I needed a new one is I lost my older one, which was at least three years old (my Amazon order history only goes back so many years, I guess). So that ‘a good sign; they last forever! Well worth the price! Plus, they come in super cute colors!

Oh, and did I mention Hydro Flask makes a wine tumbler too! Ha! This might absolutely help me be a better mom!

Money saved, as this water bottle lasts forever! Probably money saved too, as I eat less snacks and less at meal time as I’m well hydrated.

11. A simple cute & comfy style

mom life must have #11 - comfy yoga pants
4 1/2 stars with 25,000+ ratings
mom life must have #11 - comfy yoga pants

This is a hard one, as I’m a little bit ashamed of my path to this product. I got to a point where I was getting a bit scroungy; you know sloppy. My sweatpants were old, and the t-shirts were stained. Sexy huh!?!

It was time for a mini mommy wardrobe makeover! I have been reading a lot about minimalism and especially capsule wardrobes, and am in love with the nice, basic simplicity of it! It appeals to me on all levels! Find pieces that fit & flatter, that all go together and stick to it!

So I went through, purged my closet (I got rid of 75% of my clothes), and focused on an inexpensive capsule wardrobe! The base of the collection is these amazing IUGA high waist yoga pants! I got a pair in black, and I love them! With 4 1/2 stars with over 25,000 reviews, they have to be amazing, right? They are! An absolute staple for this mom life must have list!

And they don’t cost a fortune either! Just $25 for this pair! I did buy some nice yoga pants at Target before finding these, but they didn’t come in black). These IUGA pants…

  • come in 26 colors
  • inside waistband pocket for keys
  • hip pocket for phone
  • aren’t see through (whew!)
  • 30 day money back love it guarantee

Time & sanity saved! As I don’t stare blankly at my closet for 12 minutes every am, wondering what to wear, of if it will look okay! It’s a quick scan the closet, grab the pants and it’s go time!

12. Survival in a can

mom life must have #12 - canned wine
4 1/2 stars with 50 ratings

If I didn’t mention my absolute favorite must have for moms, I would be doing you a disservice. I would also be hiding the real me. I don’t want to do that, as that’s lame. So my favorite mom life must have is canned wine.

…cricket cricket…

Let me explain. I love canned wine. I really do. I like wine, but I don’t like opening a whole bottle of it. If I drank a whole bottle, that’s bad news. Yes, I could put a stopper in a bottle and save it. But my favorite one is The Bubbles, a sparkling white wine (kind of like a Pinot Gris). So if I used a stopper, the bubbles wouldn’t be as amazing a few days later.

A can size is perfect, usually consumed over two nights. And then I don’t have to worry about it going bad, or feeling like I need to drink more than I should, just because I don’t want to “waste” a bottle.

Besides, canned wine is coming up in quality and popularity! It’s not like those jugs you see at discount grocery stores for $4.99. Trust me; it’s delicious!

The Bubbles is my favorite, and you can get it from Whole Foods through Amazon Prime delivery! Plus, add a snack tray and a heavenly chocolate bar from WF, and you’re set! This is my perfect meal for a relaxing evening on my own!

I wish that I could say that this saved me time or money. But this is just something that makes me happy!

At the end of the day

As busy moms, we have our hands full, not to mention our brains! We need all the help we can get, and I am not too proud to accept help from great tools and resources! These mom life must haves help me be a better mom by taking away the unnecessary, automating what can be, and making me feel better in my skin, my mind, and in my heart!

Posts related to mom life must haves:

  • The Secret Formula for Getting the Best Gift for Mom
  • Want to be a Stay at Home Mom? Read This First!
  • Mamas Talk Money Goals!

What’s your mom life must have item? Let me know in the comments below!

The post Game Changing Mom Life Must Haves! appeared first on Money for the Mamas.

Source: moneyforthemamas.com

5 Rude Awakenings You’ll Experience Moving to the Burbs

rude awakenings you get when you move to the suburbsmonkeybusinessimages/iStock

You moved to the suburbs for a reason. You didn’t go there naively. You knew it would be different. It was clear from the start that you would trading your innovative restaurants, exciting nightlife, and cool cultural attractions for more space and, well, mostly the extra space.

But there are other things you may not see coming. I am here to warn you about the rude awakenings you’ll experience when you leave city living for the burbs.

Some streets don’t have sidewalks

no sidewalks in suburbs
Nice, but where the hell are the sidewalks?

The Odyssey Online

So we’re walking to Trader Joe’s (because we’re still holding out on buying a car), enjoying the springlike weather and sunshine when all of a sudden, we cross the street and boom: no sidewalk. The lawns go right up to the street with no  friendly path to guide our way.

How does this happen? How do you build an entire neighborhood of houses and not include a strip of concrete where people can walk without getting hit by a car? What is happening in these sidewalk-less neighborhoods? Do the kids just never visit one another? Do you walk in the street or on people’s lawns? Regardless, I feel like we’re taking our life in our hands.

It’s a driver’s world and pedestrians had better watch their butts

almost hit by a car
Get outta the street!

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The mysterious disappearance of sidewalks is just the first sign that you have no business walking around in public. There’s a new world order out here, and we pedestrians are no longer in charge.

In the city, there are so many people walking everywhere the cars have to drive more slowly and carefully. We vastly outnumber drivers, but not so in the suburbs. Drivers don’t expect to see people using their legs to get places. You are a novelty, with your “I’ll just walk the five blocks to the movie theater.” And you’d better be aware of drivers’ unawareness of you or you’ll get mowed down, fast.

panda hit by car
Panda, move!

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It’s nothing personal. It’s just that drivers are totally not expecting you to be out there. You’re like deer to them. They’re driving along and all of a sudden, OMG, person! What the hell is she doing out here, trying to cross the street? Doesn’t she know? It’s a STREET.

You will get lost in the supermarket

lost in grocery store
Where am I, even?

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They’re huge here. They carry everything, and yet you can’t find anything, partly because you’re spending a half-hour in front of the vast pasta aisle unable to make a choice. Grocery shopping in the suburbs becomes a huge time suck, because you have to cover so much ground to find anything and there are way too many distractions.

justin timberlake supermarket
But there is so much food here!

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Where are the green onions? Hey, look, fresh guava! Why can’t I find coconut oil anywhere? Oooh, a whole shelf of Sriracha!

The mall will suck you in and make you its own

let's go to the mall
Let’s go to the mall!

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Enjoy your limited days of being “too cool” for mall shopping, because it’s only a matter of time before you have to replace a broken wine glass. Or you’re just curious and want to indulge in a totally self-conscious ironic afternoon at the mall, as in, “haha, let’s do the mall today, stroll under the artificial lighting, and see what’s 40% off at Banana Republic.” (Answer: everything.) Because the trajectory beam of the mall will draw you in, sooner or later. And you’ll kind of like it, because all the stores are there and you have your Godiva right across from your Teavana. And then you’ll hate yourself for liking it. But you’ll go anyway, again and again. Who are you, anymore? Shh, shh, baby. It’s all right. There’s a sale on hurricane lamps at Crate & Barrel.

People are so gosh darn nice all the time

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Well hello there!

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Prepare yourself for this, because it’s going to throw you the first few times and you won’t even know how to respond: The people in your neighborhood may be nice. Like, sincerely friendly and helpful. The office staff at the doctor’s office. The shopkeepers. People who have no business being so nice. What is with all the smiling and hopes that I have a good experience in the waiting room?

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I can do this smiling thing.

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Don’t worry, you’ll adjust to this culture shock. Just surrender to it all. Stop worrying and learn to love the mall, the huge supermarkets, the kindness. Just be really careful crossing the street, OK? All that niceness ends once people get behind the wheel.

The post 5 Rude Awakenings You’ll Experience Moving to the Burbs appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Money-Saving Hacks to Implement Now

Redo your monthly budget (and stick to it)

You can do plenty of things to improve your budget, and it's not all about pain and suffering, as many would have you believe. Everyone has a few things they overspend on. The challenge lies in identifying those particular items and weeding them out. A good place to begin is with restaurant spending, grocery bills, and impulse buying. A wise general philosophy is to assign a destination for every dollar you earn and place that category on your budget. Try cutting restaurant expenditures in half, reducing impulse buys at convenience stores, and shopping for groceries just once each week to regulate what goes toward food items.

Refinance your education debt

If you have any education debt still hanging around after all these years, refinancing student loans through a private lender is a way to lessen your monthly expenses. Not only can you get a longer repayment period, but have the chance to snag a favorable interest rate. But the clincher for money-saving enthusiasts is that your monthly payments can instantly go way down. That means extra cash for whatever you want. Use the excess to fatten savings or IRA accounts, or pay off high-interest credit card debt.

Install a programmable thermostat

For less than $20, it's possible to chop at least three percent off your utility bills and perhaps much more than that. 

Programmable thermostats are easy to install. You don't need special tools or advanced skills. Be sensible about summer and winter settings and you'll see a difference in your electric bill almost immediately, especially during the hottest months of the year. Don't forget to program the device to go into low-use mode while you're away for long weekends or longer vacations.

Join a shopping club

Although shopping clubs come with annual membership fees, the savings on groceries, household items, and gasoline usually offset them within a month or two of actively using the membership. That leaves the other months of the year for you to save money on household necessities. 

For people who drive a lot, shopping clubs with on-site gas stations offer one of the best deals going. Not only do the clubs offer gasoline for about 10 cents off the regular price, but some also offer free car washes and coupons for repair work at participating shops. Although shopping clubs are a win for most anyone, a family of three or more can log thousands per year in savings.

Refinance your home or car

If you have owned your home or car long enough to ride the interest rate waves, you likely qualify for a refinancing agreement. This strategy is excellent for consumers who have better credit now than when they made the original purchase. 

Young couples are perfectly positioned to refinance a home after several years of making payments on it. Likewise, anyone who still owes on a vehicle and can get a lower interest rate should look into a car or truck refi. Not only can you get additional months to pay off the obligation, but with a lower rate, you stand to save a nice chunk of money.

Take bagged lunches to work

One of the oldest, more reliable ways to instantly cut personal expenses is to prepare and take your own lunch to work each day. Not only do you save money by not eating out or buying lunch in the company cafeteria, but you also have added control over what you eat. That means you're doing a favor for your wallet and your health at the same time. 

Don't fall into the rut of eating at your desk. Consider taking your bagged meal outside and enjoying the scenery, taking a walk after eating, or joining friends in the cafeteria to socialize. 

Use public transportation as often as possible

If you live on or near a bus or light-rail route, do the logistical planning necessary to travel to work at least a few times each week by public transit instead of by car. 

Unless you reside in a small town, chances are you have access to buses and trains for commuting purposes. Once you get into a habit of using the public transit system, consider buying a one-month or annual pass, which can represent a major discount on one-time fare prices. Public transportation can take a bit longer to get you to your destination, but it's easy enough to make use of the time reading, catching up on work, or just relaxing.

Use credit cards wisely

If you use credit cards to make purchases you can't afford, you're headed for trouble. But if you use your plastic wisely, you can reap real benefits.

If you have a good credit rating, you'll likely qualify for cashback cards that give a percentage of your money back on some or all of your purchases. You can use that cash to pay for a portion of your monthly credit card bill. You could also let your cashback savings accumulate and use it to pay for larger purchases in the future.

Just make sure not to outspend your monthly budget so you're able to pay your credit card balance off in full each month. Keeping a balance on your cards is counterproductive because you'll also be paying interest fees.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

My spending goal for 2020: Spend less on food

I’m pleased to report that 2020 is off to a fine start. As I mentioned in my year-end review, 2019 sucked for me. I have high hopes that this year will be a vast improvement. So far, it has been.

The biggest change is that I’m not drinking alcohol. While this is meant as a January-only test, it’s possible that I’ll extend the experiment. It’s saving me money and making me more productive. Plus, it may be helping with my anxiety and depression. I like that. (Thanks to the GRS readers who sent me private notes about their own struggles with alcohol. I appreciate it.)

I’ve made other small changes this year too. While I didn’t make any resolutions — I rarely do — I’m using the new year as a prompt to alter some of my habits, to do things differently.

One area that both Kim and I want to focus on in 2020 is our food spending. In 2018, I spent an average of $1038.03 per month on food. While I don’t have complete numbers for 2019 (my expense tracking was messy in the latter half of the year), I know that while my food spending declined, it didn’t decline by much. I want to change that.

To that end, Kim and I are making a couple of changes. For one, I’m canceling HelloFresh…at least for now. Plus, there’s the whole “cut out alcohol” thing. While alcohol isn’t included in my food spending, it contributes to my food spending. It leads us to eat out more. We want to reduce our restaurant spending in 2020.

Let’s take a closer look at how I hope to spend less on food this year.

Good-bye, HelloFresh

Last year was the year I experimented with HelloFresh, the meal delivery service. Mostly, I like it. Mostly. I like the HelloFresh recipes. I like the convenience. I like the company itself.

That said, there are enough downsides to HelloFresh that starting next week, I’m dropping the service. Part of this is because of me. Part of this is because of HelloFresh itself.

On the me side, I need to walk more. I need to get more exercise, and I need to experience my neighborhood. As part of that, I want to make regular trips to the grocery store — by foot.

Also on the me side, I like greater variety than HelloFresh offers. It’s not that HelloFresh doesn’t offer different meals and cuisines — because it does. But the recipes themselves have a relentless sameness about them. Yes, you can choose Italian or Korean or American dishes, but the preparation is always always always the same. It’s boring.

Those are the problems with me. There are also problems with HelloFresh itself.

For instance, I’m sick of the never-ending push to get me to promote the service to my friends. Get lost. Every week, the HelloFresh package contains a plea to share sign-up codes with friends. Every week when I choose my meals online, there’s an additional plea to share sign-up codes with friends. Every week in the follow up e-mails, there’s a plea to share sign-up codes with friends. I’m over it.

But the biggest strike against the service is its inability to get produce right.

Most weeks, there’s at least one meal with a shitty piece of produce. It’s usually (but not always) a tomato. One meal I prepped last week had a rotten lemon. (I’ve never even seen a rotten lemon before!) It’s as if there’s no quality control.

And at least once per month, a vegetable is simply missing. Absent. Not in the bag. During Thanksgiving week, for instance, I was prepping a meal with asparagus almandine, which sounded awesome. But the package I received contained no asparagus. I scrambled to find a substitute — Brussels sprouts — but it was a poor replacement.

The Cost of Convenience

Plus, there’s the cost. When we first tried HelloFresh in June 2018, I crunched the numbers. Meals from HelloFresh cost about $10 per person. If I were to purchase the ingredients myself, the cost was just over $3 per person. At three meals per person per week, I’ve been paying an extra $175 per month for groceries that I don’t need to pay.

When I signed up for HelloFresh, I did so because I hoped it would save me money. I hoped that it would keep me out of the grocery store (which it does, actually) and that in turn would reduce my grocery spending. I tend to make a lot of impulse purchases at the supermarket, so this seemed like sound reasoning.

The results of this experiment were inconclusive. For the first half of 2019, my home food spending (HelloFresh and groceries combined) dropped from $620.92 per month to $553.45 per month. But during the last two months of the year, I spent $729.38 per month. Was that year-end spike because of the holidays? The huge Costco trip I made in early November? I don’t know. Maybe I should dive deeper.

In any event, if I did save money, it isn’t nearly as much as I’d hoped I would save.

That said, Kim and I have really enjoyed many of the meals we’ve ordered from HelloFresh. And we’re especially keen on the recipe cards. They’re a lot of fun. They make cooking simple — even if they are relentlessly the same.

Because I’m a nerd, I’ve saved every recipe card from every HelloFresh meal we’ve ordered. And to get nerdier yet, I’ve both graded each recipe and taken notes on it. In other words, we have a customized illustrated “cookbook” containing over 100 different recipes. (Plus, all 2500+ of the HelloFresh recipes are available for free from their website.)

Going forward, I intend to use these recipe cards to plan and prep our meals. Instead of ordering from HelloFresh itself, though, I’m going to walk to the grocery store (carrying my backpack) to buy the ingredients. This should prevent me from buying crap we don’t need while allowing me to obtain better produce than HelloFresh tends to send.

We’ll see how it works.

Here’s another way Kim and I have come up with to cut costs on food: batch cooking. It’s nothing new, I know, but it’s new to us. We won’t do once-a-month cooking, but we’ll each pick one recipe per week and make a larger version of it.

I’ll pick one HelloFresh cards and make three nights of the meal, for example. Last Sunday, Kim prepped a big batch of pork tacos that we’ve eaten for dinner the past three nights. And so on. We think this’ll keep life simple and keep me out of the grocery store.

Rascally Restaurants

Kim and I will also try to cut back on food spending this year by reducing how much we dine out. Left to our own devices, we choose restaurants much of the time. That gets expensive.

  • In 2017, I spent an average of $567.97 per month on restaurants. Kim spent some unknown amount too (but much less).
  • In 2018, I spent an average of $389.63 per month on restaurants. Plus, Kim spent some. So, we made big gains in 2018, but our spending was still high.
  • As I mentioned, my records are incomplete for last year, but I know I spent $288.04 for restaurants during the last two months of 2019.

From 2017 to 2019, we cut our restaurant spending in half. That’s great progress! Still, there’s room for improvement.

I spent an average of $66.47 per week on restaurants last year. My gut feeling is that this is basically dining out once per week. I know from experience that our typical check is about $55, which includes our two meals plus two beers each. After tip, that’s $66. That’s our standard meal. (And it’s usually on a Thursday night.)

So far in 2020, we’ve had one restaurant meal and it cost us exactly $34 (including tip). If we’d both had our typical two beers, that check would have been about $58. By not drinking, we saved ourselves more than twenty bucks!

Kim and I do enjoy eating out together, so it’s not something we want to eliminate. Instead, we want to be more mindful about how and where we dine out when we do dine out.

We’ve already shifted our focus from fancier places (which is where we were eating in 2017) to cheap and tasty spots. But now we’re interested in finding places that are even less expensive. And, at least for now, we want to be careful to avoid spots that might tempt us to drink. (Our favorite pub has great food and a cozy environment, but we both know it’s madness for us to eat there. It’ll make us want to drink beer.)

It’s far to early to predict how this whole restaurant thing is going to go in 2020. But we’ve thought of a couple of ways to cut costs (in addition to the “not drinking” thing.) As I said, we can turn our attention to less expensive eateries. Why go to the fancy Mexican place with “gourmet” tacos that cost $8 or $9 when we can go to the cheap place down the hill with $4 tacos? Let’s try that new ramen spot.

Plus, we might try take-out this year. Neither one of us has ever been a big proponent of ordering food to go, but I think it makes some sense right now. On my way home from the new office, I can pick up something tasty for dinner from the Thai place or the Italian place, maybe. We can have the restaurant food without restaurant temptation.

The Last Big Win

Food seems to be the last major place that I can trim my budget. My austerity measures in 2019 yielded excellent results, and I’ll continue to pursue those in the future. But I’ve cut most of my discretionary spending as far as I want to cut it at present. Food is the exception.

  • I averaged spending $1176.06 per month on food in 2017.
  • That dropped to $1038.03 in 2018.
  • During the last two months of 2019, I spent an average of $1053.28 per month on food.

As I say, we’re making progress, but I feel there’s more to be had here. This is the last big win left in my budget. It’d be great if I could trim my food spending to, say, $800 per month (or lower!) in 2020. That’d be a fantastic drop from $1200 each month in 2017, right? I’d call that a victory.

On a food-related note, I should point out that eliminating (or reducing) alcohol could also save me plenty of money. During the past three years, I’ve reliably spent about $250 per month on alcohol — and that doesn’t include alcohol in restaurants. Going dry could help my health and wealth.

Source: getrichslowly.org