Monday, September 26, 2011

and I'm back...

Ok everyone. I know it's been months since I blogged and I never finished telling the story of our latest journey. I am really sorry. It has been an overwhelming three months and it was all I could do to keep up.

My job was becoming too hectic and stressful so I turned in my notice towards the end of July. I have been working part time only at my church and the Orchard. I know it sounds like I should have more time, right? It's the exact opposite.I took a week of downtime to clear my head and rest. (I honestly didn't really even know how to rest, but I did it.) Then I threw myself completely into my couponing to ensure that our family would be ok without my full time income. After that was taken care of, I began cooking like a mad person and stocking up our brand new freezer. Then it was time to face the insane amount of mess and clutter throughout the house. (I'm still working on that.) I have started going through all of our strorage to sell or donate items that we no longer need. We have accumulated a lot over the years and most of it there is no point in having. Also, we are looking for a new (smaller) place to rent when our lease comes up in January so that I can continue to only work part time.

I know some people might say I just don't want to work, but that is not the case at all. I have been working. More hours than my husband actually. I work for around 5 hours a day at the house and then I work approximately 34-36 hours between my two jobs. Some weeks I work more than that if I pickup additional shifts. So honestly, I'm still really working full time, but it's condensed into 2 hours on Weds, 5 on Thurs and Fri and 12 on Sat and Sun. This works best for my family. I see my husband every night, even if only for a few hours. I am able to do more with my daughter by being home during the day. She is at her dad's on the weekends, so it makes the most sense for me to work those days.

Anyway, back to the original point. I do sincerely apologize for taking a hiatus, but it was certainly needed. In the next few days I will finish the story of our last vacation and begin telling you a little more of what my life has been up to these past few months.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Traveling day has arrived

It's finally here! The day we leave for our trip! YAY!

Of course, I didn't get everything done like I had wanted to Sat night, which meant I would have to really be on top of my game.

Sunday morning came early, as usual, and I did my best to get ready without waking Shane up. I grabbed my papers as I was leaving for church and my coupon binder so I could take care of that while I was there. I knew there wouldn't be as many kids because of Father's Day so it was easy enough to go through them and clip the coupons.

I did see a couple of things I wanted to grab at CVS on my way home, so I ran in and got those then hurried home. Our beach towels still weren't washed because there wasn't a full load, so I threw them in right away and started gathering things.

I try my best to not be a last minute packer, but it always seems like I am taking care of everything else and I end up packing right before we leave. This wouldn't be such an issue if I wasn't so indecisive. I guess the positive is that I know I'm indecisive and so does Shane, so he forgives me when he sees that I now have my rolling suitcase, weekender bag and a garment bag now packed along with a large utility tote holding shoes and toiletries. Shane, being the wonderful husband that he is, just smiles and says, "Tell me what is ready to go out to the car" God, I love that man.

I did my best to pack the car. I seem to have a better reasoning for how things fit than Shane, so this is always my task: How to fit what seemingly shouldn't fit into one trunk. Thank goodness we were taking my car. There was no way in the world that we could fit everything into Shane's.

We left our house around 3:30 pm. Our itinerary said we should leave at 3, so Shane was a bit concerned until I explained that I put it that way to make sure I was loading the car at 3, which we were. We drove to pick Caylie up from her Dad at his dad's house. When we had almost arrived there, we realized there was a knocking noise coming from the rear passenger side wheel area when we turned left. We checked everything we could possibly check and had to make a quick decision. Do we keep going and make sure to take it easy or do we go back home, unload and have the car checked the next day? Shane thought we may need to check it out, but I told him there was no way we could afford to lose 2 days of our trip. There was just too much planned. So, we got Caylie in the car and headed on our way.

We hadn't even made it to the interstate when she fell asleep. I owe a huge thanks to her dad and grandparents for letting her swim and play all day and not giving her a nap! We were able to make it to the opposite side of Knoxville before I had to take a potty break. I think I could have made it to our first scheduled stop if it hadn't been so hot! It was 100 degrees when we were loading the car, so I was drinking a lot of fluids.

Of course, when we stopped Caylie woke up. This was a little over 2 hours after we left, so that was a good nap.  We got back on the road and drove approximately another hour or so to get to our first refuel stop. My mom was gracious enough to let us use her gas card and pay her back when we returned so that our funds wouldn't be tied up in fuel. So, we had checked ahead on some gas applications where there would be  BP gas stations with the best pricing. The place we decided to stop first was Fort Chiswell, VA. The BP station there had gas at $3.30, which was by far the best price we could find for the entire trip at a BP. We filled up and made some sandwiches and then got back on the road. Shane took over driving at this point and sometime around Roanoke I fell asleep and so did Caylie.

The weather was not in our favor so much as it started a serious downpour while Shane was driving. I think he said it lasted for around 2 hours. The next mapped stop was around Winchester, VA, but unfortunately the BP there was closed as it was around 1 am. So, I started checking the map apps to find another BP station. We were able to locate one just inside of NJ that was within our gas range.

Shane decided he'd had enough when we got to Frysville, PA. So, I got out and walked around for a few minutes to make sure I was awake and took over driving to the BP in Phillipsburg, NJ. Shane of course, fell right asleep.

Back when we were looking at having a destination wedding there was a beautiful mansion in Bethlehem, PA we considered. Since this was on our route (only 5 mins off  the highway) I decided I would drive by it since we never actually saw it in person. It was definitely beautiful, but I'm glad we didn't decided to have the wedding there. I just don't think it would've been quite the same.

So, we made it to Phillipsburg and the best thing about crossing into New Jersey don't pump your own gas! As a matter of fact, it's not legal for you to pump it. You pull up, hand the guy your card/money and he takes care of it all. It's so nice to get this pampering. Then we continued on our way (with Shane awake) to our first real stop, the Bagel Chateau in Westfield. We arrived there around 6:00 am and thus began Day 2.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


If you know me, you know I lead a very busy life. Never a dull moment, but that also means rarely a free moment. So it's all about be prepared. This week we have done a lot to get prepared for this week long trip. Shane, being the great husband that he is, has been taking care of all of the laundry and cleaning around the house. I have been taking care of multiple things, but mainly focusing on the itinerary and Caylie.

It's all the little things that can cause your trip money to increase. Not bringing snacks can have a huge impact on the amount you spend. You will stop at gas stations to get sodas or chips...they cost insanely high prices. Also, not bringing medicines or things like sunblock can increase your spending.

I go grocery shopping twice a month. Knowing that this trip was coming up, I made sure to stock up on items that we would need. I have also learned that it is best to take trial size items or disposable items with you on trips because the likelihood that you will leave something behind is always there. Plus, they take up less space in your luggage than full size items do. This will leave you with more space to take other things. I like to take the airline approach to packing these items. Put them in plastic baggies so if something leaks it won't do any damage. Also, it helps to keep things organized.

I am also all about free samples. Who doesn't like free? Are you kidding me? When they come in the mail I stash them in a tote so they stay together. I don't necessarily want to use them for everyday things. I get them for emergencies or trips. So Thursday night after my MK meeting I dumped out all of the samples we had accumulated over the past 6 or so months. Removed all of the excess packaging and sorted them into categories.  Then I started bagging them up. Soon we had all of the toiletries that would be needed and a few snacks to take with us as well.

I also had put together a tote full of food items that we would be taking with us on the trip. Tuesday night Shane was kind enough to get them all into the snack baggies and put back into the tote. It is so much better to have this done ahead of time for several reasons. The main one is that once they are in baggies they don't make as much mess. You can grab several different items and throw it into a bag to take with you wherever you are going each day.  The other is they take up much less room that if they were in the original packaging. So many dry goods come in large boxes and are only filled halfway, why would you want to waste that space?

Last Sunday Shane cleaned out my car. God bless him, he is an amazing husband. Monday I got the oil changed and a tire rotation. Man, is my car running better! It technically wasn't going to be due for another change until we got back, but I wanted to make sure we would be ok. I also purchased a deal for this through Living Social and got a vehicle inspection as well. Wednesday, I went to the car wash with Caylie. She loves to ride through and see the car "take a bath". They have free vacuuming which is definitely nice.

So, now we had at least a portion of our preparations taken care of before the weekend!! YAY!

Today is Saturday and we leave tomorrow around 3. I actually have to work a half day today and tomorrow morning at church, so I am unavailable for a portion or the time. This just means that we have to maximize the rest of our time.

The itinerary is finished and mostly printed. I only have to input a few more directions and print them out. Last night I matched up each stop with it's directions.

Shane is getting all of his things ready to be packed. He is also setting out Caylie's basic clothes and things to play with. When I get home from work I will start getting everything into luggage. I am trying a somewhat new method that I learned from another blogger where you actually bag up each day's clothes. I think this will keep us more organized. I won't do this with everything, but at least with Caylie's clothes and our small items.

I will actually cook dinner tonight. There is food that will go bad before we get back. Plus it only makes sense to have something that we can eat tonight for dinner and lunch tomorrow. I'll get home from church around noon and that will be just enough time to heat up food and eat before we have to start loading up.

The plan is for me to get to bed early and Shane to stay up later. I have to leave for church at 8:30 am, so I definitely need to get to sleep. Shane is going to sleep in later so he can be awake longer. I'll drive the first leg because I usually do the best on that part. We'll switch out somewhere around Roanoke, VA, then again around Harrisburg, PA. We should get to our first stop in NJ around 6 am depending on how many stops we make and how long each takes.

Wish us luck!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I am so very excited that I was able to get the deal yesterday for the restaurant that we love so much. However, the stipulations state that it is for dinner only which meant I had to do a little more rearranging. Luckily it didn't cause major changes, just a little bit of shuffling.

At this point, we are getting so close that it worries me a little to do many changes, but I know they are necessary. You have to be prepared for the chance that something good can come along last minute like that did. We are planning on making several stops with our deals. After making those purchases yesterday, we are sitting at 17 for this trip and 2 for our December trip (1 is the additional deal for the restaurant and 1 for a stop that we eliminated from this trip due to time constraints).  

That being said, the Old Navy deal went live again today and I just can't turn down a good deal for shopping. I love Old Navy and the best thing about shopping in NJ is there is no sales tax on clothing!!! I'm not sure if that's state wide or by county, but where we will be there isn't any tax. So, of course I picked up 2 more of those, one with my account and one with Shane's.

So, as of right this moment, we have 19 deals for this trip and 2 for the Decemer trip. AMAZING! I really think that I can hit 20 deals...I'd like to have that goal, but I just don't know if it will happen or not. Hmmm...we'll just have to keep watching.

Good things come to those who wait...

Tuesday night Shane and I were going over the itinerary, basically covering everything another time to make sure that we both had an idea of what was going on. There were a couple of stops on the trip that he was a bit concerned about. He was sure if we would be able to afford everything I had planned.

Now, he knows how much of a bargain shopper I am, so he knew that I had purchased several Groupons for the trip. The ones that were sending up the red flags to him were the stops that we did not have a Groupon for. These were places we went to on our last trip and I wanted to revisit them. They are also places that I had a Groupon for on the last trip. I assured him that everything was budgeted and we would be fine.

The first place was a wine and liquor store that I really liked the owner. He even found my youtube page and commented on the video of us talking about his store. That to me, guarantees return, I really liked the wine I bought and I can't remember what it was...

The second place was to go ice skating. Now, we looked at several rinks all over Northern Jersey and NYC. The place I have planned to go is the all around cheapest, plus we know we like the rink and they have walkers available and a small area set aside for little kids. This is very important to me if we are going ice skating because it will be Caylie's first time and my second time. I want to make sure she'll be ok and that I don't fall. :)

And since we are going to this particular place to ice skate, the third place was a no brainer for me! There was one restaurant that we went to on our last trip that was just AMAZING. We are still talking about it and were practically dying to get back. The thing is, it's not the cheapest place. I mean, there certainly is NOT a dollar menu. Shane was the most concerned about this, but I told him we would go for lunch instead of dinner and that would help out with the cost. We were slightly disappointed because some of our favorite items were not available on the lunch menu, but we were still going to go regardless and pay full price.

I am a bargain shopper by nature. I do love coupons. I love thrift stores. The main reason I do this though, is so when it comes time to do something that we want to do and we DON'T have access to a discount, we are able to. There are certain things that I don't sacrifice on and others that I do. This restaurant, I would spend practically any price to eat there.

So, yesterday, I was talking to the ladies I work with about how great this place is and how much we are looking forward to eating there again. About 20 minutes later, I looked at my facebook feed and saw that the restaurant's fan page had posted there was a DEAL AVAILABLE!!! What's that you say? Did my eyes get wide and mouth drop open? Did I do the dance of joy? YOU BET I DID! One of the local online deal sites had a HALF OFF deal for dinner only and it didn't expire until 12/31/11! Even better, YOU COULD BUY MORE THAN ONE!!! Did I die and go to heaven? So, of course, I bought 2! One for this trip and one for our trip back at Christmas. YAYAYAYAYAY!  SOOOO excited! This is proof that good things really do come to those who wait, and pay attention.

Yesterday, the greatest thing happened.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Creative Vacation Financing

Ok, if you're like me, you don't have an endless supply of money coming in that you can just throw away on a vacation. So I decided after the success of our last big vacation that I would continue with what I like to call, "Creative Vacation Financing".

I talked about using Groupons for vacation. There are many great reasons why you should do this.

#1: Know what you're doing!
How many times have you gone somewhere on vacation or even a weekend trip with no plan in mind? What usually ends up happening? You get there, unload the car and then what?
"What do you want to do?" "I don't know, what do you want to do?" "Well, I don't know what there is to do here or what place there are to eat!"
You want to AVOID this AT ALL COSTS!!! This can lead to arguments and potentially ruin your trip! By having a plan and pre-purchasing deals for activities and meals, this can eliminate these problems from arising.

#2: Try new places!
I don't know about you, but I LOVE to try new places. You go on vacation to get away from your everyday life....why would you want to end up at those same places you go to all the time? Getting this online deals can open you up to a whole new world of places! Skip the big chains and check out some Mom & Pops!

#3 You can do more!
If you have a budget for what you can spend on your vacation, this is the thing for you! Most deals are a 50% discount, some are even more than that! This means with the same budget, you are able to do twice as many things as you would if you waited til you got to your destination and paid full price.

#4 It's already paid for!
When you pre-purchase those deals, you pay for them then. This allows you to have a portion of your vacation aready paid for before you even leave your driveway. This is my Creative Vacation Financing. Most people have a hard time saving up money for vacation. You have a very small amount of money left over from each paycheck and you put it in your savings, but then something comes along and you have to spend it. Then what do you do?
Most people will waste $25 a week by eating out or buying snacks or items they really don't need simply because the money is available right then. What I propose you do instead of "banking" the money, is go ahead and buy those deals for things you will want to do on your vacation!
Look at this as a different form of "banking". You are pre-paying for things and then setting them aside just like you would a savings account. OH, and by the way, did I mention that you DOUBLE your investment? With the deals being a 50% discount, you are going to DOUBLE what you put in! If I purchase a deal for $10 on a meal, but I receive a $20 voucher, I just DOUBLED my money that I "banked" for this trip. I don't know of any savings account that will double your money.

Now, there are things that you need to keep in mind if you are going to try this method of vacationing.

#1: Are your dates set in stone?
If you do not know exactly when you are going on vacation, I would not suggest this for you. Each individual deal has it's own expiration date and terms and conditions. If you don't know for certain when you are going, you could lose money on deals expiring before you can use them.

#2: Is your location set in stone?
Again, this is pretty much the same concept as #1. If you don't know for certain where you are traveling to, you can't possibly purchase deals for that area.

#3: Are you flexible?
Are you the type of person that falls apart when you have set backs, or do you bounce back? When you purchase these deals, you need to know that you may have to rearrange things based on traffic, weather or other outside influences.

#4: Are you organized?
I'm not gonna lie to you and say this is the easiest thing in the world to do. Yes, it can be easy if it's a short trip or you only purchase a handful of deals. However, if you are going to maximize your dollar and time and purchase several deals for a long trip, you need to be at least a little organized.

#5: Are you decent at using a Map?
Now, when I say map...I'm talking digital age map... Mapquest, bing, googlemaps, etc. You need to be able to look up each deal on a map and determine if it will fit within your driving radius. Is the town near another town that I will be in? You don't want to make things harder on yourself just to get a "great deal".

#6: Do you have some form of GPS?
You can print out your directions ahead of time by using one of the map softwares listed above, but what happens when you get lost or take a wrong turn? What if there is a detour due to road contruction or weather? This is when it comes in handy to have that nice GPS. When you are in an unfamiliar area, you need to prepare to get lost. We do not have a standalone one, only the googlemaps app on our phones.

More deals!! YAY!

Now, you didn't think I'd stop looking for deals did you? Just because we are less than a week out from the trip and the intinerary is complete does not mean that we can fit more things in or fill in holes.

Today there were 2 nice deals available. 1 for breakfast and 1 for lunch. The best thing about the breakfast one is that it's in a town that we are already going to early in the morning. YAY! 1 more meal taken care of!

The lunch is not in a town that we are already going to, but it's not "out of the way" either. I LOVE LOVE LOVE having meals planned and taken care of before the trip. There is nothing better than going out of town on vacation and KNOWING where you will eat the entire time. OH, and you don't have to spend a dime out of pocket either!!! I like to call it "Creative Vacation Financing".