Planning A Trip to Disney World with Toddlers

Yes, that’s right. It is finally time to take my sweet children to the magical place called Walt Disney World. Why now?

Because the Mini Athlete turns 3 in June and at age 3, children are no longer free. Right now, our family of four can go to Disney for the price of two adults – in my mind, there is no time like the present!

I grew up living less than three hours away from Disney so it’s safe to say I’m pretty familiar with the place. But let me tell you, planning a trip to Disney with toddlers is a a completely different experience. Or at least I’m anticipating it will be. If it were just me and my husband, we would pack up first thing in the morning and drive to the park and enjoy the day. With toddlers? We’re planning to do things a little bit differently.

1) Staying “on property”. My parents and sister are planning to go with us, so we decided to rent a cabin at Fort Wilderness. There are definitely perks to staying “on property”, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Check out some of the “Value Resorts” – their rooms start at $90/night (or $49 at Ft Wilderness if you want to camp). Staying on property gives you free transportation to the parks, “Extra Magic” hours when available, and several other perks just for resort guests. One of our biggest reasons is being able to get to the park EARLY as first thing in the morning is usually the best (read: happiest) time of day for my toddlers.

2) Bringing our own snacks. You know all that Disney magic? It can cost a pretty penny. But one nice thing about Disney is that you can bring in your own snacks! Before we go, I’m planning to stock up on all my kids’ favorites to keep them satisfied throughout the day. They are just as happy with a PB&J I make in the cabin as they would be with some expensive Disney food. Or at least I’m hoping they will be.

3) Set toddler-level expectations. I’m trying to coach myself on this one. As a mom (spending quite a bit of money for this Disney experience), I have visions of how the “perfect day” at Disney will go. But I’m trying to prepare myself for anything – and just enjoy the ride. I’m kinda approaching it like I did the birth of my children – I can have a plan, but will do my best to enjoy however the day turns out knowing that there are some (many) things outside my control. I have seen way too many parents dragging their child through Disney, demanding they have a good time and thereby ruining the day for everyone. If my kids are happiest watching the squirrels play on the trash can, then that’s what I’ll let them do. (I hope. We’ll see how I actually get once the Disney adrenaline gets pumping…)

We’re actually spending two days at Disney World – the first at Animal Kingdom and the second at Magic Kingdom. My hope is that the first day will help my kids acclimate to the crowds and the characters in a slightly less chaotic environment. But I am a little worried that the Mini Athlete will spend the whole day asking where the castle is – we have been watching YouTube videos about the parks and to say he is excited is an understatement. We’ve actually made a little chart to countdown the days until we go. He loves putting a little Mickey Mouse sticker on the calendar as each day passes!

As you can see from his Halloween photo, he is a BIG Mickey fan. :)

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I’m sure I’ll have many things to report when we get back from our trip, but I’d love to hear YOUR advice before we go. Do you have any suggestions for making a first trip to Disney with toddlers? I’d love to hear them! 

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My Little Leprechauns

Well, not quite leprechauns, but I think I’m pretty lucky to be their mama!

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Don’t you love her tutu? I found it at a garage sale for 50 cents.

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Is it just me, or is time speeding up? This is St. Patrick’s Day last year. I swear they still look like this. Who are those big kids in the photos above?

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Be still my heart.

The best mothering advice I ever got is that “the days are long, but the years are short.” Moments like this make me realize all over again just how true that advice is.  

What’s the best mothering advice you’ve ever heard (or given)? 

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Mama Has a Minivan!

Yes, it finally happened. I became one of “those moms”. Helloooooo beautiful.

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The truth is, I’ve been pining for a minivan for a while now. Okay, maybe pining isn’t strong enough. Lusting might be a more descriptive and accurate word.

It’s not that I didn’t love my little Corolla. I have loved that thing since I drove it off the lot 10 years ago. However, now we have two toddlers, a double stroller, diaper bag…it just wasn’t very comfortable anymore. It was hard to say goodbye, but it made it a little easier knowing we sold it to an awesome single mom with a little baby who had been praying for an affordable four day car for her family. Love that.

My kids are REALLY happy with the new minivan.

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The Mini Athlete always asks to ride in the “big car” and he gets downright giddy when we use the automatic doors. It’s like magic!

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Little Miss was pretty happy when she found she pit perfectly into the center console. Too bad I had to inform her that wasn’t exactly up to safety regulations…

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In case you’re curious, we ended up with a 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan. I love when things fall into place and you just know you have found the right vehicle for you.

I like to call this “my” minivan, but in reality, this is all about the kids. And since my husband is the one that takes them to preschool and picks them up most days, he has informed me that he thinks that he will be driving this pretty new thing most days. Sigh. Can’t really complain about that though…he looks mighty good driving the “man van” as I’m affectionately calling it. :)

Does your family have a minivan, or are you “anti-minivan” like my sister-in-law is? :) 

 

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When Your Toddler Finds Your Stash of Koozies

Random fact: We have acquired a ridiculous amount of koozies over the year. It seems like we come home with a few more after every networking event we attend.

I’ve wondered what in the world we were going to do with these koozies. Well, leave it to my 2 year old to find out a few alternate uses.

1) Using them as gloves for playing “Bam Bam” (aka shadow boxing). No, I have no idea where he learned this.

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2) Kicking them across the room instead of footballs. (They cause a lot less damage!)

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3) Using them to make a giant traffic jam.

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Looks a little bit like traffic around my town right now. That’s one of the downfalls of living in paradise – the influx of “snowbirds” from up north.

Next up? Learning to count the koozies. I’m sure we’ll be able to get up to at least 30.  I told you we have a lot of these things.

Who needs fancy toys after all?

What’s the most random non-toy you or your child has played with? I’m pretty sure the koozies top the list around here – he loved them!

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Tips from a Wannabe Housekeeper

This post is sponsored by P&G. Save on NEW Gain Flings and Tide Pods at Target. Text CLEAN to Target (827438) for mobile coupons*.

*Message and data rates may apply. 1 message per request. http://m.target.com/spot/sms/coupon-alrts-terms for Terms, Conditions, and Privacy Policy. By texting the key word to us, you agree to receive an autodialed text message from Target at the mobile number from which you sent your request. Consent to receive messages is not a condition of purchase.

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You’ve heard me say many times that “domesticity” is not exactly listed on my resume. In fact, my husband far and away surpasses my domestic abilities. And I am SO thankful for a husband whose love language is “acts of service” because this is what love often looks like in our house…

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The dynamics of every relationship are different, but I’m so thankful this is how ours works. We are truly partners when it comes to housework…admittedly with him doing more than his fair share.

To be honest, I know I’m not good at housework, and that makes me not want to try. Sounds silly, I know. But it’s true. And it’s something I’m working through. I’ve realized that no one came out of the womb knowing how to mop floors, clean ovens, or spot clean clothes. It’s not too late for me to learn. I learned a few little tricks that have helped me and I thought they might help some of you too. These little tips will go a long way to keeping your housekeeping efforts simple and effective…especially if you’re life is as crazy as mine.

1) Clean As You Go

Oh, I am so bad at this. I let things pile up, thinking that the end of the world might come before I have to clean that dish. Or do that laundry. Or mop the floors. Or I think that the cleaning fairy might show up and I won’t have to do it. Newsflash: She ain’t coming. When you wake up, that dish will still be there. And if it’s not, it will be clean and your husband will be grumpy because he had to clean it because you went to bed with the dish crusted with last night’s dinner still sitting in the sink. (Trust me on this one.)

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My husband has tried SO hard to instill this into me, especially when it comes to cleaning up after cooking. I still fail miserably most of the time, but I’m working on it. Why? Because I know he’s right.

2) Don’t Complicate Things

I used to think everyone knew all kinds of detailed techniques when it came to housework. Nope. Most of the time, the best ways are the simplest ways. When you’re a busy mom, simple is better.

P&G recently sent me some samples of their Tide Pods and Gain Flings and these fall right into that idea of keeping things simple.

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They remind me of the packets we use in our dishwasher and they make laundry SO much simpler – especially if you have a baby on your hip, or a phone in your hand. Just drop it in and go. AND it has detergent, brightener and stain remover all in one little packet. Can’t get much less complicated than that!

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And can I just be honest here? I have never used brightener or stain remover before. It felt too complicated, it overwhelmed me, and I don’t remember my mom ever using anything more than just plain detergent in our laundry. (She will probably correct me, so let’s just blame that on me not paying attention as a sulking teenager who didn’t want to learn how to do laundry.)

My husband couldn’t BELIEVE how much better our clothes looked. I don’t think there will be any going back now. His quote of the night? When looking at one of his white undershirts he said, “They didn’t look this good right out of the package!” Sold. Looks like I’ll be picking up some of these little pods of magic on my next trip to Target.

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Don’t complicate things. Keep it simple.

3) Aim to Tackle One “Project” a Week

This lesson I learned during my Wannabe Challenge in January. I realized there are certain things around the house (like cleaning my appliances or my baseboards) that just never seem to happen. Life gets busy and it feels like you’re just trying to keep your head above water.

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Aim to tackle one housecleaning project each week. If you can get yourself in a good rotation, you’ll never feel overwhelmed when cleaning the fridge or washing the windows. Instead of dirt and grime piling up for months (or years), you’ll be able to keep things much more under control by sticking to a regular schedule.

For those runners in the audience, think of this as your weekly “long run”. You may not always look forward to doing your long run, but you’ll always be glad you did and it’s so important to staying on top of your game. Same goes for keeping the house clean.

These might be simple, little tips, but I promise they will go a LONG way toward keeping your house clean and your sanity in check.

What’s your best housekeeping advice for us not-so-domestic wannabe housekeepers?

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Gasparilla Distance Classic 15k (aka “A Really Bad Idea”)

Around Christmas time, my best friend Katie and I were looking for a race to train for over Florida’s cooler winter months. She lives near downtown Tampa so we were excited to find the Gasparilla 15k for just $35. For some reason, running 9.3 miles felt much more doable than running half marathon. We figured we would be able to train for that.

Then…life happened. The longest I have run since giving birth to Little Miss is 6 miles – 3 weeks ago. I haven’t run since. In fact, I figured out that before today, I had only run 26 miles TOTAL since the beginning of 2014. This is NOT the way to train for a 15k. But we decided, heck, why not? We had already paid for it. We could walk it if we had to. And since we live an hour away from each other, we enjoy any excuse to hang out.

I drove up Friday afternoon and we headed to the Expo – at the same time that everyone getting out of work was going there. WHOA. Traffic was insane – and we had to pay $10 to park. Ugh.

We made it inside and picked up our bibs – it was official!

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We headed over to pick up our t-shirt. Can’t say I’m in love with it – it’s a unisex size medium and I just don’t see myself running in it. But it does make a very comfortable lounging shirt – I’m actually testing it out right now. Very comfy. I was disappointed in how SMALL the “15k” was on the shirt. I mean, this is my first ever 15k – I want to show that off! Oh well, not the end of the world.

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We wandered around the expo and spotted Meghann at the IronGirl booth!

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So good to see my friend.

I got really excited when I saw the Apera Bags booth. I actually used my bag as my travel bag for the weekend, and I love it more every time I use it. Say hello to Frank and Letha!

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Frank is actually the president of the company, and draws on his experience as the former president of Samsonite and American Tourister – no wonder their bags are so nice!

Katie found her name on the wall of participants. No turning back now!

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We got to bed early and set our alarms for 5:15am. Thankfully, Katie only lives about 10 minutes from downtown so we didn’t have to get up too crazy early to make the 7:00am start time. Another big plus? Her husband works downtown so we were able to park in his parking garage. A HUGE blessing since the traffic was terrible and it seemed like a lot of people had trouble parking (especially for the 5k that started at 9am!)

We walked to the start line and actually got there about 20 minutes early. I had a little bit of pre-race jitters, but nothing like usual. I knew I hadn’t trained for this race, so I had zero expectations. I was a little nervous about covering such a long distance and started second guessing my sanity a few times, but before we knew it, it was time to go.

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And then…we were off!

I made two really good decisions about this race. 1) I was going to wear a different shirt that had a high collar, like a t-shirt. After stepping out the front door and feeling the humidity, I changed. THANK GOD. I would have felt like I was suffocating in that other shirt. 2) My stomach was bothering me at the start of the race. About 0.2 miles in, we saw a row of port-a-potties and decided to stop. I have never stopped to go the bathroom in the middle of the race, and would never think about it that early! But it was the BEST decision. Of course, I felt better. But we had also started with much faster people than us, so the short potty break allowed us to jump back in with people around our pace and a little thinner crowd. Two great decisions.

The race itself? Probably not my best decision. It was hot. It was humid. I felt out of shape. I never found my rhythm. I forgot my headphones so that didn’t help. I just wasn’t feeling it. In fact, I was feeling pretty awful.

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We kept pushing through, using a 2:1 run/walk method. Even that was tough. I’ve never been so happy to see this sign.

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But at the same time, a mile still felt INCREDIBLY long at that point! I was hurting and couldn’t wait to cross that finish line. We dug deep and crossed with an official time of 1:59:20 – not bad considering my goal was to be under 2 hours! We averaged a 12:48min/mile pace.

It wasn’t my longest, fastest or best race, but I’m pretty darn proud of that metal. We had to work HARD to cross that finish line. It took an incredible amount of mental toughness to keep going. And I’m pretty proud of that.

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Recovering from this race? It’s going to be a doozy. I can’t remember ever being this sore after running. Ever. It’s like my body is screaming at me, “THAT WAS A DUMB IDEA!” And my body is probably right. As it usually is.

Have you ever under trained for a race? Who else is doing Gasparilla this weekend? Good luck to everyone doing the half marathon and 8k tomorrow!

 

 

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Lessons Learned at Naptime

As a full-time working mom, it’s pretty unusual for me to be home at naptime. Even on the weekends, it seems like I’m always on the go while my kiddos are sleeping.

Today I’m home with my kids (ages 1 and 2) and I’ve realized – life is a little bit like naptime.

All morning I was mentally making a “to-do list” for naptime. While we were busy playing, I made grand plans for that window of time. When the kids took their nap I would 1) make dinner, 2) fold laundry, 3) tidy up the house, 4) make phone calls for work, 5) send a few emails, etc etc. I had much I wanted to accomplish during those few hours of peace and quiet.

Once naptime finally rolled around and I was convinced both kids were asleep, I opened up my computer. And I proceeded to check Facebook, read blogs, check the weather, etc etc – accomplishing nothing I had listed on that mental scrap of paper. I had no idea how much time I had wasted until one of my babies let out a sigh. “OH NO!” I thought. “Is naptime over?? It can’t be! I haven’t done anything I had planned to do yet!”

Thankfully, she rolled over and went back to sleep – and I got busy. And as I was making dinner, I caught myself thinking of the parallel between naptime and life.

We make grand plans. We make a mental list of all the things we “should do”. But then suddenly, we realize that time has passed us by while we were distracted by things that really didn’t matter in the grand scheme. If we’re lucky, we’ll get that warning “sigh”, reminding us that like naptime, life is short. We must make every moment count.

I don’t want to come to the end of my life and be scrambling like I was today, trying to make up for lost time. Trying to do something that mattered in the grand scheme, rather than wasting my time on trivial things. One of my favorite quotes has always been, “Live your life for something that will outlast it.”

You see, this journey on earth is just a glimpse in light of eternity. It is as brief as naptime always seems to be. Live each day with that reality in clear view.

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How To Shop for Clothing at Goodwill

Since I’ve been posting my outfits from Goodwill, I have had several people ask me for tips about how to find clothes at Goodwill. Obviously, the technique varies from person to person, and your selection will vary from store to store. But hopefully these tips will help you find some great items at Goodwill!

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First, focus. What are you looking for? Anything? Everything? Or is there a particular item you would like to add to your wardrobe? Start there.

I tend to start with dresses. Why? Because they are an instant outfit – no pulling together separate pieces. Goodwill organizes clothes by type of clothing (dresses, skirts, pants, shorts, long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts, no-sleeve shirts, etc). Then they organize each section by size. I find the Medium/Size 8 section and start sorting through.

My grandma always told me to pay attention to the fabric – do you like the color? Do you like the feel? If not, don’t waste your time looking at it. Find something that might be a possibility? Throw it in your cart. If you wait and come back, it might be gone. Once you get a good pile, head to the dressing rooms and when you’re trying on the clothes, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Would you buy this item at full price?

It is SO easy to fall for the “well, it’s a good deal” trap. Just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean you should buy it. If you wouldn’t buy the item at full price, you probably shouldn’t buy it at Goodwill. Why? Because you don’t love it. You’re settling. Don’t settle.

2. Why did someone get rid of this item?

Someone donated this item to Goodwill. Ask yourself…why? Make sure you look it over closely for stains or pulls in the fabric. But remember, it might not be so obvious. Is it uncomfortable? Does it require a special style of undergarment you don’t own? Must it be dry cleaned? Sometimes people donate things simply because it doesn’t fit them (or their personality). But sometimes there is a reason. Search critically for it.

3. What will you wear it with?

This might be your answer to the second question. How many times have you bought a cute skirt and never found a matching top? (More times than I can count.) Those adorable shoes – which outfit will they complete? Have a plan for your entire outfit before you purchase the item. Otherwise you’ll end up with a closet full of clothing pieces, but no outfits. And it won’t be too long before that beautiful, like new item ends up back on the rack at Goodwill – because you couldn’t find anything to wear it with either.

I always pause before I head to the checkout line to look through my cart and sort through my finds again. I pull out every item and give it one more critical look asking myself those three questions again. If it passes, it goes home with me. If there is doubt, put it back.

Remember, not every trip to Goodwill will yield great results. Go often. Be patient. I tend to shop at Goodwill at least once a week. Another quick tip? Keep an eye on the clothing racks that the employees are bringing out from the stock room. That’s often where you’ll find the best stuff – before they even put it out.

Local friends – the Goodwill stores in Sarasota County will be 50% off this Friday (Valentine’s Day)! You better believe I’ll be there. :)

Do you have any tips to add for shopping for clothes at Goodwill?

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Frugal Fashion

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I’ve gotten into the habit of posting my outfit of the day (#ootd) before work. As a busy working mom of two kids under the age of 3, I don’t tend to spend a lot of time focusing on things like fashion. Posting those photos has helped hold me accountable – it’s important in my job as executive director of a non-profit that I dress like a professional and knowing my outfits will be on display for all the world to see has helped me focus a little more on pulling them together.

But I’m also on a budget and I’m pretty sure the last time I was in a mall was on Black Friday last year – and I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought a “new” article of clothing for myself. Nevermind – I remember. I bought a formal dress for our annual fundraising banquet in November at Ross. It cost $35. Big spender, right?

All of my clothes are either from my days practicing law or have been purchased from Goodwill. No, I’m not telling you that to make you feel sorry for me. Quite the opposite actually! I’m pretty proud of my frugal fashion – although like I said in my last post, I’m trying to avoid going broke on good deals.

So here are a few of my latest outfits, just in case you missed them.

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Sweater, dress, belt and shoes all from Goodwill. 

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Dress and shoes from Goodwill.

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Dress, belt, sweater and boots from Goodwill. 

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Dress and shoes from Goodwill.

I’ve also posted a few “going out” outfits…

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Dress and shoes from Goodwill.

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Shoes from Goodwill, dress on clearance from Marshalls (about 8 years ago…)

Fashion has never exactly been my strong suit, but this has been a fun little endeavor for me.

You can obviously tell that the vast majority of my clothes are from Goodwill. And now I’m curious about where my readers shop. Think through your closet – where have you bought the majority of YOUR clothes? What are your best frugal fashion tips?

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Frugal February – A New Wannabe Challenge

You might remember that rather than trying to make big year-long resolutions for 2014, I’m trying to break them down into monthly goals. The nice thing about that? The first of the month is always a chance to start over.

In January, my goal focused on “The Wannabe Housekeeper“. I created a schedule and tried to stick to it.

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Note the word: tried. I made it about two weeks and then started falling off the wagon. I might re-work the schedule a little bit, but I’ve decided to recommit to this for the month of February. The biggest change? My sweet husband handles the dishes and mopping. No, it doesn’t work for every couple, but that works for us. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But that brings me to my February challenge. This month we’re going to focus on money. (Note that this corresponds with the shortest month of the year. I’m no dummy.)

Like most young families, money always seems tight. Between daycare payments, mortgage payments, student loan payments…there isn’t much left for “discretionary” spending. My husband handles all the bill paying around here, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t even looked at our accounts in months.

I thought I was doing pretty well in my spending – I tend to buy things on sale or second-hand. But when I looked at our accounts, I realized that I was quite literally “going broke on good deals.” It’s amazing how all those little purchases add up.

So I’m calling this month “Frugal February”.

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(Source)

Were things out of control? No. But I can do better. I’ll be focusing on this all month, but I’m starting the month with giving myself two “allowances” in the areas where I can do better with some of that discretionary spending.

First, my goal is to keep our grocery bill under $400 for the month. Somehow in my head, I estimated that’s about what we were spending. When I finally added it up, it’s actually more than $500. Again, I know I can do better. Aiming for a number that low might be a little lofty when you still have two in diapers, but it’s a goal. (This will include all trips to Publix, Wal-Mart and Target – at least the parts of those trips that are for food or household items.)

Second, I’m giving myself an “allowance” of $50 of the month for “fun spending.” That $50 is mine to spend how I choose – pedicure, clothes, home decor…and Goodwill trips. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I go to Goodwill on a very regular basis. It’s amazing how much those trips have added up. I’m embarrassed to say that I have spent $150 at Goodwill over the past two months, and very little of that did we “need”. So I’m trying to cut back in that area and keep my “fun spending” under control.

It’s not a big change, but it’s a start. We’ll see how it goes.

What’s one small change you can make to join me in the #FrugalFebruary challenge? 

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