Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How To: Save BIG Money Shopping Online

I begin my holiday shopping months in advance, and love every minute of it. I love every minute even more when I use these four ways to save (and get back!) lots of money. How much do I have to spend? has turned into How much can I save? And of course you can use all of these ideas to save money year-round.

1. EBATES*- If you do a lot of online shopping like I do, you need to sign up for EBATES. With it, you'll get money back on the shopping you are already doing online through literally hundreds of the most popular retailers. Seriously. Depending on the retailer you can get up to 25% back. While most retailers are under 5%, every little bit helps right? To give you an idea of the rebates you can get here are a list of the retailers I do most of my online shopping with and their percentages:

Amazon- Up to 8%
Old Navy/Gap-7%
Toys R Us-2%
Best Buy- 1.5%

How is it possible that someone just wants to give you a percentage of your online shopping? Well, EBATES works through referrals, and they basically get a commission every time they pass someone along to a site, and they simply pass some of that on to you. Simply sign in to EBATES, and click on the online retailer you are interested in shopping at, and the retailer will automatically send on your purchase amounts back to EBATES so you can be reimbursed. You get paid by check or PayPal quarterly, as long as its at least 60 days since your purchases (you won't get credit for anything you return.) You can also choose to donate your savings to a charity. Check out their site to learn more!

2. WALK AWAY- Fill your cart until your hearts content and then walk away. If you are signed in to an account connected with your email, retailers will often follow up within 24 hours with a coupon or offer by email to get you to seal the deal on an incomplete purchase.

3. CAMEL CAMEL CAMEL- Are you an Amazon addict like me? Want to make sure you get the best prices? Simply copy and paste the Amazon link of the thingamabob you are interested in into CAMEL and you can see the price history of the product, and figure out the best time to buy. You can also receive alerts via email or Twitter when the price on the thingamabob drops. (We just purchased a camcorder, and because of CAMEL I was able to purchase at the lowest history price, nearly $80 off the price it was listed at just days ago.) CAMEL also works with Best Buy... which is great for those big ticket items.

4. LOOK FOR COUPON CODES- A quick Google search of the retailer you are shopping with plus the words "coupon code" will quickly let you know if there are any deals out there, often through sites like Retail Me Knot.

5. (NEW!) AMAZON TIP- START SHOPPING EARLY. With the exception of special deals and lightening deals, prices continue to increase the closer you get to the holidays (See CamelCamelCamel.) So get that online shopping done early! 

6. (NEW!) AMAZON TIP 2- Did you know that if you are an Amazon Prime member, Amazon will give you a $1 credit toward your next book or e-book purchase if you choose "no-rush" shipping at check out. A few orders like that and you'll have a free book for a stocking stuffer! Another reason to do your shopping early.

Happy Shopping!

*If you sign up for EBATES through the listed link, I get rewarded. It's not why I wanted to share Ebates with you... but it can't hurt!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lessons From Littles

They may have only been around for a few weeks or months, but babies have a lot to teach us. Here are some big, yet simple ideas inspired by tiny people.

Photo Credit: Tiny Bubbles Photography

1. The importance of stretching. When is the last time you gave yourself a minute for a full body stretch when you woke up? Babies have this mastered, and look infinitely sweet doing it. Try it tomorrow. It'll do wonders for your morning routine.

2. We have very, very few basic needs. What do babies do all day? Eat, sleep, poop and cuddle. I think we take the first three with us rather easily as we grow up. But, let us not forget the importance of a good cuddle.

3. A little smile can go a long way to those around you. I'll be honest, it's tough getting up at 3AM to nurse a crying little nugget. But every now and then I'll get that tiny, adorable half-smile from him, and my heart just melts. Laughter is good, too.

4. Never lose your sense of curiosity. There is always, always, always something more to learn and appreciate in this world. Never stop learning.

5. Milestones are important. When you are baby it starts simpl
y, but happens often: first smile, first laugh, first steps. But as we grow up these milestones get further apart. Set milestones for yourself regularly. Get excited when you reach them and never stop celebrating.

6. Communication is key. Verbal communication is important... yes. But babies have a completely non-verbal way of communicating... so don't forget non-verbal communication can speak volumes, too.

7. Eye contact. Babies have this intense little gaze that will reach your soul if you let it. Good eye contact will get you far.

8. We were all helpless once. It's so easy to recognize a person in their baby pictures, but it's impossible to do the opposite and imagine a baby as an adult. I look at my sons and think Who will you be? What kind of person will you become? Somewhere, at this moment, a mother is nursing a future president. Elsewhere, a dad is cleaning up a poop explosion from the next generation's top CEO. And another parent is shushing, swaying and patting the back of a little one, in a dance only new parents can master... a little one who will grow up to solve one of the world's greatest dilemmas. We all start small and helpless, destined to grow into someone worthwhile. It's never too late to become the person you were meant to be.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Keep Your Eyes Locked On Theirs

This is a beautiful quote that I completely identify with by Alana from Eating from the Ground Up.

She compares parenting to navigating through a wild and tangled woods...

Welcome to the world of the lost. There is no path, but there are endless ways to travel through it. Just keep your eyes locked on theirs, and somehow the way will become clear. At first, those eyes will be like a mirror, and you'll see yourself reflected. But then, slowly, day after day, you'll see less and less of yourself, and more of who they always were, and have grown to be. And as they can, and as they emerge, they'll tell you where to go.

Photo Credit: Leslie of Tiny Bubbles Photography

Which quote speaks to you lately?

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Friday, November 1, 2013

20in13: On Becoming A Parent

This post is part of the #20in13 series. For more, or to participate... check out this post.

How did you feel the moment you became a parent?

There are a zillion answers to that question, and all of them hit you in an instant. So much happens in that moment your little one arrives, no matter what your circumstances. Here are ten of the zillion feelings I had with my boys:

Feeling #1: Whew. Though many women do it, bringing a baby into this world is scary. With my first, I was scared because I didn't know what to expect. With my second I started to cry as we walked into the hospital, because I knew I wasn't coming out until it was over and for some reason that freaked me out. So when they both finally arrived I was relieved.

Feeling #2: Is he okay? I had relatively normal pregnancies. And even though every test and ultrasound looked fine, I'm sure I'm just like every other woman: I worried. Would he be healthy? Would he be a boy? (I didn't completely trust William's ultrasound tech-- because I couldn't clearly see what he was saying we were looking at...) When Henry arrived one of the first things I asked Mark was "does he have ten fingers and ten toes?" Mark's response: "Yes, and two balls!" You can see we were worried about different things.

Feeling #3: Oh my gosh, I'm giving birth to an octopus. This may be too much information, but when Henry arrived into this world, I literally thought I was giving birth to an octopus. It was a lot slimier feeling than expected. And it felt like he had way more that two arms and two legs. I wondered if it would be the same when I pushed William out. The answer: Yes.

Feeling #4: I did it. I was proud of myself for bringing my babies into this world. And with William I did so, by choice, naturally. Which was unbelievably amazing!

Feeling #5: That wasn't so bad. I'm sure part of this is the crazy number of hormones racing through my body at the time, but giving birth wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Don't confuse this with it being easy. It's not easy. But I wouldn't describe my delivery as terribly painful-- even with William without an epidural!

I am very fortunate to have had two relatively easy births, so many other women might not feel this way. With Henry I remember Mark looking very, very concerned when I'd glance at him in between pushes. I wanted to tell him, "Don't worry babe, it's not that bad." But I didn't because I didn't want the nurses to think I wasn't trying. The next morning, I was worried about how bad I probably looked, so I finally glanced in the mirror. My first thought? Oh, I don't look so bad. I've had hangovers worse than this.

Feeling #6: Is it already over? William came very, very quickly. I literally had one practice push, followed by a long contraction that was 2-3 big pushes and he was out. We're talking minutes. With Henry, I seriously enjoyed the pushing part, so I was looking forward to it with William. I know this sounds weird. But it's true. I felt so focused, and in tune with my body. So when William arrived so quickly I was a little disappointed that the experience was so short. It was over before I knew it began. The doctor kept asking me if I was sure I was okay afterwards. I was just in shock. Are they allowed to come that fast? I asked. There aren't really any rules, he told me.

Feeling #7: Oh my gosh I love you. This needs no explanation.

Feeling #8: He looks so good as a daddy. There's nothing like looking over at your husband while he's watching over your child that's only minutes old. With Henry, it was so interesting to me, because I had never seen that sort of pride in him before. With William, he was a proud daddy all over again. Is there anything more attractive than a brand new, proud dad? Answer: No.

Feeling #9: You're a whole new person. You know you're having a baby. But it doesn't really hit you until you see that tiny face, and hold that tiny hand: there's a whole new person in this world who wasn't here a second ago.

Feeling #10: Who will you be, little one? I was struck by an intense curiosity the first time I met both of my children face to face. When they are so little, you literally have no idea who they are aside from this little swollen, pink baby. Who will they grow to be? In those first moments, you sort of wish you could get a peek at them as an adult, just for a second. But let's face it... that would ruin the adventure.

My two little adventures of a lifetime.

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Let the School Photos Commence

Here begins a long line of school photos for Henry. I'd say we are off to a good start! I can't wait to have the whole lot of them by the time you graduate high school! (Okay, I can wait. Seriously, slow down on the whole growing up thing.)

Age: 2 Grade: Nursery

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