Category Archives: Tips

Summer Family Activities for Free

free summer activities, list of free summer fun

It’s summertime!  Oh how I love Summer.  When I was younger Summer was my least favorite season.   When I was in middle school through high school I would have to help my parents in the yard on summer weekends.  It was always so hot and so miserable.  We would have to pick up sticks on their 5 acres, burn leaves and work around the yard.  I hated it.  I used to beat my sister for volunteering to stay inside to clean the house.  I would much rather have cleaned the entire house and made lunch for everyone than having to sweat outside picking up sticks.  As I’ve gotten older and the yard we have is much, much smaller I don’t mind summer yard work nearly as much.  Now don’t get me wrong I would much rather be having fun on a hot Saturday morning, but I’ll take a hot summer day over n ice-filled winter one. 

Now that I’m older and have a family of my own I like to save those hot days for finding free and fun stuff to do.  I’m bringing you my complete list of free activities you can do with your family this summer.  You may have to be a little creative, but you and your kids can have a blast checking these items off.  In case you missed it, not too long ago I created a list of free activities to do during the fall, but I figured it was time for a season update.  Plus it goes perfect with our spending freeze we’re currently doing.

I love finding fun things to do as a family especially when they are free!  

best summer ever, free summer activities, free activities for the family

Here you are – a complete list of free summer activities for your family:

  1. go swimming – around here most public pools are free or you could always befriend someone with a killer backyard pool!
  2. go to the zoo – we’re lucky because the St. Louis Zoo doesn’t charge for admission and if you get there early enough then parking is free too!
  3. head outside for a picnic
  4. scavenger hunt in the backyard
  5. sprinkler fun!
  6. have a game day where you play board games inside
  7. go to the local park
  8. camping
  9. checkout an outdoor movie
  10. museum free days
  11. explore the public library
  12. host a summer reading challenge

You can print off a PDF of the summer activities, too.

Amazon is Mom’s Best Friend

amazon is mom's best friend

Moms, let’s talk about how Amazon is Mom’s best friend.

There’s a saying about how a dog is man’s best friend. Which I totally get and would have agreed with before having a baby.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love my dogs.  I would do just about anything for them, which is evident in the $1500 we’ve shelled out for Bud recently.  They still think they’re my best friend, which usually ends up in me asking “why do you love me so much?” when they are follow me through the entire house. Tiny with always having to be under my feet. Bud with finding ways to stick his entire head in the shower each morning. And Maggie only wanting to play when I’m sitting in the floor with the baby.

But let’s talk about my real, real best friend – Amazon. Let’s get serious, shall we? Only a true friend is there for you around the clock. Only a true friend will bring you whatever you heart desires. And Only a true friend will have a little dot that sits on our TV console that allows me to add laundry detergent (or chocolate) to my car without judgment.

This true friend is Amazon, folks.

The other night while sleep training our little guy I realized we desperately needed a white noise machine.  Our neighbors park their trucks close to his bedroom window and their son works odd hours through the night.  So around 4am each night he is either returning home or leaving for work.  The start of a F150 is enough to wake our little guy out of a deep sleep.   Of course the idea hit me at 4am, when I had to stumble through the dark to comfort our son.  What did I do? Grabbed my phone and added a white noise machine to my shopping cart. It arrived two days later.  Easy!

Let’s talk about all the other wonderful stuff you can buy on Amazon.  Like… protein powders I get to buy without ever having to step foot into a store. I can do my research, read reviews from people and then make my selection. No small town options for me!  Or how I have the dogs’ food delivered once a month automatically.  They go through close to 100 pounds of food a month now I don’t have to haul it around the store or make a special stop since we feed them a higher quality food then the local Wal-Mart sells.  

amazon is mom's best friend, love of amazon

amazon is mom's best friend, love of amazon

We’ve ordered step-ups for J’s truck, a TV console, clothes, nursing gear (that I ended up not being able to use), jewelry, dog food, diapers, wipes, protein powders, ready-to-drink shakes, toilet paper, detergent, veggie spiralizer, chew toys (for dogs and baby), and so, so much more. My order history looks like a cornucopia of wild thoughts!

A best friend remembers even when you forget.

Can we talk about diapers for a second? Moms our little ones go through so many diapers. Who knew a child so small could produce so much?! Am I right? Nothing is worse than having to run to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night leaving one parent home with a diaperless child because you ran out. What do you do with them? Put a bunch of blankets around them? Sit them in the bathtub?

I mean, seriously what do you do with them?

Amazon will remember your diapers for you. Once a month I receive a case. Did I remember to hit the “buy now” button? No. But Amazon remembered.  It remembers two bags of dog food a month, a case of wipes and a case of toilet paper every three months.

It’s magical. Every month two bags of dog food and one case of diapers just appear. Then every three months I also get a case of toilet paper and wipes. Pure happiness.  I have to admit, I just added the TP to my subscribe & save feature.  I needed one more item to boost my savings and I thought it would be a good fit.  The case came but we didn’t need it right away so I stuck it in the garage.  The other morning J yells down the hall that we’re out of TP.  So I go out into the garage, grab my case and set it down in front of him.  I said “here ya go, think this is enough?”  He just looked at me.  I knew what he was thinking – why did you order a CASE of toilet paper?  Then I showed him the math from buying that same amount at the store compared to what I spent… it was enough to pay for half of the case.  

Not only does Amazon remember what I need, but it gives me a discount for forgetting! Seriously?!

Thank you Amazon for being the best friend I didn’t know I needed during the hardest transition of my life – parenthood.

Dr. Facebook is Not Your Health Professional

facebook is not your doctor

Alright this post might offend some of my Facebook friends. But that’s okay. I’m all about speaking my mind. I think I get my bluntness from my Dad.

When our Baby Boy was really sick before Christmas I knew deep in my heart it was RSV. But I wasn’t about to go searching his symptoms on Google or asking by FB friends. Because here’s the problem with that… you will get every story, disease, illness under the moon – even the ones that haven’t been discovered yet!

Have you seen the movie “He Just Not That Into You”? Justin Long’s character is explaining to Ginnifer Goodwin’s character the rules of men. How if a guy doesn’t call you back then he’s just not that into you. Or if a guy acts like he doesn’t care then he genuinely doesn’t care about you. Gennifer’s character is good because she then goes on to say well she knew a friend whose cousin met a guy that didn’t call back for one month and now they are happily married with kids. Justin Long just simply says “that’s the exception, not the rule.” You are not the exception to the rule.

You may be thinking how does this movie relate to Dr. Facebook? … well it does. Because your child’s sickness is probably not the exception. Meaning it might be a simple cold, but you don’t know for sure. You need to talk to an actual doctor. And if for some reason your FB friends with a real doctor then I hope you are good enough friends to have their number so you could just call and ask. Most doctors aren’t going to do a diagnosis over status update.

That’s the rule.

So before you go typing away how your kids poop is yellow and they haven’t eaten in two days, maybe you should save your time and take them to the emergency room or urgent care. Just a thought.

J gets a little overwhelmed when he tries to look symptoms up online. He usually ends up thinking he has a tumor or some sort of incurable disease. So I have to play the cool cucumber when Baby Boy gets sick and just call the doctor myself. I can’t get sucked in to googling every little thing. Especially when it’s your child involved. Because if I was coughing with a low grade fever then I assume it’s a cold and I would take a swig of Dayquil and go about my day. But if it’s Baby Boy that has a cough and low-grade fever then I feel like my world is crumbling down.

facebook is not your health professional

Before I go asking online what could be wrong, I ask myself if I really want to read other people’s responses. Because they could have been the exception to the rule and my kid will be the rule. Their kid could have ended up in the hospital when mine just needs Tylenol. Their kid could have also had their symptoms longer or have more symptoms then they remember. Who knows.

But please, people for all that is sane stop posting medical questions on Facebook. Just call the doctor or take your kid to see one.

How Hard Is It To Tell The Truth?

telling the truth, to tell the truth

I mean seriously, how hard is it to tell the truth. Really? Because in my opinion, it’s not. Sure, you may be scared and worried about the consequences. But wouldn’t you rather have a clear conscious? I know I would.

I remember when I was in the second grade I cheated on a spelling test. I hadn’t studied like I should have and I just didn’t know any of the words. Well I might have known a few, but not enough to get a passing grade. Anyways, I was searching around trying to remember and I saw my neighbor’s paper. She was writing so fast and I knew she always did well so I copied.

I felt awful.

I felt so much guilt the rest of the day that I made myself sick. I came home that night and barely touched my dinner then went to bed early. I tossed and turned until finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up to confess. My mom was away on a work trip so I had to tell my Dad. I was shaking I was so nervous to tell him what I had done. I walked straight to him with tears and my eyes and said I cheated.

I could tell he was disappointed, but also proud that I told the truth. For the rest of the school year my Dad made me practice my spelling words every single night with him. Looking back it was the best punishment I had because it taught me discipline and telling the truth is never as bad as I imagine.

I was scared to tell the truth, but I couldn’t live with the guilt any longer. That’s pretty much how my life has been ever since. Sure I may tell a white lie to J when he asks why I’m so late. “Oh I’m passing Wal-Mart right now” when in reality I’m two stop lights away.

But never about the big stuff. I own up to my mistakes and I wish other people did to. It would make life so much easier if everyone was honest.

You accidentally misplace something, then just tell me. You accidentally hit my car, then just be honest with the insurance company. Whatever it is. Honesty is the best policy. Period.

No need to ask for forgiveness about lying if you would just stop doing it. Clear conscious is the best way to be. Plus, I don’t want to teach my child that lying is okay. Yes, mommy did something wrong that you saw, but she’s not going to admit it to avoid trouble. No. Because then the next thing I know he’ll be 16 lying about why he’s 2 hours late for curfew. I do not want that.  Just tell the truth people.

Want to Save 20% at the Grocery Store? Here’s How

money saving tip for grocery store, Want to save 20% on your grocery bill-

I want to share with you, my favorite people, my #1 money saving tip when at the grocery store. It occurred to me that I hadn’t shared this specific tip before when I created my other grocery money saving tips. I thought it was so simple, but after talking with some friends and sharing this photo on instagram, I realized it needed to be said.

I started shopping this way back in college to save time. What I found out was that I was saving so much more than just time. I had started saving money. Now when you’re in college, money is harder to come by. I was in school full-time, working full-time and 2 part-time jobs, but still I just never had enough money. Now here I am, 30 years old with my own family and it’s not that I don’t have money to spend, it’s that I want to save money so I can save more for our future.

Here we go… my number 1 money saving tip for grocery store…

Make your list in order of the store’s aisles.

Seems so simple, right? But most people don’t do it. They create their list as things pop into their head.

You’re making dinner and realize you’re almost out of cooking spray so you jot that down. The next morning you throw away your empty body wash bottle so you quickly add that to the list.

Next thing you know your shopping list is a hot mess. You will either have to do A LOT of backtracking to get everything or you’ll have to skip around on your list as you shop. Which means the likelihood of you skipping something has just increased. It also means you’ve just stepped up the possibility of adding items to your cart you don’t actually need.

J and I keep a running list in the kitchen. We jot everything down that we need as we think of it. Then on Friday or Saturday we create our meal plan. I try to only go shopping for the majority of our stuff every 2 weeks. That way we can buy in bulk, split packages of meat better, and save money.

Now if I have to go to the store in between it’s usually for produce.

Once we have our meal plan done, then I sit down with my list from the kitchen and the meal plan to create the master shopping list.

money saving tip for grocery store

My master list goes in order of the store. The first thing you see when you walk into my Wal-Mart is the produce department, so I start there. I go aisle by aisle of what I need. It took some time to learn where everything is, but for the most part we stick to the same basic meals so I tend to go down the same aisles week after week.

Now I don’t have to wander down the cookie aisle trying to find the next thing on my list because we all know that package of Oreo’s is going to end up in my cart. Let’s be honest.

Once we moved back home it took me awhile to get used to the store’s layout, but once I did I noticed a huge drop in our grocery bill. I’m talking 20% savings just by creating my list in the order of the store’s aisles.

Try it. See how it works for you. I recommend it to everyone.

Why Sunday Should Be Your Most Productive Day

Why Sunday should be your most productive day

It’s no lie that Friday is probably most people’s favorite day of the week. I mean, TGIF and all! With tax season still in full swing, Friday isn’t the beginning of the weekend for me – that’s Saturday. But don’t get me wrong, I still have an extra pep in my step every Friday. I think it’s just engraved in my brain to love Fridays.

It all started when I was a little girl and Boy Meets World would be on TV. Then came being able to go out with friends on Friday night and sleep overs. I just love those memories.

Now Fridays are just another work day, but I can’t wipe the smile off my face.

BUT… let me tell you what’s slowly taking over as my favorite day of the week. SUNDAY!

Yep, Sunday is becoming my go-to favorite. Maybe it’s because it’s my one day off of work right now. Maybe it’s because J and I get to spend the whole day together. Or maybe, just maybe it’s because I’ve made it the most productive day of the week.

Sunday is my time to get ready for the craziness ahead. Sunday is my day to unwind, relax and rest up for what’s going to happen Monday-Saturday.  That’s why Sunday should be your most productive day.

Here’s my game plan for a productive Sunday:

– We try not to do too many house projects on Sunday. Which is hard right now since it’s are only day off together. But we try really hard to keep the projects small.

– We don’t typically cook on Sundays. Cooking isn’t my favorite and I get pretty tired of it after doing it all week. Sunday is my day-off. We order in or go out to eat.

– We plan out the next week’s meals. I take a look at our calendar to see what we have going on and for the busy nights I like to plan something quick and easy. Then I take stock of what we already have on hand to make my grocery list for Monday night.
Sunday should be your most productive day

– We look at our calendar to see what’s going on. Remember earlier in the week when I shared how we plan out our calendar for next three months? Well planning ahead really comes in handy when we’re getting ready for the week.

– We take it easy. I know I’ve said this before, but Sunday is my one day off of work during tax season so I don’t do much. I like to take naps while J watches football (when it’s on) or while he watches a movie.

– We spend the whole day together. It’s really nice getting to be together and not having to rush from place-to-place. We typically try to stay home as much as possible so we can be with the pups too. They do so good all week, especially Bud since we still kennel him while we’re gone. We like to keep him out and running around as much as possible.

– We catch up on laundry. I’m one of those my-way-or-no-way laundry people. I am very particular about how my clothe
s are done, which is why I’ve been doing my laundry since I was in junior high (I made one rude comment to my mom about how she hung a shirt and it was suddenly was on me to get my clothes done). So, I like to spend Sunday getting the clothes done. Typically J will handle the towels and sheets on Saturday, but we leave the bulk to be done on Sunday.

daily to do list, free printable

– We make to-do lists. I like to take a look at the next week to know what’s going on, but I also like to spend my Sundays making a to-do list for the week. I like to know if I need to make any appointments for me or J, call anyone in particular to wish them a happy birthday or whatever else might need to get done.  If you like my to do list above, click here to download it for FREE!

Sunday is a great time to get ready for the week ahead. You really can take advantage of a quiet day. That’s why Sunday should be your most productive day!

Planning Your Time – 3 Months At A Time

planning your time

If you’re new around here then you probably aren’t familiar with my love of planning.  I’m the girl that has multiple calendars, lists and plans for every part of my life.  It’s how I function and what works best for me.  I like to know what’s going on.  I can fly-by-the-seat of my pants, but only to an extent.  Over the years I’ve found a few ways that have really helped me and our little family stay on track with everything going on.

A while back I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Fun Cheap or Free and came across this great idea – planning your year in advance.  It sounds like a great idea!  Basically, you sit down with your significant other and look at the whole year.  You plan out vacations, birthdays, date nights, holidays, and more for the entire year.  I tried doing it last year, but found I was lacking in a few areas.  Now, here we are already in 2016 so I came up with my own idea.

I decided we were going to plan our time, but only for 3 months at a time.  You see, if I start planning too far in advance, then plans change and things don’t work out.  What was once a priority doesn’t seem that important 9 months later.  So I have created a quarter-at-a-time plan.

Here’s how planning your time works:

I use Google Calendar for our master family planner and it works great.  I also have my own personal Google Calendar for anything that isn’t family related or for what doesn’t affect J.

For our master planner I share it with J so he can see it, edit it and know what’s going on.  That way we can access it from the computer or our phones, whichever is on hand.   I also like to add him to any event that I want to make sure he’s aware of – I do this a lot for doctor appointments for our Baby Boy.  That way he gets an email invitation to attend the event and I don’t have to rely on him to actually check the calendar.

The more and more I press using Google Calendar, the more he’s getting better at actually checking it.  He still has his moments where he will commit to something only to find out he should have checked the calendar first.

The first step in planning your time for the next quarter is to setup reoccurring events.

I like to use reoccurring events for anything that happens on a monthly, bi-annually, or annual basis.  That way I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.  It saves a lot of time and stops us from forgetting anything.

Next, we plan out everything for the next three months.

OUT OF TOWN TRIPS:

This is a big one for us.  With his parents living about 2 hours away, we like to go and visit quite a bit.  So we try to schedule in weekends where we can head that way.  It’s great to be able to see which three-day weekends are coming up and plan for us to visit his family then.  That way we get to do something fun and get out of the house for a bit.

If we wait to long to plan these trips then we find ourselves stuck at home a lot more and missing our chance to see family and friends.

We take note of all the three-day weekends coming up in the next three months then decide what do you want to do.  We like to split our time between going out of town and working on projects around the house.

Calendar out any existing travel plans.  I have an annual conference for work that usually happens in June every year so I like to go ahead and plan that out – including my travel days.  I won’t get to go this year since Baby Boy will be a newborn, but I plan on attending next year’s conference and want to make sure it’s noted well in advance.

DATE NIGHTS/ANNIVERSARY

J and I both are not too big on celebrating anniversaries, but we do like to do something small.  Since our anniversary isn’t until November, we don’t typically plan anything until the beginning of October.  That way we can make arrangements for someone to watch the pups if we’re going to be out of town overnight.

With baby boy on the way we know our date nights will soon be changing.  Plus, it’s just the two of us right now so we don’t do a lot of planned date nights.  But we know we will in the future.  We know our date nights will never be anything stellar – probably just dinner and grocery shopping.  But we know we will need to plan these nights in advance because my parents will be watching Baby Boy for a few hours for us.  I know I will need to know what day of the week it’s going to be so my parents can be prepared.

planning your time

BIRTHDAYS

We go through the next three months to make sure we have everyone’s birthday down in both of our family and our close friends.  Here’s where I really rely on setting up reoccurring events in Google.  That way we don’t have to search for birthdays – they simply roll into the next year.  I like to set reminders a few days ahead for the ones we want to buy cards or gifts for so we don’t forget.  You can choose what format you want the reminder in – a text, a pop up or email.  I prefer email so I can get it when I’m read.  That way it doesn’t pop up while I’m running into a meeting and it gets overlooked.

Typically, for our little nephews and cousins we will attend a birthday party – it’s hard to know when it will be a year in advance, but usually a few months before is when we can get an idea of the weekend and mark it down.

HOLIDAYS

Now we go through our Google Calendar to mark any holidays that we will be off work.  Neither of us gets all the federal holidays off work, so it’s nice to know which ones we will be working and which ones we get to take it easy for.  Also, J’s work sometimes switching the days – meaning he may work the holiday, but get off another day in exchange.  I like to take note of all of these so we can plan any trips or home projects.

We also switch Thanksgiving and Christmas with our families so by planning a few months ahead of schedule then we can know where we’re going to be.  We usually do Christmas with my family in even-numbered years and with his family in odd-numbered years.  We didn’t plan for that to happen, but after our first year together we decided driving across the state wasn’t worth it.  We didn’t actually get to spend any quality time with any family – it was a bummer.  So now we switch off.

how to spend your tax refund

FINANCIAL REMINDERS

Being a financial advisor has some perks and working in accounting office means I never forget to file our taxes.  So I don’t typically plan compiling our tax return information.  I usually keep it at the office and have it on hand whenever I need it.  But I do plan to check our credit reports and credit scores once a quarter.  I like to add it to our calendar and setup a reminder so I do not forget to run the report.

Make sure you stay on top of your finances with a quarterly credit report.

You can check your credit report for free, too!  Don’t miss a chance to keep your finances in check!

HEALTH REMINDERS

I also like to add reminders to schedule any doctor appointments or exams that we need to do.  I do this for all of our doctors’ appointments – eye doctor, dentist, and anything else I can think of.  If I don’t schedule a reminder then I will forget to make the appointment, then I will wake up one day and will have no contacts left and be miserable until I can get in to see the doctor.  So I avoid all of the necessary glasses-wearing days by scheduling reminders.  I usually do this at the beginning of each month (whatever doctor appointment is needed that month) so I can plan around my schedule instead of having to be fit in.

merelynne

DOG APPOINTMENTS

This category kind of goes along with the health reminders, but it’s for our pups.  I like to schedule the monthly heart worm pill reminder, vaccinations, and even grooming appointment reminders.  It’s important to me to keep our dogs healthy and happy.  So I treat them like family and make sure they never miss their monthly pills or any vaccinations.

MISC. EVENTS

This category is kind of my catch-all for events that don’t really fit anywhere else.  This is what I call, not-normal or reoccurring.  For example, I am getting ready to take a photography class at the local college.  It is only four weeks long and one night a week – so I will add it to the calendar, but it isn’t going to be an annual event or something that occurs next month.

Plus, I also have a few childbirth classes and an epidural class coming up.  J has to attend the childbirth class with me so I went ahead and scheduled in the four week class and shared it with him.

Also, J is on a bowling league that meets every Tuesday night.  It’s not an out-of-town trip, but it’s still an activity that we both need to be aware of.  These are the nights I like to plan easy-to-prepare meals so we can eat and go because the bowling alley is about 30 minutes away.

Here’s my best tip for planning out the next three months: schedule some home-time.

We schedule weekends to stay home and get things done around the house.

It’s so easy to say yes to family or friends and before you know it, you have zero free weekends one month.  Last year, J and I looked at our calendar and had no weekend home for almost 2 months.  It was too much.  So we actually plan out weekends and projects that we want to stay around the house for.

Miscellaneous events can really fit any other plans you have coming up in the next three months.

By taking a look at the next three months, I’m able to fully see what’s going on.  During tax season (remember I work in an accounting office – our lives are kind of on hold) I work 6 days a week and don’t have time for many doctor appointments or weekend getaways.  So if we have something coming up then I want to know in advance so I can plan my work day around it.  It really helps J and I be on the same page with everything going on.

It may seem a little overwhelming when you lay out everything you have to look at, but it’s not.  It goes by really fast, especially if you’re working together on it.  I would say get in the habit of doing this every three months.  It can really make a difference in your planning your time and give you a chance to actually get things done.

 

How to have a Productive Week

how to have a productive week

Ever have a case of the Mondays?

Nothing is going your way. You just can’t seem to catch up and the thought of getting ahead is probably not going to happen until Friday. Let’s be real – this is not our week.

Well that was me most Monday mornings. I was struggling bad. I would always have these great hopes of kicking the week off with a bang, but then it wouldn’t happen.

Until I changed one thing… one simple thing.

I plan on Sunday nights.  

That’s how to have a productive week.

That’s it. Simple huh?

I take a look at my calendar on Sunday evening while J and I are relaxing in front of the TV. I keep J and I’s calendar on Google – one for my personal events and one for the family and/or J’s events.

I like to take a quick glance at the week ahead to know what I’ll be up against. If it’s a quiet week then I don’t need to do much planning, but if it’s going to be a hectic one then I typically start laying out how it’s all going to go.

Especially with it being tax season, I’m working 6 days a week and it’s really easy to get behind on stuff around the house. I like to plan out when we’re going to go to the grocery store, work on the nursery, meal planning, and what appointments I have at the office.

Meal planning has been such a huge help for J and I lately. I wrote about how we meal plan awhile back (I even have a freebie planner to download), and it’s such a great tool to have. Especially on the nights I have to work late. I can typically plan something easy to make that night and J will have it ready for when I get home.

It’s awesome!

What do you do to get ready for a busy week? I swear by planning ahead on Sunday nights and would recommend it to anyone and everyone!  This is how to plan for a productive week.

Thrift Store and Flea Market Shopping Tips

Thrift Store and Flea Market Shopping Tips

Before moving to our current town, I would scour the local antique malls, flea markets and thrift stores for some really great deals.  Typically, I would buy pieces that I could re-purpose – clothes that I could sew or re-create, furniture that needed a little TLC, etc.  I loved it!  There was nothing better than waking up on a Saturday morning grabbing a big cup of coffee to go and wandering through great finds.

Now that we’re here, there isn’t as many stores that I can get lost in.  There are a few around town and now that we’re expecting our first little one, I’ve decided to kick up my hunting skills.  I’ve developed a few top tips when heading out to a thrift store or flea market.  You need to make sure you’re getting a good deal and not buying something that you will never use.  So…

Thrift Store and Flea Market Shopping Tips

Here are my thrift store and flea market shopping tips to follow:

Make a plan: In college I would wander aimlessly through the stores without a real plan or thought in mind.  I could get away with this for two reasons – I didn’t have a lot of space in my tiny apartment so that would stop me from over buying and second, I didn’t have much money.  Nowadays, I have a bit more room, but I don’t like spending my hard-earned money so I have to create a plan.

I want to know what I’m looking for.  Am I trying to find a piece that will fit above the guest bed?  Am I trying to complete a gallery wall in our family room?  Whatever my goal is that’s what I look for.  I try not to get distracted by items I don’t need.

Don’t buy what you don’t need:  It’s easier said then done.  That really cool purse is only $5 and you can think of 20 different outfits it would go with, but there’s a kicker.  You don’t need another purse that will end up in the bottom of your closet.  You have to be tough when it comes to spending money at the thrift store.  Love a dresser, but have absolutely no where to put it?  Then don’t buy it.

Keep it balanced:  I try to replace items that are falling apart or I get rid of something.  If I’m buying something that’s new-to-me then I like to donate or sell something I don’t use anymore.  That way I don’t become a hoarder and can keep my house clutter free!

Time your trips:  It’s no lie that Spring is the best time to hit up your local flea markets and thrift stores.  You know of a little thing called, Spring Cleaning, right?  Well that’s when people go through and clean out items they no longer need or want.  So it’s a perfect time to do a little shopping.  However, you can always find good deals when you have a careful eye.  I recommend talking to employees at the local stores to find out when they put out new items.

Don’t believe every price you see:  Just because it’s used doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good deal.  You have to make sure you’ve done your homework.  Sure, you can probably look at a pair of shoes that are in good condition to decide if it’s worth the price, but look around before you buy any big-ticket items like furniture.  I like to look at craigslist to see what others are selling a similar piece for or look online to get a good idea.  If it’s not a good deal then pass it up!

What are some of your thrift store and flea market shopping tips?  I’d love to know!

Looking for more budget tips?  Check out here.

How to Rock Your Job Like a Boss

how to rock your job like a boss

With over 10 years of experience, I’ve learned how to rock your job and help you stick around for the long haul.

Between high school, college and now I’ve had a number of jobs.  Now, don’t start thinking that I’ve job hopped over the years.  That’s not true.  I typically stick at a job for well over a year, but I sometimes add 1 or 2 jobs on top of my main one.  You see, I don’t like to sit still and I like to make money.  So I’m willing to bust my butt to reach my goals, which I have to say, are mighty big!  

Over the years I’ve seen co-workers come and go.  I’ve seen bosses get agitated with some characteristics of my fellow co-workers. I’ve created a list and I want to share it below with you.  There are certain things that we all know we shouldn’t do on our job – steal, lie to our boss, procrastinate, etc.  But do we know what we should be doing?  What qualities do we need to possess to be a standout employee?  Well, I’m here to help.

I’ve always tried to put my work first.  Now, don’t get me wrong – if my family or friends really need me then I’ll be there in a heartbeat.  But I like to think that my strong work ethic at the office has helped my bosses to be more understanding when I do need to take off.  I also try to not make a habit of it.

A few years ago I was working in a small attorney’s office.  At the time, it was just the attorney and me.  Now, years later, the attorney has expanded well beyond the two-man operation from when I first started.  That has nothing to do with me, other than the fact that I was willing to help out and was honest when I couldn’t take on more.  Anyways… back to my story…

A few years ago, one of my closest friends lost someone very important to them.  Now they never asked me to attend the funeral.  They knew I was working and had school, they also knew the 6 hour round-trip car ride wasn’t going to be easy with everything else going on.  But I knew in my heart that I needed to be there.  This girl meant the world to me and she still does. So I asked my boss if I could have 1 ½ days off.  He asked why and I could tell he was thinking – this isn’t even a family member why should I give it to you.  But I said one thing that really helped – I understand this is short notice, I will work late the next few days to get caught up and I do not expect to be paid for vacation time.  He looked at me and said if it’s that important then you need to be there.  I can manage for a day without you, but be prepared to work when you get back.  So I left.  I drove 3 hours home, went to the funeral, sat by my best friend and was just present.  

At the end of the day, I drove back and showed up to work on time the next day.  I worked my tail off getting caught up and none of my work slacked in the least.  I proved that I was worth having.  But what I never admitted and was hoping that I wouldn’t have to is that I knew in that moment how valuable I was.  I knew that I was replaceable, but I also knew my friend wasn’t.  So I was willing to take that risk, but by being granted a little freedom and understanding, I was willing to prove him that I was worth keeping.  That’s what you have to do.  You have to be willing to give more than you take.

Let’s face it – employers are looking for key characteristics of a good employee.  

If you have a few qualities that’s good, majority then that’s great, but if you have all of them then you are going to be in a golden position to work your way up.  

Here’s what I’ve noticed over the past ten years as the qualities employers are craving for in their employees:

clock

SHOW UP EARLY – I understand rare mornings happen and your alarm doesn’t go off or the baby was sick and you just couldn’t get there on time, but the majority of your mornings you need to show up early.  I’m not talking an hour early, but a few minutes or so.  I know when I get to the office, I have to turn my computer on, get some water and set my purse down.  By getting there a few minutes early, I can take care of all of that without rushing around.  That way when 8:00 am hits you’re already at your desk ready to work.

STAY LATE – If the work isn’t done then be willing to stay a few minutes late.  It won’t happen every day and it will really show your employer you’re committed.  

I had a job once I loved.  It was hard and challenging, but I loved it.  My boss was great, my co-workers were wonderful and I went to work everyday loving what I was doing.  So on the rare occasion a client’s documents weren’t completed or a client needed a late appointment, I was willing to stick around.  I didn’t do it because I was hourly and liked the extra 30 minutes of pay – that wouldn’t be worth it.  I did it because I thoroughly enjoyed what I did and liked helping.  That’s how it should be.  

BE POSITIVE – No one likes Negative Nancy.  Don’t be a naysayer.  There is nothing worse than someone who complains all. the. time.  Stay upbeat and you will notice how easy it is to hit your goals or how much more willing your co-workers will be to help you out.  You never know – you’re day may actually go by faster, too!

Ask for more work – Once you’ve completed your daily, weekly or monthly tasks don’t just sit around on Facebook.  Reach out to get more.  Try to learn as much as you can because you never know when it’ll come in handy.  Plus, if you’re willing to take on more work to help out then that might cut back the nights you have to stay late.  Just a thought…

TAKE THE INITIATIVE – This quality goes with the one above it – asking for more work.  If you see something that needs to be done then do it, even if it’s not your assigned task.  It’ll keep you busy, help the office and you might just prove yourself a bit, too.  Plus, taking the initiative means not putting something off until the last minute.  There is nothing more frustrating than watching a co-worker be assigned a task to complete by the end of the month.  Here we are on the last day of the month and they are just starting the task.  Then you find out that they can’t complete their assignment because they don’t have all the pieces.  If they would have started 3 weeks ago when it was first assigned, then they would have noticed what all they needed and it could have been ordered.  

Here’s another example of taking the initiative.  I had a job once where the receptionist was suppose to clean while she had free time.  If we were extra busy one week then the cleaning would slack because she would have less free time.  So if I went to the bathroom, I would just grab the cleaner and wipe everything down when I was done.  It took less than 2 minutes and the bathroom was clean for the next person.  Plus, it really helped out the girl at the front desk who was swamped with calls and appointments.  She was instantly my best friend because I was willing to help her.  

man-person-hands-coffee-large

GO ABOVE AND BEYOND – again, show them you’re worth it.  I am a huge believer in NOT doing the bare minimum.  If I want my job to last and I want to prove that I’m irreplaceable then I am willing to take on more work, work harder than anyone else and commit to the company.  

In one job I had worked my way up to be the office manager, which meant I was writing everyone’s paycheck, balancing books, paying our payroll taxes, ordering supplies, managing and training the staff.  However, the office needed more.  The staff was behind and we needed help with drafting documents.  So instead of saying, “sorry, that’s not my job anymore.”  I figured out a way to help.  I took the smaller cases aways from the paralegals so they could spend more time on the bigger, more complicated ones.  It was hard and I was stressed some days, but being able to help out was so much more important to me.

BE WILLING TO LEARN – The first thing you have to realize in any job that you take on is that you don’t know everything.  With that in mind, you have to be open.  You have to be willing to try new ways of getting the job done and finding better solutions.

BE WILLING TO TAKE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM – I used to be the first one to become defensive when I just felt like I was going to be criticized.  It’s a hard pill to swallow to find out that the work you did isn’t good enough or right.  It’s rough.  But to grow as a person you have to be willing to take criticism.  Now, I am NOT talking about destructive, down-right mean criticism.  I’m talking about listening and learning from someone that is willing to help you grow.  

One really standout way to take constructive criticism is by taking notes.  In the moment, I may not be thinking clear because I’m trying to still defend why I completed those actions.  So by taking notes then I can process everything on my terms.  Plus, it’ll help me the next the situation comes up because I can refer back to what was suggested to me.  It shows the boss (wo)man that you’re really invested in getting better and are willing to learn.

BE OKAY WITH GRUNT WORK – Let’s go back to the time I cleaned the bathroom to help out.  Now, it wasn’t the only time I helped clean that office nor was it the only job I had that I cleaned at.  I remember working at Office Depot my first few years in college.  I liked it for the most part, but my least favorite task was cleaning the bathrooms.  Disgusting.  But it was a task that rotated between staff members so when it was my turn, I would roll up my sleeves and do the best job I could.  

I knew that job and that task wasn’t forever.  And I also knew that I wasn’t too good to scrub a toilet.  I was not raised to think that something was beneath me, so I gave it my all.  You have to be will to scrub a few toilets (figuratively or literally speaking) to get ahead.  What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.

Startup Stock Photos

BE A TEAM PLAYER – you have to be willing to put the company’s well-being above your own.  Now I’m not suggesting you lie, cheat or steal to help the company, but what I am saying is pitching in to help out.  At my current career (I say career and not job here, because this is what I will be doing for the rest of my life) we have quotas to hit. So, as a team we help each other reach our individual quota. If I’ve hit mine then I ask who needs help and vice versa.  That’s they way it’s suppose to be.  If we each hit our quota then we win individually (a nice little bonus!), but if we help the office reach the overall goal then the office does better, which we will see a benefit from in the long-run.

Like I said earlier, you have to have some of these qualities to be successful at any job.  I used a lot of office-type jobs in my example, but I’ve done most types of jobs.  The only one I haven’t done is food.  Well, I worked at an ice cream shop and snow cone stand one summer, but that’s the closest I’ve come to food.  I’ve worked at several different types of retail stores and office jobs, but they all have one thing in common to be successful.

You can check out my other career tips here

You have to be willing to work hard, show up and get the job done.  This is how your rock your job like a boss!