Thursday, November 6, 2014

Four New and Unique Ways to Save Money at Disneyland




We went to Disneyland last week for a family vacation.  It was hands-down our best family vacation ever!  Besides being our first family trip with all four children, our baby is the easiest going baby we've ever had, which significantly eased our stress.  It's our every other year trip, but this year we planned it for over Ellie's 7th birthday.

Any time we take a Disneyland trip, I'm always sure to share with you all the planning details for our trip, and how we saved money.  Disneyland is NOT an inexpensive vacation, that's for sure, but you can definitely save a few bucks here or there.  And this time, I've got some new creative money saving tips for your to try!


Condo vs. Hotel

The first different thing about this trip was that we stayed in a condo (< < that link will take you to the one we stayed in!). Considering that we usually rent two rooms at our normal hotel (we rent one and Ben's parents rent one), this was actually a cheaper option, with more space and benefits.  It was BEAUTIFUL.  We rented a 3 bed, 2 1/2 bath, totally remodeled condo from a wonderful family.  It came with a fully functional kitchen with everything we needed to cook/eat, a washer and dryer, baby gates, high chairs, kids toys, kids dress up clothing, a garage, patio with BBQ, and more.



Our experience with a condo compared to a hotel?  Condo won hands down!  The major winning points were:

*more space
*we could put the kids to bed at night upstairs and stay up later ourselves
*we could cook our own meals, saving us money and tons of calories over restaurant food
*cheaper for us (when compared to our usual two rooms booked)
*we were supporting a local young family instead of a big hotel chain
*it felt like "home"
*we could pack less clothing because we could do laundry (and packing less when traveling with four kids is a GOOD thing!)


Overall, I would choose a condo again in a heartbeat.  More specifically, I'd choose to rent from this family again as they were amazing!  When the hot water heater broker late our first night, he even drove out and got someone to come fix it right away (at 10pm!).

(My husband, cooking away in the kitchen, and refusing to give me a "normal" smile)

There are so many rental options on sites like vrbo.com, that you can easily find something in your budget and location.

Total condo rental (including all cleaning fees) for Monday-Friday=$1100 (remember, we usually need two hotel rooms).


Car Rental-Individual vs. Big Company

We wanted to rent a car for this trip, but renting a car that seats 8 people AND has enough space for our luggage AND wasn't an absurd amount of money was really hard.  Most places were in the $500-$600 for a Monday-Friday rental (even Costco was $550!).  Somewhere along the line, I stumbled across a site called "RelayRides".  Relay Rides is a car rental company that is nationwide, except all the cars listed for rent are from individual people who live in the city.

*We could ask questions about the specific car we were renting instead of just hoping the car we get is decent.
*It was almost half the cost of a regular car rental place.
*We were, again, supporting an individual person.
*All your payment stuff goes through the website and is secure.

The only thing that I would change about this was that our drop off arrangement was not very organized.  The car owner wanted to meet at a Starbucks near the airport, instead of just at the airport.  It wasn't a huge deal (he was going to then drop my husband back off at the airport), but he didn't specify which Starbucks to meet at, so my husband went to the wrong one and then had to go find him at another.  Annoying, but not a huge deal.

For a Monday-Friday rental of a car that seated 8 (GMC Acadia), we paid $308, plus $20 in gas.  Total car rental expense= $328.


Grocery Delivery

Staying at a condo meant we could cook our own food.  Instead of heading to the grocery store after getting off the airplane, we did our grocery shopping online a couple days before we left our house.  We shopped at Safeway/Vons online and chose a delivery time for our groceries to be delivered right to the door of our condo!  I seriously need this feature where I live!  It was so easy, and price-wise, it was the same as shopping in store.  Be sure to search for coupon codes on their website, and you can enter more than one at checkout.

What we bought:

For breakfasts, we bought: eggs, bacon, oatmeal, cereal, orange juice, pancake mix and syrup, milk, butter, toast.
For lunches, we bought: loaves of bread, peanut butter, jelly, cheese, turkey, salami, lettuce, tomatoes.
For dinners, we bought: spaghetti and burgers for our main meals, with mac and cheese and salad makings for sides.
For snacks, we bought: apples, bananas, carrots, cheese sticks, granola bars, pretzels.
We also, of course, bought some already-ground Peet's coffee!

We made sandwiches for our lunches in the park, and for our lunch on the airplane ride home.  This saved a ton of money; lunch in the park is super expensive (though we did eat in the park one day).  We would bring in our own snacks and water bottles, too.  We ate out for dinner twice, and made our dinners at home twice.  We ate all our breakfasts at home.

We also had many of the granola bars/oatmeal/etc. leftover, and we were able to take some of it back home in our suitcases ;)

Our grocery store cost was $173.  We ate 9 meals, so that totals $19.20 per meal for 8 people, which means we ate at a cost of $2.40 per meal per person.  This is WAY cheaper than eating out all the time.  Plus, all that eating out on vacation can add a ton of calories and leave you feeling not so great.


Do Your Own Hair

Since we were at Disneyland for Ellie's birthday, I really wanted to do something special.  I looked into the little places where they can get their hair done like princesses, but the started cost for those was $50!!!  Absurd!  So, I brought along bobby pins, glitter, hair ties, flowers, combs, etc. and did her hair myself on her birthday (and Zoe's hair, too, of course!).  I payed attention on our first day in the park to the girls who clearly had their hair done...then, I gave her an option.  1. Elsa hair, or 2. Up high princess hair.  They both chose Elsa hair.

I realize that this may be a difficult option if you have zero hair-doing skills, but if you have some, it's a great way to make your little girl feel special, without paying an exorbitant amount of money.

This saved us a MINIMUM of $100 between the two girls!

Here are some of my older posts on saving money on Disneyland:

Post 1
Post 2

Monday, October 20, 2014

6 Things I Love About Homeschooling

Ever wonder what I think is so great about homeschooling?  Today on the Reno Moms Blog, I'm sharing my top 6 things that I love about homeschooling!  

"Every homeschool person I knew growing up was weird, awkward, or socially inept.  Plus, I went to public school and always really enjoyed it.  So when I had children, the conversations about schooling never came close to “homeschool”.  They were about public vs. private vs. charter.
And then I had a super bright child with a birthday just after the cut off.  And I started questioning.  Would it be academically fair and fitting to send my almost 6 year old to Kindergarten to learn her abc’s when she was already reading at a 3rdish grade reading level, and ahead across the board in all other subjects?  Would it be socially fair to put her in a higher grade level with kids older than her at a private school?  When I answered “no” to both of these, I agreed (albeit reluctantly) to “try” homeschooling for a year (letting our daughter skip Kindergarten) and see how it went.
It took me almost a full year to decide that I did, actually, enjoy homeschooling.
We are in our second year of homeschooling, and I am learning how to juggle a 2nd grader, a Kindergartener, a preschooler, and a baby.  It’s hard and challenging, but I’m still enjoying it.  Here are my (current) top 6 things I love about homeschooling:"

Read the rest of the post HERE!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Learning About Other Countries: Flag Color Pom Pom Sort



The Dollar Store near my house started stocking some of their Christmas items this past week.  I grabbed several things that I thought would be perfect for various learning activities, including a bag of red, white, and green pom poms.  

My children have been particularly interested in states, countries, and continents lately, and of course they wanted to use some of our new items right away.  So, we decided to talk about Mexico and their flag, which just so happens to be...white, red, and green! 

We pulled out our big map, found Mexico, talked about where it is in relation to the United States, etc.



My 3 & 5 year olds got out the new pom poms and a Dollar Store 6 muffin tray for sorting.  First, they sorted by color.  Then, they sorted by size (there happened to be three different sizes in the Dollar Store bags).  And lastly, they hid them around the living room and hunted for them, because what 3 & 5 year old can resist that???  







Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to Regrow Your Green Onions



For years, my sister in law has been telling me that you can regrow green onions.  And for years, I've said, "that's awesome", while neglecting to mention to her that I've never, not once, ever bought green onions before!  Ha!  This is my confession time, Jenny!

So, when I recently made twice baked potatoes, I bought my first ever bunch of green onions (because I'm growing up and trying new things...I recently discovered that I like beets!  What?!?!).  And after I used them, I took my sister in law's advice and tried to regrow them.

By day five, I think my husband was sick of hearing me tell him to "check out the green onions", which were growing at a rapid rate in our windowsill.  It was so fun to watch.  The pictures I'm showing here are on day 8.  Aren't they huge?  In the picture above, you can see where I originally chopped them down to, and the rest grew in the following 8 days.  

In order to regrow your green onions, chop & use them down to just above the white part.  Stick the white part in a glass of water, place it in your windowsill, and watch the roots and tops grow! 


They do get thinner as they regrow, but you can still harvest them a couple times.  I used some today in a corn chowder soup that I made for lunch.  So yummy!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall Themed Tic-Tac-Toe Game



Isn't this a cute little fall activity?  One of the best parts is that it's a Dollar Store Score!  


The Dollar Store wins again!  I found these super cute little mini pumpkin/squash/gourd bags in red and green.  They were a perfect size to make a cute fall themed Tic-Tac-Toe game (I recently saw a large Tic-Tac-Toe game played with full sized orange and white pumpkins in a magazine, though I can't remember which one).  


I tasked the kids with finding sticks in the backyard.  To make a Tic-Tac-Toe board, you'll need 4 like-sized sticks.  Once they gathered a handful of sticks, we picked the four that were closest in size.


Using some string or yarn, tie the sticks together to form your board.  We used grey yarn.



And there you have it!  A fall themed Tic-Tac-Toe game!  


The kids thought this was a really fun way to play this game.  Plus, they enjoyed hunting for sticks and comparing sizes of the sticks.  And, of course, it's super frugal!  


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Teacher Appreciation Gift



How cute is this fall time teacher appreciation gift?  My sister in law made this using an apple from her apple tree, homemade caramel sauce, and a little tag that says "thanks for helping me FALL in love with school."  She's also a teacher, so she always has the best teacher-gift ideas!  I also really enjoy that this is a totally frugal, and easy gift to make, yet it looks so darn cute.

You could alter this for any type of teacher/coach.  I.e. "Thanks for helping me FALL in love with soccer/dance/piano/singing/etc,"

I'm looking forward to trying out this caramel sauce.  I think apples dipped in caramel sauce are fantastic, and it reminds me of my childhood.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why I Love Amazon's Kindle Unlimited



I love to read, but have always had a hard time A) finding time to read, and B) affording the expense of all the books that I'd like to read.  I recently discovered Amazon's "Kindle Unlimited", and let me tell you...I am in love.  I have been reading so many books that have been on my "want" list, and am starting to have a hard time NOT downloading everything onto my iPad.  AND, it only costs me $10 a month.  The time issue has been solved by downloading the Kindle app on my phone and reading while I nurse my baby to sleep, while I'm on the elliptical, or when the kids are playing and I have a little down time (which, let's face it, doesn't happen as much as I'd like it to!).  Mostly, I've just gotten creative with finding time to read.  Since I always have my phone with me, it's easy to read a few pages here or there.

If you want to use Kindle Unlimited, here are a few things you should know:

First, you don't need to own a Kindle device to download Kindle books.  You simply need to download the Kindle app (it's free) to your computer, phone, tablet, etc. and you're good to go!

Secondly, you can usually get a free 30 day trial , so look for that and use that first (though don't forget to cancel before the end of your 30 days if you don't want to continue subscribing).

Lastly, if you choose to subscribe, it's only $10/month for unlimited qualifying books.  Not all books qualify, but there are a ton.  Also, you can only "check out" 10 books at a time.  Then, you just "return" a book to get another book.

So, what have I been reading with my new found Kindle Unlimited Subscription?  LOTS of fiction.   In the last 2 months I've read:


*The Mockingjay (book 3 of the Hunger Games Series)- I'd read the first two books years ago, and now with the soon to be released third movie, I figured I should finally read this book, too.


*The Giver-WOW.  This was amazing.  It was a 1994 Newbery Medal winner, and I loved it. Side note: this just came out recently as a movie, and it was pretty good, as well.

*Gathering Blue-This book is part of the "Giver Quartet."  Though it's not a continuation of the Giver; it's a separate story.  This book was also really intriguing, but not as great at the Giver, in my opinion.

*Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire- These books are amazing, and I'm disappointed that I refused to read them all these years.  Book 4 was by far my favorite, followed closely by book 2.  I'm currently working through the 5th book.

*The Divergent Series (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant)- I totally loved these, and really enjoyed the first movie, as well.  This series, however, is not currently in Kindle Unlimited, but after watching the movie, I figured that I had to read them anyway!

*Water for Elephants- I'm not even providing a link for this book because I quit it half way through.  I didn't enjoy (and wasn't expecting) the unnecessary sexual content in this book.  Just as I don't think looking at porn would be acceptable for my husband, I don't think literature packed with sexual scenes should be appropriate for me.  And with that, I quit the book.


I do have some nonfiction books I'd like to read, but fiction is just so much easier to get through when I'm tired (which is currently: Always).  Nonfiction usually makes me use my brain to think, and thinking makes me even more tired.  So for now, fiction is perfect.

Overall, Kindle Unlimited solves the "I don't have enough money to buy all the books" problem, and their free Kindle app on my phone solves the "I never have any time to read" problem.  It's a perfect solution, and I love how inexpensive it is!

Have you tried Kindle Unlimited yet?  Do you have any books you'd suggest?


(The links in this post are my referral/affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy HERE.  Thank you for supporting the continuation of this blog by using my links!)

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