Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to Save (or Make Back) Money on College Textbooks

This is a sponsored post, meaning I have received goods or monetary compensation in exchange for this post.  However, as always, all opinions are 100% my own!

My husband, Ben, just finished his Master's program.  I am SO glad that he is finally done!  It was exhausting (for both of us) and so stinking expensive.  You'd think that with being so frugal I would have helped him find his books for as cheap as possible, but I didn't.  Though, really, I was pretty impressed that he looked around on a couple sites before buying his books.  I wish we would have done better at finding ways to save money on all his super expensive books.  Those books add up!  Here are two excellent ways to save big on your college text books:

1. Rent instead of buy your books.

Other than hunting Craigslist or eBay for books, I was relatively unaware that there were any other options for saving money on books.  Campus Book Rentals is an incredible way to save on those costly books.  Instead of buying your books, you can simply rent them.  Isn't that awesome?  Typically, you can save between 40-90% off of your books, which is huge.  I love that shipping is free both ways, and if you happen to not need your book after all, you can just return it within 21 days.

I was always a highlighting type studier, so renting books before would have been an out of the question option for me.  Campus Book Rentals totally allows highlighting!  Seriously, I don't think this option for saving money on college books could get any better.

I always enjoy supporting companies that like to "give-back".  It makes me feel good about where my money is going.  With every book rented, Campus Book Rentals donates to Operation Smile.  Operation Smile is an international charity which provides free surgeries to children (and adults) born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate.  It really is an amazing organization.  I spent a good deal of time on their site.  I didn't fully realize what a huge deal a cleft lip/palate was until I saw their pictures and read their stories.  Go check them out, it'll be worth your time!

2. Rent out your books when you're done.

If you happened to have already bought your books, however, a perfect way to make back some of your money is by utilizing RentBack.com.  Instead of selling your book back to the school's buyback program, you can use Rent Back and make 2-4 times more money!  Basically, this website allows you to rent your books to other students.  All you have to do is ship your books to them, and they will rent out your books and pay you!  Almost no work, with a much better return than other options.  As long as your book is in demand, they will keep renting it, and you will keep getting paid.

If you are in college, or have kids in college, these sites are an excellent way to save (or make back) a little extra cash!  College is already so expensive.  There's no reason the books have to be, too!  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chalk Board Doors from an Old Armoire

Do you remember last year when my husband and I made our kitchen island out of an old armoire we found on Craigslist?  We LOVE our kitchen island so much now!  But the top of the island never got used.  I had been hopeful that I would eventually find something to do with the top part of the armoire, but for the last few months it's all just been sitting outside.  Until this week...

I had this idea to use the doors to replace some old wine pictures on one of my kitchen walls.  We are slowly working on replacing store bought things in our home with our own home made items.  I finally bought some chalkboard paint ($10 at Home Depot), and I scored (again) on some "Oops" paint from Home Depot for just $2!

My girls helped me paint the doors.  We used the paint for around the outside of the doors, and the chalkboard paint on the inside of each door.

Two coats of each was plenty.  We let them dry, and then attached hooks and wire to the back for hanging.  In the wall, I used a molly and screw to hold the doors securely.  They are quite heavy!  

My favorite part about these doors is the old, original hardware.  They are so unique!  I also really like the cracked and chipped pieces of wood in various spots....they are definitely one of a kind!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why I Encourage My Children to Help in the Kitchen

For the past few years, I've been teaching my children to bake and cook with me in the kitchen.  It's definitely hard, and it always takes longer to get things done, but there's a reason and a purpose for it.  I want my children to be competent in the kitchen, and I want them to help out with meals and such.  I believe that it is my job to teach them how to cook, and the only way to do that is to actually allow and encourage them to be in the kitchen with me.  This week, I got my first "payoff" from all this teaching and training, and it was so exciting! 

My girls kept begging to make chocolate chip muffins this week, so yesterday, I said, "go ahead."  I found them a recipe via Pinterest and let them go for it.  I did NOTHING.  Well, I did the oven, because obviously they aren't old enough to use that yet.  But otherwise, they did it all.  I hung out in the kitchen most of the time to listen in case they ended up doing something super wrong, but to my surprise, they did it all correctly!

Ellie is 6 and in 1st grade, so she knows basic fractions (1/2, 1/4, 1/3, etc.) and she can read very well.  She read the instructions and ingredients, found and filled the correct measuring cups/spoons, and then gave them all to her sister to pour and mix.  As if I wasn't already shocked enough that she could put together a recipe on her own, I was doubly shocked at how she allowed her sister to do all the pouring and mixing jobs, and encouraged her along the way.  I was SO proud of my girls.  When they were ready for the muffins to go into the oven they came to get me.  I put them in the oven for them and then we waited.

Their muffins were SO good.  Seriously.  I was so proud of my girls.  But to be honest, I was really proud of myself, too.  Having my kids in the kitchen with me all the time is fun but it can get tiring.  It can be hard.  Frustrating.  Time consuming.  I finally got to see the hard work that I've done pay off...I got to see my two young girls function in a kitchen and completely prepare a recipe on their own.  And that makes all those frustrating times worth it.  

Do you allow your children to help you in the kitchen?  Do they enjoy it?  Is it hard for you, or does it come naturally to let them help? 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Down East Basics

This is a sponsored post, meaning I have received goods or monetary compensation in exchange for this post.  However, as always, all opinions are 100% my own!

Last week I had the fabulous experience of an evening out shopping with some other local momma bloggers and friends at a new-to-me store: Down East Basics here in Reno, NV.  Well, technically it's in Sparks at the Legend's Mall (love that place!).  Anyway, a night out with some of the Reno Moms Blog contributors is always a good idea!

Wow!  I had no idea this cute little store existed.  It's new-ish to my area, but they have them all over. I love shopping (what girl doesn't?), but I don't really have much budget for it, so I either A) don't shop at all or B) when I do shop, I hunt for great deals and sales.  This store not only had some serious cute-ness going on, but they had excellent sales.  And, their employees were so helpful and cheerful!

I ended up leaving with a really cute 3/4 sleeve striped top and a pair of "great-fitting, not quite back to my pre-pregnancy size" jeans.  The total?   Just $31!!!  Isn't that great?  You can see why I'm so excited about this store, right?!?

I've been dreaming about their jewelry and maxi skirts since I left.  So many great pieces there.  I'm definitely going to have to find my way back over there again soon!

 If you are in the Reno/Sparks area, I totally recommend that you head over to check them out!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pool Noodle Rain Makers

Spring is here, and that means summer toys have arrived at the Dollar Store.  Pool Noodles are great for so many different activities, and they are also frugal!  These rain makers are super simple and fun to make with the kiddos, and perfect for Spring!

You will need:
*Pool noodle
*Popcorn kernals or beans 

What to do:
*Cut pool noodle.  We cut ours into about 8-10 inch long pieces.
*Cut out pieces of paper large enough to cover the ends.  
*Tape one end of each tube closed using the paper and tape.
*Pour in about 20 popcorn kernals (or whatever you're using for sound).
*Use another piece of paper and tape to seal the other end.

*Insert toothpicks through the outside of the pool noodle.

*Trim off the extra bits of toothpicks that may be sticking out so that they don't poke your children.
*Voila!  You now have a rain maker.  Turn it up and down to hear sounds!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Using PicMonkey to Increase Your Pinterest Repins

Once upon a time when I started this blog, my posts were terrible.  Okay, maybe not so much terrible as they were basic, boring, and bland.  I knew nothing about formatting, nothing about uploading a picture (or TAKING a picture for that matter), and nothing about much of anything else, including Pinterest. It was only on rare, but exciting occasions that my posts had a decent looking picture to go with them.  Eventually, I "caved" to join this thing called Pinterest, and I've never looked back.  It's a good thing, too, as 80-90% of my traffic comes from Pinterest alone!  My posts now almost always have pictures, and I almost always edit them with PicMonkey.

As I've learned more and more about blogging, I've started going back and re-doing (or creating) more "pinnable images" for my old posts.  The posts that had nothing are getting something, and the posts that had basic pictures are getting words and descriptions and watermarks.  You may wonder why I'm putting time into re-doing these old things.  The answer is because I get so much traffic from Pinterest, and, because of the nature of Pinterest, my old posts can live on and on and on.  Why not maximize the potential traffic from old posts?  

So, here is my example of why and how using PicMonkey has helped me to increase my repins and maximize traffic from old posts.

The above image is one that I pinned almost 1 year ago for a post for Earth Day.  In the past 11 months that this has been on Pinterest, it has received a whopping 26 repins and 5 likes.  Big bummer, too, because it's such a fun and easy recipe/learning activity for Earth Day.  

So, I recently went back and used PicMonkey to fix it up a bit.  Nothing fancy.  I just added a green "overlay", and then added some text using a couple different fonts.  I added my website address, as well, to prevent theft of my picture (which has been happening a lot lately...I'm flattered, but please give credit where credit is due, people!).  Watermarking your pictures in some way is always a good idea.

Here is what I pinned this time.  Same image, but enhanced by PicMonkey:

Now, AFTER using PicMonkey to enhance my pin and then pinning it again 11 weeks ago, it has had 262 repins and 15 likes.  BIIIIIG difference!  

26 repins in 11 months vs. 262 repins in 11 weeks

Which would you prefer?  Now my old post is getting new life, more repins, and more traffic to my blog.  

I love using PicMonkey.  It's simple, free, and has made a HUGE difference in my pins.  

Do you alter your blog photos in any way to make them more "pinnable" on Pinterest?  What program do you use?  Do you notice a difference in your repins on your non edited ones vs. your edited ones?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Indoor Fun: Hopscotch

My kids play and run around in our backyard for a couple hours each day.  They play in the dirt and mud, use they imaginations, and run off all their energy.  After having such nice weather this winter, my kids are totally used to having plenty of time to run off they energy each day, and so when we have cold, windy days, it's hard on them to expend their energy.  So, on those days, we have to find as many fun, indoor, gross motor activities for them as possible.  

One of their favorites is a simple game of hopscotch!  We use good old painters tape to create the grid on the floor, as it comes up off of the carpet nicely.  Sometimes I make the grid, and sometimes they used their imagination to create their own grid for hopscotch.  Either way, it's a fun, frugal, and easy way to burn off some energy when stuck inside.


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