Tuesday, March 1, 2016

No Spend February Recap...

It's March 1st which means our no spend month is over.  How'd we do?  Well, to be honest, it wasn't our most successful one.  Not awful but we did spend on things like going out and some new clothes. The clothes were needed.  The dining out not so much.  The middle school basketball season ended so there was a bit of celebrating in the form of eating out but it was at a Mexican restaurant so it wasn't pricey at all. We had company one weekend and I made lasagna instead of going out. That's a win in my book.

 We saved a little bit extra. We didn't go crazy or buy things we didn't need so I'd call it a moderate success.

Now I need to go work on that March budget.  I started using Every Dollar last month and think I will like it. I'm still getting used to it, just like with any new budgeting system but I think I'll stick with it. I'm such a pen and paper person that it's taking some getting used to but you sure can't help but love that everything gets calculated for you.

I think just being aware, giving every dollar a name and thinking before you spend helps an awful lot.

Friday, February 26, 2016

25 Non-Candy Easter Basket Fillers...

Peeps, chocolate bunnies and Cadbury Creme Eggs.  There has to be more to an Easter Basket than sugar, right?  With the size of baskets these days (that's another post, for another time) non-sugar goodies are a must for Easter.  While I don't want Easter to turn into another Christmas-like gift giving holiday, I am always searching for gift ideas to pass on to the Easter Bunny.  Here are 25 non-candy Easter basket ideas for kids of all ages:

For Little Kids (0-8 years or so)

  • Stuffed Animals
  • Bubbles
  • Playdoh 
  • Coloring Books and Crayons - there are awesome Easter Bunny & Religious coloring books out there this time of year. 
  • Legos - I love the 'Friends' line that is out for girls now.  The usual cars and trucks and airplanes are still out there for the boys.
  • Small Play Characters - like Little People & Polly Pockets.
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • Bubble Bath
  • Gardening tools - kid sized shovels, hoes and rakes in cute patterns start showing up in stores like Target just in time for Easter.
For Bigger Kids (9+)
  • Art Supplies
  • Magazines - Buy the current issue of a favorite magazine and add a note saying that a year's subscription is on its way.
  • Gift Cards - itunes & Amazon are great for music and book lovers.  Your local bookstore or Barnes & Noble is also fun.
  • Movie Gift cards - Going to the theater is always a fun activity on a rainy Saturday.
  • Sunglasses
  • Journals - There are so many pretty journals on the market these days.  There's still time to order a personalized one from a site like Minted if you want to splurge.
  • Note Cards - Target has some really cute ones for not a lot of money.  Or get personalized notes from somewhere like American Stationery - one of my favorite places to order from - good prices and service.
For Everyone
  • Books - always a good gift - especially to get the little ones in the habit of reading.
  • Puzzles 
  • Toothpaste and brushes
  • School supplies - school's been in session for a while and those glue sticks and pencils probably don't have much life left in them!
  • Paints (watercolors, finger) & paper.
  • Socks - fun & useful.
  • Board games
  • Clothes - spring is coming and everyone needs a new pair of shorts to kick off the season.
  • Beach towels and toys - one of my favorites and summer comes early here and beach toys tend to last only a season or two.  I love the personalized beach towels at Pottery Barn Kids. They aren't super thrifty purchases but they last for years.
On that note, filling Easter baskets can get expensive so I check the dollar store & Target's dollar spot for things like coloring books, school supplies, beach toys, sidewalk chalk & bubbles.  We do a little bit of candy - and fill in with these extra little goodies.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

No Spend Month...

I can't believe that January is almost over!  And that means that February is almost here and our annual No Spend February. It's our eighth year. I can't believe we've been doing it that long. I personally love it. Coming off the spending frenzy of the end of the year, it's a nice change for me. I am, quite frankly, done shopping. We have no birthdays, anniversaries, etc until June so I like the 'cold turkey' aspect of a no spend month.

What, exactly, does 'no spend' mean @ September Acres?

-No shopping -that means we won't roam the aisles of Target buying stuff we don't need & sometimes don't even want. No trips to Costco. Grocery shopping is okay but limited as we will try eating from the pantry this month. 

-No vacations - Easy Peasy as school is in. 

-No going out to eat - If we are invited to go out as a treat we will go but otherwise we don't. I've also been really slack with meal planning since Christmas so now's the time to get back in the swing of things.

-No movies, bowling, etc. - That's pretty easy for us, except I haven't seen "13 Hours" yet. I'll try to get that in this weekend while it's still January. ;)

We do have a hockey tournament later in the month but we knew it was coming and it's budgeted for. We just need to stay out of the mall and Target and we will be fine. 

So basically, no unnecessary spending. I think it's good for our bank account (the money we save goes into savings) & it's a good exercise for all of us to realize that we have so much and we should use/play with and enjoy it. I feel like sometimes we just buy, buy, buy and never really sit back and enjoy it.

I'd love to hear if you do this and how your family does it.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Getting things done...

This afternoon I was pondering the state of my house and thinking that I have so much to do to get it in order.  Then I rattled off in my head all of the things I got done today:

  1. Emptied the dishwasher
  2. Changed sheets on 2 beds
  3. Did 5 loads of laundry
  4. Vacuumed and dusted bedrooms & living room
  5. Organized items for hockey tournament raffle
  6. Paid some bills
Then I thought 'maybe I wasn't as unproductive as I thought I was'.  I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge list maker but maybe I should start.  Even though there's so much to do I did accomplish some kind of important things (this list doesn't mention the cooking or taxi driving service I run!) and it might be nice to see them crossed off a long list. 

Something else to ponder...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Breaking Busy...

I was lucky enough to be chosen to serve on the launch team for "Breaking Busy" by Alli Worthington.  I received my advanced copy of the book right around Thanksgiving - a little crazy but at the same time it was the perfect time to start reading a book about breaking busy since that is the time of the year that we all seem to be extra busy and maybe even take on more than we really want to.

The very first chapter is called 'Capacity'.  Boy, that was eye opening.  Alli compared us to our cell phones, which have a battery that gets depleted after use and has a 'finite capacity for storage and functionality'.  When our phone battery falls to 10% there's a little warning that the battery is low and needs to be recharged.  Our bodies do the same but how often do we listen to the signs and take the time to recharge?  For most of us the answer to that is 'not enough'.  We think we are too busy to take that time to rest.  After reading this book I have a different feeling on that subject. We all need energy to keep going - to give, share, love, work, play - and we need to take the time to replenish our energy.


As I worked my way through the next 9 chapters I was taken by how much this book spoke to me and how Alli seemed to know just what I was going through during this season of my life.  It's like she was peering through my windows.  But I think it's really that we are all very similar in our desire to please and nurture. Our husbands, our children, our extended families, our friends, our homes, our jobs.  

"Like it or not, every single decision we make takes us down the road closer to the destination that is our future."

I am a firm believer that everything in our life is the result of choices that we have made so I think, if I had to choose, the chapter on decisions was my very favorite.

There is so much to take away from this book especially for those in their busy season (wife, mom, friend, worker, PTA, Little League, Rotary). You will learn how to stop chasing activities that leave you empty and start doing what you were meant to do.  

I don't want to give away too much of the book and I could never say it as well as Alli does so I hope you'll go out and get yourself a copy on January 26th or better yet pre-order a copy  before Jan. 26 and get a free study guide here: http://alliworthington.com/breaking-busy-guide

This book was provided to me by the author and publisher in exchange for my review.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year...

Well, hello there!  I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year.  It's hard to believe it is 2016, right?  Even weighing heavier on my mind is the fact that my daughter will be 14 next week. 14.  High school in 8 months. How did this happen?  Moms of younger kids: believe it when people tell you it goes fast.  So fast. Faster than you can imagine.  That, my friends, is an entire blog post.

Today though,  let's talk about decorating for winter.  I finally got my Christmas decorations down.

Oh, how I love that red and green and those sparkly lights.  Yes, I love it.  But after putting everything away I realized that I also  like that bare, sparse feeling and really considered not adding anything back.  I'm still thinking about it but who am I kidding?

I've been perusing the web looking for inspiration for winter decorating.  You know, not quite Valentine's Day but no longer Christmas.  I love using white, silver and natural wood.  I love the feel of this room from Pottery Barn.

Clean but still cozy.

I've also found some great inspiration at Liz Marie Blog.

Simple Winter Kitchen @ Liz Marie Blog
She has actually done an entire series on decorating after Christmas.  And I love her ideas.

So, give me a few days and I'll be back with what I've come up with to winterize our house until Valentine's decor comes out.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Beyond the Gift Card: Last Minute Gift Ideas

It's not quite last minute but when I was shopping this weekend I noticed things are really picked over (I'm talking to you Christmas sweaters at Target.)  And if you are truly a last minute shopper, many of the toys, electronics and clothing that are the HOT gifts this year will have been snapped up by the early birds.  But that doesn't mean that it's gift cards for everyone on your list.  In fact, this is about some fun, thoughtful and quick gift ideas to help you avoid the gift card abyss.

Photo Gifts and Books- There's still time to download your photos and make cute gifts for everyone on your list.  Walmart.com offers a few same day gifts: prints on canvas, calendars and photo books to name a few.  Download your photos online and pick up your personalized gifts today.  Snapfish also offers store pick up on some gifts at Walgreens.  Photo gifts look like you put much thought into what the recipient likes yet most sites are very user friendly and offer preset templates making it easy peasy.  The hardest part is picking out the perfect photo.

Wine/Liquor - And, don't just toss the bottle in a bag (although I wouldn't send anyone away if they did).  Add some wine or martini glasses (check the Dollar Tree before you hit the department stores), cheese & crackers or olives and you can put together a great gift. A drink kit is a fun idea, too.  Maybe for mimosas or rum and coke or a signature cocktail. The Red Rooster is always a hit around here.

Magazine Subscriptions - Buy the current issue of the recipient's favorite magazine and add a note saying that you have ordered a subscription for them.  Pop it in a cute gift bag with plenty of colorful tissue and ribbon and you're set. This is a gift that keeps on giving and you can do REALLY last minute (Christmas eve shopper?  This is for you).

Baked Goods - People love homemade goodies! I always keep baking supplies on hand and some tins and containers for homemade gifts.  A cute container and lots of ribbon makes for a pretty presentation.  A really fun idea is the ever popular Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls. Who wouldn't love to serve something delicious on the morning of December 25th? These make a great hostess gift as well.

Movies - These days, movie gifts go way beyond movie passes (remember, we're trying to avoid anything like a gift card and call them passes if you want but they're still gift cards).  The Dollar Tree is your friend with these cute popcorn buckets:
Fill these up with some microwave popcorn, sodas and candy along with a DVD or even a Neflix membership for a really fun family gift.  If you're lucky, the recipient will invite you to watch along!

School Supplies - If you're shopping for school aged kids this is a fabulous idea.  Any parent will tell you that by Winter break most of the supplies that were purchased in August are nearing the end of their usefulness. Things like glue sticks, pencils, markers and crayons. Even binders, folders and pencil cases look worse for the wear. Pick out some fun colors if you buy a binder or folder and some festive pencils and pens (Target's dollar spot has some cute ones now). All of these items can be picked up at the grocery store or dollar store very last minute.  

Plants and Flowers - Everyone loves a pretty plant or bouquet of flowers.  They're easy to pick up at the grocery store and most floral departments have a nice selection of vases.

What are your favorite last minute gift ideas?