Friday, May 21, 2010

Frugal Lessons from the Field - Taking Advantage of Free Stuff with Little Ones

On Tuesday, Haagen Dazs celebrated its 50th birthday by offering up free scoops of ice cream.
Obviously, a stellar afternoon time killer family fun activity for my two big guys.

Luckily I was not 100% blinded by joy at the promise of Free Haagen Dazs, and kept my wits about me before cashing in.  Here are some things I did before taking advantage of that amazing free offer:

1.  Find the nearest location.  There's only one Haagen Dazs here in Columbus - luckily, it's only about 9 highway miles away.  For a different freebie, we might have decided that this was too much of a schlep, but for the time sucking sheer fun and deliciousness value of free ice cream cones, I thought it was totally worth it.

2. Call to make sure your location is participating.  This took three phone calls for us.  Nobody answered at the number listed for our location, so I called Haagen-Dazs' corporate number.  They let me know that each shop is a franchise and could decide whether to participate in the promotion (this is also true for giveaways at other franchises, like Dunkin Donuts, so watch out!)  I finally called the mall where our Haagen Dazs is located, and they gave me the correct number to call.  It took about 10 minutes of phone time, but I finally verified that our location was participating in free scoop day.  Imagine if I had schlepped the whole family into their car seats, down the highway, into the stroller, and through the mall only to find out we couldn't get free scoops!


3.  Make an event of it.  See if there is anything close by the location of the giveaway that you could combine with free stuff to make an even more exciting outing for your family (although seriously what could be more exciting than FREE ICE CREAM!?!?!)  Our Haagen-Dazs happens to be in a mall with an awesome kids' playspace. Even though Rami wasn't into his ice cream cone, he still had a great time rough-and-tumbling it with the other kids at the mall.

So, now that you're drooling over all that free ice cream we got, make a plan to get your own!  Wal-Mart is offering a free sundae tomorrow.  So, those of you who aren't shomer Shabbat, click here to enter your zip code to see if a Wal-Mart near you is participating!  (And to the rest of you, Shabbat Shalom and treat yourself to some ice cream after Havdalah.)

Who's got more tips for me on how to make the most out of free stuff?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Celebrating Shavuot the Fun, Delicious, Educational, and Frugal Way

I'm so inspired by the Creative Jewish Mom.  She's committed to teaching her kids about Judaism in a fun way.  Her crafts are always beautiful, kid-friendly, and most of the time are super-frugal to boot.   She made an incredible cake for Shavuot and it made me think of how I could do something similar and hands-on with my two big guys.

Shavuot is a great holiday for teaching little kids because the concept is simple (it's the day that God gave us the Torah) and the traditions for celebration pretty much revolve around eating dairy foods, which means excellent desserts are possible.

This year, to celebrate Shavuot, we made some cupcakes.
(Head on over to our family blog to read the full project explanation.)

The cupcake mix cost $.88.
(We already had the food coloring and muffin cups.)

The frosting (that included sprinkles) cost $1.50.
The chocolate wafers were (a completely riduculous) $1.69 - but worth it.

Total cost of the project was $4.07. 

Not too shabby considering The Frugal Ima is 3 weeks post-partum and kind of a sleep-deprived, cranky disaster. It was such a success that I'm motivated to think of other fun projects to teach my kids about the holidays, and hopefully supply them with some awesome childhood memories to boot.

By creating frugal ways to teach about and celebrate holidays, I'm hoping to do a few things:
  • begin family traditions that are do-able each year, regardless of the financial circumstances;
  • put the lessons of the holiday in the forefront, instead of the monetary considerations;
  • and establish that Judaism and its celebrations are kid-accessible and friendly - who cares if my kids ruin cupcakes that only cost $4?
I'd love to hear about your family's holiday traditions and their frugal aspects.  What are you doing to celebrate this Spring?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Are You Attached to Your Stuff?

Because I am.

I thought I wasn't.

I received a very rude awakening yesterday.

David and I have been trying to sell the house for about a month now.  (You know, due to our moving to Kansas City and all.)   We only bought the house about 6 months ago, so we had very little wiggle room in terms of the price we could accept.  We also needed to unload the house FAST, since we have (relatively) very little in our emergency fund (Ugh...more about that in another post...).

We listed the house, and a few weeks later dropped the asking price down a dramatic $10,000, hoping to attract some attention.  We got a showing the next day - sweet.  Two days later, we got an offer - sweeter.  However, the offer was low - a full $15,000 below even our strategic price plunge.  We literally did not have the liquid funds to make this offer work, so we countered somewhere in the middle.

Then, we received a counter-counter offer that came halfway between the original offer and our counter (still with me?) but was contingent on us throwing in some of our stuff.

The buyer wanted our entertainment center, our flat-screen TV, and our elliptical machine.
And I sobbed.

Even as I was freaking out over the possible loss of our stuff, I knew that freaking out made no logical sense.  The stuff is only worth a couple of thousand dollars.  Every two months the house sits on the market, we lose more money than the stuff is worth, just because we're paying a mortgage on a house we're not living in.

But the tears kept coming.  What was going on?

I'm not quite sure to make of it, exactly.  I mean, I know why I want that stuff. 
  • The elliptical machine represents my only opportunity to work out (or work out alone, anyway) and get my skinny-lady body back after having three kids in three years.  
  • The entertainment center is pretty much the biggest piece of furniture in our house, and will be one of the major things that will make our rented Kansas townhouse feel like home.  
  • TV in general is a great obsession of mine.  Stay-at-home motherhood involves lots of naptime home maintenance, and I was looking forward to doing it in the presence of a 42" showing of Twilight or Harry Potter movies.  Watching our favorite shows is one of the only things David and I do together just him and me - it definitely is the only "date night" type thing we can afford to do.

Still, I could go on brisk walks with the kids, two in our jogging stroller and one slung.  We still would have our couches and coffee table to make the new place feel like home.  And David and I could watch our shows on a little 19" dinosaur-TV, or even on our laptop.   
Losing any or all of these things would not be the end of the world.  Right?

Thankfully, thanks to our incredible Realtor/dear friend, we were able to make the deal work without forfeiting our stuff.  These things that help make our house a home and contribute to my stay-at-home-mom sanity retention will be coming to Kansas with us. 

But the question remains - why was I so upset?  Or, perhaps more importantly, why do I still feel utterly violated at this buyer's request for my things?  Here at The Frugal Ima, we're supposed to be celebrating moments, not things.  Right?

I'd love to hear your responses - are you, or have you been, attached to stuff?  
Reassurances, platitudes, and the sharing of personal experience all welcome. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Don't Waste Food, Even When it Grosses You Out a Little Bit

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged on our family blog about my boys' disdain for, and complete mockery of, healthy food.

Here's a one-shot recap of what they did to the wholesome lunch I served them, in case you missed it:
IMG_1729 text blog copy

Right.  Moving On.

Judaism has a lot of "big name" Jewish values.  They include Saving a Life ("pikuach nefesh"), Keeping a Peaceful Home ("shlom bayit"), and Honoring Living Things ("k'vod habriot"), to name a few. 
One of these top-ranking, and most well-known values is Don't Waste Stuff ("bal tashchit"). 
I'm going to do an in-depth post about Bal Tashchit, its origins, and expositions on it, once I get my energy back, or some time to myself, whichever comes first (did you know that caring for a newborn and two toddlers is exhausting?)

BUT.  I will tell you that I ate those (healthy, scrumptious) leftovers.  Oh yes I did.  Even the ketchup-coated baby carrots. It's amazing what a little rinse in the sink can do...even though the hint of ketchup flavor seemed to seep into the carrot pores within minutes.  A bit yuck, but totally worth it.
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