November – 2014 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

November 2014

Get Better Fuel Efficiency NOW – Five Tips!

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The cost of gas can add up quickly, between driving to work every day, running errands, and of course especially on road trips. You can’t always help how much you’re driving, but you can take steps to get better fuel efficiency in your vehicle and make your dollar stretch just a little bit further. Try these great tips today to get started:

Don’t carry around a bunch of clutter. Toys, sports equipment, musical instruments – these all can end up piled in the back of the car, and they can all add up to significantly increase the weight of the load you’re driving around. Carry only the essentials in your car and travel lighter.

For four more tips that’ll you’ll definitely want to start using today, please visit my guest post over on the Elder Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership blog.

Five Tips for Traveling with Your Pet

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When you travel for the holidays, you might be bringing your furry, four-legged friend along for the ride. I’ve got five tips to consider before a road trip with your dog so you can have a smooth, safe trip for everyone. Here’s the first:

1.     Plan to stop regularly. Let your dog have a pit stop, take a drink, and most importantly, work off some energy. Sitting cooped up in a car can get old quickly for anyone, and dogs are no different. It’ll be good for you to get a little walk in, too.

For the rest of these tips, please visit my guest post over on the Holt Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership blog.

 

Music Made Me Do It: What Has Music Made YOU Do? {Giveaway}

Note: I received two SOL Republic products to thank me for hosting the giveaway. I was not compensated monetarily for this post, and all opinions are honest and my own.

Music is an amazing thing. A song can lift you up, inspire, and motivate you. Last year I did Couch to 5K and music definitely helped carry me through some of the tough, long patches of running.

Music can also comfort you – my dad passed away last year and my mom has found great solace in praise songs. Music can remind you of great times or certain people.

I think we can all agree that music is an important part of our lives, and each of us probably have a story about how music has influenced us in one way or another.

SOL Republic recognizes the value of music and so they’ve come up with a really fun promotion called Music Made Me Do It.

And guess what? I get to host a giveaway to help celebrate it!

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See all the items in the photo above? They could all be yours. Yours to keep and enjoy the power of music through, or yours to gift to friends and family. I think you’d be the most popular person on the block if you gave someone a speaker or headphones from SOL Republic. The prize pack is valued at over $700 and includes:

  • SOL REPUBLIC Deck speaker ($149.99)
  • SOL REPUBLIC Punk speaker ($69.99)
  • SOL REPUBLIC Tracks on-ear headphone ($99.99)
  • SOL REPUBLIC Relays in- ear headphone ($79.99)
  • SOL REPUBLIC Master Tracks over-ear headphone ($149.99)
  • 1 Tracks HD on-ear headphone ($129.99)
  • 1 Jax in-ear headphone ($39.99)

To enter, share your story of how music has inspired you – what has music made you do? 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make New Years Resolutions – For Your Vehicle!

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With the new year approaching, we’re all thinking about taking better care of ourselves. Make sure to take the time to think about your vehicle’s health, too – your wallet will thank you later. I’ve got five resolutions you should make for your car – here’s the first:

1.     Take your car for regular tune-ups. Our oil change place even offers free check-ups in between oil changes, because they recognize that it’s a great way to keep your car in tip-top shape. 

For the rest of this must-do list, please visit my guest post over at the Holt Fiat dealership blog.

Car Seat Safety: Five Tips

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There are a million things to figure out when you become a parent, and picking the right baby gear is just one. Car seats make it even more potentially complicated, because not only do you want to select the right car seat, you want to make sure you’re installing it and using it correctly, too. I’ve got five tips to help you navigate the car seat world and keep your little one a little safer. Here’s the first: 

1. Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size. Not every 5-year-old is built the same, so look at weight and height requirements to see which one seems like the best fit. If your child is growing rapidly, you’ll want to select a seat that has a higher limit so you can safely get more use out of it for a longer period of time.

For the rest of these tips, please visit my guest post over at the Holt Alfa Romeo Fiat dealership blog.

Road Trip Readiness

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With the holidays rapidly approaching, more and more people will be loading up their cars and traveling off to grandma’s house. Many of these travelers have children, and everyone knows long road trips with kids can have the potential for disaster. I’ve got five tips, from experience, to help you make it down the road with your sanity intact. Here’s the first:

1. Travel well-stocked. This means having plenty of snacks and drinks available (there’s nothing worse than a “starving” child out in the middle of nowhere – whininess WILL ensue), but also have a stockpile of inexpensive wrapped toys that kids can pick from at random points if they have good behavior. We also like to bring plenty of blankets and pillows so the kids can get comfy and hopefully take a nap or two as we travel down the road.

For the rest of these tips, please visit my guest post over at the Lawton Chrysler Dodge dealership blog.

Coupon for 82% off Custom Canvases Nov.27-30!

Note: I will be working with Picture it on Canvas to review a canvas in an upcoming post, and will receive a canvas to facilitate that review. This post is not compensated monetarily, and all opinions are honest and my own.

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I love photos, especially of my three kids. But all too often I am horrible about actually printing these great photos out, and they end up just sitting on my computer! That won’t be the case after this week, when I plan to take advantage of a great coupon code at Picture It On Canvas!

We have one canvas in our house that’s from two years ago, but it’s about time we update our art and get a new family photo on the wall. Kids change so quickly, and E looks entirely different at 2 than she did at not-quite-one!
Picture It On Canvas has graciously provided me with a coupon code to share with my readers that will give you 82% off your purchase.

Just enter PIOC82 at checkout and you’ll be good to go!

Don’t forget, though, that this code is only good from Nov.27-30, so don’t miss out on the savings!
You can also find other great photo gift ideas beyond canvases – everything from decorative throws to baking pans, serving trays, and phone cases. Everyone loves photos, so you can’t go wrong with a great custom photo gift that’s unique to the recipient. The only problem you’ll have is narrowing down which photos to print!

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Almost Any Song Can Be Family-Friendly with MusicBleeper {Giveaway}

Note: This is a partnered post with musicBleeper. All opinions are honest and are my own. Music Bleeper has also provided the giveaway prize.

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Since having three kids, I’ve listened to more kids’ songs that I can count.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me a good rendition of Old MacDonald now and then, but I enjoy my own music a whole lot more! I’m sure many parents feel the same way, but might not be able to listen to songs they like because of one word that happens to be in the lyrics. Thus, they’re relegated to silence or kids’ music in the car.

The musicBleeper app was created to solve that problem. musicBleeper is a user-defined censorship app that allows users to determine exactly which words they feel are unsafe or inappropriate in their music. Designed for parents listening to their music with children, or anyone who would prefer their music without profanity or objectionable phrases. Even if you don’t have kids, but (like me) you’d rather not hear profanity in your music, you can use the app for yourself as well. musicBleeper provides 91 words that can be eliminated based on children’s ages, religious affiliations, household morals or family values.

Vikas Vanjani is the CEO of musicBleeper, and his vision for the app was inspired by his own experience listening to music with his kids (aged 8, 6, & 2 at the time). I love knowing that it was created with children in mind.

musicBleeper is a free app available in the iTunes store. Here’s a little more about how it works:

  • Once the app is downloaded and parameters are set, the app immediately starts scanning and scrubbing songs that live on the device.
  • If a song title is shown in bold, that means it has already been scanned and scrubbed for offensive words. If the song title is in grey scale, it means the song has not yet been scanned and scrubbed.
  • The words and phrases noted are removed from all songs on the device – users can select either “skip” or “silence.”
  • The ability to manage the app is password protected, so users can identify the words they want eliminated, and no one can change them.
  • The app can be turned on and off, so parents listening when children are not around can turn the app off if they’d like.

We tried out musicBleeper on Brian’s phone and found a song we could test it out on. There’s an intuitive menu of settings letting you customize the app exactly to your liking. You can see below the “Manage Unsafe Words” option – I’ll spare you the screen shot of potentially offensive words, but you’ll be taken to an extensive list (91 items and growing) of words to select from to bleep out. This allows you to hand-pick which words you want to avoid, which is a big highlight of its service.

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Another thing I really like about this app is that you set a username and password when you download. Then you’re the only one that’s able to change settings, so you don’t have to worry about your kids making changes you don’t want.

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The above screen shot is an example from the musicBleeper company, but you can see how your music list will look when you download the app. The greyscale titles are ones that haven’t been “scrubbed” yet but the clock icon next to Radioactive shows that it’s currently being processed. One note – make sure to give the app a little time to scrub your songs! The app goes through each song and finds the words you’ve deemed offensive.

I’d recommend that you check this app out. For one thing, it’s FREE. You can’t really beat that; it’s risk-free! And I truly think you’ll enjoy having an option to make music kid-friendly at the push of a button. You can download it here or scan this qr code with your phone to be taken right to the download page in the iTunes store:

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Check out more about the app in this video:

Keep up with musicBleeper on Facebook, Twitter, & Google+

Win_it

musicBleeper has provided me with the opportunity to give away a $50 iTunes gift card, and it even ends in time for this to be used as a Christmas gift! There are some great high-entry options just for downloading the free app or reviewing it on iTunes, too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#GiveHappy with OshKosh this Holiday Season

Note: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for OshKosh B’gosh. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

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love this time of year. Christmas, and the weeks approaching it, are just such happy times for me and my family, and I adore all the memories we make and traditions we uphold.

One thing we really try to instill in the kids this time of year is a sense of giving, because it can easily turn into a focus on receiving. Last year we started a tradition of doing random acts of kindness on Christmas Eve. It was SO much fun for the kids, and they learned how happy it made them to give to others. It’s great when you see your kids starting to understand that they can spread happiness to others with their actions.

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OshKosh is all about giving happy, which makes sense since they’re pretty good at it! When we were trying to figure out what the kids should wear for Christmas pictures this year, OshKosh was my go-to choice for finding pieces that would be perfect.

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I got the boys matching navy & white henley tops with a green long-sleeved tee to wear underneath, and each of them got a new pair of dark wash jeans, too.

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E got an adorable cardigan (so adorable that I really want one in my size!) that’s navy with white polka dots and pink trim, plus a great pair of jeans that are lined with pink fleece. Cozy and cute! Won’t those outfits look great together for a photo? We wanted something casual with pops of color, and these clothes from OshKosh were just the answer.

We love doing Christmas pictures for our cards, of course, but the photos are also a great way to give happy to the grandparents. When we asked Brian’s mom what she wanted for Christmas, for example, her response was “pictures!”

I really did have a hard time picking out clothes from OshKosh, only because I loved so many different things that it was hard to narrow down my choices! Check out some of the other great looks available right now and you’ll see what I mean:

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Find your closest store location here or you can always shop online!

I hope you’ll embrace the idea to give happy this holiday season. #GiveHappy by giving things like:

  • Hugs
  • Smiles
  • Cookies
  • Praise
  • Parties
  • Fun
  • Time
  • Love
  • Laughs

Because giving happiness is really the best gift of all!

I do have one last thing to give you in this post – a great coupon for 25% off your purchase of $30 or more! Happy shopping, and don’t forget to give happy!

H14 Mom Blog Coupon

Holiday Traditions with Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments – #KeepsakeIt

Note: We received four Hallmark ornaments to review. We were not compensated monetarily for this post, and as you can see from our collection, we truly love Hallmark Keepsake ornaments! All opinions are honest and our own.

Brian and I got married in October of 2003, and one of our very first traditions we established as a married couple was picking out a Hallmark Keepsake Ornament. We picked out a little birdhouse with art supplies – so cute, right?

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Over the years we’ve always picked out an ornament as a couple. We always talk and pick one we like best, and we have quite a varied collection now. One of my favorite things each holiday season is pulling down our tub of ornaments and looking  through our collection, talking about memories of picking various ornaments.

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Of course, once we started having children we included them in the tradition, too. Our plan is for each of our children to take their ornament collection when they’re grown and have them to place on their own family’s tree. The kids have a blast picking out ornaments that represent their interests each year, and I’m still very sentimental when I see their first year ornaments! Here’s J with his collection:

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I love seeing ornaments like the Thomas the Train one from several years ago. Thomas occupied a big part of our entertainment for several years, and even though the kids have moved past that now the ornament will always be a reminder of that phase of J’s childhood.

Here’s C’s collection:

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It’s fun to see how different their interests are, and we love seeing that shine through in their ornament selection. C loves baking so several of his ornaments (including – spoiler alert – this year’s!) focus on that, as you can see in the cookie cutter ornament and the candy/cookie train.

E, of course, is just two so her collection is pretty small:

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I love seeing their faces as they look through their ornaments and talk about why they like certain ones best. It’s a tradition we plan to keep, and as our collections grow it will be more and more fun talking about memories with each ornament. Speaking of memories, be sure and check out Hallmark’s #KeepsakeIt sweepstakes! Just post the moments you want to keepsake on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #KeepsakeIt, or upload them hereYou could win weekly prizes, or a grand prize of Keepsake Ornaments and $3,000 toward a family vacation to make more memories!

Of course, with Christmas right around the corner it’s about time for us to be thinking about ornaments again, so we went ahead and made our selections – I love what we picked!

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Brian and I picked the Charlie Brown & kite ornament. We love the charm of Charlie brown looking like he’s stuck in the Christmas tree, and we both have fond memories of Charlie Brown from childhood. For E we picked a Mickey and Minnie Mouse ornament, because that little girl loves Mickey Mouse right now. I’m sure you can guess which ornament is C’s – the cake pops! He has decided we need to make real cake pops to go along with his ornament. And J picked out a Phineas & Ferb ornament,  which is great because our whole family actually likes to sit down and watch that together. One tip – each year I write initials on the back of the ornament boxes so it’s easy to sort them out. The boys each have a fire truck ornament, for example, so this helps make decorating nice and easy.

And don’t the ornaments look great on the tree?

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We actually even got an ornament for the dogs, because C saw one in the store that he said was just perfect. We’ll print out their photo to customize it – our dogs are an important part of our family, so it’s only fitting that they get an ornament too!

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I love the Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments because there are some for virtually every interest, and they’re SO well-made. Brian still has many of his from childhood, including these Star Trek ornaments from almost 20 years ago:

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Be sure and go purchase your ornaments soon – believe me, people get started buying them early. Some years we’ve waited too late and have had a hard time tracking down the ones we really want! You can find a local Hallmark store or can shop online, too. Happy decorating!!

Black Friday Survival Guide

Note: This is a partnered post with Shopular. All opinions are honest and are my own.

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Black Friday arrives next week, and people will be out in full force searching for amazing deals on everything from televisions to pajamas. I’ve been a Black Friday shopper for over a decade now, and have picked up some tips to make your experience more pleasant. There will always be crazy people out there who fight over items, but in all the years I’ve shopped I’ve had a great experience 99% of the time. Here are a few tips to help your Black Friday shopping go as smoothly as possible:

  1. TEAMWORK! Trust me, don’t go Black Friday shopping alone. It’s pretty essential to have a wingman – or two, if possible. Ideally, have one friend (or your spouse) volunteer to be your driver, so you can be dropped off and picked up without having to worry about finding parking. The driver can also keep the car nice and toasty. I’ve seen some people stand in line outside stores, and then right before doors open their driver will swing by and pick up chairs, coats, and blankets so the shoppers don’t have to carry them into the store. Which reminds me…
  2. Come prepared to keep warm & comfortable. A couple of years ago my friend Chemese and I went to Old Navy for a free video game they were giving the first 50 shoppers. We got there and quickly realized that standing for an hour or two wasn’t going to be all that fun. I drove to my house, grabbed some camping chairs, blankets, and magazines, and then we were able to wait in comfort with entertainment at our fingertips. Since we were there together, I could run and put up all our items before the store opened while Chemese held our spot in line. It’s a great idea to have items with you – coats, blankets, chairs, magazines, hand warmers, snacks and drinks are all must-haves. We’ve even seen people come with a portable heater before! Also: Charge your phone while you’re driving because your battery will end up draining as you browse, and it will end up dying at the most inopportune time if you’re not prepared.
  3. Plan, plan, plan. Map out where you want to go. Prioritize deals so you can figure out which stores are must-haves and which aren’t as important to you. Shopular is a great app that shares deals year-round, but right now they have a special Black Friday section that makes it incredibly easy to see all the Black Friday ads on your phone.
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    With Shopular, you can save deals and coupons to easily access later, and one of my favorite aspects is people can comment – crowdsourcing can give you SO much information and answer questions you have. Take the Old Navy ad, for instance – you’ll see above that it has 34 comments – people asked questions and got them answered all within the Shopular app.
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    You can keep up with Shopular on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, too for other Black Friday details and for shopping info in general.
  4. Make a list. Sometimes two stores might have similar deals. If you buy board games at Target, and forget and buy them at WalMart too, you’ll end up having to make a trip back later for returns (which we all know is a pain). Make a list of everything you intend to buy, and then you can mark it off as you make purchases. You can also use the list to keep you on track. Let’s say you see a Keurig and are thinking about going ahead and spending $100 to get it; if you look at your list and see everything else you’re going to be spending money on, you might be more likely not to spend that extra money.
  5. Realize it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get an item. I think the thrill of the hunt is a lot of fun, but I never go in to Black Friday shopping with the attitude that I absolutely have to get something. There are some crazy good deals out there, but the items themselves will still be around after Black Friday, and there’s no point in getting stressed if items you want are all snatched before you arrive at the store.
  6. Random acts of kindness make the experience better for everyone. Black Friday shopping involves a lot of waiting in line. Bring snacks or drinks that you can share with people waiting near you to help make their wait a little better, too. Or better yet, bring something for the people working. Many of the store employees you encounter would rather be at home with their families, so brighten their day with a snack or a $5 Sonic or Starbucks gift card to use once they get off work. When so much focus is on buying, it’s nice to interject a little thoughtfulness and kindness into the mix, don’t you think?

I hope your shopping experience for Black Friday is great, and above all I hope your Thanksgiving is a day spent with those you love reflecting on all you’re thankful for!

Melissa & Doug’s Terrific 25 Giveaway!

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We’re big Melissa & Doug fans in our house. We have several play sets and have always been impressed with the quality and detail of their products. Our kids’ very favorite things from Melissa & Doug are their play food, though! I was actually surprised to see the huge variety of toys available from the brand when I went to check out their Terrific 25 Gifts list – everything from hand puppets to dress-up to arts & crafts. I know my kiddos would definitely love receiving many of the items on the list, and if you’re looking for gift ideas for kids in your life you’ll want to check the list out for yourself.

Be sure and visit the Melissa & Doug Facebook page, too, so you can find out how to enter their daily Terrific 25 Giveaway! I just visited today and entered to win a magnetic fishing pole set – so cute! Best of luck to everyone who enters the giveaway. It’s perfect timing with all the gift-giving coming up next month!