Frugal Novice

Our Stay at Hotel Contessa on the San Antonio Riverwalk

We received one free night & one media-rate night to facilitate our review. This post was not compensated monetarily. All opinions are honest and are our own.

We have been on the road a LOT the past year – we traveled to Mississippi and Florida in November, and to Alabama and Illinois in April. After all these long drives, we knew we wanted to vacation somewhere fairly close and keep things laid-back. San Antonio was the perfect place – we hadn’t been there in several years (E had never been) and the whole vibe of the Riverwalk is just relaxing.

I researched hotels before we traveled, because I’ll fully admit up front that I’m kind of a hotel snob. I want the place we stay to be high-quality and feel like a treat… but with three kids, we also need someplace that is family friendly. That can be a hard balance to strike! My internet search quickly revealed an ideal option – the Hotel Contessa.

Photo courtesy of hotelcontessa.com

Photo courtesy of hotelcontessa.com

The location is perfect. It’s right on the Riverwalk, and it’s near to a lot of attractions (we walked over to the Alamo our first night and it was just a 10-minute walk). You can see where it’s located on the map below – it’s marked with a red circle.

RiverwalkMap

The hotel is beautiful. The lobby is bright, modern, elegant, and welcoming – and you’re greeted with a painting of Contessa herself.

E-ContessaPainting

There’s a lounge area on the river level with a bar and Las Ramblas restaurant (I’ll be doing another post about that soon, so keep an eye out!). Here’s a view of the lounge area:

Contessa-Lounge

There are great views from the hotel, too:

ViewFromWindow-Contessa

The kids loved that the hotel is equipped with glass elevators – you’d almost think they were an attraction themselves!

Here’s E super excited and ready to go up to our room:

E-Suitcase

Now let’s talk rooms. Location is key, but you also want a room that has enough space, right? Our room was perfect for a family of five. It was actually a suite with a living area and bedroom separated by the bathroom and a snack area with mini-fridge. And the decor is just perfect. It’s modern and urban feeling, but the art provides a Texas touch. I especially loved the exposed brick wall!

Couch-Contessa

GreenChair-Contessa

This chair was the coveted spot in our suite. The kids LOVED it and took turns spinning each other in it (and, let’s be real, they totally fought over who got to sit in it)!

Contessa-Bedroom

The bedroom was bright and airy – and we had a river view.

FrenchDoors-Contessa

There were beautiful wooden French doors leading into the bathroom. And seriously, whoever did the lighting design in this bathroom was genius. It was cozy and warm, and the whole space felt like a spa.

Bathroom-Contessa

There were two beds in the bedroom, but our kids all ended up sleeping out in the living area. The couch had a fold-out bed and the other portion of the sectional worked perfect for our daughter to sleep on. They thought it was really cool to have their own sleeping space (and we liked being able to watch TV late at night without accidentally waking them up).

KidsSleeping_Contessa

I’ve saved the best for last – the rooftop pool. If that doesn’t sound luxurious, I don’t know what does! The views from the pool were spectacular, especially at night when we could see the lights of downtown. We spent time in the pool both nights and had the best time.

Contessa-Pool

One thing to know when staying at Hotel Contessa is that valet parking is the way to go. It does cost $36 a night, but the convenience in the middle of downtown San Antonio is worth it (there are parking garages nearby if you prefer not to do valet, though).

We will definitely stay at the Hotel Contessa again. The kids have already been asking when we can go back! Find out more & book your stay on the Hotel Contessa site here.

Take Tailgating to the Next Level

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL? Thanks to the tips in this sponsored post you’ll be the best tailgater in the lot.

It won’t be long until we’re in the middle of prime tailgating season! You can make tailgating even more fun if you’re prepared – check out these great tips for how to ramp up your tailgating game:

1.  Pack a kit. A toolbox with all its various compartments can be the perfect vessel for housing all the things you might need, like: spatulas, a bottle opener, a can opener, tongs, plastic ware, trash bags, paper towels, baggies, wipes, hand cleaner, and any seasonings you might use often when grilling.

2. Use a six-pack box to house all your sauces. Keep your A-1, Tabasco and BBQ sauce from spilling out in your car by putting a bottle in each compartment. It’ll also make it easy for you to cart the sauces around!

3. Make it easy for people to find your car. Get some helium balloons and float them high up so your friends can easily find you among all the other cars around.

4. Think smart with which vehicle you bring. A compact car isn’t going to have as much room for storage. A minivan can work well (try adding plastic drawers to the back to organize all your supplies) and then of course trucks are optimal with all the surface area a truck bed provides! Find the perfect tailgating vehicle at Three Rivers Chrysler Jeep Dodge.

5. Create a disposable cooler. Another use for your drink boxes is to line them with trash bags (use at least two layers to prevent leaks), fill them with ice, and voila! You’ve got an instant cooler that you can easily toss when you’re done with it.

Get Your Car Ready for Back-to-School

Do you have your car ready for back-to-school? Check out these tips in this sponsored post and you’ll be ready in no time!

It’s just about a month until kids go back to school (has summer flown by for ayone else?) and it’s a great time to start thinking about how to get organized. We often focus on the home – having things ready for lunches, making it easy for the kids to pick out their clothes, and creating a space for working on homework.

One often-overlooked space for back-to-school readiness is the car. If you organize your car the right way it can make drop-offs easier and pick-ups more pleasant. Here are three tips for getting your car in A+ shape before the new school year arrives:

1. Use seat organizers. I’m sure you’ve seen these before – they hang down the back of car seats and have various-sized pockets for housing different items. This can be a great way to make sure you have all the things your kids might need. Kids forget breakfast? No problem – keep granola bars or small cereal boxes in some of the pockets! Have a four-year-old with a boo-boo that threatens to derail your morning? Have Neosporin spray and band-aids at the ready. Think about what you wish you’d had on hand this past school year and make a list to stock your car well.

2. Use shower caddies to make for neater eating. You can find these at the dollar store, and they’re an amazing way to let kids eat in the car without making a huge mess. Just place all the components of their breakfast (or dinner, if you’re out running errands – last minute school supply shopping, anyone?) and it keeps everything contained.

3. Get a cooler for your car. If you’re often carting your kids around to soccer practice a car cooler can make your life so much easier! It plugs right in to your car’s cigarette lighter and allows you to have cold drinks on hand. It’s also a great way to keep fresh fruit, carrots, or cheese sticks around for healthy snacks.

If a new car is on your school supply list, check out Junction Auto Sales in Chardon, Ohio!

Get More Money For Your Vehicle Trade-In

Have you ever traded in your vehicle when you purchase a new one? It can be an intimidating process, but if you’re equipped with tools like the ones in this sponsored post you can feel more confident going in to the dealership.

When you’re purchasing a new car, that usually means you are getting rid of an old one. We’ve sold a car on our own before and it ended up being a lot of work, so we decided going forward we’d always try to do trade-ins with a dealership – like Lakeland Chrysler Jeep Dodge – instead. It’s much less stressful and takes much less time, so it’s worth it to us. It’s also really nice to get your sale and purchase over with in one day!

We want to get the most for our trade-in, of course, so I thought I’d share a few tips with you that we use to make sure we get the best offer:

1. Research the value. Look on sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds to get a rough idea of the value of your vehicle. Be honest about the condition when you’re taking the questionnaire – it’s easy to get attached to a vehicle but you’ve got to be objective when figuring out how much your car is worth.

2. Get your car detailed (or detail it yourself). We have done this each time we’ve traded in a vehicle and I honestly feel like it makes a big difference. It allows you to put your car’s best foot (errr…. tire?) forward. Just like you’d stage a home for sale, make your car look its best before you take it to the dealership. A sloppy car might give the impression you don’t take good care of it in general.

3. Have your maintenance records ready to show. Keep a folder of maintenance and repair records on your car, and when it’s time for trading it in you’ll be glad! Giving the dealership your repair and maintenance records shows you’ve been a responsible car owner and it lets the dealership get a better idea of what kind of shape your vehicle is in.

Best Car Accessories for Moms

If you’ve got kids, you’ll love this sponsored post with some amazing car gadgets that will make your life easier.

I’m a big fan of things that make life easier – as a mom to three kids, and as someone who also works full-time, I feel like we’re constantly on the go (side note: I love our minivan – find your own at Humes Chrysler Jeep Dodge). So if I can find something that simplifies any part of my day, I’m all about it! Since we’re out and about so much, I thought I’d share with you some car accessories that are sanity savers. Here are the best gadgets for moms & families:

1. Proximo. Y’all, I forget where I park ALL THE TIME. I’m serious. If I’m alone I really do just fine, but how often does that happen? Never! I’m usually with the family or with a friend – or on the phone with someone – and I’m completely distracted as I park and enter a store. This means that when I exit the store I’m left wandering the lot and pressing my car lock button over and over again hoping to hear it beep to guide me the right way.  Proximo lets you use an app on your phone to track your car in the parking lot so you’re not meandering around – and bonus: you can also use it to track your keys in the house!

2. Zubie. This is a device you plug into your vehicle and it will provide all sorts of great services, like information on how safely you’re driving (how great would this be if you have a teenage driver?) how your car is doing.  My favorite aspect, though? You can also set it up so a text message is automatically sent to your the recipient of your choice when you get to a certain location or come home. This, again, would be really awesome for peace of mind with teenage drivers. You’ll know when they’ve made it to school or the house safely without having to bug them with a text checking in on them.

3. ChildMinder Smart Clip System. This thing is awesome with the safety it provides for our little ones. Have you ever started to drive off without buckling your baby’s car seat completely? The ChildMinder clips right on to the car seat strap and alerts you if the strap becomes detached, too loose, or if you forget to buckle the straps altogether. And this next safety feature it provides is crucial: it will trigger an alarm if you move more than 15 feet away from baby, keeping you from ever accidentally leaving baby in the car unattended – this is especially important during hot weather, which we have a LOT of in Texas!

When Sick Gets Real on Road Trips

This post has been sponsored by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’ll never forget a particular road trip we took to Fort Worth, Texas a little over six years ago. We drove in for the day to attend an event and planned to just drive back late that same night, so we decided we didn’t really need to bring much with us. J was almost 4, and C was a little over 2, so we didn’t even have to bring a huge diaper bag with us – we just brought a few diapers and a pack of wipes and thought we were good to go!

We made it through the day without incident, and decided to grab dinner before we hit the road. Brian was holding C as we waited to order, and then… sick got real. It got real all over C and ALL over Brian. The amazing employees told us they would handle clean up, but then we were left to figure out how to clean up Brian & C. We hadn’t brought any clothes, so we had to run to the store to buy replacement clothes, paper towels, a bucket, and some Children’s Advil® for his fever that seemed to pop up out of nowhere!

I won’t lie, that night was pretty rough (especially for Brian, who bore the brunt of the … sick – ew!). We’re so thankful we were near a Target and could run in for the supplies we needed, but we also learned how important it is to be prepared.

Whether it’s a day trip or a long cross-country trek we always travel with basic kids’ medicine. Children’s Advil®, Children’s Dimetapp®, Children’s Robitussin® are great to have on hand so that if sick gets real, you’re ready!

  • Children’s Advil® is a great solution for kids as young as 2 and up to 11 to ease aches and pains & to bring down fevers. Children’s Advil® comes in several flavors, including: Sugar-free Dye-free Berry, Bubble Gum, Grape, Blue Raspberry, Fruit and Dye-Free White Grape (our kids’ favorite!) flavors. There’s also Infants’ Advil® White Grape, which provides unsurpassed fever relief (among OTC pain relievers) with a syringe for easy dosing for children 6-23 months.
  • Children’s Robitussin® Extended-Release 12 Hour Cough Relief is awesome to have on hand for controlling and relieving symptoms all day and night. Available in grape or orange flavor, for children ages 4 and up. Please note, certain Children’s Robitussin® products are only suitable for children ages 6 and up.
  • Children’s Dimetapp® Multi-Symptom Cold Relief Dye-Free eases your child’s stuffy and runny nose, while quieting a bothersome cough. All in a great-tasting grape flavor that’s dye-free, for children ages 6 and up.

Before you go: Enter this great giveaway for your chance to get a $25 virtual VISA gift card and Children’s Advil®, Children’s Dimetapp®, Children’s Robitussin® so you can be prepared for when sick gets real in your house!

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Tips for Saving Money on Gas

Have you gone on any road trips this summer? Whether you’re driving across country or around your city, this sponsored post will show you how to make your money go further. 

The cost of gas can add up quickly, right? Even when we’re not traveling out of town we can blow through a tank of gas way more quickly than seems possible. You can’t always help how much you’re driving, of course, but you can take steps to make your dollar stretch just a little bit further. Try these tips today to see a difference in your spending on gas!

1. Don’t have a lead foot. Rapidly accelerating your car can guzzle gas quickly. Many vehicles now have a light that turns on when you’re driving in a way that uses gas economically. If you press on the gas pedal to speed up, you’ll notice that light turn off. Try to drive at a consistent speed and not accelerate quickly at lights or on the freeway to pass someone, and your tank of gas will last longer.

2. Avoid unnecessary idling. I’m guilty of this often, especially during the school year! When I’m waiting to pick up the kids from school I sit for 10-15 minutes with the car – and air conditioner – on. Idling can use a quarter to a half a gallon of fuel per hour, and if you’re using your air conditioner while you sit like I do it can use even more fuel. Turn your engine off when you’re parked, and roll down your windows. If it’s the fall and a little chilly, keep a jacket in the car  rather than keeping your heater running.

3. Look for fuel savings opportunities. Our grocery store lets us accumulate points, and we can earn up to $1.00 off per gallon. There are other savings card programs through gas stations and credit cards, too! My in-laws use points they earn on their credit cards to buy Sam’s Club gift cards and get “free” gas that way. So smart!

4. Buy a vehicle that is fuel-efficient. Newer vehicles are more efficient than older ones, so it might be time to trade in your old car for something new. Visit Savage Chrysler to find many great options.

Take Your Test Drive to the Next Level

Have you taken many test drives? Before you take your next one check out this sponsored tips for making the most of your trial time in a vehicle.

Whenever we’ve bought a car, there’s been one common element – the test drive. It can make or break a car purchase, but it can end up being less helpful if you don’t fully take advantage of the time you’ve got to try out the car you’re thinking of buying (speaking of car shopping – visit Legacy Dodge Jeep Chrysler RAM. Check out these tips for making the most of your test drive so you can feel confident in your car choice:

1. Make a list of your priorities before you drive. It can be easy to get swept up in luxurious touches on a car, losing sight of what you’re really wanting. Seat warmers may be pretty awesome, but if your car doesn’t have the cargo space you need for family road trips you’ll be regretting your purchase down the road. If you have a checklist, you can make sure you don’t overlook anything – and you can even jot down notes for the various cars you test drive to make it easy to compare them when you’re ready to make a decision.

2. Bring a friend with you. No, it’s not for moral support (although that’s a great perk!). Have your friend sit in the passenger seat during part of the test drive, then stop during the drive and have them sit in the back seat as well (and definitely have them try out 3rd-row seating if that’s applicable – you want to make sure there’s plenty of leg room.

3. Park it. Don’t just drive down the road – try parking (and backing out of) a spot in a crowded parking lot. Is the car easy to maneuver? Are there any blind spots that make it difficult to back up? If you think about how many different places you park your vehicle each week this is a crucial test that every car should be able to pass before it’s purchased.

How to Get a FREE Box of Samples From PINCHme!

I received a PINCHme box to facilitate this review. I was not monetarily compensated for this post, and all opinions are honest and are my own.

love trying new products, and oh my word do I love free samples. So when I got the chance to try out PINCHme I jumped all over it – the best of both worlds!

PINCHme was created to serve as a destination for members to sample products from the worlds leading brands, for free. All they ask is that you tell them what you think.

PinchMe-Box

It’s always fun getting a box in the mail, and I couldn’t wait to see what was included in mine.

Food-Items-PinchMe

There were two food-related samples in mine, and seriously – both were a great fit for our family. The kids were all about trying the Quaker Chewy Bites, and I’m planning to make a peanut butter & chocolate protein shake with the grass fed whey.

Beauty-Items-PinchMe

I also got some shampoo & conditioner, deodorant, personal cleanser, deet-free bug spray & a lint roller. We have a labrador/golden retriever that sheds like crazy so I was especially excited about the lint roller!

Biore-PinchMe

My favorite part of the box was the Bioré products – they were all full-size, which is awesome in itself. But I have loved Bioré products in the past, and trying their new items was right up my alley. I love that these products include more natural ingredients like baking soda and charcoal. They all smell great with a light citrus scent, and they’re a great fit for my oily-to-combination skin. I can’t wait to tell my friends to give this new Bioré line of products a try!

To get your samples, remember to log in at noon on the day the samples are released (which happens to be TODAY, y’all… so get on it!) – click here to go ahead and fill out your profile so you can be ready to snag your samples.

 

We <3 Sam's Club

This is a compensated post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Our family consists of 5 people; my husband, our 9-year-old son, our 8-year-old son, our 4-year-old daughter, and me. We also have two dogs (one of whom is 85 pounds) and a cat. Our house is full and we run through food and household items so quickly (which I know will only accelerate when we enter the teenage years)!

Sam’s Club is a perfect place to shop for our family – for one thing, we can buy in bulk.

Snacks-Sams

HotTamales-Sams

We also find great deals on books, clothes, and toys.

Books-Sams

Pajamas-Sams

Dresses-Sams

The kids love getting free samples when we go, too!

Samples-Sams

One of my favorite things to get at Sam’s Club is gift cards. They’re always cheaper than the value you receive, and our location even has gift cards for local restaurants.

GiftCards-Sams

Another reason to love Sam’s? You can save all sorts of time with their awesome app by scanning items as you go, letting you check out without even having to stand in line.

SkipTheLine-Sams
Win a $100 Sam's Club Membership!

Right now there’s an awesome giveaway going on. You could win one of TEN free Sam’s Club memberships! Go here to enter for your chance to win… the giveaway ends THIS Friday, June 2nd, so go enter now!

Planet Fitness Update – When Life Gets Busy

I received a membership to Planet Fitness to facilitate my path to fitness and my blog posts chronicling my progress.

It’s been longer than planned since my last post. We traveled over 4,400 miles in April for a wedding one weekend and a funeral the next. April did not end up looking like we thought it would. Have you had months like that?

Before we left for all our travels I headed in to work out at Planet Fitness. I’ve discovered the 30-minute express circuit, and it is perfect for busy working moms like me.

Express-Circuit-Panoramic

In the 30-minute circuit, you alternate between aerobic activity on steps and various weight machines. There are 10 strength machines and 10 cardio-step stations. It’s SO easy to stay on track – there’s a light in the area that switches from red to green. When the light is red, you rest & switch to your next station, and when it’s green you work out at that station until it turns red again.

PlanetFitness-Express-GreenLight

I love that the circuit works a variety of muscles, and fits in aerobics as well. At the end of 30 minutes, you will have completed the circuit and received a full-body workout. When I tried the circuit on my own for the first time, I just did a basic step at each of the cardio-step stations. I signed up for a personal training appointment and learned how to make the most of my aerobic time. The trainer was great and showed me something different to do at each station. It’s a lot more work, but my Apple watch let me know I burned a lot more calories, too! If you are a member at Planet Fitness – or plan to join soon – be sure and take advantage of the personal trainer. It’s a FREE service, so you’re only losing out if you don’t give it a try.

I’m looking forward to going back to Planet Fitness tomorrow and getting back on track with my fitness goals after a rollercoaster month. I’ve got to say, though, that my crazy month really hammered home how great it is that Planet Fitness is affordable. At just $20 for the Black Card membership, even if I’m only able to make it to work out 4 times one month I am still getting my money’s worth (and of course there’s the less expensive $10/month option, too).

It didn’t work out for our trips because of the extremely quick nature of each one, but it’s also great to know how many locations there are around the country. If you’re out of town for work or even for a vacation you can still get in your workout!

PlanetFitness-Map

ALSO – Don’t miss out on this awesome deal that’s good through May 12. Right now you can join Planet Fitness for just $5 down (& then of course it’s just $10/month for a regular membership. Find your nearest location here!

Great Tax Day Deals!

Tax Day can be stressful, but you know what takes away stress? Awesome freebies & discounts! Go have some noodles for lunch, chicken for dinner, and end your day with a free hydromassage.

Planet Fitness_Tax Day_HydroMassage

Planet Fitness

  • From Saturday, April 15 – Saturday, April 22 consumers can receive a free HydroMassage at any Planet Fitness location. De-stressers need only bring in a coupon available on PlanetFitness.com (starting April 15) before relaxing their cares away.

Noodles & Company_Tax Day

Noodles & Company

  • From Wednesday, April 12 – Tuesday, April 18, those who file their taxes digitally this year can receive $4 off any $10 purchase placed through order.noodles.com using the code “TAXDAY17” at checkout.

Boston Market_Tax Day Special

Boston Market

  • On Tuesday, April 18, any guest who dines in-restaurant can purchase a $10.40 Tax Day Meal Special. Offer includes a Half Chicken Individual Meal with 2 sides, cornbread, a regular fountain beverage and a cookie.