Opt Out of School Pictures? Can you do that?!?

We have been getting school pictures every year since our first minion started Kindergarten, as you are supposed to do. It is not the best “frugal” option and this year, I think we found a very solid alternative.

Cost savings

At our previous school, we had the option of purchasing a picture package and/or the file alone which they would email. There were cute backgrounds ranging from a plain color to a pretty garden. These were all pretty reasonably priced and so it was not absurd for us to do this. We could purchase the file alone for $10 and then print them ourselves. More info on that below.

At our new school, the background options are restricted to a blue-grey background unless you upgrade (i.e. pay more) and even then it is simply for a different color. The most basic package without the file costs $22 per child, with the “Most Popular Package” coming in at about $55… per child. I have three children. I do not plan to pay $165 for so-so pictures, especially when minion 2 comes into play. Which brings me to my next reason for opting out.

More options

Minion 2’s Kindergarten pictures were… well… how do I put this gently? She looked like she was going to stab the camera man. My husband and I have purposely not shared the photo online because we both firmly believe that it would turn into a McKayla Maroney-type meme. It looked as though she was thinking, “Take the d@m^ picture now so I can get the h3!! out of here!”

I love my daughter very much, but if she is not in the mood to do something, there is no way in h3!! you are going to get her to do it. Oh, you may try all you like. But as my family learned in the 45 minute wait for my daughter in the bathroom at Animal Kingdom at Disney World, if you ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do, you simply have to wait out the storm.

At an event for school this year, her 1st grade teacher pulled me aside to “warn” me that her pictures might not turn out. I simply started laughing and shared with her that it was a main reason we opted out of purchasing pictures this year. Her teacher even asked the photographer if they could skip Minion 2 and they informed her that they needed a photo for the yearbook. Oh my. We are still waiting to see the lovely picture they got this year!

Anyway, the ability to actually be with my children and select the background actually became a very fun activity for us.

My husband and I are not photographers, but we enjoy taking pictures. We took our minions to a park last weekend and we had so much fun finding places to photograph. If you aren’t confident in your photography skills, ask a friend or set up an appointment with a local photographer. In some cases, it may be cheaper than school photos.

Disclaimer: We have a Nikon camera with a couple of lenses for our use. This helps in achieving the professional results, but I do think you might be able to achieve similar results from an iPhone or Android phone.

Printing Options

Did you know that Walgreens actually has an option to purchase a picture in a package that is very similar to the school packages?

Upload your photos to Walgreens.com (other sites might have similar features, this is our experience using Walgreens), then go to the page to “Choose Sizes and Quantities” and select the link below “Wallets” that reads “More Sizes.”

Note: Walgreen’s cropping tool does not work for the packs. For best results, upload portrait photos (not landscape) and crop before you upload.

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Here, you will see additional “Packs.” For just $9.99, you can get:

  • 3 8×10
  • 3 5×7
  • 5 Wallet Sets (so the kids can pass out their pics to friends like all the others), and
  • 20 4×6 screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-2-12-58-pm

Added Bonus! There are ALWAYS coupon codes for Walgreen photos online (just google “Walgreens Coupon Code”) AND you get them within a day. We ended up getting three Ultimate Value Packs (one for each minion) plus some other 4×6 photos for us for less than $20. Compare that to the fact that the starting price at the school was $22, this was a no-brainer for us.

For our family, this allowed us to take a day and devote it to achieving the photos that the kids and we wanted. We were very pleased with the results and ended up with really cute photos of the kids altogether as well.

And, you can’t really deny the adorable results!

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I hope this inspires you as well! Enjoy the day as a family and be in charge of what pictures you hand out this year 🙂

Have a great day!!!
andrea-sig

Modesty Shorts: What they are and where to get them

Back-to-school shopping is right around the corner! There is no denying it: Little girl outfits are totally adorable. The frilly skirts, the polka dots, the ruffles!!!

When they are young, girl skirts have built in shorts to prevent underwear flashing while little girls hang upside down on the monkey bars at the park. However, it seems that when they hit school-age, these shorts are no longer a part of the skirt and it’s simply “I see London, I see France” for all to see! You know, at the exact age where sitting criss-cross applesauce is expected daily.

If your little fashionista loves dresses like my second minion, you were introduced to this dilemma earlier. For us, our eldest wasn’t incredibly into dresses, so underwear flashing was rarely an issue until she entered kindergarten when she had a uniform that thankfully included skirts with shorts attached!

Now, both girls are in school and my second minion especially can be seen in a dress or skirt daily. The solution we came upon a couple of years ago and have rarely since was what we call modesty shorts.

These are amazing little shorts that girls put on over their underwear and under their skirts/dresses without the bulkiness of that regular shorts can cause.

In school shopping last year, I was on a mission to get a few pair since BOTH my girls were going to be in school. I was very sad to learn that these modesty shorts are not sold in many places. I went to Macy’s, JC Penney, Target, and a variety of other stores with no luck. When I would ask an employee, I would be directed to bike shorts – at $12/each, no thank you! This is not what I want.

Why is it so hard to find a simple pair of shorts to hide my daughters’ underwear?!?

Luckily, my mother-in-law found some at Kohls and called us. We went out that night and bought a few sets. {You can find them in the store or online at Kohls.com.} These are referred to as “bike shorts” or “playground shorts” but are very different from the other stores. I swear they are “modesty shorts.” 🙂

When we checked out, I mentioned to the cashier that I had been searching and searching for these! She mentioned that the other place she knew of with them was Von Maur – but even these are 2T-4T. Seriously?!? No where else? You can look online, but they will come with a hefty price tag.

To me, it should not be so hard to try to preserve our children’s innocence and modesty. I want my girls to be able to go out and do cartwheels and play duck-duck-goose without showing their underwear {or more!} to anyone close by.

So, for those of you looking for these magical underwear hiders, I encourage you to shop Kohls as they appear to have the best price. You can easily get a set of three for $9.99 in various colors {though we stick to the black, white, and grey as these are NOT to be shown off :)}. Add their ever-easy-to-find coupon and save more. The Children’s Place has “Cartwheel Shorts” for just under $4/each.  Old Navy {online ONLY} has some for $5/each as well. Again, there are others online, but some sell for more than $22/each. No thank you.

Plus, it shouldn’t be so hard to help our girls stay modest. Please, please, please department stores, sell these IN STORE so people know they exist.

Have fun this back-to-school season and feel safe knowing your lil’ girl is covered 🙂
andrea-sig

Shop Amazon and Give to Your Favorite Charity at the Same Time via AmazonSmile!

Have you heard of AmazonSmile?

AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at Smile.Amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from nearly one million organizations to support.” – AmazonSmile, emphasis added by me.

I am not an in-store shopper so much {outside of groceries}, but online? Yes, please! I just purchased some discount printer ink and some school supplies at Amazon. Now, it’s not always the best price, and when it isn’t, I don’t buy. But when it is, I simply add to cart and proceed to checkout!

AmazonSmile then automatically gives to the organization of MY CHOICE – in my case, Heartbeat International – and then a portion of my spendings goes directly to Heartbeat without my needing to do anything further!

You simply go to Smile.Amazon.com and the site will walk you through the process. Here, you will select the charity of your choice. Again, there are nearly a million from which to choose! And that’s it! You can shop and give at the same time! I love it! As I hope the charities do too! 🙂

Have a great day!

DIY Lunchable – Cheaper & Healthier

If you care about saving money, I am sure you have heard the benefits of Meal Planning. This includes lunch too, of course. Well, we’ve all had those days where we have to go from one activity to another and time runs out, so we grab something from the restaurant/store. We had one such day recently and I was so annoyed by the results.

Thursdays are our tight days due to 1/2 day Kindergarten that ends at 11:40 and then Dance Class beginning at 12:30. Typically, I bring all our lunches to pick up and we go straight to Dance. This day, however, we went for a little field trip in the morning and ran out of time so I stopped at the store and picked up Ham & Cheese Lunchables for the kids. Paying $2.50-ish a piece for these, I expected {foolishly} that these lunches would have included healthy options for the kids.

Nope. Nada. Nothing.

Crackers, ham, cheese, cookie, Capri Sun. That was it.

No fruit. No veggie. #MomFail.

I literally stopped home super fast and grabbed fresh fruit and a bag of carrots to take to Dance 🙂 {Yup… I’m a tad bit crazy… But I think it is just the right amount 😉 }

The reason I was so very annoyed is that I knew that I could easily put together a healthy version of a Lunchable for much less money. I saw this product as a rip-off and {ask my friend} I kind of went on a little rant about it – hence this post.

Using saved lunch meat containers, I can create multiple “Lunchables” at a fraction of the cost. I know because this is my go-go picnic meal. Depending on what you put in, you can create a week’s worth of lunches for the same cost of one Lunchable.

Note: I know that there is something to be said for convenience. The truth is, I got into a routine of making four at a time every week in less than 10 minutes. If you do this on Sunday – or have your kids do this – you will save a lot of money throughout the year.

Changing up the fruits, meats, and veggies are easy ways to keep these fresh for little eyes. We’ve done several variations, including pita bread and hummus, but for the sake of comparison, I kept my sample below pretty equal to what we purchased.

My supplies

  • Wheat Round Crackers ~ $2.00 for the box
  • Pepperoni {or any meat} ~ $2.50 for the package
  • Cheese ~ $2.00 for the block
  • Apple ~ $1.50/lb.
  • Banana ~ $0.44 for a bunch
  • Carrots ~ $0.99 for a bag
  • Water {not pictured} ~ $0.00

Total for all items: Just under $9.00

I can easily get 12 meals out of these items, bring each DIY Lunchable to $0.79.

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Simply place all items within your container, being certain to keep crackers away from fruit or anything that can be absorbed as they will take on that flavor. You can also put the crackers in a baggie within the container or a silicone cupcake holder.

I make my lunches with five of each of the crackers, cheese and pepperoni. I pick a couple of pieces of fruit and divide it among the containers. I add carrots to finish and lunch is served.

Note: If you are prepping for the week, depending on the fruit choice you might want to sprinkle with pineapple or lemon juice to avoid browning. Plus, bananas should be eaten same day.

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The containers stack so nicely for placement in lunch boxes or refrigerator.

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Look at that! So pretty. Stacked so nicely 🙂

I know that these items have the convenient factor, but it’s not enough for me to justify the cost and lack of nutrition for my kids.

/rant

Have a great day!
Andrea-sig

Hidden Treasure: Safety Town in New Albany

Looking for something fun and creative that will keep little ones busy for hours at no cost to you? {I know; who isn’t!?!} Safety Town in New Albany is a wonderful getaway for families that can fill your day if you come prepared.

So, this isn’t exactly “hidden” as we’ve known about it for years as have others, but I’ve learned that is “hidden” to those outside of New Albany, so this will be our little secret 😉

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Located across the road from the New Albany K-1 School, Safety Town is designed to teach K-1 students street safety. Literally a miniature version of New Albany, Safety Town is filled with brick buildings, roads, cross walks, and even a road through the woods in order to allow children to learn road safety in a safe space.

When Safety Town is in session, street lights and signs are added to bring the town to life.

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Another perk is the location. Being located just across from the K-1 building, access to the K-1 playground offers another hour of fun! Designed for little people, this is one of the best school playgrounds I have seen! When school is in session, however, this is off limits. Luckily, there is a play park just down the road, next to the water park. Bathrooms, too, are accessible in the picnic pavilion just down the road. There are walking paths just behind the water park as well.

What to pack

In order to make the most out of your time at Safety Town, I recommend packing the following:

  • Bikes, Trikes, and scooters {or anything that moves so that little ones can be “cars” on the roads}
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks
  • Tickets to hand out when little ones break the rules of the road
    • The tickets are fun and they reinforce good habits. Be warned though, on ornery days, kids might be looking for tickets 🙂
  • Picnic lunch for after in the pavilion just down the road {with bathrooms!}

Where is Safety Town

Just across from the New Albany K-1 Elementary Building:
5101 Swickard Woods Blvd
New Albany , OH 43054

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This place is an absolute treasure and my kids love it, as I’m sure yours will as well.

Have fun!

Andrea-sig

Is TurboTax right for you?

Hate doing your taxes? Read on.

The year we were married, a family member recommended that we try TurboTax. Now, I had done my own taxes for years, but it was always the EZ form and I didn’t own a house then, nor was I married. To be honest, I always HATED doing my taxes. I just couldn’t comprehend it.

One time using TurboTax was all it took. I was hooked!

TurboTax literally guides you through every single step of the tax process. We’re talking baby steps here. Donate anything in the past year? They walk you through writing that off. Had a baby? They’ve got you covered there too (just have your baby’s social security number handy). Bought a house recently? They will take care of that too, including first time home buyers.

My husband still recalls the year when I was so excited after completing our taxes that I closed my laptop, went straight to the kitchen and made chocolate milkshakes. I don’t know why (I was probably pregnant!), but the tradition stuck and every year, once the taxes are complete, milkshakes are made.

We have evaluated the cost and the amount of money that TurboTax has found for us to be included in our refund is far more than the cost for the program. This is a solid investment that has increased its return year after year.

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Another thing I love about TurboTax is that it holds your entire history within its program so I can literally SEE that our refund has increased year-after-year. Not only that, the company analyzes your audit risk, so we know what to expect. Other companies probably do this too, but when I find something that works for me and others I know and trust, I stick with it.

If you are thinking about trying it, save 20% by clicking here –> https://refer.turbotax.intuit.com/s/xciwt

I am a frugal gal. If you can get the same product for less money, do it!

One more feature I adore is the Refund Tracking Tool. Once you submit your tax form, you receive confirmation WITH a timeline telling you WHEN you should receive your refund. I know when my refund is coming, do you?

Happy Tax Season!
Andrea-sig

 

P.S. I don’t get paid for my views, just passing on the info. BUT, if you do decide to click the referral code and you choose to save 20% on the product, I do get an Amazon gift card for $10 🙂 Depending on when you do your taxes, you’ll probably have the same opportunity too if you pay it forward. Have a great day!

Frugality Quick Tip: DIY Dry Erase Board

I wanted to share an easy way to get long life out of your preschool printables. For pretend play, I laminate. This allows the kids to use their “menus” and “airplane tickets” multiple times and the paper does not rip. For lessons, however, it is not always cost-effective for me to laminate each piece of paper for multiple uses.

Many lessons I do with my kids utilize the same sheets, and I was finding myself creating duplicate copies throughout the year. A simple way to use and reuse lesson sheets is to slide the paper into a binder with a clear cover. This creates a dry erase board for your little ones. Use dry erase markers and simply erase with a paper towel or dry eraser. It really is that simple.

This tip allows me to file one piece of paper and pull it out when the need arises. (Below is a copy of a numbers sheet that I will go to on “Back to Basics Week” which I do 2-3 times a year with my kids. You can print your own FREE Number Activity Mat from Teaching Ideas.)

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This works great for road trips too! We slip a white piece of paper in and voila! Drawing board!

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A simple cost-saving tip, but every little bit helps. Try this with free printables from any of my favorite home-preschool sites.

I hope this helps you in your planning!

Have a great day!
Andrea-sig