Top Tips for Budgeting for Back to School

Budgeting for back to school? Yeah, aren’t we all! I have a first grader this year, which means he’ll now need a backpack. And I also have two new high schoolers this year! Both have had the same backpacks since third grade (wow!) and need upgrades. And of course the added expenses of new shoes, school supplies and replacing outgrown clothing. But do we really need to buy ALL of those new things? Check out my tips for assessing what you have and how I’m budgeting for back to school time!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

This post was originally published August 6th, 2014

Budgeting for Back to School

The stores have us in the mid-set that “back to school” means freshly sharpened pencils, crisp new clothes and brand new shoes. There must be a snazzy new backpack, bright new spiral bound notebooks and never-used crayons. All the kids in the ads look like there is no better place to be than at school, decked out head-in-toe in shiny new stuff!

Sure, new stuff might soften the landing a bit for kids who are reluctant and cranky about starting the new school year. But what if you don’t need anything new this year? What if the school stuff they were just using back in June is still fine and acceptable for September?

I think all kids love getting brand new stuff but it’s certainly not always necessary, especially if what they have is still in usable condition. Why waste money buying or replacing items that are truly good and usable just because it’s what you’ve “always done” or because the stores are having a sale!

Here are my top tips on how not to get sucked into the Back to School buying trap!

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.

Assess What You Already Have

Put your credit card back in your wallet. Before you run out and buy a bunch of new stuff, you need to figure out what things are essentials and what things can be skipped this year. You’ll do this by assessing what you already have and determining what you truly need to replace.


  • Inspect the current backpack. Are straps, zippers and hooks all in good working order? Sometimes all the backpack needs is a good washing! During the year, I have my kids completely clean out their backpacks every two weeks and we toss them into the laundry. Upkeep is important during the entire year to keep items in good working condition. If the backpack is truly broken or has an un-repairable rip or tear, then it’s time to toss and buy new.
  • Consider purchasing a quality backpack that will get your student through multiple years and has a guarantee. I bought my son’s backpack from L.L. Bean before he started 3rd grade. That backpack got him all the way through to the 8th grade! (And you have to know how rough boys are with their stuff!) We’re only replacing it because he needs a larger version.
  • My daughter also has a backpack from L.L. Bean and the hanging strap frayed towards the end of the year. I was able to exchange for a brand new one! L.L. Bean has a great return policy and stands by their products, replacing even if it’s been used. Buy the best you can afford and don’t waste money buying something cheap that you’ll have to replace mid-year.
  • Lunch bags should be washed every week during the school year to keep them sanitary and in good condition. Treat stains right away to avoid them setting in. If the hook & loop closure, zipper or snaps are broken off and can’t be repaired or there is a funky smell that doesn’t dissipate with washing, it’s time to buy a new one.
Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.

My son started third grade with this backpack and used it all the way to 8th grade!


  • Every page used up in the spiral notebook? Okay, time to buy a new one. Only half the pages used? Rip out the used pages and finish up with it before buying another.
  • Broken crayons or paper peeled off? Relegate them to the arts and crafts bin at home or toss them out. Gently used crayons that still work just fine? Keep ’em and there is no need to buy a new box. Same goes for pencils, pens, glue, glue sticks and erasers! If they are still in usable condition then just keep using them.
  • Folders with rips can be repaired and reinforced along the spine with a strip of colorful duct tape. Decorate the fronts with markers or Washi Tape.
  • Plastic pencil boxes often just need a cleaning (run it through the dishwasher after wiping it out). A good scrubbing with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser will bring it back to like-new condition. Colorful stickers decorating the top will make it “new to you”.

Read More: Motivation for School to Keep Kids (and Moms!) On Track

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.


  • Pants with blown-out knees beyond repair or that are now high-water length should either be tossed into the rag bin or delegated to donation. Tees and sweaters with unfixable holes, unsightly stains or that are too short at the waist or sleeves face the same fate. Socks that are too small, have holes or that are heavily stained make good cleaning rags. Underpants that are too tight or have stretched out elastic should be thrown out.
  • Based on what is still in the closet and drawers, assess the need for additional items at that point. Kids probably don’t need more than 7 of each daily wear item (one for each day of the week), so 7 long sleeved tees, 7 short sleeved, 7 pairs of pants, etc. My kids do have more than this, just for the sake of variety. However kids don’t really need in excess (it also helps to streamline the morning dressing routine when they have less to choose from!) I rarely buy my kids brand new clothes at the store any more unless it’s something like a Christmas or birthday gift. When I buy new items, I shop either Gymboree because they have high quality clothes that resist stains (and great sales throughout the year). I buy gently used clothing at the local thrift store or online at ThredUp.

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.


  • Shoes with holes or completely worn out soles should be thrown out. Put decent but dirty shoes into the washing machine or the sink for a scrubbing. Finish by cleaning up the rubber with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to bring them back to life. Replace frayed or stained shoe laces with bright new ones.
  • It’s tempting to buy cheap shoes when your kid’s feet are growing! I recommend buying high quality shoes that will last until your child outgrows them. I have personally had great luck with Pediped shoes. My daughter wore her pair almost every school day for a year. I was able to toss them into the wash every other week and only when they were getting tight did they develop a small hole in the sole. I definitely recommend paying a little more for one or two fantastic pairs of shoes (rather than 5 or 10 pairs of cheap and poorly made shoes that will need constant replacing).

Read More: Kid’s Back to School Clothing Hacks and Budget Tips

Top Tips for Budgeting for Back to School

Discuss Budgeting for Back to School With Your Kids

If your kids are accustomed to getting brand new stuff every year but this year they don’t truly need anything, you’ll need to address this with them upfront. Kids are going to expect the regular back-to-school shopping extravaganza and if it’s not going to happen this could set them up for disappointment. You’re going to have some very disgruntled kids going back to school with “the same old stuff”.

  • Involve your kids in the assessing process. Discuss how the closet full of clothes still fit,  are in good shape & will be acceptable for them right now.
  • Allow kids to decorate last year’s pencil boxes or folders with fun washi tape, Duct Tape or stickers.
  • Attach a fun key chain or fob to the zipper pull to freshen up last year’s backpack or hoodie.
  • Compromise by purchasing one new (or “new to them”) outfit for the first day of school and to wear for school pictures.

Read More: 12 Secrets to Successful and Stress-free School Mornings

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.

Divert The Focus Off of “Getting New Stuff”

Get back to the heart of what going back to school is all about and take the focus off the need for new stuff by starting new family traditions that don’t include buying new stuff.

  • Take pictures of your new student.
  • Cook a special first day breakfast or dinner.
  • Greet them with balloons on the front door when they get home.
  • Create a first day interview that you can save in your memory box.
  • Serve a special dessert.

Read More: 5 Ways to Make the First Day of School Extra Special

Just make the day special for them! Here’s to new adventures…even while wearing last school year’s shoes!

In what ways are you budgeting for back to school? 

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have. #BacktoSchool #budget #Kids #School #Fall #Budget #SavingMoney




50+ Cheap and Free Summer Staycation Ideas for Kids

Just one more week until I’ll have all four of my kids home for the summer. I need a bag-of-tricks ready to keep them occupied, entertained and to avoid the dreaded, “I’m BORED”. I’ve come up with a few summer staycation ideas that I know my kids will love and remember! Sometimes it’s just not in the budget for a big family vacation. The ultimate summer-on-a-budget staycation is easy on the wallet and still full of fun. It just takes a little creativity and planning.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, without any added cost to you, thanks! Updated and republished from a May 25, 2016 post

Summer Staycation Ideas for Kids

Sleeping in. No homework. Warm weather and a wide open calendar! Summer at home with the kids can be a lot of fun. I’m excited about being able to relax but also worried that I’m going to have four bored kids on my hands after the first week! My plan is to get the kids on board and schedule special at-home events on the calendar. Some of these summer staycation ideas could be spread out over the course of the week, leading up to the “big day”. It really gives everyone something to look forward to.

Tons of Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas!

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

1. Arts & Crafts Show

Kids love to get crafty and it doesn’t have to be pricey. You probably already have some craft supplies laying around that you could dig out. Set up an area outside where the kids can get messy and creative.

  • Local craft stores frequently mail out 50% coupons. Or you could search for one online or shop the dollar store for cheap crafting supplies.
  • Give everyone a Sketch Book and have a thirty minute session where you draw the portrait of the person next to you (this is sure to induce giggles!)
  • Save your glass jars from jelly or spaghetti sauce and use acrylic or Glass Paint to decorate.
  • Make sculptures out of craft Pipe Cleaners.
  • Decorate a plain box and transform it into a keepsake box (see this post with instructions on how to make a Memento Box)

Back-To-School DIY Disney-Style Storage Box is Perfect for Storing School Supplies or Disney mementos!

  • Use torn pieces of tissue paper and a glue stick on velum paper to make “stained glass” images.
  • Using clean paint brushes and bucket of water outside, have kids quickly “paint” a picture on the sidewalk and see if everyone else can guess what it is before it evaporates!
  • Recreate a famous painting in your own style.
  • Pull out inexpensive Washable Watercolors and paint a scene from your backyard.
  • Rainy day? Set up a still life on the table and have everyone draw the same scene then compare your pictures.
  • Read these ideas for how to make two patriotic-themed crafts.
  • Cut out pictures from magazines and Mod Podge the images onto wooden frames or boxes.
  • Make paper bag puppet and have kids create a puppet show with their creations.
  • On Friday, display everyone’s artwork in the house and hang a handcrafted blue ribbon on each kid’s best work!
Art night for a staycation with the kids {Saving up for Disney}

Oh sure, honey, it looks JUST like me!

2. Under the Big Top

After we went to the circus (the animal-free variety) a few years ago, my kids were fascinated with the tricks and skills they saw.  Lots of great ideas here to get you off the couch!

  • Dress up like a clown in old over-sized clothing and costumes.
  • A strip of blue masking tape on the patio makes an acceptable “tight rope”.
  • See who can keep multiple Hula Hoops going at the same time (one around your neck and one around your arm?!)
  • Practice balancing a balloon on your nose…and then walk the tight rope!
  • Create an obstacle course in the backyard.
  • Use Face Paint Crayons to paint each child’s face like a circus animal
  • Enjoy a snack of peanuts and popcorn

3. Enjoy the Great Outdoors

  • Plant seeds into cardboard egg crates with soil. Water gently and watch them grow.
  • Take an early morning “sunrise walk”. This is especially great if you live where it’s very hot once the sun rises.
  • Local campsites have inexpensive overnight fees. You could try to catch your dinner in the lake!
  • Take a walk with Flashlights to explore the sights and sounds after nightfall.
  • If you don’t want to stray too far from home, camp in your backyard instead. Pitch a tent, barbecue dinner over coals, roast marshmallows and fall asleep under the stars.
  • Simply roll out the sleeping bags in the living room and “camp” in the house under the comfort of your ceiling fan!
Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

Enjoying the sunshine with a fishing pole

4. Get Wet 

  • If you don’t have your own pool, perhaps a family member or friend will let you “borrow” theirs for the day (especially if you volunteer to bring snacks!)
  • Our local YMCA has a great zero-entry pool, water slide and play area for just a few dollars per person. Check at your local pools and find out when open-swim time is available.
  • High schools often open their pools in the summer for a nominal fee.
  • Wash the car. There is always an opportunity for a soapy sponge fight!
  • Set the sprinklers or spray the hose and run through the water. Kids get wet & lawn gets watered…win!
  • I’m not crazy about water balloons because of the mess they leave behind. However sponges soaked in water are perfect for a good super-soaking.
  • Little ones love to play with the watering can. Fill it up and let them water the flowers (and themselves!)

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

5. A Night at the Movies…in Your Living Room

  • Pull out an old favorite and host a themed movie evening complete with handcrafted posters, costumes and a themed dinner around the film. (ie: Watching Mulan? Make Chinese stir fry and rice).
  • Borrow movies from the library. If the library doesn’t have the movie you want, put in a request & they’ll contact you when it’s available.
  • Pull out the floor pillows, pop up some kernels and settle down together after the sun has set.
  • Give the kids a task of recreating a favorite film in their own interpretation. Come up with a script and costumes and present it to parents!

6. Backyard Carnival 

Gather up stuff from around the house for game play in the yard. Kids love to get in the silly spirit!

  • Craft blue ribbons for the winners of the contests.
  • Empty 2-liter soda bottles and a ball for a knock ’em down game. Or fill 2-liter bottles with water and use them for ring toss.
  • Toss a ball into a bowl or a coffee can.
  • Have a watermelon seed-spitting contest.
  • Pull out the face paint for added fun!
  • Have a mini-pie eating contest.
  • Serve hot dogs and potato chips outside, followed up with root beer floats.

7. Sweet Treats

If you have a budding baker on your hands (or simply kids who love sweets!), this is a fun way to get creative and maybe a little messy.

  • A bucket of vanilla ice cream, a few toppings and candy from the dollar store and you can all have amazing sundaes!
  • Find a recipe online for making your own ice cream.
  • Make a delectable over-the-top recipe from Pinterest. Did you “nail it” or was it a Pinterest “fail”?
  • Bake cupcakes and have fun creatively decorating them.
  • Spoon frosting into plastic baggies and snip off the corner for quick and easy pastry bags.
  • Make a summer-time themed “gingerbread house” that requires no baking with graham crackers, store bought frosting and candies.

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

8. Build a Fort City

When it’s too hot to play outside, take refuge in the house under a homemade fort!

  • Sofa pillows and blankets are fair game for fort making inside.
  • Pull out the dining room chairs, drape sheets and use binder clips to hold them up.
  • If you want to get fancy, a string of twinkle lights would be fabulous.
  • If you have a few cardboard boxes, take the time to paint and decorate them, cutting out windows and a door flap.
  • A quiet evening of reading is in order under your forts because horseplay would make your city fall down!

9. Board Game Bonanza

One of our favorite family events is gathering around a few board games for a fun evening of competition and laughs.

  • Borrow some games that you don’t have from friends or family so you have a nice variety for all ages and host a game day at home.
  • Simple sandwiches make a great meal and have plenty to snack on between turns.
  • Write out your own Pictionary or Charades game ideas.
  • Find “Minute to Win It” games on Pinterest that use items from around the house.


10. Host An Elegant Evening

  • Every kid has a dress up box or can at least borrow something fun from mom and dad for the evening.
  • Have a pre-party pampering, including painted nails or mud-mask facials.
  • Time to pull out the sequins, get glamorous and have a fancy night at home.
  • Light a few candles at the table and elevate even the most boring weekday dinner.
  • Serve up a Shirley Temple (7-up or Sprite with cherry juice) in a fancy glass and the kids will feel so special!

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

Okay I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but constantly budgeting my money makes me cranky! With 4 kids and a limited budget, there’s not always a lot of wiggle-room when it comes to “fun money”. Yes, I’m always putting money in the savings account for our retirement and there’s a little bit going into the Disney bank. But when it comes to right here and now, not being able to just buy whatever-I-want whenever-I-want-it makes me irritable!

So I can’t go on a spending spree and that’s okay. These are 5 things I do when I need a little escape from reality. They are just the right pick-me-up when the budget is tight.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

1. Plan a Fake Vacation

Can’t hop a plane or jump ship? Just like reading a book transports you into another world, planning a fake vacation can transport you around the world with a click of a button. This is one of my most favorite ways to daydream. Pick a spot on the map and delve into this area as if you were really going to visit!

  • Borrow travel books from the library. Which part of the world are you most drawn to?
  • If you could only drive 500 miles or less, which direction would you go and what would you do?
  • If you had to travel in central Europe which country would you go to? (I actually made this decision when I won a travel contest!)
  • Read up on cruising. Check out the Disney cruise restaurants and menus – They’re all online!
  • Which attractions would you visit in Orlando other than Walt Disney World?
  • If money were no object (and it never is when planning a fake trip) which extravagant add-ons would you make?
  • Perhaps someday when you win the lottery (that’s totally going to happen, right?), you’ll already have your travel itinerary ready to go!

Planning a Disney trip? Pick up one of these recommended Walt Disney World or Disneyland books for everyone in your group!

2. Fill my Online Shopping Cart with Clothes I’ll Never Buy

I’m not literally going to go to Target, load up a cart and then abandon it at the door. But it’s TOTALLY okay to do that online! In an online shopping cart you can virtually mix and match, quickly move from dresses to shoes to jewelry. And when you’ve gotten the shopping bug fix, simply close the browser window and you’re wallet is still intact!

3. Get Rid of Stuff

If I’m on a budget I can’t buy more stuff but it does give me some joy to pass along some of the stuff we already have. Purging and giving makes me thankful for things I was able to purchase and reminds me that I already have enough “stuff”.

  • Weed through kid’s closets. What doesn’t fit and who can you pass the clothing down to?
  • Is there something in your closet you haven’t worn in a very long time? Request a bag from ThredUp and you may be able to resell some of your items.
  • Have a garage sale. Put the money you make towards something special.
  • Be ruthless in the kid’s toy bin. Keep only what they really play with and donate the rest.
  • Next time you pull out the holiday or seasonal bin, see how you can pare down the decorations so that you only keep your most favorite items.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

4. Buy Something Little and Fun

A cheap but meaningful splurge can really boost spirits when the wallet is tight. Obviously you can’t do this one every day (or even every week!) but once in a while buying something small is just what you need. What little thing makes you happiest? For me it’s something that pampers me, like new Jamberry nail wraps or a lipstick! For family fun, choose a new board game or get a gallon of vanilla ice cream and a few toppings for mid-week sundaes.

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

A manicure at home (on a budget) makes me feel better!

Look Ahead to Something Real

What fun thing do you have coming ahead in the calendar that you can look forward to? Whatever it is, start your planning now! I love planning and think that research is half the fun. So if you have a vacation ahead, cultivate your own official itinerary. Research restaurants, peruse online menus and decide which mouth-watering dessert you’re going to order when you get there. I find that looking ahead (and not dwelling in the I-can’t-right-now) really fills up my thankfulness cup and reminds me why I’m budgeting and saving in the first place!

What do you do when budgeting gets you down? Share in the comments!

Can’t Afford a Trip? 7 Ways to Take a Family Vacation on a Budget

Taking a Family Vacation on a Budget

For a majority of families, what stops them from the family vacation of their dreams is their wallets. They think they can’t afford a vacation.

I think they’re wrong.

Even as a family on a tight budget, we’ve found that there are many ways to make a vacation happen.

Travel brings so much joy, adventure and memories to families. I can safely say that most of our happiest family memories are from our vacations. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

So why aren’t you taking a vacation? What is truly stopping you from planning and going on that dream vacation? And if your answer is “money”, here are a few ideas to consider.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Think You Can’t Afford a Trip?

According to a recent survey on Spring Break Family Travel, conducted by Vacatia, TravelingMom and TravelingDad, agreeing on a budget and coordinating payment is a concern for 36% of respondents. If you’re on a tight budget than you might fall in that 36% range.

I’ll be frank though – My family is on a tight budget and we still find a way to take several vacations a year. I think family travel is way more important than having the newest gadgets. That little sacrifice can go a long way! Here are 7 ways we make those all-important vacations happen:

1. Day to Day Savings

Naturally your day-to-day spending can make or break whether you have extra vacation money or not (those lattes add up!) By cutting back on little things (generic instead of name brand, packing a lunch instead of purchasing), you can always seem to “find money” that can be used for your vacation.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Every dollar counts! Put saved money towards your trip & get the kids involved.

Yeah, it can be a downer to eat pb&j from home when you’d rather get a sandwich at the deli but the $5+ savings means more money for you to take that trip. But there are little ways to cut back without it feeling like a major sacrifice. Consider a month of no extra expenses. Take a hard look at all the money going out and choose a few easy ways you can save on expenses.

2. What Can You Do Without?

I’d rather plan another vacation than have cable television. That’s just me, but traveling is just more fun than watching TV. I make the choice to do without. What do you have that you could cut back, freeing up more money for a trip?

It can be hard to tell the kids “no” when it comes to spending on things. When my older kids ask why they can’t have a cell phone or my preschooler wants a toy at the store, I use a distraction technique. I remind them about an impending trip and how we’re using extra money towards our vacation. Then I’ll bring up a certain part of the trip I know they’ll want to talk about and soon enough they’re excited, talking about the vacation instead.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

3. Buy Less Stuff

A recent article suggested that parents should spend less on toys and take more vacations. I’m all for that. We save toy purchases only at Christmas and even then, we try to choose high-quality classic items that work for a wide age group.

We take this concept of limiting stuff even further by branching out into other parts of our home. All the money saved by not buying “stuff” (Dollar Spot, I’m looking at you!) goes into our vacation fund.

4. Use Points for Your Trips

I’m not a huge credit card hacker but I do have a few practical and very easy tips for earmarking points towards travel. Since we do a lot of Disney travel, I have a Disney Visa that I use to pay household bills. The Disney Dollars earned go towards our meals at each trip and we have very little out-of-pocket expenses there.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Our Costco Visa is used solely for groceries and gas and we earned about $250 in Costco cash last year. I took the check we received to Costco, they cashed it out for me and I’m using that money on our road trip. I’ve also plotted out on a map where all the Costco gas stations are on our route so we can get our gasoline at a great price! We purchased 2 new cell phones at Costco last year and received a $450 Costco gift card rebate so this is our gas money for the road trip.

I also use and love Ebates and book all my travel through the links. I get paid in a “Big Fat Check” and naturally, that’s money to go right towards the vacation.

5. Realize that Separate Vacations Are Okay

According to the responses in the survey, 38% say that coordinating everyone’s schedules is the worst part of planning a vacation. And once you do choose a date that works for everyone there’s also the challenge of making everyone happy. 32 percent say the ickiest part of planning is finding a destination that makes everyone happy and 24 percent say it’s choosing accommodations that will make everyone happy.

Here’s a solution to this issue – Plan separate vacations. Don’t wait until you can get things “just right” because that day might never come. When trying to work out a trip between my husband’s work and school schedule, the kid’s school year and allotted vacation time, finding that week when everyone is available is the equivalent to a needle in a haystack.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

We compromise with separate vacations. My husband likes going to Disneyland as a family once a year for a few days but traveling cross-country to Walt Disney World for a week is not his idea of fun. He’d rather be riding the ocean waves in his kayak, fishing for tuna (definitely not my style!) while the kids play in the sand.

Our kids get the best of both experiences and nobody is gritting their teeth through a week of something they’re not happy with. And on the budget-side of this, a vacation with fewer family members is going to cost less.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

6. Find Ways to Budget on the Trip

Once you nail down the itinerary, decide what features of the trip are the most important to you. If spending time at a fancy hotel suite is a must-do, place the majority of your budget there. If you don’t care where you lay your head, then scrimp on the hotel costs and drop your money where it matters most, like on activities or meals. Survey respondents note that they spend about half of their travel budget on accommodations, which tells me that maybe the call of the upscale hotel pool is high!

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

7. Take the Time Off (and Save More)

If you’re white-knuckling those sick leave hours, you might need a vacation! Here’s a hint: Your coworkers can survive without you. Take the vacation time!

If you wait until summer vacation when the kids are out of school, the costs of a trip during peak travel season will be higher. Consider pulling the kids out so you can plan your vacation when the travel prices are best. I’m taking my kids out this spring for 5 days so we can take a road trip. I was able to contact their schools about independent study. The kids will be able to get their school work done on the road and not get “dinged” with unexcused absences while they’re gone.

Research tells us that family vacations have long-lasting impact on your child’s happiness. I know that seeing my children soaking in new experiences is going to have a greater impact on their lives than any gadget ever will!

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Save money on your family vacation!

Purchase discount vacation packages to destinations like Orlando, Hawaii and California from my affiliate Get Away Today. They even offer a layaway program for as little as $125 down.

Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount). 


10 Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy - 10 money-saving tips including recipes

Grocery shopping doesn’t have to bust your wallet. You can still eat healthy and save money on groceries. Some will tell you that you’ll need to use coupons to save cash (not true!) Or the hype that tells you organic and healthy foods are so much more expensive. That’s certainly not true either! With 6 to feed in my family and only one full-time income, these are tried and tested money-saving tips. Here are my 10 practical ways we save money on our groceries.

Save Money on Groceries (and Still Eat Healthy!)

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and purchasing through the link helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Don’t Use Coupons (with One Exception)

I used to spend hours each week clipping coupons from the newspaper mailers and driving around to several different stores to redeem. So much work! Sure there were some times where I’d get a great deal (25 cent tube of toothpaste! 75 cent box of cereal!) however those really great deals weren’t the norm. Most of the time I was purchasing things I didn’t need just because I had a coupon.

I remember looking in my storage cabinet and bemoaning that I didn’t have any more space because it was already stuffed full of about 5 years worth of deodorant, mouthwash, hair conditioner and macaroni and cheese!  And my kids didn’t need to be eating all that sugary cereal, whether I got it on sale or paid full price.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Here’s my one exception to using coupons: If you flip through the mailer and see something there that you already use and plan on purchasing in the near future, then by all means clip and use the coupon.

If you can save 50 cents off your favorite brand of pasta then yes, you should definitely use the coupon. But if you find that you’re making purchasing just because you have the coupon, it’s time to step away from the mailers.

Make a Price List

It can be hard to remember which store has the best prices on the top 20 things you purchase each visit so I recommend creating a price list. Jot down the price on your list next time you’re at the store so you’ll know which store has the best price on bananas, peanut butter and milk, etc.

Our local Sprouts has the best prices on fruits, veggies and dry bulk bin items but prices for dairy and cereal are considerably higher. Keep track so you’ll know where to shop for certain items and aren’t spending more than you have to.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Recipe for Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

Don’t Shop at the Grocery Store

Grocery stores notoriously mark up the price of certain “convenience” items that you might pick up when you’re there grabbing fruit and veggies. Items in the health and beauty department are usually at a higher price than somewhere like Target or Walmart.

But I’ve found that other items can have a higher cost at the grocery as well. Things like canned tomatoes, pasta and cereal are often found cheaper at Target. You might find that your options are limited at the “big box” stores but that might not matter if you always purchase the same brand.

Shopping Apps

Certain grocery stores have special shopping apps that you can pull up on your smart phone before checkout to save you a few bucks. I personally use Cartwheel when at Target, Shopkick at many locations in my area (just open the app at the front door), and Ebates when I’m shopping online. I’ve received gift cards and cash just by using these apps and it doesn’t take me more than a minute or two.

And of course, if I’m shopping at Target I use my Target Red Card (debit) to save me 5% off my total purchases!

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Buy in Bulk

Yep, we’re Costco shoppers and buying in bulk is definitely one way we save money on groceries for our big family. But don’t load up that enormous shopping cart just yet. You’ll need to make sure you can get through that 5 lb bag of mixed greens before it goes bad! And do you really need a giant tub of coconut oil? Knowing how much your family can eat and balancing that with the product’s expiration date is a must-do before bulk buying.


Dry goods in bulk bins that you scoop and weigh yourself can give you a great deal. Just be sure to compare the weight per pound of the bulk bin versus purchasing the item prepackaged. A 1 lb bag of beans may run me about $1.25 but only 75 cents a pound if I scoop it from the dry goods bin. Consider purchasing your own oats, flour, sugars, beans, lentils and nuts from the bulk bins and storing them in your own containers at home.

Price Per Ounce

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the price per ounce listed on the shelf label and noticed that it’s actually more cost effective to buy the product in a small size. See, groceries often “trick” you into thinking the bulk size is more economical! So be sure to check out the price per ounce (or pound, or whatever) to make sure it’s really the best bargain.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Hidden Tip: Foods like pizza are cheap and easier than you think to make at home. Skip the frozen box pizza and make a quick dough, smear with pasta sauce and top with a few slices of mozzarella. For just over $1.00, I made this pizza for lunch in about 15 minutes! What other foods are you buying that you could be making yourself for pennies on the dollar?

Go Shopping More Often

What was the last item you had in the fridge that went bad before you had the chance to eat it? You might be purchasing too much upfront and then it spoils before you can cook it. Certain foods move quickly through my house, like onions, bananas, garlic and apples so I can purchase them in large quantities. But we can never seem to eat enough of the giant bag of spinach before it starts to smell funny.

Rather than bulk buying some items, we purchase smaller amounts and shop more frequently. We might spend a bit more on our greens upfront but if we aren’t tossing out half the package when they’re slimy, then we’re probably making out better on the cost in the end.

Pricing Organic VS Non-Organic

If you usually avoid organic foods as a rule because you believe they are more costly, take a look again because that’s not necessarily so. Yes, for sure there are some products that are more costly than others because they are organic but not always. At our local Sprouts, many of the organic fresh veggies are cheaper in cost than their non-organic versions! Some canned goods (like beans and tomatoes) are similarly priced organic versus non-organic.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Isn’t that a gorgeous loaf? Bake your own artisan bread with the book, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. The beauty of making it yourself is that you know what ingredients you’re adding!

Shop the Outside Aisles

Visualize your grocery store. Generally stores are designed with produce, meats, grains and dairy on the outside aisles and canned and processed foods in the middle. Gone are the days when I purchased pre-seasoned rice and pasta mixes. Commercials will have you think that you’re saving time and money buying these types of products but it’s really not that much more time-consuming and definitely not more expensive to cook your own rice and add your own seasonings.

By avoiding processed foods, you’ll not only save yourself money but save your health from excessive preservatives, sodium and unpronounceable ingredients. Think about the foods you’ve been purchasing in the middle aisles of the grocery and how you could prepare them yourself instead.

Avoid Boxes & Bags

I’m working towards feeding my family more “real food”. By following Lisa Leakes’ book 100 Days of Real Food. I’m aiming to choose foods that have 5 or less of the “approved” ingredients. That means a lot of items that come in boxes and bags are off-limits. Avoiding foods that come packaged in boxes and bags (unless they follow the 5 approved ingredients or less) will save you money and help your health as well.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

What are the ways YOU save money on groceries? I’d love to hear your tips…share them in the comments!


3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SweeterTogether #CollectiveBias

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

How to Have a Budget-Friendly Summer

As the mom of four (from newborn to 12-years old) we don’t have a big budget for entertainment. Our summer days are simple, spent poolside with warm weather foods like grilled chicken, cold pasta salad and DREYER’S ice cream for dessert! Summer lazy days shouldn’t break the bank. Check out my budget-friendly summer activities everyone in the family can enjoy.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Let’s Start with Dessert!

I’d start with dessert every day if I could but it just seems right in the summertime when the weather is warm and ice cream is just such a wonderfully refreshing treat!

I picked up DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Caramel Delight Light Ice Cream and DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Vanilla Light Ice Cream in the freezer section at Walmart this week for our summer kick-off.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

DREYER’S Ice Cream is a staple in our freezer because they are “Simply made, simply delicious” with no GMO ingredients, no artificial colors or flavors and is proudly made with fresh milk & cream with no rBST. And it just tastes SO good! Check out your local Walmart to see if DREYER’S Ice Cream will be hosting a store demo.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Keep It Simple with These Free Summer Family Activities

Kids don’t need every summer day to be scheduled out to the minute. Allow for plenty of free time for imaginative play and activities. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t come up with a calendar of ideas when boredom strikes. Nor should kids be on their electronics from dawn to dusk. This is my first summer with my kids as a new Stay-at-Home-Mom and I’m looking forward to planning fun and togetherness into our summer days.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

These are a few of the simple fun activities I have planned:

Library – Not just books to borrow, but our local library offers age-specific gatherings from story time, crafts, music and special events

Community – Check out your community calendar online to find out about special summer events like concerts or movies playing in the park.

DIY Camp at Home – Can’t afford to send the kids to camp? Here are some ideas for making your own “camps” at home.

Parks – Expand your horizons beyond the park down the street and take a day trip to a cool new park. Some have fun splash pads so bring a suit & towel!

Pool – Find out how much your community pool rates are for visitors. Even better: Work out a plan with a friend who has a pool! You bring a few new pool toys for them and they let you go swimming.

Staycation– Check out my list of summer staycation ideas that are easy on the budget!

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Pack a Picnic

Every kid loves a picnic, whether it be poolside, at the park or even on the floor of your living room! Keep the fare light and easy, like leftover grilled chicken, pasta salad and fresh summer fruit.

Use up leftovers with my recipe for budget-friendly pasta salad. A little of this, a little of that and you can have a tasty pasta salad that’s unique every time. With a few pantry staples and some leftover veggies, you can quickly whip up this family favorite that’s perfect for hot summer days. Top it with grilled chicken (either hot or cold) and it’s a full and delicious meal.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Start with a simple base of 1/2 cup olive oil, 6 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese. Combine in a large bowl. Cook one box of pasta (I like bow tie) and rinse with cold water. Mix in with liquid.

Add your choices of the following ingredients:

  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Red onion, chopped
  • Grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Green onion, chopped
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Sliced olives
  • Black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Doesn’t that sound delicious (and easy?!)

How will you make Summer #SweeterTogether? Share your summer fun plans in the comments!




Organizing a Shared Bedroom-Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SnugDryUltra #CollectiveBias

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby #SnugDryUltra #ad

With six people in a 1000-square foot home, we’ve had to get very creative with our space. With four kids (a newborn, 4-yr old and two 12-yr olds), organization is key to keeping a tidy and well-run house! I’m here to share my budget-friendly nursery decorating and organization tips for combining a nursery and a big-kid’s room.

Big Kid and Nursery Shared Bedroom

I would like to share the ways that I created a nursery on a budget, including my tried-and-tested organization tips for combining a big kid and a baby in the same room. My 12-yr old son shares a bedroom with his 4-yr old brother and now my other 12-yr old is sharing her bedroom with her newborn baby sister. I’ve had to come up with some creative ways of organizing and storing clothing, diapers and other baby supplies in what is already a tight space. I also want to make sure my tween has a safe place to store her items, up and away from baby hands and mouth!

Here are my top tips:

Multiple Use Furniture

We don’t have the space in this room for a dresser so we make do with fabric boxes and bins. This compact shelving unit holds four soft-sided fabric bins with baby essentials. I have organized them with like-items.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Clothing and socks are in one bin and bedtime items like nightgowns and swaddles in another bin. Receiving blankets are stacked in the third and overstock items like extra baby wipes, lotion and shampoo are in the last bin.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

The top of the shelving unit doubles as a changing table. I simply purchased a changing table pad and my husband secured it to the back of the shelving unit so it won’t slide off. I sewed up simple fabric pad covers for a unique look.

Make Space on the Wall

A single shelf within arms reach of the changing table is a must for me. It keeps things close at hand, like diaper ointment, lotion and the thermometer. But it also keeps these things up and away from little hands. I also have a wire basket that holds toys and later when the baby is a bit older, I’ll be able to give her one to entertain herself while I change her. Baskets and bins are easy to find at the dollar store.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Hang it Up

If you can’t hide it or put it away in the closet, get it off the floor and hang it up. Rather than pile them in a box, we clip hair bows neatly onto a ribbon hanger that is hung on the wall.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Tween side of the closet

Safe Storage

Having a 12-yr old and baby share a space is not without its challenges. We need to make sure that certain items are kept away from little hands. My tween keeps electronics and cords stored in a plastic bin up in the closet. Art supplies and toys with tiny parts are also kept up high so baby can’t get to them.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Hide It

One of my favorite storage locations is under the bed. An inexpensive bed skirt can hide a multitude of things! Both of my girls were recently gifted hand-me-downs so we have the clothes folded into plastic storage bins underneath the twin bed where we can quickly access them. Diapers in a next size up are stored under the baby crib along with low baskets that hold toys and books so we can easily get to them.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Storage for Overstock

I save by stocking up when I can and storing the extras in creative ways so they aren’t taking up precious bedroom space! Extra diapers are stacked into a fabric holder that hangs from the end of the crib. We always keep a good supply of extra diapers on hand, because you definitely don’t want to be without!

A Beautiful DIY Bedroom for Baby - Nursery Decor on a Budget

We stock up on Huggies Snug & Dry Ultra. Huggies Snug and Dry Ultra is exclusive to Walmart and the low price of $7.97 makes it easy to stock up. The baby section at Walmart features quality products like Huggies Snug & Dry Ultra at a great price.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

  • Snug & Dry Ultra has a unique quilted liner that locks away wetness from tender skin.
  • One peek at the Wetness Indicator lets you know if baby needs a change. When the indicator turns blue, you’ll know baby’s ready for a new diaper! Available in sizes 1 and 2.
  • The Leak Lock System provides up to 12 hours of protection to help prevent leaks.
  • Quality and value in one diaper: Huggies Snug & Dry Ultra

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Check out the coupon, for $2.00 off any one pack of Huggies at Walmart…just click and print!

What are your favorite kid’s room organizing ideas? Share in the comments –


Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

When you’re organized, things just seem to run more smoothly!  Nobody needs to panic when they can’t find something because it’s been established ahead of time that every item has a place. Organizing solutions for small spaces do not have to be expensive. There is no reason to hire “experts” or purchase pricey dividers or shelving units. It does take time though, arranging items to the best benefit and use of your family. But it will be all worth it when someone asks you, “Where’s my red hat with the white polka dots?” and you’ll know exactly what to tell them so they can find it!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

There are 6 of us in our 1000 square foot home. Yep, that’s a tight fit and every inch counts. Since adding our newest little one, we’ve been organizing and streamlining the house to make room. We’ve always done pretty good with keeping stuff to a minimum but some of our stuff is necessary. It’s all about finding the most practical way to store it in a budget-friendly way!

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

These are my top 12 organizing solutions!

When we moved into our small home four years ago I had things pretty well organized. But over time our needs changed and I hadn’t rethought certain areas. I knew that we could do better and get them even more organized and streamlined. I took a good look at each space I needed to reorganize and made notes. In rethinking some of these spaces, I knew that I could move things there into other locations or even get rid of them completely.

1. Weed it out

Before you even start to organize, you have to decide what you’re going to keep and what needs to go.

  • Remove the contents of a drawer, bin or closet and go through each and every item.
  • Toss out, recycle, donate or place in a garage sale pile…whatever you need to do to minimize. Go through medications, lotions, nail polish, and other household items frequently to toss what is expired or give away what isn’t being used. Add this task to your calendar once each season and it won’t be such a laborious project.
  • I keep a small basket or fabric box (less than $5 each on Amazon) inside my kid’s closet for donation items. As they outgrow their clothes, I place the items in the basket. When the basket is full the contents are given away.
Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

We make use out of our closet by keeping overstock items and medical needs clearly labeled in bins and drawers.

2. Get Rid of the “Junk Drawer”

We don’t have a junk drawer. We don’t need one because in our small home, there is no room for a “junk drawer”…everything has a place!

  • Dump out your junk drawer and find a home for each and every item there.
  • Batteries? Get a bin for them and store them in a desk.
  • Pens and pencils? Keep them in a cup within easy reach.
  • Mail? Deal with mail as it comes in the door, recycling or filing as necessary.
  • A mesh desk organizer (Amazon for less than $10) is a great place to keep some of these “junk drawer” items you need close at hand.

3. Clearly Label It

I just splurged and bought a new Brother P-Touch Label Maker (less than $23 on Amazon) and have been going (slightly) overboard with labeling everything in the house. However I will note that nobody has been asking me, “Where’s the XYZ” because everything is so neatly labeled for them now! I do recommend investing in a label maker but you could also purchase stickers and label boxes with a Sharpie as well.

  • Organize drawer contents and sort into “like items”. Add a label on the outside to remind family to put things back where they belong!
  • Labels on book shelves help young readers organize their picture books, chapter book and coloring books.
  • Sort important paperwork into 3-Ring binders and then add a label to the side for easy access.

4. Get it Off the Floor

We’d all love to get those fancy professionally sized closet organizers, right? But boy, are they pricey!! We found a more reasonable solution in metal shelving units. They are intended for the garage I think, but we like to think outside of the box.

  • Since some of these tall Steel Wire Shelving Unit (under $40 on Amazon) can be customized for shelf height, they are perfect for placing in your closet. We simply keep the units as two shorter racks instead of assembling into one tall rack.
  • Things sitting on the floor can pile up and add to the clutter. Look at what you have on the floor and figure out where you can put it so it’s off the ground.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

5. Hang it Up

  • I have a hook in the hall closet with a pair of scissors so everyone knows exactly where the scissors are (instead of tossed in a random drawer).
  • Backpacks go on hooks in the garage.
  • Tired of seeing the bath towel laying on the floor because your little one can’t hang it properly on a towel rod? Install a hook!
  • We were limited on wall space so my husband hung bath towel hooks for the boys on the end of the bunk bed and that works perfectly because they are completely out of the way.
  • An Over The Door Hook is invaluable (and under $15 on Amazon) and can make use of space, especially in a bathroom for towels.
  • No need to put holes in the wall. Command Wire Hooks are quick to remove but stay up well, even with heavier items. I buy the variety pack and find clever uses for them all over the house!

6. Beautiful Baskets

  • I don’t have room in the kitchen for my cookbooks so I keep them organized in a pretty basket under the foyer cabinet. They are still easily accessed and don’t take up precious counter or cupboard space in the kitchen.
  • Before you buy baskets new, check out your local thrift store. This is a fantastic place to find inexpensive baskets and you can always spray paint them for an updated look.
  • With drawer space at a minimum I keep my clean kitchen towels at the ready by folding them and keeping them within arms reach of the sink in this neat wire basket. I also have Wire Basket Organizers (less than $15 for two on Amazon) like this on the back of the toilet for hand towels.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

7. Shelving is King

Use individual shelving in the closet to take advantage of tall ceilings. If you can, always go UP and take advantage of the space you have. We have small closets but they have tall ceilings so I bought expandable shelving units. This allows me to safely stack items higher and use up all the space available.

Use all the space you can on shelves by maximizing with wire shelving units. We use these in the kitchen to make use of extra space for plates and bowls. In the pantry for canned foods and boxes this Small Kitchen Helper Shelf really helps maximize space (for about $7 on Amazon).

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

Using wire shelving to make extra space for plates and bowls.

8. Box it Up

  • LEGOS. Oh yes, my friend. Let’s get all those tiny bits and pieces boxed up so that you only pull them out of the box intentionally when you’re ready to play. We also have Leapster games and the Leapster unit all in one box together.
  • Seasonal clothes and blankets don’t need to take up space in the closet. We load up plastic bins or use Ziploc Space Saver bags to store these items in the attic or under the bed.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

  • With a new baby, I had been given some wonderful hand-me-downs. I wanted to keep track of what I have so I went through the clothes and placed the sizes together into Clear Storage Boxes.
  • A quick label on the outside of each will let me have the next size up within easy reach. Once she’s used up all the clothes in the bin, I can remove the label and re-purpose the box.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

  • The expandable metal shelving unit makes it easy to take out just the one thing you need. Clothing has been organized into boxes for the future.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

9. Like Items Together

  • We have a lot of books (I used to work at a bookstore!) but I hated how the small paperbacks were mingling with the tall picture books because they never sat nicely on the shelf together. I found these inexpensive plastic Book & Magazine Organizers and they are perfect for holding paperbacks. I use them on the shelf next to the taller books as a sort-of “book end”.
  • Consider buying bins or boxes to hold other like things, like summer items. All the bathing suits, sunglasses, and beach hats would then be in one, easy-to-find location. Here, we have one soft bin for hats, one for blocks and one for coloring books.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

10. Contain It

  • Our bathroom counters are quite small and there’s no room for clutter. We keep only the soap dispenser and toothbrush holder on the counter (which makes it easier to clean as well). Under the sink, we have a colored container for each child that holds their personal toiletries. Each child’s toothpaste, drinking cup, deodorant, face wash, etc is in their own container. My daughter has a separate bin for her hair brush and accessories.
  • I have two-tiered Mesh Cabinet Baskets under my bathroom sink that holds things like lotion, make-up and razors. One basket holds hair styling products and another large bin holds tools like the blow dryer and flat iron.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

11. Throw it in a Bin

  • Target frequently has plastic bins for $3 in their Dollar Spot section. They are nice for items that can be tossed in, like winter hats or gloves, sunglasses or random toys like cars and action figures. Set them on a shelf or even inside a drawer to section off and keep small items (like socks & underwear) from getting lost.
  • In the kitchen, we store breads in a decorative Wooden Crate on the counter. If you don’t want to purchase bins or crates, keep your old shoe boxes and decorate them with wrapping paper for neat and tidy closet or drawer storage.
Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

An open bin within a box keeps things organized and contained.

BEFORE (left) – Clutter of random stuff on the top shelf.

AFTER (right) – Stackable bins hold seasonal items like sun hats and winter wear. In anticipation of sharing this room with the new baby, I had made bins for art supplies and electronic cords to get my daughter in the habit of putting these items up and out of reach.

Organizing9-before  Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

BEFORE (left) – The fabric hanging unit with daily outfits was a good start. I moved the two-drawer unit in to hold pajamas and socks but items like tights, sunglasses, hair accessories and underpants were mixed in and it was hard to find items.

AFTER (right) – Rearranged top shelf with addition of bins for seasonal items. Added a small bin to the daily outfit unit so she can choose which accessory matches without having to dig in another larger bin.

Deep drawers with pajamas now hold smaller bins for tights, sunglasses and other hair accessories so everything is separated. A separate bin on top of the drawers holds underpants.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces  Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

12. Bulky Items Out of the House

  • Whenever possible try to use a space outside of the house, like your garage, storage shed or attic. We simply don’t have the kitchen cabinet space to hold our large slow cooker or stand mixer, so we store them in a cabinet in the garage.
  • Yes, you could keep some items on the kitchen counter but this can create a lot of clutter and makes it harder to properly clean the counter tops. Since we also shop at Costco quite a bit we tend to have a lot of bulk items. Bring in only what you need into the house and store the bulk of it elsewhere.

Organizing small spaces can be tricky. Check out these clever budget-friendly, practical organizing solutions specifically for small spaces. #Organizing


Stuck in a Marriage Dating Rut? Date Night Challenge-Things We Have Never Done



A Mother’s Random Thoughts (Patty) and Saving Up for Disney (Julie) welcome you back for round another fabulous Date Night Challenge. This Third Date Night Challenge is easy, and you can make it as simple or extravagant as time and your budget allows. Remember, it is not necessary to actually leave the house. You can stay home and “date” your spouse.

While I (Julie) enjoy trying new things, my husband prefers the “tried and true”. He’d rather do something he knows we’ve liked in the past so we’re not at risk of wasting money on something we won’t enjoy. We recently went out to a popular chain restaurant that we’d never been to before. We had a gift card but still spent about $20. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best “date night” location for us. It was loud, there were televisions everywhere you looked and we weren’t crazy about the food. It was an experience but life and learn, I guess…we won’t be doing that one again! Oh well, at least we were able to get out together.

However there are lots of different date night ideas that don’t require any costs and still allow you to stretch out and explore!

Here are the rules:

  • You need to do something you have never done before – eat at a new restaurant, eat a new cuisine, shop at a new store, go roller skating, ice skating, go dancing, take a cooking class together, etc.
  • This is designed to do things you have never done before. You know how you always say, “someday we should eat at,” or “let’s stop at that store.” This date allows you to do those things. 
  • Make sure to talk with your spouse about your plans beforehand. There is nothing worse than getting somewhere and finding out that your worst fear is now being realized. Even though my husband and I dating for 4 years, after we were married a couple years, I found out that he hated the sight of blood.

Ideas include: 

  • Shopping at a new store – maybe visit a thrift store or a high end department store
  • Dinner at a new restaurant (or an old one that you have never visited)
  • Visit an museum (art, history, science)
  • Take a painting or ceramic class
  • Visit a thrift store or visit a high end department store 
  • Re-enact a scene from your favorite movie
  • Get a pizza with toppings that you have never tried
  • If you want adventure try zip lining or rock climbing (there are indoor places popping up all over), or sky diving
  • Volunteer at a local nursing home or soup kitchen
  • Hot Air Balloon ride
  • Rent a sports car

With three kids (and another due next month) we don’t often have the opportunity to get out without the kids. I love these ideas on stay-at-home date ideas. While our kids were occupied this weekend, my husband and I took some time to bake a cake together. It went together quickly with two people prepping ingredients and cleaning up and it was great to share a treat together that night after the kids had gone to bed.

Maybe you need to stay home for your date ideas:

  • Prepare a dinner using ingredients that you have never tried or culture that you have never eaten
  • Take a DVD out of the library on how to Tango, Swing Dance, etc.
  • Using You Tube find videos on how to, and do it together. Ideas: Dance, cook, bake bread, learn a new language


Follow along with us on our social media sites to join in on the fun, and to share with us! We will be using #DateNightChallenge across our social media channels and hope you will too.

TWITTER       (Julie and Patty)

INSTAGRAM (Julie and Patty)

FACEBOOK   (Julie and Patty)

PINTEREST    (Julie and Patty)

  • You have 2 weeks to complete this Challenge. Make sure to link below by 12:05 AM EST, February 22, 2016. You can link up with a photo only posted on Facebook or Instagram!
  • By linking, you give The Date Night Challenge Hosts permission to use your name and photo, and links to your social media accounts.
  • We will pin, tweet, share, and promote our Date Night Challenge. We encourage you to visit other participants in this challenge, comment and share the love with them!


Julie & Patty

    An InLinkz Link-up



Kid’s Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They’ll Never Notice)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CarnationSweepstakes #BetterBreakfast #CollectiveBias

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

All kids should be eating breakfast. And I’ll even amend that to say that everyone should be eating breakfast. I wasn’t always in that camp but after noticing a “before and after” of sorts, I’m a breakfast convert. I feel so much more focused in the mornings when I eat a balanced breakfast and that goes for my kids too. I’ve come up with some quick breakfasts, with added nutritious ingredients my kids don’t even know about!

It wasn’t all that long ago that my “breakfast” consisted of a package of mini doughnuts and a diet soda from the convenience store. Now, we all know that breakfast is considered the “most important meal of the day” but it’s taken a new mindset to get me motivated towards more filling and nutritious breakfast choices. Having three little ones who watch and learn from me was a catalyst for change. Can’t really push a healthier breakfast on them if I’m eating doughnuts myself, right?

Being on a budget is another game-changer. All those convenience store and fast food stops are expensive. One of my excuses was that I just didn’t have time to make a well-balanced breakfast in the morning. However it takes just as long to make breakfast at home as it does to go through the drive-thru so that excuse goes out the window! Sure, it takes a little forethought to plan breakfast meals and to make sure you have ingredients on hand but once you start, the benefits of eating a nutritious breakfast far outweigh any reasoning I used to have about stopping to get mini doughnuts! And I’m setting a good example for my little ones too.

Are you ready to challenge yourself in expanding your breakfast repertoire?

Carnation Breakfast Essentials® is encouraging everyone to take the 7 Day Breakfast Challenge. Accept the challenge and complete the daily missions to win prizes. You can start by picking up Carnation Breakfast Essentials® powder or Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Ready-to-Drink bottles in strawberry, vanilla or chocolate flavors at Walmart. Keep reading on how to participate and enter.


Carnation Breakfast Essentials® are already an important part of our healthy morning routine. My youngest doesn’t care for the taste of milk but will happily drink it down if I add Carnation Breakfast Essentials® powder. And I’ll admit that I’m the same way! One of my favorite ways to use Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Powder is in a nutritious smoothie.

Two “Sneaky” Smoothies

Here are two versions I make at home, one with Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Powder in chocolate and the other in vanilla. See at the bottom of the post for the full recipe.

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

I add milk (soy, almond or cow) and vanilla Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Powder to a blender jar. Add in half a banana, a handful of fresh spinach and kale and a half cup of either frozen berries or frozen pineapple. The frozen fruit completely masks the flavor of the veggies.Whir it up and it’s a breakfast that’s packed with flavor and healthy ingredients. In fact, I just had one this morning!

Depending upon the fruit that you use, your smoothie may vary in color from pink or purple or green. If your little one is anything like mine, they may turn up their nose at a green smoothie, no matter if it tastes like berries or not. I like to sneak my son’s smoothie into a cup with a straw or a sippy cup so he never sees the color…success!

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

I also make a smoothie with the chocolate Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Powder. I again add milk, a teaspoon of powdered peanut butter, a half of a frozen banana and a few ice cubes. My secret ingredient in this one is a teaspoon of ground flax seed. Blend it up and nobody is the wiser that they’re getting an extra boost of fiber!

What breakfast swaps can you make for a more nutritious morning?

Here are some quick and easy ideas:

Breakfast Sandwiches – Skip the drive-through and make breakfast sandwiches at home. A bagel or sourdough toast with scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese are a morning favorite. I layer a few pieces of spinach in there too, for my adventurous eaters that don’t turn up their nose at “green” food.

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

Doughnuts – Instead of stopping at the doughnut shop or grabbing those mini “donuts” from the convenience store, consider baking them up yourself at home. Not only can you avoid all the frying and grease, you can use nutritious ingredients like pumpkin into your baked doughnuts. I bake these up in bulk on the weekend and freeze them so I just have to set out a few of them the night before to have them defrosted by morning.

Cereal – Swap out sugar-laden cereal for a more nutritious option with plenty of whole grains and fiber. If the kids want something sweet, add in chopped banana or strawberries to the bowl. We breakfast on hot cereal or oatmeal several times a week with a healthy serving of chopped apples, raisins, walnuts and just a little bit of brown sugar or agave to sweeten.

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

Yogurt – A dollop of plain Greek yogurt becomes a bit like dessert with the addition of a few toppings. Chop up banana, walnuts, drizzle with agave and then, just for fun…some dark chocolate chips!

Muffins –  The muffins at the store are the size of Texas (more like a 2 or 3 serving sized and not individually portioned). Bake up a batch at home, “sneaking” in grated carrot or zucchini along with flax seed, ground oats or whole wheat flour for something that’s more filling and nutritious. I also freeze these and pull them out the night before so breakfast is ready.

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

And if you really need to have breakfast on the go, Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Ready-to-Drink bottles will fill them up fast. We found these at Walmart and my little one chose strawberry. He was tickled pink with this treat he could drink in the car while we took the big kids to school.


Are you ready to accept the challenge?

Carnation Breakfast Essentials® wants everyone to get into a #BetterBreakfast routine. Complete simple breakfast missions through the end of February for chances to win prizes in the #CarnationSweepstakes! Follow these easy steps:

1. Sign up at

2. Complete a simple yet fun breakfast mission for a chance to win. New prizes will be revealed every day!

3. Come back any day in February to complete missions and see new prizes. The prizes range from a Fitbit to a GoPro and other awesome stuff!

4. Head to your favorite store to purchase a Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Nutritional Product and upload your receipt for five extra entries per day.

And be sure to check out the Carnation Breakfast Essentials Facebook page for more nutritious breakfast ideas.

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

"Sneaky" Berry Smoothie with Leafy Greens

"Sneaky" Berry Smoothie with Leafy Greens


  • 8 oz milk (soy, almond or cow)
  • One Packet Vanilla Carnation Breakfast Essentials
  • Half a banana
  • Handful of fresh Kale/Spinach blend
  • Half cup of frozen berries


  1. Add all to a blender cup and whir it up!
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How will you accept the #BetterBreakfast routine? Share your ideas in the comments!