Give blood, save lives, and get a FREE $5 Amazon gift card

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

2016-07-29 06_01_47-American Red Cross - Give blood

The American Red Cross is experiencing an emergency need for blood right now and through August 31st is giving away a $5 Amazon gift card to anyone who donates blood.

You can make an appointment to donate at the American Red Cross site and read more details about the $5 gift card on their Facebook page!

Thanks, Hip2Save!


Earn 50,000 Points with a Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

2016-07-29 06_52_23-Southwest Airlines _ Book Flights, Airline Tickets, Airfare

There is currently a 50,000 point sign-on bonus for the Southwest Premier Rapid Rewards Visa Card, one of my favorite cards for frugal travel.

I have had this credit card for years and I highly recommend it! If you ever fly on Southwest, consider getting this card because:

  1. The sign-on bonus is worth about $850 in airfare. This alone is a huge reason to get this card! My husband and I took two round-trip flights to Florida  on these points and still had some left over.
016

On one of our many Southwest flights

2. Though there is an annual fee of $99, you get 6,000 points deposited into your account each year on your card member anniversary. These points are worth over $100 in airfare so really there is no fee, as long as you fly occasionally on Southwest. Points never expire so you can even save them up for a big trip that is years away.

2015-05-15 14_19_24-Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Credit Card

3. Using points to book flights is so much better than paying for your flights! Southwest has an amazing refund/change policy and you can change your flight up to the last minute without any loss of points or penalty. Even better, if the cost (in points) of the flight drops after you book your flight, you can just re-book on Southwest.com they will credit your account with the difference in points. So there is basically no risk to booking with points. I hate the sinking feeling I get in my stomach when I pay for flights with other airlines, knowing that my money is pretty much gone if my plans change!

Note that the spending requirement to earn the bonus points is $2,000 in the first three months of card ownership. I find this is easy to do just by buying our groceries and paying a few bills with the card for a few months! I then pay the bill off at the end of each month. Of course, only consider signing-up for this card if you can handle the responsibility of credit and have a history of paying bills on time.

Do you have a Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa? Please leave a comment below!


It’s Back! FREE Disney Parks Planning DVD + Free Shipping

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.



If you are planning (or even just wishing) for a trip to Disney World, click the banner above to get a FREE Disney Parks Planning DVD shipped to your door!

I especially love that this DVD explains Magic Bands, My Disney Experience and FastPass+. Plus, it is just really fun to watch. 🙂

P.S. If you can’t see the banner, try pausing AdBlock.


My Experience with the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Part 1

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

IMG_1366

“Imagine yourself living in a space that contains only things that spark joy. Isn’t this the lifestyle you dream of? Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take a plunge and discard all the rest.”

-Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Maybe it is just because of the circles I run in, but there seems to be a surge of interest in decluttering and simplifying lately. I guess it isn’t too surprising, since many Americans have way more stuff than they know what to do with. (If you need convincing, check out these 21 surprising statistics that reveal how much stuff we actually own.)

I’ve been intrigued by the mega-popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing for a while now, so I finally got a copy of it from the library. In a nutshell, the book is about the author’s unique method for tidying your home and how it can make a impact on other areas of your life.

Clothes Hangers, Coat Hangers

I absolutely love how passionate the author, Marie “KonMari” Kondo, is about tidying. It is so enjoyable to read something written by a master, and Marie Kondo is definitely a master of tidying up!

So I’ve decided to meticulously apply her “KonMari” method to my own stuff and document it here on the blog. Clearly I have no shame, since I’ll be sharing pictures of all of my clutter. But maybe it will inspire others to tackle that nagging pile of       fill in the blank   and reap the benefits of tidying up as well.

Step 1: Clothing and Shoes

IMG_1356

First let me say that I do not advocate trying to “Konmari” your home without first reading her book yourself! It is a really short book and enjoyable to read. Marie Kondo is truly a master of tidying, and she explains every step of this process in perfect detail. I’m just a novice, so take my experience with a grain of salt! 😉

IMG_1357

My totally empty closet

The author suggests that you start tidying with clothing, and begin by gathering every single piece of clothing you own into one place. I piled everything I have onto my bed (to my husband’s horror) and of course my daughter immediately wanted to climb all over the pile.

IMG_1353

Then you are to handle every item and decide if it sparks joy for you. If it does, it stays. If it doesn’t, it goes. This was extremely hard at first. “Does this t-shirt spark joy? Ummmm…. I’m not really sure?”

I went through clothes by category, and as I went along, the decision making got easier. Kondo suggests trying to not decide with your rational mind, but instead trust your feelings. I found myself relieved to toss items in the discard pile that I never really liked to begin with or that didn’t quite fit me right.

My discard pile

I didn’t have a huge wardrobe to begin with, and when I was done I had a pretty big discard pile. I went through the pile and sorted it into trash, items to donate to Goodwill, and items to send with my next shipment to Swap.com (the online consignment shop I use).

IMG_1358

Kondo recommends not storing any of your off-season clothes separate from all of your other clothes. After keeping only what I truly loved, I had an extra drawer for my hats, gloves, long underwear, soft shell coat and extra jeans for winter.

IMG_1362

I hung my winter coats on the far side of my closet and had plenty of room for everything else I felt I should hang up.

IMG_1365

The rest of my clothes are now neatly stored in my dresser. I think my wardrobe is likely very small compared to most women’s, but it works for me. Here is a count of what sparked joy, and therefore what I kept:

  • 9 long sleeved shirts + 7 sweaters/cardigans
  • 4 short sleeve dressy tops + 18 other short sleeve tops (including workout tops, pajama tops, and t-shorts/tanks)
  • 2 dresses + 1 skirt
  • 2 pairs dress pants
  • 1 suit
  • 3 pairs jeans + 3 pairs workout pants
  • 8 pairs shorts
  • 2 long underwear tops
  • 1 pair snowpants
  • 4 coats (puffy coat, soft shell, rain coat and dress coat) + 2 jackets (a fleece and a hoodie)
  • 2 robes
  • 5 pair pajama pants
  • 2 swimsuits + 2 cover-ups + 1 sunhat
  • 3 winter hats + 4 pairs gloves + 3 scarves
  • 6 bras + 3 sports bras
  • 15 pairs of undies
  • 13 pairs of socks

That may have been TMI for you, but it was interesting for me at least to document what I decided to keep!

I particularly love that I know where every single item of clothing I own is located, and that I can reach into a drawer and know that I will like what I pull out.

I decided to keep 13 pairs of shoes and 2 purses. I’m not much of an accessory or shoe person, so I only had a few items to discard.

Books

IMG_1367

I love to read. I’ve read many thousands of books in my life. Kondo challenged me to ask myself why I was holding onto books that I have already read and have no plan to read again.

I have limited myself to one bookcase full of books in recent years, though I would love some space on that bookshelf for displaying other items that truly bring me joy, or storing items that I use often.

IMG_1369

So I took the plunge and got rid of more than half of my book collection! I kept my favorites, books I will re-read, books from my childhood that I want to pass on to my daughter when she is old enough, and books I will use for reference (cookbooks, teaching books, etc.).

Everything else went, including a collection of modern fiction that I’ve read and enjoyed thoroughly, but that I know I will never read again. As I move through the rest of my house, I know I will find the perfect use for the now open shelves on my bookcase.

The next steps in the Konmari Method are papers and miscellany. I hope to get to those this weekend and share what I learn.

What do you think of this approach to decluttering and simplifying? Would you ever Konmari your home? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what you think!


IHG PointBreaks for July thru October 2016 – Hotels for only 5,000 points!

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

2016-07-26 14_31_10-Earn Rewards Nights faster with IHG® Rewards PointBreaks. _ IHG

Yesterday International Hotel Group (IHG) released their newest list of PointBreaks. These are hotels they offer for only 5,000 IHG Rewards points per night for stays from now until October 31st, 2016.

There are only a limited number of rooms at each hotel allocated for this deal so if you think you might want to stay, I suggest booking now. You can always cancel later and have your points refunded to your account!

I used IHG points to book a 9-night stay at a local PointBreaks hotel while we were remodeling our house recently. It was an incredible blessing and I was so grateful for a nice place to stay during the chaos.


A Frugal Gal Splurges: A Review of Disney’s Beach Club Villas – Part One

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

Originally published April 16, 2015

Disney's Beach Club Villas Resort Review - The Frugal South

This past December I lucked out and grabbed a last minute one-night reservation at Disney’s Beach Club Villas. I was visiting Walt Disney World with my daughter and to soak up the holiday spirit and review the Art of Animation Resort but I couldn’t resist a quick stay at the Beach Club!

I found cheap DVC points to rent (for more info read my post on how to rent DVC points to save big on deluxe resorts) and paid $150 for a one night reservation.

While this definitely qualifies as a very expensive hotel stay in my book, I think you will agree as you read this review that there is a lot of bang for your buck at the Beach Club Villas!

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

I split my review up into two parts, so this post includes a review of the grounds and amenities. Check out Part Two for a review of our room, a Disney Vacation Club Studio Villa.

First of all, the most notable aspects of a stay at the Beach Club are

1) proximity to Epcot (little more than a stone’s throw away) and
2) the resort’s mini water park pool complex called Stormalong Bay

And, as you will see, these are HUGE perks that may convince you that a stay at the Beach Club is a must-do for Disney aficionados!

beachyachtmap

Photo Credit: AllEars.Net

The Beach Club Villas are the DVC rooms at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. The Beach Club is connected physically to it’s sister resort, Disney Yacht Club. This huge complex is found on the shores of Crescent Lake and is across the lake from Disney’s Boardwalk Resort.

I will review the the resort’s grounds and amenities first, then move on to the accommodations themselves in part two. The villa room was not the high point of our stay, however the Beach Club Villa rooms are receiving a major refurbishment this year which will include new furniture, carpeting, curtains, linens and appliances.

So let’s do what we did when we arrived and head straight to the pool!

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAStormalong Bay is 3-acre pool complex that includes a lazy river, sand-bottom pool, kiddie pool, three hot tubs AND an amazing 230-foot-long water slide that starts in a pirate ship! It is gated and you do have to have your Magic Band scanned to gain access to the pool. It was kind of hard to photograph because it is so sprawling. But hopefully these pictures will give you an idea of just how amazing it is.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

To reach the start of the water slide, you have to leave the gated area, follow a path that crosses the major walkway through the resort and climb a spiral staircase inside of a “wrecked” pirate ship. Talk about an adventure just to get to the waterslide!  This would be a guaranteed way to wear out  your seemingly inexhaustible young-in’s!

051 (2)

053

The huge kiddie pool has a neat location inside of the pirate ship. There is also a smaller water slide for those not ready for the climb to the crow’s nest.

052 (2)

The kiddie pool inside the pirate ship

I think that this pool complex is a great fit for older kids and especially teenagers. I feel like you have to be a pretty strong swimmer to enjoy all of the features such as the lazy river and water slide.

Other resorts have pools and water features best suited to the younger crowd (Animal Kindgom Lodge Kidani Village comes to mind ) but Stormalong Bay is without a doubt the best pool on property for families with older kids who love to swim!

There are three leisure pools found around the Beach Club resort if you are looking for something more low-key. The resort also features a sand volleyball court, lit tennis court, and a playground. There is certainly enough here to wear everyone out!

056 (2)

My little one enjoying morning on the beach

What would the Beach Club be without a beach? Although you can’t swim off of its shores, this lovely beach that sits behind the resort is a nice place to relax.

Each night you can roast marshmallows over a bonfire on the beach (no additional charge) and watch a Disney movie on an inflatable screen from the comfort of a beach chair. Why go to the parks, right?

063

After the pool I think the greatest perk of this resort is its proximity to Epcot. I have never stayed at an Epcot-area resort before and I expected that it would be cool to walk over to the park in the morning.

But I had no idea just how pleasant and even relaxing it would be! If you have ever been to Disney park at opening you are used to long lines for the bus, long lines at bag checks, then again at the turnstiles to actually get into the park. I find it a kind of stressful way to start a day.

We had a 10 minute walk to get from our room at the Beach Club to the “back” entrance to Epcot which is found between the UK and France pavilions in World Showcase. Our experience entering Epcot around 9:30 am couldn’t have been more different than your standard park entrance routine. This picture says it all:

060 (2)

No crowds and no lines at Epcot’s back entrance!

There were only a few others entering Epcot at the same time as we were so no jostling and no lines. Here is the lovely scenery along the walk to the Epcot back entrance:

061

And here is an almost empty World Showcase that we walked through to get to Epcot’s Future Word.

062

Ok, now back to the Beach Club resort itself. This place has no shortage of dining options. I count four restaurants just at the Beach Club Resort, with additional options at the Yacht Club. Here is a brief rundown of each spot and here is a link to all of their menus at AllEars.Net.

043 (2)

A peek inside Beaches & Cream

The Beaches & Cream Soda Shop is a table service spot close to Stormalong Bay that serves hamburgers, sandwiches and ice cream. It is home to the famous “No Way Jose” sundae and the “Kitchen Sink” sundae, which could easily feed a family of six.

004It is a popular spot so reservations are recommended.  You can get ice cream from a walk-up counter, however.

Meeting Minnie at Cape May Cafe

Cape May Cafe is a popular Character Dining spot for breakfast, featuring Minnie, Goofy and Donald in beach attire.

002

A quiet Cape May Cafe

It is highly rated and one of the cheapest character dining options. Cape May Cafe also serves a clam-bake dinner buffet. You enter the restaurant right off the lobby.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAHurricane Hanna’s Waterside Bar & Grill is a poolside quick service restaurant. Contrary to what I read on another website, you do not have to be staying at the Beach Club to eat here.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Hurricane Hanna’s Menu

You can access it outside of the gated pool area from the sidewalk that circles Crescent Lake. Hurricane Hanna’s has a variety of sandwiches and a full bar (but no glow cube drinks – I had to ask). There are tables right outside of the pool area or you can take your food inside Stormalong Bay to one of the many tables found there.

 

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAThe last is Beach Club Marketplace. It is located between the Beach Club lobby and the walkway to the Villas and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is definitely the most convenient dining for guests staying at the Beach Club Villas.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside the Beach Club Marketplace

There is limited seating right outside of the Marketplace and in the breezeway to the Villas. Don’t be surprised if you can’t find a seat during the busiest times.

You can also buy some basic groceries, supplies (I forgot my toothbrush and had to buy a replacement here), and souvenirs (of course) at the Marketplace.

008

The Beach Club boat dock from across Crescent Lake

As for transportation, you can access the theme parks via boat or bus. There is a boat dock behind Stormalong Bay on Crescent Lake. From there you can catch a boat boat across the lake to visit the Boardwalk (an especially fun place in the evening hours) or ride on to Epcot or Hollywood Studios. Bus service to the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom is found in the front of the resort.

 

In summary, Disney’s Beach Club Villas offer an amazing pool complex, various dining options and quick walking access to Epcot. We spent most of our day hanging around the resort and I felt like there was so much to see and do there I didn’t miss going to the theme parks!

Head over and check out Part Two for my review of our studio villa. Have you ever stayed at the Beach Club or dream of staying there? Leave a comment below!

Review of Disney's Beach Club Villas & Resort including Stormalong Bay and Dining


New Coupon for $5 Off Opti-Free or Clear Care Contact Solution

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

opti free

Here’s a high-value $5 off coupon for Opti-Free and Clear Care Contact Solution. I always print a few copies of these when they are available!

$5.00 off one OPTI-FREE or CLEAR Care


Better World Books: 30% Off Bargain Bin Books + Free Shipping

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

2016-07-24 15_20_15-BetterWorldBooks.com - New & Used Books for Sale, Textbooks, Book Reviews & more

Better World Books, my favorite source for secondhand books, is offering an extra 30% off Bargain Bin books for a limited time. I just ordered three and still got 30% off, even though the banner says 5+ books. Plus shipping is free!

There are literally millions of books available in their bargain bin so I’m sure you’ll find something you like. 🙂

 


What Credit Card Do You Use to Earn Travel Rewards?

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

2016-07-23 14_13_39-Barclaycard Arrival Plus-Travel Rewards Chip Credit Card

I often use credit card sign-on bonuses to fund our travels. So that means that I am often paying for our regular family expenses with a card in order to a meet the minimum spending requirement, and then paying off the bill at the end of the month.

But I have put a temporary hold on getting any new cards while we make a plan for paying back the debt we incurred during a recent remodel of our house. So I am now using the card I use when I am not trying to meet a minimum spend – my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. Note that this card doesn’t appear to be accepting new applications currently.

I love this card because I earn 2% back on ALL purchases, which I can redeem for statement credit for any travel-related purchases from the past 90 days. I also earn 10% back on the points I use, so I am essentially earning 2.2% back in travel statement credit (new cardmembers earn only 5% now).

I am curious about what other travel hungry folks use for their go-to card? Please share your favorite card in a comment below! You just might give me or other readers a great idea for their next card!


Nordstrom Anniversary Sale: Don’t Forget to Use Your Free $10 Reward!

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

2016-07-23 06_36_13-Nordstrom Online & In Store_ Shoes, Jewelry, Clothing, Makeup, Dresses

Last month I shared how to earn $10 in Nordstrom Rewards for free just by creating an Nordstrom account (no longer available). Well, I got my $10 credit in my inbox yesterday and headed straight over to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. 🙂

2016-07-23 06_33_26-(14 unread) - leahanne33 - Yahoo Mail

There were LOTS of quality items available for under $10 in the Women’s Clearance section. Plus standard shipping is always free on any purchase.

2016-07-23 07_19_07-All Women's Sale _ Nordstrom

You could get this Whish Bath & Body Gel for free with your $10 certificate.

2016-07-23 07_30_12-Whish™ Bath & Body Gel ($16 Value) _ Nordstrom

If you make any beauty or grooming purchase, be sure to add five free samples to your order here!

Get five free assorted samples with your beauty purchase.

Did you miss out on getting your $10 free to spend at Nordstrom? Click here to sign up for The Frugal South weekly email newsletter so you don’t miss a deal like this again!


FREE $20 to Spend at Shutterfly (just pay shipping!)

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

2016-07-23 06_18_25-(13 unread) - leahanne33 - Yahoo Mail

Shutterfly is my favorite place to create custom cards, photo books and calendars. Through Tuesday, 7/26, get $20 to spend on anything at Shutterfly when you enter the promo code CHRISTMAS20 at checkout!

This code will only work on orders over $20 and you will have to pay for shipping, but it is a great chance to stock up on blank cards or make a photo book you have been meaning to get around to making.

IMG_3850

I make blank cards from my photographs and try to always have some on hand for last-minute occasions!


Amazon Deals: Babyganics, Planters, Cottonelle and more…

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

Here are some excellent Subscribe & Save deals I found today on Amazon, some of which I added to my next delivery. All of the prices reflect a 15% discount for having 5 or more items in your next delivery.

Babyganics Baby Bubble Bath, Fragrance Free, 20oz Bottle, (Pack of 2)

Babyganics Baby Bubble Bath, Fragrance Free, 20oz Bottle, (Pack of 2) – as low as $9.34 after clipping the 30% off coupon

Babyganics 3X Baby Laundry Detergent, Lavender, 60 Fluid Ounce

Babyganics 3X Baby Laundry Detergent, Lavender, 60 Fluid Ounce – as low as $9.34 after clipping the 30% off coupon

Here’s one deal with this 25% off Planters snacks coupon:

Planters Nut.rition Antioxidant Mix, 9.25 oz. Canister (Count of 2)

Planters Nut.rition Antioxidant Mix, 9.25 oz. Canister (Count of 2) – as low as $2.27 per canister after clipping the 25% off coupon

Get 25% off mealtime essentials from Kraft with this couponCottonelle Ultra ComfortCare Toilet Paper Bath Tissue, 36 Family Rolls

Cottonelle Ultra ComfortCare Toilet Paper Bath Tissue, 36 Family Rolls – as low as $13.32 after clipping the 20% off coupon

HONEST Kids Organic Juice Drink, Super Fruit Punch, 6.75 fl oz Pouches (Pack of 32)

HONEST Kids Organic Juice Drink, Super Fruit Punch, 6.75 fl oz Pouches (Pack of 32) – as low as $10.06 after clipping the 25% off coupon

And finally, here is a high value coupon for 25% off select Earth’s Best and Ella’s Kitchen products!

Hope you can snag some of these deals while they are available!


My intentional living update: What’s working, what ISN’T, what’s next…

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

2016-07-15 14_37_15-(3) Robyn Weaver

Wow, I realized the other day that we are already half way through the year. It really is true that the days are long but the years are short!

I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my goal to live with more intention in 2016, and to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t.

Last time I reflected on my progress back in February, I realized I had some major stumbling blocks to living with more intention. For example, I wanted to read a few books that might help, yet I really struggled to find a way to fit reading into my daily schedule!

So here is my progress (or lack thereof) in some areas of my life in which I’m attempting to be more intentional.

Intentional with my time

reading

As I mentioned, making time for reading has been a big struggle for me. I have finally found a time and place to read and have finished four books since I last posted! I’ve been reading after I put our daughter to bed for about 30 minutes about 4 or 5 nights each week. I mostly read in bed or on the couch, and I’m SO GLAD I’ve worked this habit back into my life! More on what I’ve been reading later.

I’m still using my planner every week and it has helped me be more effective when I get a chance to work at my computer. I put everything in it from paying bills, to phone calls I need to make, to stuff I want work on for the blog.

IMG_3857
I realized just how dependent I am on my planner when I was without it for a week or so when we were remodeling our house and traveling. I let something minor slip (forgot to cancel a trial membership and was out $4.95 – oops) and that never would have happened with my planner around!

My attempt to use a bullet journal to keep track of lists, ideas and important info has had mixed results. While the “bullet” aspect has fizzled, I have been keeping a small notebook of all my important information and ideas. And wow, has it saved my butt more than a few times. It is incredibly helpful to have all my important info in one place, such as travel planning info, to-do lists, paint colors, etc. Maybe I’ll focus on the art of bullet journaling in the second half of the year.

I have abandoned the idea of setting up a housework/cleaning schedule for now. I might come back to it to be more efficient with cleaning and hopefully have a cleaner house, but it has taken a back seat to other goals for the time being.

Intentional with our finances

Piggy Bank, Savings, Coins, Cash, Penny Bank, Money Box

As part of trying to be more intentional with our expenses, I experimented with a “No Spend” month back in February. While I certainly learned a lot immediately, there were some unexpected consequences of the No Spend experiment in the months that followed.

While I plan to do a full post on this soon, here’s a summary: I’ve noticed that since February I’ve been coming in under budget each month and that I was overall making fewer purchases. The little envelope on which I keep track of my spending was looking less crowded.

I shared a few months ago that I decided I wasn’t going to buy any new clothes in 2016. Guess what? I’m still going strong! I resisted the urge to peruse the 70% off rack in Target the other day, reminding myself that I’d rather get high-quality secondhand clothes than lower-quality new ones.

I’ve also had some recent success with finding secondhand items for our home. I’ve been wanting a CD player for the playroom for a LONG time, but I didn’t want to buy a crappy one for $30 on Amazon. I finally found a really nice one at Goodwill for $2.99 a few weeks back… and it even takes microphones for karaoke!

IMG_1337

After our recent remodel we were in need of some side tables and rugs. I cleaned up two old rugs that we haven’t used in years and they look great now. I scored three side tables on Craigslist for $10 the other day and gave one of them to our friend Mark. He generously gave me a rug for our new playroom in return! So I redecorated with three rugs and two side tables for $10 total. My little frugal heart was bursting. 🙂

The major remodel we just completed on our house has brought with it some financial challenges. We unexpectedly had to do some major foundation repair and electrical work, sending us over budget. Then we went over budget even more by having to hire extra help to finish the project in time.

IMG_1201

What used to be our kitchen during the remodel

So we are making a plan for how to bounce back from this setback and deal with the results of going way over budget. We are trying to not get discouraged. I plan on writing a post soon highlighting our plan, which basically involves handling the debt wisely and making extra money to pay it off and refill our now empty savings account!

Intentional with my relationships

IMG_3363

This year I have been focusing on being more present with my daughter. I am so lucky to spend the majority of my day with her, but I noticed that I was often distracted and trying to multitask when I was with her.

I looked to the book Hands Free Mama for advice on living a more connected and less distracted life. While it was definitely moving and heartfelt, I didn’t feel like I was getting much practical advice. So when I was about half way through, I abandoned it in favor of starting a few other books. There used to be a time when I finished every book I started, but I decided years ago that there’s really nothing wrong with letting a book go – even if only for the time being.

Instead I decided to pick up Rising Strong by Brene Brown, and I’m so glad I did. This book and Daring Greatly (also by Dr. Brown) have spoken to me and challenged me more than any books I’ve read in years. They basically address how vulnerability – the willingness to show up and be seen – is a necessity for finding more connection, love and joy in life.

I am still struggling to be more present and connected with my daughter. But I now I realize that just by challenging myself in this area, I am living with more courage and vulnerability than before, and that is huge. I will stumble, and I will have better days than others, but I am “in the arena” and giving it my all.

IMG_3488

This perspective has helped me give myself a break when I’m having a distracted day. I feel less guilty when I don’t want to play a certain way with her (one can only pretend to take Barbie to the movies so many times) and I can focus on what I always enjoy doing with her – such as reading books, creating art, and tending to the chickens.

Dr. Brown’s work has also challenged me to show up, be vulnerable, and try to ask for what I want in my relationship with my husband. This is all really hard for me! Trying to be more intentional in my relationships has turned out to be my biggest challenge this year. But these relationships are the most important things in my life, so they are worth the work.

What’s Next?

IMG_1352

The books rocking my little world right now

I am currently reading a few other books related to my intentional living goals. They are The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and The Entitlement Trap by Richard and Linda Eyre.

I hope to finish them all in the next month or so and put some ideas to work in my life. I’ve started listening to Gretch Rubin’s “Happier” podcast as well, and I really like her perspective and practical advice for generally being happier. I realize I am a few years behind the curve, but I can’t wait to “KonMari” my house later this summer!

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

In addition to the next steps I’ve already mentioned in this post, I am interested in exploring how a gratitude practice can help me live with more intention.

So, there you have it – what’s working, what isn’t, and what’s next in my year of intentional living. How has your year been going overall? Are you making any progress (or not!) towards any goals? Please chime in and leave a comment below!

IMG_3398


Disney Dining Plan 101: The Plans, What You Get, and Are They a Good Value?

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

This article was first published on September 10th, 2015

Disney Dining Plans 101 - the types of plans available, what you get, and are they a good value?

One approach to dining at Walt Disney World is to use one of the Disney Dining Plans. These plans have been around since about 2005 and are basically a way to “pre-pay” for dining before your vacation starts.

In this post I will share basic information about the plans, including recent updates that allow for much more flexibility. Keep in mind that the plans are certainly not for everyone on every trip, and while they seem complicated at first, are actually pretty easy to use once you get the hang of it. If you know the basics but are looking for some tips & tricks, check out this post!

171

Entree at Disney’s California Grill

Who Can Use The Dining Plan?

Disney Dining Plans can be used by guests staying at any Walt Disney World resort hotel. They can be purchased as part of a package that includes your room, park ticket, and dining, or included as part of a Free Dining Plan Package (more on this later). They currently can’t be purchased by visitors staying at any hotels that are not owned by Disney (“off-property” hotels) or locals visiting for the day. The plan also must be purchased for every night of your stay and for everyone staying in your room.

116

Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

What Dining Plans are Available?

There are three different dining plans currently available; the standard Disney Dining Plan, the Quick Service Plan, and the Deluxe Dining Plan. The credits shown are per night of your stay and each plan includes a Resort Refillable Mug. The children’s prices are for kids ages 3 to 9. Here’s what you get with each plan and their cost (tax is included) per night of your stay for 2016:

ddp

How Does The Dining Plan Work?

Each of the dining plans include credits that you can use all over Walt Disney World for almost any food or drink (except alcohol – but you can even get that with the dining plan in some instances!) These credits are loaded on the Magic Bands (read all about them here) of everyone in your party. You can use the credits at any point during your stay, from the time you check-in until midnight on the day you check-out. The types of credits are:

  • Snack Credits (most items that aren’t a meal unto themselves fall into this category)
  • Quick Service Meals (i.e. meals at locations where you order at a counter as opposed to having a server)
  • Table Service Meals (“Sit-down” meals – Signature restaurants and dinner shows require 2 Table Service credits per person)

DDP ebook banner

Each Quick Service Meal credit includes an entree, beverage and dessert. However, recent changes to the dining plan has made it more flexible and you can now substitute any item that qualifies as a snack for both the beverage and dessert. So, for example, if you prefer to drink water and aren’t a big dessert eater, you can get more side dishes to try, stock up on snacks for later, or even grab breakfast for the next morning.

Each Table Service Meal credit also includes an entree, beverage and dessert. This credit was made more flexible by allowing guests to choose a salad or soup (if available at the restaurant) instead of the dessert option.

You are of course always allowed to order anything else from the menu that is not included with the dining plan, such as adult beverages and appetizers, and pay for them out-of-pocket.

IMG_1167

Resort Refillable Mug

In addition to snack and meal credits, each dining plan includes a Resort Refillable Mug with unlimited free refills for the length of your stay. The mugs can be used at any Disney resort hotel for soda, coffee, tea, lemonade and hot chocolate, but aren’t good for refills in the theme parks.

Are They a Good Value?

If you are like most folks visiting Walt Disney World, you have a budget that you need to stick to for your vacation. Having a pre-paid dining plan included in a package in one way to help you stay within your budget at Disney World.

In the case of the Quick Service plan, the cost of the plan is roughly the same as what you’d pay out-of-pocket for the same food and drinks. So there isn’t really any financial benefit to using the Quick Service plan, unless you just feel better pre-paying for your food and don’t mind being limited to only Quick-Service establishments.

269

French Bakery in Epcot

Disney has released a “Free Dining” promotion for the past several years, usually during the fall/winter travel seasons. The promotion works like this: you pay the regular “rack” price for your room and everyone staying in the room receives a dining plan at no additional cost. You also must purchase a minimum 2-day park ticket for everyone in your travel party.

If you are staying at a Value Resort (see my review of Disney’s Pop Century Resort for an idea of what they are like) you will receive the Quick Service plan. If you stay at a Moderate or Deluxe Resort then you receive the standard Dining Plan for “free”. Of course, nothing is truly free at Disney! Disney almost always has another room-only discount running concurrently with this Free Dining discount, and depending on where you are staying and how many people are in your travel party, the room-only discount may actually be a better deal than free dining.

The best value from Free Dining comes for groups of two or more who stay at a Value or Moderate Resort. Free Dining can be a fantastic deal for families with kids who don’t mind staying together in the same room at a Value or Moderate resort. Here’s an example of a family of four with two adults and two kids ages 7 and 10:

Rack rate at Disney’s Pop Century Resort during Fall season = $122 (including tax)
Value of Quick Service dining plan for everyone in the room = $142 in free dining
Total cost for Room + Food = $122

VS.

Best price for the same room using a room-only discount + Orbitz discount = $83
Out-of-pocket cost for similar dining = $142
Total cost for Room + Food = $225

cupcake

Zebra Cupcake from The Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge

As you can see, you will save over $100 per night of your stay by taking advantage of the free dining offer. Considering that you will also receive free transportation for your stay (read about the incredible value of this perk for Disney resort guests), you will only pay $122 for your transportation, lodging and food for your entire family for each night of your stay. Compared to other vacations, this price seems like a total bargain to me!

If you receive the Quick Service plan for a stay at a Value resort (which are among my favorite at Disney), you can also upgrade to the standard Dining Plan by paying the difference between the two. This difference is currently around $18 for adults and around $3 for kids. We have done this every time we have received free dining, because we like to eat at one Table Service restaurant for dinner each night, and it is possible to get a lot more value out of the standard Dining Plan than the Quick Service Plan.

102

Entree at Columbia Harbor House

The chart below compares what you’d pay out-of-pocket to what you’d pay for the Dining Plan on a sample day. I have actually eaten this food one day when I was on the Dining Plan!

2016-06-22 14_53_48-Copy Disney Dining Plan eBook [Compatibility Mode] - Word

Your total out of pocket costs would have been $83, but would cost $64 with the Dining Plan. $19 might not seem like a huge savings until you multiply it by four family members and consider that you can save close to that on every other day of your stay. For a family of four on a five day vacation the Dining Plan could save them over $350 compared to purchasing the same food out of pocket.

The Deluxe Dining Plan is super pricey and almost impossible to get your money’s worth from. Plus, it includes SO MUCH FOOD. Lunch and dinner table service meals include an appetizer, entree, dessert and beverage for every member of your party. I really don’t know how anyone could possibly eat all of that food over the course of en entire vacation. There is one situation in which you will likely get a good value from this plan which I share in my next post on Tips & Tricks for the Disney Dining Plans.

Have you ever tried the Dining Plan? Please share your experience in a comment below!


Schoola: $5 Sale + New Members Get $20 Free

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

Schoola just dropped their prices on thousands of gently worn brand-name clothes. Get clothes from brands like Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, and BCBG for only $5 each!

For a limited time, you’ll also get $20 free to spend at Schoola if you are new to their site (plus free shipping)! I get most of mine and my daughter’s clothes at Schoola and I love that 40% of proceeds go back to schools as a fundraiser.


POPSUGAR Fitness: My Go-To Source for Awesome FREE Home Workouts

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

2016-07-17 20_23_44-20-minute Workouts _ POPSUGAR Fitness

Making time to workout is one of my biggest challenges. I know it is good for me, and I really want to exercise, but it is so hard for me to find time during the day to fit it in!

I discovered POPSUGAR Fitness about a year ago, when I was in a major rut with exercising. POPSUGAR Fitness is a website and app with seemingly endless fitness videos. What I love most about these videos is that they are

  • short (think 10 or 20 minutes)
  • doable (I’m not super fit and I can do most of them)
  • fun and
  • FREE!

2016-07-17 20_26_49-20-minute Workouts _ POPSUGAR Fitness

I gave up my gym membership a while back to make more room in the budget. With walking/running and doing these videos a few days each week, I am just as fit as I would be with a gym membership. And I don’t spend a dime to workout!

IMG_1351

Getting a workout in during naptime

I also love that I don’t need much space to do these workouts. Check out my tiny office/guest room/workout room!

IMG_1350

You can follow my Workouts board on Pinterest to get all of my favorite workouts. I mentioned POPSUGAR Fitness to my sister a few weeks ago and she uses it now, too. She taught me that there is even an Apple TV app for POPSUGAR!

Do you workout at home? What helps keep you motivated? Please leave a comment below!


(Expired) Amazon: Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Hand Soap Refill (33 oz.) as low as $3.95

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.



Mrs. Meyers Liquid Hand Soap Refill, Basil Scent, 33 Oz.

I can’t get enough of Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap… get this large refill pack of Basil Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap for $3.95 when you select Subscribe & Save and have 5 or more items in your next delivery.

This is enough soap to refill a regular bottle almost 3 times so this is a fantastic price!

Thanks, Hip2Save!


Disney Store: 25% Off + Free Shipping (Today 7/18 Only)

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

2016-07-18 14_06_08-Disney Store _ Official Site for Disney Merchandise

Today 7/18 only take 25% off your purchase at Disney Store with the promo code DISNEYPAL. You’ll also get free shipping with no minimum order!

This promo code works with already discounted items. For example,  check out the sale on backpacks and lunch totes for some great deals!