Patriotic Ponytail Holder

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You know I love to make hair bows for my daughter. So I couldn’t let 4th of July go by without a patriotic hair accessory. And this ponytail holder is possibly the easiest thing in the world to make.



Ponytail holder






1- Cut the ribbon into 6 inch pieces.

*It took an entire roll of ribbon to do one ponytail holder.


2- Sweep the flame across the end of each piece of ribbon to prevent fraying.

3- Tie each piece of ribbon in a knot around the ponytail holder until the ponytail holder is completely covered.

*You’ll want to scrunch the ribbon together so it still looks full when the ponytail holder is stretched out.






It’s so simple, you can do it with any color and type of ribbon for any occasion.



If you want to see the process in action, you can check out this video:

I hope you have a great 4th of July!

And be sure to check out my other 4th of July crafts:

Paper Chain Craft with Free Printable

Kids American Flag Craft with Free Printable.


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4th Of July Paper Chain Craft


Get your crib (your house, not your baby’s crib) ready for 4th of July with this super simple paper chain craft.

I got the inspiration from something I saw at Michaels for $20! But $20 seemed a bit too steep for me so I made my own for free!

All the supplies are super simple and you probably already have them at home.




Card stock

Paper cutter or scissors

Stapler or glue



1- Download the free printable sheet of flag designs below (click on the image to get the download).

*Print the design page on card stock once, then turn the card stock over and put it back into the printer to print the same design on the back.

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2- Cut the card stock into four strips, 2 stripes and 2 stars.

*It takes 4 pages to make a 39 inch chain


3- Staple or glue the end of the strips together to make rings, looping each ring through the previous ring until you have the length of chain you want.





I hope you have a great 4th of July!

And check out my other 4th of July DIYs:

 4th of July Kids Flag Craft with Free Printable

Patriotic Ponytail Holder

a step by step guide

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4th Of July Kids Flag Craft

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Fourth of July is quickly approaching and I can’t wait to take my kids to see fireworks like we do every year. We go to Sanibel Island and pick a spot on the sand to watch fireworks over the water. It’s just beautiful!


And we like to go all out and make it a party. Last year I picked up a few silly accessories.

And you have to have a flag to wave, right? We like to make our own in this super simple and cheap way.

Step 1

The kids color their own flags on card stock.

I help them get started by drawing the square and lines on the paper using a ruler.

They color two full pages of card stock each, to make a front and back for their flag.

We also use stickers for the stars. Or you can have your kids draw their own.

Step 2

I roll up a piece of construction paper to use for the flag pole…

Putting tape on the outside so it won’t come unrolled.

Step 3

I put the two flag pages together with the flag designs facing out…

Then put the flag pole inside the pages at one end…

And staple it all together.

Tip: You can also use hot glue instead of staples, depending on the look you want.

Step 4

Proudly wave your flag!

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Don’t have time to have your kids color your own flag? Or maybe you have a baby too young for coloring? You can download this free printable flag and staple it on your DIY flag pole. Just click the image to get the download: (3)

And if you like the look of this flag but want your kids to put their own mark on it, you can download this free printable version without color and let them color it in. Just click the image to get the download: (1)


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I hope you have a great 4th of July!

And check out my other 4th of July DIYs:

 4th of July Paper Chain Craft with Free Printable

Patriotic Ponytail Holder


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Save Money With Grocery Pickup

I’m always looking for ways to save more money on groceries. And saving time and avoiding stress in the process is like a perfect trifecta. And that’s just what grocery pickup does for me.

After using Walmart’s service for a few weeks I’m mostly thrilled with it. Here are my pros & cons of grocery pickup.

(I have not been compensated in any way for this post. I strive to share real and honest experiences so you can make the best decisions for your family.)spring

Pros Of Grocery Pickup

1- Get what you need and only what you need

I fill my cart with the ingredients for my meal plan, then add other food essentials for the week, and I’m done. There’s no standing and gazing at the bad choices in the cookie aisle or dealing with ‘Mommy, can we pleeeeeeaaaase get ice cream?’ Impulse buys are drastically reduced.

And if I’m not sure I need more paprika, I can just get up and check the cupboard before adding it to the virtual cart. Which means over-buying is also reduced.

2- Keep track of your total

As you add items to your ‘cart’ you see the total bill accumulate and you can adjust non-essential items based on how much you want to spend. You’re never surprised by the total when it’s time to pay.

3- Shop your favorites

We have certain products we really love and I want to get them every time. With Walmart’s online grocery ordering you can shop a list of your favorites, which is basically items you’ve purchased before. This saves a ton of time searching through lists of products.

4- Fill your ‘cart’ at your own pace

At the same time that I make my meal plan for the week, I can go ahead and put the ingredients in my virtual cart. And if I get distracted (which never happens when you have kids 😉 ) I can go back and add more later.

I can even add or subtract items after I check out. Adjustments are possible up to a certain number of hours before your pickup time. (That time will be indicated after you checkout.)

5- Take time to get it right

You can see the labels for each product online and you can take all the time you need to read them. At the store, especially with impatient kids in tow, this can be pretty hard. You often race through to get it over with and make easy choices, not necessarily the best choices.

6- Shop the way you want

I personally like to shop the way my brain works, by each meal. I search for the specific ingredients I need for the meals I’m planning, then go back to add additional food items, then non-food items.

You don’t have to get all your fruits at the same time and canned goods at the same time. That requires more coordination. Who has time for that?

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Cons Of Grocery Pickup

There are cons to grocery pickup though, including a few things that might be pretty big deterrents for some people.

1- Less control

Someone else is picking out your produce and squeezing your avocados. So you’re giving up that control.

If you’re not happy you can always take it back. But with a service that’s meant to be quicker and easier, taking things back would be frustrating and counter-productive. But so far I haven’t needed to do this. I’ve been pretty happy with everything I’ve gotten.

2- You get what you get, and how many you get

I was a little frustrated to find that in a few cases you can’t just get one tomato or one onion, you have to get them by the pound.

3- No notes

I would love an option to add notes to my order online. I might add a note asking for softer avocados, for example. But sadly there is no place to do this currently. Perhaps this could be a feature added in the future.

I would also definitely add a note asking for my items not to be bagged in plastic, which leads me to my next point…


4- Plastic bags

This is my biggest issue with Walmart’s grocery pickup. I always use reusable shopping bags and was saddened to see everything in plastic bags my first time.

Why do I care? Because…

“Plastic debris is one of the deadliest forms of pollution for thousands of marine animals including sea turtles, dolphins, sea lions, whales, and manatees that are trapped, injured, or killed by discarded plastics, hooks, and fishing line every year.”


“…there are over 150 million tons of plastics in the ocean today. In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).”

World Economic Forum

If you’re interested in using Walmart’s grocery pickup and you don’t want plastic bags, there is something you can do. Demand something else. Which is what I’m working on.

I’ve contacted their customer service imploring them to offer reusable or paper bags as options. Paper bags are not currently an option at Walmart unless you live in a state (California) or city that bans plastic bags.

But after some back and forth with customer service I was assured I can request my groceries not be bagged at all. Which is what I do. When they bring my groceries to my car in bins, I load them into my own reusable bags.

You can request this too.  Call your local store where you pickup the groceries to make the request. Then call again before your pickup to remind them.

You can also voice your opinion to customer service on offering paper and other options here.

In the meantime, I hope I’ve offered you enough information to decide whether grocery pickup is right for you, whether it’s through Walmart or any other grocery chain.


Have you tried grocery pickup? How do you feel about plastic bags? I’d love to read all your feedback in the comments below.



What NOT To Do As A New Stay-At-Home Mom

I’m kind of late to the stay-at-home mom thing. About eight years late in my opinion.

That’s how long it’s been since my first baby was born. 18 months later I had my daughter. The years after were filled with sadness, guilt, exhaustion, and lots of conversations about whether we could be a one salary family.

Finally last year the opportunity presented itself and we took the leap. I quit my high-stress, 24-7 career and we moved six hundred miles away where I became a stay-at-home mom.

But the irony is that when I could finally raise my babies full-time, they were no longer babies. In fact, I was working to teach them to be more independent and self-sufficient.

Without infants to feed and care for constantly, I was hit with a much different life than I had been dreaming of for so long. But it was a blessing nonetheless. I’m thrilled that I can always see them before and after school, I can take them to any extra-curricular activity they want to try (which is a lot), and I can control what they’re eating and kiss them goodnight every night.

But you don’t stop being you. Your mind doesn’t stop going 90 miles an hour. And old habits die hard. These are the reasons why I learned a lot of things not to do as a new stay-at-home mom. Unfortunately I learned them after I’d already done them.

1- Don’t rush into anything.. or everything

I was used to managing a team of 30 people at a major news network. I’m a type-A personality. You better believe that when the kids went back to school there was a little toe tapping and restlessness. So I took on projects. A lot of them. I started this blog, I started running five days a week, I volunteered for every job on PTO and joined my neighborhood’s social committee.

And I learned the hard way that those organizations are not run like a network news team. And they don’t need to be. And I don’t have to control everything. (Wait, what?) Yep, that’s a hard one to get a handle on.

If I could go back and do it over again I would take a beat. Several. I would try to allow myself a few months to get acclimated to my new life and new surroundings and decide what few endeavors I wanted to devote my time and energy to.

2- Don’t keep spending money like you have two salaries

New state, new town, new house. That means you need new clothes, new furniture, new adventures, right? No. When you take away half the money you’ve become accustomed to, you need to drastically cut your spending.

Again, these are things I learned from doing them wrong. I let us go from a surplus bank account with good savings to minimal savings and debt. Truth be told, part of the reason I started a frugal living blog is because I needed my own advice.

I think part of the reason for my over-spending was to convince myself I could create the perfect life immediately, so I wouldn’t miss my old city and my old life. But you know what? You’re going to miss it. And you can allow yourself to have those feelings.

It doesn’t make you ungrateful and it doesn’t make you a bad mother. It makes you human.

3- Don’t let guilt get you down

I left a rewarding.. yet stressful.. job and pay to be a full-time mom. And guess what? I’m not the perfect mom.. or homemaker. My kids can still drive me to the brink of insanity (no matter their age). And despite having 50+ hours more free time each week, the laundry still piles up, and the sink still holds only so many dirty dishes.

It can get you down.

But remember why you made this giant leap. It wasn’t to win some prize for momming or cleaning. It was to be there for your children more.

And I am. Imperfectly yet perfectly.

4- Don’t let anxiety take over

All of the above leads to anxiety and stress. I thought I left all the stress behind me. Nope. Stress about money and failing at the perfect life, still haunts me.

The best thing I can say for advice, is what I didn’t do. It’s brand new. Give it time. Give yourself a break. A lot of the things making you anxious will work themselves out. You’ll settle into a routine. You’ll figure out a budget.

Know that you will hit some speed bumps and that the road will get smoother ahead.

5- Don’t take it out on the kids

You know this is a major life change. Your world is turning upside down, hopefully for the better. But it’s a big adjustment.

Depending on the age of your kids, they don’t get that. And for them, few things might be changing. So try not to turn your inner turmoil into their problem.

For us everything changed. I quit my job, my husband’s job changed dramatically and we moved to another state, a much different sized town, different climate and different schools. That’s a lot for young kids.

But the thing with kids is that they don’t come out and tell you something is bothering them. They may not even realize it’s bothering them. Some behavioral issues emerged in our house gradually and I was caught off guard.

If I could go back and do it again, I would hope to be more attentive and check in often on what they’re thinking and feeling to try to make the transition smoother.

Now one year after our big move I’m so happy we did what we did and we are where we are. And the kids are happy, with new adventures and new friends. Yes, I made mistakes and I would change some things if I was given a time machine. But I’m with my precious people in a beautiful place.

I wouldn’t change that for anything.

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Guide To Summer: How To Take The Best Beach Photos

When setting out to craft the Frugal Mom’s Guide To Summer series, I knew I wanted to include some tips on how to take the best photos to capture your amazing summer memories. And let me tell you, it’s not that easy to take great pictures at the beach.

So who better to offer tips than a professional photographer? My longtime friend Corey, owner of Best Part Photography, has been taking stunning pictures of beautiful families for five years. Check out her pro tips on taking the best beach photos.

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Hi! My name is Corey and a journalist turned photographer and mom of 3. I’m so glad Tracy (who used to be my boss!) asked me to hop onto her blog for a quick post about beach photos for the summer! Here are my best tips for getting great beach photos of your kids this summer!

1- Set your expectations low. Like really low. I would say 90% of my clients stress to the max about family photos; what to wear, where to take them, when to do them, whether the kids will behave. 

If you go into family photos expecting at least one kid to throw a fit, another to make silly faces half of the time, and ready for your husband to ask if we are finished yet after only 10 minutes… then you will be pleasantly surprised when only a couple of those things happen!

When you are throwing the beach as the setting into the mix, it can be even crazier. The beach is where kids go to play. They don’t go to sit and pose and stay dry. Which brings me to my next point….


2- Get the ‘posed’ photos out of the way first. If you want to get a picture of all three kids clean and unwrinkled and dry, do it first. And if you need to…

3- Bribe them. No judging here. If big brother doesn’t like to hug his little sister, bring out the big guns. Lollipops, iPad apps, whatever.


4- CHEESE. All kids have them. A fake smile. You say ‘smile’ and they show you their teeth but their face isn’t actually smiling.

Getting a real smile out of kids can be a challenge especially if Mom is already stressed about who is wrinkled and which child is running full speed towards the water.

Beforehand, think about what makes your kids laugh. Often times it’s potty talk. Before I take a picture I yell ‘poop’ or another gross word that makes kids laugh. I actually learned this trick FROM clients and it usually works pretty well to shake the fake smile and make them laugh.


5- Once you get a few ‘posed’ photos out of the way (lets be honest, how many do you really need? A couple good ones is all you will use anyway) let them run and play and get dirty. Let them be themselves, this is when you may get your favorite photos!

6- You may have heard the phrase ‘golden hour’. This is the time of day when the sun is setting and the light is yummy and rich and not making anyone squint.

As you consider when to take your photos, especially at the beach because there is NO SHADE, you should plan to shoot first thing in the morning (think sunrise) or in the golden hour (the 45 minutes or so before sunset). This is the only way to avoid squinting eyes, shadows on faces, and over exposed photos.


7- And finally, the weather. Obviously you won’t take photos in a storm but a lot of people forget the beach can be VERY windy. Generally any gusts over 12-15mph creates a disaster at the beach. Hair will be blowing, so will skirts and SAND. And there’s nothing worse than kids in uncomfortable clothes who are being forced to stay clean for five minutes, while getting pelted with stinging sand.  So check the wind speeds before you do everyones hair.

Good luck! And have fun! Laugh with your kids. And most importantly (in my opinion) get in a few pictures with your kids!


Be sure to check out the rest of the Frugal Mom’s Guide To Summer series.

Free Kids Activities has lots of ideas for summer activities for kids that are free or nearly free like bowling, skating, crafting and building. You can also get a Free printable Summer Activity Calendar and a Summer Adventure Checklist.

Library Games has a Free printable Silly Summer Mad Libs, Library Scavenger Hunt game and a Summer Reading Challenge sheet.

Educational Subscription Boxes has reviews on eight of the most popular boxes for kids of all ages. From science, to language and nature, you can find a subscription box that’s perfect for your child and your budget. It’s a great way to keep kids learning over the summer.

Traveling With Kids and What NOT To Do While Traveling With Kids has advice from several well-traveled moms on what to do and not to do to keep your sanity on summer vacation.

The Theme Park Survival Guide is just that, tips on surviving your trip to the theme park with some of your sanity and life savings intact.

And Organize Your Summer is a roundup of some of the best, free printables to organize summer activities, learning, fun and more.

Have a great summer!


Organize Your Summer – FREE Printables Roundup

I strive to be super organized. I mean, I make lists for my lists. No joke. So now that the kids are out of school and home all day, it’s really throwing a wrench in my daily organization. So I need separate organization plans just for summer. Yep, I’m a nerd.

If you need a little extra organization and fun ideas for summer check out some of these awesome printables I’ve compiled for you.



There are so many fun and free activities for kids to do in the summer from outside play to learning and library games.

You can download my free printable Summer Adventure Checklist for some ideas on how to get the kids off the electronics and out of the house.

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For a super-sized list of 100 Summer Fun Ideas For The Whole Family, check out this printable from The Crafty Chicks.


Get more ideas and create your own personal Summer Bucket List with this cute printable from Yellow Bliss Road.



The library is a great place to have fun while learning over the summer. You can download my free printable Library Scavenger Hunt, Silly Summer Mad Libs and a Reading Challenge Checklist. (1)    SUMMER READING CHALLENGE (2)

Here’s another fun way to track summer reading from Happy Home Fairy.


And you can motivate them with Summer Reading Bingo from Simply Kierste Design Co.


Summer Learning

I’m also trying to keep my kids learning and avoid that summer brain drain. Check out reviews on eight of the most popular educational subscription boxes here.

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You can also take a more DIY approach to summer learning. Easy Peasy and Fun has a great Pre-K & K summer learning pack, all free!


And Doodle Bugs Teaching has free printable math sheets.


Fun & Games

And don’t forget the fun with some free printable coloring and activity pages. These Ocean Animal Mazes from The Crafting Chicks are absolutely adorable.


And I love these summer vacation I Spy games from Live Laugh Rowe.

Summer I Spy Printable

And Design Dazzle has a super cute and fun Summer Bingo Game.


Summer Calendar

Now that you have tons of fun activities in mind, you need a handy calendar to organize it all. You can download my free printable Summer Activity Calendar here. It’s already loaded with free summer movies, craft classes and lego build events and plenty of room to add more activities.

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You can also check out these great summer activity calendars from Teaching Mama..

Activities-for-June-2    July-Activity-Calendar

And this weekly calendar with inspiration from Intentional Moms.


For more awesome printables and ideas for summer, follow my Summer Pinterest Board.


And be sure to check out the rest of the Frugal Mom’s Guide To Summer series.

A frugal Mom's

Free Kids Activities

Library Games

Educational Subscription Boxes

Traveling With Kids

What NOT To Do While Traveling With Kids


Theme Park Survival Guide

Have a great summer!