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.

Supplies:

Ribbon

Ponytail holder

Scissors

Ruler

Lighter

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Process:

1- Cut the ribbon into 6 inch pieces.

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

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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Supplies:

Printer

Card stock

Paper cutter or scissors

Stapler or glue

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Process:

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

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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.

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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 Kids Flag Craft with Free Printable

Patriotic Ponytail Holder

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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!

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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:

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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:

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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.”

-SeaWorld

“…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.

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

 

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

∼Corey

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!

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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.

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Activities

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.

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

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Reading

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.

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

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

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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!

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And Doodle Bugs Teaching has free printable math sheets.

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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.

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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.

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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..

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And this weekly calendar with inspiration from Intentional Moms.

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

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

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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!

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Guide To Summer – Theme Park Survival

It’s summer! Let’s go to a theme park!.. you say. It will be fun!.. you say.

It’s the hottest time of the year! Let’s go somewhere that costs a fortune with thousands of other people for attractions that we’ll need to stand in line for, for hours at a time!.. is the reality.

Theme parks do have their challenges. And the best times to go, frankly, are not summer, spring break or around any holidays. But the reality is, those are busy times because that’s when people are more able to go.

So go in the summer you must. But first, check out this advice to make it a little easier.

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1- Plan ahead to save some money.

Check out my posts on 10 Ways To Save Money At Disney and Affordable Florida Theme Parks for some ways to avoid spending a fortune. My top tips are:

-Pack your own food and drinks. DisneyWorld and LegoLand allow you to bring in outside food and drink as long as it doesn’t need to be cooled or heated and is in plastic containers.

-Pre-buy souvenirs like Mickey Mouse ears and special shirts. You can also take glow wands and autograph books to avoid buying them at the park.

2- Take advantage of line-skipping options

At Disney parks it’s called Fast Pass, at LegoLand Florida it’s Premium Play and at Busch Gardens it’s Quick Queue. And what it means is less time in line and kids not nearly as cranky as usual.

3- Drink lots of water

Whether you bring your own or buy it there, you must stay hydrated. This will help you avoid feeling sick, tired and hangry.

4 Pack rain gear

We always pack a poncho for each of us. During the summer in Florida it will rain once a day every day. Count on it.

5- Don’t stay all day

The first time we went to Disney we only went for one day and wanted to pack in all the fun and excitement we possibly could. So we were there when the park opened at 9am and didn’t leave until after the fireworks show at 9pm. 12 hours of Disney with a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old.

At the end of the day the kids were hungry and exhausted and so were the parents. I would have rather paid for an additional day to spread it out more.

6- Build in some down time

Part of the problem with our marathon 12-hour Disney day was that we were pretty much running all over the park all day, only pausing to eat a quick lunch and dinner.

But the last time we went, we made dinner reservations at a restaurant (Which you must do months in advance). It was the perfect time to sit, relax and recharge. Disney restaurants are not cheap, but it’s money well spent.

7- Build in a day off

If you’re going to be visiting a park or parks for multiple days, try to build in a day off in the middle. It’s especially nice if you’re staying at a resort or hotel with a pool. It’s a great time for the whole family to relax, recharge and you’ll appreciate the park more when you go back.

What are your theme park survival tips? Please leave them in the comments below.

And 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.

And 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.

Have a great summer!

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‘Tutu-riffic’ Gifts For Dancers & Dance Teachers With Free Printable Tags

As school winds down so does the dance season. And I am so thrilled with my daughter’s dance teacher this year. She’s kind and caring, patient and fun.

It’s such a blessing when your kids get a teacher or instructor who doesn’t just teach them, but also connects with them and inspires them.

So I came up with a couple of ways to show dance teachers and our little dancers that we appreciate them.

This post contains affiliate links, which allow me to receive compensation, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase.

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All of these gifts are fun, easy and super affordable. And to make it even easier you can grab your free printable tags here.

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Dance Teachers Like You Are ’Tutu’ Good To Be True

You can do a lot of things with this type of gift. I put some cookies and Twix inside a Ball mason jar. You could put lots of stuff in it that you think they would like.

For the tutu around the rim of the jar, I simply tied pieces of tulle to a beige ponytail holder. This is really easy but very time-consuming. I decided to do two tutus, one a little longer to go on bottom and one with shorter tulle to go on top for a layered look. In all, I would estimate it took about 100 + pieces of tulle.

I bought the tulle at a craft store for just a few bucks a roll.

Tip: If I were to do it over again I would not choose tulle with glitter on it. Ever. Again. As you can image, I swept up a big pile of glitter when I was done and I lived with it on me for a couple of days, even after showering.

As a finishing touch, I punched a hole in the tag and tied it on the jar with a piece of jute string.

You can get the free printable here:

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Thanks For Keeping Me On My Toes

For this gift I simply filled a cute glass drinking bottle from the dollar store with items for a home pedicure including cotton balls, nail polish and file.

And again, I simply punched a hole in the tag and tied it on the bottle with a piece of jute string.

You can get the free printable here:

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Dancing Makes Life Sweeter

These are the gift bags I made for my daughter’s dance classmates. It couldn’t have been easier. I simply put some candy in a cellophane bag.

Then I just folded the bag down and stapled the tags on.

You can get this free printable here:

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Dance Teachers Touch Lives One Step At A Time

I like this picture so much I thought it looked great in a frame. You can print it to any size.

You can get the free printable here:

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I hope your little dancer or their dance teacher loves these.

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You can also check out my teacher gifts with free printable tags here:

End Of Year

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Guide To Summer: What NOT To Do While Traveling With Kids

I would estimate that I’ve spent about 960 hours on road trips with my kids. That’s a total of 40 entire days people!

And after 960 hours you learn some things you should do. Pack electronics loaded with lots of games and movies. Pack lots of snacks. Make regular potty stops and make them go whether they think they need to or not. (You can check out more tips from a dozen awesome moms in my previous post, Traveling With Kids.)

Along the way to 960 hours you also learn lots of stuff NOT to do.

This post contains affiliate links, which allow me to receive compensation, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase.

•What NOT To Do While Traveling With Kids•

1- Don’t let the batteries die.

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I’m a mom who works hard to limit screen time. But to expect kids to sit still and quiet in a car for several hours or in an airport terminal without a game to play or a movie to watch, is a certain kind of torture. For the child and the parents.

So I make sure all the tablets and handheld game systems are fully charged and loaded. And we have car chargers to fit every sort of device in case batteries get low.

My daughter will actually spend some time coloring, so we pack that as well.

But not all backseat activities are created equal, which Thena from Hodge Podge Hippie found out the hard way..

“Don’t give them crafts that you can’t control or see what is going on from your seat. We now have glitter covered leather seats plus two windows completely covered with Paw Patrol Halloween stickers. While I love and support the arts….I’ve learned my lesson for our next road trip.”

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2- Don’t forget the lovey or other things to help your littles sleep.

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Oh heaven forbid the first time we leave ‘Ooh Ah’ the monkey or ‘Gigi’ the giraffe at home. I would almost rather leave my cell phone than forget those sweet tattered little stuffed animals. So check, recheck and check three more times that you have those before leaving your house and before you leave your destination to go back home.

Planning ahead will also help make nap and sleep time less stressful. Nicole from The Professional Mom Project says..

Don’t forget to call your hotel ahead of time to make sure a crib or cot is in your room. That way if you need to you can let the kiddo have a nap when you arrive.”

Check out more tips from Nicole in her 3 Rules For Stress-Free Travel With Extended Family.

3- Don’t over-schedule.

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Depending on the age of your kids, the schedule could make or break your trip. I know you may want to go to all the places and see all the sights, but it’s not as fun with cranky little humans. This is a mistake I’ve made so many times. There was one particularly horrific day in Washington, DC when my kids were way too young for a full day of historical monuments. It was monumentally bad. Seriously, the day has practically become folklore in my family.

Juli from Mostly Caffeinated Mom says..

I usually plan one big activity per day, and maybe a small one (like dinner and an evening beach stroll) and that’s it. If more gets seen or experienced, great. But packing a day full of sight-seeing and adventure usually leads to crabby kiddos.”

And Alyson from World Travel Family also suggests a more laid back approach..

Don’t rush them. If your kids are suddenly fascinated by a museum display, a plant or reptile, some crumbling ruins, leave them to enjoy. If they make a new friend of any age, let them hang out. Their schedule is as important as yours and if they’re fascinated by something, encourage that. I’ve seen parents rushing kids along, trying to tick off the next destination on their list, don’t do it. Encourage their explorations of the world every step of the way. Make sure they know that exploring the world is exciting and fun, not another thing your parents force you to do.”

Alyson’s family has been exploring the world, full-time, for the last 4 years. Check out her World Travel Family blog for more awesome tips, insights and adventures.

 4- Don’t expect your kids to carry their own bags. They don’t. You carry them all sooner or later.

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So many times I have packed adorable little character backpacks and suitcases for my kids and planned for them to carry them. Hello Kitty, Cars, Angry Birds. Adorable. But eventually I end up carrying all of it. So I finally accepted it and now put it all in my giant tote bag. At least that way I can keep track of it all, keep it organized and dole it out when appropriate.

But sometimes you have to let things out of your sight. Like when you check a car seat. But Kristina from All Mom Does has this valuable advice..

“Do NOT check your child’s booster seat with the airline without labeling BOTH pieces and putting them in a garbage bag together.”

Kristina learned that the hard way after checking her car seat’s base and back separately. When the airline lost one of the pieces she was forced to grab a mis-matched set from lost and found until hers was shipped to her house a day later.

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Photo from: AllMomDoes.com

Check out Kristina’s Best Tips For Air Travel With Preschool And School-Aged Children.

And sometimes you might just want to leave that car seat behind. Jalisa from Thrifty Haute Mom says..

“If you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort taking a car seat isn’t always necessary if you’re [using] the resort’s transportation (bus). There’s no place to buckle or use the car seat. There’s no sense in taking the time and effort of taking it and checking it with the airline if it’s not going to be used.”

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5- Don’t expect to relax.

I have a good friend (a mother of 3) who says, “It’s a trip, not a vacation.” And it’s so true. Vacations are for people without children. And if you have a chance to vacation without your children, congratulations! Otherwise, good luck on your trip.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Eileen from Families Go says..

“Don’t get caught up in what you think your vacation should be or look like. With kids vacations are easier and more enjoyable when you can go with the flow and adjust course when you need to. Part of this is under scheduling, so you have room for a do-over or to change plans when the line is too long, the kids are too cranky, etc.”

Check out Eileen’s travel blog including 10 Things To Not Pack For A Family Vacation.

Jalisa from Thrifty Haute Mom also suggests a light schedule..

“Don’t always go by an itinerary. When you have little ones it’s too hard to always be right on schedule.”

6- Don’t expect your kids.. or you.. to be on any sort of regular schedule.

Eating, sleeping, everything is thrown off when traveling. Your baby or toddler won’t nap and your older kids are turning the hotel bed into a trampoline when they should be tucked sweetly under the covers.

The best thing to do is to try to roll with it and have contingency plans. If you don’t think your little ones will nap on their own, schedule an outing that might induce sleep or plan for some time devoted to napping.

On one trip I drove my two littles all over a city I didn’t know in a rental car for an hour and a half so they would sleep. Best gas money ever spent.

Caitlin from Better With Babies says..

“DON’T stress! Routines will be a little off, kids might be cranky if they’re tired, but the fun and memories you have with your family will last a lifetime so have fun and relax.

Also, something I did on our first trip with a 10 month old. I expected him to sleep soundly all night in the pack and play. He ended up in bed with us which I was stressed about at first but soon realized it was a nice treat for the week for all of us.”

7- Don’t forget the small details.. that can become big deals.

Medication-

Liz from It’s A Twinkie Life says..

“When the unexpected happens, when your toddler gets sick during vacation, you want to be prepared. This is why you should always carry a first aid kit complete with children’s Tylenol, Motrin, bandages, and nose suckers.”

Liz knows this from experience. Don’t miss her incredible story and more tips on what not to do when traveling to a tropical destination or an all-inclusive resort, in her post: How To Avoid A Disastrous Vacation With Twin Toddlers.

The Weather-

Niki from Toot’s Mom Is Tired says..

Don’t forget to check the weather for where you’re going. We went north for the weekend to a friend’s house. Didn’t check the weather. I had no idea it was going to snow 10 inches. It hadn’t snowed in a while so obviously we didn’t pack boots and snow pants. We had to carry her outside because the snow was up to her thighs. Also, my husband only brought flip-flops. But that’s his own fault.”

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I hope some of these tips help. Above all, I hope you have a great time traveling and making amazing memories with your family.

And I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

And 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.

And Traveling With Kids has advice from several well traveled moms on what to do to keep your sanity on summer vacation.

Have a great summer!

 

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Guide To Summer: Traveling With Kids

A frugal Mom's

Traveling with kids is, in a word, challenging.

In more words, it can make you want to stick a red-hot poker in your eye. But not all the time. Sometimes they fall asleep.

But seriously, it does take work to keep things from spinning out of control, or before you know it, you’re driving with the windows down praying for an exit while your little boy pees (or tries to) in a soda bottle. Let’s say that happened to a friend.

So here are some of my tips, gathered painfully over eight years of nine + hour road trips between the south and midwest with two little cranky humans. And some tips from 12 other moms who’ve been there, done that and lived to tell about it.. possibly over a glass of wine.. or to our therapists.. or over wine with our therapists.

This post contains affiliate links, which allow me to receive compensation, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase.

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Flying

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I can only wish we flew more often. With airfare so high, flying a family of four can come close to a mortgage payment. But on the rare chance we find a great deal on a low-cost carrier, I jump at the chance to fly. I’ve suffered through too many road trips for me to count.

The upside to flying, hopefully, is that you get there a lot quicker. But there can be lots of downsides, especially when flying with very little ones.

My must-haves are:

1- Tablets or portable video game systems WITH headphones

I make sure the kids’ tablets are loaded with games and movies and the batteries are fully charged before we leave. Sure you want to limit kids’ screen time but IMO traveling is NOT the time to do that.

2- Snacks

I prefer snacks from home that are much cheaper than what you can get at the airport.

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Elizabeth from The Home Business Owner also suggests some distraction..

“Take some things to keep the kids occupied, like their favorite coloring book or tablet with a lot of downloads of their favorite games to keep them busy at the boarding gate. If you have more than one kid, you don’t want the second and third running all over the place.”

And once you get on the plane with little ones, proceed carefully. Inez from For The Love Of Mom suggests..

“Wear your baby or toddler when flying! It makes getting through security so much easier. If you are flying with an infant, keep the baby on you until you have pulled out any items that you will need handy during the flight. I pull out diapers/wipes, snacks, my tablet, headphones, etc. It is much easier to get these things out while still wearing the baby. If you have a toddler and the seat next to you is free (or you’ve purchased it) you can have the child sit there while you get everything out that you might need.“

Inez also recommends borrowing or renting some big necessities at your final destination like car seats and pack ‘n’ plays. I actually bought two booster seats (for a great price online) and had them shipped to my sister’s home where we visit at least a couple of times a year. It’s such a stress reliever.

You might want to lighten your load even more by taking this advice from Claire from The Frugal Family

“When staying in the same country.. order any food, nappies or other bulky/heavy supplies to be delivered the day you arrive.”

Flying can be especially tough with young kids who don’t understand and don’t know how to deal with air pressure changes. We’ve had so many inconsolable crying fits because of that.

Julie from Fab Working Mom Life has a solution…

“Have your baby/toddler start eating/drinking before takeoff starts so they don’t get pressure pain. Waiting until we started rolling was always too late for my kiddo.”

For more, check out Julie’s awesome post, How To Survive Flying With A Toddler.

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Driving

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My must-haves for road trips are pretty much the same as when flying, with water bottles added.

1- Tablets or portable video game systems WITH headphones

2- Snacks

I pack healthy snacks, which aren’t always easy to find on the road, like crackers and fruit. It also saves money by avoiding impulse buys at gas stations.

3- Water bottles

We take reusable water bottles filled up at home, to avoid paying for water and creating plastic waste.

Food is also a key to success for Sheyla from The Momma Chronicles

“Pack lots of snacks before you go. A full baby is a happy baby and that way you spend less money at our stops along the way. It saved my life traveling with my oldest.”

Having fulling charged and loaded electronics is a life saver. And Kathryn from Digital Savvy Parent has a genius tip for making that work…

“Back-up and remove all photos, videos and old movies on your devices. This will free up storage space on your device to take photos during your trip and add books, movies and music that you want to have for entertainment while traveling. If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you can back up your photos and videos for FREE with the Prime Photos app as well as download shows and videos for free. For my kids, I try to have separate movies and tv shows on their devices. I do this in case they get bored of their own movies, so they can switch devices to watch something different.”

Check out Kathryn’s Top Family Vacation Travel Tips for more.

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Probably a close second to electronics in importance is your child’s lovey, whatever that may be and whatever you call it. I couldn’t even imagine leaving home without those worn and tattered little stuffed animals my kids love. It’s seriously the stuff of nightmares.

Chelsea from The Crazy SAHM says…

“…ensure you do not forget the basics. We do a lot of car travel, and I cannot tell you the number of times I check and double-check that my kids have their favorite blanket, stuffed animal, and pillow in the car with them. Nothing worse than arriving at your destination after a long car ride to have your child not be able to sleep because you left one of these at home!”

Adel from Kwah Family Blog says the key to travel sanity is preparation…

“Traveling with kids can be stressful but [the stress is] avoidable. The answer is PREPARATION!

1- Know your destination from climate, food and culture to pack the necessary for the young ones.

2- Be prepared to forgo one or two destinations. Enjoy the trip with your kids rather than rushing off the travel plan.

Adel writes about what she learned from taking her toddler to Indonesia and other destinations. You can read more in her post, Traveling With Kids.

Packing and preparing is the easy part.. hopefully. The actual trip is where it gets real.

Marissa from DIYtified knows all too well…

“I traveled from Arizona to California and Las Vegas (total 6-8 hours drive time) with a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old still breastfeeding. We traveled during the day. I would say to stop about every 2 hours for potty breaks and feedings. And bring lots of easy snacks.”

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And Jenny from Kindness In Demand makes a great suggestion for kids who are newly potty trained..

“Have younger potty trained kids wear pull-ups for long car rides. It takes the worry out of having to stop before you’re ready and is especially helpful if there just aren’t any bathrooms for a while.”

Jenny also suggests driving through the night…

“Have the driver sleep during the day and leave when they wake up.”

My husband and I tried this once and we were totally wrecked when we got there and the kids didn’t sleep very well. At the time my kids weren’t good sleepers anyway. But it is worth a try. Some parents have a lot of luck with this method.

Whether you’re driving or flying, Leigh from Chatty Mamas also suggests something that can be hard but great when successful…

“Keep your baby on their normal schedule as much as possible.”

Check out more great ideas from Leigh on flying with a newborn, like checking your stroller and asking the airline for a bassinet.

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After all the preparation and packing and agonizing over schedules and feedings and potty stops, the whole trip can get so stressful. It’s important to let some things go if you can, for the sake of your sanity.

Jessica from A Modern Mom’s Life says…

Don’t worry so much about what your kid is eating (it’s vacation after all!) and pack/bring what you know they will eat!”

Check out 7 Things Jessica Learned Vacationing With Kids.

And if you can, try to have some fun yourself! Jenny from Kindness In Demand says..

“Make sure you plan something for parents. Dealing with crying and traveling is a lot easier if you have something to look forward to once you arrive.”

Check out Jenny’s 8 Tips For Enjoying Yourself During Kid Activities.

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There’s also a long list of things you should NOT do while traveling with kids. And those things are usually learned the hard way. You can check out that post here.

And 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.

And 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.

Have a great summer!

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Get Totally Free Goodies

Who likes free? Me! So I was thrilled when Daily Goodie Box offered me their latest box full of free samples so I could share it with you. (All opinions are authentic and my own.) You can check out my previous Daily Goodie Box Review here.

I know you like free too, and if you like instant gratification, also like me.. you can click this link right now to find out how to get one of these great boxes full of free, full-size samples. And keep reading for details on how it works and what’s inside.

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How it works:

The first step is telling a little about yourself. Once you sign up on their website you’ll need to answer a few simple questions to complete your profile.

Then if you’re chosen you wait for your awesome box of freebies to arrive.

Couldn’t be easier, right?

Look at the latest box jam-packed full of awesome products.

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Some of the awesome stuff inside includes Prince of Peace – 100% Natural Ginger CandyAndalou Naturals – Hyaluronic DMAE Lift & Firm Cream Pods

Natralia – Eczema Body Wash & ShampooKicking Horse Coffee – Kick Ass Ground CoffeeGeorgia Grinders – Creamy Peanut ButterONA Treats – Cookies and Bars

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Tiger Balm – Pain Relieving PatchVolo Vitamins – Energy StickpacksGoviter – Viter Energy MintsSwago – Cologne Wipes For Men and as always, coupons to get more of these goodies.

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Here’s a look at the unboxing with more info on the products inside.

 

What I like about Daily Goodie Boxes:

1- Everything is totally free. You don’t even need to pay for shipping.

2- Most of the products are full size products, not small samples.

3- A lot of the products are usually things I already love – peanut butter, coffee, ginger candy and brownies (heck yeah!) And somehow Daily Goodie Box just seems to get me. How did they know my neck has been hurting and I needed a pain relief patch? I think we’re pretty much soul mates.

4- The boxes also include coupons to get more of the products at a good discount.

5- You can voice your opinion. The whole point of the box is for you to try the products so you can give feedback to the companies that make them. I really like having that opportunity.

But of course I’m usually not able to keep all these goodies for myself. Say the word brownie around my family and it’s gone before you blink. My kids loved the Ona brownie. And the Georgia Grinders peanut butter was pretty much inhaled after my workout. Love it.

Now I know you want one of these Daily Goodie Boxes so check out these tips from the Goodie Box team for increasing your chances of getting one.

1. Be sure to regularly visit and check out this months products in the members area. We have some fantastic brands featuring in Goodie Boxes every month and the more you support them, the more boxes we can send out.

https://dailygoodiebox.com/members/products

2. We give away Bonus Boxes daily on our social media pages. Be sure to visit and comment daily for a chance to win one!

https://www.facebook.com/DailyGoodieBox/

Good luck!

 

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