Saturday, August 5, 2017

Saving Money with Kids

Let’s be honest, kids are expensive. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s clothing, extra curricular activities, school supplies, food or diapers; there is always SOMETHING you have to buy for your kids. Sometimes these are things that are necessities, like clothing since they are always growing or just for fun, like tickets to see a show at the theatre, but either way the expenses exist and add up. I consider myself  a very savvy shopper, in fact my friends always know to come to me first to see how they can potentially save money, so I figured I’d share my top three tips I save money throughout the year (not just on kids but myself and my household, too) so that I can spend more money on the fun stuff, like professional photographers and vacations!

I do most of my shopping online, but a lot of these tips can be used in stores as well.

1)   If shopping online, I ALWAYS shop through Ebates, which has a browser for desktop computers and an app if using a mobile device. Just go to Ebates, first, and then search for the store you are shopping at, and it will tell you if you are eligible for a certain percentage cash back on your purchase. Some stores are as little as 1% and others are in the double digits. Once a quarter, Ebates, will send you your savings through paypal or a physical check. It’s super easy and free money for the shopping you’d be doing anyways.  Since I’ve been using Ebates,  , in the beginning of 2015, I’ve earned over $500! Some of my favorite stores that I shop at on there are Target, Kohls, Children’s Place and Raise (more on Raise next!). Ebates,  even offers cash back on Amazon, although the categories  that are eligible vary depending on the day.



2)   This next tip is helpful for in store shipping and online shopping. There is a website and app called Raise. Raise sells discounted gift cards for pretty much anywhere and everywhere. Before I go to a store, or even while in the store, I’ll pull up my Raise app, and put in the store and see what gift cards they have for sale. Almost always I can find a discounted gift card for the store I’m shopping at or restaurant I’m eating at and if they offer the e-giftcard, the delivery is almost instant and you can use on that trip to the store/restaurant or save for another day. They put the digital giftcards into a wallet on the app (or if home you can print out!) that you can use online or the stores can scan at checkout. Instant savings, and sometimes they are around 20% off! or more! And since it’s just another payment method instead of cash, debit or credit, you can still use coupons and rewards programs. Save even more by going to Ebates, (mentioned above) first and  then search for Raise and get an additional 1% back on the gift card purchase. I also buy discounted gift cards from Raise and then load into some of my apps such as Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts (usually have 15-20% off there!) to be used later and earn rewards against them through th various apps.  There are grocery stores, restaurants, retail and so many other options. Note: sometimes they only offer physical gift cards that are mailed for free to your house, so keep that in mind when trying to buy gift cards for same day use (the type of gift card is clearly noted on Raise).

3)   If you are disciplined enough with credit cards (I know a lot of people can’t do this), charge everything you buy with a credit card that earns some sort of rewards (airline, cash back,  hotels, etc), and then pay off the balance in full each month, and that’s free money you are earning that can used for free stuff. We literally charge anything an everything possible on our cards, and with that we earn enough points to go on a few free flights each year and stay in hotels for free on points. We personally use a SPG Amex to earn hotel points and Delta Amex to earn free flights, and then a Southwest Visa for the places that don’t accept Amex and then pay off all the balances in full each month so that we don’t have to pay any interest, so it’s truly free benefits. Note: We do use cards with annual fees because of the extra benefits offered, but there are plenty of credit cards out there that offer rewards without an annual fee. 

4)   And now for the best part, this is what I call the Triple Dip! Use that rewards credit card to buy the gift card from Raise which you buy through Ebates, and earn rewards, get dscount on the gift card and get cash back on Raise! Sometimes you are only earning pennies, but this seriously adds up to some serious cash through out the year, and it’s all FREE for the money you’d be spending anyways!

Hopefully these tips will help you save some money, my family definitely benefits from this. I know some of this seems time consuming, but I’ve been doing it for years now and eventually it becomes second nature, even got my husband into using these tips (he saved over $300 when he just bought his new golf clubs from Calloway plus earned us some credit card points!)

If you want to check out any of these sites, click on the links to the pages, and through my affiliate links you’ll get the following benefits: 
Raise:  $5 off after you make your first purchase (w/in 30 days of signing up)
Ebates: Get $10 back after you make your first purchase



Full disclosure: If you click on one of my affiliate links, I will get the same value as you in rewards. ($5 at Raise and $10 at Ebates)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Follow through Friday - 2 week update, not on Friday

Another almost 2 weeks have come and gone since my last update. It’s been a bad two weeks for me. First of all, the 1st week, we were on vacation for most of it and I had nowhere to run besides outside, and it was too hot and I was too exhausted (5 kids under 4 in our house, is exhausting, even if we were on “Vacation” LOL). We also ate A LOT of junk and drank a lot of beer, and since I wasn’t home on Friday, I wasn’t able to get my weight. I did get one walk in, one morning with the kids, but it was late in the morning and brutally HOT. I made zero good decisions in regards to food, besides some fresh fruit here and there. 

The following week, last week, I was in a funk. I think I was truly exhausted from vacation and has zero energy to do anything besides go to bed right after the kids went to bed during the week. Had I not paid for my personal training session on Thursday, there is a good chance I probably would have skipped that as well. Zero running, other than the 5k Race (Race # 2 of the Cool Summer Mornings 5k Series) I ran on the Saturday before vacation. It was SUPER hot out and I struggled during it, mostly because of the heat I think. I actually started getting the chills, which I think is a sign of heat exhaustion, so I slowed down and walked a little more and listened to my body. My official time wasn’t awful considering the circumstances, just hoping the August race is a little cooler.  

Luckily, I was able to get on the walk station quite a bit at work so that helped. I honestly didn’t finally feel good again (refreshed) until today, Monday, and now I’m ready to tackle this week, which I’ll save for my post next week. So this is short and sweet, and really only being posted to help keep me accountable and for me to look back on.

Friday, July 22nd, 2016 
Weight: 159.2

Exercise from Friday July 8th – 22nd:
Saturday 7/9 - 3.1 miles in 31:39 (10:13 pace) - 5k Race
Wednesday 7/13 - 1.15 mile walk on vacation
Thursday 7/21 - Personal Training Session at HitFit Gym

Walk Station – 7.28 miles (multiple days)

Total Weekly(x2) Running Miles: 3.1
Total July Running Miles: 14.14

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Follow Through Friday - a Travel Week

Well look at that, only 3 weeks in and already fell half a week behind on blogging. Better late than never I suppose.

I started off my 4 day weekend by going to the HitFit Gym on Friday for the circuit training and then ran a Virtual 5k (#OrlandoUnited5k) on Saturday with a friend from MRTT. We actually ended up going more than a 5k since we got caught up chatting and forgot to turn around at the half way point. We ran into some other MRTT ladies who were coming back from a much longer run and they asked us how far we were going and we told them and they were like um, well then shouldn’t you have turned around by now and that’s when we realized we went too far. We ended up running back with them so it was nice to have additional company. 


I ended up needing to go to Chicago (well the suburbs) for work that week and took advantage of the nicer weather while there. I got in two nice runs on two different trails. I loved how there were so many to choose from. On Wednesday, I ran a 5k on the Busse Forest Elk Bicycle Trail, which was a really nice trail in Arlington Heights. I loved how shaded it was, made it feel 10 degrees cooler than it was. The humidity was also much less than it is in Florida which makes a dramatic difference. 


The next day I found a trail that went in a nice loop around a the Skokie Lagoon. I always prefer to run in a circle vs. out and back so this one intrigued me. I was a little disappointed with this trail though as the first 1.5 miles were next to a very noisy highway and then I assumed you'd be running next to the water since the trail went around the lagoon but it was pretty overgrown and you could only see the water in a few spots. I mean it was still nice and shaded, I just was envisioning something else. It also had quite a few "hills" that I wasn't expecting since the trail on Tuesday was pretty flat. I ended up walking a lot more than I normally do because of the hills and I was super thirsty (probably because I didn't drink enough water earlier in the day and it was pretty hot out). Over all though my exercise was great this week. And since I didn't get in my Walkstation walks this week since I was out of the office I did get in a nice walk one morning on the treadmill at the hotel. 


I wasn't great with my eating this week though, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a drop in weight on Saturday morning. (I got home Friday afternoon so waited until Saturday to weigh in). I indulged in both the 3rd and 4th as we celebrated the 4th of July holiday and then ate out every meal the rest of the week since I was on the road and even got ice cream one night.

G was up in Chicago for work as well so we were able to meet up for dinner and went out to two nice dinners together (one to celebrate his birthday which also included some drinks).

And I had unfortunately to drop out of the StepBet I was so excited about last week because my Fitbit decided to die. Everyone says they usually only last about a year before they die (you know, right after their warranty runs out) and I've had mine almost 2 years so I knew it was coming. Luckily,they issued me a refund since the game was still in the practice week so I didn't lose my money at least. I'm pretty bummed about it though because I thought the challenge was going to be hard and well, challenging! And now I have to spend money replacing my Fitbit, so that sucks. I think I'm going to switch to Garmin since they tend to be more reliable.

This week we are heading to Destin from Tuesday through Sunday for our annual cousins trip / vacation which means lots of eating and drinking. I also won't have access to a treadmill and it's supposed to be super hot so getting any runs in will be tough but I did bring my running gear in hopes that I manage to log a few miles. We'll see how that goes! 

 

 

Saturday, July 9th, 2016 

Weight: 157.6

 

Exercise:

Friday – HitFit Gym Circuit

Saturday - 3.44 miles in 37:10 (10:48 pace)

Wednesday - 3.10 miles in 32:55 (10:37 pace)

Thursday - 4.50 miles in 50:13 (11:10 pace)

 

Walk Station – none

Regular Walk on Treadmill – 2.5 miles  

 

Total Weekly Running Miles: 11.04

Total July Running Miles: 11.04

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Follow Through Friday - Week 2

Week 2 of being back! Yey! Last weekend, I went away for a nice relaxing girls weekend with some friends to Singer Island, Florida. We didn’t do much besides drink and eat and hang by pool/beach and it was perfect. I didn’t go too overboard with the drinking or the eating and was happy to see only a .4 lb. gain when I checked on Monday. I had intentions of running at least once over the weekend, but that ended up not happening but I did swim a little and walked enough to hit 15k steps Friday (despite working half a day and driving 3 hours), 10k steps Saturday and just under 9k Sunday (again with 3 hours of driving), so that’s pretty good considering we only left resort once. After getting home late Sunday afternoon, I was tempted to just relax with G and the girls but I decided to meal prep for the week too so that has helped me be good all week at work and at night for dinner. I did have some treats on Wednesday after I gave blood since they encouraged sugar intake, I definitely probably went a little over board (2 cookies and a Danish) and had to cancel my personal training session for that evening since it’s not recommended to work out right after giving blood. On Thursday, I wasn't very good either though despite running in the morning. We had a birthday at work with some treats which I indulged in and then a going away happy hour for our boss that evening in which I had a few craft beers which wouldn't have been so bad if I didn't come home and eat tater tots and wings for dinner. So it shouldn't be a surprise to me that I didn't lose this week, but I didn't really gain either so I guess that's not as bad as it could have been.

 

Exercise wasn’t that great for me either. I was able to get on the walk station a lot at work too which always makes me happy. I got a relatively slow treadmill run in on Tuesday and then an even slower morning run on Thursday. Thursday’s run sucked. I don’t know if it was the 90% humidity (only 75 degrees at 6am), the fact I gave blood the day before, or that I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, but my body just couldn’t handle it. My legs felt great, but the rest of me kept telling me to stop, so I just did a 2.5 loop around the neighborhood and came home.  I also found a new type of challenge would just help me get back into my running though, its call the StepBet (same company that hosts those DietBets I’m obsessed with). It’s somewhat similar to Diet Bet in the sense that as long as YOU hit YOUR goal, then you split the pot with everyone else who hit their goals as well. So, you wager money (looks like all the challenges are the same with a $40 buy in) that you’ll hit certain step goals each week, for 6 weeks (well really 5 weeks since the 1st week is practice). The goals are calculated by StepBet (I’m guessing based on your Fitbit – or other tracking device - history) and can’t be changed and you have to hit your active goal 4 times per week and your stretch goal 2 times per week and then have one “free” day without any set goal. I was actually surprised to see how high my goals were (especially since this past month I’ve been slacking on my running which contributes to a lot of steps in my history), which is good since it’s will actually be a REAL challenge to reach them each week. My Active Goal (4x/week) is 13,664 steps and my Stretch Goal (2x/week) is 17,538, which if I hit all of those and did NOTHING on my “free day” (which obviously I’d do more than nothing) I’d have to hit 89,732 and lately my weekly average has been closer to 80-85k steps so this will be challenging.

 

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Weight: 159.2

 

Exercise:

Tuesday – 4.02 miles in 45:00 (11:12 pace)

Thursday – 2.56 miles in 31:01 (12:06 pace)

 

Walk Station – 8.93 miles (multiple days)

 

 

Total Weekly Running Miles: 6.58

Total June Running Miles: 22.93

Friday, June 24, 2016

Follow Through Friday: I'm Back!


I’m back! I wish I could say I was coming back with the news that I’ve hit all my fitness and weight loss goals, but the truth is, I haven’t and I’m hoping by documenting my journey again, I can get back to where I was and continue down the path I was on last year.

 

When I left off last year, it was October and I had gotten my weight down to 149.6 (actually had gotten it down to 148 in September). I was feeling pretty good about myself, although not where I wanted to be, but had been making some steady downward progress. I was running consistently, getting faster. I knew I had a big trip coming up and that, with a 3 week vacation, there was sure to be some gains. And there was. Despite running 7 times on my 3 week vacation (which I so wish I recapped because I ran in some awesome places across the Atlantic!), I still managed to gain. I had weighed 151 on my 10/24/15, the day we left, and 160 on the day we got back 11/15/16. So 9 lbs. I thought for sure the 1st 5 lbs would melt off as soon as I got back to my routine. Well it didn’t exactly melt off, but I did lose some and then it came back, and for the last 7 or so months the lowest I got back to was around 153 but up to as high as 165 again, but mostly have been staying around 158-160. Through Winter and Spring, I was doing awesome with my running, I even placed a few times in races, set many PRs and was feeling good about that, but was making no real progress on my weight. My clothes were still snug, the few new things I had bought when I hit the 140’s weren’t fitting and I HATED the way I looked in pictures (still do). I know it’s not all about the number on the scale, but the number on the scale DOES correlate to fitting in smaller clothes and looking leaner and I was neither. I’d been pretty consistent about eating pretty well during the week, but was splurging WAY too much on the weekends. We (or just I on some of them, bridal party/wedding related stuff) also snuck in quite a few weekend trips (Vegas, California, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami) and work trips since we’ve been back from our vacation last fall, and I definitely went into vacation mode with my eating on all of those. When you travel that frequently, you can’t do that. Add in the holidays and just pretty much a super busy weekend life, any progress I would make during the week, would be countered by a weekend of “fun” eating. I can tell you now, with how I feel, mentally, it wasn’t worth it. 

 

After looking at everything going on in my life, I decided maybe this blog was what was helping me stay accountable. It is the only thing that I stopped doing that I was consistently doing last year. I did post some race recaps, but even those subsided, despite running a ton of races this year. I have been keeping my Race Log updated though, I like to be able to look back at previous races and see my times. Maybe I'll recap the ones going forward.

 So what’s new in 2016? I signed up for a 2,016 in 2016 challenge, which there is no way I could do that alone if I was ONLY counting my running since I only logged ~500 miles last year (per RunKeeper) – I think that number is a little low though, as I’m not sure I put all my non-RunKeeper runs into RunKeeper last year, but maybe I did? Anyways, with that said, I joined the 2016 challenge with two friends from MRTT, which means I only need to run 672 miles for the year which is approximately 56 miles per month. I gave myself a stretch goal of 700 miles for the year/~58 miles per month. Through May, I was looking good, with a 5 month total of 308.44 mile ran vs. goal of 290. June on the other hand has been an awful running month, with no races longer than a 5k planned for months, I haven’t been doing any long runs (or really any runs period) on the weekends. So for the most part, really only logging around 6-7 miles per week and have only logged 16.3 miles so far and it’s already the 24th. Going to start meeting up with my MRTT ladies on weekends again as that certainly helps keep me accountable. I know I’ll have some higher mileage months in the fall when my half training starts up as well, so I’m pretty confident I’ll hit my 700 mile goal for the year (Plus my one team member is killing it and pretty much has me and other team member doubled on her individual miles so as a team we will hit the goal without a problem, but I still want to hit my individual goal). I’m also keeping track of all my FitBit miles as well, just whatever my FitBit miles say at end of each day, which accounts for any running/walking and normal daily activity and am trying to hit 2016 miles with that on my own. I know I lose some steps when it’s charging/dead/forgot to put back on, but for the most part it’s a pretty good measure. Through May, I was up to 583.73 of 840 I should be at, so need to keep my daily miles a little higher going forward if I expect to hit my 2016 goal.

 

I also joined a gym a few weeks ago. I know I can do the majority of strength exercises at home, but the reality of it is, I’m not doing them, and paying for the monthly gym membership is holding me accountable. Due to G’s travel, I can only realistically go one day a week (weekdays that is, they are closed Sunday and on Saturdays we always have things going on/I do my long runs) since my in-laws pick the girls up from school one day a week for me. Which worked out perfectly because they have a 4x/month package. And if I do end up being able to go more than that for whatever reason, its only $6 per session which would still be cheaper than their unlimited package. This gym isn’t like any other gym I had been to, it’s somewhat similar to Orange Theory Fitness, but there isn’t one of those close to my house and it’s double the cost for their 4x/month package. It’s called the Hit Fit Gym and it focuses on High Intensity, Interval Training. They have a circuit set up with 10 zones. Each zone has a video playing on repeat showing you how do the exercise plus there is always personal trainer on the floor during the core hours (5:30-9am and 4-8pm, I think) or at least at the front desk during the non-core hours to help you as well. During the core hours, they PT on the floor also encourages you to do extra exercises on your breaks. You do each zone for 30 seconds hard, 15 second break x 4 rounds and then there is a 45 second transition to the next zone. The whole circuit takes about 35 minutes and is a full body workout. They have a continuous timer going so you can show up at any time and the longest you would have to wait to begin is about 3 minutes for the next round to start. I’m sure there are busier times where you may have to wait to start because someone else is there on the first zone, but it hasn’t happened to me yet but either way its still better than trying to get to a gym at a specific time for a class. They also just opened a second location which is double the size so I’m sure that will help too if this location was getting overcrowded.  They also change up the circuit every few days so you don’t get bored. I absolutely love it. They also had an introductory offer for personal training, which I took advantage of and have been meeting with a trainer for the past 2 weeks. Unfortunately, since I can really only make it there once a week, I haven’t been able to do the circuit AND the PT each week. I did manage to do both last week when I went on my off Friday but that’s not the norm, although G is working from home all next week so maybe I’ll have the opportunity to do both next week. I don’t see results yet, but am really enjoying it and hoping to see results soon. Have to get my eating back on par though if I expect that to happen. I'm also still running 2-3 times a week in addition to going to the gym since I can do that at home while G travels, after I put girls to bed.

 

With that said, I’m back to blogging, hopefully weekly with a follow through Friday update and hopefully this is the motivation I need to get to where I want to be. So I guess this is my NEW Starting Point and my weeks will go Friday through Thursday with my weight being Friday morning.


Friday, June 24th, 2016

Weight:

159.0

 

Exercise:

Friday – Hit Fit Circuit

Monday – 3.00 miles in 30:59 (10:20 pace)

Wednesday – Hit Fit Personal Training Session

Walk Station – 4.96 miles (multiple days)

 

Total Weekly Running Miles: 3.00

Total June Running Miles: 16.3