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Camp Mommy 2014 – Summer Fun Bingo

summer bigLast year was our first year of Camp Mommy, where I wasn’t working and the kids were therefore home with me. This year we are doing it again, but since we did so much last summer, I was feeling a bit unexcited to go to the same places, So to freshen things up, I have created a new version of my Camp Mommy Summer Bucket List.

To see last year’s version, where we drew slips of paper from different cups each day, see my post “Summer Bucket List (aka Camp Mommy).”

This year I created a Bingo board with many choices! There are so many places to go that we definitely won’t cover the whole board! Again it includes places at a variety of price points and time commitments. I try to do as many free or inexpensive choices most days. I thought it would be fun for my boys to close their eyes and each day one boy points to a bingo square to decide what we do for that day. We normally go somewhere 3-4 days a week (the park and the library are often several days a week and are great for afternoons). I try to leave Fridays for work around the house and getting ready for Shabbos.

I also made a new schedule for the day. I found a great resource to make a schedule to display on the refrigerator. I plan to mount it on cardstock and laminate it so I can use it from year to year. If you want to get your own, check out the post “Printable Summer Schedule.”

Summer-Schedule-Printables-print-out-and-put-on-refrigerator-to-help-organize-your-summer-days--500x708Here is our schedule for the day (which of course varies if we have specific plans):

7 – 8 a.m. – Play, breakfast
8 – 9 a,m, – Outside play
9 – 9:15 a.m. – Clean up
9:15 – 10:15 a.m. – Television time
10:15 – 10:30 a.m. – Snack, get ready to leave
Outing or if home – art, games, activities, schoolwork
Lunch
Books
1 – 3 p.m. – Nap for youngest three, computer time for oldest
3 – 3:30 p.m. – Outside play
3:30 – 4 p.m. – Make fun snack or do an art project
4 – 4:30 p.m. – Schoolwork to review for upcoming year
4:30 – 5 p.m. – Rotation of computer time between younger three boys
5 – 6 p.m. – Television time while we get dinner ready

* The times after lunch may vary some based on what time we get home from our outing and if we plan to go somewhere in the afternoon.

The Bingo board is available in two versions:

Summer Bingo 2014

Summer Bingo 2014 StL version

I left a bit of space on each square so you can put stickers on each as you complete an activity. If you see any mistakes, let me know! I did not include prices this year since things change so quickly!

What are you doing with your time this summer? Please leave a comment or feedback below!

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Family ideas, Forms for everything

 

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Need last-minute shaloch manos ideas?

I am a bit behind this year with blogging and Purim preparations with juggling my family, teaching, freelance writing, and household tasks. I am sure many of you can relate. Some years I start early and don’t have to wait until the last minute to do everything. At least I still have a week to go!

In case you are behind and want some ideas, I have a few tips for shaloch manos from those we received and made last year. Take a look!

Shaloch manos:

Last year, we made shaloch manos inspired by a teacher appreciation gift I saw somewhere.  I found the instructions by Googling “teacher appreciation water bottle gift.” I unfortunately cannot find the site I used, but if you look on Pinterest there are many similar ideas. They each vary in complexity and difficulty. I chose an easy idea that did not use brads or lots of different layers of paper. It was cute, but the holders did keep sliding off during delivery (even though they were tied on).

I used a variety of scrapbook papers, scrapbooking stickers, small labels (for the message), and my tape runner (to adhere the pocket). We inserted a Crystal Light drink mix packet and attached a granola bar to the back. A bow and tape secured it all together.

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Some other FAVORITE SHALOCH MANOS we received last year are shown below:

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Movie theme – popcorn box, chocolate bar, microwave popcorn, Coca Cola, and hamantashen. (Great idea Larry & Lori!)

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Pizza theme – a whole meal in a pizza box: hamantashen pizzas, peppers, Bissli, chocolate bar, chocolate drink and a few other goodies. (Thank you Michelle and Ephraim!)

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Red, White and Blue theme – Red licorice, white Airheads, Oreos (blue package), and hamantashen. (Thanks Wende and Don!)

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Berry theme – all foods with a berry flavor! (Thanks Shari and Rabbi!)

FAVORITE CONTAINERS:

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Nautical theme – this family always chooses a container and costume themes to match. They include a photo of the family on their shaloch manos container or label. They are amazing! (Thanks Bella and Yosef!)

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Decorative box – I loved this box so much that I use it in my classroom for treats! (Thanks Tammy and Mark!)

For more inspiration, check out my friend Mara’s (from Kosher on a Budget) awesome Shaloch Manos ideas:

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St. Louis Jewish Orthodox Community – Purim Megillah Readings 2014

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It is time for my annual post sharing the Orthodox Megillah readings here in St. Louis. (I apologize to my non-St. Louis readers that this post will not apply to you. However, you may skip down to the bottom for other Purim-related posts.) This is particularly helpful for moms with young children who are not old enough to stay up (or be quiet) during Megillah readings. It is also helpful for those having to work around their “work” schedules.

Here is my current list as of 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 7. If you see any errors or have any additions, let me know and I will update the post.

Saturday, March 15:

8:00 p.m.        Beit Shira, at The Cedars, 13190 S. Outer 40, Town and Country, MO 63017

8:15 p.m.        Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha
xx                  Agudas Israel
xx                  U City Shul (formerly Beth Hamedrosh Hagadol Sha’arei Chesed)
xx                  Bais Abraham
xx                  Young Israel
xx                  Congregation Bais Menachem

8:30 p.m.        Nusach Hari B’nai Zion

9:45 p.m.        Torah Prep Boys School, reading for women

10:00 p.m.      Young Israel, Beit Medrash

Sunday, March 16:

6:30 a.m.        Young Israel Shacharis in Beit Medrash, followed by Megillah, 7:10 a.m.

7:45 a.m.        Agudas Israel Shacharis followed by Megillah

8:00 a.m.        U City Shul Shacharis followed by Megillah
xx                  Bais Abraham Shacharis followed by Megillah, 8:30 a.m.
xx                  Young Israel, followed by Megillah, 8:35 a.m.
xx                  Nusach Hari B’nai Zion, followed by Megillah, 8:30 a.m.

8:30 a.m.        Congregation Bais Menachem Shacharis, followed by Megillah, 9:00 a.m.
xx                  Beit Shira with the Block Yeshiva boys, at The Cedars, 13190 S. Outer 40, Town and Country

8:40 a.m.        Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha

9:30 a.m.       Women’s Megillah Reading, home of the Goldmeiers, 219 Topton Way, Clayton

10:15 a.m.     Agudas Israel, reading for women
xx                 Aish HaTorah, Purim celebration including an “original” megillah reading
xx                    brunch afterwards (cost $8 adult, $5 child (ages 5 – 11), free pony rides for kids 11:30 – 12:30

11:00 a.m.      Young Israel, by Levy Zimand for his bar mitzvah

11:30 a.m.      Epstein Hebrew Academy

5:00 p.m.       Congregation Bais Menachem

Related fliers:

Agudas Israel: Agudah.Purim.Schedule.2014

Bais Abraham: Bais Abe Purim flyer 2014

* For more information on any of the shuls, please contact them individually. Here is a link to all of the congregations here in St. Louis.

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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Family ideas, Holidays

 

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Post-Christmas shopping success!

I love after-holiday sales, even for holidays I don’t celebrate. I have gotten good at finding great deals after Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.! The key is to not think about whether you celebrate that holiday or not, but to think about things that might be on sale that you could use. There are many seasonal products that anyone can use regardless of religious or holiday observances. For example, read here to find out what you can get at Easter time: Shop those Easter sales today!

Here is my wrap-up from the post-Christmas sales I hit yesterday.

My regular post-holiday trips are to Target, Michaels, CVS and Walgreens. I also look for any deals at Aldi and Schnucks on any seasonal food items, but those are normally my husband’s errands. This year the Michaels’ holiday items were already on sale when I was there Christmas Eve. I like to look for holiday craft kits that I can hang onto for the following year for my students. Here is what I got this year:

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At Michaels I found:

  • foam stickers of several types
  • an ornament craft kit for the kids’ photos (I used a wreath one this year and the kids loved it.)
  • some foam gingerbread men
  • some pencil-top holiday erasers I will give with my holiday gifts to my students next year.

Walgreens did not have anything I needed this year, but in the past I have gotten holiday cards, decorated holiday cups for my students, chocolate, stickers, and a cake decorating kit. See my post from last year: After-Christmas sales are great for everyone!

This year, CVS also did not have anything I wanted, although I could have gotten some chocolate, but passed this time! We did, however, find something my son had been wanting on his holiday wish list. He even had some holiday money to spend. He got a radio-controlled car for $6.50 (half off $12.99). They had lots of them and we even went back today to get one for the gift drawer!

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We were tremendously successful at Target. I guess I can add it to my list of Why I love Target! I found items not only in the Christmas section, but in the Home section and household aisles. Food items were 30% off and Home items were 50% off. Here is what we found:

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The food section is always full of holiday deals: (they were only 30% off now, but still a great deal)

  • holiday flavors of m&m’s (peppermint white chocolate and mint dark chocolate, two of my favorites),
  • icing (Who cares if my Shabbos dessert has peppermint icing or tree sprinkles?)
  • mint chocolate chip cookie mix
  • seasonal soft cookies (For $1.74 this makes a nice little treat for my boys.)
  • small packaged seasonal cookies (A treat is a treat no matter what shape; we can eat reindeer, too.)

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We found the following in the Home section and Stocking Stuffer aisle:

  • a Deluxe Board Game set (regularly $20, got for $10; includes 7 games)
  • a surround-sound speaker (regularly $10, got for $5; great for our iPods)
  • two bath puffs (We always need to replace these and these may hold up a bit better than the dollar store ones. For items you should get at the dollar store, see my post Are “dollar stores” really a good deal?)

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As for holiday items you might think are only for Christmas, I found:

  • an outdoor extension cord (We needed one for lawn care and Sukkos.)
  • mini lights (great for the Sukkah)
  • a winter scene craft kit (Last year I found a Superhero scene craft kit during their summer sales and my boys loved it. It made for a great family activity one night.)

This is also the time to look for light and plug timers and any type of extension cords for around the house (good for a variety of purposes). They were all 50% off!

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They also had tons of these seasonally-labeled storage bins, expecting that people will need them to store their holiday decorations and supplies. We use them for kids’ clothing and other supplies in our basement. At $6, this normally $7.99 tub was a great deal. I did not get the green and red ones, though!

I was very pleased with all my purchases and may go back next week to see if any other items are marked down even further!

Share your holiday finds in the Comments section. This will help other people think of great ideas for what to do with holiday items!

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Follow up on ditching cable – we love our Roku!

Roku

Several months ago I wrote about our ever-ending quest to find larger items to save money on. We finally “bit the bullet” and got rid of our cable. Even after reading about others who had done it, I thought we could never live without it. It was our one splurge – not eating out much, not spending much on clothing, makeup, recreation, etc. As my friend Mara (of Kosher on a Budget) calls it – there are no sacred cows. So we did it – but after some careful research! Here is my original post: Save big on your phone and cable!

The hookup of our Roku device was very easy – however, we first bought the wrong one. We didn’t realize that our TV would not work with the hookup of the newest Roku model. It said it worked with most HD TVs, so we just assumed it would be fine with ours. Wrong! Be sure to check what kind of hookup your TV requires and be sure that model of Roku has that connection! And be aware that the Roku devices do not always come with the cable you may need. Read reviews for this, too, so you know all the parts you may need to get.

So we returned the newer one and got the previous model (which did save us $50, by the way) and thanks to Amazon Prime, it came in just two days. The hookup was then quite fast and we were able to watch in a few minutes.

The hard part was figuring out the multitude of channels. I still do not know what they all are for and many have charges that are not specifically stated on those first home screens. We have stuck with using HuluPlus ($7.99/month), Netflix ($7.99/month), and Amazon Prime ($79/year or $39 if you are a student). My boys also like PBS Kids, which is free.

Here were my original worries about giving up our AT & T:

  • we wouldn’t be able to keep track of our favorite shows and when new episodes were available
  • we would get behind on our favorite shows
  • our favorite shows would not be available

So far 2 out of 3 of our worries were unfounded. HuluPlus lets you add shows to your Favorites list and then new episodes appear on your Queue as they are available. You can also manually select any episodes or shows to your Queue. The font size is a bit hard to read on HuluPlus on our smallish TV, but no biggie!

The last, that some of our favorite shows would not be available, was true. Neither HuluPlus, Netflix or Amazon Prime seem to have current episodes of Disney, ABC Family, Lifetime, USA or CBS shows – without an added fee. You can often buy one episode of a show for $1.99, but I am not about to pay that for one show!

So for now, we are watching older seasons on Netflix when we can find them (Disney, some ABC Family, and CBS are available). And we are waiting and hoping all of the above mentioned stations will work out some deal with these streaming providers soon! The other option is to watch them online, but that is not as convenient for us with my laptop which often overheats. A friend has mentioned hooking up our laptop to the TV screen, but that is for another day!

The boys love it and really have so much to watch. They are loving catching up on older episodes of their favorite shows, finding every superhero show imaginable, and the watching the PBS Kids channel, which has a large selection of great shows (Arthur, Magic School Bus, Wild Kratts, Dinosaur Train, Word Girl, and more).

Have you made the switch? Share your feedback below in the Comments section!

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Making the most of the whole bird

Thanks for your patience with my lack of posts for the last few months. With being back to full-time teaching, I don’t seem to have time to blog much. But, I am not complaining with the economy the way it is and with teaching jobs so hard to get!

Recently my husband has found a new way to save us more money and time. He has been using our freezer to make our cooking very efficient and allow us to have meals we couldn’t afford otherwise (like boneless breast recipes).

Let’s start with chicken.

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When we get chicken for Shabbos, we do not always eat the whole thing and some parts get wasted (or eaten as a not-so-healthy snack for my husband). So instead, my husband has been using all the parts of the chicken very creatively. From two chickens, he puts aside:

  • one chicken breast for a meal later,
  • the wings for a meal later,
  • the necks, back of the breast, and wing tips are saved for making soup stock and then used for soup meat,
  • and one thigh for a meal later.
  • If we are having a roasted chicken, he saves the carcass for making soups, too.

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After several weeks or months, he has enough of each part to make:

  • a boneless chicken dish (from the breasts),
  • teriyaki or barbecue chicken wings (from the wings) – pictured above,
  • chicken soup stock and chicken soup (from the necks, backs, and wing tips),
  • and smoked chicken for seasoning or chicken pieces for a stir fry (from the thighs).

Cheese:

We buy large packs of shredded cheese from Costco. The pack contains more cheese than a single meal uses. So he packages the cheese into smaller servings as soon as we get home. These get frozen in freezer bags to use later as needed. For more ways to cut down on meal costs read Stretching your dinner dime… dollar.”

Refried beans:

My husband has created the best refried beans recipe. He makes a huge batch in our largest soup pot and packages it up in large Gladware containers. (We used to be able to use the soup and salad size, but our family eats more now!) One container or two small ones makes for a great meal of burritos. They are also good to pull out when we cook for a friend with a new baby or for another occasion.

Milk:

Sometimes we stock up on milk if it is a particularly good deal or we have been given milk that is close to expiring. If we freeze it and then thaw it later, we can get a few more days out of it than if we had used it right away. For more tips on how long various foods will last, check out my post “Shelf life of your food.”

Bread:

We recently found an Entenmann’s outlet that sells Arnold and Thomas bread products as well as Entenmann’s baked goods. They have store coupon as well as a punch card. We can spend $10 and leave with 5-7 items! We keep a few out and save the rest for later. Between this and our bread maker, we our saving a ton of money on bread. This has been a big help with all four of our boys in elementary school this year!

Challah:

We always make several challahs at once. What we don’t need for that Shabbos gets frozen for later Shabbosim. To see why making your own challah is worth it moneywise, read “Making your own challah.” We have also tried canning. Read more at First canning experiment: apple butter.”

Kugels and desserts:

This is not always possible, but we try to double kugel and dessert recipes when preparing for Shabbos so we have one to freeze for later. This depends on what ingredients we have available.

How do you use your freezer to its potential? Share your tips below!

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Making lunches – a matrix of choices!

healthy gluten-free school lunch

Many of your children have probably started back to school already. Mine do not start until next Wednesday. However, with this being the first year my little boys have gone to camp, we have been making lunches for the past four weeks. (Or should I say my husband has.) It has gotten me to thinking about how to make this chore easier and to provide the most variety for my children. My husband and I typically take leftovers to work, because we can heat things up or don’t mind eating something cold if we have to. The boys on the other hand…

I used to have a list on the refrigerator of lunch choices, but it has gotten a bit out of date. So I created a new one. It mostly includes dairy options because with keeping kosher meat is expensive. There are also only certain days the kids can bring meat to their Jewish day school.

Below is my matrix of lunch choices (in green). It will be a great tool for adding to our grocery list each week. Then each day when we pack lunches, we will choose one item from each column. This way our kids will get a variety of foods and it will make sure that all of one type of food doesn’t get eaten up in a week! (I just bought a lot of Chex Mix on sale last week at Walgreens and if I let them, my kids would have it every day!) Feel free to edit this document for your needs and your kids’ tastes.

Lunch choices 2013

Other tips for saving money on packing lunches:

∞ Use up your leftovers when you can. This may not work as well for the kids, but the grownups can eat them!

ziploc divided container∞ Use as little packaging as possible. We use reusable water bottles, lunch bags, and as many containers as we can instead of bags. I just bought these Ziploc divided containers for my kids’ lunches and today was their first day using them. I figured it would be a great way for them to know what was their lunch food and what should be saved for snacks. We also use cloth snack bags for some items when we can. For more details, see my post Switch over your disposables.”

∞ Buy cheap water bottles. I have learned from camp that my kids lose water bottles constantly. It does not pay to buy nice ones because I cannot count on them coming back! So the dollar Spot at Target and the dollar store are my favorite places to buy water bottles. See my posts on Why I love Target! and Are ‘dollar stores’ really a good deal?

∞ Stock up on nonperishable lunch items. When you spot something on sale (and even better have a coupon, too) get a few! I got granola bars on sale at Target yesterday and had a manufacturer’s coupon and a Target coupon. This is the best way to stock up – having all three conditions! I also buy in bulk when I can through Costco and Whole Foods. See my post on “Bulk discounts.”

∞ Make as much homemade as you can. We recently got a breadmaker and my husband is enjoying figuring out the best recipes to use. It smells so good when he has a batch ready to go in the morning, With all four boys in elementary school this year, we could easily go through a loaf of bread in a day! Our next project is to experiment with some homemade snacks. See Little House Living and my posts on (More) Make your own… and Don’t buy it, make it homemade – Part 3 for recipes.

∞ Look for outlet stores. We recently found a local outlet bread store (thanks, Lori!) that saves us a ton on bread, bagels, and sandwich thins. They even have store coupons!

∞ Use your price list. Make sure you are buying things at the best price you can get. Just because something is in a larger size of is on sale, doesn’t always mean it is the best deal! To learn more, check out my post “Keeping a price list.”

∞ Check out the sales at the end of this month. Pretty soon all the back-to-school items will go on sale, which means lunch bags, containers, and the like on sale for cheap prices (check out Target, Wal-Mart, drug stores, etc. for these deals). Last summer we got the boys their current lunch bags for $3 each! I love them because they have a zipper at the top and a space for their name on the back. I also got backpacks from Lands’ End at a very deep discount last summer! Be sure to stock up on those swimsuits and rash guards while you are at it, too!

Do you have any tips for packing lunches that you would like to share? Please add them in the Comments section! Thanks Rivka H. and Jessi L, for your ideas I incorporated into the matrix.

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The best $10 a month I spend – Dropbox!

A few years ago, right around report card time, my laptop got one of those horrible trojan worm viruses. It hid all of my files and I couldn’t access anything even though I could see the files were somewhat still there. It took me hours to do research and figure out how to bring them back. Shout out to Bleeping Computer for helping me solve this awful problem!

But back to my story… After this I went out and bought an external hard drive, for fear of losing my files again. I had eight years of digital photos and all of my teaching and personal files on that computer! The hard drive worked great, right up until a month or two after the warranty and then for some reason it stopped turning! We took it to Best Buy and they said it could not be fixed for any reasonable amount of money. It would be a couple thousand dollars to recover the data! That’s was the last straw! I also had lost about a 100 ebooks from Scholastic (that luckily they reloaded for me on their website, but now I have to take the time again to download them!). I would not be relying on an external hard drive or any device again!

Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...

I had heard of Dropbox, but had never tried it. I decided it was worth looking into. With Dropbox, a cloud storage solution, you can get up to 2 GB of space for free. You can then earn more free space by referring others and sharing Dropbox via social networking sites and completing other activities. However, even with that extra space, it was not enough to store all of our files and photos.

So for $9.99 a month, I get 100 GB, which is more than enough. However, there are higher plans that can accommodate 200 and 500 GB. They also have business plans for multiple users.

Why should you try it?

  • Gives you the peace of mind that all of your files are protected and backed up.
  • You have the ability to share files and folders with others. This has been great for accessing my husband’s files. He doesn’t need to keep sending me certain files I need when he updates them; I just click on the link on the first email he sent me with that file.
  • It is easy to set up.
  • It works without you doing much. You just put everything you want to be backed up in your “Dropbox” folder on your computer. It backs up files any time you create new ones, make changes, delete files, etc.
  • You don’t have to remember to back up your computer on a certain schedule. It does it every time your computer is on.

Definitely worth that $9.99 a month! Give it a try and let me know what you think! FYI – I am using a PC; I hear from friends with Macs that backing up your information is done differently.

Note: I am not working for Dropbox and receive no benefits from posting this information!

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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Other savings tips, Reviews

 

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Save big on your phone and cable!

Money

During my quest to save money, it has been much easier to find small ways to save. And those small ways can add up over the course of a year. Finding those big-ticket items can be more problematic. However, in the last two days I have found two new things that will together save us more than $1600 a year!

Phone service:

The first came from my friend, Mara, who writes the blog “Kosher on a Budget,” which I often refer to and link to. She did a post on an internet-based phone service. The Ooma system hooks up through your internet connection and you pay as little as $120 for the unit (yesterday’s price on Amazon). Then you pay less than $4 per month for fees (this may vary based on your area). Our current phone bill is up to $64 a month!

THE BOTTOM LINE:

ooma deviceFor one year that means we will pay $120 + $48 = $168 for Ooma. The unit would be paid off after three months compared to what we paid before.

In contrast, a year of AT & T is $64 x 12 = $768!

That is a savings of $600! Now, I do have to add one more expense to this. I bought the Ooma wireless adapter to make sure the unit would work with my wireless internet, because I wasn’t sure we had all the parts to do it using cords. That was an additional $40. However, even adding that in we save $560 the first year! After that we save $720 a year! That is quite a savings. I can’t wait to get the unit and try it out (and tell AT & T goodbye!).

I have heard of other internet-based options out there, but none as cheap as this. The Straight Talk unit from Wal-Mart costs $100 for the unit and $15 a month for service, which adds up to $280 a year.

Cable:

After the excitement of yesterday’s find, I started looking into other ways we might cut some of our biggest expenses, one of which is cable. We got suckered into getting AT & T U-verse a few years back when they first came to our neighborhood. They offered to upgrade our internet service to fiber-optic cabling and we could try out U-verse for a month for free. The cost for the Internet was not much higher than what we were paying them for DSL and I was glad to have a faster connection.

Then I got hooked on the DVR. We had previously used our VCR or DVD player to tape our favorite shows to watch after the kids went to bed. However, there were many times we would forget to program something, the time would change, or the tape or disc was full. The DVR offered a way to not have to deal with all of that. Plus, we were enjoying getting to watch the Disney Channel and a few other cable networks.

Our financial situation has changed for the worse again and this seems like a luxury that we should adjust. I also hate that I am paying so much to the cable company when we really only watch a few channels. So I think we are going to make the leap one of the new streaming device offerings.

Roku unitI did some research today and there seems to be a lot of evidence out there that the Roku device is best. It hooks up to your TV via the internet and allows you to watch tons of free programming and have access to a variety of streaming channels, the most popular being Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video. Through some research I have found that Netflix offers many Disney shows and Hulu Plus allows you to be fairly current with the regular timely offerings on TV.

I am no expert on any of this and have been reading many articles on the different channels, their programming, and the pros and cons. But for me, the bottom line is that I can still watch my favorite shows and my kids can still see the Disney Channel. We will be able to use our Netflix account or Amazon Prime right on the TV (currently my husband used Netflix on his iPod and our Amazon Prime was mainly for the free two-day shipping).

The unit costs about $100 across the board at various retailers. However, Amazon has it right now for $99. I had thought Target might be a good place to get it with my 5% Red Card discount, but the tax eats that discount up and you end up paying more than $100. Netflix and Hulu Plus are about $7.99 each per month.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Even if we add Netflix and Hulu Plus on top of the cost of the unit, our yearly cost for this first year using Roku will be $100 + $192 = $292.

Our U-verse cost (taking out our Internet fee which we will still to pay) = $90 + $10 (bundle discount we will lose) per month. That means $1200 a year!

That is a savings of $908 a year.

In two days, I have figured out how to save us $1628! I would say not bad for a few days work!

Please let me know your experience with phone systems and cable so that we can all learn from each other. I will be excited to share our results with you after we install both. However, from what I have read of reviews online, both seem like great options to save a bundle and take advantage of some great new technological options.

Related articles:

Some other ways we save significantly:

 

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Summer savings guide

Summer Fun

With our current predicament of job uncertainty for both my husband and I, spending as little money as possible this summer has become even more important. This is the first summer since my little boys were small that we have all been home, too. That means more expenses than usual – food, excursions, utilities, etc. Here are the tips I have discovered so far for doing summer on the cheap:

Ahead of time:

Prepare for summer the summer before. Buy towels, hats, etc. at the end of the season so you have them for the coming year. When all the kids are in camp, we needed a lot of swimsuits and towels to avoid doing laundry every day! It helped to shop ahead.

Get some of your essentials at the dollar store. Sunglasses and water bottles are best to get at the dollar store because my boys lose them often. I don’t have to feel bad when this happens if I have only paid a $1! See my post on “Are “dollar stores” really a good deal?”

Watch throughout the spring and summer for sales on swimwear. Last year I got rash guards and swim trunks for a great price at the end of the season for my boys for this year. They actually still fit into their size from last year, but I am ready when they need a size up! Good online stores to check include The Children’s Place, Land’s End, and L.L. Bean.

Stock up on sunscreen before summer is here. Last year with all four of my boys in camp every day, we went through a ton of sunscreen. On top of that they broke out from many brands, even Aveeno, which you would expect not to be a problem. They have excema, which can make their skin break out more than usual. Luckily I found out about The Honest Company. I love their products! Their sunscreen is a great consistency, has no bad or perfume smell, and my boys don’t break out or scream in pain from it.

You can try a free sample pack (you pay only shipping). Then you can sign up to receive a bundle every month. The Essentials bundle includes five of their products. (They also have a Diaper & Wipes bundle and Health & Wellness bundle, too, with other choices of products.) I can’t afford to order a bundle every month, but get them a few times a year. You can choose how often you want them delivered. Every time I order, I get a sunscreen, so I am ready for summer!

Be on the watch for great deals on memberships to local attractions. These deals usually don’t occur during the summer. For the St. Louis Science Center’s 50th anniversary of their planetarium, they had a sale on memberships – $50 off! It has been our best purchase ever! See my post “Become a member!”

Early summer or (late spring):

Plan ahead for where you would like to go. The first week of summer that I was home, we had no official plans or schedule. We were making it up on the fly. This really made the days long and me stressed! Putting together my Summer Bucket List really helped because now I have done the research ahead of time and can either choose activities for the whole week or the night before. See my post “Summer Bucket List (aka Camp Mommy).”

Take advantage of the many free or cheap excursions in town. These include:

Watch for sales on crocs and sandals! We were fortunate to get new crocs (fake brand) a few weeks ago at “Five Below,” of all places!

Throughout:

Pack food wherever you go. Even if you won’t be there for long, pack at least a snack and water. This helps with cranky kids and avoiding high cost emergency food purchases.

Take advantage of your local library. We have been going to their great events all summer and check out books and movies each week while we are there. It is so nice to have the time to do this and with the summer reading programs, we all earn prizes for reading! We are enrolled in the county’s program and the local Jewish library’s. I have not updated my Summer Reading programs post, but see last year’s here.

Look out for ice cream coupons. We have found ice cream coupons in our coupon mailer that comes in our mailbox every week. Check local calendars, too. Here in St. Louis, we have a calendar called the Town Planner. It is mailed to families every year and has coupons tailored for your area. They also have coupons on their website. Another source for ice cream coupons is your local Valpak. These come in the mail in some areas and they also have a website, too. You might not always find coupons for the location you want, but sometimes the drive can be worth the savings! You might also earn ice cream coupons from your Summer Reading programs.

Forget about your thermostat timer. Keep your thermostat set as if you are not home and then adjust as you feel it is too hot in the house! See my post Saving money and energy on Shabbos.”

Use your birthday freebies. If your birthday falls in the summer, or if your kids’ do, be sure to sign up for those birthday freebies! See my posts:

Enjoy your summer and share your summer tips in the Comments section!

 

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