Category Archives: Family Finance

Using Ebates to Save More on Holiday Shopping

This post is brought to you by Ebates and The Motherhood. All opinions are 100% honest and 100% my own.

Fantastic! I can get cashback for the holiday shopping I was going to do anyways now. Plus a $10 signup bonus from this blog!

I’m not one of those frugal bloggers who advises against buying ANYthing for the holidays. More power to the people who celebrate giftless and save oodles of cash, but our family still treasures the tradition of gift exchanges.

I do a lot of things to cut back on costs and keep my budget from imploding this time of year. One of the most effective things I do is shop throughout the year. When I spot a good sale on something, I pick it up and put it in my secret Christmas gift box.

Another thing I do is comparison shop. I don’t just purchase the first thing I see. I look around to see if I can get it cheaper somewhere else.

Finally, I use cashback sites like Ebates. Ebates is a free-to-users site which gets a commission when you purchase after clicking through their link. They then share some of that commission with you as the consumer.

Before you go shopping, visit Ebates’ site first. You then find the store you want to shop, see how much cash back they’re offering, and click through. Then you just shop as you normally would.

Alternatively, you can install the Ebates browser extension. That way you don’t have to remember to go to Ebates’ site first. After you activate this feature, you’re good for all future purchases.

If you shop on mobile, you can use their app, too–which comes with exclusives you won’t want to miss.

Ebates keeps track of how much cashback you earn, and then cashes you out every three months through PayPal or a paper check.

You’re essentially getting paid for doing shopping you were planning on doing anyways.

Plus, if you sign up right now, they’ll put $10 in your account just for getting started. Ten dollars for free is always awesome.

How I Use Ebates

I recently did a little holiday shopping, so I’ll take you on a tour of how I use Ebates.

I needed two Disney items. One of my kiddos has “Hulk Fists” on their Christmas list. Earlier in the year, I found a talking Iron Man mask on super sale, so I picked it up. When I told their dad, he said we “needed” to get a full costume.

This child has also been asking for a dress up box, so here’s my plan:

  • Decorate a Rubbermaid container we already have.
  • Fill it with all the dress up items we currently have.
  • Throw in the Hulk Fists, Iron Man mask, and the apparently necessary Iron Man costume. Wrapped, of course. Because presents inside presents are fun.

To make this happen, I needed to get Hulk Fists and an Iron Man costume. First, I visited Ebates’ site.

Get cashback from your Disney shop using Ebates.

Both of the products I needed were from Disney, and Disney currently has a 4.0% cashback rate, which is high enough to cause a celebration. I clicked on the orange “Shop Now” button, and I was on Disney’s site like normal.

I found the Hulk fists for $29.95. And I chose to go with some PJs for Iron Man as we already have a mask and don’t need a full Halloween costume. Those were 19.95.  Paying $49.90 for two gifts isn’t horrific–especially when you get about $2 cashback–but I really don’t like parting with my money.

So I did some comparison shopping. I went back to the Ebates portal, and was able to find the Hulk Fists at Target for five dollars less. It was only 1% cashback, but that’s still a way better deal.

Ebates can be used at Target to get cashback on your holiday shopping.

Then I poked around to find cheaper Iron Man pajamas. I was able to successfully find some on eBay for only $9.99 with 1% cashback from Ebates. They’re not as snazzy as the Disney option, but they’re half the price and my child won’t know. Quite frankly, I don’t think they’d care. This pair is pretty awesome in their own right, anyways.

Using Ebates to save on eBay purchases.

I know it says $3.99, but it came to $9.99 after I selected my child’s size.

If I had gone the original route, I would have spent $49.90 and gotten about $2.00 back, bringing my total to $47.90.

Because I comparison shopped, I spent $34.98 and can expect to see about $0.35 back in my Ebates account, bringing my total to $34.63.

Using all of these methods, I saved $15.27.

With that $10 bonus, that’s $10.35 you could expect to see back in your pocket. And that’s only including one, small shopping order. If you use this tool for all of your holiday shopping, the amount you get back is just going to get larger.

It’s free money. And free money is the best.

Holiday Gifts for Children

Ebates literally works with 2,000+ retailers. Odds are, if you’re shopping there, it’s on there. Here are some of my favorites when I’m shopping for my kids:

  • Target
  • Disney
  • Walmart
  • eBay
  • Toys R Us
  • Carter’s
  • GAP
  • Snapfish
  • Shutterfly

And the list goes on. They also have super helpful shopping guides. For example, they have a compilation of the hottest toys for 2017. You can use it for inspiration or to find something on your kids’ list, and then navigate straight to the item’s page on the partner’s site without having to browse.

Get Shopping.

If you’re going to be doing holiday shopping anyways, get some cashback for your efforts. Also be sure to get your free $10 just for signing up!

Disney on Ice Presents Frozen: Review

Wow! I thought all things Disney were prohibitively expensive. But this is a really low price for Disney on Ice tickets!

Last week we were invited to go see Disney on Ice Presents Frozen. Our tickets were comped as press passes, but I was surprised to find out that even if we went as paying members of the public, tickets started as low as $15. While Disney is usually pretty expensive (worth it, but expensive,) Disney on Ice is super affordable–a happy surprise!

Meeting Mickey

Before the show, we had the opportunity to attend a meet’n’greet with Mickey Mouse. The kids absolutely loved it. They got smile-inducing high fives and hugs. It was nice that we did it before the show, too, because when Mickey came out on the ice, they felt like they had a buddy out there performing.

The Show

Amazing production value at Disney on Ice. Ice monster protects Elsa.

The show itself was absolutely amazing. First, a slew of characters came out on the ice to introduce themselves. Princesses, Toy Story characters, and staples like Mickey, Minnie and Donald were all there to greet.

The rest of the show was presented as a story, with much of the same dialog and sequencing as the movie itself. It was amazing! Production value was high, and my kids loved the entire experience. My favorite part was probably when the ice monster came out to defend Elsa. I roamed and roared around the ice as it inflated and came to life before our very eyes.

Money Lessons

budget for disney toys

Of course, while admission was affordable, there were tons of expensive baubles to purchase while we were there. My youngest really wanted one of the light up toys. In their defense, they were enticing, especially in the darkened arena.

We had a long talk about trade offs. We talked about how lucky we were to have received a SWAG bag with an adorable Olaf plush and a super cool Olaf hat. We talked about how if we got a toy here, we’d have to pick one at home to give away because we have so. much. stuff.

It took talking about all of those things, but it got through. The next day, they got out all the Olaf swag and bragged to their dad, “We didn’t even have to pay anything for THESE toys! And we can go to Disney World (the trade off we’re saving for) sooner!”

Recommend?

Highly. Affordable admission for a Disney production is something too good to pass up with young kids. And, if you go in with eyes wide open and plan ahead, you may just be able to budget in one of those light-up toys.

Frozen is making its way to other cities right now, but if you’re in Pittsburgh they’ll have a new show coming back in February! You can check out the full schedule at DisneyonIce.com.

The Fifth Trimester & Parental Leave Policies #TotalBossMom

Wow, I didn't realize this. And it's not even paid! Wish more places had parental leave.

Did you know that…

  • Forty-four percent of  of working women don’t qualify for FMLA leave?
  • In a recent survey, 76% of moms say they go back to work before they’re ready?
  • One-third of highly-qualified and well-trained female workers drop out of the workforce after having a child?
  • In addition to the first, second, third and fourth trimesters, there is actually a fifth trimester?

To learn more about all these truths, I interviewed Lauren Brody–former Executive Editor of Glamor and author of The Fifth Trimester. I’m excited to share what I learned with you.

What is the fifth trimester?

We all know about the first three trimesters that happen during pregnancy. Many of us may be familiar with the fourth trimester. This is the period of time a baby should probably still be in the womb, but human brains evolved and grew too big for female human pelvises. So they come out around 40 weeks instead.

But the fifth trimester? What’s that?

“The fifth trimester is whenever a new mom heads back to work,” explains Brody. “For professional American women, that’s often at the three-month mark designated by the FMLA, which gives 12 weeks of unpaid leave.”

“I interviewed and surveyed hundreds of women for my book,” she continues, “and most were back at work between six and 12 weeks postpartum. All of the research shows us that this is simply not enough time, physically or emotionally.”

Why are these women going back before FMLA leave ends? Well, we already saw the astounding number of female workers who don’t qualify for FMLA leave. But there’s another problem: even among those who do qualify, many simply can’t afford to take that much time off of work without a paycheck.

When should the fifth trimester start?

Women are going back to work physically and emotionally drained after going through childbirth. This is not advantageous for the mother, the child or the employer.

So when, exactly, should the fifth trimester start?

“Truly, it should start whenever the working mom feels ready,” says Brody. “Some moms want to go back right away—especially if they are freelancers or run their own businesses. But it would be awfully nice if we all had the option of going back after six months of paid leave. That’s the benchmark at which science shows us that mom is less likely to have a postpartum mood disorder, and baby is more likely to be healthier too.”

She notes that at six months, baby has:

  • Received a few rounds of vaccinations.
  • Started eating solid foods.
  • Started sitting up (in many cases.)

Her research also shows that moms started feeling better physically and emotionally around this same time. At month seven–months after they had returned to work–they started getting seven straight hours of sleep every night.

Why should businesses provide paid family leave?

While conducting her research, Brody talked to many professionals across the board–including a sleep expert. This is how she learned that a sleep-deprived new mother is as impaired at 9am  as someone who is drunk.

Let’s do some math.

Drunk Employee’s Level of Impairment = Sleep-Deprived New Mom’s Level of Impairment

Drunk Employee =/= Ready to Work —> Sleep-Deprived New Mom =/= Ready to Work

Does that mean we should kick women out of the workplace once they’re with child?

Absolutely not.

“One massive international study by KPMG for Vodafone showed that offering six months of paid leave, plus a temporary part-time reentry option, would save private companies $19 billion annually,” says Brody.

If you’re wondering about the math on that one, it looks something like this:

  $47 billion for recruitment and training of replacement employees
-$28 billion for 16 weeks of paid maternity leave for new mothers
————————————————————————————————-
$19 billion saved across global businesses

Brody notes that it’s not just a financial decision in isolation. Paid maternity leave can be a great marketing tool to help you find some great employees in general.

“Millennials and the Gen Z-ers coming after them value flexibility above almost anything else, and one way to broadcast that humane kind of workplace culture is to offer strong parental benefits for both men and women.”

Yes, you read that right: men and women.

“I also want to add that this is about paid family leave,” she explains. “That’s parental leave for both sexes [or both partners] as well as family leave time for all kinds of other needs–things like
elder care and bereavement.”

“Pregnancy is the most obvious personal life need in the workplace because it looks like a big nine-months- pregnant belly in a work dress,” Brody points out, “but every single person at work– parent or not–has a personal life that is important to them…caring for it fuels them to do better and more passionate work.”

What can businesses do to retain new mothers as employees?

Aside from parental and family leave, Brody suggests businesses provide the following if they want to hold on to their employees and dodge those recruiting and training costs:

  • On-site childcare
  • Flex time
  • Ability to work from home
  • Well-equipped lactation rooms with good Wi-Fi
  • Breast milk shipping for moms who travel for work
  • A lack of 4:30p meetings
  • Equal pay for women and men

She also notes that when companies provide adequate leave policies, those in the upper echelons of leadership–both female and male–need to take full advantage of them.

“If you have the policies on paper and no one feels like they can use them, you’re not getting it right.”

Um, this is great. But I’m not rich and need to go back to work ASAP.

Completely understood. The majority of families currently don’t have the luxury of raging against the machine at this very moment in time. You family just got bigger, and you need a paycheck to provide.

Brody’s entire book is full of tips and tricks from moms who have been there. She shares a few of them with us:

  1. Set up systems ahead of going back for every home-duty you possibly can. Establish a recurring online order of household basics like paper towels and diapers. For things like your phone—which you will be more reliant on than ever as you straddle these two worlds—get a great, easy plan. Total Wireless offers a shared family plan with 25GB for $25 per line for four lines. They have a whole campaign supporting being a #TotalBossMom because they get the juggle. That’s their customer.
  2. If you have a partner who is not able to take as much parental leave as you, see if they can take what’s called “intermittent leave” and have some weeks at home with the baby right when you go back. That can help get the baby to a slightly older age when it’s easier to leave him her at daycare, and—this is huge—it gets your partner up to speed on baby skills that will ultimately help you have a more balanced sense of parenting forever. Side note: For every month of paternity leave a dad takes, the mom’s earnings increase by 7%!
  3. Be as open as you can in your workplace about motherhood…and then push yourself to be 1% more open than that. It will make a difference, even if you’re not in a position to change actual policies. If you are open about the struggle, but then also get your job done, you will change people’s perceptions of motherhood in the workplace. You have to believe that it makes you stronger, even when you’re feeling weak, because it does. Moms come back after baby more efficient, more focused, more able to pivot from task to task, more empathetic. The list goes on and on. And if you believe it, you’ll make others believe it too.

Let’s Celebrate All the Boss Moms Out There

Today is National Boss’s Day, but the company Brody mentioned–Total Wireless–has added a twist.

[They] had the brilliant idea that it’s really Boss Mom Day for all of the ways mothers lead and manage at work and at home,” she says. “I love that.”

I love it, too. Let’s tweet about it and spread the word. #TotalBossMom

Free Photo Shoot at Portrait Innovations

This looks amazing! Free portrait session and there's a contest with a cash prize afterwards. Going.

When I lived in Idaho, I didn’t yet have children. That didn’t stop one of my parent friends from giving me some unsolicited advice one night. It was the kind of advice you’re grateful for.

“You know the one thing I regret? When Avery was a baby, I didn’t do the whole photo thing. You know–at the hospital, three months, six months–whatever. And that time just went by so fast. I thought it was a waste of money back then, but now I really regret it. I have random pictures, but no milestones to watch her grow.”

I bookmarked those words in my brain. A few years later, when I did have my own children, I was sure to make all those photo appointments. I made sure to shop around for the best deals and freebies I could find. I’m glad I did.

Some packages were better than others. Some photographers were better than others. I learned the ins and outs. By the time my kids started getting school pictures, I had mastered the local studio game.

Portrait Innovations

Then, just a couple of months ago, I learned about a studio I hadn’t been to yet. For whatever reason, I hadn’t come across a coupon amidst all those maternity store coupon packages or my erratic Groupon hunts.

I wanted to check it out, and the folks at Portrait Innovations were kind enough to invite me in for a free session.

Waiting Room

Usually when we get into one of these portrait studios, there’s not a whole lot for the kids to do. There are chairs to sit on, and if we’re lucky, there’s a TV playing some random cartoons.

Not so at Portrait Innovations. I got to relax on one of many insanely comfy and plush couches while the kiddos entertained themselves at the LEGO table.

Zero Whining = Happy Mom

The Session

One of my children is super hard to take pictures of. In the past, when we’ve been trying to select which pictures to order, we’ve found ourselves asking:

“Which photo do they look least unhappy in?”

Our photographer at Portrait Innovations was fantastic. She elicited smiles from everyone. In many of the pictures, she even managed to get everyone smiling AT THE SAME TIME! It was a modern miracle.

She let them be comfortable and be themselves, catching moments as they happened with only light staging. If they weren’t into a particular pose, she wasted no time letting it go and moving on to the next.

When they were done and started getting a little moody, we had no regrets ending the session. We had loads of great pictures full of smiles and siblingly love.

Selecting Our Photos

At every other photo studio I’ve been to, we’ve huddled around an old-school behemoth of a PC–bouncing kids on our hips as we stood there trying to pick the best pics through their screams.

At Portrait Innovations, we got to sit in chairs around a huge, flat screen TV. They’d show us three pictures at a time so the selection process wasn’t overwhelming. We didn’t have to worry about fussy children because one of them was really into seeing themselves on a big screen, and no one made us feel weird about the other’s repeated just-for-fun trips to the water fountain.

I was also reassured by the fact that if things did start to go downhill, we could redirect back to the LEGO table.

Every studio you go to they will try to upsell you. It’s not a bad thing always–sometimes there really are great deals.

But sometimes the photographer will get frustrated with you if you’re not biting.

At Portrait Innovations, I got zero ill vibes when I said, “No, thank you,” to multiple upgrades. It was a much better customer experience than some of the other studios I have been to.

Printing Your Photos

Portrait Innovations is the only studio I’ve been to where they print your order right then and there. No waiting two weeks for them to get mailed in. No contorting your schedule to drive back out to whichever suburban mall you had them taken at.

It took about 20 minutes (I got a CD, too,) and when they came back, I was thrilled. The print job was great. For only the second time since I’ve had kids, I’m sending out holiday cards this year–which were printed for me right there in the studio. We also got some wallets, 5x7s, 8x10s and 10x13s.

When I showed the pictures to their dad the next day, he was floored.

“These are great! Like, wow! They’re even smiling at the same time! You just did this yesterday?”

You can get a free session, too.

You didn’t think I was just going to tell you about my free session, did you?

Nope! I’ve got your back with not one, but TWO ways you can get a free session at Portrait Innovations, too.

Free Halloween Photo Opp for Everybody

On Monday, October 30, Portrait Innovations will be hosting free photos for kids in Halloween costumes from 3p-7p. They’ll be passing out candy and all!

On the photo side of things, you’ll get:

  • 2 Free 5x7s
  • Digital images of each child in their costume(s)

This is happening everywhere–not just in my hometown of Pittsburgh. Find a location near you.

Oh, and after the free event, you’ll be able to enter your kiddo into a portrait costume contest. The prize?

$1,000 in cold, hard cash.

The top 20 portraits with the most amount of votes will take home the prize!

Free Portrait Package for One Lucky Femme Frugality Reader

Another way to get a free session at Portrait Innovations is by entering the giveaway below. One lucky Femme Frugality reader will get a full portrait package to be used in the next 12 months. Here’s what will be included:

  • 6 pose collection with 2 prints of each pose
  • 2 10×13 Special Effect Decorator Portraits
  • 20 greeting cards
  • 1 high-resolution CD with your portrait images

To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. Many of these entry options can be done multiple times, so be sure to come back for more entries before the winner is selected on October 23 at 12:00a Eastern!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In addition to the free portrait package mentioned above, I also received payment for my time writing this post. All opinions are 100% honest and 100% my own.

Quick Guide to Starting Over in a New City

Making new friends, finding all your new hot spots, and moving without DIYing it--super great tips for starting over in a new city!

Starting over in a new city requires making a lot of changes in rapid succession. Even if the reason for your move is something that thrills you–like being closer to family, getting a new job, or enrolling in an undergraduate or graduate degree program—it’s still stressful getting organized to move.

And, of course, if you’re moving to a new location that you’d prefer not to go to because of reasons like a job transfer or for the sake of your spouse, you’ll probably add to the stress by procrastinating.

With that in mind, how do you make the transition as easy as possible?

Here are some ideas to help you to get organized as you uproot your life for the new city where you’ll start over:

Packing and Moving

If you’re a busy person—perhaps still working at your regular job while preparing to move—then a do-it-yourself move is going to be overwhelming. It’s going to be a lot easier to hire a professional moving company to help out. In fact, a company like Allied Van Lines does far more than helping you with loading, transportation, and unloading. They also offer full packing services if you just don’t have the time or energy after work to organize and pack your stuff.

However, it would save you money and expedite things if you spent some time decluttering. There is no point in taking stuff you no longer want, and it would be smart to sell, donate, or trash many of the things you’ve acquired over the years that you just don’t like or need anymore.

Settling In

Once you’ve moved into your new place,  it’s time to settle in. This will include things like setting up your utility services; locating professionals you need, like doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, accountants, and so on; and updating your address. If you have school-age children, you may have to register them for school, and–if your move isn’t based on a job transfer– you may have to find employment.

Exploring Your New Environment

After you’ve got yourself situated and made yourself at home, the next and final stage is to get to know more about the city. At this point, you may want to find out about the essential stores and services, as well as discover fun places to go. You’ll probably also want to connect with new people.

Let’s take a closer look at how to go about finding essential stores and services, finding fun places to hang out, and finding new friends.

Finding Essential Stores and Services

The sooner you find essential stores and services, the quicker you’ll feel comfortable in your new environment. While, of course, these vary for everyone, essential stores usually include grocery stores and favorite retailers. As for services, you might want to locate the post office, the library, a house of worship, or any other places that you like to go.

Besides Googling for location, you can also use Google Maps or your GPS phone app to find them. And, of course, you can always ask your neighbors, colleagues at work, and other people you’ve met who are now part of your new life how to get around.

Finding Fun Places to Hang Out

You’ll also want to become familiar with places that offer recreational opportunities—restaurants, movie houses, gyms, clubs, hiking trails, etc. One way to do this is to pretend you’re a tourist and use TripAdvisor to figure out where to go and what to do when you want to do something fun.

On top of researching places online, you can also ask people on social media and talk to people you meet locally about their recommendations for some good places to hang out.

Finding New Friends

This one is a little harder if you’re not an extrovert. Usually the best route to making new friends is to join groups that revolve around the things that you love to do. If you love to garden, then find gardening clubs; if you love to hike, or run, or workout, then find fitness centers.

Usually the best place to meet people who share a common interest is a meet-up group. Making friends with like-minded and like-hearted people will make your move much more fun.

Think of your move as a great adventure. This will make planning and taking action so much easier.

 

This post is brought to you and contributed by Abby Locker.