Family Living 4 Less

Saving Money Without the Sacrifice!

Posts Tagged ‘saving money’

The Year of the Tiger!

Posted by flsquared on February 22, 2010

This weekend, we decided to attend the “Biggest Chinese New Year Parade” in Manhattan.

Armed with a 15% off coupon, I traveled down to the BabiesRUS store in Union Square to check out the umbrella strollers.  It was about time we got one, and we would definitely need it for the subway ride.  As with any “big box” retailer (but especially with BRU), I immediately started to get overwhelmed with the choices and quickly slunk out without buying anything.

I perused the Union Square Greenmarket (and bought a huge bag of $1/lb local apples) to calm myself.

Then I went home and checked out Craigslist.

Lucky for me, I found a great used Maclaren Volo for $40.  SCORE!  (Oh, and by chatting with the woman selling the stroller, I made a new friend in Brooklyn!)

Bright and early Sunday afternoon, (40 degree, sunny weather!) we met some friends to see the dragons dancing and floats passing by.  I am kicking myself as I forgot my camera, but it was amazing!  The kids enjoyed the people watching, scooping up confetti and throwing it at each other, (I’m not sure how much they actually saw of the parade), and just seeing Mama and Papa happy.  We even popped into a crowded Dim Sum restaurant and stuffed ourselves while they ate and played with chopsticks.  We ended the day by going over to Union Square and hanging out at the playground (and buying a few bottles of “3 buck chuck” wine at TJs).  The subway ride was uneventful and I was actually able to carry the little guy up and down the stairs myself with the new, lightweight stroller.

After we had gave the kids dinner and put them to bed, my husband turned to me and said “What a great day!”  I totally agree.

For me, the best part about the day was exploring a new part of the city and seeing everyone have a good time.  Amazingly, there was no (well…, okay, very little) crying, fear of crowds, or explosive diapers.  Days like these bring our family closer and open the door for new events and experiences to further strengthen that bond.

Oh, and bill for the day?  $2.25 for the subway and $25 for 4 at the Dim Sum (and believe you me, the kids eat as much as I do!).  Not bad!

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Posted in activity, family, happiness, holiday, saving money, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Would You Do For a Free Coffee?

Posted by flsquared on February 1, 2010

You don’t need to do much, apparently.

I just got the news that this month there will be free coffee all over Manhattan–a godsend for a tired mama of 2!

Thanks SeamlessWeb!!!

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Budget Update: We’re Back on Track!

Posted by flsquared on December 16, 2009

I am happy to report that we are back on track with our budget!

August:          saved 9.7%
September:  saved 13.4% (!!!)
October:        overspent 1%
November: saved 12.4%

Hooray!  And this includes some major sick time with my littlest man (3 days in the hospital and a slew of follow-up doctor visits) as well as an awesome Thanksgiving.

I predict that this month will go well.  We haven’t bought Christmas gifts yet (urp!) and we do have a few additional obligations this year (tip to the super, a gift for the boys’ teacher, etc).

I’ll post an update soon and let you know how we do!

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Can a Family of Four Live on a Salary of $150k in NYC?

Posted by flsquared on November 8, 2009

This was the title of an Urban Baby discussion last week that really got me thinking.  My quick answer was a resounding “Yes, and well!”, but many of the posters did not agree.

I suppose what surprised me the most was the tone of the responders.  They seemed to say: Don’t do it!  You will be sacrificing too much!

For me, it’s a given that if you live in Manhattan, you will, most likely, be living in a small apartment.  Even the “big” apartments are small.

On the other hand, in just 5 or 10 minutes walking you can find yourself in a park, a museum, a library, etc.  During the summer there are more festivals than you can imagine.  As the winter is closing in, it’s more difficult to find free activities but they are there.

For us, our major expenses are rent, health insurance, and food.  Next year, preschool will be included in that list.  We also try to go to Spain and Florida once/year to visit family.  Everything else that we spend money on is minimal and we don’t spend even close $150k/year.

We no longer have a car (and all that goes with it), our utilities are next to nothing, and entertainment is cheap.

I will say that I totally understand how you could spend even double that amount and feel like you are living a humble life.  Between eating out, endless forms of entertainment, preschools that cost more than my college tuition, nannies, housekeepers, etc, etc, etc. the money can just slip through your hands.

I have a friend who probably earns triple what we do and honestly feels poor.  She lives 2 blocks away, in a very nice, but not super-fancy, building.  She does not wear designer clothing or go out every night.  She has a part-time “mother’s helper” and someone to clean her apartment once/week.  They have a car and go away at least once weekend/month.  Nothing all too extravagant here, right?  Especially when she compares herself to her friends who have private jets and rent a place in the Hamptons for $30,000.

Saving (or just not spending) money in this town is hard work, but it is very doable.

I think the key to it is both simple and extremely complex.  Be happy from within.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Be content with your choices, and don’t even notice the Jones’.

What are your thoughts?  Am I missing something?  What are we sacrificing that everyone else seems to need?

Posted in family, frugal, money, saving money, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Toddler Tip: Displaying Art Projects

Posted by flsquared on November 6, 2009

Now that my oldest boy is 2, he is constantly painting and coloring and creating all sorts of masterpieces with stickers. But where should we display them?

Posting them on the fridge won’t work:  I’m not a big fan of the cluttered look.  However, more importantly, while he enjoys taking a look at them from time to time, his little brother enjoys eating them more often than not.

I don’t have the energy or patience to create one of those crazy post-your-toddler’s-artwork display centers they talk about on TLC.

And, living in NYC, if there was a “big box” store solution, it would be beyond us.  Plus, money is tight and I’d rather improvise in some way.

After scratching my head for a bit, and collecting a number of projects in a box until I figured it out, I came across the perfect solution in my gifted subscription to Family Fun magazine (November 2009 issue, tip given by Heidi Hadfield):

Tape your favorite projects to the inside of your kitchen cabinets!

aaaaaablog

Awesome!  Everything is tidy, and yet when we want to take a peek at his artwork (or need to grab a bowl), we just open the cupboard.  It’s also a hit with Papa, who loves to come home, grab a snack, and check out what the little ones created today.

Posted in family, organization, saving money, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments »

Last Minute Halloween Costume: Mini-Farmers!

Posted by flsquared on October 30, 2009

Today, on the way back from Central Park we passed Ricky’s.  Apparently, it is the one-stop shop for Halloween costumes.  At 50% off today, there was literally a line a block long to enter (at 2pm, no less!).

To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about it until last week.  I can’t say that I’m a huge Halloween fan.  My husband is from Spain and has never celebrated it.  He’s not into dressing up at all and, as such, I have not been to a Halloween party in, oh, 10 years.  My first son was born in 2007 and spent most of September and October in and out of the hospital due to jaundice, so we didn’t do much more than take him for a short walk on Halloween.  My second son was born last year on October 28 and I think we left the hospital Halloween morning.

This year, we have 4 Halloween parties for the boys!  We definitely needed costumes.

On to the thrift shops I went.

No luck.

No luck?  Wow.  New York (Upper East Side, anyway) is tough!

I went into their closets.  And I started thinking….Every time I put the boys in cute little overalls, my husband calls them “farmers”.  I pulled out blue jean overalls, a flannel shirt, and a couple of red bandanas I had for whatever reason.  I actually had everything for both of them except overalls for the eldest.

Back to Gymboree (I finally got to buy something for us at that sale!).  The sales girl found some PERFECT overalls marked down to $7.99.  20% off coupon added and that was the price tag for their costume.  Hurrah!

Here’s one farmer:

aaafb 013and the little guy:

aaafb 012

Posted in activity, family, frugal, saving money, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mama’s Challenge: Can I buy a baby gift without purchasing anything else?

Posted by flsquared on October 22, 2009

Gymboree is having a 60% off sale on baby and kiddie clothes.  And I have a 20% coupon that a friend gave me to further discount the sale!

Awesome, right?

Except we don’t really need anything right now.  Well, that’s not exactly true–I could stock up on next fall’s clothing for my oldest.  However, my in laws will be in town in just 2 months and have already mentioned that they would like to buy the boys some clothes.

So we don’t need anything.

Except my Super just had a baby boy last weekend and we need to buy them a small gift.  Since they already have everything from their oldest (except in pink!), I thought I would get them a little outfit.

I entered Gymboree, kids in tow, impressed that they were actually content to hang out in the stroller while I shopped.  I found the PERFECT little outfit for the new baby, as well as a few things for my boys.  Luckily, I forgot my wallet, so I put ONLY the gift on reserve to come back later and pick it up.

The next day I stroll by and am welcomed by a huge line.  However, this is the only time that I can pick up the clothes so I stick it out…  And I start checking out little outfits here and there while in line.  Oh, the agony!!!!  Seriously, what is it about baby and toddler clothes that makes you want to buy everything even when you have more than you need?  I even check out the girls’ outfits and fawn over them!!!  (I sometimes wonder if they spray hormones in the air to make you baby-crazy).

I am happy to report that I only purchased the gift and nothing else.  Not even socks.  Not even shoes for next season (my weakness).

Do you have any tricks to avoid purchasing extra items when you are buying a gift?  I would love to hear them (as I think I got lucky this time!!!)

Posted in baby, budget, frugal, saving money, shopping, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Toddler Tip: Sticker Happy!

Posted by flsquared on April 4, 2009

On Friday, Victor and I spent some one-on-one time at the library’s Baby Play Day.  

The Carnegie Library does a great job of organizing activities for small children and this was no exception.  For the past 5 Fridays, we have been able to hang out with babies from 0-3 years, playing with new toys and learning new skills.  The toys are in different stations such as “fine motor skills”, “gross motor skills”, “art”, “music”, “reading”, etc.  Every week a different “expert” attends to answer any questions parents or caretakers have about nutrition, speech, development, etc.

This past Friday the parting gift included some stickers from the dentist.  When we got home, we broke them out and inadvertently came up with a new game:

  1. Mommy gives baby a sticker and says “Put the sticker on Victor’s tummy”
  2. If Victor puts it on his tummy, CHEERS!
  3. If he doesn’t EEEEERP!
  4. Choose a new body part and repeat.

It sounds silly, but it was a big hit!  We must have played for 20 minutes and only stopped when the stickers were completely stick-less.

Definitely a game to put on the rainy-day list!

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Grocery Update: We’re On the Right Track!

Posted by flsquared on March 18, 2009

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we were concerned that we were spending too much money on groceries–up to $20-25/day!  The scariest thing about it was that it just creeped up out of nowhere.  My husband and I are very responsible with money and have never used a budget.  We only noticed since we were earning a lot of “free” gasoline!

(Note to Self:  Remember to review your spending every few months, just to make sure it’s under control!)

I am happy to report that since I have taken back over the shopping we have been saving money!  I don’t think that I am doing anything “earth-shattering” or anything my husband couldn’t/wouldn’t have done, but I am just shopping consciously.

Here are the numbers (yea!)

  • January:  $18.71/day
  • February:  $15.11/day
  • March (so far):  $10.87/day

And this is without doing without!  I’m including in here our daily glass of wine with dinner.  I am not including our take out pizza or dining out.  Funny thing, though–since I started shopping this way, we have actually stopped ordering pizza (we now get it about every 3 weeks) and we eat out much less.  Hmm…. that wasn’t part of the plan!

So what have I been doing?  Here are some things that have worked for me:

  • Take inventory of what you have at home already.  We had a ton of red and black beans that we had actually moved up here from Atlanta.  Crazy!  And it wasn’t that we don’t like them, we do.  We had just gotten into a “lentils and garbanzos” frame of mind.
  • Shop alone (or with your partner) and when you have time.  Especially on the first couple of shopping trips when you need to stock the cupboard.  My first few trips were big ones and I used coupons to get a lot of the basics.  It would have been too hard to shop this way with the kids.
  • Get a paper and clip coupons once every month or two.  It’s amazing how much money you can save on toiletries, baby products and even some “real food” like yogurts and cheeses.  Try to go through them with the supermarket sales circular to match up brands for big savings.  Even if you just use one or two coupons, you are saving money over the cost of the paper!
  • Eat less meat and more fruits and veggies.  I’ve already posted on this, but I have actually found that we feel better and have more energy after 6 weeks of eating this way.  Yea!  We also found an area of town (called “The Strip District”) that has very reasonable prices on fruits, veggies, and legumes.  Double yea!
  • Make one day a week a “cooking day”.  I’m not sure if this saves money, but it sure helps us.  Every Sunday (or every other Sunday) I try to cook for about 5 or 6 hours.  I roast 2 chickens, make 2 casseroles, cook up lots of rice and beans for the week, etc.  With 2 small children and a super-busy husband it’s great to be able to freeze meal-sized portions that we can defrost and heat up later that week or month.  Come to think of it, maybe this is why we’re ordering less pizzas!
  • Make it a game!  Have fun with saving money on groceries and try out new recipes with less expensive ingredients.  Our “reward”?  I funded our new double stroller with our grocery shopping savings.

Posted in food, groceries, saving money, shopping, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Hanky-Panky!

Posted by flsquared on March 16, 2009

The other day, my husband and I were reminiscing about our childhood school days.  Growing up in Spain, one of the “rules” in his all-boy school was that they always had to wear a handkerchief.  

To this day, he still uses one.

They are so convenient (and soooo soft, especially after several washes) that I’ve started using them as well.  I have several that are embroidered and so very girly.  And super-easy to clean when they are soiled–just throw them in the wash and grab a fresh one.  Love it!

Added bonus?  I always have something on hand to use to clean up my boys’ drooly faces, and I don’t have to worry about “killing trees” (or the added expense of boxes of tissues).

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