Family Living 4 Less

Saving Money Without the Sacrifice!

Posts Tagged ‘simple pleasures’

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!

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

The Battle of the Laptop (or how to keep the focus on the kids)

Posted by flsquared on November 18, 2009

Toddlers are exhausting.  They have endless sources of energy and fear nothing.  No matter where they are or what they are doing, they always seem to find exactly what they should not touch, and put it directly in their mouths.  Or what they should not climb, and not only climb it, but try to jump off….head first!  Just physically and mentally exhausting.

I remember reading an article sometime last year that one of the reasons that Facebook is so popular with new moms is that it allows you to catch up with friends (or at least read their status updates) in 30 second increments.  Which is approximately the free time you have after re-directing your baby from climbing up onto the dining room table to eating the TV cable.

The problem with these 30 second intervals is that they become addictive.  First, you are reading an email or two every few hours, and slowly but surely you are creeping over to check for any sort of outside stimulation every 10 or 15 minutes.

What I have found is that when this happens, I start watching the clock as the day passes so very slowly, the kids are cranky and vocal (read:  crying, tantrums) for attention, and there really aren’t that many interesting FB updates, emails, or blogs to read.  (At least ones that you can intelligently digest in 20 seconds or less).

Instead, when the laptop is out of sight, the kids and I (and my husband, if he his home) spend quality time together and enjoy it all the more. I focus 100% on them (okay, 90%), instead of stealing glances at the inbox, and have a great time.  And time just seems to fly by.

So why does that pesky laptop seem to migrate to our dining room table more often than not?  Easy.  There are things to do: emails to answer, plans to make, weather forecasts to check, library books to renew, etc.

My new challenge to my husband and I is to put focus back on the family.  I challenge us to keep the laptop out of the common area during all but 2 hours/day, while the kids are awake.  Believe me, this will be tough for us.  And I have yet to break the news to hubby.

I will let you know how it goes.  Wish us luck!

In the meantime, I would love to hear how you minimize distractions in common areas of your house.  How do you keep your family tuned in to each other during family time?

Posted in activity, baby, challenge, family, happiness, philosophy, simple living, toddler | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Simple Pleasures: Say Goodnight

Posted by flsquared on November 9, 2009

Last night, shortly after putting my 2 year old into bed, he called me back into the room.

I was surprised.  He has always been a good sleeper, rarely making a big fuss at bedtime.  I opened the door and walked back into the room, hoping it wouldn’t be one of those nights.

I sat on the floor by his bed and stroked his hair and whispered, “What’s up?  It’s time for bed.”

Smiling, “Mama!”

“Yes?  It’s time for bed, sweetheart.”

He looked at me for a moment.  “Victor happy.”

Until that point, it had been a normal day, nothing special.

Or so I had thought.

Upon hearing those two words, my heart filled, and I knew I would remember this day forever.

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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 »

My 15 Minutes: of Fame and Freedom

Posted by flsquared on November 7, 2009

First for the “Fame”!:

Yesterday, I was surprised to receive a note from WordPress that my Toddler Tips had been chosen as one of their “Freshly Pressed”:

superblog

How exciting!!!  I hope all of my new viewers are enjoying my posts, and that you will stick around for our adventures to come.

And now for the “Freedom”:

My youngest just turned 1 last week.  I think something happens to our boys when they hit that magic first birthday.  It seems like a switch is flipped and are immediately more independent and just happier in general.  Which, in turn, means that Mama is a bit less exhausted at the end of the day….and thus my 15 minutes of “free time” before I crash for the night.

So what should I do with this newfound luxury?

15 minutes is not a lot of time, but I do want to take advantage and take some time for myself to relax and recharge.

Here are some ideas that I have, in no particular order:

1.  Browse through a (non-child-related) magazine or read a few pages of a book.
2.  Take a walk.
3.  Chat with my husband about something non-work, non-child related, just like the “old days”.
4.  Organize and continue unpacking (we’re now at the 10-box-post-move state…if we’re not careful, those boxes will still be full until our next move!).
5.  Bake cookies or other treats (probably more than 15 minutes, but perhaps I can prep as I am cooking dinner?).
6.  Have a glass of wine or tea and just be one with my thoughts.
7.  Call up / email a friend I haven’t talked to in a while.
8.  Continue knitting the blanket for David.
9.  Clean something.
10.  Go to sleep early.

OK, I just nixed the two “work related” items that escaped my fingers before I thought them through.

What do you suggest?  What sort of things do you do when you only have 15 minutes?

Posted in activity, simple living | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

More Simple Pleasures: Running in the Park

Posted by flsquared on October 29, 2009

After writing the previous post, I continued thinking about simple and fun activities that I used to do as a kid.

My mind wandered, and I remembered this scene from Friends with Phoebe running in the park.

Enjoy!

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10 Simple Pleasures for Fall Weather

Posted by flsquared on October 27, 2009

Oftentimes I find myself tuned in to a schedule or things that I (we) should be doing instead of just doing.  This morning I took a moment to sit back and watch my children play.  I don’t do this enough.

I was lucky as it was in this very moment that my sons started doing something so beautiful.  My 2 year old was twirling (or dancing, as he likes to call it) and my 1 year old was cheering him on, clapping and smiling.

I was witnessing pure joy.

As I watched them, I started to think about how our lives get so complicated and how this joy becomes more and more clouded over time.  Martha Beck, in her book Finding Your Own North Star, speaks to the conflict between our “Essential Self” (my pure-loving children) and our “Social Self” (my well-behaved children).  Her book asks some fantastically deep questions (I would often ponder these for days before being able to answer) that lead to the re-discovery of your inner-child…ahem, “Essential Self”.

But this blog post isn’t about my self analysis.

This morning, my children inspired me to think about some of my simple pleasures during the fall season.  Here goes:

1.  Waking up to the cool, crisp air while waiting for coffee to brew.
2.  Taking a walk in the park and watching the colored leaves fall from the trees.  I just love the autumn colors!
3.  Unpacking my sweaters and light jackets (I love love love sweater weather!) and putting them into our dresser.
4.  Sitting in a coffee shop, or on my sofa, and knitting.
5.  One pot meals and soups and stews!  mmmmmmm….
6.  Sitting on the terrace, drinking a hot tea or citron presse, and reading.
7.  Cuddling up with my husband under a blanket to watch a movie.
8.  When the coffee shops start the fireplace going (I wonder if they do that here?).
9.  Slowing down and spending more time at home with family and friends.
10.  Bundling under the covers for just 5 more minutes of sleep!

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