Friday, December 29, 2006

Freebie Friday: December 29, 2006

Thanks for visiting Freebie Friday on my blog. I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and I know that I am looking forward to another new year here at MomAdvice.com.

I wanted to start out with a coupon code that I ran across. I have talked about Restaurant.com on my blog before and they are running a great sale on their gift certificates. Enter in coupon code CHEERS, when you checkout, and then hit, “Recalculate Total.” This coupon code will knock 70% off of your order and is good through December 31, 2006. That means a $25 gift certificate is only THREE BUCKS! That is a great deal! I am going to be ordering a few for our family for this upcoming year as they make great date nights! If you want the full scoop on Restaurant.com, please read this post and use the provided link. I do get a small commission from the sale (that is how I am able to stay in business through our clickable advertisements and the affiliations with companies). I know that isn’t a freebie, but definitely a deal worth looking into!

Now on with the freebies-

Get a free sample of Rhinaris Nasal Drops. They have a nasal mist or a nasal gel to choose from.

You might not need this freebie for this year, but these would be great for next year. Get a ten pack of holiday cards for free (while supplies last). Visit this site to pick your design.

Complete the form to a get a free sample of Arm & Hammer Toothpaste. Limit one sample per household.

Samples of Sunsilk Shampoo are available on Walmart’s sample list again. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery on this freebie.

Morris Press offers a free cookbook kit that you can use to begin making your very own cookbook. The kit includes sample cookbooks and the software needed to create your own cookbook.

Request a free sample of Pretty Feet & Hands. This is available only while supplies last and has a limit of one sample per household. You do not need an offer code to fill this one out, just leave this field blank.

Get a free 24 day pass to 24 Hour Fitness by printing out the form and filling it out.

Get a free one year subscription to Hollywood Life Magazine by filling out their quick survey.

Now I don’t use dial-up connection so I have no personal experience with this company, but Great Dial Up is offering free dial up service. This will include a 2 Gig email account. If for any reason you aren’t satisfied, you can cancel or upgrade to one of their paid accounts.

Order a free sample of TimeWise Microdermabrasion Set from Mary Kay Cosmetics. They only allow one per customer and the offer is only good while supplies last.

Coal Creek Coffee Company is offering free samples of their coffee on their website.

Aquafresh is offering a free sample of their Extreme Clean toothpaste on their website. Click on the free sample box on their site to get this freebie. Once you complete the form, you will have the opportunity to print out a coupon towards a trial size of their new toothpaste.

Walmart is offering a free sample of Soft & Dri Clear Glide Deodorant. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery on this.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Frugal Momma's Test Kitchen: Pizza Dough- Take Six

Is anyone else annoyed with my constant changing of the recipes in my house? I am never quite satisfied with a recipe until I have tried several variations on it. Don't believe me? In April, I shared two variations on pizza dough. I revisited my recipe when I found a new cookbook and I really liked that variation too. Then more recently, I shared my discovery for another great recipe and shared how to simplify the dinner process by storing your ingredients in a bag.

I really believed that the last one was *the* star in all of my recipes. I had planned to never revisit this recipe again. Unfortunately, I ran across a copy-cat recipe for a Pizza Hut dough that I just had to try. The results...worth the reevaluation!

Let me preface by saying that I do not like Pizza Hut. It is way too greasy for my taste and has never agreed with my stomach too well. I didn't try this recipe because I love Pizza Hut so much, but I was simply intrigued by the ingredient list.

Although this recipe has a few more ingredients than my past variations, it is by far THE BEST pizza dough. I promise not to lead you astray and hope that you might get a chance to give this recipe a shot. It is worth the effort.

This dough is light and airy and does not rest heavy in your stomach. I think this is attributed to the addition of the baking powder.

This dough also has a great texture to it, which comes from the addition of cornmeal. It is not enough to give it a grainy texture, but simply adds to the bite and makes it more pleasing to the mouth than the flat flour, oil, yeast, water combination.

I hope that you can try this one. Don't forget to throw a few extra of these into a bag to enjoy in the weeks ahead. This recipe yielded a large crust and an order of cheesy bread for our family. The cheesy bread was prepared by rolling out the dough, drizzling it with olive oil, sprinkling with cheese & garlic salt and throwing it in with the pizza dough after it has been prebaked. You can cut these (before baking) with a pizza roller.

I topped the pizza with a can of crushed tomatoes, which had been simmering on the stove for about fifteen-twenty minutes. I added a little salt, a pinch of sugar, and a little dried oregano to the sauce. It turned out perfect! I topped the pizza with part of it and then used the rest as our dipping sauce.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as you have enjoyed the past variations!

Pizza Hut Style Pizza Dough

1 1/3 cups water
2 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp cornmeal
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine, according to manufacturer's settings, and run dough setting. After the machine beeps, roll out the dough. You can roll the dough into two 9x13" pizzas (great for kid's lunches!) or into two medium pizzas or a large pizza and an order of breadsticks (as instructed above). Parbake the crust with a drizzle of olive oil on it at 450 degrees for ten minutes. Remove the crust and add sauce and toppings. If making breadsticks, add your breadsticks at this time. Place into the oven for another ten to fifteen minutes or until golden and bubbly. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Eve of Christmas Eve Morning Recap

Don’t you love it when the most exciting thing for the kids is the boxes and the bows, rather than the present itself? It seems that many of the presents my kids enjoyed ended up being things like that, rather than the items that we spent more money on. It just goes to show that you don’t have to spend a lot to have a memorable Christmas with your children.

Our Christmas morning we dined on waffles and our cinnamon roll Christmas tree. Since I had not had my coffee in the morning, I accidentally tinted the icing aqua, rather than green, and claimed it to be a “retro” Christmas tree this year. Several additions of green tint gave us a very green tree though and the kids loved it. I left the trunk without icing for our one year old daughter, so that I didn’t have a big mess on my hands with the two kids.

We then spent the rest of the morning enjoying all of our new Christmas gifts. My son’s favorite Christmas gifts this year were his fifty cent encyclopedia of dinosaurs, which I found at our local thrift store, and his Mega T-Rex (a request from Santa Claus).

I had also went to Sam’s Club, the day before, to purchase some popcorn for our popcorn popper. We had received a popcorn tub set for a gift and I realized that we were out of popcorn to fill it. A pound of popcorn at the supermarket was a couple of dollars, so it seemed more economical to buy a large bag of popcorn from Sam’s instead. The bag contained fifty pounds of popcorn though (for only $10.87), and we are just a family of four. Since I was not planning on eating popcorn for every single meal, I stored the majority of it, but still had quite a bit left with no home for it.

I found a Rubbermaid tote and filled it with the leftover popcorn. I ran out to the garage and grabbed all of my son’s beach toys and stuck them in it and took the tub down to our basement to rest on top of his train table.

I bet you can guess what his favorite gift was? The total cost was probably three dollars, but has been a blast for him and kept him very busy for the rest of the day.


What were your child’s favorite gifts this year? Any recommendations you can offer?

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Freebie Friday: December 22, 2006

Since it is the holidays, I am sure that you all will understand why I am not spending the week working on putting this week's entry together. I will definitely be back with more freebies after the holidays are over, but I am running low on energy & time this week.

I still wanted to give you guys something for free though (because that is the kind of giver that I am!) There is a great free download that is great for any mom and it comes to you hopefully before you spent your money on another paper planner. If you read my past entry on this software, you will get the full scoop on how wonderful it is.

In the giving spirit of the holiday season, Cozi is pleased to donate $1 to the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation for each family who uses the Cozi Central software between December 21 and December 31, 2006. Starlight Starbright is a wonderful organization dedicated to making the lives of seriously ill children and their families better by providing resources that help them stay connected.

We invite all to join us in making these families a little "cozi-er" by simply giving Cozi Central a try*. In addition, if we reach the $5,000 donation level we will double our contribution! That’s $10,000 to help seriously ill children and their families, and all it takes is a few minutes.

To participate, all you need to do is go to www.cozi.com, sign-up and use Cozi Central - it's free so all it takes is a few minutes of your time and you'll help out many families.

Now not only do you get something for free, you can give for free too! How great is that?


* Cozi will make a donation for each family who uses the Cozi Central software between Dec. 21 and Dec. 31, 2006. In order to be counted, users need to sign-up for an account, download Cozi Central to your PC, sign in with their PIN, and use Cozi Central.

Happy Holidays!

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Christmas Morning with the Clark's

We are having our family Christmas tomorrow morning and I am so excited. We would do it on the traditional day, but instead we will be running around visiting both sides of the family. I totaled it up and we will have a total of SIX Christmas family functions to attend this year. I love our families and I am certainly not complaining, because I know we are fortunate, but with so many holiday functions we have to squeeze our own in.

My solution this year is to do our Christmas the day before Christmas Eve. We shall call it The Eve of Christmas Eve. If you have a similar situation, I am recommending this because I hate cramming in a Christmas and sandwiching it between engagements.

Santa will be visiting and everything on that day because the kids can stay all day in their pajamas and play with their toys. No worries about getting dressed or hurrying off after opening gifts.

If Ethan should ask why Santa is coming so early, I have come up with the perfect excuse. You see, our last name starts with “C” so we are at the beginning of the alphabet. Santa goes in alphabetical order and we are so fortunate to be among the lucky families he visits first. And if your last name starts with “A” and you are waiting until Christmas Day to get your Santa gifts, then I recommend you keep this very quiet because that will foil my entire plan.

I am going to be making up the batter for Gingerbread Waffles tonight, which is a special holiday treat. I started making these last year and they are HEAVENLY. It literally smells like a Christmas cookie in our house. The hot cocoa will be humming in the cocoa maker and it will just smell like…Christmas.

And if my husband asks what Christmas smells like, it is because he has never smelled Christmas, or fresh bread, or dirty diapers (lucky on that one!) Yes, he has no sense of smell. We like to do the circus music when he discloses this to people. Then they usually launch into, “How can you taste? You mean you have never smelled your wife’s amazing food? Do you wish you could smell things like everyone else?”

I, on the other hand, have a nose like a bloodhound. When we lived in our apartment complex, I would sniff the air and proclaim that the lady across the hall was making Beef Stroganoff Hamburger Helper with a tad too much milk because it smelled a little runny. Well, maybe not that clear, but you get the picture. We are an odd pair!

Be thankful you can smell and enjoy these delicious Gingerbread Waffles courtesy of Rachael Ray (who I am really burnt out on) and keep this one in your recipe collection. Enjoy!

Gingerbread Waffles

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, eyeball it
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter, plus some to butter the iron
Syrup, whipped cream or fresh fruits for topping, to pass at table

Preheat waffles iron. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar until fluffy, then beat in pumpkin, milk, molasses and melted butter. Stir the wet into dry until just moist. Do not overstir the waffle batter. Brush the iron with a little melted butter and cook 4 waffles, 4 sections each. Serve with toppings of choice.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What to Get the Person Who Has Everything

Today has been spent getting the last of our gifts together. My husband and I both have sets of grandparents in Florida and today was the day that I needed to get a gift out to them. I don’t know about you, but I find that grandparents are difficult to give to. As we get older, it seems we accumulate so much stuff. I already feel as though I have a rapidly growing collection of belongings and the need for things just isn’t as strong as it used to be. On my husband’s side, there are six children. Six children, plus their children, plus their children’s children…well, that equals a lot of stuff every Christmas.

My husband’s grandparents had encouraged us to give what we would have given them to charity. Although I think that is very thoughtful of them, I still wanted to give them something special that they could actually enjoy.

What do I give someone when I can’t think of anything else to give them? Why, pictures of my children, of course! I had taken so many pictures of our children over the holidays and was excited to get copies made of them to give to the grandparents.

A recent addition to our Dollar Tree were some beautiful photo albums (which I picked up over half a dozen of, for occasions such as these) and a quick stop over to Sam’s Club to pick up prints, and I had all the ingredients I needed to make a beautiful holiday gift.

I remember when we lived far away from my nephew; there was just so much I felt like I missed out on with him. I wanted to know what everyone else knew. I wanted to know what his favorite color was, what his favorite book was, what his favorite time of day was…things that I felt like I should know as his aunt. Unfortunately, when you live far from your family, these are just everyday occurrences in their life that you don’t get to be a part of.

In this album, I tried to recreate some of the special moments of our days together. I wrote about what my son’s aspirations were at the tender age of four (anyone looking for a top chef on their staff?), what my daughter loved to sleep with, our experience with Santa, what my son wanted for Christmas…all of the things that I know that they would want to know.

A special letter, a little holiday ribbon, and our gift was ready to go. I am hoping that it will be a memorable one for them and a way for them to feel like they are just as much a part of our lives as if they lived right next door.

I am avoiding the post office at all costs, so I put the shipment information into RedRoller.com (be sure to read that post on this great mailing service!) and put the packages outside of our door. The boxes were ordered, for free, from the UPS website and the labels were printed on the back of some of my recycled computer paper.

Total cost per gift (including shipping)- $9.00

We also included one of my son’s art projects, just to add that special touch that only he could add to the parcel. His picture of “Monsters” will be loved by them all.

Do you have a favorite gift that you have given for the person who has everything? Sound off by clicking my comments button. You don’t have to secretly lurk here- I would love to get some new ideas for my family.


P.S.- Aren't my kids so dang cute? You can definitely comment on that!

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Festival of Frugality #53

Welcome to the Festival of Frugality!

Thank you all for visiting and participating in the Festival of Frugality this week. I was overwhelmed with all of the great submissions and tried to include every post. I apologize if anyone was overlooked, as there were so many to read this week.

I also would like to wish all of our participants a wonderful holiday season filled with all of the good things that money can’t buy- a kiss from your child, a peek at the Christmas lights, leaving cookies for Santa, watching your favorite old Christmas movie, singing a Christmas carol, sharing your favorite holiday memories…whatever invokes a sense of wonder about this holiday season within you. We are all so blessed and reading these posts reminds me how creative we all can be, without spending ridiculous amounts of money. May the New Year be bountiful for you, in all the right ways!

Please visit The Finance Journey for next week's edition. You can also visit the official site for more information on future hosts and how you can become the hostess with the mostess yourself!

Let’s begin with all of the wonderful posts!

The Frugal Law Student shares why shopping at Walmart isn’t always the cheapest option. His experience has been that shopping there does not benefit your wallet and the lines aren’t worth it. Visit this entry for more information on this hot topic.

Frugal Money Management shares the dilemma of whether or not it is smart to shop with credit cards. As a frugal person, and one who wants to avoid debt, is risking it all to get cash back on your purchases really worth it? Sound off and share your opinions!

Wenchypoo shares that shredding your documents just isn’t enough to protect your valuable identity. She suggests even more ways that you should be protecting yourself from identity theft.

Fire Finance has found a resource for making international calls for free…no, seriously! Unfortunately, Timbuktu did not make the cut for countries, but many others did.

Just in time, Savvy Steward shares some tips for saving money on holiday gifts this season.

Money Walks has some signs for discovering whether you are a freebie junkie or not. I wonder if those junkies have found our Freebie Friday yet on this blog? You could definitely get your fix there.

Debt Free questions whether you should put your credit report on ice. Putting your credit report on hold has some great benefits, but is it worth the fee? Find out in this entry.

Free Money Finance shares why you should drown out the noise and not listen to the financial media. Well-meaning advice from the media, might not be the best advice.

Hustler $$$ Blog has a great tip on how you can get paid to watch Showtime…and it’s not a scam! Read all about the excellent rebates here.

Scott on Money reminds us to break out the coupons while doing your holiday shopping.

Stop the Ride! reminds you to take a tally of your wrapping materials so that you can take advantage of those after holiday sales.

Coins on the Pavement shares why you should always go to the second-run movies. If for some reason you can’t, find out why you should hang onto your old student identification card.

Bryan Fleming reminds you of the progress you should have made by taking part in his Million Dollar Savings Club.

The Simple Dollar shares why we have an obsessive need to keep up with the Joneses. He suggests that maybe it isn’t the Joneses that are feeding our addiction to want more. It might be the media and the people we surround ourselves with, which creates a bigger influence.

My Simple Trading System shares the importance of reading the fine print on 0% interest deals on cars.

My Wealth Builder shares resources for assistance when going through the process of an adoption.

My 1st Million at 33 shares a way to get a 1GB USB Flash Drive for a mere $3.88, using rebates and a discount with Google Checkout.

2 Pennies Earned shares a creative recipe for saving money on Frappucinios, using ingredients you already have on hand. Enjoy your frappes for a fraction of the cost.

Makingourway shares the cheapest place they have found for holiday photo cards.

Stingy Students shares a site where you can get books for free…no, really!

The Frugal Momma shares her recipe for Gingerbread Lattes- they sound absolutely heavenly!

The Space Between My Peers reminds you to pool your resources when attending all of your holiday affairs and find creative ways to dress yourself up, without spending too much cash.

The BEST posts of the week:

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity shares a reminder on Amazon’s unwritten policy on refunding money for price drops. This is a must read for frequent Amazon shoppers!

Wealth Talker shares ways to get the most bang out of your buck when it comes to your automobiles. The tips are great and a reminder on how to extend the life of your car and maximize the amount you get for your dollars.

Queercents has a wonderful entry on how we react to those unnecessary expenses in our lives. They beg us to remove the negativity and be grateful for the times when we can pay for the unnecessary items in our life. A totally new approach, that I totally love!

The Digerati Life has a great post reminding us of all the ways we can save on the holidays. Most astounding to me was the fact that Americans are, on average, spending $1,200 this year on Christmas. Look to this post for creative ways to stay under budget.

Paul’s Tips offers an insightful piece on really discovering your hourly wage and how training and hard work can increase your bottom line.

Wise Bread offers creative wrapping solutions for the budget-minded family.

Money Smart Life has a cute solution for creating that perfect holiday photo of your little one. Who would not want to get this card?

Daily Dose of Optimism has a great post on how to save on toner when doing all of your computer printing. Sounds a little messy, but definitely would be worth it if you are going through a lot of toner.

ProBargainHunter shares a list of all the services you can use to make free telephone calls. It is a great list for anyone who makes frequent long-distance calls and doesn’t have a zillion cell phone minutes to spare!

Dewey’s Treehouse has a wonderful reminder post on enjoying Christmas without the need to spend extravagant amounts of money to enjoy the holidays. The quotes from Laura Ingalls Wilder reminded me of my youth and the simple messages within the books. Thank you!

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Extraordinary Paninis on a Budget

This year, I got the Cuisinart GR-4 Griddler for my Christmas gift. The original price tag on this griddler was $150. Linens 'N Things had it marked at $129.99 and I could use a coupon so I headed there to pick it up with some of the Christmas money I had received from my family.

When I got to the store though, they had one of these little babies on sale for fifty percent off the $129.99 price. It had been returned and they could not sell the product new. A quick discussion with the manager helped me to discover that this item was in perfect condition, and that he would even let me use my coupon on it! I brought my griddler home for $54.99.

I was disappointed to find, however, that it was missing the griddle pieces that pop in to it. I refuse to return it though because I already had a great griddle, but really just wanted this gadget for the panini and open or closed grill functions on it.

I did attempt to call Cuisinart to see if I could get the missing pieces, but was promptly directed to return it to Linens N Things if I wanted to get all of the parts to it. I don't mind enough to return it because of the fantastic price I got on it.

Paninis are so fun to make and I started making them on our George Foreman grill when we had one of those. If you don't have one of these though, a makeshift panini maker can be made by covering a brick with tin foil and resting it on top of the sandwich. The weight will press it, just like the grill, and this won't take up any storage space in a small kitchen.

My husband LOVES paninis so he was very excited about my Christmas gift too. He goes nuts for a turkey and cheddar pressed sandwich so I wanted to make sure we had the ingredients on hand for all of those panini cravings.

I headed over to our restaurant supplies stores and got four pounds of turkey, two pounds of cheddar, and two pounds of mozzarella cheeses. I brought these home and divided them. In each plastic wrapped packet is two slices of turkey and a slice of cheese. I made these packets and then placed them in a Foodsaver bag, vacuum sealed it, and threw it in the freezer. Now if anyone in the family wants to have a sandwich (or I simply can't figure out what the heck we are going to have for dinner) I can just pull out these packets and make a quick sandwich for everyone.

Any type of bread can be used, but I love French bread or sourdough bread for our paninis. A quick trip to the bread outlet and I had plenty of varieties of bread to choose from without putting too much of a dent in my wallet.

After purchasing the bread, meat, & cheese the total cost will come to less than a dollar per sandwich. That is an incredible deal! Best of all, dinner is ready to go on a night I don't feel like cooking or when we have unexpected lunch guests!

Check this link, from Recipezaar, for seventy-two great flavor combinations for panini sandwiches.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Product Review: Innovative Electronic Soundbooks for the Budget-Minded Parent


Publications, International Ltd has released a new set of electronic books for children, appealing to the budget-minded parent. These electronic books include a book, but also an electronic gadget for children.


The company contacted us to see what we thought about their product and sent us three wonderful books to get our opinion on them for their company.


These books are hardback and durable. As a mother of a child who enjoys chewing things and tearing paper, I find board books are the best bang for our buck right now. These books are durable and will last through several of my child’s beatings, but also include handy gadgets that mimic those of their parents that are also durable and made with a child in mind. Things like cell phones and digital music players are attached to the book in lieu of the push button sounds that usually are accompanied on the side of these types of books.

They have many types of books to choose from including all of your child’s favorite characters. Some of the ones you can choose from are Elmo, The Wiggles, SpongeBob Squarepants and Strawberry Shortcake.

To be honest, I love just a plain good old-fashioned book, but it seems to be the craze to release electronically formatted types of entertainment, rather than the plain paper books of my youth. I have been known, however, to spend a pretty penny on the LeapFrog books & cartridges because I knew how much it would interest my child and I want to foster loads of learning in our home.

The bottom line is that no matter what format you present these books to your children, the one thing you want them to walk away with is a desire to read. Publications, International Ltd seems to know this and they have come up with some creative books to help instill the love of reading within your child.

While LeapFrog products will run you twenty bucks and up (just for the books, not the media to make them work), these books are made for the budget-minded consumer and are priced under twenty dollars, perfect for a parent that wants to give this type of book to their child but doesn’t have the funds to do so.

Out of all of the books, our personal favorites were the Fold & Go Car Books. What little boy would not love to create a vehicle and then have it make sounds as they push it along? This was an instant favorite in our house.

Here are some of the options available:
Cell Phone Book (Ages 3-8)

The Cell Phone Book features a removable cordless flip phone with working number buttons and an LCD screen that simulates a real camera/video-phone by featuring both still and moving visual images. Fifteen number and function buttons (including camera, movie, on/off and voicemail), allow the child to view and “call” different characters shown in the book. The camera button mimics cell-phone photography with a flash of light and a pixilated image related to the 10 different spreads in the book, while the movie button plays one of 10 different animated sequences related to the book.

An envelope symbol on the phone screen prompts the child to “check voice mail.” When the child does so by pressing the corresponding button, he/she hears a character’s message. The Cell Phone Book also features a cradle for storing the cordless phone, a volume control, and a speaker located on the back of the phone to ensure safe use by little ears. The Cell Phone Book titles will include Elmo and Dora the Explorer and will sell for around $20.

Digital Music Player Book (Ages 3-8)

Also new for 2006 is the Digital Music Player Book, a portable-music-player-and-book combination that blends the learning aspects of reading with the entertainment of music. The 11”x11”, fully illustrated, hardcover board book features a detachable music player that looks and plays like an MP3 player. The technology allows kids to “download” up to nine melodies by pressing the player’s code reader against carbon barcodes on one of five spreads in the book. The music player features an on/off switch, shuffle mode, forward/back arrow buttons and nine light-up, colored icons that correspond with illustrations in the book. The player can be stored in a holster mounted on the book cover. The Digital Music Player Book titles will include The Wiggles, SpongeBob Squarepants and Strawberry Shortcake, and will sell for around $16.99.

Fold and Go Cars Book (Ages 3-6)
The new Fold and Go Cars Book is an interactive soundbook featuring a built-in electronic “chassis,” complete with sound effects that correspond to cars in the book. Kids can pop out five perforated cars from pages of the book, fold them along scored lines and slide them – one at a time – onto the chassis mounted on the front cover. When the wheels trigger a mechanism in the chassis, the book makes sounds specific to the vehicle. The Fold and Go Cars Book is filled with vehicle facts and stories and will sell for around $12.99. NASCAR, Scooby Doo and Tonka versions will be available.

ActiveMinds® Bilingual 30-Button Book (Ages 3-8)
The ActiveMinds® Bilingual 30-Button Book offers kids aged three to eight the unique opportunity to learn and read in two languages, with added sound effects to enhance the learning experience. Ten spreads in this colorful, educational book feature icons that correspond with a 30-button sound module to the right of the text, which is shown in both English and Spanish. Kids can flip a switch to hear the word in either language for a total of 60 sound triggers, and after each word a meaningful sound effect plays to reinforce the word used. Four titles of the ActiveMinds Bilingual 30-Button Book, “Let’s Go to School,” “My First Words,” “I Can Count” and “The Magic Book” will be available and sell for around $12.99.

For more information on these books, and other books offered by this company, please visit their website.

We want to express many thanks to Publications International for giving us the opportunity to review their wonderful product.

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Freebie Friday: December 15, 2006

Happy holidays and welcome to your dose of freebies for the week. I would like to begin with a couple of great letters I received this week and thank our tipsters for their great finds!

Woke up in the middle of the night with the tv going and on comes a freebie offer. It is is www.PurinaONEChallenge.com It’s an offer for a coupon for dog and/or cat food. Thought you could use it in the Friday Freebie column. I look forward to Fridays. Thanks for all the hard work.

Carol

Update from Carol:
Today I received my coupon booklet for the Purina One Challenge. Pretty fast service. I signed up for both cat and dog. So I got a coupon for both. They total approx $14. Great deal!

Carol

Dear Amy,

I think you have a lovely blog.

I took note of your citation of the “Where to Stop & Where to Go” free guide to bathrooms in the U.S. I’m a PR person in NYC, and I did the publicity for this nifty little guide written by Arthur Frommer with Novartis’ sponsorship (Novartis is my client).

I have two other freebies you might like to check out for your blog. I hope you like them –
·
www.sleeplessmoms.com – This site, with a free downloadable brochure, features terrific tips to help moms sleep better, a sleep quiz, list of sleep resources, etc. It is sponsored by my client, Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, with useful information about insomnia from actress Debi Mazar, a mom of two; and Dr. Suzanne Griffith, a psychiatrist and sleep disorders specialist. (Note: The site contains no information about Takeda’s medication for insomnia, Rozerem.)
· “Navigating Your Health Benefits For Dummies – This is a handy free guide to making sense of the complicated world of health insurance, written in a congenial and conversational style. My client is Aetna, which teamed up with the Financial Planning Association to create the guide (note: it contains no information about Aetna’s products). It can be ordered through this web site,
www.planforyourhealth.com, a fine resource in its own right. (I read your sobering article about going without health insurance.)

If you have questions about these two resources, don’t hesitate to ask. Many thanks for considering them and thanks for an excellent blog.

Cordial regards,

Amy

Hi Amy,

I don’t know if you count this as a freebie since you have to buy it first and then mail in the rebate - but you can get a full refund of your money so all you have to pay for is the stamp. Free

Banquet Drumsticks: http://www.conagrafoods.com/promotions/BQ_promo06/bbq_chickendrum.pdf Free Banquet

Crock Pot Meal: http://www.conagrafoods.com/promotions/BQ_promo06/crockpot.pdf Free

Banquet Wings: http://www.conagrafoods.com/promotions/BQ_promo06/bbq_chickenwings.pdf

These have made great have-on-hand meals for us and you can't beat the price! :) Have a great week!

Monica (The Homespun Heart)

Amy,

Another freebie...http://www.jiffymix.com/ (recipe book).

Have a great day!

Monica (The Homespun Heart)

And if that wasn’t enough freebies, here are a few others that made the cut for the week!

Get a free sample of sausage from DePizzo Sausage Company. This company has several flavors to choose from.

Sign up to receive a complimentary one year subscription to Old House Journal magazine. The form is lengthy, but you can click through and answer, “No” to all of the questions.

Sign up to receive a free subscription to For Her Information magazine. This is a quarterly publication.

Here is a reminder on a freebie that you can do this week with your kids (this appeared in a past edition)…Here is a fun freebie for the kids! You can call Santa every day, twelve days before Christmas, and he will have a new message each day for you. It is a toll-free number and would be something really fun to add to your Christmas Jar this year! The number is 1-800-972-6242.

AT&T is offering free wireless access at their Wi-Fi locations nationwide (except at McDonalds).Use this code when you connect: WP96-gVMB-7N. This code expires on December 31, 2006.

Print out this coupon for twelve free tokens for Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.

Sign up to receive a free Family Tree Maker Magazine (only available in the U.S.).

Download (for FREE) TaxCut Basic Software from H&R Block.

Sign up to receive a free sample of Dove Ultimate Clear Smooth Cashmere Deodorant.

Walmart has a new sample available of the new Soft & Dri Clear Glide Deodorant. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Get a free subscription to CNET Digital Living Magazine.

Visit this site with your children. It has a free Santa Tracker, to track where he is located on Christmas Eve.

In select cities, you can sign up to receive a free bag of MountainKing Butter Red Potatoes.This freebie is available in these cities only: Indianapolis, IN Birmingham, AL Kansas City, MO St. Louis, MO Columbus, OH Phoenix, AZ Dallas, TX Houston, TX. Go to: http://www.mtnking.com/promo/mk_bg_1206.php and fill out form.

Get a free Always Have a Happy Period kit. It includes samples, note cards and other fun stuff.

The PR agency also asked that we share this contest with our readers.

Always.com is running an essay contest where they’re looking for inspiring women who prefer to turn negative feelings into positive ones. They want to hear from women who make it possible to have a happy period even when it sometimes feels impossible. Beginning 8:00 AM ET on 11/13/06, consumers will be able to visit: http://www.always.com/extras/freshface.jspand submit an essay with 1,000 words or less expressing in their own words how they embrace and brighten up those not-so-fun days during their period. Always.com will select 10 finalists and post their entries. The public will then be invited to vote on the ten entries beginning 2/12/07 through 3/5/07. All finalists will be awarded prize packages that include an assortment of Always products, money for college, and donations in their names to HERO, an awareness building and fundraising initiative of the United Nations Association (UNA-USA) dedicated to supporting children living in HIV/AIDS-affected communities in Africa.

For the teenager in your life (or in yourself!), you can download Ashlee Simpson’s album (almost in its entirety) for free on Last.fm.

On this particular website you can personalize a letter to Santa but, it shows you the option of getting a postmarked address for the letter with that special touch.

How about giving for free? Jeffrey Strain offers an amazing article on how you can give to charities without opening your wallet. This is a great read for those of us who want to help, but don’t have the funds to do it!

Cheers!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Making Real Christmas Memories


Last night I worked on my annual holiday cookie tray. I am not a big Christmas cookie kind of gal, but I do love to share a sweet treat. I am all about ease though when creating my holiday goodies and the easier, the better. Within a few hours I had cranked out enough goodies for thirteen goodie boxes. I included brownies (the boxed variety with a handful of chocolate chips in them, which makes them homemade- of course!), Rice Krispie treats, microwave peanut brittle, peanut butter & chocolate fudge, hot cocoa mix, and white or dark chocolate pretzels. They looked so beautiful fully assembled and I was so excited to get to be Santa today.

We ran boxes to the usual suspects in our family, but also had goodies for all of the great people who do so much for us. The mail person, our newspaper carrier, my hairdresser, and the firefighters.

I highly recommend, if you have a little boy, taking the time to visit your fire station with a box full of goodies. First of all, seeing the faces of the firefighters light up when they saw all of our treats was a treat in itself. More importantly though, was the light in my son's eye when they took him around to show him the fire engines. He got to turn the lights on it, pretend to drive, visit each of the trucks, got an honorary junior firefighter badge, and an explanation of how everything worked. I don't know who was more excited- him or me. Regardless, it was one of the best days of playing Santa I have ever had.
All of the boxes & ribbon were purchased 75% off, during the after the holiday sales. I purchased a gold metallic pen (from the Dollar Tree) and wrote our holiday wishes on each box. The goodies were then assembled into small treat bags, tied with red or green ribbon.
Here are a few of my recipes to share with you!
Microwave Peanut Brittle

1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup lite corn syrup
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Grease a baking sheet & set aside. In a glass bowl, combine peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cook in microwave for six to seven minutes on high (keep one eye on it to make sure it isn't bubbling over or burning the nuts)- the mixture should be bubbly and the peanuts should be brown. Stir in butter & vanilla; cook for two to three more minutes. Quickly stir in baking soda, just until the mixture is foamy. Pour immediately onto greased cookie sheet. Let cool for fifteen minutes or until set. Break into pieces.
Fantasy Fudge

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
12 ounces chips (chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, white- any combo you want)
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow cream
1 tsp vanilla
Mix butter, sugar and milk in a saucepan. Heat until 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Or if you do not have a thermometer, bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat. Stir in candy chips a little at a time until melted. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Spread into a small greased rectangular cake pan. Cool to room temperature.
Cut into squares.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

The Rules of Savings on Diapers

My dear blogging friend, over at Baby Cheapskate, has compiled a list of the top five rules for getting the best deal possible on disposable diapers. Her rules are great and definitely worth checking out if you have a little one in diapers. After researching for an entire year, she presents the facts on who runs the best sales, which size of diaper packages you should buy, and how to work the coupon system. Hurry over and read her great post!

If you are not going the disposable route, be sure to see our article on cloth diapering, which shares everything you need to know to get started!

And if you have no children in diapers, I have one word for you... "Lucky!"

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Product Review: Insignia 2GB MP3 Player




We have been in the market for an MP3 player for quite some time. I had been checking Ebay, the Apple website, and comparison shopping for months now. I was trying to find an affordable MP3 player that actually had some bells and whistles on it. Unfortunately, an MP3 player with the features that I wanted was going to cost us a lot of money, and we just did not have it.

As luck would have it, Insignia contacted me and gave us the opportunity to review their 2GB MP3 player. This player actually has all of the bells and whistles and is just over the hundred dollar mark. In the MP3 player world, that is quite a bargain! If you are looking for an MP3 player, but don’t have a lot of Christmas cash, I would highly recommend this player.

This player, in all honesty, is everything I could want out of an MP3 player. It is super light, weighing in at only 2.4 ounces, and has a nice sleek design to it. 2GB of storage translates into approximately 500 songs, 2,000 photos, 25 audiobooks, or 7 movies. It also has a spot for a memory card, should 2GB of storage not be enough for you.

This player is well-designed and adding music to it was as simple as downloading a CD of software and attaching the USB cable to our computer. Within minutes, I had uploaded a good portion of my music collection and it was ready to go.

As a mom, who rarely has any quiet time to myself, I had to create times for myself to actually be able to listen to it. I figured that while I was out battling the crowds, doing my holiday shopping, would be a great time for me to actually have some peace & quiet. It was perfect and I was able to tune out all of the chaos, making waiting in lines at Walmart much more pleasurable for me. I admit, I did receive some funny looks, but I held back the need to burst into song out in public.

My husband may not agree that he has enjoyed the player as much because he bears witness to my theatrical singing (which is truly a treat, I am sure!), but he doesn’t complain. Only a fool would complain when I am trying to make scrubbing pots or washing kid’s clothing enjoyable.

The Insignia 2GB MP3 player is a great bargain and a wonderful treat for any mom. For more information on this product, please visit this link to get the full scoop. It does many more cool things, but the main thing for me was to be able to listen to my music collection. Those looking for other features, like being able to watch movies or view pictures, will not be disappointed with this player. These are just added bonuses for this mom!

Many thanks to Insignia for allowing us to have the opportunity to enjoy such a great product!

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Freebie Friday: December 8, 2006



.

Welcome to Freebie Friday on the Mother Load! I hope that you will enjoy these freebies as much as I have enjoyed sharing them with all of you.

I did want to post an update to Jamie’s story, as I have received many emails on her requesting information on how her family is doing.

Jamie sent me an update and let me know that her family was able to get their electricity turned back on, some food for her family, and was able to get some clothing for her children, all through the Multi-Services organization (Thank you to the wonderful tipster who shared this with her. Good bless you!). She was, however, denied by many of the other services because her income was “too high” according to income qualifications. This makes me very, very sad as this woman is working very hard to support her family.

We have gotten many emails requesting Jamie’s contact information and many of our readers are offering to send her packages of food, toys for her children, and clothing. Jamie and her family greatly appreciate the assistance, although I do want to preface and say that Jamie NEVER asked for a handout, but only requested information on guiding her in the right direction. Jamie’s children’s sizes are size eight for her daughter (both bottoms and tops) and size eight in boys (both bottoms and tops). Jamie herself wears size 10/12 in bottoms and size large on top. Their local grocery stores are Price Cutters & Walmart. I am providing this information in case anyone wanted to help this family or had plans to donate some items to Goodwill and would like to donate them to Jamie instead. We have sent her a grocery card for this week and we are hoping that with the assistance of others that she will have a very Merry Christmas this year. Please email me privately at amy@momadvice.com if you would like to help this family.

I also contacted every media outlet, nonprofit organization, and church in her area and sent them letters pleading that they help her. Jamie completed an interview with her local paper yesterday on her struggles as a single mother and I am hoping that this type of publicity will not only make people aware of her struggle, but the struggles of many single mothers out there. If you are a single mother who is looking for some guidance, SingleMom.com is an awesome website full of great information. I have been providing articles for these ladies for a long time and they are the best resource for single moms on the internet.

Now on with our freebies for the week!

Get a free sample of Sunsilk Hair Care Products from Walmart. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Get a free milkshake from Fuddruckers for joining their mailing list. No calorie counting book is included in this freebie so enjoy this freebie thoroughly!

Courtesy of About Freebies, they provided this great information…Costco has their cookbooks from 2002 - 2006 online with over 1,000 recipes. You may also be able to pick up a printed copy of the most recent version at your local Costco. Ask at the customer service counter. They also have a number of reference and catalog documents available online. All of these can be found on the Costco Connection page.

Pfizer is offering a free Mom Kit. Within the kit it contains information on how to take five minutes to better yourself as a mother and comes with free samples. In the kit you receive a Tucks Medicated Pads Box of 40, Desitin (1 oz size), Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion (1 oz size), a coupon or free Listerine (not to exceed $8.40 value), a coupon for free Pediacare (not to exceed $5.49). You will need to call during normal business hours and speak with a representative to get this sample. The telephone number is 1.800.223.0182. Press the teleprompt for, “Promotions.” They will ask if you are expecting or if you have a baby and your address. You will receive your sample within five to seven business days. Now if only they offered Tylenol PM so you could get through all of those nights where you can’t sleep. Then I think that this offer would be complete!

Hershey’s website has a free downloadable calendar and also offers free printable scrapbooking packs, which would be great to print out for your kids and to let them scrapbook with you! Heck, if you are really frugal, these can be your scrapbooking pages too. Just make sure you have a nice quality printer.

Purchase the US Weekly Magazine for December 11, and there is a coupon for Victoria's Secret Beauty Rush Lip Gloss. It is free with no purchase necessary, and is a $7.00 value. You even get to choose from any of the 27 flavor/colors. It is on Page 43. Offer good till 12/24. Don’t forget to pick up some mistletoe!

Print out this buy one get one free coupon on Slurpees! Not a total freebie, but close!

Fill out the quick form and receive a Baby’s Dream Growth Chart. This offer is only good while supplies last so get this freebie quick! If you look to your left, they are also offering a free Nursery Guide and offering a Nursery Giveaway that you could sign up for. This is great for those mommies-to-be!

Get a free sample of the Homeschool Enrichment Magazine.

Here is a fun freebie for the kids! You can call Santa every day, twelve days before Christmas, and he will have a new message each day for you. It is a toll-free number and would be something really fun to add to your Christmas Jar this year! The number is 1-800-972-6242.

Here is a freebie for non-profit organizations. DreamHost offers a FREE Strictly Business plan to non-profit, charitable, organizations registered in the United States. This discount applies to a single Strictly Business hosting plan per non-profit, hosted within only one account, for US-based 501(c)(3) organizations. Account extras, add-ons, and domain registrations (other that any included with the plan) are not eligible for any discounts.

What little girl would not love a free printable Dora the Explorer Potty Training Chart for Christmas? Make sure to print this one out for loads of potty-training fun! It includes printable calendars and an award certificate of completion!

I am sure you have a lot of gray hairs now from completing all of that potty training. Why not cover them up for free with some free hair color? There are loads of colors to choose from. I am a “Drew” color- what is your shade? The free sample link is to the left on the page.

Best Buy is offering fourteen free downloadable holiday tracks on their website. Enjoy the holidays with some free music!

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Every Post You Need for the Holiday Season



Since I have over two hundred posts, I thought I would pull together a list of posts that might help you during this holiday season.

Shipping:

Say No to Hand Cramps (when doing your holiday cards!)

Getting the Cheapest Shipping

Shopping:

Saving More on Christmas Shopping

Simon Mall Kidgits Program (since you have to be at the mall anyway!)

Sam’s Club Click N Pull (something worth checking out when you are battling long lines at the wholesale club)

Avoiding Holiday Debt

Thirteen Easy Ways to Save Your Family Money

Frugal Gift Ideas:

Restaurants.com Gift Certificates

Holiday Bling Without a Bling Budget

Weeding Through Your Child’s Artwork Creatively (use some of those art projects for gifts this year!)

Frugal Teacher Gifts

Frugal College Student Gifts

Simplifying Gift Giving

Giving the Gift of Magazines Frugally

Babes in Toyland

Recipes:

Homemade Microwave Popcorn & Caramel Corn

Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Aldi Fall/Winter Menu Planner

Traditions:

Schedule of Christmas Television Programs

Creating Holiday Traditions

Me Time

The Christmas Jar

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

WFMW: Don't Throw Out Those Take-Out Menus!


It has been awhile since I have participated in Works-For-Me Wednesday, but I have been drained trying to get ready for the holidays. I actually had no original thoughts to contribute!

This week I actually had (I thought) a brilliant idea for those take-out menus that I get in the mail. Usually I get take-out menus from all sorts of restaurants in our area and we also get a booklet from a dining in service that picks up food for you so you don't have to run out and actually pick it up. Normally I throw these in the trash, but they came in handy this week as I have been preparing my menu plan.

This week I was stumped for ideas for dinner, but I pulled these take out menus out and I had a bunch of great ideas for what to fix for dinner. Say you want Italian one night? Well, whip out the Italian take-out menus and pick from those. Don't have a recipe? Well, just head to your computer and look a recipe up on AllRecipes.com. Craving some good pub food? Make your own at home. How about diner food? Why not make it at home instead?

Now since we all know that I love to save money, I had a blast preparing the food and then saying to my husband, "You know, if we went to such-and-such restaurant we would have paid a lot more for this same dish." Since I have the menus I can quote down to the quarter how much I saved us. I am sure it drives him crazy, but it makes me happy!

Menu planning became a lot easier once I saw the menus and even the uncreative can be inspired by reading these.

I hope this works for you too! Check out Shannon's blog for all of this week's participants.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Real Review of Restaurant.com


Restaurant.com - $25 Certificates for only $10


I wanted to take an opportunity to review Restaurant.com because it was one of those deals that just sounded too good to be true. How can a company offer $25 gift certificates to restaurants and only charge you $10 (or less if a coupon is involved) and actually be a deal that is for real? I was a skeptic, but was willing to take a gamble on it to enjoy an evening out with my husband.

We purchased our gift certificate for $25 for a mere $4 because they happened to be running a great sale on the gift certificates. When we typed in our zip code, it popped up a few restaurants in our area that were participating. Last year when I had checked there had not been restaurants in our area, so this was a pleasant surprise.

We chose a nice Italian place for dinner and I purchased the gift certificate. I did read through the terms of the gift certificate before purchasing it and still was a little puzzled by all of it. For example, this gift certificate had said that I needed to spend $35 to get a $25 gift certificate. Did this mean I needed to spend $35 at Restaurant.com or did this mean the restaurant itself? Only when I received the gift certificate did I understand that I was supposed to spend $35 at the restaurant and not the website. Would have been nice to know so I thought I would mention this in case anyone else has the same weird confusion.

I purchased the gift certificate for one particular restaurant and a copy of the gift certificate was emailed to me as well as available immediately for printing. You have the ability at this time to make a reservation through the website. This is not required, but I thought it might make the process go smoother and alert the restaurant that I was using one of these certificates (remember I said that I was a little concerned that this was a hoax?) Within a minute of placing the reservation I received an automated call from Restaurant.com to thank me for placing my reservation and that they were confirming it.

We went to dinner that night and had two entrees and two glasses of wine. The total bill was over the amount needed for us to use the certificate so meeting a $35 minimum purchase at the restaurant was not a problem at all! When we received the bill, we tucked the certificate inside and waited for the manager to come out and tell us that we couldn’t use it.

The waiter came out with our bill revised with the $25 removed from the total tab. Now we could let the excitement really begin because it was the real deal! Our evening, including our tip and the $4 purchase price) was about the cost of one entrée at the restaurant.

Now why in the world would a restaurant be open to doing this? Well, if it is a small mom and pop shop, this is a great way to get new faces in the door and let them know about your restaurant. For example, the place we went to was so great that I now want to go there for my birthday. Mission accomplished by the restaurant to get me to be a reoccurring customer. This is also a great way for a new restaurant to get their name out there. The places that were offered were great and they probably know that they are great. They know that they are so great that they can give you food (practically free) and know that you will probably come back and pay top dollar for the same entrée.

Here are a breakdown of the positives & negatives of the gift certificates:

Pros:

· It is a very inexpensive way to try out a restaurant without paying a lot of money.

· The certificates are instant- no waiting for them to be put in the mail to you.

· The company guarantees the certificates. If, for some strange reason, you are having trouble with a particular restaurant they will refund your money.

· The website provides pictures of the restaurant and it includes the menu so you know exactly where you are going and what they have to offer.

· You can get gift certificates as gifts for other people. You do not have to decide which restaurant they should go to (unless you wish to do this) so when they receive their certificate they can pick the place in their area that fits them best.

· The certificates can also be used for online retailers that have partnered with Restaurant.com

Cons:

· There is fine print on these certificates. The things that stood out for me were that you are only allowed to redeem one of these per month per restaurant, you are not allowed to use two certificates at the same time (even if you have separate checks), and each individual restaurant has the choice to decide whether your alcohol tab can be applied to the gift certificate.

· The choices in smaller towns may be minimal or not at all. They seem to be expanding, but the big city folks definitely get more choices.

· When given as a gift, the recipient needs to know that they will be responsible for a portion of their bill (remember the $25 off of a $35 purchase) and that they can only use one certificate at a time.

The reason I mention these is that they do make excellent gifts. Giving someone fifty dollars in gift certificates when spending a fraction of the price is a great thing for frugal folks like me. These would be great for a college student (as they could apply this in their area) or could be used when you are traveling and want to be able to dine out without spending a bunch of money.

If you do decide to get one of these, I would love if you clicked through our banner above on our site. We have become affiliated with this program and would appreciate the credit for it.

The current coupon code (good through DECEMBER 10th) is Code#: 73515. When totaling your bill enter the code and then hit, “Recalculate” and this will give you fifty percent off of the price of the gift certificates.

If you have had experience using Restaurant.com, feel free to share it…good or bad!

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Holiday Bling Without a Bling Budget

I heart Christmas. It is my absolute favorite time of year. I fear that my children are going to grow up hating Christmas because their mother drove them crazy with Christmas extravaganzas. Sadly, I am willing to forgo their enthusiasm in their later years to really make Christmas special for them now.

When I say that I love Christmas though, I do not mean that I go crazy buying presents. Presents do not equal the fun part of Christmas for me. Frankly, presents equal more stuff that I need to find a home for and we have a ton of things already that still haven’t found their proper homes.

No, the fun part of Christmas for me is the Christmas music, the decorating of the tree, making homemade goodies for gifts, reading Christmas stories, and watching the classic Christmas shows on television.

Other people do expect some gifts though so I do give in on the gift thing. The frugal gal in me really shines around the holidays and I have gotten some great deals under our tree. Here are a few tips for keeping the bling in your holiday without completing ruining your budget.

1. Start buying after the holidays. I get great deals on my gift wrap, Christmas gift bags, holiday ribbon, cards, and stocking stuffers after the season is over. These are those little things that don’t seem to ever make into the budget factor. Sure, you got a great deal on a gift, but if it costs you three dollars to make it look presentable…well, is it still a good deal?

2. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. We opted out of a holiday gift exchange when the price tag became too much of a burden our family. If you don’t feel good about giving a gift, then you probably shouldn’t give it. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground if you don’t feel comfortable with the dollar amount.

3. If you know that others in your family are struggling to meet ends meet, agree to not give gifts or do something in lieu of a gift. For example, this year my sister and I agreed that the adults in our family would not be exchanging gifts and only the kids would be receiving the goodies. That alleviated the financial burden of buying two gifts for each of our families. For birthdays, which we both have right around the holidays, we are exchanging babysitting instead of gifts. A night away with just my hubby…now that gift is priceless!

4. Be sure to hit your dollar store…and hit it often! You can get some great gifts there. I got beautiful hardbound books for gifts, amazing acid-free photo albums, and stocking stuffers galore at our dollar store. Dollar sections at Target & Michael’s can also host a goldmine of great gifts for you that are much easier on your wallet.

5. Buy gifts periodically throughout the year so you don’t feel that financial crunch when December comes around. I visit the clearance sections in the stores all year round. I put these gifts in a Rubbermaid tote and just add to it as I come across things. By December, I have almost everything I need and I can say, “Ah” instead of “Ouch!”

6. When your children are small, they are not going to care if they are the first recipient of their toys or not. Thrift shops can be your best friend and your children will love it just as much as they would have if you bought it at the “real” store. Enjoy it before they figure it out!

7. Homemade goodies are the way to anyone’s heart. Make things that are quick and easy , but still have that homemade flair in them. I buy Christmas tins from our Goodwill and fill them with goodies for people. The tins cost a quarter a piece and I try and find recipes that don’t cost a lot to make or take a lot of baking time.

8. Restaurant.com gift certificates. Need I say more? These have made my giving so much easier. Right now they are running a coupon code (Code#: 73515. This coupon code expires on DECEMBER 10th) for fifty percent off the already low price on these. I will be writing a review of these awesome gift certificates later this week. I have used them, they are for real, and they make great gifts!

However much you choose to give, remember to give only what you can afford. Who wants to pay for Christmas for an entire year? Worse yet, who wants to still be paying on Christmas when the next Christmas rolls around? Give, but give accordingly.

Feel free to share how you keep the costs down on your holiday spending!

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Freebie Friday: December 1, 2006

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It is Freebie Friday today and I am excited to share all of the latest freebies with you.

I didn’t get any tips this week, as I am sure everyone is preparing for their holidays, but I did receive a letter from a family that could really use your help. We have received so many great responses from all of you and I really appreciate it, as does Jamie and her family. If you have any tips or know of any resources for them, I would greatly appreciate your comments. Jamie has been checking the post and looking into all of your tips. Thank you all for your responses!

I would also like to let everyone know that, “The Christmas Jar” article has been posted. This article should give you some unique ideas for making the holidays special with your children. We also recently posted an article on Making Your Own Convenience Foods & Mixes and an article on Frugal Ways to Winterize Your Home. Be sure to check these out!

This Week’s Freebies:

AOL Video has decided to spread some holiday cheer by giving away over 30 free movie downloads for one day only on this Saturday. For the full scoop, visit TechCrunch to get all the info. Looks like there will be some holiday movies and some big budget blockbusters. Enjoy!

Claim a complimentary one year subscription to PC Magazine.

Get a free sample of Olay Definity. Limit one per household.

Order a free Herbal Expedition Kit. This includes a sample of herbal tea, two seed packets, and a cookbook from Celestial Seasonings. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.

Visit an Estée Lauder counter and enjoy a complimentary iMatch™ makeover. During your consultation, the Estée Lauder foundation expert will ask you specific questions to determine your shade, your finish, your match. Simply mention O, The Oprah Magazine and you’ll get the royal treatment. You'll receive a free 3-day supply of your ideal shade and formula, no purchase necessary. Available exclusively at your nearest Estée Lauder Counter. For more information, please visit this link.

Get a free bathroom guide on “Where to Stop & Where to Go.”This guide is intended for people who have an overactive bladder. I am sure mothers with toddlers have this issue too!

Get a free sample of Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder-Gel. You will also receive a dollar off on your next purchase of this.

This PDF file contains a page full of coupons for free rentals from Hollywood Video.

Get a free sample of Luna Bars.

Claim a complimentary one year subscription to Log Homes Illustrated Magazine.

Get a free sample of Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop Popcorn. This freebie will go very fast- be sure to snatch your sample up! Please allow up to four weeks for delivery. If you don’t get this one, check my blog entry for how to make your own homemade version of microwave popcorn.

Claim a complimentary subscription to Psychology Today Magazine. This is for a full year’s worth of the magazine.

Get a free subscription to Culture & Travel Magazine.

Get a free four ounce sample of brown rice and some free recipes from Carolina & Mahatma Brown Rice company.

Receive a free sample of Planters Salted Peanuts for completing a short survey.

Happy Holidays!

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