Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday Thrifty Tip: Investing in Recharable Batteries

Welcome back to Thursday Thrifty Tip here at the Little Blue Bungalow. Thursday's posts are devoted in helping you save money as well as being creative with your time, household supplies and budget. My intent is to share practical tips on how our family stretches our budget on one modest income in an expensive economy. Joining me this week in my crusade are: Tracy, Genny, Anisa and Crystal. Please take the time to view their blogs for more ideas on saving your dollars and pennies.

Batteries. They are definitely an integral part of our high-tech society with battery operated toys, gadgets and household appliances. But... let's be brutally honest...they can expensive, especially in children's toys when they leave them on, push the same button 1,789 times during one day and/or leave flash lights on for extended periods of time. (Could I be talking for experience here?...Urgh.) Depending on brand, size and quantity in a pack, batteries can easily cost anywhere from $3.99 to $19.99 and add up quickly on your next shopping trip.

One of the greatest ways our family has cut back on the cost of batteries is by using rechargeable (nickel-metal hydride battery) batteries. Though there is an initial investment in the charging system, in the long run the value is instrumental in protecting the environment and saving you dollars. Our particular battery charging system (La Crosse Technology) was purchased off of pricegrabber.com (a great website for comparing pricing of products at different companies' sites) for around $29.99 about two years ago. In addition to the system, it came with 4 AAA batteries, 8 AA batteries and a handy dandy carrying case. (Not bad for an initial investment.)

The actual number of batteries you'll need will vary greatly depending on the type and quantity of electronic products you have requiring batteries. Over the years, we have continued to purchase more rechargeable batteries for our collection making sure to purchase them when deeply discounted. As the standard batteries have worn out we replace them with rechargeable knowing we may pay more a bit more ($2-3 per battery) initially but the priced value over the lifetime use of the battery is greater. It is an investment, but a wise one in the big picture.

In addition, to rechargeable batteries we also been careful to choose items that don't require the use of batteries, but have their own charging system. For example, we purchased a wind-up flashlight on clearance for $8.90 for Fiona about 18 months ago at Target. The item does not require any batteries. (Hallelujah!) It literally is the greatest invention as you never have to worry if the batteries are good in your flashlight during an emergency situation...just a few cranks and...you've got light. Of course, not to mention, it is the greatest invention for kids as they LOVE flashlights. (Why it is so darn cool to sit in a dark bedroom with a flashlight I'll never know.) And as a parent, you'll just smile when you walk by their room and see the flashlight illuminating a teddy bear because you know they aren't "wasting batteries" and costing you money.

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday Archive

Picture taken in Mill Creek, WA apartment September 1, 2005...only six weeks after we moved from the land of cheese...Wisconsin.

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No Comment.
















I just looked up from my computer to see it snowing...not just snowing gently, but in full mass, collecting on the ground snow. Ha. No comment.

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean
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Mustard Seed Faith

I have to confess...I worry. Though my life is deeply rooted in Jesus Christ sometimes I still find myself worrying which in a sense is an oxymoron. (Isn't it?) This morning I can't sleep. Instead I'm listening to the rhythm of my son, Keegan, sleeping as I lay in bed thinking, worrying, praying.

Life doesn't always make sense. Even I find myself questioning God sometimes like a child stuck in a cardboard box. (Yes, that is my little Fiona at 11 months) Why I am here? For what purpose is this box? God, I'm lost...can you help me?

The economy is in tank, marriages are failing, people can't find work, etc. But in the midst of it all I'm reminded that God is there and that no problem is too big for God to handle. To trust, to have faith, but yet, sometimes I STILL worry.

I envy my husband for his faith...he doesn't worry and trusts God for his every need...it is his gift. I, on other hand, work on my faith daily...leaning, trusting, and knowing God has got me covered. However, sometimes I feel worry building up...it consumes me...when I should be trusting God. I am reminded by faith that I am not in control. God is the master planner. But, honestly, this is hard for me sometimes...well, for a control freak.

So to combat my own struggles with worry I PRAY. I pray when I drive my kids to the library, I pray when I change a diaper, I pray when I'm bored, I pray when I make a snack, I pray when I run on the treadmill, I pray at church, I pray when I work in the garden, I pray when I hear a friend's strife, I pray when I'm bored, I PRAY.

Sharing my worries with God gives me peace and builds my trust as prayers are answered. God is not done with me. I am a work in progress. I will not worry...I will pray.


He told them, "Because of your lack of faith. I tell you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20


From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean


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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Aunt Rebekah!

video
The kids send their love and wishes to you all, especially Aunt Rebekah on your 28th birthday. Aunt Rebekah and Uncle Josh are currently in Turkmenistan with the Peace Corps. Watch out world...you are looking at your next American Idol contestants!

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean

Friday, January 23, 2009

...And the Princess Sleeps


From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Thrifty Tip: Reuse and Repurpose

It has been a long week here at the Little Blue Bungalow (sick Keegan, lots of commitments and even my first interview since 2001!), so I will be keeping my Thursday Thrifty Tip to a minimum. I know you are all shocked to hear that I will attempt to not babble on, but it is an attempt.

Anyway...today's tip allows you to go wild and dig through your recycling bin without a care in the world. (Aren't you excited?) My kids LOVE this activity. They often dream up all sorts of great "toys": princess castles, teddy bears made of toilet paper rolls, musical instruments (as shown in picture), color on junk mail, etc. And guess how much this fun costs? Nothing.

Now...it isn't all about the kids. Adults can be creative too and reuse yogurt containers for seed starters, cottage cheese containers for left-overs, lid tops to place under plant pots...oh, and my favorite Grandma trick...put cookies in Cool Whip containers to hand out. (Smile.) In addition, I utilize a variety of containers for home improvement projects to hold stain, paint, or hold solution to soak a rusty hinge. My husband, Drew, is also the king of repurposing clear container and baby food jars in his basement wood shop. With the help of a label machine, he has no problems finding the nuts and bolts my handyman Drew needs to get the job done. Ah...the beauty of reusing items for FREE.

So, I'd love to hear what thrifty ideas are are being utilized in your home. What is your most creative reused and repurposed item? And as always...for more great thrifty tips, please view my friend's blogs: Tracy, Genny, Anisa.

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday


From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean
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Insider Tips: Great Wolf Lodge

After having the weekend of our life at Great Wolf Lodge, I feel compelled to share some of our travel tips with my readers. (Good times my friends, good times.) Since many of my readers are thrifty as well as have families these tips may be of interest.

The actual water park (located in Grand Mound, WA...approximately 1 1/2 hours from Seattle) is a dream come true for kids of all ages. Heated to a very warm 83 degrees, there is no chance for shivering between activities including: water slides, wave pool, water play grounds and everything you could ever imagine that might be fun with water. (Seriously, you are going to have a wet weekend!) The life guards are plentiful, attentive and life jackets are available in a variety of sizes for your little ones. (However, lifeguards and life jackets can never replace parent supervision when it comes to the safety of our children!)

Though the water attractions are absolutely out of this world...wet, wild and wacky; I have to warn you that the inside food establishments are pricey. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind paying over $18 for an All-American meal once in awhile if the atmosphere is right. However, we were there to play! The quick alternatives included...$18/adult or $9/child for buffet style meal or $15 for a medium Pizza Hut pizza. (Ouch...especially when we all know that in that environment kids will only eat a piece of cheese and two bites of a dinner roll.) Needless to say, we chose the pizza and supplemented with our snacks we brought from home. Oh...and, of course, there was an in-house Starbucks. (If you are a regular blog reader...I don't even think I need to explain myself here when I say Mom and I enjoyed the complimentary coffee in our hotel room.) Enough said.

There was opportunity to eat "outside the box", but you had to be prepared. Hence, the reason for this post. Each room is equipped with a dorm size refrigerator and microwave for guests to use. If we had to do it over again (which we will!) we'd bring meals we could microwave, more snacks as well as cereal and milk for the morning. Thankfully, we had more snacks then we needed which substituted for many of our meals during our 24 hour stay and everyone was happy, including our pocket books. Not only did eating in the room save us money, but valuable WATER TIME since we could eat in our swimming suits in the privacy of our room.

Our family was blessed with this amazing weekend experience from Grandma Bonnie as a Christmas gift so our cost was nothing. (Thank you Grandma!) The neatest part is she accompanied us on the trip and enjoyed the fun with our family. The kids loved having Grandma there and Drew and I were grateful for the extra set of eyes and hands during the adventure. We visited during a holiday which meant bigger crowds and weekend hotel prices. But, if your family is able to get away during the weekday you'll save even more on your room and the crowds will be smaller. If you book a stay during Sunday through Thursday you'll save $100 a night off your room. Now that is some savings!

In addition to the water park is a multitude of arcades, a fantasy wizard game that takes you on an interactive journey all over the lodge, a kid's(yes...I just wrote that) and adult spa as well as gift high shops. If these are your things...then be prepared to bring your VISA. I'm not saying these things are worthy and warrant attention, I just have a hard time equating experience with overpriced merchandising. For example...paying $5.99 for a 16 oz Icee in a Wolf Lodge plastic cup. But, hey, you can get refills for $2.58. Get my point?

Despite dodging some expensive merchandising, our weekend was PRICELESS. Spending most of our time in a state of "wetness" at the water park we are looking forward to our encore adventure. Ah...I forgot to even mention the story time at night around the lodge fire place. So much to tell. If you and your family are planning a trip soon please don't hesitate to contact me directly. I'll be sure to give you my two cents worth. :)

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean


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Monday, January 19, 2009

A Sneak Peek of Weekend Fun...

From inside the little blue bungalow (after a very wet weekend!),
Katie Jean


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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blink and you'll miss it...


"Wiser" parents, grandparents and friends have always politely told me to enjoy each "season" of my children's life. At the time it always seemed like an odd comment as I was changing a dirty diaper, cleaning up baby food off the highchair or running after an energy-filled child.

Miss changing diapers, the messes, the noise?

But...they are right in every sense. Each day brings it mixed blessings and challenges. I personally wouldn't want to miss a moment of my children's adventures. Adventures like Fiona's first swim with (Late) Grandpa Kent and Daddy at three months old or Fiona taking swimming lessons on her own four years later.

Blink and you'll miss it...

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Thrifty Tip: Creative Childcare Ideas

Dear faithful reader,
This week's Thursday Thrifty Tip is geared toward my readers with kids who desire creative, inexpensive childcare ideas. Though, I know this doesn't fit the profile of all my readers, I apologize in advance if this post isn't for you. However, maybe you are that neighbor, friend, grandparent that can lend a hand with the community of kids around you. Take a look, tuck it away in the back of your brain. Maybe you'll gleam a "nugget" of information on how to be creative in providing safe and inexpensive childcare for those that are proud to be called parents.
Many blessings,
Katie Jean

Hello and welcome back to Thursday Thrifty Tip... I'm your host, Katie Jean. Today, along with my cohorts: Tracy, Genny and Anisa, we will bringing you tips to save your household money in this crazy economy through Thrifty Tips. So sit back. Relax and enjoy my own creative childcare ideas at The Little Blue Bungalow.

Organize a Childcare Swap:
Swap 3-4 hours a month with close friends or neighbors for a "free" night on the town. Small price = watching their kids another weekend, but believe me the time is bliss and worth the extra craziness for one night. Lay ground rules and swapping procedures by having dinner together before you begin swapping. Be prepared to revisit swapping in large group forum every three months to make sure the process is a win for everyone.

I, personally, have been involved with childcare swapping since Fiona was about four months old. In fact, the "featured" picture for the post is of me watching Fiona and our friend's son, Jason, at one of our first of many swaps. (Wow...times have changed and that is only four years ago...well then.) Well maybe watching other kids doesn't sound appealing...you've had enough? Remember swapping doesn't always have to be kids for kids. For example, maybe you cut hair, decorate cakes, work on cars, etc....exchange your service for a few hours away from the kids.

Utilize "Parent's Night Out" Opportunities: Many children's establishments such as preschools, YMCA, churches, etc. offer "Parent's Night Out" opportunities for a set fee. These are great places to drop your children off at familiar sites with trusted childcare workers. Often these nights are reasonably priced and include a snack or dinner since the organization offering the service is able to watch several children at once. Take advantage of these evenings if you desire childcare but don't want to worry about "returning the favor" and have fewer dollars to spare in your pocket book.

Stroll the Grocery Aisles: Alright...this is definitely one of those ideas "out of the box", but listen folks...if you need time from your kids know your sources. Take advantage of free child care at local grocery stores (Top Foods and Fred Meyer for the Snohomish County area). Pick up your weekly groceries, grab a coffee and stroll the aisles without the distraction of the kiddos. Most stores offer their services for 90 minutes, but any free time alone is appreciated. I also, utilize my YMCA membership by dropping my kids off at the childcare zone up to two hours a day while I sweat like a crazy lady. Oh the joys.

Befriend a College Student: Go out late...have the sitter come AFTER the kids are sleeping. Offer the student a home cooked meal (prepared by you...no frozen pizza, Mac/Cheese...you know who you are!), access to free laundry, a quiet place to study and a small reimbursement (ex: Starbucks card, McDonald's Arch card). What a "sweet" job for a student and what a great way for you to gain your night life back again...that is if you ever had one. (Ahem. All right then...moving right along.)

Sowing the Gift of Help: Give free date nights out to close friends for birthdays, new arrivals or anniversaries. Make sure to be specific when creating "gift certificates", ex: 'coupon good for four hours of babysitting...not redeemable for overnight stays'. Not only does this gift save you money from shelling out money for gifts that get stuffed in closets (Did I just write that?), your friends will be so gracious for you willing to give of your time. Hopefully your idea will catch on and you'll receive a date night on your next special occasion.

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean




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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kids and Technology

All I can say is..."R u kidding me?" Yes...my two year old Keegan is now navigating the lap top...with results, I might add. How in the world did kids (or more importantly MY kids) get so advanced with technology?

And check out the smirk on Keegan's face...he knows he's up to something that most adults can't even manage. (But...on the other hand, he colored his socks the other day so I think he has some more important skills to learn yet.) I snapped this picture after grabbing a phone call. He didn't wait for me...nope...took advantage of the situation to start watching the movie again by himself. (Doesn't he look like royalty with computer and sippie cup nearby?)

Oh...by the way Fiona is starting her own blog tomorrow...just kidding. Wait for it...it probably is not too far off. She already takes her own pictures...now only if she could spell. (Smile.) I just hope I can keep up with the kids and technology.

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean


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Sunday, January 11, 2009

The "Witching" Hour


After being a parent for nearly 4 1/2 years, I can definitely say every kid (ah...hem...I mean my kids) has their "crazy" time when they are moody, whiny and are just a bit more sensitive to life. At the Little Blue Bungalow, we've termed this very special time as "the witching hour". Now, I'm not scientifically sure that it really is the kids going "nuts " or that the parents have just had ENOUGH with the kids. It could easily be a combination.



Our "witching hour" really spans almost two hours from 5-7 PM. (Why we never called it "witching hours" I'll never know?) Feelings are hurt, pushing incurs, tears are shed, toys are dumped out of basket...and I feel as if I'm on a roller coaster of emotions, because I am. I am the master of the three ring circus...directing kids, making supper, and shuttling kids back from the YMCA.

Thankfully as supper is done, things start to settle back into a routine. Teeth are brushed, pj's are put on, stories are read, songs are song and little ones fall into the rhythm of their beds. I'm exhausted too, but instead enjoy the quiet, clean Little Blue Bungalow with my husband. We read, blog, 'surf the net', talk about the day and/or enjoy a movie.

Though the "witching hour" is intense, it is always a blessing to know the time with my husband awaits after a long day with the kids. We enjoy one another's company forgetting quickly that tomorrow we'll face more "crazies" with the kiddos during the "witching hour".

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean
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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday Thrifty Tip: Buy Christmas Supplies Now

After a two week absence due to the holidays, I'd like to welcome you back to Thursday Thrifty Tip. Thursday Thrifty Tip or TTT was designed to share ideas from the Little Blue Bungalow with the blogging community on creative ways to save money through practical advice. Since beginning these posts, I'm pleased to announce I've had three other bloggers join my weekly postings. Please make sure to check out their tips and ideas each week as well: Tracy, Genny, Anisa.

Though Christmas tends to be one of the most overspending months, I hope you were able to find ways to cut back and stretch your budgets. Today's tips derive from some of the "screaming deals" that are available in the retail stores after Christmas. As I speak, (OK "type") most retail as well as grocery stores are selling their left-over Christmas wares at bargain prices...most at 75% off right now. This is HUGE savings, but remember only buy what you need. Yes, you can't believe you can buy Christmas lights on sale for $1.50/box...but 30 boxes! (Come on...pace yourself.)

As you take down your Christmas decorations take stock on what items you will need for next year's Christmas celebration. Down to one roll of Christmas paper or out of present tags or maybe Billy broke all of the ornaments off the tree? Now is the time to jump on these items at rock bottom prices! In addition, think "outside the box" as you glance over some of these amazing sales. Often stores are selling beauty kits, games, cookie sprinkles, plain red bags, etc that don't necessarily have to be used for Christmas gifts, but could "double" as birthday gifts, Valentine goodies bags, you name it!

At the end of the Christmas season, I also sort through my received Christmas cards and cut off the "top" of each card. Recycled Christmas cards have numerous uses and not only save you money when you "reuse" them creatively, but help impact our environment. In past years, I've used recycled Christmas cards for name tags on presents by using cookie cutters to trace unique shapes, Christmas thank-you's, and making kid-friendly Christmas tree ornaments.

This year, I used last year's recycled Christmas cards and created postcards to send out to friends with the link to my Christmas greeting on my blog. Not only did I save money on reusing the cards, but I saved money by using a postcard stamp instead of a standard stamp. (A double savings!) I did have to buy one package of Christmas cards, but didn't pay regular price...oh, no...I bought a box of someone's unused Christmas cards for $.99 at Goodwill. (I bet you never thought about buying your Christmas cards at Goodwill...no shame here at the Little Blue Bungalow!)

I do hope your Christmas was merry and bright! Now...take stock of your Christmas supplies and seize the day...go shop those after Christmas sales.

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean


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Wordless Wednesday (Late)


From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean

Side note: I tried to post these pictures yesterday three times without success. Sorry for the delay.
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