How to create a classic custom photo book without losing your sanity

A huge thanks to Montage for sponsoring this post and allowing me to help you not lose your sanity.  All opinions are of course my own.  I can’t even imagine writing about other people’s opinions.

A few weeks ago I shared with you some of my best ideas for preserving family memories without turning yourself into a certifiably insane parent, one of which was creating a photo book (for those of us who couldn’t scrapbook even if it would stop the destruction of Earth).  And it’s true that there are one million and one online photo companies out there.  And it’s true that so many of them are great.  How do you choose??

I have used several in the past to make our family photo books and I’ve always been very pleased with the result, but often times the process of making the book makes me want to take a nap and just assume that someone else will someday organize my family photos.

Photo books generally take me anywhere between 3 and 5 hours from start to finish.  Some companies even offer a simple drag and drop pre-made layout option, but I still struggle with wanting to make sure it is as close to perfect as possible.  Should I add stickers?  Clip art?  Text?  What color background would complement the pictures on this page?  It’s enough to make a girl who wants perfection but only has 20 extra minutes a day to work on projects lose her mind.

You feel the same?  And you want a solution that doesn’t require hours of research?

After using Montage for two glorious books for our family, I’ve found a site that doesn’t make me want to poke myself in the eyeball repeatedly at the mere thought of creating a book.  Once I had my pictures chosen and uploaded, my books took me about 30 minutes from start to finish and they are GLORIOUS.  They have a more modern, collage-y feel that highlights the PHOTOS, not the design or how well you know how to lay out a page.

How to create a book (the brief description for skimmers)

You upload all your pictures and then Montage throws them into a layout.  You then go through each page and do your basic edits (enlarging images, adding simple text).  You can quickly change the layout of each page until you are satisfied and you can easily move images in and out of the toolbar that is below your book editor.

How to create a book (the extended version)

Upload your pictures.

This is the step that took me the longest, only because I had to track down pictures from several different locations and choose my favorites.  The actual uploading process is a snap and then all your pictures are in your toolbar, ready to be placed in your book.

Arrange your photos.

If you aren’t doing a chronological book and don’t care what order the pictures are in, Montage will just throw your pictures on pages at random.  If you would like to have more control over where your pictures go, you have two options.

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You can go page by page, moving pictures in and out from the toolbar directly below your editor.  You can quickly change layouts, add or remove pictures and add simple text.  This may take a little bit longer, but then you are 100% done with each page before you move on.

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The second option is to click on the Options tab and choose Arrange Pages.

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This will bring up a screen that shows each page with its corresponding photos in a film reel-type layout.  You can quickly move pictures in and out or to different pages.  This view gives you a better idea of what order your photos are in and how the pages will flow together.  This also gives you a good idea of how many pages you will have in your book (each page over 20 is an additional charge, so this will help cut down on cost).

Once your pictures are all organized, Montage will then automatically add them to a book layout and you can go through each page individually to change layouts, add text, zoom in any pictures that may need it and make any other additional changes required.

My favorite features of Montage:

  • Simplicity!  The options and features are basic, but this makes the process of creating your book SO much less overwhelming.  I get lost when I have too many choices.
  • Classic and modern feel.  Because you don’t have one million color and clip art options, the books feel very clean and unfussy.
  • Quality!  They have an eco-friendly leather cover, 120-pound acid-free paper and a binding method that allows the books to lay flat, which makes these books absolute keepsakes.

Full layout of Montage photo book

Montage has another great feature that allows you to see a demo of a book being made without having to upload any pictures.  You can also see a preview of our family’s most recent book here.

To sum up?

I may have a flair for the dramatic, but making my yearly family photo book has caused me so much anxiety in the past.  Just anticipating the time spent and having to make ALL THE DECISIONS would make my head spin.  The process of making the two books I have made through Montage actually made me happy.  I felt appreciative of the time I was able to spend making a lasting memory for our family.  I could actually enjoy diving into all the memories and did not begrudge the time sitting in front of the computer. And I did NOT want to tear my hair out, which is a bonus.

Click here to check out Montage and try out their demo mode for yourself.  Come back and let me know what you think!

What is your favorite feature of Montage? Leave a comment below!

What is your best tip for saving and preserving family memories without spending every minute of your spare time?

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I LOVE taking my kids to the farmer’s market.  It is so much fun to just walk around, check out all the delicious produce, listen to music and chat with the local farmers.  It’s such an easy way to supplement the produce we get from our box-a-week programs.  I’m thrilled that we have such great options available to us in the Tri-Cities!

I’ve listed several of the farmer’s market in and around Tri-Cities and surrounding parts of Southeast Washington.

The Market at the Parkway in Richland

The Market at the Parkway opens Friday June 3rd at 9 AM.

The farmer’s market is located in the Parkway between Jadwin and George Washington Way in Richland.  It is open every Friday through October 28th from 9 AM to 1 PM.  They have TONS of fresh produce from local farmer’s, local vendors that offer beef, flowers, specialty foods and more and live music.

For additional information, check out their website here.

Pasco Farmer’s Market

The Pasco Farmer’s Market opens Saturday, May 7th and runs through October 29th.

They are located in downtown Pasco on the corner of South 4th Avenue and West Columbia.  They are open every Wednesday and Saturday.  Not only do they have fresh local produce, but they offer locally-raised beef, poultry, cheeses, honey, wine and much more.  They also offer live music, for details check out the Events tab on their website here.

This was one of our favorite ways to spend our Wednesday mornings before the kids were in school.  They are in a covered pavilion, which is fantastic for rainy days or days that are super hot.  The vendors are wonderful and were always giving my boys a piece of fresh fruit to try, we never left empty-handed.

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Historic Downtown Kennewick Farmer’s Market

The Southridge Farmer’s Market has been moved to historic downtown Kennewick!  The market will open Thursday June 2nd at 4 PM.  They are open every Thursday from 4 PM to 8 PM through October 13th and are located at 124 W. Kennewick Avenue.

3 Eyed Fish Farmer’s Market

The 3 Eyed Fish Farmers Market is located in Queensgate Village off of Keene Road in Richland and will open Sunday June 12th.  In 2015, the market ran from 11 AM – 2 PM every Sunday and we should see something similar this year.

Prosser Farmer’s Market

The Prosser Farmer’s Market runs from May 7th through September.  They are located in the Prosser City Park on Seventh Street and Sommers Avenue, open every Saturday from 8 AM to 12 PM through October.

Yakima Farmer’s Market

The Yakima Farmer’s Market opens Sunday May 8th at 9 AM.

They are located on S. Third Street in front of the Capital Theater, open every Sunday from 9 AM to 2 PM.

Walla Walla Farmer’s Markets

The Walla Walla Downtown Farmer’s Market opens Saturday April 30th at 9 AM.  They are located at 4th Avenue and Main Street, open every Saturday from 9 AM to 1 PM.

These are just the farmer’s markets in our area that I know about.  Check out localharvest.org for markets in your area.

For more ideas for saving money on fresh produce, read my post here.

Please feel free to leave a comment with additional information.  I’d love to hear your experience with the various markets as well.  What market is your favorite?

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How to Preserve Family Memories Without Losing Your Mind

A huge thanks to Montage for sponsoring this post and allowing me to help you not lose your sanity.  All opinions are of course my own.  I can’t even imagine writing about other people’s opinions.

It’s fine. Every single one of us amazing parents have all of our children’s baby books 100% filled out. We have all of our favorite pictures printed, framed, in albums according to date and organized in a beautiful Pinterest-worthy wall collage that gets rotated out every year. We have scrapbooks documenting all the important moments and milestones.

What we DON’T have are Post-Its with tiny snippets of our kids’ milestones thrown in a box, half with dates and half without. Half of them we can’t even remember which kid the milestone belongs to.  We do NOT have an iPhone full of pictures that we know we should probably print.  Or at least transfer to something that we haven’t accidentally dropped in the toilet or left on top of the car as we drive away.  We do NOT rely on Facebook to remind us about that time our youngest child took their first steps.  Because we totally remember the exact date.

We have zero guilt about our ability to capture memories and we will NEVER be one of those parents who look back with regret.

And we also have a unicorn tied up in the backyard and we wash our hair every day.

So you sound more like Parent #2, do you?  Join the exclusive club that consists of just about every parent on the planet.

How do we fix this?  Is it even fixable? Or are we just doomed for all eternity to feel like we have somehow failed our family tree and that our kids will have no sense of community and continuity or even permanence?  Does a child even exist if there are no pictures printed of his first birthday?

A wise French philosopher who died one million years ago said “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.  In other words, we can’t just sit around and complain that the job is too big and we will never have pretty scrapbooks, we have to find something that works for us and be satisfied.  If you start now and just do something, you will end up with actual living memories down the road.  If you do nothing, you will end up with, well, nothing.

But what do we doooooooooooooooo?

Just write stuff down.

It doesn’t have to be a pretty journal.  Write stuff on Post-Its or on a napkin or on the back of a take-out menu or steal a piece of paper from your kids’ homework pile.  Write down funny things your kids say or the first time they realized they could punch their brother and make it hurt or when they learned how to tie their shoes.

A billion years down  the road, these are going to be the memories we love.  Who cares if they are organized?

Sort of kind of organize your pictures on your computer.

I have a folder for each year and inside that, a folder for each month.  If I have a lot of pictures from a certain event, it gets its own folder inside the appropriate month.  These may not have dates or captions or even stories to go along with it, but when your kid asks for pictures for his birthday timeline at school, you can actually find a picture from each year instead of sorting through 3,459 pictures labeled IMG_2398.

If we print these down the road, bonus.  But for now, just sort of kind of organize.

Operation Organize Your Family Photos

Actually print stuff.

If you’re feeling ambitious, get those pictures off your phone, sort of kind of organize like we mentioned above and actually print them.  Put them into simple photo albums organized by year, by event, by child.  Whatever works for you.  In case you need some inspiration.

Sort of kind of organize your baby books.

I’m convinced that when my kids are older, I will have more time.  This has to be a thing right?  Their baby books are NOT high on my priority list right now.  Feeding my children outrageous amounts of food and actually getting them to school on time are tops on my things to do.  Down the road, when I do make time for their baby books, it will be far easier if I at least have some notes, some pictures, some dates to add instead of having to scour my brain for information that is probably not going to be accurate.

Spend an hour or two NOW trying to organize the information you do have so you have a head start when you sit down to put their books together.

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Capitalize on holiday memories.

Christmas is your friend!  We try to buy an ornament to signify the big events, trips and vacations we have taken together as a family.  We have an ornament from our honeymoon, our family’s first trip to Disneyland, ornaments to represent our favorite sports teams.  There are so many photo companies that will make photo ornaments, this would be a great way to track the growth of your kids.

Buy clear glass ornaments at a craft store, use white paint on your kids’ hands and have them grab the ornament in their palm.  Hand print ornaments!  If you have your child’s hospital bracelet from their birth, save it in another clear glass ornament.  All of these ideas make the holidays so special and make decorating the tree an amazing family event.

Find SIMPLE ideas for preserving memories.

Use the infamous Google or the Pinterest search bar for ideas on how to preserve your memories.  I searched for SIMPLE ideas and came up with several articles with some ideas that were actually relevant.  Of course, there were those brilliant suggestions like MAKE A QUILT OUT OF YOUR KIDS’ BABY CLOTHES.  Which is of course adorable, but not for those of us who can barely spell quilt, let alone make one.  Look for ideas that don’t make you want to stick a fork in your eyeball.  The point is to enjoy this.

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Make a simple (but AMAZING) photo book.

Photo books are one of our very favorite ways to preserve memories.  I am not a scrapbooker and haven’t printed a photo in YEARS, so this is one of the few ways I am actually creating a living memory for our family.  We create photo books for big events like our trip to Disneyland and the birth of both of our kids, but we also create a book every December that chronicles our year together as a family.  I add in first day of school pictures, holidays, special memories like the time our oldest son chopped his hair off.  It allows us to marvel at the growth of our kids, while still remembering all the little moments that make life so colorful.

I have used several companies in the past to make our photo books and I’ve always been very pleased with the result, but often times the process of making the book makes me want to shrivel up and die inside. They generally take me anywhere between 3 and 5 hours from start to finish.  And I’m a procrastinator.  So I’m usually under the gun of some kind of shipping deadline.  Which makes me sweat and feel even more anxious.

Surprisingly, after using Montage for two glorious books for our family, I’ve found a site that doesn’t make me want to lay down and take a nap at the mere thought of creating a book.

You upload all your pictures and then they throw them into a layout.  You then go through each page and do your basic edits (enlarging images, adding simple text).  You can quickly change the layout of each page until you are satisfied and you can easily move images in and out of the toolbar that is below your book editor.

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I’m not kidding you, once I had my pictures chosen and uploaded, my books took me about 30 minutes from start to finish and they are GLORIOUS.  I love the collage-y, scrapbook-y feel without having to actually put the time in to make a scrapbook.  And with an eco-friendly leather cover, these books are absolute keepsakes.

The best part about photo books is that they are saved in projects on your account.  If something happens to your book at home, you can print another one without feeling like you’ve lost everything.  You can easily print additional books for grandparents or special friends. So. Many. Options.

Montage has a great feature that allows you to see a demo of a book being made without having to upload any pictures.  You can also see a preview of our family’s most recent book here.

What would you add to this list?  Have you figured out a simple method of preserving memories that works for your family?

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So you know how people have One Word for a year?  They focus on that word. All their actions live in the lens of that word?  I’ve never had any desire to do that until this year.  Starting about four months ago, the word SERVE kept throwing itself in my face.  It was written as service or serving or the act of service, but it was always there.

How are you SERVING your family?  Your readers?  Your relationships?

I’ve always been called to be a writer, a reader, a consumer of information.  While I adore This Beautiful Frugal Life and all that is has meant to me, my family and my life over the past six years, there has just never been the time to fully realize my passion for writing.  When I do have the chance to write, I immediately had to turn around and answer emails and fix tech problems and hit deadlines and negotiate with advertisers and try to squeeze 927 hours of work into 2 hours each morning while my kids are in school.  Writing could never be a priority.

This blog is like my third child.  I started it when I was pregnant with our youngest and they basically grew up together.  I started from scratch with an empty old website, devoured information about how to start a blog (there were little to no resources when I started, now there are millions) and I am so proud of it.  And I adore all of you that have come and go and come and stayed and left and came back.

But I am pursuing my dreams!  Because if I don’t do it now, I will always feel that I am not serving those that need what I have to offer.  Every act of writing is an opportunity to change the world and I don’t want to miss out.

There are a few features that I offer on This Beautiful Frugal Life that are going to be moving.  I will now be a contributor over at Frugal Living NW with one of my amazing blogging pals Angela.  I will be continuing my full monthly Costco mailer match-up posts over there as well as my comprehensive (read: obsessive) Nordstrom sale posts.  If these are features that you have used here at TBFL, please make sure to check out Frugal Living NW.  You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest so you don’t miss a thing.

I will be keeping This Beautiful Frugal Life on the interwebz so you can access any older posts that you may have loved.  There are several posts I wrote when my kids were young that are better than a family scrapbook.  Nothing cements memories like stories.

For my new site, as soon as I have it launched and ready, I will update you here at TBFL.  My goal is to explore life in all its honesty and truth, even when it’s awkward and uncomfortable.  I want to share my mess and chaos so you can feel like you’re not the only one.  I want to encourage others to embrace their mess and their unscripted moments, in an effort to build a more authentic society.

Stay tuned friends!  And know that I adore you.

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marathon

Amazon has a great Gold Box deal today: Save HUGE on select Britax convertible car seats, all up to 35% off and FREE shipping.  We are a Britax family and have had everything from an infant seat to the high-back boosters my 5 and 7-year old are currently in.  They are extremely highly reviewed, top rated for safety and the best quality.

Britax Marathon G4.1 Convertible Car Seat in Gridline (shown above) just $188.49 + FREE shipping (down from $289.99 and only $15 more than it has ever been on Amazon)

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Britax Boulevard G4.1 Convertible Car Seat in Cactus Flower just $214.49 + FREE shipping (down from $329.99 and only $15 more than best price it has ever been on Amazon) – Also available in Cub Pink at this price.

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Britax B-Safe 35 Elite Infant Car Seat in Aqua just $162.49 + FREE shipping (down from $249.99 and best price it has ever been on Amazon!) – Rated for kids 4-35 pounds and comes with base.

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Britax B-Agile and B-Safe Travel System in Black just $272.99 + FREE shipping (down from $419.99 and best price it has ever been on Amazon!) – The stroller is rated for kids up to 55 pounds so can be used for a LONG time.  It is a one-hand quick-fold type stroller and has a 5-point harness.  The B-Safe Car Seat is rated up to 30 pounds.  This would make an AMAZING baby shower gift if you have a few friends that would like to go in together!

 

Gold Box Deals are only available for one day only, so I would pick this one up right away if you are interested. They also could sell out quickly.  Click here to order.

Please remember: Amazon prices can change very quickly.  Please verify that the price is the same as what I post before purchasing.  As of 2/23/16 at 11:20 AM, these listed prices were accurate.

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HUGE price drop on this Blendtec Classic 475 Blender, just $219.99 + FREE shipping!  I’ve done some research and this model has only been cheaper on Amazon once last year and elsewhere on the interwebz, the price is very similar but with additional shipping costs.  According to the notes on the Amazon page, this model comes with an 8-year warranty!

We talk about the Blendtec and how amazing it is on our Easy Make-Ahead Fruit and Veggie Smoothie Kits post.  I use my blender for everything.  Soups, smoothies, blending sauces.  We use it everyday.

Click here to purchase.  Comes in both black and red at this price.

Please remember: Amazon prices can change very quickly.  Please verify that the price is the same as what I post before purchasing.  As of 2/23/16 at 11 AM, this listed price was accurate.

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PicMonkey Collage

I’ve talked about this Bobeau One-Button Fleece Wrap Cardigan a million times on the blog and I can’t believe you don’t have one yet.  At $19.90, this is THE ABSOLUTE LOWEST we have ever seen them go and they are worth EVERY PENNY.  So SO comfortable and super flattering, no matter where you are at with your body image and how you are feeling.  Cute with jeans or leggings or over a dress and perfect no matter what time of the year it is.  Super warm when it’s cold out, but surprisingly not overwhelmingly hot when the weather starts to warm up.

Available in four colors at this price, in both regular and petite.  The two colors shown above would be PERFECT for spring!I have three of these in different colors and I am currently wearing a small (I’m 5’8″ and about 160 pounds).  The small fits great but it is fitted through the arms, so if you would like a looser fit, I would recommend sizing up.

Click here to purchase.  Shipping and returns are FREE on all items!  I’m not 100% sure if this sale price is part of the Nordstrom Clearance Sale, but if it is, it ends today, February 21st.  Don’t miss out!

If you want to know what other amazing deals you can find, check out my HUGE round-up of Nordstrom Clearance Sale items.  Remember, the sale ends today!

Nordstrom Favorites and Must-Haves

If you need some inspiration or are overwhelmed by fashion (like me), I have compiled a list of all of my absolute FAVORITES and must-have items.  Tried and tested by yours truly.

Make sure and check out the entire sale section at Nordstrom.  You can sort by department and price.  Just a reminder that they always have free shipping, free returns and  do price adjustments by chatting with a customer service rep online.Let us know what great deals you find!

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Here’s the problem.  I want to accessorize, but our family is on a serious budget.  Apparently we need to put gas in our cars before we buy earrings and adorable shoes?  Is this a real thing?  So this makes it very important (and necessary) to find cute and quality stuff at rock bottom prices.  The Nordstrom Clearance Sale is one of my FAVE ways to round out my wardrobe for SO much less.

Instead of the traditional Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sales for men, women and kids, they’ve moved everything into clearance sales a few times a year where they make mass markdowns in every department.  This is kind of an awesome idea, because everyone can benefit from every sale instead of JUST men, women or children.

I’ve done some browsing and wanted to share with you some of my faves from the sale.  These tend to go FAST so if you see something you like, grab it now.

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Lush ‘Perfect’ Roll Tab Sleeve Tunic just $25.20 + FREE shipping (down from $42) – I have this in white from the Anniversary Sale and I LOVE it.  So super comfy and perfect with jeans or leggings and boots.  Definitely size up on this one.  I wear a medium in most everything, but went with a large in this.  If I had gone smaller, the arms would have been really tight and the shoulder seams would have been off.  The BEST feature of this shirt is that it barely shows wrinkles.  With the white, I throw in the washing machine and then hang dry.  That’s it.  No dry cleaning, no wrinkles.  I imagine the black would be the same, although the green may show more wrinkles.

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Caslon Knit Tunic just $23.80 + FREE shipping (65% off) – The picture does NOT do this justice, but it gets almost 5 stars out of 366 reviews!  Reviewers say it is super comfortable, not form fitting but not giant and slouchy to make you look like you have no shape. 53% cotton with 40% rayon, so won’t lose shape after washing.  So cute with jeans or leggings and LOVE the pockets.  Comes in six colors!

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Zella ‘Scoop’ Jacket just $52.80 + FREE shipping, down from $88 (40% off) – I have a very similar jacket from Zella and I LOVE it.  The vertical seams are super flattering and the fabric is outrageously comfortable.  Perfect for wearing to the gym on chilly days or going out for a run, the tall collar is perfect for blocking the wind.

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Zella ‘Live In’ Chalet Print Leggings just $46.80 + FREE shipping, down from $78 (40% off) – I ADORE my Live In leggings.  I wear them all the time during the winter and on occasion to the gym on really cold days.  The material is thick enough to not be see through, but thin enough to not make you feel like you are one thousand degrees.  The waistband is thick enough to stay up, but not so thick that it digs into your skin.  Perfect!

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The Nordstrom Clearance Sale keeps churning out deals on some of my absolute FAVORITE pieces. The TOMS ‘Desert’ Wedge High Bootie is on a rare discount at just under $69 + FREE shipping and is an AMAZING shoe. I have the short bootie and it is quite literally, top three of my favorite shoes I’ve had in my lifetime. So comfortable. Like walk around Seattle all day up and down hills comfortable.

I wear my TOMS with my favorite Zella leggings and just about any color top, but they would also be so, so cute with a pair of boyfriend jeans and a sweater.

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These rag & bone ‘The Dre’ Slim Fit Boyfriend Jeans come SO highly rated by several of the fashion bloggers I follow and are included in the clearance sale!  Down from $198 to just $132 + FREE shipping.  The size recommendation says to size down for a snugger fit, but after reading the reviews, most everyone says these are true to size if not running a little small.

Don’t miss my HUGE round-up of all the best Nordstrom Clearance Sale items, starting at less than $10 and some over 60% off!

Make sure and check out the entire sale section at Nordstrom.  You can sort by department and price.  Just a reminder that they always have free shipping, free returns and  do price adjustments by chatting with a customer service rep online.

Let us know what great deals you find!

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This Graco Backless Turbo Booster is just $17.64 and only $.15 higher than the lowest price it has ever been on Amazon!  We just picked up an extra seat to keep in my husband’s truck so we aren’t constantly changing our kids’ seats back and forth.  This would also make a great option to leave with Grandma and Grandpa if they are watching the kids or to keep on hand for last-minute carpools.

Click here to order. Galaxy is the only color available at this price. Shipping is free with Amazon Prime or with a qualifying $35 purchase.

Please remember: Amazon prices can change very quickly.  Please verify that the price is the same as what I post before purchasing.  As of 2/16/16 at 7:15 AM, this listed price was accurate.

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Check your local store for this amazing little coupon booklet with tons of high value coupons for organic products all across the store.  These coupons and discounts are valid through March 13th, 2016.  Our store had them at customer service and with the cashier, but from reading the signage at the item itself, it doesn’t even look like you need the physical coupon.

Be sure to check out the different store layout as well.  All of the organic products are tagged with signs and/or green highlighting to differentiate them from the rest of the products.  Our local store had a HUGE display smack in the middle with tons of fantastic organic and all-natural products, whole food items and more.  They seem to be really making a push on this “real food” movement.

I headed in to the store to check out prices from the coupon booklet for you.  Your prices may vary as these are from the Kennewick, Washington store.  Please note that the price listed is after final discount.

Clif Kid Organic Zbar Variety Pack (36 ct) on sale $13.49 (no limit)

Bare Organic Fuji Red Crunchy Apple Chips (14 oz) on sale $7.39 (limit 3)

YumEarth Organic Fruit Snacks (40/.7 oz) on sale $6.99 (no limit)
*Just $.17 each!  These are awesome.  No artificial anything, no high fructose corn syrup, just a good tasty treat for kids.

Riceworks Organic Sweet Chili Chips (20 oz) on sale $3.99 (no limit)

San Francisco Bay Certified Organic Rainforest Blend Coffee Beans (3 lb) on sale $13.99 (limit 4)
*Just $4.66 per pound or $3.49 for a 12-ounce bag, awesome price!

Nutiva Refined Organic Coconut Oil (128 oz) on sale $15.99 (no limit)
*Just $.12 per ounce which is literally UNHEARD OF.  Split with a friend if this is too much for your family.  So cheap.

Classico Organic Tomato, Herbs & Spices Pasta Sauce (3/32 oz) on sale $6.89 (limit 4)
*Just $2.29 per jar!

Seeds of Change Organic Brown & Red Rice with Chia & Kale (6/8.5 oz) on sale $8.49 (no limit)

Molinaro’s Organic Pizza Starter Kit (4 ct) on sale $7.49 (no limit)
*Just $1.87 per pizza, comes with sauce pouches!

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How our family is surviving The Great Budgeting Saga of 2015 (hint: not a quick fix in sight)

In case you missed the sensational story of the time I had to have our son’s school hold his tuition check and the time I sobbed in the parking lot of the gym, it’s a must read.  It’s riveting!  It’s exhausting!  It’s miserable.  It’s the starting point to what is hopefully my family’s budget renovation.

Here’s what you won’t find in this story.  Fancy tricks or get rich quick schemes.  We aren’t going to be transferring money from credit card to credit card to avoid paying fees or to rack up some kind of points.  We aren’t gambling.  We aren’t investing all our money in a pyramid scheme.  Why?

THESE DO NOT ADDRESS THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM.  Making more money is fine.  Really.  It’s kind of key to getting out of debt.  But just having more money won’t change the fact that we have seriously mismanaged the money we do have.  What’s that expression?  Live Within Your Means?  You hear so many horror stories of people making more money and spending up.  Buying things on credit or taking expensive trips because “my income has gone up!” only to have something derail the finances.  Emergency, job loss, anything.

This was us.  But we have money coming in!  We’re just fine.  But we weren’t.  Not even a little bit.

First things first.  Let’s make sure we can actually cover our bills before we even spend one minute addressing our spending habits.  We won’t have a roof to sit under and address those habits if we don’t pay our mortgage.

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Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are supporting this site. Thanks!

Zulily has just launched a fantastic sale on TOMS footwear for the whole family, with styles up to 40% off.  Discounts on TOMS are really, really rare, so this is an exciting sale!  I would imagine these will sell out quickly, so don’t hesitate if you are interested.

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Styles for kids in TONS of different colors as low as $18.99!

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There are also some fabulous styles for men and women as low as $24.99.  I wasn’t totally sold on TOMS when I first saw them, but now that I have a pair, I’m totally sold.  They are super comfortable and go with everything!  I just recently got a pair of the Desert Wedges and they are heavenly and go with everything and are ADORABLE.  Legit.  You need a pair in every color.  I wore them one million hours all over Seattle and could have walked one million more.

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And the BALLET FLATS. What is happening in my life?

With every purchase of TOMS shoes, they will donate a pair of shoes to a child in need through their One for One program.

From TOMS: “Our Giving Pairs are new shoes, made for school and play. We provide a range of sizes, to fit kids from toddlers to teens.  Why shoes? Shoes help protect children’s feet from cuts, infections and diseases. When children are healthy, they can attend school, fight minor illnesses and grow up to reach their potential.”

Sign up or sign in to Zulily and open the TOMS sale.

Some items at Zulily are not eligible for return, please make sure to check the fine print.  They will honor defective or damaged products, but can’t exchange for size or color.

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This is all my clothes.  Everything.  In the dresser below are my gym shorts and tank tops and 100 t-shirts that I never wear and the two pairs of black leggings I wear with every dressy top I own.

Let me give you a little insight into my shopping personality.

I want to be fashionable.  I want to have cute and trendy and flattering clothes.  I want to look like I never wear the same thing twice.  I work from home and go to the gym most days, so 93% of the time I can be found in leggings and sneakers.

I am one bazillion percent better at shopping online than I am in store.  I can barely spend five seconds in a store before I start to get really sweaty and nervous and grab 17 shirts that look almost identical to everything in my closet.  I feel like I have more freedom online.  I can see outfits put together on an actual person.  I can read reviews.  I can sit in my gym clothes and order things.  I don’t have to come within one million feet of a dressing room.

Let me give you a little insight about my body type.

The gym has given me a bigger booty and hips and thighs and calves that could crush small children.  Great for squatting, not so great for fitting into any pants that are not stretchy.  I had C-sections with both of my boys and my stomach never went right afterwards.  The skin and fat above the scar seems to not have anywhere else to go, so it pools right smack in my lower belly area.  Strike #2 in finding pants that fit AND are comfortable. Combined with how much I despise dressing rooms and trying things on, I have, not unsurprisingly, been unsuccessful in finding pants that feel good.

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Over the past year or so, I have been keeping an eye on this service called Stitch Fix.  Basically an online stylist.  You fill out a style profile to help your stylist understand your fit, budget, size and lifestyle.  Upon ordering your “Fix”, your stylist will send you five handpicked clothing items and accessories to try on in the comfort of your own home.  Buy and keep what you like and return the rest in a pre-paid mail bag.

More about my personality.

I am a procrastinator and have this insane ability to sit and wait on all the good things.  I analyze from afar, I am skeptical, I give all the reasons I shouldn’t try new things.  And then I try new things and they are great.  And I kick myself for waiting so long.  It’s a vicious cycle.  And the reason I married someone who gets everything done in record time.  #balance

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I’ve taken the plunge!

The style profile was fantastically easy to fill out.  Talking about yourself takes very little thought.  What size are you?  What is your inseam?  What does your typical day look like?  Do you like these curated styles?  Do you hate these curated styles?  Do you have a Pinterest board that showcases your tastes in fashion and apparel?  What is most important to you when it comes to what you wear?

They cover all the bases.

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Here’s how it works:

  • Sign up for a Stitch Fix account
  • Fill out your style profile
  • Schedule the arrival of your Fix (you can sign up for regular shipments, but you are not required to!)
  • Once your stylist starts putting together your Fix, you will be charged a $20 stylist fee.  If you keep anything from your box, your fee will be applied as a credit.
  • Try on everything in your Fix, like REALLY try it on.  Wear it around, ask for opinions, let it settle on your body.  Try something new!
  • If you buy all 5 items, you will get 25% off your purchases!

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  • Return any items you don’t want to keep with your pre-paid mail bag
  • Give specific feedback on each item to help your stylist learn your personal preferences
  • Lather, rinse, repeat

Why I decided to make the leap:

  • I have a hard time going out of my comfort zone
  • I really WANT some good, new pieces but struggle finding the time to shop (nor do I necessarily want to spend hours looking for just the right thing)
  • I basically wear the same outfit style, just in slightly different versions and colors
  • Trying things on in the comfort of my own home makes rainbows come out my ears
  • I would LOVE a personal stylist but can’t justify the cost

Tell me!  Have you tried Stitch Fix or a similar service?  Why or why not?  What did you love about it if you did try?  Did you go out of your comfort zone with some of your choices?

Click here to check out all that Stitch Fix has to offer.  Here’s a link to their FAQ page that has lots of great information about the service.  Stay tuned for an update as soon as I receive my Fix!

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Simple and Easy Homemade Yogurt in the Crockpot

by Jessie on February 10, 2016

Simple and Easy Homemade Yogurt in the Crockpot

I just made this homemade yogurt for the first time this week and I am hooked!  Normally plain yogurt is too sour/bitter for me but this yogurt is the perfect flavor- especially when accompanied by sweet fruit or granola.  And SO easy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon of whole milk (I’ve always used organic)
  • 1/2 cup plain full-fat yogurt to use as a “starter” (It can be store bought, or 1/2 cup reserved from a homemade batch. I used Greek-style)
  • Crockpot
  • A couple of towels or a blanket

Directions:

Turn your crockpot to low and pour in milk. Cover and allow to cook for two and a half hours.

After two and half hours have elapsed, turn off cooker, unplug from wall and allow to sit, still covered, for three hours.

After the three hours have gone by, add the starter yogurt and use a whisk to gently mix. Recover. Then cover and wrap the entire crockpot with a large bath towel or blanket and leave on your counter for eight hours.

After the eight hours have elapsed, your yogurt is done! You can lift the entire crockpot out of the base and keep it in the fridge until you have time to decant into smaller containers.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Don’t mess with the yogurt unless you have to. When stirring in the plain yogurt starter, 4 or 5 figure-eight motions with the whisk is all you need.
  • After 2 or 3 times of using your own yogurt as a starter, go back to 1/2 cup store-bought so the yogurt doesn’t get too runny

What should you do with homemade yogurt?

Jessie is the mother of five sweet kids and the author of Bites, a recipe blog that will make your mouth water.

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Amazon has marked down their Kindle Fire 7″ Tablet to just $39.99 + FREE shipping, which is only $5 off the best price it has ever been!  The tablet is WiFi-enabled with 8GB of internal storage, with up to 7 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching videos or listening to music.

My kids (ages 5 and 7) have been begging for an iPad and while we think they are far too young, we also know that this technology business is going to catch up with us and we will have to give in at some point.  The Kindle Fire tablet is outrageously cheaper than an iPad AND they have tons of access to great books for reading.  We went with one of these tablets for each kid and just bought a highly-rated case to go with it, instead of paying over $80 for the kids Kindle version.

Our kids have LOVED these so far.  They earn time during the week and then get to “cash in” on the weekends and they have really enjoyed playing Minecraft and tons of other free game apps.  Our 7 year old listens to Pandora on his Kindle and they both love to take photos and videos.  It’s fairly straight forward to set parental controls and the Kindles are automatically linked to your Amazon account.

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We bought this Elsse Premium Folio Case with Stand in Red for just $9.98 with FREE Prime shipping.  There are several other colors available, but not all are eligible for Prime shipping.

Click here to purchase.

Please remember: Amazon prices can change very quickly.  Please verify that the price is the same as what I post before purchasing.  As of 2/9/16 at 10 AM, this listed price was accurate.

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{LAST CHANCE!} Costco: New membership, $20 cash card + coupons for 3 FREE items just $55 ($108 value)

February 8, 2016

Living Social has a fantastic deal for new Costco members! For only $55, you’ll receive a 1-year Gold Star Membership + $20 Costco Cash Card + bonus coupons and vouchers (a $108.93 value). This amazing deal is available now through February 10th. Costco Wholesale Deal ($108.93 value) includes: $55 for a 1-year Gold Star Membership […]

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Amazon: 5-Port USB Charger + Car Charger Bonus Pack just $9.97 (quickly charge multiple devices for over 70% off)

February 8, 2016

  This highly-rated 5-Port USB Charger + Bonus Car Charger is already on sale at just $19.97 AND I have an exclusive coupon code for you to save an additional $10 off, making this bonus pack just $9.97!  Use promo code FRUGALXO at checkout to drop your price. This charger comes with 5 ports in […]

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{UPDATED} Best Amazon Prime Pantry Deals: New FREE shipping promo + Sweet Leaf Organic Tea $.73, HUGE savings on Planters peanuts, Suave hair care, Kellogg’s and General Mills cereal + more

February 7, 2016

Pin this to your Money Saving Tips or Amazon Pinterest board! For those of you who are well versed in Amazon Prime Pantry and JUST WANT TO GET TO THE DEALS ALREADY, I have created bookmarks below that will take you directly to the deals you are looking for.  If you want to start at […]

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Amazon: Valentine’s Day books for kids starting at $2.82 {Berenstain Bears, Mouse, Junie B. Jones, Fancy Nancy + more}

February 4, 2016

We love sitting and reading together as a family, and seasonal favorites are a big part of that.  We keep our seasonal books set aside with our holiday decorations, so they are like new books every time the holiday rolls around!  You can find some really cute Valentine’s Day books on Amazon. The Biggest Valentine […]

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Nordstrom: Men’s The North Face Glacier Fleece Pullover as low as $32 + FREE shipping {40% off!}

February 4, 2016

Nordstrom has some great markdowns going on right now and one of my favorites is this Men’s The North Face ‘TKA 100 Glacier’ Quarter Zip Fleece Pullover at just $32.90 + FREE shipping.  This is 40% off regular price!  Available in black in medium, large and extra large, this would make a wonderful Valentine’s Day […]

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Nordstrom: Girls’ The North Face Glacier Fleece Pullover just $27 + FREE shipping {40% off!}

February 4, 2016

This adorable The North Face ‘Glacier’ Full Zip Hoodie for Girls has been marked down to just $27 + FREE shipping or 40% off regular price!  Available in Fortuna Blue in little girls’ size 5 or 6.  The wonderful thing about this brand is that their products are so high quality that they will last […]

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{Tri-Cities} 50% off food and drinks at Andy’s North (all you can eat wings and the best Bloody Marys!)

February 4, 2016

If you are looking for a fun lunch or dinner date idea, check out this awesome deal from Mel’s Local Deals.  Snag a $20 voucher to Andy’s North in Pasco for just $10, good for food and drinks, breakfast served all day, what are apparently the best Bloody Marys in town, all you can eat […]

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Yoke’s Fresh Markets Fresh Friday – February 5th (Boneless chicken breast $1.57/lb, Litehouse dressing $.98 + more)

February 4, 2016

Yoke’s Fresh Markets is having another fabulous Fresh Friday sale, running all day Friday February 5th. Washington Grown Fuji Apples on sale $.98/lb Boneless Chicken Fryer Breast on sale $1.57/lb *Fantastic, stock-up price!!  Call ahead if you want a large quantity.  Follow my Chicken Recipes Pinterest board for great ideas on how to use all […]

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Huggies Simply Clean Baby Wipes just $.01/wipe + FREE shipping (stock up price, beats Costco!)

February 3, 2016

Amazon has Huggies Simply Clean Baby Wipes (648 ct) for just $8.97 or 1.3 cents per wipe, free shipping included!  It looks like you can choose either (3) 216-count refill packs or (9) soft packs of 72 wipes each.My stock up price for baby wipes used to be $.02 per wipe or less and this […]

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