Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Family and Food

After holding onto my Fun Dollars for the entire first week of the pay cycle, I felt the weight of the money in my purse. Even though it was only five twenty-dollar bills, the psychological weight of having that much money was palpable. So, as we headed out on the road towards Chicago O'Hare on Monday, I had no qualms about buying lunch for everyone. I didn't want to be too picky or take up too much time since it's a four-hour trip (eight hours on the road for my father-in-law who was driving us) so I sprung for some Arby's. It was directly across the street from where we were filling up the van with gas. $21.00 covered it. I even remembered to leave a Fun Dollars business card on the counter top. (I bought a stack of cards before the trip and had been leaving them on tables, etc. during my trip.)

Three and a half hours later, my father-in-law dropped us off at Aloft, a modern-themed hotel across the highway from O'Hare. Our flight was scheduled to leave before noon the next day, and we had planned to spend the night at Aloft and take the shuttle bright and early. I was so grateful to get to spend time with my father-in-law, especially after the passing of his wife last August. This trip was such a blessing. Spending time with so much of our family really did my heart some good. I had really been struggling to accept my mother-in-law's passing, and being "back home" helped me move through some things. Even the simple act of eating at Arby's brought up memories of other family trips I took with her, almost always making a stop at Arby's while on the road.

So, as my father-in-law pulled away, I got a little teary-eyed. I half wished he had bought a night at the hotel so we could all hang out as a family some more. But I knew he had business as usual to return to after spending the week with us already. I love that the family Corey and I share is close enough to feel like a real family. His family is my family, my family is his. And that includes some close friends of ours too.

The sadness I felt seeing my father-in-law leave was quickly quelled when I learned that a dear friend of ours was coming to the hotel to hang out for the evening. She was a "groom's maid" in our wedding. As a long-time friend of my husband, he had her walk down the aisle and stand on his side at our wedding, right behind the best man, in fact. She now lives in a suburb of Chicago, so visiting with her was a no-brainer. We let the kids play in the courtyard while we all sipped drinks from the bar. Then we all went bowling at a "luxury bowling alley" called Kings and played a game. All the while, I kept wanting to use my Fun Dollars, but Corey insisted that it was still vacation, and she wanted to pay for part of our fun time as well.

I could feel the money "burning a hole in my pocket" as my father used to say when I was a kid getting my allowance. My opportunity to spend came again at breakfast the next day before our flight. Corey was getting the kids set up with their breakfast food while I paid. Since the tab came out to $20.00 even, I whipped out that twenty and felt the joyous surge of spending money.

Waiting patiently at curbside check-in
After our flight, we had all afternoon to make the two hour drive back to Sedona from Phoenix. We stopped at Olive Garden in Happy Valley for some soup and salad. After Corey had paid and left a tip in the little black book, he left for the restroom with Carrick. I took out another twenty and wrapped it in another business card and slipped it inside. The server was so sweet to us (especially the kids) and since we only had two soup and salads, plus a mac'n'cheese for Carrick, our tab didn't come out to all that much. I pretty much tipped her what our bill was. Even though we did not spend that much, she still gave us excellent service, and I wanted to reward that.

And now, we are home; back to our regular routines, eating habits, and familiar environment. While I still feel the weight of having left all of our family behind, I can look back on our two-week adventure and know that our time there was well spent, and so was my Fun Dollars.

Lunch at Arby's- $20.00 ($1.00 was from last pay cycle's cash.)
Breakfast at Aloft- $20.00
Tip at Olive Garden- $20.00

Balance this pay cycle- $40.00
Happy Spending!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Heading Home

At the end of our visit in Illinois I not only have all of my Fun Dollars in tact for this pay cycle, I also have $3.00 left from the previous pay cycle! Never in Fun Dollars history have I started the second week of a pay cycle with this much cash in my pocket!

This was not entirely accidental, however. I actually had planned to spend the entirety of my Fun Dollars to hire my friend to do a special Anniversary Trash the Dress session. We were planning to meet up at the state park where we were married, and hike around getting dirty. Unfortunately, the photographer fell ill the night before we planned to meet, and the rest of our trip was already scheduled with travelling and a wedding, so we were unable to reschedule it.

My Little Black Dress that I
bought with my Fun Dollars
last pay cycle.

Maybe the next time I'm in town we can do Trash the Dress. I'm going to leave my wedding dress here in Illinois, just in case. So, due to the fact that what I had planned to spend my money on did not transpire, I now have all of it to travelling back home with me.

Also, I did not buy shoes for the wedding with my Fun Dollars. I asked for shoes as an anniversary gift! Corey took the whole family shopping the day he flew into Peoria because we all needed dress shoes. He said I could spend as much as I wanted to on shoes, an unlimited budget. A true gift, right? Guess how much this woman ended up spending? Out of the entire Grand Prairie Mall, I managed to drop a whopping $10.00 on my shoes! I could have bought them with my Fun Dollars! (They were actually $20.00, but because everything was BOGO, they ended up being half off.)

I already know what I am going to spend with at least part of my remaing Fun Dollars. I have the upcoming "Summer Fun Dollar Challenge", where I choose a winner from the people who tried to do a Fun Dollar system this summer. I will be awarding $50.00 of my own Fun Dollars to the winner. $25.00 of my Fun Dollars from this pay cycle will go towards that.
(Check out the post "Summer Fun Dollars Challenge from late May.)

I also would love to go garage-saling with my kids this upcoming weekend. My son starts school the first week of August, so it would be a really fun to take them out hunting for treasures. It's one of his favorite things to do with mom, and we haven't gone to a garage sale all summer long.

As for last week's balance, I spent some on snacks while we were travelling. I also hired Carrick to be my weekend photographer. I paid him $5.00 to take pictures at the wedding. The pictures used in this entry are all taken by Carrick. (Many of them ended up blurry and were of eyeballs or pockets. The ones used best captured the weekend.)

Balance this pay cycle-$100.00
Balance from previous pay cycle- $3.00
Happy Spending!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


This week is a big one for me. I get to visit with 90% of our family members (both Corey's and mine), attend a wedding, have dinner with an old friend, and celebrate an anniversary. And it's not just any anniversary, it's our tenth anniversary.

I know, you must be thinking, "Shouldn't you be on a beach somewhere?" It took me a couple weeks to get over the fact that our anniversary would not include palm trees and ocean breezes. I had to look at the facts and put feelings on the back burner. The fact is, Lily could not spend a week without her parents. Trying to get her to be okay without mom and dad while she stayed with grandparents would be a struggle (and probably a little traumatic) for her and those involved. She's just a little too young still.

The other fact is Corey's cousin is getting married two days after our anniversary. We knew about the wedding, and the date, last year. We have missed so many family get-togethers, Christmases, weddings, Bar-B-Qs, etc, that the thought of missing one more just because we live thousands of miles away seemed unbearable. Even though she's not my own blood cousin, it meant a lot to me to be able to watch her walk down the aisle. It's what happens after being in a family for ten years; you count them as your own family.

So, after we sold the house, I told Corey that we can plan our fabulous beach vacation (without kids) for next year or the year after that. We don't have to do something just because that's what you're "supposed" to do. We are our own family, we march to our own drum, and we will do what works for us.

Getting ready for our wedding, July 24, 2004
What works for us is spending our anniversary with family this year. We are going to go hiking at the state park where we exchanged vows ten years ago. I even brought my wedding dress to commemorate our "big day" be continued...

Coffee and water on the way home from picking Corey up from the airport- $2.00
balance from last pay cycle- $10.00
Balance from current pay cycle- $100.00

Happy Spending!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Little Breakfast Story

I seriously can't believe that with all the stores, shopping, restaurants and things to do in the city, I managed to leave my sister's house with $13.00 in my pocket! I think that part of the reason there was so little spending was that I had grocery money to supplement my spending while visiting family. That really helped. But another reason my spending was down was because of the kids. This was my first trip to visit my sister that I had two children with me. I have been out to see her 5 different times, either by myself, or with just one child. But with two, there are many more considerations to take.

Kids need time to play. If I kept them cramped up in a stroller or in a shopping cart all day, I would have two whiney, cranky minions, waiting to explode. So we did other things besides just shop. We took them to parks, we played with the in the back yard, we took walks around the neighborhood. We really only went shopping that one day at Woodfield. We went in with a plan and made the most of our time there.

So what did I do with the rest of my Fun Dollars? I chipped in at breakfast. I had already gone through all of my grocery money, and it was the last day of our visit. My sister and her husband took us to a cute Greek restaurant in Hanover Park . It's kind of a tradition that we go out to breakfast at least once when I visit them. This time (they live in a new neighborhood since our last breakfast outing) The Omega House hosted our family breakfast.

Carrick and Uncle Dan, chillin' at Omega House.
My favorite item on any breakfast menu is the crepes.  From IHOP to local bistros, crepes win. This time, I chose the Crepe Suzette with strawberries and Grand Marnier. Holy cow, these crepes were amazing! And, for the first time in breakfast history, my crepes were bigger than the pancakes! They were enormous! Three of them! They covered the entire plate! I gladly handed my brother-in-law $13.00 to cover my breakfast (and Carrick's) after finishing two of the monstrous, fruit-filled delicacies. I took the third one home and kept it in the fridge. For dessert that night, I sliced it up and served it to everyone, bite-sized.

The next day, I departed on the 8:10 Amtrak out of the Naperville station. With Fun Dollars still in my pocket, I made a trip to the snack car for a few breakfast treats. Since I didn't get coffee that morning, I bought the last Starbucks Frappucino left. Carrick wanted a blueberry muffin, so I snagged one for him, as well as a box of doughnut holes for us all to share. The kids munched their little hearts out as the train glided down the rails.

Breakfast two days in a row, with some Fun Dollars left over, not bad. I found my shoes for the wedding be continued....

Breakfast at Omega House- $13.00
Breakfast on the Amtrak- $9.00
Balance (last) pay cycle- $12.00

Happy Spending!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Trash the Dress

Seven years ago, a friend of mine began seriously pursuing her passion for photography. She was still new to the industry and had wonderfully creative ideas for her budding business. I had met her through her mother. I used her mom's bridal shop (formerly Bonnie's Bridal and Prom Boutique) as my wedding depot. I found my wedding dress there, ordered my bridesmaids dresses there, and ended up doing my internship for my bachelor's there. I was a bride-to-be working in a bridal salon. It was heaven. She couldn't exactly pay me for my services, so she compensated me with free invitations, garters, and anything else I needed for my upcoming wedding. I became friends with her daughter because she was planning her wedding too. We had joined the website "the knot" and hooked up with other girls in the area planning their weddings to swap ideas and enjoy our pre-married life.

After our respective weddings she and I kept in touch. When she started seriously pursuing photography, she approached me about being a model for something called "Trash the Dress". Women wear their wedding dresses, then do fun, goofy, and messy things in them while being photographed. It's a way to commemorate the dress besides putting it in a giant box in the closet to be forgotten. I didn't have my own wedding dress (even though it had been three years since our wedding.) It was still hanging in a closet at my parent's house.

Since I didn't have a dress to wear, Bonnie gave her daughter some dresses from her shop for me to use. She had two dresses that were from seasons several years old. One of them was large and beautiful, but too big on the bust. Another was simple, and it fit. I ended up in both of them, at the same time. I wore the small one underneath to pad the chest area of the bigger one, which I wore over it. It was a heavy outfit, but I managed to pull it off. 

We started out heading to a storage area across town. We were stopped by a train passing through when I spontaneously hopped out of the car and started posing in front of the passing cars. It was an exhilarating beginning to a tremendously fun day. I climbed on top of a dumpster, hopped in the fountain in the middle of town, climbed a tree in my in-laws' back yard, and even had my mother-in-law throw tomatoes at me from her garden.

We finished the shoot at the creek behind my in-laws' house. It was freezing cold, but the pictures of me laying down in the creek were totally worth it. The ten pounds of wedding fabric I was sporting quickly turned into 20 lbs with the added weight of the water. I look back at these pictures and remember how much fun it was to get dressed up, then get dirty.

The story doesn't end here. The next installment of Fun Dollars, begining July 21 will bring the tale of Trash the Dress full circle.

Here are some of the highlights from Trash the Dress: 2007.

Hit with a tomato by my mother-in-law.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dress to Impress

I survived the flight with both kids, two and half hours in the air. Since we live two time zones away from most of our family (the rest are three time zones away,) we have to make the most of each trip out east. So, that means that I get to fly out for an extra week of visiting family with the kids because Corey can only take one week off of work.

This year, one of my husband's cousins is getting married. We have missed all the other cousin weddings on this side of the family so far. Not only that, but the wedding is two days after our tenth anniversary. When we found out when the wedding would be, the wheels started turning in my mind to plan our anniversary around a family visit. Week #1, I get to spend one-on-one time with my sister (and by one-on-one time, I mean with two children in tow.) Corey will be joining us next week at his father's house. That way he only has to take off one week of work. I get to visit my side of the family while he's still at home. (We were able to visit my grandparents today, as well as my parents and uncles since they live closer to my sister's house.)

I packed lightly for this trip because I knew I would be spending time with my sister. She lives ten minutes from Woodfield Mall, and we always go shopping there when I come to visit. I decided to kill two birds with one stone on this particular shopping trip. Anniversary and Family Wedding combined mean: Rachael needs a new little black dress. The last one I owned has long since left my closet. It's the 6th anniversary model, which came complete with baby weight. It's time mommy got a new one.

Not only did I come on this trip without dress, I also came without proper footwear. I left everything except for two pairs of flip flops at home with the intention of buying a new pair of dress shoes after I found the right dress.

I haven't found the shoes yet, but I did find the dress yesterday! My sister and I each pushed a stroller (one was rented from the stroller cart at the mall) and we scoured three stores for dresses. It was only three stores because I found one at the right price that looked "just right" at the third store. With a price tag of $23.00 I walked out of there quite confident in my purchase.

I also found a pair of earrings to go with it for $9.00 at Charming Charlie. I also bought the kids a cup of pretzel bites at Cinnabon before we got started. I didn't want anyone fussy because they were "hungry" while we were shopping. The pretzel bites gave them something to do, and gave them the "full" feeling, so we were able to knock out our shopping mission in total peace.

I also promised Carrick a trip to the play zone if he stayed in the stroller the entire time. He did, happily occupied with Angry Birds on my phone (a real treat. Since dropping my phone in the pool, I have not allowed games to be played on my phone.) He was engrossed in his fantasy world of flying feathered friends as I tried on dress after dress.

After finishing up, as promised, we headed to the enormous play area. Lily had awoken from her nap minutes before we got there, so they both enjoyed running around.

Corey doesn't even know what this dress looks like yet. I can't wait to see his face when we go to the wedding. After ten years, it's still fun to dress to impress.

 pretzels- $5.00

Little Black Dress- $23.00

Earrings- $9.00

Balance this pay cycle- $34.00

Happy Spending!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Week 2: Time to Spend

Since I have been recording my Fun Dollars, I don't think I have yet to start the second week of a pay cycle with $81.00. I usually blow through the Fun Dollars in the first week and keep about $20.00 for the second week. But this pay cycle, I have intentionally withheld a majority of my Fun Dollars for our family trip.

Tomorrow I fly out with both kids to visit my sister and her husband in Chicago. They live right around the corner from Woodfield Mall; a multi-level shopping mecca. It's almost absurd to think that $81.00 will go very far with the amount of shopping to be done there. But that's what I have, and I'll enjoy every dollar of it. Shopping with my sister is an event not to be missed, whether it's $20.00 or $200.00, it's the sister time that matters.

Ready to fly with her new suitcase.
I also talked to Corey about grocery money this week. Since I won't be at home with the kids this week, I get to take half of our grocery budget with me to foot our food bill. I can buy some groceries to contribute to the house of our hosts while we're there, as well as have some cash for a dinner out. I won't have to use my Fun Dollars for dining this time around. Hooray!

Yesterday, I did spring for a 5-piece chicken strip at Burger King, though. Carrick and Corey went to Flagstaff to see How to Train Your Dragon 2. I used the time of having one child in the house to do a thorough pre-trip cleaning. I didn't want to make food and dirty up the kitchen, so I took Lily with me for a quick lunch. It was worth the $6.00 to keep the kitchen clean and have someone just hand me food. All that movin' and groovin' with the house worked up my appetite.

Believe it or not, I really enjoyed cleaning the house. The thought of coming home after travelling to a clean house is its own reward. I'll gladly pay $6.00 for that.

Chicken strips at Burger King- $6.00
Balance this pay cycle- $77.00
Happy Spending!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tut Tut, It Looks Like Rain

Once upon a time, Christopher Robin trotted back and forth under a "little black rain cloud" and spoke these words. It's a darling image; a child with rain boots and a giant umbrella pacing back and forth. We don't get much precipitation here in the desert, but when we do, it's a doozy!

In Northern Arizona, we get a weather phenomenon dubbed "The Monsoons". It's not exactly like the monsoons of Southeast Asia, but to us desert dwellers, the rain that comes with our monsoons is no less appreciated.

I was unfamiliar with monsoons in the desert prior to 2007, when we moved here from Illinois. In the last days of August, Corey and I arrived in a non-air conditioned Ford Ranger, and were greeted with monsoon clouds. In fact, as we dropped down the switchbacks into Oak Creek Canyon, it was sprinkling, which turned into rain. We were driving 30 mph, partly because we were terrified to be dropping 1,000 ft in elevation, making sharp turns, but also to be doing it in the rain. We had a pile up of cars behind us honking, with no where to safely turn off and let them pass. We made it to where we were headed and the sky cleared up after what seemed like an eternity on 89A.

After spending the night in a tent behind the ASIS Massage School, which was our destination, we woke up to more rain clouds. We ate breakfast on the front porch, under the protection of the roof thinking that the rain would pour out at any minute. Where we came from, if you saw clouds, you felt the rain. We sat huddled in the tent for at least an hour after breakfast, peeking out the top to see if we were any closer to getting the rain that threatened to be unleashed. After two hours passed, we decided we couldn't take the heat and the humidity any more, and we escaped to Goodwill in Cottonwood for a reprieve.

But when the rains did finally come, it was a sight to behold. Lighting flashed, the rain came down in torrents, and beat heavily on our tiny tent.

The monsoons can take all day to brew until finally letting go. You have to pretty much carry around an umbrella, even if it's sunny outside, because you just never know. If I knew where my umbrella was after our move (I have torn apart pretty much every box in the past two months) I would have been more prepared on our last trip to Flagstaff.

I made it up the canyon on Monday with no problem, no road closure, no rain. As the clouds thickened and the wind picked up, I was optimistic about getting in and out of the store before the rain came. But halfway through our Target trip, we heard the claps of thunder rumbling overhead. I saw out the double doors the downpour outside. I was trapped, with two kids, and a cart full of groceries inside Target. I could wait for the rain to let up, but that could take hours. I had no choice but to buy an umbrella.

I could have bought a small one that folds up to the size of my pocket for $14.99 (Yes, that was the cheapest one at Target. I was not too excited about it.) But, for $3.00 more, I could get one of those cute, retro ones that look like 1960's London. I have always wanted one of those umbrellas, but would just buy the cheapest one I could find, usually at Wal-Mart or Bell's Outlet. But, they normally break, or bend backwards in the wind. I didn't think this upside-down, U-shaped structure would invert itself.

It served its purpose as I hastily loaded the kids into the car. (Carrick also found a Spiderman umbrella on clearance for $5.00. I bought it out of our travel fund.) When we arrived home, Lily insisted on carrying the umbrella to the house. I let her, and was cheerfully reminded of Christopher Robin. Tut tut, it looks like rain.

Umbrella at Target- $19.00 (with tax)

Balance this pay cycle- $81.00

Happy Spending!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Libations of Freedom

Last week, many, if not all of us, enjoyed a day off and some fire works. There might have been a cook out involved with grilled meat, and most likely some sort of alcoholic beverage. It's an American pastime to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends, family and food.

At our house, we had a sleepover for Carrick the night before. Somehow, I managed three children for the better part of the day, and went to bed exhausted, but happy that Carrick finally got to have a sleepover with his best friend, Ethan. He's literally been talking about it all summer. As if hanging out all day and on into the night with his best friend wasn't enough, we took the boys swimming and met up with Ethan's parents and grandparents the next day.

It was sometime after noon when we roused ourselves into actually leaving the house. We stopped at Circle K on the way to the pool. I had $20.00 Fun Dollars that I hadn't spent (shockingly) and I handed it to Corey. "What do you want?" he asked, and I told him to "Surprise me." He came out with two Fiji waters, and a big can each of Blue Moon, Michelob Ultra, and Modelo. Corey said it came to $13 and change, so he used $10.00 of mine and he picked up the rest.

I was so thirsty, I downed the first Fiji water on the way out of town. (The pool was at a resort in the Village of Oak Creek. Our friends bought time share there, so they are "members". Lucky for us.) Then at the pool, I enjoyed some restful moments sipping on the Blue Moon, poolside. Lily had fallen asleep on the way to the pool, so I had her parked next to me under the umbrella. Carrick had his floaty wings on. Between me and Corey, we could keep an eye on him anywhere he went in the pool. The shocker came when he took his floaties off and jumped into the 5 ft area with Ethan! He was right next to Corey, so I wasn't too scared, but it did make me get off my chaise lounge to make sure he was OK. I just about fell over when he managed to swim to the side of the pool all by himself!

He's been going to swim lessons all summer long, and I have seen him swim. But, it's always in water where he can touch and he's always with an instructor. So to see him going at it solo thoroughly impressed me. I lifted my can of Blue Moon to my awesome little guy and took up my relaxing position on the chaise.

After a wonderful (and late) lunch, grilled by the pool, and what seemed like a timeless afternoon, we finally packed up the car and said goodbye to our friends. Even though Carrick and Ethan had spent the last 24 hours together, they were still asking, "Can Carrick come over an play?"

As we came back to town, Corey declared he wanted "something fun" to drink for later. We still had fireworks ahead of us, and no plans for the time until we had to leave. I stopped at Whole Foods (formerly New Frontiers) and sprung for drinks for the family. I bought myself three tall coconut waters, a Perrier for Corey and an organic Cherry Vanilla soda for Carrick. I spent the remaining $10.00 from the $20.00 I had given Corey earlier for the Circle K purchase.

We ended up going to Cottonwood and parking in a church parking lot to watch the fireworks that night. (Parking at the actual venue can mean sitting in traffic for an hour when it's all over.) We all stayed in the car and kept the windows rolled up. Carrick isn't keen on the loud bangs and booms, and I didn't know how Lily would react to the noise. I parked the car sideways so that Carrick could look out his window. I crawled in the back and sat next to him in his car seat. Lily sat in the driver's seat on Corey's lap. It was a magical, family evening and the perfect end to a memorable Independence Day, or so I thought...

I had $2.00 left of my Fun Dollars. On way back home, the children fell asleep in the car. We rolled into Sedona at 9:50 p.m. As we approached Zainey's Corey said, "Pull in here, see if they're open still."  We parked right in front, hopped out and dashed inside. (Yes, the kids were asleep in the car with the doors locked.) He bought us both frozen yogurt, and I gave him my last $2.00. It was so worth it to just eat a treat with my hunny in the front seat. No kids dripping, or high on sugar. Just me and my love ending the day with a Bang.

Drinks at Circle K- $10.00
Drinks at Whole Foods- $10.00
Frozen Yogurt at Zainey's- $2.00

Balance this pay cycle- $0.00

Happy Spending!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Travel Treats

Many of you might have heard about this little trick for travelling with youngsters, but for those of you who are still struggling with "something to do" on a trip, here's my secret to success: Pack Presents.

I know there are cars with DVD players in them, there are Gameboys, Leapsters, mp3 players, ipads, kindles, and a myriad of other devices created to keep your kids content. They have their place, and are good for a while, but they don't allow for connection, or interaction. I enjoy giving small gifts on the plane rides we take together because it gives Carrick and me a time to come together, to experience something as mother and son other than a flashing screen. He gets his "zone out"
time, and so do I, but not for the entirety of the trip.

I started giving him travel presents about two years ago, after hearing about the idea from a friend. She explained that the opening of a wrapped present takes extra time. It build anticipation and curiosity. It's different than just pulling a book or a dinosaur from a bag. They know what's in there, they play with it, then they get bored. (Then you have to resort to "here, play with my ipad..." or whatever device.)

But when you make the contents of their travel bags a mystery, even old toys that they have forgotten about become new and awesome. "Oh yeah! I forgot about that book/toy/etc.!" This method of regifting comes in handy, especially when you have more than one child, and budgets are on the line. If you're already spending money on plane tickets, food, checked bags, not to mention time off from work, you're probably not going to want to drop a fortune on goodies.

So, places like Goodwill and the Dollar Tree become treasure troves of inexpensive treats to wrap up for the kids. I made a trip to the Dollar Tree to proactively get some travel goodies for the kids, and only spent $10.00 on each kid. They each received a new toothbrush, an animal travel cover for their toothbrush, a pack of travel tissues (Lily got Tinkerbell, Carrick got Lightning McQueen), a bath loofah (Lily picked out a pink piggy one, Carrick chose a blue bear one), a pack of stickers, a castle board book to put the stickers on (they had a "boys" castle and a "girl's castle" book. Carrick saw Lily's play castle that I bought her at Goodwill a few weeks ago and said he wanted his own "blue castle", so that's why I got them each their own.), and chap stick for Carrick and lip gloss for Lily. I managed to sneak in the basket a small plastic rhino toy (to go with the bigger rhino he already has. It will be a "regift" because it got lost in the move.) I also was able to put in a small plastic triceratops dinosaur when he wasn't looking. (Triceratops is like the one dino figure he doesn't have. I'll pack another one of his dinos to play with the triceratops. Another "regift".) For Lily, I also found a small doll and a My Little Pony.

I bought all of these items at the beginning of this pay cycle, which was a good 3 1/2 weeks before we actually fly out. That way, whatever toys and treats they did see will have already been forgotten, thus making it a surprise. If you buy the goodies when you're with the kids, make sure it's not like the day before. Otherwise the surprise and curiosity factor is lost. (Or just make sure you don't go shopping with the kids. But if you're like me, shopping without the kids is a rare occasion, and best not left to chance.)

I already have all of these items wrapped up in fun wrapping paper from my gift stash. I used pink tissue for Lily and Cars Christmas paper for Carrick. All I have to do is sneak the goodies in their suitcases the night before we travel. Kinda makes me feel like Santa Claus in July.

Fun Travel things for the kids at Dollar Tree- $20.00

Balance this pay cycle- $22.00

Happy Spending!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Snacks and Such

So, one of my struggles with Fun Dollars from the beginning has been spending on fast food. Another weak spot for me is treats; sugar, chocolate, ice cream, etc. I have recently discovered that I have combined both of these weak spots into one purchase: Luna Bars.

Luna Bars have become my on-the-go snack, my dessert, and my chocolate fix, all in one purchase. When I might have spent upwards of $20.00 before on all these things separately with my Fun Dollars, I have now been spending $10.00 or less on Luna Bars. (Mostly because they have been on sale for like a month at Natural Grocers. It's right around the corner, and I can pick and choose which flavors to try.)

I have sampled each of these brands of coconut water. They each have a unique flavor.
I often buy a can of coconut water when I buy Luna bars. So, that adds another $2.00 to my snack tab. But still, it's better than downing an ice cream cone every other day. The coconut water keeps the urge to go to DQ at bay. Sometimes I spring for a mini coconut water for Carrick too.

I don't know how long the sale will last, but while it does, these little blue wrappers are going to be a mainstay in my Fun Dollars account.

8 Luna Bars and 2 coconut waters at Natural Grocers- $11.00

Balance this pay cycle- $42.00

Happy Spending!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hot, Dry, Dog Days of Summer

Remember being a kid and getting ice cream in the summer time? When the tar bubbles on the street, and the sidewalks were too hot to go barefoot on, there was always a relief in the form of ice cream. What a treat it was to go with my parents to the Shake Shack and get a Slush Puppy, a Boston Shake, or even a simple dipped cone. The Shake Shack was all the way across town from our house, but it was so worth the drive. (And by across town, I mean the equivalent of a dozen blocks, across the railroad track and across the main road through town. There was only one main road.)

Shake Shack opened up the same year we moved to Camp Point, IL, 1988. It was a pretty big deal. In our town of 1200 people, there was no McDonald's, no Dairy Queen, no Baskin Robbins, just good ol' locally owned businesses, started up by the folks who lived there. At Shake Shack, you could get a meal as well as an ice cream treat. In the 8-table dining area, we would chow down on the best Bar-B-Q Beef I have ever had. It was the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Their Bar-B-Q pork was a force to be reckoned with too. But the real teat always came after we finished our "real food''.

It was always a hard decision. Should I get a banana split, or a brownie treat? A shake or a slushie? So many options.

The Shake Shack is still there, owned and operated by the local crowd. No one has bought it, changed it or tinkered with it in 26 years. In fact, I took Carrick there after meeting up with some old school friends a couple years ago, and everything was exactly how I remembered it. The Bar-B-Q beef even tasted the same. What a comfort to know that some things don't change, and that you can go back to your childhood, especially for ice cream.

In Sedona, we don't have a Shake Shack, but we do have several ice cream options, most of which are national chains. One of our favorite places for cold deserts is actually one of the few locally own places, call Zainey's. They are a mix-and-match frozen yogurt place where you pay by the ounce. We go there pretty regularly since it's so close to our house. (And it's usually on Corey's Fun Dollars, which is why you don't hear about it on my posts.)

But sometimes, I just crave a simple twisty cone, with all the milk (and fat) that I associate with summer. For that, I escape to Oak Creek Canyon, which is where our local Dairy Queen is located. The other day, it took me the better part of an hour to get my phone and Corey's new phone set up at the Verizon store. Carrick needed minimal attention while we were there, but poor Lily was way overdue for a nap, and wan't shy about letting everyone else know that it was nap time. Carrick contented himself by coloring in his new coloring book. Then, when we got in the car, he said, "I was so good, I should get a treat!" I laughed, and told him that we could all use a treat after what we just went through.

So, I took him to get a small vanilla cone in the canyon. I treated myself to a medium twisty cone. It was a delicious $4.00. We don't go to DQ that often, but when I do, I think back to those hot summer days with my parents, getting treats at the Shake Shack. I love sharing these moments with my kids. I know they will form their own memories of summer, and I am happy to share Fun Dollars to bring a little joy to the hot, dry, dog days of summer.

2 cones at Dairy Queen- $4.00

Balance this pay cycle- $53.00

Happy Spending!