Friday Five: Save time and money – and get organized!

The “Friday Five” series shows five things that could help save you time or money – or help you get more organized.

photo-41. Annual passes for local museums and attractions
My kids are lucky, living so close to fun attractions like the San Diego Zoo, Legoland and Sea World. When I was growing up outside of D.C., it was the National Zoo and the Smithsonian (and they are free!), but no matter where you live there are fun museums and theme parks for your family to enjoy. I think some people shy away from these places fearing the cost. My solution? Buy annual passes! With the exception of Disney parks, they don’t cost much more than a one-day pass and offer other perks (parking and food discounts, etc.) to members. The other advantage is you can go for a few hours and get out of there before the crowds and not feel like you have to stay all day because you want to get your money’s worth.

 

photo-22. Lorac Behind the Scences Eye Primer
I love eye shadow, but it makes me crazy when it creases or fades. Before I found this product, my eye makeup would look great when I left the house in the morning, but not as great by the end of the day. I started using this primer a few years ago and no longer had this problem. It helps keep eyeliner in place too. It costs $21, but it lasts forever (six months using it every day) and saves times since there is no need to reapply makeup if you’re going out that night. (side note: I use Dior eye shadow and they work great together)

 

 

photo-33. Tarte Poreless Perfecting Primer
I guess you could say I’m into primer right now, which is interesting considering it takes an extra step (and therefore some time). The thing is it takes an extra 15 seconds, but saves you so much more when your makeup looks good all day/night. I am at work at 7:00 a.m. and this awesome product helps my makeup (Laura Mercier Silk Crème Foundation) look good until I wash my face at night. I have fairly oily skin, so this is impressive. It costs $30, but one tube lasts six months, and like the foundation brush I mentioned a while back, it makes your makeup go further, so it saves money in the long run, too!

 

 

intuit4. Intuit QuickBooks Online
I have many friends who are business owners, from direct sales consultants to Etsy shop owners and large businesses with many employees. Last year when I started my business I wanted an easy way to keep track of income and expenses, so I turned to Intuit. Their online version of QuickBooks is easy, inexpensive and organizes everything for in a user-friendly interface. I have a business bank account, which is linked to QuickBooks, so every purchase/deposit is automatically uploaded. All I have to do is log in every once in a while and click on drop downs to categorize the transactions. It took me all of five minutes to export reports for my CPA, and though it costs $12.95/month (which is a business expense for tax purposes), it saves so much time I’d pay more for the convenience alone (don’t tell Intuit though). They also offer a 30-day free trial, so check it out to see if it works for you!

 

photo5. Shout Free Stain Remover
I’ve been a fan of Shout for years, but more so in recent months as Clay now plays flag football, basketball and baseball. I don’t have time to do laundry every day, but if I let the dirt/grass/food sit on his clothes until laundry day, they’d be ruined. I spray them (pretty much every night) with Shout and they’re good for up to a week. I like this new “Free” version – no strong fragrances. It takes five seconds, costs $3 and saves his clothes. Couldn’t live without it!

Friday Five: Save time and money – and get organized!

The “Friday Five” series shows five things that could help save you time or money – or help you get more organized.

IMG_03021. Nordstrom Rack for iPhone cases
When I bought my iPhone, I really wanted a monogrammed case. I paid way too much for it, Chase laughed at me and it didn’t even hold up very well. Hence, the need to buy a new one.  I’ve seen them at Nordstrom Rack in the past, but never took a good look before last week. They have a ton of Tory Burch and Kate Spade ones for less than $20 (regular price $50). So, if you can get out of there without buying a pair of shoes, you’re saving money!

 

images2. Costco pizza
Costco’s pizza is just like everything else there – a really good price for way too much food. The crust is a little thick for Chase, but when you get 30 pieces for $20 ($10/pizza), you can just toss the crust and get another piece. Or if you have a kid like Avery, feed it to her. Either way, it’s pretty tasty, filling and a bargain. Just remember to bring cash because the food court doesn’t take cards (I’ve learned the hard way!)

 
Unknown3.  A personal (web-based) email address
In this day and age, people rarely stay at one job for their entire career, so save yourself some trouble and get a personal email address instead of using your work one. It is a huge pain to change your email address with everyone and can also be difficult to install work email onto a smartphone or tablet. I personally use Gmail, but there are many free, web-based options.

oil4. Drive-through oil changes
I used to hate getting my oil changed. I had to get out of the car and hang out in their dingy waiting area, then some guy would come out and try to upsell me on a $40 air filter or $27 tail light. Our local place changed ownership so now I drive through, and I’m in and out in less than 10 minutes. I don’t have to make Chase take my car anymore!

 


water5. Starbucks ice water

When I was pregnant with Avery, water tasted horrible to me, but I knew I had to drink it. That’s when I became obsessed with Starbucks ice water. They filter their ice (to use in their iced drinks) and their water is delicious. Even better, it’s free! I get it every time I go order my hot chocolate and even my kids like it now, so I save some money. On Clay anyway, Avery the sweets lover still wants her chocolate milk!

 

Friday Five: Save time and money – and get organized!

The “Friday Five” series shows five things that could help save you time or money – or help you get more organized.

valentines1. Store-bought valentines
I have fond memories of tearing through my valentines as a kid. Back in the day when you could just give valentines to kids you like and didn’t have to give them to everyone, for fear that someone’s feelings would be hurt. As much as I loved getting the valentines, I can’t tell you if the valentines were handmade or store bought. The truth is, I didn’t care. I still don’t. It’s the thought that counts, and for my family, store-bought works just fine. They cost $2.50 per box at Target and just addressing them with a three- and five-year-old takes enough time. If I had to cut and glue and write, I might lose my mind.

photo-22. Express legging jeans
I seriously considered pulling a photo off the Express website rather than using this one since not only is it not flattering, it’s blurry. But, Clay took it, and he was so proud of himself for helping that I had to use it. Anyway, I resisted skinny jeans for a long time, but I’ve given in. Turns out I actually like them, but I’ve had a hard time finding a pair with enough stretch to be comfortable, but not so much they’re falling off my backside by lunch. My brother got me jeans from Express for Christmas, and it turns out they’re great. Best of all, Express always has sales and coupons, so when I went back for another pair they were less than $50!

 

survey3. Online surveys
I’m a sucker for an online survey. There is part of me that truly wants to be helpful (the part that was tortured making up surveys in communications research methods in college), but I also know there is usually a reward at the end of the survey. To spend less than five minutes (likely while watching TV) and get a discount code or free meal, is worth it to me. I even serve on an panel for Gap Inc. that sends me occasional surveys, in return for discounts. I know there are companies that do online surveys, which probably make some great money, but I don’t think I have the time or interest for that. But, want to know about my taco buying experience in exchange for a coupon? I’m in!

photo-44. Old Navy ballet flats
I’m pretty sure I walk five miles a day at work. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I walk all over a campus multiple times. I was cursed with feet that hurt pretty much no matter what shoes I wear, with the exception of flip flops. I bought $200 Delman flats a few years ago (on sale) because The New York Times said they were great for walking around the city. They killed my feet…and I couldn’t return them. Anyway, I was ordering some leggings for Avery a few weeks ago and saw a pair of ballet flats on sale for $7. What the heck, I thought. If they are terrible, I’ll just take them to Goodwill. The good news is they’re not terrible. They’re comfy and while not the cutest thing ever, they’re not hideous either. Which is more than I can say for my work carpet on which they were standing for this photo!

 

photo5. Throw lunch boxes and coozies in the washing machine
I’ve seen some retro lunch boxes like we used to have, but most of the time these days they’re made of fabric. The problem is, food and liquid get in them over time and they get pretty gross. I clean out the inside with baby wipes, but the outside was looking pretty dingy. We’ve had the same one since Clay started preschool, so I was willing to take a chance. I threw it in the washing machine, figuring it didn’t matter if it crumbled. To my surprise, it didn’t. And it was cleaner than it’s been in 18 months. I’m not sure why I didn’t try this before. Anyway, I later did the same thing with a few coozies that came with us to the National Championship game (and therefore smelled terrible). They’re fresh and clean again too!

Friday Five: Save time and money – and get organized!

The “Friday Five” series shows five things that could help save you time or money – or help you get more organized.

Living Proof shampoo1. Living Proof Full Shampoo/Conditioner
I have written before about my struggles styling my hair. It’s fine, I’m impatient, so it’s usually not pretty. It looks better when I curl it, but unless I win the lottery and can get a blowout daily, that only happens on weekends. I’ve found a solution, thanks to Sephora and the samples they give when you order online. They gave me a sample of Living Proof Full products, and I tried them while we were in North Carolina. My mom and sister-in-law told me that my hair looked the best they’d ever seen it, so naturally I bought it right away. It’s not cheap ($24/bottle), but I have been using it for a few weeks and I swear my hair is fuller. The best part? I’ve been crazy busy this week and haven’t even bothered drying it, and it’s not sticking flat to my head like it normally would. A hair miracle and time saver for sure! (note: they have other lines for different hair types if you weren’t “blessed” with fine hair like me).

 

Rusk hair dryer2. Rusk Speed Freak Hair Dryer
I guess you could call this the “how to fix bad hair edition” of the Friday Five. I finally decided that I should invest in a hair dryer that cost more than $30 because often you get what you pay for. I mentioned this to my mom, so she got me one for Christmas. This one isn’t super expensive and dries my hair so quickly. It also doesn’t make it fuzzy (at least using my new fancy shampoo). Quick and easy, the way I like it!

 

carrots3. Costco Organic Baby Carrots
I know that real carrots are healthier and some would argue they taste better than baby carrots. The problem is that you have to cut and peel them to get kids to eat them. I’ve been eying the gigantic bag of carrots at Costco for a while, but didn’t buy them because I wasn’t sure if we could actually eat 1,000 carrots before they went bad. Then I realized as much as I hate wasting food, for $4, if I throw some away, who cares? Turns out, as you can see from the almost empty bag, we can mow some carrots. Easy, healthy…and cheap!

 

cookies4. Pre-Made Cookie Dough
Chase went to a friend’s house on Saturday night after the kids went to bed, and I got caught up on my magazines. InStyle had a feature on the best chocolate chip cookie recipes. They all looked so delicious that I was nearly drooling. Sadly, I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I planned to get everything at the store the next day. By Sunday morning as much as I wanted to try the new recipe, I was too tired. So, $3 and 14 minutes later, we had fresh cookies. I know they aren’t as good, but to cure a craving they work just fine and the price is right!

 

 

DN card5. Local Discount Card
Our local high school sells discount cards for neighborhood merchants to raise money for their athletic programs. For $20, you get discounts at all kinds of places and the money is for a good cause. Check to see if your neighborhood school sells something similar. Give back and save money all in one handy little card!

 

Easy Ways to Save Money on Baggage Fees!

Remember the good old days when liquid items of any size were allowed in carry-on bags? It was great…I would get off the plane and exit the airport with barely a glance at the people waiting for their items to appear at the baggage claim.

Though I’d love to be out of the airport that quickly, I can’t leave my Rodan + Fields products or favorite toiletries behind. Oh and I have two kids. So, when we travel, I have to check bags.

My mom retired from a major airline, so I understand the financial strains they’ve faced in recent years. That doesn’t mean I like paying baggage fees though, so here are some tips to save some cash:

1. Have an airline miles credit card
I’ve written about this before. I have two airline credit cards. Though I pay an annual fee on both, the benefits far outweigh the cost. Each person in your party gets one bag for free, so for a family of four flying Delta (like we did at Christmas), you save $100. 

2. Make your kids (and spouse) carry their own stuff
Each passenger is allowed one carry-on item and one personal item. I could easily overload my bag with kids’ iPads, books, coloring supplies and Chase’s laptop and DVDs. Instead, the kids each have a backpack, and Chase has a bag of his own. It’s better for my back and gives us more space for no cost!

3. Stow away extras in a car seat bag
This one only applies to parents of kids who use a car seat, but car seats are considered “special items,” so there are no baggage fees for checking them. When Clay was a baby we bought a car seat bag to keep his seat from getting beat up during our flight. I didn’t realize that the $20 we paid for it would more than make up for itself.  Not only can you check them for free, but you can also easily throw extra items in with the seat, saving room in your checked bag. We did this with our coats for trip to North Carolina. 

I always tell Chase that I know exactly how much to pack in our big suitcase to stay under the 50 pound weight limit, but the fancy new hair dryer I got for Christmas is pretty heavy, so I was over by a few pounds. I quickly opened up the suitcase and transferred a few items to the car seat bag, which saved us $100 in overweight bag fees.

4. Bring a rolling carry on 
In our family, our small rolling suitcases are commonly referred to “rollies.” These bags were my only luggage back in the pre-kid, pre-liquid restrictions days. On our Christmas trip, we brought partially empty rollies, so we’d have some extra space to bring back the kids’ favorite gifts. We didn’t have to pay for them, but with most flights now being overbooked, it’s pretty likely they’ll check them at the gate for free to save overhead bin space. We had plenty of space for Clay’s Wii and Avery’s princess dresses, and we didn’t even have to roll them through the enormous Atlanta airport.

After two weddings and a Christmas trip, we won’t be flying anywhere for a while. But, when we do I’ll be saving money on baggage. Hopefully some of these tips will help you save too!

 

Getting off the career roller coaster

In the past seven months of my career, I have gone through nearly every emotion possible: fear (financial), excitement, relief, loneliness, promise, joy and indecision. I wasn’t happy in my last job and had considered starting my own business. I had that chance, and I enjoyed most things about being a business owner: autonomy, flexibility, doing work I like with people I respect and controlling my own destiny.

I’m a month into my new job, and I sometimes feel like I have to explain why I took the job. I was working from home, doing work I liked. Why take another office job?

I’m not giving up on some lifelong dream to be an entrepreneur. That is my brother, not me. What I want is to do work I enjoy with people I like. I’m not against working for someone else – as long as the work is the right fit for me and my family.

Even though working at home in yoga pants is nice, I missed being around people. It wasn’t just the past six months that I’ve felt it, but my last job was very solitary, so it’s been three years with very little social interaction during the work day. Although many writers are fine with that, I have a more broad communications background, so I actually miss, you know, communicating.

I also missed being part of a team. I had an amazing team at UC San Diego. They were my coworkers and I respected their work, but I also considered them my friends. We chatted about our lives regularly and worked well together toward a common goal, which brings me to something else I missed: feeling like my job makes a difference.

I’m not a doctor saving lives or a teacher who helps kids learn to read. Those jobs must be very rewarding, but I was never good at science, and I’m not sure I’m even patient enough to teach my own kids. Although I didn’t teach at UCSD, I felt like the work I did helped the school grow and our students were the direct beneficiaries. I watched people change their lives through education and my work helped publicize this amazing progress. I was always proud to say what I did.

I’m happy to report that I feel like this again in my new job. I love talking to people during the day again. In just a few weeks, I feel like part of a team. I’m excited to watch kids learn and grow and head off to college to become productive members of our society.

As much as I wavered on whether I wanted to go back to an office full time, the first time I stepped onto the campus of one of San Diego’s best private schools, I felt like it was something special. I felt like I belonged there, and more importantly, my future coworkers felt that, too.

I’m one month in, and I’m glad to be off of that emotional roller coaster.  I know I made the right decision – for me and my family – and that’s all that matters.

Twas the night before work…

Twas the night before work and all through the house, the only creature stirring was a mom ironing a blouse…

I start my new job tomorrow. So, in true Type-A fashion, I’ve spent the last week making sure everything in my life/house is ready for my return to an office. I’ve taken old clothes to Goodwill, organized all the files on my computer, washed our sheets and more.

It’s silly when I think of it now. I will be working until 3:30 p.m., hardly investment banker or law firm partner hours. I’ll finish work not much later than I do now working from home, but I won’t be able to run to Costco, work out or do laundry on my lunch break, so it will be an adjustment.

I’m packing Clay’s lunch and setting out Avery’s clothes, so *maybe* Chase won’t have to battle with her on what to wear. I’m dusting off and ironing my work clothes, since I can no longer wear Lululemon pants every day. I’ve filled out 27 forms for everything from health insurance to emergency contact information.

The clothes and lunches are ready…and so am I!

Opportunity knocks

We’ve all heard the saying “opportunity knocks.” In the past few months I’ve seen it firsthand. Sometimes it knocks quietly, other times it knocks quickly, then runs away before you have a chance to answer. More recently, I’ve seen it bang down the door.

I lost my job, so I started a business. I was able to get some great clients, and I got to write again! My work was helping people grow their companies. I was moving right along, when I saw a job posting for a marketing role at a very prestigious private school. I was enjoying my work, but something about this job caught my eye, and I applied. I have done marketing and PR for an educational institution before (for seven years), so I thought there was a good chance they would call me. I didn’t hear anything, so I put it out of my mind and remained open to other opportunities.

Nearly two months later, I received an email asking if I was still interested. By this time, I had more clients, and I’d begun to consider another business opportunity working with the doctors who created Proactiv solution. I replied to the school’s HR director, telling her I was interested, but still moved forward with both my content business and my side business selling skincare. Who knows what will happen, I thought. Maybe I don’t even want an office job.

The first day I stepped onto the campus, I knew there was something special. That place. The people. The focus on learning and family. It was everything my last job was missing.

Sometimes when interviewing for a job, you see only the opportunity to make a lot of money or have a prestigious title. This opportunity will give me the chance to do something that I enjoy, that will make a difference in others’ lives. It will be flexible for my family. It’s place I can see myself working for a long time.

I’m not giving up my other businesses, I’m just seizing a great opportunity, knowing that when opportunities knock that hard, you have to answer because they are meant to be.

 

 

One week’s notice

It’s been six months since I left my job. When I was let go, I was worried about our finances, but I was relieved since I was unhappy and it gave me the chance to start my own business. Since then, I’ve been lucky to do work I love for some great clients, and I’ve spent a lot of time with the kids. It’s been a time of transition, and I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want in my career.

So, that’s what brings me to today: the day I give myself one week’s notice. Today is Veteran’s Day, so both kids are out of school. photo-2They are next to me on the couch watching a movie, and Chase is upstairs with the stomach flu. I’m trying to plan something great for us to do today because I’m starting a new job next Monday. In an office. I’ll still keep Sterling Content going and also my new Rodan + Fields business. I’ll write more (probably tomorrow) about the new job and why I decided to take it, but today I’m spending the day with these two.

Happy Veteran’s Day and thanks to all who have protected our freedom! I am so thankful for the sacrifices you and your families have made for me and mine.

Friday Five: Save time and money – and get organized!

The “Friday Five” series shows five things that could help save you time or money – or help you get more organized.

Costco Carter's pajamas1. Carter’s pajamas at Costco
When the kids were infants, I thought Carter’s had the cutest little outfits. My kids outgrew onesies years ago, but I still think Carter’s pajamas are among the best around. We have a Carter’s outlet, but the best prices are at Costco. They have seasonally appropriate ones for kids up to age eight. I just stocked up on Clay’s winter ones (I bought Avery’s few weeks ago), and they were on sale for $7.50 per pair. Even at the regular price of $8.99, they’re a great deal!

 

Cuisinart pan2. Cuisinart non-stick skillet
We were lucky enough to receive a set of cookware for our wedding, but after a few years we had to replace some pieces since the non-stick surface quickly became sticky (and annoying to clean). After replacing the main skillet at least twice, I decided to just buy a cheap one at Bed Bath & Beyond for the many quesadillas we make. It was only $20 (after my 20 percent off coupon), and I have to say, about two months in, it is holding up great. Even eggs don’t stick to it, and it’s super easy to clean. Love that it saves me time at such a great price!

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 2.28.21 PM3. Sephora Beauty Insider program
I love makeup. It’s not cheap. The great thing about Sephora is that you can save time by going to one store (or online) for everything. My makeup bag is comprised of many different brands and all but one they carry at Sephora (Chanel…sigh). Their Beauty Insider program is great. You get points that give you free stuff, they give you a birthday gift and a few times a year they send you a coupon for 20 percent off. If you’re spending $100 on makeup (which I wish I could say I’ve never done), you’ll save $20. It’s great and easy to sign up!

 

R + F Logo4. Consider a side job
Saving money is hard. Sometimes it seems like your entire salary goes to monthly expenses, without much left over. As a communications professional, I’ve often taken on side projects in addition to my day job. I’ve done editing, PR outreach and more. There are also some great options for working at home. Direct sales for companies like thirty-one, stella & dot and my personal favorite, Rodan + Fields, give you the ability to work on your schedule. It’s a great way to make extra money and it’s also really fun! I’m not sure what I’m saving my Rodan + Fields money for yet (college funds?), but I’ve been able to squeeze it in with all of my other commitments. The company is growing exponentially, so if you’re interested in joining my team, let me know!

 

garage bin5. Garage bin for jackets, shoes and backpacks
Have I mentioned I hate clutter? And we’re always rushing out the door? When school started, I felt overwhelmed by the pile of shoes and backpacks in my entry way. Now it’s cool in the mornings, so we’ve added jackets to the mix. I found an old Rubbermaid storage bin and put it right next to the door between the house and the garage. When we get home from school, we put shoes and jackets directly into the bin. We get out the day’s homework and the backpack goes back in there. It keeps the mess out of our house and makes it quick and easy to get out of the house in the morning.