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.

Taking Maternity Leave? Plan Ahead

I have a few friends who are pregnant with their first child, and I’ve often joked that a newborn would be so easy, if only you knew what you were doing. For most of us, maternity leave was a bit of a blur. I was fortunate to take four months off with both of my kids. Men might consider this time off work a “vacation,” but we moms know better. It is a break from the office, but you are working just as hard, if not harder.

Maternity leave with Clay came unexpectedly – he was born five weeks early, and I was working at home when I started having contractions. I had planned on going into the office later that afternoon to interview candidates to cover my maternity leave. My first interview was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. At 11:30 a.m. I realized that wasn’t going to happen and by 4:00 p.m., I had a newborn.

Thinking about my friends who are about to start maternity leave, the biggest piece of advice I have is to plan ahead. You don’t know when your baby will arrive. You may be so sleep deprived that you forget to pay your mortgage. You may need help if you have multiples or a fussy baby. You won’t have time to clean your house or cook dinner.

The more you can set up in advance, the better off you’ll be. You won’t be stressed, and you’ll be able to spend time enjoying your baby. Or napping. Or eating dessert because breastfeeding gives you a terrible sweet tooth.

You all know I’m a planner, but since everyone says your first baby “is never early,” I didn’t feel the need to do everything weeks in advance. I learned my lesson though and with Avery my replacement started before I even left work. The nursery was ready, her clothes were washed and the car seat base was installed in the car.

To save your sanity, plan ahead, so you’ll be ready for the baby and your time off work. Then, sit back, relax and enjoy the silence. It won’t last long 🙂

For other great tips on planning for and making the most of your maternity leave, check out this blog post on CreditCardInsider.com. And if you have any tips of your own, leave them in the comments!

 

 

 

Five easy ways to save money on vacation

Hi y’all, I’m so glad to be back! Sorry I haven’t posted for a while, but with two out-of-town weddings and new work opportunities to pursue, it’s been pretty crazy around here. I don’t think I’ll be able to post every day, but I’ll do my best to write when I can!

0-3 0Anyway, back to the topic. As I mentioned, we had two weddings to attend, one in New York City and the other in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Yes, they are both far away from San Diego and neither is inexpensive. I am not making the money I used to, but these were good friends, so I was determined to find a way to make it work in our budget.

Luckily, the Mexico wedding was mostly paid for when I was still working full time: it was an all-inclusive resort. New York, on the other hand, had not been booked yet. Fortunately, I had enough frequent flier miles to get myself a free ticket, and I just stalked the prices until I found a reasonably priced one for Chase. I’ve written before about ways you can save money when planning a vacation, but my focus here is a bit different.

Here are some ways you can save money when actually on your vacation:

1. Learn to pack light.
I remember the good old days when you could bring luggage for free and even store liquids in your carry on. Since my mom worked for an airline, we became experts at not overpacking. We mostly brought carry on bags, and for single guys, that could probably still work today. But for women and anyone with children, it’s unlikely you can eliminate the liquids and streamline that much.

That being said, I can work with Chase so we both have what we need and we can fit both our stuff into one large suitcase. It might even be worth buying a large suitcase if you don’t have one. If you and your spouse can fit your stuff into one bag, you’ll save at least $50 in bag fees per trip. Of course, that’s assuming your bag isn’t overweight!

2. Take public transportation…or walk.
Renting a car is expensive and in many places, it’s much easier not to have one (NYC and Mexico are two examples!). Public transportation is much more common in big cities, but you’d be surprised at the options offered in other places – from buses to shuttles and trains, so do your research and save some cash.

When we arrived in Newark, we took the train into the city for $12 each. We also took the subway and walked A LOT. In Mexico, most of our cabs were less than $5. We also didn’t have to drive on unfamiliar roads with crazy drivers. Saved money and our sanity…win/win!

3.  Watch your spending on food and drinks.
This one wasn’t really necessary in Mexico since we were at an all-inclusive resort. In fact, we ate and drank more than normal just because it was already paid for (room service every day? yes, please!). But, in New York, we were more careful. I knew we were going to have dinner at the wedding reception, so I ate a hot dog from a cart in Central Park to tide me over. We bought some beer for our hotel room to relax while we got ready, rather than going to a bar in between the ceremony and reception.

If you’re like us and love to eat and enjoy a few adult beverages, just be conscious of it when you’re on vacation. We don’t deprive ourselves of an experience like a great dinner out, but to parents, a beer together in a hotel room with no kids is just as good as one in a bar. And costs far less!

4.  Prioritize your activities.
There are extra charges for special activities, even in an all-inclusive resort. Spa services, golf, water sports may not be included. I love a good massage. Chase loves golf. But, we live in San Diego. We have amazing spas and courses here. We don’t have endless time at the pool or beach with 60 of our closest friends like we did there. So, our priority for this trip was time with our friends and each other. Chase didn’t golf, and I didn’t get a massage.

We did, however, spend money to charter a boat for a day with a big group. We spent five hours out on a yacht dancing, laughing, snorkeling and swimming. It was worth every penny!

5. Negotiate prices.
When our good friend was negotiating the price of the boat charter, Chase walked up and nearly ruined his negotiating power by overhearing the price and saying “that’s a great deal!” Chase was just excited about going on a boat, and he is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. So it’s not his fault he’s a salesman’s dream.

I am not a master negotiator, but I do ask for discounts in certain situations. The truth is, most people want to make a sale, so it never hurts to ask. Our friend who was negotiating the boat price commonly asks, “is that the best you can do?” Most of the time, they lower the price at least a bit. And, this is in the U.S., not just in Mexico. So it’s worth asking, right? There is a good chance they’ll say yes and you’ll save money!

We had some great trips, but we’re happy to be back home with the kiddos…and money still in the bank!

 

 

A Little Break

I love writing this blog, but the past few weeks have been crazy and the next few are shaping up to be the same. I’m not sure that anyone is on the edge of their seat waiting for my next post, but just in case, I wanted to let you all know I’m taking a little break. As always, I really appreciate you reading, and I’ll be back soon!

xoxo
Keri

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-31. Grocery store bulk discounts on alcohol
I swear, despite my posts on how to save money on booze, I really don’t drink that much. But, we entertain, I go to girls’ nights, etc. Anyway, alcohol is not like bread or produce, it does not go bad (especially with our friends/family). Our closest grocery store, Ralph’s, often does a “buy six bottles, get 30% off deal.” They also offer “must buy two” offers for beer. If you know you’ll drink it (and you have the space to store it), go ahead and buy it in bulk. 30 percent is a big discount and who doesn’t want to get their favorite $25 bottle of wine for $18.50?

 

photo-52. Michael’s journal/notebook
This week I did something very out of character for me: I returned to making lists on paper. I’ve always loved the feeling of crossing things off my “to-do” list, but it’s lived in the Notes app on my iPhone for a long time. The nature of my new business venture requires that I be able to jot down ideas and contact information quickly. I wanted to buy something small to stick in my purse. I was buying other supplies at Michael’s when I saw this in one of their bins for only $1.50. It’s pretty cute (there were designs I liked better, but they were sold out of “K”), and you can’t beat the price!

 

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 1.15.55 PM3. Calling to negotiate a better price with your cable/tv/satellite provider.

I wrote an entire post on this a while back, but after hearing a friend complain about their DirecTV bill going up, I thought I’d highlight it quickly here. We have DirecTV for TV and Cox Communications for our Internet service. Both companies gave us “promotional” rates when we first signed up. Of course, those promotions expire, and your bill goes up. The thing is, you don’t have to settle for the new rates. Call them up.  Ask them to check on any new promotions that may be available. It may take a few minutes, but they always find something that will save you money. Time is money, but I’ve saved up to $20/month, so this one is definitely worth the phone call!

 

photo-24. World Market drink dispenser
I had brunch at a friend’s house the other day, and she had put lemonade in this adorable dispenser. Anyone who has been to my house would know it fits well with my decor, but that’s not the only reason I liked it. She had the great idea to fill it and put it on a low shelf in her fridge, so her kids can get their own drinks. My kids can’t pour from a juice bottle very well (i.e. without spilling) yet, but they can totally fill their cups from a dispenser. Saves you time and makes them happy! All for only $20, and World Market always offers 15% coupons. Save yourself some juice pouring!

 

ATM5. Easy bank deposits
Remember the days when you had to go into the bank to make a deposit? Those days are long gone, and now some banks even charge you if you visit a teller. At prior jobs I had direct deposit, but now that clients are writing me checks I actually have to take the time to deposit them. I love the ATM deposit because it will email me a receipt (I’m a bit anal about record-keeping), other friends use the app on their phone and deposit checks that way. Either way, it makes life so much easier.  The only people missing the bank tellers are kids. I’m sure dentists are happy though – lollipops are not good for their teeth!

 

 

 

School Volunteering…From Home

mom homeworkI have so much respect for teachers. How they can handle 22 five-year-olds and keep them quiet long enough to learn anything, I’ll never know. Other than chaperoning field trips, I don’t remember parents volunteering much in school when I was a kid, but it’s pretty common now due to larger class sizes and fewer resources. Clay’s preschool was an all-day program targeted at working parents, so they didn’t ask for volunteers very often, but I’d heard from friends that once kindergarten starts, the volunteer requests flood in.

I like volunteering, but it’s difficult for me to do it during the work day. My schedule is all over the place right now, with lots of new business stuff going on. Clay’s teacher was great, asking parents to fill out a form to indicate how they can help out and giving us lots of options. For most working parents, going in to the classroom from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. just isn’t possible. Luckily, there are a lot of stay-at-home moms in Clay’s class, so they have all the classroom volunteers they need.

One of the options for volunteering was completing projects at home. I put a big check mark next to that option. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, but it couldn’t be too hard, right? I was relieved when Clay brought home my “homework” for the first time this week. I had to collate and staple little books of shapes for the kids. Phew, that was easy! I sat on the floor while Clay did his homework at the coffee table.

What’s my point, you may ask? You don’t have to spend 15 hours a week in your kid’s classroom to feel like you’ve helped out. If your teacher doesn’t offer a “work-at-home” volunteering option, maybe suggest it to her. I’m sure she’d be happy to save a few hours of cutting and stapling each night. I know I would if I had to wake up and teach kids to read the next day!

So Many Jobs, So Little Time

Parents wear many hats. Some have jobs in an office, others work from home or stay home with their kids, but I don’t think any of us would say we have just one job. You could be a lawyer and a mom, a teacher and a dad, whatever. Then you throw in coaching your kid’s soccer team, volunteering at school, cooking for your family and you have more jobs than Ryan Seacrest!

The one good thing about working in an office is that I was usually able to keep my jobs separate. When I was at work, I was a marketing director. When I was at home, I was a mom. Now that I’m working at home, finding that balance is a bit more difficult.

In addition to this blog (which I haven’t made any money from…yet!), I’m also running my content marketing company, serving as the editor for a local realtor’s e-newsletter and have recently taken on a new business venture (more on that soon). In an effort to save money while I’m building my business, I’m also doing jobs myself that I used to pay people for: washing cars, cleaning the house and painting my toenails.

I look back to the time when I was first married, and I thought I was busy. Now that life seems pretty simple. I worked until 4:30, worked out and did an occasional contract writing project. Luckily parents (especially moms) are excellent multi-taskers. Despite the craziness, I’m happy with all of my jobs. I know I have to be patient, and the best path for me will become clear. Now if only I could have Ryan Seacrest’s paycheck…