2015 Teacher Appreciation Events

Free 2015 Teacher Appreciation Events
If you’re a teacher–I hope you’re enjoying your summer! Many national chain stores have 2015 Teacher Appreciation Events planned for you over the next few weeks to show their appreciation–with refreshments, goody bags, and special sales and discounts:

  • Office Depot & Office Max: August 1-4th and Aug 29th-Sept. 1st are Teacher Appreciation Days. Teachers receive 25% off their purchase and a FREE calendar filled with savings.
  • Staples: Their 2015 Teacher Appreciation Days have not been announced, but they’re typically the first weekend in August.
  • Big Lots: Teacher Appreciation Day is typically the second Saturday in August, where all purchases are discounted 10%. Keep an eye on the website for updates.
  • Joann Fabrics: Sign up for their Teacher Rewards Program, which gives you a 15% discount all year, then look for Teacher Appreciation Days on August 2-4th, Sunday through Tuesday.
  • Michael’s: All year, get 15% off your purchase with the Teachers’ Discount program.

Share this post with your favorite teacher to let them know about the 2105 Teacher Appreciation Events at stores near you. Use the button below to share it on Facebook!

DIY Box Tops Collector {Box Tops for Education}

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
#Hefty4BoxTops #CollectiveBias

After doing classroom teaching for years, I “retired” to stay home with my three kiddos. Now I volunteer at lots of things, and one of my favorites is as the Box Tops Coordinator for our elementary school. Counting Box Tops?! Some think I’m crazy, but I think it’s really fun. It is really inspiring to cover the living room floor with bags and bags of Box Tops from all the classes and count them up every other month.

We earned over $4,200 last year at our elementary school with Box Tops for Education, where the classes compete to earn a prize at the end of the year for collecting the most. It’s really an amazing program, so I hope you’ll pledge to collect this year. Let’s make it easier for you with an easy peasy DIY Box Tops Collector and see below how Hefty products will get you started.

DIY Box Tops Collector | #Hefty4BoxTops

This DIY Box Tops Fridge Collector craft is easy enough for the kids to do, just give them a hand with the hot glue gun.

DIY BoxTops Fridge Collector | #Hefty4BoxTops | Box Tops for Education

For materials, you’ll need:

  • washi tape
  • empty plastic drink container
  • magnet
  • glue

If you think the drink container is too tall (I did), cut it in half with a pair of sharp scissors. Then, be sure and cover the rough edges with washi tape.

DIY BoxTops Fridge Collector | #Hefty4BoxTops | Box Tops for Education

Decorate the plastic container with washi tape. Going around the round edges, notch the tape with scissors so it will fold down flatly.

DIY BoxTops Fridge Collector | #Hefty4BoxTops | Box Tops for Education

Glue the magnet to the back of the container. Then, add Box Tops!

DIY BoxTops Fridge Collector | #Hefty4BoxTops | Box Tops for Education
If you do not have a magnetic fridge, consider using a piece of double-stick tape and hanging this DIY Box Tops Collector near your kitchen trash can or recycling bin. That will help you remember to remove the Box Tops before you recycle the boxes they’re found on.

DIY BoxTops Collector | #Hefty4BoxTops | Box Tops for Education

Need an easy way to kickstart your collecting? Keep an eye out for Hefty Products with 4 Box Tops on each package, for a limited time. I found mine at Target. Hefty products are the only trash bags that supports the Box Tops program, and they’ve raised more than $3 million in contributions to schools by partnering with Box Tops For Education. What are your tips for earning extra Box Tops for Education?

DIY BoxTops Collector | #Hefty4BoxTops

Sales Tax Holidays 2015 (Save on Clothes & Supplies)

Sales Tax Holidays 2015 - save on school supplies and clothing
Save on clothes & school supplies if your state is participating in a Sales Tax Holiday for Clothes & School Supplies. Even if you do not have children attending school, it’s a good time to stock up on office supplies or preschool art supplies at back-to-school sale prices with no sales tax. Here in Virginia, qualifying school supplies selling for $20 or less per item and clothing/footwear selling for $100 or less per item are exempt from sales tax. Check Virginia’s list of qualifiying items.

Does your state offer a tax-free weekend to help you save on clothes and school supplies? Most states across the country are offering their tax holiday the first weekend in August, Friday the 7th through Sunday the 9th. Click the links for specifics for your area:

Alabama (includes computers)
Florida (runs through August 16th)
Iowa (clothing only, Friday and Saturday only)
Louisiana (all tangible personal property subject to sales tax, Friday and Saturday only)
Maryland (only clothing/footwear, runs through the 15th)
Missouri (includes computers)
New Mexico (includes computers)
South Carolina (includes computers)
Tennessee (includes computers)

And these states are holding their sales tax holiday this weekend:

Arkansas (Saturday and Sunday only)
Georgia (includes computers)
Oklahoma (clothing only)

If you shop the sales tax holidays in your state, what advice do you have for shoppers?

original image from Jonathan Garcia at Flickr

Lego Brickfair 2015 Ticket Giveaway

It’s that time of the summer–time to get your LEGO on! Lego BrickFair 2015 is back in the DC area this August, and it’s a family tradition for us and many LEGO families to spend the afternoon there. BrickFair is a huge Lego Expo put on by AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) from all over the country, and Chantilly, Virginia, is one of the four locations they do every year. If you’re in other parts of the country, try to visit BrickFair 2014 this October in New Jersey, next January in Alabama, or next May in Massachusetts.

Lego BrickFair 2015 Ticket Giveaway


At BrickFair, you’ll find displays by all ages and great art you can’t believe is made of Lego. Every summer, we see amazing sculptures, demonstrations of Lego robotics and contraptions, and incredibly-detailed replicas of our favorite characters and movies. Our favorite is the Ghostbusters display! There’s also an Exhibitor area, where you can find Lego sets galore, Lego jewelry, clothing, and more. Kids love spending time in the large Lego room, where you can sit and play with all kinds of pieces you might not have at home.
Lego Brickfair 2015 Ticket Giveaway

BrickFair 2015 in Virginia is Saturday & Sunday, August 1st and 2nd, from 11am-4pm at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, VA. Tickets are $15/person at the door or you can purchase ahead online along with a $5 donation to SladeChild Foundation in Maryland. Kids 3 and under are FREE. Keep in mind that strollers are not permitted. It can be crowded, but it’s a lot of fun!

Lego Brickfair 2015 Ticket Giveaway

Giveaway Time

One lucky MoneywiseMoms reader will win 4 tickets to Lego BrickFair in Chantilly, VA!

If you’re reading this in an email or RSS feed, please click over to MoneywiseMoms to use the Rafflecopter entry form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends midnight on Thursday, July 23rd, when I’ll email the winner, who has 48 hours to respond with their mailing address for the tickets. Thank you for reading MoneywiseMoms, and good luck!

Disclosure: My family received tickets to this year’s BrickFair in exchange for this post, but we would have gone anyway, as we have for years! BrickFair is providing the giveaway prize. My opinions and love for Lego are my own!

Our Summer Schedule

Hope your summer break is going well! We’re having a great time here in our third week (I know, they’ve only been out a little while, there’s still a lot of summer left!). I’m babysitting two extra kids, and between them and the many friends over, family visiting, etc. the house is full. It’s been a lot of fun! To keep us a little organized, we’re using a loose schedule every day. Here’s what our summer schedule looks like:

Our Summer Schedule


Morning Chores
My girls are (very) early risers, usually by 6am. They read and play, then have breakfast and get their chores done before 8:00am so they can play with the 8yo when he comes over. My son, who’s almost 12, sleeps as late as he can, and I usually have to wake him up.

Summer Swim PracticeSwim Practice
It’s the first year that all three kids practice at the same time (I like that!). We walk to the pool and they’re there for an hour. Afterward, the kids shower and make sure their bedroom floors are clear so they have play space.

Splendor - summer board games

Sometimes we have more friends over, sometimes we take out toys or find another good way to make a mess. We also play a lot of board games. You’ll see some of our favorites (and get ideas if you need a new one to jazz things up at your house) in my Favorite Family Games guide.


Summer Lunches

With such a full house, I’ve put 1-2 kids in charge of lunch every day. They help chop vegetables and fruit, set the table, put out condiments, and help serve and clean up. Summer is a great time to teach kids important skills like meal prep and cooking, just make sure you budget your time (they take longer than we do as experienced adults). They feel so proud and appreciate the compliments when everyone loves lunch.

Summer Break MathSummer Math
I have two rising fourth graders, so we’re keeping on top of multiplication tables and I want them to learn to sign their names in cursive (they don’t teach it in school anymore). My older son has a big packet of pre-algebra stuff for middle school next year, and I’m giving him challenges like looking in store ads to price TVs with shipping and tax and find the best deal, then compare it to online. If you’re looking for some structure to your summer learning, Imagination Soup has some fun summer printables for kids.

Summer Break Reading

Independent Reading
Every day after lunch is our quiet time. Everyone finds a cozy spot and their book and gets some independent reading done. All the kids are doing our public library’s reading program. Find a summer reading program near you.

Totem Pole at Cabin John Regional Park

So far, we’ve only done a few outings to the library (to get more books and see an animal show) and one park, but once we get a decent weather day we have some hikes to do. We’ve been alternating between 100-and-humid or thunderstorm days; neither work for the outings on our to-do list.


Of course, now that I have a handle on our summer schedule, it will change. After swim season ends, we have a week of camp and then my mom and sisters are coming to visit. Some of this will stay the same, but my plan is to keep us on a routine as best we can. We have a LONG time till school starts–not until after Labor Day here–September 8th!

If you like your summer schedule a little more structured, try the Free Printable Schedule at A Blissful Nest. I find that having a visual for the kids to see helps everyone remember what needs to get done and helps them get excited about what’s coming later in the week.

Breakfast for Dinner {Frugal & Healthy Meal}

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Harris Teeter, who along with me wants to help your family eat healthy meals.

Harris Teeter Breakfast for Dinner

Busy summer days and nights can make it challenging to feed the family a healthy meal. It’s a good thing that Harris Teeter has more lower prices on organic and natural items. I checked out the selection and picked up everything we needed to make a frugal & healthy meal–one of our faves–it’s breakfast for dinner! For under $15, you can make a nutritious meal that everyone loves.

Harris Teeter Breakfast for Dinner

We used HT Organic milk and eggs in my Whole Wheat Pancakes recipe to make a hearty dinner and served it alongside summer fruit. We like to double-up on the pancakes and keep them in the fridge. Then they’re easy to reheat in the morning just by popping them in the toaster. I love this recipe because it adds fiber (by using wheat flour) and flavor (with cinnamon) compared to regular pancakes. My kids just love them!
Harris Teeter Breakfast for Dinner

Are you having a busy summer, too? Take advantage of the handy HTmobile app and skip the grocery trip. You can order your groceries online, then drive up and have a friendly HT employee load them right into your car. It’s a huge time-saver! You can even save past orders, so if you shop the same foods regularly, your list is ready to go.

Harris Teeter Online Ordering | Breakfast for Dinner

If you’re traveling this summer, make your grocery order before you leave. Then you can swing by Harris Teeter on the way home, and pick up your groceries instead of coming home to an empty fridge.

Happy eating this summer!

2015 Financial Goals Quarter 2 Update

Every year, I share my family’s Financial Goals, then update them each quarter, both to hold us accountable and to inspire you to write out and achieve your own goals.

Quarter 2 Update 2015 Financial Goals

We’re halfway through the year–how are your 2015 Financial Goals shaping up? As happens almost every year, our motivation has been challenged at this mid-way point. It’s great to update these goals here on the blog and remind ourselves why we set them and refocus our energy. The ultimate financial goal is to never go back into debt; now that we’re debt-free we want to keep moving forward.

Here’s the Quarter 2 Update for our 2015 Financial Goals:

1) Live off a two-paycheck budget each month STRUGGLING
We’ve been going over budget each month, sometimes by only a little, but sometimes by a lot. That means we need to review the budget and make some adjustments. We haven’t taken the time to do that, so I put it on the calendar (usually a date night that involves dessert to make the conversation more pleasant) for mid-July.

2) Work to reduce our monthly expenses.  STRUGGLING
We struggled through the spring, and now (not surprisingly) we’re still struggling in the summer. We’ve reduced some expenses (mostly entertainment and eating out) but haven’t systematically tackled each category the way I wanted to. And now my schedule is so hectic that I’m in danger of overspending for convenience and not planning. I need to set aside some time to really reflect on the budget and make concrete plans.

3) Deposit the maximum into my IRA for 2015.  ONGOING
Automatic deposits take care of this every month, and it feels good to know that it’s done. This will be the first year where we’re actually paying it monthly instead of catching up during April taxes.

4) Add $5,000 more to our emergency fund.  NOPE
So embarrassing that this is not done. Last quarter, I said it was because we had some big expenses in the spring and that it would get done. It has not. It’s related to goal 2 in that I don’t feel on top of the monthly budget, so when we re-adjust we need to be paying ourselves first to accomplish this.

5) Set aside $3,000 for an orthodontics fund.  DONE
One child already has an appliance in, and the April appointment for my son surprised us (and him). The orthodontist said it would be another year before he gets his braces. He has too many teeth that still need to come out. So that gives us a little leeway with this fund, maybe to achieve Goal 4, then we can repay the fund in 2016 for those expenses next year.

6) Earn $12,000 (net) with my two side businesses (blogging and babysitting).  ONGOING
I’m ahead of schedule with this goal, even with not meeting my blogging income goals in May and June. I’ve taken on two extra kids for the summer, so that brings in more babysitting income, and for the first summer I’m not taking July off from computer work, just merging it with what we’re doing around the house. At this rate, I’ll reach this goal by September, which means that what I earn from Oct-Dec can go towards Goal 4.

Hmmm…there’s a lot of red and not enough green up there, I’m not feeling great about that. But writing them out reminds me of what’s working–automation like the success of Goals 3 and 5 can also be done to achieve Goal 4. We’ll do that at our mid-July budget chat and make a plan to handle Goals 1 and 2.

What progress have you made on your 2015 Financial Goals?


Original image from Ryan McGuire at Magdeleine

10 Ways to use a FREE Shutterfly Photo Book

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you purchase through my link, I receive a small percentage. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no additional cost to you!
Free Shutterfly Photo book
Summer is all about the photos! Whether you’re traveling, doing summer sports, or just soaking up the sun, I bet you already have a camera-ful of family pics. Great news! Everyone gets a FREE 8×8 Photo Book from Shutterfly through June 30th when you use coupon code SUNNYBOOK. This hardcover book is a great size for small projects, and shipping is around $7.99. So what can you make?


Summer photobook | Free Shutterfly Photo Book

What I Did Over Summer Vacation
A small photobook is a great place to capture this moment in time in your family. In these books, we collect our photos and memories from our busy summers at the pool, at the library, traveling, and more.

School Memories
Did your child just graduate from high school or complete their preschool years? Commemorate that time with a small photobook filled with pictures of favorite friends, teachers and activities.

Kids’ Art Portfolio
If your house is over-run with preschool art projects, take some photos of your favorites (include the artist in some!) and make an art portfolio photo book. It’s an easy way to keep the collection without the clutter.

Birthday Photo Book | free shutterfly photo book
Birthday Book
I love doing birthday books–all the celebrations, activities and photos from a child’s birthday in one place. Make sure to write some words to capture your child at that age.

Sports Season
Make a thank you for a favorite coach or your own athlete that captures the whole season in photos.

Travel photobook | Free Shutterfly Photo Book

Vacation Memories
I love making photobooks of vacations because there’s a fixed number of photos so there’s an “end,” unlike a regular family album. I budget a little in our family vacation plans for us to come home and work on a book together. My son and I had a blast making a book after our Disney trip in 2011, and I loved having the kids’ point-of-view in the writing instead of just my own.

Family Recipe Book
I’ll admit, this is the only photobook I haven’t done, but it’s been on my To-Do list for a while. The kids and I want to cook our absolute favorite meals, take photos of them, and create a family recipe book. It would make a great gift for family members, newlyweds, or to give to a student heading off to college or their first apartment.

Grandparents Photobook | Free Shutterfly Photobook

Grandparents Book
This book is so special to us because it’s where I collected all the pictures of my dad with the kids before he passed away. Whether your grandparents are near or far, consider making a book all about the traditions they have with your children.

Holidays Through the Years
Gather all your Halloween costume and party photos for as many years as you can, or do the same for Christmas or any other holiday. It’s fun to see what changes through the years, what the family traditions are, and what trends you see in friends and family.

Quick Baby Album
Does your last baby not have a photo album? There’s never enough time, so run through their first year of photos, pick your favorites, and fill the 20 pages in this small book quickly. Kids love looking at photos of themselves, and you can relieve yourself of the guilt.


More Deals

If you’d rather make a larger-sized book, use that same coupon code to reduce your price on the other sizes. You can also get 100 free prints through June 30th when you use coupon code 100FREEPRINTS, but you will have to pay shipping. Shutterfly is also running a free shipping offer when you spend $39 (after all coupons) and use code FREE39. You can “stack” coupon codes in your account at Shutterfly, but often they only let you use two at a time at checkout.

ClimbZone USA {Laurel, MD}

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no cost to you!

ClimbZone Laurel MD #familytravel

Last year, a ClimbZone USA opened in Laurel, Maryland. I kept hearing about it and hearing about it (all good things), but the cost always unnerved me (admission is $25/person). I finally bit the bullet and took the kids. WOW.

It was totally worth $25 per person.

While this was not a frugal visit, I was so pleased with our experience and the value. My kids climbed for three hours and got so much out of it! They started out nervous and shaky and gained so much confidence during the time we were there. It was such a great learning experience, and we were so impressed with all the artistic climb structures. There was one for every famous landmark, ranging from easy to very difficult, and they tried them all. Now they’re saving up their allowances to go again by the end of the summer.

ClimbZone Laurel MD #familytravel

When you arrive at ClimbZone, each climber is put into a harness and taught how to use the carabiner to attach and detach from each climbing column’s wire. It took the kids a little practice, but they got better at it with each attempt. It’s an ingenious structure–each of the 70 different climbs has a hydraulic automatic belay system–so no one has to hold the climber, and everyone can climb independently. Once you’ve reached the top (or as far up as you can), you can rappel down safely. My kids loved that part!

ClimbZone Laurel MD #familytravel

We packed our own snacks and drinks. They do have a snack bar, but the prices are high. There was a huge area with tables and chairs, so plenty of places for non-climbers to sit and watch (non-climbers are admitted for free). All ages 3 and up are welcome to climb, but active adult supervision is required for kids under 12. I didn’t climb since it was our first time there. I went to each climb with my younger two and stayed underneath, shouting encouragement being very impressed. I’d like to do it next time, since it looked like so much fun.

ClimbZone Laurel MD #familytravel

The $25 admission fee is for a three-hour session, and reservations are recommended. I purchased our tickets online because I wanted to make sure we’d get into the session we wanted after driving so far from home.

Look for ClimbZone discounts at Certifikid and Living Social (those are my affiliate links–which means if you purchase through those links, I’ll receive a tiny percentage at no cost to you). You can also follow ClimbZone’s Facebook page, where they occasionally send out deals and coupons.