Grateful {Thanksgiving 2014}

Grateful | Thanksgiving 2014 | MoneywiseMoms
It’s not so much that I needed a kick to the head to be grateful for all I have, but apparently I was due for one.

Rather than have Thanksgiving last weekend up in Philadelphia with my two sisters and their families, with my mother visiting from Tucson, things got a bit chaotic. First, my mom got sick with a respiratory infection, which is a big deal because she was also here to celebrate her 70th birthday, and she’s susceptible to pneumonia. Then, my sister got a 104 fever and thought she had the flu, followed by my other sister, her toddler, and her husband. We made the decision that I’d drive up and bring my mom down to our house (where everyone was healthy). We had a couple of seemingly calm days rescheduling our holiday weekend and thinking things were on the upswing. Alas, she ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.

So no Thanksgiving dinner (twice!). My kids were great about it. They worried about her and worried about me, spending hours every day at the hospital with her. Thankfully, she’s finally home (my house) and recovering and will be here a few weeks before heading west.

Yes, I’m grateful. Grateful that my kids are so wonderful and loving, running to meet me at the door when I would come in exhausted and showering me with hugs and kisses. Grateful that my husband dropped everything to help out, taking good care of me while I was extremely stressed. Grateful for friends who sent love and support (and food!) to make a very rough week better. Grateful for all of you, for reading here year after year and sharing MoneywiseMoms with others. Grateful for this flexible job that lets me work from home, putting family first during good times and bad.

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family!


Original image from Kate on Flickr

Make Money This Week for Holiday Shopping

Between Thanksgiving grocery shopping and early holiday gift shopping, we can all use a little extra cash in our budgets this week. Here are three strategies you can use to make money this week for your holiday shopping:

Make Money This Week for Holiday Shopping | MoneywiseMoms

Neighborhood FB Group or Craigslist

I made $30 last week selling my son’s outgrown clothes on our neighborhood Facebook group (learn how to start one). If you don’t have one, try Criagslist for your area, or sell within your social groups (Moms Club, church group, preschool moms). It only takes a few minutes to take photos of your gently used items (clothing, household goods, outgrown toys, etc.), then post the pics with ready-to-sell prices. My goal has been to list one item per week going into the holiday season, and I usually make about $10 a week. That’s extra cash going towards my holiday budget, a little at a time, with the added bonus of me decluttering my house!

Keep in mind–items that will sell quickly right now are winter coats, boots and snow pants, long pants and sweaters, and kitchen/entertaining pieces. Good luck!


Start Earning Swagbucks Now

With every 450 Swagbucks you earn–through searching the web with their search engine, clicking on “special offers,” and more–you can redeem for a $5 Amazon Gift Card, for FREE. They have lots of other gift cards available, even Paypal cash, but the Amazon GC rate is the best one, so it’s what I always use. If you haven’t yet, sign up with Swagbucks, and start earning your free gift cards. I’ve made videos showing you the easy ways I click and earn: How to use the Swagbucks Toolbar and How to earn Swagbucks doing 3 daily tasks.


Enter Blog Giveaways

I know, this one sounds far-fetched, but it’s been working for me for over five years now. I spend about 10 minutes a day entering giveaways on blogs (I find them through giveaway link-ups, on Twitter (search for “giveaway), and on blogs I regularly read). You have much better odds of winning one of these giveaways than anything offered by a huge company (like on the back of a cereal box). Often times, it’s 1 in a few hundred! Over the years, I’ve won an iPad Mini, a steam cleaner, a $100 Lands End GC, a $50 gas card, and lots more. It pays off every holiday season! You can enter for prizes you plan to give as gifts or just for gift cards. Either way, you’re increasing your holiday budget. Learn more about blog giveaways.


How can you make money this week for holiday shopping?


And an extra strategy, for the New Year:

Make sure you’re getting cash back every time  you shop online. I’ve used Ebates since 2008, earning anywhere from 1 to 20% cash back on all my online purchases from The Children’s Place, Lands End, or anywhere I shop! Make sure you’re signed up with Ebates this holiday season. Learn the step-by-step to using Ebates. You’ll get your cash back via Paypal at the beginning of February, so you’ll get a little bonus in 2015.


Disclosure: I’ve included my Swagbucks and Ebates referral links in this post.

Food Lion MVP Coupon Hub (& GC Giveaway)

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Food Lion, and the giveaway prizes are provided by Food Lion. I was compensated, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 MVP Coupon Hub and Food Lion Gift Card Giveaway | MoneywiseMoms


Adding holiday food shopping on top of regular groceries can really strain your monthly budget. Any way you can save is a big help! I’m so thankful for grocery stores that have shifted to electronic and mobile options to make it easier to save. Food Lion has announced their new and improved MVP Coupon Hub, where you can add e-coupons to your store MVP card with just a click. Easy peasy!


MVP Coupon Hub and Food Lion Gift Card Giveaway | MoneywiseMoms
You’ll find both manufacturer’s coupons and Food Lion store brand coupons in the Coupon Hub, and you can save both time and money by scrolling through and adding them to your card. No more printer ink and paper! No more forgetting your coupons at home! Next time you’re killing time with your phone (for me, that’s in the waiting room at Tae Kwon Do), head to the Food Lion Coupon Hub and prep that next shopping list.


Want to win a $50 Food Lion Gift Card?

Two lucky winners will each win a $50 Food Lion Gift Card in this Twitter giveaway. Here’s how to enter:
  1. Follow @moneywisemoms and @FoodLion on Twitter
  2. Visit the Food Lion Coupon Hub to download at least one coupon to your store MVP Card.
  3. Post a tweet letting me know which coupon you added to your card. Tag me @moneywisemoms and @FoodLion and use the hashtag #FLcouponhub in your tweet, and you’ll be entered to win.

Note: 1 tweet per person & household per day. I’ll draw the two winners at midnight EST on Sunday, November 30th. Each winner will receive a DM and public tweet and have 48 hours to claim the prize.
**Update**The winners were Anna and Mary!

Black Friday – Yay or Nay?

I have such fond memories of Black Fridays past. In the old days (pre-kids, I’m talking the early 2000’s), I’d head out alone or with a friend and hit a few stores right as they opened–Target, Toys R Us–and it was all good. Back then, the line of people outside the store was in great spirits, enjoying the camaraderie that deal-seekers have together. I even remember one year when the Target employees brought us coffee and hot chocolate while we waited in line! Once inside, aisles were wide, deals were easily found, and cashiers were friendly and smiling, even at 6:00am.

Black Friday 2014 Yay or Nay? | MoneywiseMoms

But boy, things have changed. Not only are some stores reporting angry, pushing crowds and injuries, but now stores and companies are in conflict with the customers over being open on Thanksgiving Day itself. And as a deal-shopper for over 15 years now, it’s been a LONG time since I felt the prices were low enough on Black Friday to warrant getting up early and heading out. Online shopping is easier, often has the same prices or better, and then you can head back to bed!

So I’m curious. Where are you on Black Friday? Do you go out? Do you stay home? What’s your plan for this year?


Original photo from Flickr

Fall for the Mazda CX-5 {Car Review}

I was provided with a Mazda CX-5 from DriveSTI for a week for a test drive and review. I was not compensated, and all opinions are my own.

Mazda CX-5 Car Review | MoneywiseMoms
It’s fall here in Virginia, and it’s just gorgeous! With gas prices the lowest they’ve been in ages, it was time for a road trip. So my family headed down to Charlottesville to soak up some fall foliage and presidential history. We were given a Mazda CX-5 to review, which made the drive even better.

I’ve been driving a big honking minivan for the past 8 1/2 years, so I was really excited to try something new. This was my first time driving a compact SUV (it has two rows and seats five). I just loved the handling, the sharp turns, and the quick acceleration on hills and on-ramps, so different than my usual drive! I was also impressed by the gas mileage: I did all of my regular weekly driving, plus the road trip (five hours back and forth) before I had to fill the tank.

Mazda CX-5 Screen | MoneywiseMoms

The CX-5 Grand Touring had a nice-sized screen with built-in GPS to help us find our way, and all five of us loved listening to Sirius satellite radio. We were also able to hook up our phones and iPods through Bluetooth and listen to podcasts that way. It really was ideal for road tripping, but it made regular errands around town more pleasant, too. Everything was easy to learn, which I appreciated.

Mazda CX-5 Trunk | MoneywiseMoms
As I shared on Instagram, the trunk on the CX-5 was HUGE. My son wanted to sit back there! The only down side about it–there was no automatic opener. It’s really hard to open a manual trunk with your hands full of groceries. That’s something I’ve gotten used to, I guess.

We all felt the interior was roomy, too. My 6’5″ husband even had extra head room in the passenger seat, and all three kids rode happily (sitting next to each other) in the back seat. They’re 8, 8 and 11, and they had room in between them so they didn’t feel crowded. They commented several times that they thought this would make a great “4-person family car,” meaning that for the long term, it might not work for five. I have to agree. I can’t see three big teens sitting that close regularly, especially on a long road trip.

Mazda CX-5 Dashboard | MoneywiseMoms

As a mom, I’m always looking for safety features. This car had plenty! I found the blind-spot monitoring helpful–there’s a sensor on the side mirrors that beeps if you’re signalling to change lanes. There’s also brake support to help in the event of a crash (the car senses rapid deceleration), and the all-wheel drive helps with slick roads and ice. New to me was the rearview camera; the kids kept laughing at me when I would turn around in my seat to back up. “Use the camera, Mom!” Since I had to drive to swim practice before dawn, I also noticed how wide and bright the front lighting system was. It was really helpful on dark curvy roads.

Mazda CX-5 Car Review | MoneywiseMoms

US News has ranked the Mazda CX-5 at #5 for affordable compact SUVs, with a price point lower than those above it. The CX-5 Sport starts at $21,545, while the full-package Grand Touring (the one I drove) starts at $27,970. To learn more about the Mazda CX-5, with specs and pricing, head to a local dealership or the Mazda USA website. You can also connect on Facebook and Twitter. Happy driving!

PicMonkey Collage

ICE! at the Gaylord National

Disclosure: My family attended a media event for ICE! at the Gaylord National. No compensation was received, and my opinions are my own.

ICE! at the Gaylord National | MoneywiseMoms

The Christmas season is off to a great start here in the DC area. We visited ICE! at Gaylord National Resort for opening weekend. This annual holiday event runs through January 4, 2015.

We loved this year’s theme, Frosty the Snowman. The carvers did such an amazing job of capturing the children’s faces and familiar characters. As you walk through, you follow the story you know from the classic TV special. Each visitor is given a large blue parka, which helps you stay warm in the 9-degree weather. It’s cold in there! One new exhibit inside ICE! showed how master Chinese artisans carve the ice blocks, how the colors are created, and how the whole project goes from blueprints to reality.

The slide room was even better this year. The two-story slides were lit from beneath, and my kids rode them over and over!

Slide Room at ICE | ICE at Gaylord Nationall | MoneywiseMoms

While you’re at the Gaylord National, you can enjoy lots of Christmas on the Potomac family-friendly activities:

  • FREE scavenger hunt in the hotel’s lobby and atrium areas. Pick up a Great Reindeer Roundup in the lobby, enjoy with the kids, then return to the Dreamworks office for a prize.
  • FREE nightly holiday fountain shows with music, lights and indoor snowfall, in front of the hotel’s 60-foot-tall “candy” glass tree.
  • Ride the Potomac Express Miniature Train for $3 per ride (or $5 for three rides).
  • Decorate a gingerbread house or family with Gingy from Shrek in Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating. Kits start at $35.95.
  • Take photos with Santa Claus, starting at $22.
  • Have brunch with Santa at Old Hickory Steakhouse on Sundays in December at $75/adult and $40/child.

Get Tickets to ICE! and Christmas on the Potomac
Tickets can be booked online or by calling 301-965-4000. Prices start at $27/adults and $20/kids ages 3-11 for non-peak days (weekdays). Tickets are $34/adults and $28/kids for peak days. They offer a military discount. You can also get discounted tickets through LivingSocial.

Overnight guests get unlimited admission to the ICE! attraction throughout their stay when booking a package. The ICE! Is Nice Package starts at $229 for a family of four and includes one-night room accommodations. The Christmas on the Potomac Package starts at $255 for a family of four and includes one-night, a $100 resort credit to use toward restaurants or the spa, and a souvenir ICE! photo.

We’ve made seeing ICE! at the Gaylord National one of our winter traditions. I hope you will, too!

Great news! You can also experience ICE! with Frosty the Snowman at the Gaylord Hotels in Nashville, Kissimmee, and Dallas.

Join me at #HealthySavings Twitter Party on 11/18

RSVP for the #HealthySavings Twitter Party

#HealthySavings Twitter Party 11-18
#HealthySavings Twitter Party 11-18 3pmEST

Do you love a good Twitter Party?  You know I do, and I’m excited to co-host a party about saving money on the cold & flu products you need at Walgreens. On Tuesday, November 18 at 3:00 pm ET, please join me for the #HealthySavings Twitter Party where we’ll be discussing how you prepare for cold & flu season and giving you a chance to win prizes.

Cold and flu season is here, so I want to help you stay healthy with this Twitter Party by sharing helpful tips on how to find relief through a great deal at Walgreens. Now is the time to stock up on Pfizer products like Emergen-C, Robitussin, Advil and Thermacare while saving money with paperless coupons at Walgreens. I can’t wait to party with you at the #HealthySavings Twitter Party on November 18 because you have a great chance to be one of the eight prize winners!

Join me and RSVP for the #HealthySavings Twitter Party on SoFabChats!


DATE:  Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TIME:  3:00 to 4:00 pm ET

PRIZES:  7 – (1) $100 Walgreens Gift Cards

EARLY BIRD PRIZE:  1 – $50 Walgreens Gift Card

HOSTS:  @Freebies4Mom, @MommyTalkShow, @MoneywiseMoms, @littlemamajama, @thedomesticexec

RULES:  #HealthySavings Twitter Party Official Rules

RSVP & PARTY GRID:  #HealthySavings Twitter Party Page


How To Participate In A Twitter Party on SoFabChats!

TIP:  How to join a Twitter Party – sign in! Before party starts, click on the green “Sign In On Twitter” bar at the top of the page!

TIP: Who to follow at a Twitter Party? Follow the Party Team by clicking on the Twitter handle links on the RSVP page!

TIP: Want to win Twitter Party prizes? RSVP by clicking on RSVP button before you join the party, follow everyone on the Party Team, and tweet with the party hashtag during the party to be eligible!

TIP: How to win the Early Bird prize? Watch for chance to share a tweet when you RSVP for chance to win!

TIP: Special deals and brand coupons? Keep that options checked when you RSVP for the party!

TIP: New to Twitter parties? Watch your column and Party Team tweet columns – they are slower paced and easier to follow!

TIP: Where to find Twitter Parties? Check out the SoFabChats Twitter Party Calendar to find more fun parties to attend!

Find more helpful Twitter Party Tips on SoFabChats!

Monticello & Michie Tavern {Charlottesville, VA}

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and Michie Tavern #familytravel | MoneywiseMoms

We took a pretty drive through the autumn leaves to Charlottesville, Virginia, home of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the Michie Tavern. It’s a little over two hours from DC to Charlottesville, and you can make the trip longer (but much more interesting) by traveling on Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. Monticello itself is located on a small mountain, so after you purchase tour tickets at the Visitors Center, you can take a quick shuttle ride to the top.

Admission is $8/child for ages 5-11, year-round. Kids under 5 are free. Adults pay $18 between November and February, then $25 between March and October. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation participates in the Blue Star Museums program, which means that admission is FREE between Memorial Day and Labor Day for all military personnel and their families.

Depending on the date of your visit, you may be able to take a Family Friendly Tour, meant for kids ages 5-11. This is included in the regular price of admission. We went after the end date of October 31st, and my big kids (ages 8, 8 and 11) did just fine with the regular tour.

Griffin Discovery Room at Monticello #familytravel | MoneywiseMoms

Before heading up for the tour, be sure and visit the Griffin Discovery Room, across from the Visitors Center. This lets the kids see many of Jefferson’s inventions before seeing them in the real house. In the Discovery Room, they can touch and try everything, and learn how they work. We learned about the Great Clock, turned the Revolving Bookstand, and tried the Polygraph letter-copying device. Once you’re in the home tour, you cannot touch anything (or take any photos, which is why I couldn’t show you the inside). My kids enjoyed getting a preview and learning a bit about Jefferson before we took the tour.

My kids were excited to visit Monticello because they knew a bit about Thomas Jefferson from our visit to Independence Hall. They also made a lot of comparisons to what they had seen at Mount Vernon. It’s generally recommended that the Monticello tour is for older kids; I think that elementary-age is the youngest that can follow along and enjoy themselves.

Monticello Mountain #familytravel | MoneywiseMoms

Coming back down the mountain, you can either take the shuttle or walk the trail. We stopped halfway down to see Jefferson’s gravesite, then made our way back down to the Visitors Center to check out the gift shop. My kids are big on souvenirs but have to spend their own money, so they ended up with pens and pencils with our favorite Jefferson quote: “I cannot live without books.”

From there, we drove about half a mile down the mountain to Michie Tavern, a restored historical site that served travelers more than 200 years ago. Inside, you’ll enjoy a buffet feast and hospitality from servers in period attire. My kids loved the southern cooking–fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, biscuits and greens. It was all-you-can-eat, with adults at $17.50, youth (12-15) at $10.95, and kids (6-11) $6.95. Kids under 6 eat free with a paying adult. The restaurant is only open for lunch (11:30-3:00), but the grounds and tour are open all day.

Michie Tavern Food #familytravel | MoneywiseMoms

We did the self-guided tour, using the Kids’ Treasure Hunt we picked up in the gift shop. That took us to the Metal Smith Shop, The Game & Toy Merchant, and The General Store, where the kids followed clues and learned a bit of history. They were rewarded with gold (chocolate) coins at the end. They really enjoyed seeing the silver and pewter works, vintage and antique toys, and all the goodies in the general store.

Michie Tavern Treasure Hunt #familytravel | MoneywiseMoms

In the same area is Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of James Monroe, fifth President of the United States. We didn’t make it there, so it’s something to look forward to on our next visit to Charlottesville. While we thoroughly enjoyed the fall colors, it would be great to head back to Monticello when the gardens are in full bloom for a different view. There are also numerous holiday events happening at both Monticello and Michie Tavern.


Disclosure: I received tickets for the kids and I to tour Monticello. We paid for my husband and our meals at Michie Tavern. My opinions are my own.

Picture People Package just $18

Picture People Package November 2014 | MoneywiseMoms

It may seem early to think about holiday cards, but when a good deal pops up, you need to be ready! Through November 29th (or while supplies last), get this Picture People package for just $18 through Living Social. This is a great opportunity to get a family portrait or just pics of the kids to use for holiday gifts. For years, I’ve used these deals to gift to grandparents, include with our holiday cards, and enjoy in our own home.

The package includes in-studio photo shoot with both prints and gift tags: one 10×13, one 8×10, four 5x7s, and 16 wallet-size prints, plus 30 photo gift tags.

The limit is two per person, but you can only use one voucher per session. The vouchers can be used at all Picture People studios nationwide. Head to Living Social to pick up this Picture People package now. They’re also running a coupon code through the weekend, so you can get another few dollars off by clicking on the banner below and searching for Picture People.

LivingSocial Deals!

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no cost to you.