Frugal Life · Travel · Uncategorized

New York City in a Weekend

I have always dreamed of visiting New York City.  There is just something about the lights, the buildings, and the hustle and bustle that appealed to me.

I’ve talked about this dream with my sister for years and one day she stopped me and said, “Let’s do it! Let’s go visit New York City this year.”  And I said, “Ok!”  We decided to try to keep the budget low and to only visit for 3 nights, one weekend.  We made our list of “must stops” and started planning.

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Day 1:  Thursday

We arrived in NYC at around 6 pm and after checking into our hotel we hit the streets!

*Money Saving Tip*

–We booked our hotel Priceline.  We found that they had the best deals (this is NOT sponsored!).  We also used ebates which gave us an extra 6% off the price.  We scored a boutique midtown hotel (with a king bed) for only $200/night.

Our first stop was pizza at Uncle Pauls Pizza.  The pizza was delicious and only $4/slice.  Win, Win!

After dinner we walked around and enjoyed sight seeing.  We visited Grand Central Station, St.Patricks Cathedral, window shopped down 5th Avenue, and ended the night in Times Square.  Everything we saw Thursday night was completely free!

 

Day 2:  Friday

Breakfast Friday morning was at Home Front Deli.  This is a small little restaurant, but boy was it delicious!  They made the best bagels I tried all weekend!  I highly recommend!

After breakfast we headed to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met for short.  This was one of my favorite stops of the entire trip!  It is WELL worth the money!  You could spend DAYS in this museum.  We focused on the Egyptian Room, The American Wing, and European Art.  Everything was absolutely incredible!

 

*Money Saving Tip*

–To help on costs we bought the Explorer Pass.  This was the cheapest option we found for us to be able to see our “must stop” places.  We used it for The Met, Top of the Rock and 9/11 Memorial Museum.  You can customize the Explorer Pass, enabling you to pick and choose the places you want to go.

After The Met we rode the bus down to Top of the Rock and were treated to absolutely amazing views of New York City.  Going to the top of Top of the Rock is not only cheaper than the Empire State Building, the views are also better.

 

Next, was lunch at The Halal Guys for the best Gyros I have ever had.  This is seriously a must stop.  The portions was huge and only around $8 for a platter.

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That night we had tickets to go see The Lion King on Broadway.  This was one of our big splurges for the trip and it did not disappoint!  We paid full price for our tickets to The Lion King, but there are ways to get discount Broadway Tickets.

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*Money Saving Tip*

—You can buy same day Broadway tickets at the TKTS booth located right in Times Square.  These same day tickets are heavily discounted for a select shows.

–For Hamilton tickets download the Hamilton app onto your phone.  You can enter a lottery with the winner given the option to buy two Broadway Hamilton tickets for just $10 a piece.  Warning:  I have entered this lottery numerous time with no success!

–Check out Today Tix for discounted tickets that can be bought in advance.  We used this service for a Broadway show Saturday night and were very pleased with it!

Day 3:  Saturday

Saturday breakfast was at Zuckers Bagels.  I didn’t enjoy this breakfast quite as much as Home Front Deli, but it was still really good!

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Immediately after breakfast we headed to the 9/11 museum.  We were treated to an amazing museum full of heart wrenching photos, survivor stories and gut wrenching facts.  We spent about 3 hours walking around and taking it all in.  We honestly could have spent all day there, they had so many exhibits and information to look through.

 

 

After the museum we headed Downtown to hop onto the Staten Island Ferry.  This is a completely FREE ferry that takes you right past the statue of liberty.  It was so simple to walk right on to the ferry.  I recommend going to the very back so that you can also be treated to a view of the NYC skyline.

The views of the Statue of Liberty were even better than we had expected!  Once we arrived to New Jersey, we walked off, went around the corner and walked right onto the next ferry to ride back to Manhattan.  This was really easy, and you just can’t beat FREE!

Next, we headed to Brooklyn for a walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a wet and stormy day, but we still enjoyed the views on the bridge. The architecture was incredible!

 

That evening we had dinner at The Melt.  They make gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.  The food was amazing and very budget friendly!

After dinner we headed to another Broadway Show, Waitress.  To save money on this show we bought our tickets using TodaysTix.

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Day 4:  Sunday

We had half a day on Sunday before needing to catch our plane.  Breakfast was at Wafels and Dinges.  Which is absolutely delicious, and a MUST stop when in New York City.

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Following my sweet tooth we went straight from breakfast to Levain Bakery for the absolute BEST cookie I have EVER had!!!  You MUST, I repeat, MUST stop by Levain Bakery.  Their cookies were absolutely amazing!

 

We ate our cookies in Central Park and then spent the rest of the morning wandering the paths and enjoying the day.  It truly is a beautiful park with so many unique areas and sights.  I loved strolling through all of the different areas.

 

Our trip was a busy whirlwind, but I wouldn’t change anything!  We were able to see everything we wanted to see, and had a lot of fun doing it!  I can’t wait to go back again one day and visit even more of the amazing sights.

Be sure to check out my post 20 Completely Free Things to do in New York City for more budget friendly New York City ideas!

 

 

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Birthday · Family · for free · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Uncategorized

Fun Birthday Traditions for Small Budgets

I love celebrating my kids birthdays every year.  It’s so fun to have one day just focused on helping them feel important and loved.  I try really hard to give them a special day to remember, WITHOUT spending very much money.  I truly believe that you do NOT need to spend money to help a child feel special.

12 No-fuss Birthday Cakes

Here are a few of our favorite frugal birthday traditions.

Decorate Bedroom

The night before a birthday birthdays, I sneak into their room after they fall asleep, and decorate.  I fill the floor with balloons and hang streamers from their doorway.  They know every night before they go to bed what will happen, but they still love it.  It’s so fun for them to wake up to a party!

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Birthday Breakfast

Birthday Pancakes are a staple at our home.  A birthday is always started with our traditional breakfast of birthday pancakes.  The only thing I do different, is add some sprinkles to the batter.  So easy, but the kids love it!  Sometimes, if I’m feeling real fancy, I’ll try to make a pancake in the shape of their initials….but let’s be real, I’m rarely fancy!  😉

Your-Choice Dinner

The birthday child always gets to choose what I make for dinner.  If they choose pizza, I make pizza!  If they want waffles, well then, I make waffles!  This isn’t a hard tradition by any means, but my kids think it’s fun to get to be in charge of all the dinner plans.

Red Birthday Plate

We have a special red plate at our house.  We only get it out on a birthday, and the birthday child gets to eat dinner on the red plate.  This is a tradition I grew up with and have enjoyed carrying the tradition on with my own children.  It’s so simple, yet for some reason, it brings so much joy to whoever gets to eat on the birthday plate.  Yes, it has a chip on it, but that is just part of the memories from this long loved plate!

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Birthday Love

While we are eating dinner we take turns going around the table and every family member shares something they love about the birthday child.  I love this time with my family.  I love focusing on all of the many wonderful qualities in each of my kids, and getting to hear them express these to each other.

Bedtime Stories

At bedtime I lay with the birthday child and share the story of their birth.  I try to go through all the details of their day years ago, including every up and down.  I always end with sharing how that day was one of the most special, important, beautiful days of my life and I talk about just how perfect my life has become because they were born.

 

These traditions do not cost much money.  I spend a few dollars on streamers and balloons and these usually last me a couple of years.  10 years ago I bought a red plate for $5, and it is still being used and loved.  It does NOT take a “pinterest worthy” birthday to celebrate a loved one.  All it takes is a little thought and a lot of love.

 

Uncategorized

Our Summer Plans: Keeping the kids Entertained and Mom Sane

I am so so excited for summer to start.  I honestly love having my kids home with me during summer break.  There are so many fun things to do during the warmer months and it always seems to go by way way to fast.

I have learned from past experience that if I don’t have a little bit of advanced planning and structure to Summer Vacation, we all tend to get on each others nerves.  I try not to make our days overly structured, because, it IS summer break after all…but a little bit of planning and routine seems to go a long ways with all of our sanity.

With school about to be out in a couple of weeks I have started putting together some plans and developing a routine.

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Screen Time

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I really hope my kids aren’t the only kids out there who think they need hours of screen time a day.  (and tell me your secrets if your kids don’t relate to this!)  BUT, I do not want them spending the warm beautiful months sitting in the house staring at a screen.

This year I am doing something a little bit different than I have in the past.  My kids will have to EARN their screen time by doing something educational, creative or active.  They have morning chores every day that will need to be completed, and then for every 30 minutes they spend doing one of the activities on my list, they will earn 15 minutes of screen time.

I downloaded a free reward app onto my phone to help me keep track of how many minute they have earned and used.  I have already talked to them about this extensively so their will be no surprises.

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Weekly Park Ratings

I did this a few years ago and my kids had so much fun I think I am going to try it again this year.  Every week we had a picnic at a different park.  We tried to explore all of the parks in the area.  The kids filled out a “rating” sheet with all the information about the park; how many slides, whether the park had swings or not, how fun they thought it was, etc.  At the end of the summer we had a folder full of rating sheets for about a dozen different parks.  We had a lot of fun and made a lot of memories exploring our city.

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Bucket List

The kids and I sat down the other day and created our Summer Bucket List.  We brainstormed all of the fun summer activities we wanted to be sure to do over the summer break.  I am going to hang this on our fridge where we will see it often and be reminded to keep checking items off.  This is my favorite part of summer.  I love doing all of these fun traditions with my kids.  I genuinely look forward to it all year.

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Library Summer Reading Program

Every year my kids sign up for the Summer Reading Program at our local library.  This has been such a great way to keep them reading throughout the summer.  They love going weekly and earning prizes for the books they have been reading.  Most of the prizes they earn at our library are coupons to fun places around town.  It keeps us busy fulfilling all of our coupons (and I love that the coupons keep things cheap!).  Our family has set a goal to read 100 books over the summer.  I printed out a chart to keep us motivated and we have been excitedly marking off each number.  Once we complete the challenge of 100 books we will be celebrating with a fun family outing.

Chef of the Day

I try to use summer as my time to teach my kids some of the important skills I would like them to know.  We have sewing lessons and I also have the Chef of the Day.  Each of my kids is given one day of the week when they are the “chef.”  They get to decide what to have for dinner that day and then they help me in the kitchen preparing it.  This is honestly a lot of work on my part.  My kids do NOT like having to quit doing whatever they are doing to come cook in the kitchen.  But, I think the skills they are learning are going to be worth all of the complaining I have learned to tune out!

100 Miles Challenge

Our family has another goal we are working on this summer of either walking, biking or running 100 miles.  This challenge is similar to our 100 books challenge.  Once we reach 100 miles we will have a fun family day as a celebration.  I am looking forward to many family walks and bike rides!

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Feel free to download my Free Summer Printables.  The download includes 100 Miles Challenge, 100 Books Challenge, Park Rating Sheet, Summer Bucket List, Summer Screen Time Rules, and a blank Money Chores sheet for you to fill out if you want to give your kids an opportunity to earn some money.  They are yours to enjoy.  I hope your summer is magical and full of many memories for you and your family.

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Amazon · Fabulous DEALS Friday · Farmhouse · Uncategorized

Fabulous DEALS Friday: 10 Farmhouse Decor all under $20

“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. ”

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I moved into a new home about a year ago and I have been slowly trying to incorporate some farmhouse pieces.  I’ve included a little allowance for home decor in our monthly budget and have tried to stretch it as far as I can.  I found some great items on Amazon last night. Everything is under $20!  I purchased a few things and added a few others to my cart for next month!  🙂

 

  1.  Lanterns are very trendy right now.  I love the fresh look of this Farmhouse Lantern.  It is under $5 and has a lot of great reviews.
  2. I have been needing some new pillows and loved this Compass Pillowcover.  It is under $3 and is a great way to add a farmhouse style to your home.
  3. I have a few of these potted artificial plants around my house.  They are a great way to add a little color to any room.  I usually pull mine out around spring time and keep them out until fall.  I love them so much I might even buy a couple more!
  4. Adding a few French Stripe Dishtowels to your kitchen is an easy way to add some farmhouse charm.  This pack of dishtowels comes in a set of three and have a gorgeous soft nautical blue color.
  5. Nothing says farmhouse like a comfy throw blanket over a couch.  This farmhouse throw is beautiful and would go with a lot of different colors.
  6. I love galvanized pieces around my house.  This round galvanized serving tray would look beautiful for a coffee table centerpiece.
  7. Start your farmhouse look at the front door with this beautiful wreath.  At under $15 this is a great deal!
  8. I have these darling mini glass milk bottles sitting on my front entry table and I always get a lot of compliments on them.
  9. How fun would it be to have your very own personalized vintage farmhouse sign.  To get your name and personalized year on your own sign it will only cost you $16.99.  That’s a great deal!
  10. This rusted metal egg basket is sitting in my Amazon cart right now and I can’t wait until it gets here.  I love the wire metal basket look, but this one has the rusted metal giving even more of a farmhouse look.

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I hope you find something perfect!

Parenting · Uncategorized

15 FREE Things to do with your Kids over Spring Break

In a couple of weeks my kids will have their annual one week Spring Break from school.  I always look forward to this break.  It’s so fun to have a break from the school routine and spend time together, but sometimes the kids can get a little stir crazy.  Where I live winter lasts well into April so Spring Break isn’t always “springy.”  🙂  I started brainstorming some things the kids and I can do together while on Spring Break, and as usual all of them are FREE!

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1.  Board Games

I love to buy board games at our local thrift store for a couple of dollars a piece.  I love playing games, and it is so fun to play them with my kids.  Check out my article all about Our Favorite Budget Friendly Board Games.  These will entertain my kids for hours!

2.  ABC Day

Have an ABC Day!  Choose a letter and plan the day around that letter.  For the letter R we might eat Raisins and Red apples, play Ring around the Rosies or have a Race, and make an art project out of Ribbon (you get the idea).  My kids have a lot of fun trying to come up with different ideas based around the letter.  It’s also a great teaching tool for preschoolers.

3.  Picnic 

If it’s warm day go for a picnic at a park.  Bring a frisbee (or not) and spend time enjoying the sunshine and letting your kids play.  If it’s not warm enough just lay a blanket down on the living room floor and picnic at home.  Your kids will love getting to eat somewhere other than the kitchen.

4.  Crafts

You can find thousands of easy spring craft ideas on pinterest. Try to find a fun craft or two (especially using supplies you already have at home) and spend a day crafting with your kids.  Here’s a fun easter egg sun catcher, it’s so easy!

5.  Ice Cream in a Bag

No need for a fancy ice cream maker!  You can make it at home just by using a ziplock bag!  My kids love that they each get their own bag to customize the flavors and shake.  This is fun for ALL ages!  I’ve got the tutorial all written out for you:  Ice Cream in a Bag.

6.  Family Movie Night

Let your kids stay up late one night watching a movie together as a family.  Pop some popcorn and enjoy a few other treats.  Check out your local library for free movies you might not have seen yet.

7.  Library

A weekly visit to the public library has been apart of our routine for years.  It is a great way to encourage your kids to read!  The library offers so so many more free resources than just books.  Read all about the 10 Ways using the Public Library will Save you Money here!

8.  Bake a Treat

My kids all love to help in the kitchen.  It is also one of my favorite ways to bond together.  Find a new, easy recipe you can all try out together.  Our favorite is ALWAYS cookies!  You could also try homemade graham crackers or Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.

9.  Nature Walk

If you are one of the lucky ones with a warm spring break, go outside on a nature walk.  Bring a sack with you and collect different rocks, pine needles and pine cones.  Once you get back home admire everyone’s collections.  You could also research what you found and turn it into a fun project.

10.  Start your garden

If you love to garden Spring Break is a great time to get those little seeds started indoors.  This is so fun to get the kids involved with.  Watching the little seeds sprout is so exciting for the kids (and me!).

11.  Friend Day

Plan a play date with a few of your kids friends.  Maybe invite a friend over for you too!  It’s always nice to get a little adult conversation.

12.  Spring Cleaning

This might not be your kids most favorite activity, but we always have a few items of Spring Cleaning I try to get done during Spring Break and my kids are lucky enough to get to help me with that.  😉  😉  It’s a great way to encourage them to help with chores and learn responsibility.

13.  Make Slime or Play Dough 

Slime is all the rage these days.  We have tried out a few recipes a couple and loved how easy it was.  There are many tutorials for it on pinterest.  If your kids aren’t interested in slime, make some play dough.  You can find our favorite play dough recipe here:  Our Favorite Play dough Recipe.

14.  Paint Rocks

Collect some rocks outside and bring them back home to paint them.  Paint a fun design on the rock, or paint an animal (we love turning ours into ladybugs).  So easy and fun!  We also love to heat the rocks and color them.  It’s a fun alternative!

15.  Science Experiment

Try out a fun science experiment.  Make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar or try out our favorite Magic Toothpick Experiment.

Frugal Spring Break

It does not need to cost any money to make special memories with your kids.  All they want is time and love.  I hope you have a fun and frugal Spring Break!