Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bennett at 4 months

This little guy is 4 months old now.

(As you can tell by his blurry limbs, he never stops squirming.)

He is a great baby, although I still haven't decided if he is actually easier than the other two were, or if my perspective as a parent has changed. For instance, he eats every two hours and sometimes he'll stretch to three hours. As a first time parent, feeding a baby every two hours sounded exhausting. This time around, I know that babies are supposed to eat that often so I expect it. And when he does go longer between feedings, it's a happy surprise.

(I've actually noticed that literature about feeding babies has changed in this regard. When Dallin was born, the pamphlets and handouts the hospital gave me said babies nurse every 2.5-3 hours. When Bennett was born, all the handouts said babies nurse every 1.5-3 hours. I don't think babies have changed, just that experts are trying to show a wider range of normal. Some babies will happily go 3 hours between feedings and that is normal. Some babies eat more often and that is ok too.)

Another way my perspective has changed is with sleeping. I remember when Dallin was a newborn and we were talking with another young family at church. They said their baby started sleeping through the night when he was 6 months old. Six months straight without a full night of sleep sounded awful to me! Now, I'm used to not sleeping at night. I haven't slept through the night more than a handful of times in 6 years. And I actually feel quite rested most days. Bennett will sleep from about 9pm-4am most nights. Then he'll eat and sleep again until 7 or 8am. Because I have no expectations about his sleeping, every time he sleeps for a long stretch feels wonderful.

At 4 months old, here is what Bennett is up to:

He is spitting up far less than he used to as a newborn. A burp cloth can last into a second feeding now before getting soaked, which is a vast improvement from needing three burp cloths for each feeding.

He smiles all the time and at anyone who will look at him, but most often he smiles for his brothers.

He is starting to babble, giggle and laugh. Baby laughs are one of the best sounds in the world. I haven't gotten a good video of the laughing yet, but here is some babbling. In true Easton baby fashion, he spits up at the end of the video..... but what can you do?
video

He is an efficient eater. Each feeding is about 10-15 minutes long. Sometimes I want him to take longer so that I have an excuse to sit and rest for a bit.

He will fall asleep on his own, without any sleep training. This one still baffles me. Dallin and Connor both needed to be rocked to sleep until we did some sleep training around 6 months old. Because of that, I never even tried to lay Bennett down awake because I was sure it wouldn't work. I decided to try it out one day and he fell asleep on his own. He didn't even cry! He kind of grunted for about 30 seconds and then just laid there until he fell asleep a few minutes later. It's been working like that for almost two weeks now. He is awesome.

Connor likes to sing him songs before bed.

video
This one is called, "Go to sleep little baby."

Bennett has rolled from belly to back. He doesn't do it very often. That's probably because I don't give him enough tummy time, but I'd much rather look at his cute face that his butt. Just sayin'...

Right after he rolled over for the first time, at 3 months.

He is a very content baby. He is happy to lay on the floor on his own for a while, taking in the surroundings. I think it helps that his big brothers are always running around him. Laying around doesn't get so boring when there's always someone to watch.


He'll sit happily in the bouncy chair or the bumbo while I make dinner or do dishes. I'm sure it sounds like I never hold him, but I promise he gets plenty of time with me. The wrap and carrier I have help with that a lot.

(At the park on the one warm day we've had this year.)

We haven't had his 4 month check-up yet, but at 3 months old, he weighed 13 lbs 12 oz. I don't know what percentile that is and I confess that it is liberating to not care what percentile he is in. He is eating well and healthy; that's all I need to know.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Money Saving Monday: 5 smartphone apps to save you money

I've recently entered the current decade by getting a smartphone. It's a blessing and a curse. The downside is that my kids have figured out how to work it and can play games anytime they want. (And now they think all phones are like little computers, so they are disappointed when Mckay's old/reliable non-smartphone doesn't do much. It has a color screen! What more do they want?!) The nice thing about a smartphone (beside the obvious Google map and internet access implications) is access to some nice money saving apps. And they're all FREE. For those without a smartphone, you'll like to know that a few of these programs can be used on a computer as well.


1) Target Cartwheel has hundreds of percent-off offers on Target items. Anything from food to apparel, diapers to toys, electronics to outdoor: if Target sells it you can find a Cartwheel offer for it. You can start out redeeming up to 10 offers at a time. As you use Cartwheel more and more, you can unlock extra spots. Each offer can be applied to as many as four like items. To redeem, you show the bar code on your phone or tablet screen to be scanned by the cashier at checkout. You can also use Cartwheel on your computer by printing the bar code at home before going to Target (much like a coupon) and having it scanned at checkout.

Why I like it: As I mentioned last week, you can triple your savings at Target by combining a Cartwheel offer with a Target store coupon AND a manufacturer coupon. The Cartwheel discount is applied after Target coupons and before manufacturer coupons.


The next four apps on my list are cash back apps. To use them, you take a picture of your receipt showing the correct item purchased, and then the discount amount is added to your account. When you reach a certain cash back threshold (the amount is different for each app) you can "cash out" your account and get your money through pay-pal, bank deposit or in the form of gift cards. (Let's be honest here: Amazon gift cards are practically cash.)



2) Checkout 51 - This is one that you can use with or without a smartphone.  Look through the offers and buy the products at ANY store. Upload your receipt to Checkout 51. It's easiest to do this with a smartphone, but you can also use a computer's camera or even a digital point-and-shoot to upload pictures of your receipt. Your purchase will be confirmed within 24 hours and your account will be credited. When your account balance reaches $20 you can cash out and a check will be mailed to you. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Offers are available in limited quantities. If you see an offer you want, upload your receipt immediately after purchase to avoid missing out. (This applies to most all cash back programs.)
  • Offers run from Thursday to Wednesday. You must upload your receipts while the offer is live.
Why I like it: Checkout 51 has a fresh produce offer each week.  There is always a $0.25 off produce offer on things like grapes, tomatoes, limes, lettuce, carrots, apples, etc. Bananas are always on there. We eat a lot of bananas in our house, so even if I'm not redeeming anything else that week, I know I can always save 25 cents on bananas each week.


3) Ibotta is one of the better know cash back apps. You use it much like the other ones: choose your offers, scan your receipt, get cash on your account. With Ibotta, you'll need to scan the barcode on the the purchased item as added proof that you bought the correct item. Ibotta has offers for most grocery stores, and even has offers for non-grocery stores like Best Buy and clothing stores/website. You'll have to unlock each offer to access it by answering a question or reading a fun fact about the product. It takes 10 seconds.

Why I like it: Ibotta often has an offer for milk. Most households in America buy milk regularly, so that alone will convince a lot of people. In addition to the regular coupon-like offers you'll see for a specific brand, Ibotta will often have offers to be used on any brand of an item. Things like shredded cheese, eggs, bread, ice cream: ANY brand. You can cash out with Ibotta at $10 through Paypal, Venmo or your choice of gift card, like Amazon.

If you are interested in using Ibotta, you can sign up here or use my referral code: pwevujy. Not only does that link me as your friend so we can both earn a teamwork bonus each month, but it gives me a little referral bonus. I'm not sure how much. Someone click and I'll find out. ;)     




4) Snap - by Groupon. The offers on here can go really fast so check frequently and redeem quickly. The offers available on Snap range from cleaning products to food to magazines. They often have fresh produce offers that get used up quickly. Snap can be used on a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Why I like it: Snap can be used at any store. Sometimes they'll have milk offers. (The "used" milk offer in the picture above was for $1 off a gallon!) Snap also has occasional any brand offers. The offers are random and change often so, like I said, check frequently. You can cash out at $20. Use this referral link if you're interested in using Snap and I'll get a whole dollar after you redeem your first offer! Come on big money!


5) Saving Star - Saving Star works differently depending on the store. For some stores you will scan the product barcodes and upload a receipt. For some stores with a loyalty shoppers card, the Saving Star offer will be connected to your card and the discount will be applied automatically to your Saving Star account after purchase. Check their website for details on specific stores.

Why I like it: There are offers unique to Saving Star, but they also have a lot of the same offers you would find on coupons.com or from Kroger's website. This means you can stock up with several of the same product when it's on sale and still get a good deal. Saving Star has a Friday Freebie offer to get something completely free (usually candy, gum or a snack food). There's also a healthy offer every Tuesday for 20% off a produce item. I've seen offers for oranges, lettuce, bananas, apples, your basic, common produce. You can cash out to Paypal or directly to your bank account.

Like I said last week,  coupons will only save you money if it's a good buying price for an item you're going to use. The same applies for these cash back programs. Shop wisely and try not to buy unnecessary things just to get the cash back from it. I can consistently save at least $1 or $2 each week with these apps depending on the offers.

So, check some of these out. See if you like them. Use them. And let me know if you use any other money saving apps. I'm always interested in trying new ones.



Other apps:


  • BerryCart - Cash back on organic, gluten-free and Non-GMO foods.



  • Walmart Savings Catcher - This app does the price matching for you. Scan the QR code on your receipt AFTER purchase and the app will search for advertised deals. If any other store had a better deal on something you bought, the difference is added to your account. 


Monday, March 2, 2015

Money Saving Monday: My top 5 Coupon Resources

My husband is currently in his 4th year of graduate school. Before that, he was working on his bachelor's degree. In fact, for the 6+ years that we have been married, he has been a student and the main wage earner in our family. So it shouldn't be a surprise that our family keeps a pretty tight budget. When "extreme couponing" became a new fad years back, I was intrigued for the obvious money-saving reasons but had no idea where to start. And being a busy parent, I couldn't imagine devoting enough time to make using coupons worthwhile. I've been doing this for a few years now and I'm happy to tell you that you don't have to go to extremes of clipping and stock piling to consistently save money on groceries each week.

When I first started couponing, I did a google search and was overwhelmed by the number of couponing websites. Some for printing coupons, some to tell you which coupons to use at which stores: it was too much.

I thought it might be helpful if I shared my favorite "tried and true" couponing resources and websites. If you've ever wanted to start using coupons or save a little extra money on groceries, here are some helpful tips to get you started.


First off, one criticism that many (including myself) have for coupons is that they are mostly for unhealthy/processed foods. While this is true, you can still find coupons for healthier foods and even produce/perishables. You just have to look in the right places.

I have to tell you that I don't get my coupons from a weekly Sunday newspaper. I feel like the cost of a subscription (however low it is) isn't worth it to me. Most of the coupons are for things I wouldn't buy and the ones I do want I can find a similar match to from another place. Now, I'm not one to turn down newspaper coupons from someone else who doesn't want them, so if you know someone who gets the paper and doesn't keep the coupons, ask for them. But you can still save money with out the Sunday paper.

Before I get started, I often have to remind myself that coupons are about saving money. (Duh!) So I don't buy things I wouldn't normally eat or buy. It doesn't matter that a coupon can save me $3 on a $6 razor. If I'm not going to use that brand of razor, I just lost $3. I Also remind myself that Time=Money. I know I could spend 10-20 hours a week researching and preparing coupons to save myself $20, but is my time worth $1 an hour?



1) Kroger.com and Kroger coupons in the mail have been my greatest and easiest resource for coupons. Kroger has electronic coupons on their website that often match the coupons from the paper or other websites. The digital coupons load directly onto your store card and are then applied automatically when you purchase the corresponding items. I love this because it means fewer things for me to keep track of at checkout. When you sign up for a free store card, coupons are mailed to you regularly (make sure your address is connected to your account). I often get coupons for things I buy frequently, like eggs, cheese, tortillas, even produce and meat department coupons.

Kroger is the store I shop at the most, but I realize that not every city has one. Most chain stores with a store card have access to digital coupons on their websites (like Safeway, Albertsons, Marsh, Meijer), so I suggest looking into it for whatever store you have in your area.

2) Coupons.com - This site has printable paper coupons that you'll cut and take with you to the store. These are often identical to what I get through the digital coupons. This means that I can buy more than one of the desired item, since the digital coupons can only be applied once. This is helpful when the price is really low and I want to stock up on an item. You can print up to two duplicates of any coupon per computer (again, helpful for stocking up). You will also find lots of good value coupons unique to only this site. You'll have to quickly download their free printing software the first time you want to print something, but after that it's super easy to use.


3) Target.com - I shop at Target a lot too. The thing that makes Target a little different is that you can stack store coupons and manufacturers coupons for extra savings. Target offers store coupons (found at coupons.target.com, in Target ads or through Target text messages) that can only be used at Target. All the coupons you'll find in the newspaper or other printable websites are manufacturer coupons. Each coupon will be labeled as such so you can tell the difference. At Target, you can use both a store AND manufacturer coupon on one item. For instance, you can buy one box of cereal that costs $2, use a $0.50 off store coupon AND a $0.50 cent off manufacturer coupon and get a box of cereal for only $1. You can save even more when you use the Target Cartwheel app. (More on that next week.)

You're probably thinking that it will take too much time to search through all the store ads and coupons to find any good deals. Luckily, there are many websites that have already done the searching for you and provide a write up of the best deals for a store each week. Here are my two favorite coupon match-up websites:



4) Couponmom.com - Coupon Mom looks at the weekly advertisements for several major grocery stores across the country. They match the sales with any available coupons and write up the best deals for you. You can scroll down the list, check a box on items you'll want to purchase, then email the grocery list to yourself, along with where to find each coupon. This site does use newspaper coupons for a lot of the match-ups, but I can still find plenty of good deals on here with the coupons I have access to.  You'll need to make a free account with CouponMom to see the match-ups.



5) TotallyTarget.com - While Coupon Mom does provides a write up for Target deals, Totally Target ONLY does match-ups for Target, so they can go more in depth and tell you about even better deals. This site will give you a weekly ad match up that corresponds with ALL known Target coupons, Cartwheel offers and any manufacturer coupons. They give updates on any unadvertised sales or deals on clearance items. Target often has gift card deals listed in the ad where the store will give you a $5 gift card for buying 2 of a specific item. Totally Target is really good at matching these offers with the best coupons for maximum savings. This website does not require an account or log-in.


I'm sure there are lots of other helpful coupon websites out there. These are the ones that have worked best for me. Feel free to look for others ones that work for you. Just remember that Time=Money. If I have to check with 15 different websites before I can leave for the store, it's a problem. Not to mention that by then, at least one child will likely be hungry again and then I'll never get out of the house.

Next week I'll share how a few easy to use phone apps can save you even more money. (Not all of them require a smart phone.)




Other coupon websites:
Commonkindess.com - A lot of the coupons are for organic/health food items. I've also seen Huggies diaper coupons. For every coupon you use, they'll donate to your favorite charity.

Kelloggsfamilyrewards.com - Has coupons for some Kelloggs products. You can also enter codes here found on all Kelloggs family products that earn you points to redeem for gift cards and better coupons.

Grocerycouponcart.com - Many of the same coupons as coupons.com.

Pickupthevalues.com - Coupons only for Kimberly-Clark brand products, like Huggies and Kleenex.