Our trip to Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, PA

Every year my husband and I take a three-day trip somewhere just the two of us. We have the blessing and good fortune of having my mom watch our boys for us each year so we can do this. We try to go away for our anniversary and this year we chose Pittsburgh, PA!

Why Pittsburgh?

  1. We’ve never been to Pittsburgh.
  2. It was within driving distance.
  3. I’ve always wanted to go to the “Steel City.”
  4. It’s one of the top cycling cities in the country.
  5. It’s known for being a unique city.

And guys, it didn’t disappoint! We had SO MUCH FUN. I’ve written before about the importance of dating your spouse. For my husband and I, getting time away together without interruptions or distractions is so essential for us. We get to unwind, spend solid uninterrupted quality time together, and continue to appreciate why we love each other so much. It’s also so cool to reflect on all that’s unfolded in our lives up to this point. And did I mention that it’s just plain fun? It’s a great experience to discover new places and new things with your spouse.
Here’s the breakdown of how we spent our time and what we did.

Day 1:

It took us a little over five hours to get there. Jose and I LOVE road trips. Particularly without the kids (we love you Micah and Josiah but overly long trips in the car are not fun for any of us) because we listen to new music and have good conversation. In this instance, we downloaded a bunch of new albums, listened to some amazing sermons, and asked silly/random questions!

We checked into our hotel and decided to head down to this spot called The Strip. We weren’t sure if we would Uber there or drive there but we found out that the hotel had a free shuttle where you could call and get a ride within a few miles of the hotel. Um, you had me at free. Waiting for the shuttle took forever and it was the only time we decided to use it! Nonetheless, we headed over to The Strip District and walked around! It was really cool and had a bunch of cool little shops. We had lunch at Bella Notte, a bar that happens to serve really yummy Italian food. After that, we perused some of the shops and headed back to the hotel.

Cambria Hotel and Suites, Pittsburgh, PA

Waiting for our ride to The Strip.

After we relaxed at the hotel a bit, we decided to check out downtown Pittsburgh. We headed over to Point State Park, which is an amazing park located next to the Allegheny River with a great view of the PNC Stadium and downtown. Guys, downtown Pittsburgh was so pretty and clean. What I loved so much about it was that it wasn’t super crowded and crazy. I love cities but HATE CROWDS. Downtown was really relaxing and stunning during the evening.

Point State Park view into Downtown Pittsburgh.

My favorite shot of downtown.

You could walk around the River and look at the stadiums. Loved walking this area while holding hands with my man! Reminded me of the dating days!

Cool fountains at Point State Park.

 

We hung out here at night and then headed back to the hotel. It was a great start to our three-day trip.

Day 2:

Day 2 we decided we wanted to some activities that included us being active. We started our day off with a delicious breakfast at legendary Pamela’s Diner, which came up time and time again when I looked at what the MUST EAT places were. Pamela’s came up every time. Pamela’s was located on The Strip so we had the chance to check it out again in the AM.

The Strip District Pittsburgh, PA

The Strip had a pretty cool vibe.

Parking here isn’t a hassle during the week, but I can see where it would get tricky during the weekends. Anyway, Pamela’s Diner didn’t disappoint! The food was AMAZINGLY GOOD. And I’ll be super honest, I normally hate diner food. The vibe here is retro and you feel like you’re stepping foot in a 1950s diner with tons of original pictures of the owners and all things Pittsburgh.

Pamela's Diner in Pittsburgh, PA

Crepe Style pancakes were to die for!

Pamela's Diner in Pittsburgh, PA

Such a fun, delicious diner!

Pamela's Diner in Pittsburgh, PA

Fueling up in order to be ready to take on the day!

After we had a delicious breakfast here, we headed downtown because we wanted to rent some bikes. We looked into different rental options but decided to go with the City Bikes. They were cheap and got the job done! We wanted to explore Point State Park during the day and ride along the river. We parked easily, rented our bikes, and were on our way!

Riding along the river was a blast! You can rent mountain bikes at an actual bike shop too if you’d like, but we wanted to stay close to downtown so we opted for the city bikes.

Wind in my hair, sunshine on my face, a perfect summer day! Fun fact: it was 70s the whole time we stayed and the weather was extraordinary!

What’s bike riding without a few obnoxious pics right?!

We did this for quite awhile! Afterwards, we headed downtown. They had a cool Irish Festival going on so we hung out there for a bit. After that, we and then went over to the other side of the river to try our hand at Kayaking. Once you cross over the river, you hit the museums such as The Andy Warhol Museum, The Children’s Museum, and more. PNC Park is located right next to the Kayak rentals as well, and we toyed with the idea of catching a game at night but decided not to. Maybe next time!

Anyway, Jose wanted to go kayaking. I’m not a huge fan of the water because I’m not the most amazing swimmer in the world. That being said, I wanted to compromise and do things he wanted to do and it did seem relaxing, so off we went. Parking on this side of town wasn’t too bad either. Off we went!

Love is all about the compromise!

Smiling because Jose just promised me he wouldn’t let me drown. Hooray!

I’m not going to lie. The first few minutes I was panicky. If you know me, you know one of my weaknesses is assuming the worst. What if a giant boat hit us?! They gave us tips and pointers and Jose was surprisingly good at kayaking like he’d done it a bunch of times before or something! So we stayed safe and soon it was relaxing.

Where you kayak, I will follow *to the tune of Gilmore Girls*

Once we got the hang of it, I pretty much wanted to stay in the water. We did this for about an hour! It was a fun experience! We had some amazing views of downtown.

View from being on the river.

Once we were finished, we walked past PNC park to get to our car. Pittsburgh fans are passionate! There was a certain festiveness in the air. Next time, I think we’ll catch a game.

Outside of PNC park.

We went to Target to grab some things and then came back downtown to have some lunch. We ate at a burger joint called BRGR, a burger chain specific to Pittsburgh,  and had some delicious milkshakes.

Yes please.

At this point, we were tired and ready to head back to the hotel. Once we got to the hotel, we took advantage of the swimming pool. Felt so good! It was time to call it a day.

Day 3:

Sleep in time! Day 2 wore us out. We had to check out by 11 and still wanted to check out the Duquesne Incline. We took our time packing up and headed out to the last place we wanted to see in Pittsburgh. When we were biking downtown and hanging out at Point State Park, we kept seeing people go up the incline in this cable car type of deal. We wanted to try to this before we left. It’s basically a super old cable car that pulls you up to the top of the incline.

Guys, WE WERE SO SCARED being pulled up! This thing is super old and when you get close to the top it starts to slow down and it gets slower and slower until you’re sure it’s about to snap and send you crashing down. When we finally got to the top I urgently whispered to Jose, “GET OUT!” and practically shoved him at the door. I may have kissed the floor.

Moving right along, the view was worth it. From this point, you can see all of Pittsburgh and it’s just plain BEAUTIFUL.

Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh, PA

Goals: I would like to survive this.

Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh, PA

Okay, I suppose it was worth it.

This is also located on the South Side of Pittsburgh. The South Side has a very unique feel to it. It reminds me of Philly a bit, without the traffic. Very quaint, cute area and insanely steep hills.

After this, we were ready to head home. We always get the third-day itch, where by the third day we are missing our boys so much and are ready for the comfort of our own home.

We had such a good time! The next time we visit Pittsburgh I want to check out the Andy Warhol museum and the P&G zoo. The next time we go, we definitely want to bring the boys! Overall, Pittsburgh exceeded my expectations and hit the mark when it came to being a place where we could relax and enjoy the city without the stressors of a city.

What I loved about Pittsburgh, PA:

  1. City feel without the drama of a city.
  2. City in the mountains, which made for gorgeous scenic views.
  3. It has a very relaxing feel to it.
  4. Tons of biking opportunities.
  5. Inexpensive city to stay in.

We will definitely be back!

When It’s Time to End a Friendship

I am grateful for friendships. I believe that powerful, healthy friendships can inspire, breathe life, and encourage you in the valleys of life. These friendships will challenge you, correct you, and push you to do better and be better. When God places this kind of friend in your life, you hold on tight. I’ve written about that before about two of my closest friends.

Yet, I wanted to tackle this subject from the other side. What happens when a friendship is no longer life giving and instead seems to choke the life out of you? When instead of feeling challenged you feel defeated and instead of pushing you to your best, this friendship brings out all the ugly sides of you? What happens when a friendship is no longer very positive and produces no good fruit in your life? What do you do?

The Bible does say after all, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” – ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭17:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

But what happens when a friendship turns toxic? What choices do you have? In my opinion, a pretty simple one. You end it and love from a distance. What I’m NOT saying: drop your friends at the drop of a hat anytime they’re struggling. Nope. I’m talking about a “friend” that consistently and continuously drains all the life out of you and more. Keep reading.

How do you know when and if you should do that?

1. The friendship is no longer life giving for either of you.

If friendship is supposed to be refreshing for the soul and it no longer happens to be, then it’s time to move on. A friend should not feel like a burden. When I spend time with good friends, I leave feeling happy and encouraged. The Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17. If the only thing that’s sharp about this friendship is the attitude given both ways, re-examine. 

2. You are constantly pouring in with very little return.

Have you ever had a friendship where you’ve given your all only to receive nothing in return? Yes, it’s better to give than to receive, but a friendship where you’re always giving with very little reciprocated will suck all of the life out of you. These are the “friends” that you never hear from unless they are in crisis. Then you are supposed to drop your life to tend to theirs and if you can’t, you aren’t a good friend. No. Just no.

3. It’s always all about them with little interest in your life.

I love to talk, but even more so I like to listen [but don’t get me wrong, I can talk too].  I like to ask questions and learn more about a person. There’s a 90% chance I’ll ask something that’s personal or that most people might not dare to ask. I know this because my husband tells me all the time to relax on that end, but I can’t because I genuinely like learning about people. However, there are people who will demand that your entire world revolves around them without a simple, “HOW ARE YOU THOUGH?!” This isn’t cool. If very little interest is given to what’s going on in your life then it may be time to reevaluate.

4. It brings out the worst side of you.

If your friends bring out the worst aspects of your personality, it’s time to say #byefelicia. I won’t even elaborate on this one because I feel like it’s pretty self-explanatory.

5. It’s full of drama and they are petty as all get out.

I HATE DRAMA. There are people who thrive on drama and would love nothing better than to eat, sleep, and breathe it. Drama with a side of crisis please. No thanks! Save the drama for your mama. High school was more than ten years ago and I have zero interest in going back! People who will get mad over petty things (LIKE OMG, CAN YOU BELIEVE SHE DIDN’T SAY HI TO ME OR INVITE ME TO HER PARTY! *Insert Hair Toss Here*) have no place at my table. I’m a middle school teacher who deals with pettiness all day long (SO AND SO TOOK MY FIDGET SPINNER!) and will be over a petty drama filled person in two seconds flat. Ain’t. Nobody. Got. Time. For. That.

Questions You Might Have:

  • But what if we’ve been friends forever? He’s my childhood friend!

Just because something has been going on for a long time doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good thing. It may be a friendship of comfort or convenience. In my opinion, that is not enough of a good reason to maintain that kind of friendship if it looks like the reasons that I listed above.

  • What if my mission is to help them? After all, I really want to help them.

If you feel you have been specifically called by God to do that, then, by all means, go forth and do so. But so many times we try to save something or someone that we have no business saving.  There comes a certain point when helping someone begins to hurt them instead of helping them. You will wear yourself thin trying to constantly help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

Real Talk: I didn’t write this post because I have always been the epitome of a perfect friend. There have been a lot of times where I’ve failed and times where even now, I still get it wrong! But as I get older, I want to surround myself with people who will build me up, encourage me, challenge me, and put me in my place when I need to be put in my place. In the same regard, I want to be that person for others!

So here is my final thought: take a close look at some of the friendships in your life. Take a close look at yourself. Evaluate.

 

Our Ocean City, NJ Vacation and Why You Should Visit

Ocean City, NJ Vacation

This year for vacation we went to a local spot and one of my favorite places: Ocean City, NJ. This is my absolute favorite beach! We stayed here once before when the boys were around one and it was a fun experience! When I was thinking of places to vacation I wanted to stay local and have a stress free vacation. Ocean City, NJ for us was a no-brainer. We are only about 45 minutes away and yet it feels like a world away. We rented the same beach house we stayed at before and it was AWESOME.

What’s the point of vacation, after all? For my family, it’s pure relaxation. We are the kind of family that likes to breathe and not run from one place to another. You know how some people like to hit every attraction? Yeah, not us. We are lazy vacationers at best, but I’d have it no other way and this year was no exception.

From the time I was a preteen, Ocean City, NJ has held a really special place in my heart! I used to vacation here with my best friend and her family during my preteen into teen years. I have so many warm fuzzy memories. Long walks around Ocean City, the bay area, beautiful neighborhoods with a Vanilla Pepsi in hand talking about our hopes, dreams, and crushes. When I think back to my teen years, my OC vacations with my best friend and her family are a clear highlight. We always said we wanted our children to love the beach and Ocean City as much as we did and we succeeded.

See, when your life feels like it’s going about a million miles a minute regularly it’s so beautiful to take a week where all of that is on pause. My husband and I literally said we aren’t going to talk work, business, church…anything. We aren’t going to stress or worry. We are going to relax. That’s pretty much what we did as much as possible, except for hubs doing some real estate work (which I have found is practically unavoidable – since he’s become a realtor we’ve never had a trip where he didn’t have to work a little). It was fantastic and we are likely going to do at least one beach vacay a year we are thinking.

If you’re not from the South Jersey Area and aren’t familiar with Ocean City, I’m going to give you some reasons why you should consider an Ocean City, NJ vacation.

Reasons you should consider an ocean city, nj vacation:

  1. It’s family friendly.

    Ocean City - Gillian's Pier

Where we vacationed, the people below us were parents of triplet girls. If you go to the boardwalk or to the beach, you’ll see families galore. There are tons of things to do including Gillians Wonderland Pier, mini golfing, bike riding on the boardwalk, and more. Also, Ocean City is a dry town and smoking is prohibited on the boardwalk.  It’s just so family oriented and you feel it!

2. It’s a Close walk to the beach.

Ocean City, NJ Boardwalk

Ocean City has a fantastic boardwalk that’s really close to its beach. You can walk right off the boardwalk and the next thing you know, you’re on the beach and don’t have to go far to find yourself in the water.  I don’t want to feel like I’m trekking across the great unknown to have my feet touch the water. I love the fact that everything is in close proximity. Let’s face it, the boardwalk food is 95% of the reason I even go to the beach, who am I kidding?

3. It has an Awesome boardwalk with tons to do.


Mini-Golf, Escape Rooms, Rides, Bumper Carts and all of your essential boardwalk activities are available. I never get tired of walking the boardwalk because there’s always something new to do or something new to see. During the summer on Thursday nights, they have ‘Family Night’ where there is tons of live music and a lively atmosphere. My favorite nights of the summer!

4. it’s Budget Friendly.


Some people might scoff at that, but an Ocean City vacation can be quite affordable actually. Here are a few tips: go in with another family or another person on a beach house. When you do that, you can split the cost. So if a beach house will cost you $1250 for the week, divide that by two and you get the idea. What we did was we ate breakfast at the house, usually grabbed lunch on the boardwalk, ate dinner at the beach house and went to the boardwalk for desserts or any snacks we wanted. If you hit the grocery stores and cook half of your meals, you’ll save a fortune. When it comes to the rides, Gillians Wonderland  Pier offers different specials throughout the week. If you hit the rides during the three ticket ride days/hours, you will get more bang for your book. This helped me as a mom of multiples! We bought one book of 150 tickets for $100 and that was enough to last us throughout the entire week with a few tickets left over.

5. fantastic places to eat.

My absolute favorite part of the boardwalk is the food. I don’t care what anyone tells me, it’s the best part of the boardwalk! I’ve had friends try to convince me to go to other beaches and the first question I have is: are there good places to eat? If the answer is no, I’m not interested. I’m not talking about high-end places if you want that go to Atlantic City. I’m talking about simple food that just tastes good in my belly. I have favorites and you can check them out below.

 My Favorite Places to Eat In Ocean City:

  1. Brown’s Donuts. [Expect a line but it’s worth it!]Brown's Donuts - Ocean City, NJ
  2. Prep’s Pizza. [Just as good as Manco and Manco’s but with better seating and they give the kids dough to play with.]Prep's Pizza in Ocean City, NJ
  3. Piccini’s Wood Fire Pizza. [Fab Italian food!]
  4. The Hula Grill. [Probably my favorite! Hawaiin food – yum!]The Hula Grill in Ocean City, NJ
  5. OC Surf Cafe [New spot for me, great for breakfast or brunch!]

My Favorite Boardwalk Food:

  1. Polish Water Ice.
  2. Shriver’s Gelato – THE CREPES ARE LIFE CHANGING.
  3. Monkey Bread.
  4. George’s Ice Cream.
  5. Johnson’s Popcorn.

6. Insanely relaxing.


Have you ever been on a vacation that was so jam packed you needed a vacation after it to decompress? I feel like beach vacations are so relaxing and a vacation in Ocean City, NJ  is no exception. As mentioned for us, we would wake up, head to the beach for a bit, come back to the beach house for a nap, and then head to the boardwalk for the evening if we felt like it. We also incorporated date nights, courtesy of having my mom with us, movie nights, and mini golf nights. No pressure, no time constraints, and a go at your own pace vibe. The epitome of relaxation.

Overall, an Ocean City, NJ vacation was the perfect vacation for us! We had an amazing time, as evidenced by the smiles!

What are your favorite family friendly vacation spots? Share below! We are always looking for new places to visit! 

My Top 10 Places in and Around South Jersey to Check Out if You have a Toddler

Top 10 Places to Visit with Toddlers in South Jersey

I’m the momma to two very active three-year-olds who will be four this summer. As a teacher, summer is EVERYTHING! I try to make the most of my time with my boys and since they’ve been born, I’ve gathered some of my favorite things to do with them and my favorite places to go.  Majority of these places work fine in the spring, summer, fall, and even winter. This list is compiled with things that we’ve personally enjoyed in the past and recently. This is not an all inclusive list though, so share what you love to do with your little people! Most places, except for two, are located in South Jersey! All located in the TriState Area. Please comment and let me know what places you enjoy and what activities you like to do over the summer!

My Top 10 South Jersey Places to Visit if you Have toddlers

1. Ocean City, NJ – the shore.

By far, my absolute favorite place to go in the summer is Ocean City. Maybe it’s because as a teenager I vacationed here with my best friend and her family or maybe it’s just the amazing food – Ocean City is a win and when you have kids, it’s a double win. First off, the beach is reasonable and if you buy beach tags for the summer, you’re good to go. Second off, Ocean City is super family friendly and there is a lot out there for toddlers including rides, strolling the boardwalk, surrey rides, parks, and more. We spend out time on the boardwalk and beach and it’s our favorite!

Toddler Fun in Ocean City, NJ

2. The Cape May Zoo.

It’s FREE. FREE. FREE. You can make a donation of your choice if you choose. Cape May is a fantastic zoo for toddlers. It’s very walkable because it’s not insanely big. It’s perfect. On top of that, it has an awesome park for the kiddos! There are plenty of pavilions so you can pack a lunch or you can buy lunch there. It’s not far from the Cape May beach area either, so you can do a combo day where you spend half the day at the zoo and half the day at the shore. Score!

Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo

3. The Philadelphia Zoo.

We are pass holders here because by the time you add the price of the tickets together, it makes sense to buy a season pass and reap the benefits: free parking, 10% off your food purchases and gift shop purchases, and free parking. This zoo was the FIRST real zoo in the US. It’s spacious, has tons of animals and sites to see, and is really easy to walk – though because it’s so big we bring the stroller just in case! You can spend a good portion of your day here!

Toddler Fun at the Philadelphia Zoo

4. The Garden State Discovery Museum or Please Touch Museum.

I LOVE the Please Touch Museum. It’s a bit pricey at $19 per person (unless your child is 1 and under). HOWEVER, they offer $2 admission on the first Wednesday of each month from 4 pm to 7 pm. My husband and I like to arrive as soon as it opens. By the time we’ve gone through the whole museum and are ready to leave, that’s when it’s starting to get busy. The $2 fee on the first Wednesday of each month from 4 pm to 7 pm is unbeatable at that price, so if you’re on a budget that would be a good time to check this place out. The Garden State Discovery Museum is cheaper and discounts on Groupon are frequently offered. If you don’t feel like dealing with Philly traffic or driving into the city, The Garden State Discovery Museum is a fun spot too!

 

Toddler Fun at The Garden State Discovery Museum

5. Storybook Land.

This place is essentially designed for toddlers and for small kiddos. It’s a load of fun, lines were short when we went in the summer, and it’s not hard to access/park. Tickets are around $23 if you buy them online and are a bit more at the door! I would choose Storybook Land over a place like Six Flags any day of the week. It’s not as packed and my boys could pretty much get on anything. Also, it’s themed after different classic children’s stories. FUN!

Storybook Land in Mayslanding, NJStorybook Land in Mayslanding, NJ

6. Sesame Place.

In my opinion, if you’re going to go, summer is definitely the time to go! They have awesome an awesome water park! We took the boys here for the majority of the day and we were pooped! Check out my post about Sesame Place for more detailed information about our experience here!

7. Parvin’s State Park.

Located only fifteen minutes away from where we live, we love going to Parvin’s State Park. There are plenty of nature trails that we explore as a family and so many outlets where the kids can skip stones, dip their feet into the lake, and even bicycle. One of my favorite places to go and best of all it’s FREE. I think they charge in the summer to swim/go in the beach area, but I wouldn’t know because we never go to that part.

8. Sahara Sam’s or Diggerland.

We have done Sahara Sam’s in the past but haven’t checked out Diggerland yet, though according to my friend’s, it’s a must. In fact, Diggerland has made it into Redbrook and some other magazines as a destination to check out on this side of the coast! I can speak for Sahara Sam’s and say that we had a fun experience here over the summer. It is an indoor and outdoor waterpark. It’s best to get here early because it gets really packed with different groups and camps coming through. I felt like there was enough for my boys to do at their age and the pool was fun because we could swim with them.

9. Smithville

Smithville is a really cute little historic town located in Atlantic County. When we go here with the boys, we spend maybe about two to three hours here tops. It’s not geared towards toddlers but we still have fun here! It’s quaint, cute, decorative, and a good place to hang for a few hours and do breakfast/lunch/dinner. My kids get a kick out of the ducks that walk around. There’s also a carousel and train rides. They also have different activities and events, so check out their calendar. Price wise: free. Can’t beat that.

10. Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ

This is a new one for us! We literally have JUST had the chance to check this place out. You can spend a good portion of your day here and your little ones will have a blast. This aquarium has plenty for the boys to see and do and they absolutely loved it. Price wise, it’s pricey! $28 per adult and $21 per child. As a teacher, we get discounts through ticketsatwork.com which saved us $30 from the total bill. Definitely worth a visit!

Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium

This summer I’m looking forward to creating new memories with my family and also discovering new places and things to do while revisiting some of the things we’ve done in the past! What about you? What’s your favorite summer activity or place to visit? We love to travel and I’m always looking for new places to check out!

My Favorite Ways to Save on Groceries

Groceries can be a major expense! If you have a large family, even more so. Even with our family of four, we can spend hundreds on food each month. I thought I would share some of the EASY things that I do to save on groceries each month.

  1. Manufacturer’s coupons.

Before you start panicking, I am NOT talking about Extreme Couponing. I don’t have the patience or time for it, so I stick to cutting coupons each week for items I use. I do keep a coupon binder and I look through it before I go to a grocery store. There are websites you can use if you’re interested in Extreme Couponing. DON’T disregard using coupons! You would be shocked to find there are coupons for items you regularly purchase and need and if you use them you can save so much money. For awhile I stopped couponing, when I started again I was staggered at how much I saved and it reminded me to stick with it. Take advantage of grocery store digital coupons as well!

2. Store coupons/apps – especially the digital ones!

This sounds obvious too, but some people don’t realize the savings that can be found here. My favorite drugstore to shop at is CVS. The reason is because CVS is ALWAYS sending me coupons through my e-mail that I can send directly to my CVS card. If I log on to my CVS account and click on the extra card section, there are always about a billion additional coupons that I can send to my card for everyday items. Pair this with manufacturers coupons or items that are already on sale and you will see the savings. Be sure to read the fine print! Those 30% off coupons don’t always include sale items. I’ll give an example. Let’s say CVS has pull-ups on sale for 10.99. They offer a digital coupon of $2 off all pull-ups. You have a manufacturer’s coupon that is $2 off. You can get the item for as low as $7. I save SO much at CVS because I never shop without a coupon there. Don’t ever shop Target without the Cartwheel App or without your Target or debit card where you’ll save an extra 5% every single time you shop.

3. Ibotta.

Y’all! You have heard me talk about Ibotta before! I write about it because it’s a really easy way to save money on grocery items you are already buying. It’s too easy to not be using. Also, if you refer a friend, you easily earn $5. All you need to do is keep your receipt, verify your eligible purchases, take a picture of the receipt, and voila – free money. After $20 you can have it cashed out in the form of a gift card or sent to you through Paypal or Venmo. The easiest money you’ll make shopping for groceries.

4. Walmart Savings Catcher

I don’t particularly enjoy shopping at Wal-mart (as I’ve written about in the past!) BUT Wal-mart is just so cheap that sometimes, I can’t resist. That being said, I love using Walmarts Savings Catcher. The way it works: you scan your Walmart receipt, Walmart compares prices, Walmart gives you the difference in price through a Walmart eCard and you can use it on any of your purchases. Now imagine combining coupons with sale items AND using this feature on the app. Win-win for your wallet. 5. Meal plan/freezer/cook/leftover life.

5. Favado.

Favado is a really excellent app that you can use to look up items and find out where certain items are the cheapest. If I’m looking to find a deal on Tresemme shampoo, I type that in and it will show me the stores that have Tresemme on sale. If I click on a store and the item, it will even show me what coupons I can stack with this item to make sure I am getting the lowest price.

6. Plan. Never shop without a list!

When I first started adulting and shopping for groceries on my own as a newly married woman, I never brought a list. I would just go to the store, walk through the aisles, and grab what I thought I needed. I ended up with stuff I didn’t need, a budget that had been blown, and essentially a hot mess on my hands. Bringing a list is important because it helps you stay focused on what you need! Also, don’t shop on an empty belly and also MEAL PLAN! So you know exactly what you need for each meal and will get just that. I recommend this grocery list template that will help you get started! They also sell these at select Marshall’s for really cheap!

7. Grocery shop online.

Here’s the thing, you’ll pay $10 for the online grocery shopping fee at some places, BUT you’ll save in buying exactly what you need – nothing more, nothing less. This is really helpful, especially if you’re insanely busy. I HATE grocery shopping , but there are times it’s unavoidable and I have to step foot into the actual store. I find that shopping online saves me money in the long run because I’m not tempted to buy things I don’t need and can look up exactly what I need to buy.

8. Shop at Aldi’s.

Aldi’s is insanely cheap and has some really solid items you can purchase at a fraction of the cost of what you would pay at a big box store. I don’t shop here all of the time, or even super regularly at that, BUT if I am really looking to slash spending I come here. The items I buy: rice, cereal, peanut butter, cooking items, etc. I don’t buy meat or produce from here, but I know so many people who do! It’s just my personal preference, I usually buy those items at Shoprite or BJ’s. Don’t count Aldi’s out as they’ve added many gluten free items and organic items at very reasonable prices.

9. Meal Plan.

This goes along with planning. I use a Google Calender to plan our meals every two weeks. This week I’ve slacked, but I meal plan and then make my grocery list around that. This way I have exactly what I need to cook and also don’t have to worry about spending money eating out on the week. Meal planning will help you stick to a grocery budget!

These are some simple things I do to save money on groceries. Nothing here is groundbreaking, but I wanted to share what I like to do personally! I always love hearing about new ways to save, so if you have some strategies that work for you please leave a comment and share!

 

Thred Up Review – The Good and Bad

I’d heard about Thred Up from a friend at work. She raved about it. I kept seeing it everywhere and decided to give it a try – especially because I have been trying to stick to a tight budget! I am a Plato’s Closet gal but haven’t been for quite awhile. I LOVE shopping at good thrift stores because there are so many choices and at such a reasonable price. Thred Up is like an online version without having to dig through the racks.

I went on a few times and was overwhelmed with all of the options and possibilities, I would browse and then feel like there was too much to look at. Finally, I started to sort through and ended up finding a few pieces I liked. I decided to order because it was 40% off of everything, which I thought was a good deal.

I ordered a total of eight items, which came out to a total of 87.99 which included $5.99 shipping. With the 40% off it came out to $58.74. This means for eight pieces I paid $7.34 for each item.

Not bad considering a few of the items were dresses! After a few days, my order came in!

Super cute!

This top was $6.

This top was $5.95 from Xhiliration [Target brand].

This dress came out to $7.20 from Old Navy.

This dress came out to $7.20 from Old Navy.

Another dress from Old Navy $7.20.

This top came out to $4.80.

Another dress from Old Navy for $7.20.

Brand new dress from Forever 21 with tags, $7.20.

So, out of all of the items I ordered, I kept five and returned three.

I returned:

  • The Target top – fit very strangely and in a crop top kind of way that wasn’t flattering on me.
  • The Yellow sleeveless – this one was annoying because a button was missing! Someone had replaced it with a safety pin! Thrifted or not, I’m not paying for something that’s missing a button.

I didn’t like the fact that someone obviously tried to pass this off like it was in good condition but was missing a button. I did not order this from the “Basement” section of Thred Up, which is basically a section where clothes have flaws, but the buyer knows about it before hand and decides to purchase. This felt deceptive so I was annoyed!

  • The white cutout.

I LOVED this top! However, on closer inspection there was a slight gray mark. On a white top, it was noticeable. I decided to send it back!

The way Thred Up works, if you want to return items within 14 days you will receive full store credit. If you choose to get your money back, you have to pay $8.99 in shipping and handling. I’m not willing to pay that for thrifted clothes so I opted for the full store credit. You fill out everything online. They want you to tell them why you’re returning it. Next,  you print out two pages, one which has the specific clothes you’re returning in list form and a shipping label. You ship the items in the same box the clothes were sent to you.

So, overall, would I use Thred Up again?

Probably. Why? I think the pros outweigh the cons!

Things I liked:

  • Clothes are cute and reasonably priced
  • Return policy is good
  • You can shop by brand, size, etc. Easier than going through a thrift store.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • Two of the items having issues! They need to check their products better.
  • The 8.99 fee if you want to get your money back on a refund.

Also, Thred Up has an option where you can sell your clothes to them and they will pay you. However, I’ve done extensive research and it sounds like Thred Up doesn’t pay much for even items that are in excellent condition. It sounds like they used to! They have something called a “Clean Out” bag where you can put clothing you don’t want that’s in good condition in, send it to them, and they’ll pay you for anything they choose to keep and donate the rest. The bag used to be free, now it’s $9.99 and the payout isn’t much. Before I did the research, I put in for a bag. I put some items in and am sending it in, so if I’m wrong I’ll let you know! BUT I will stick to Ebay for my valuable items/items in excellent condition.

Bottom line: Thred Up is a solid option if you are into thrifty clothes! However, when you receive your order check your items carefully! If you plan on returning, do so promptly so it falls within the 14 day return policy. This is a good option if you HATE to dig through racks. They also have items that are brand new with tags. I don’t think I’ll buy from them all the time, but once in awhile I will check them out! They just need to go through their items more carefully before putting them up on their site. Make sure they are in the condition you are trying to sell them for Thred Up!

Wore the Old Navy piece to work!

Have you ever used Thred Up? Why or why not? Would love to hear from some others on your experience with them!

 

8 Ways to Save Money and Make Money

There are times in life where you need to stop spending and are in a position where you need to save or even make money right away. Perhaps you’re saving for a vacation or it’s right after Christmas and you’re trying to rebuild your savings. Maybe your family is a position where there is limited income. Maybe you just want to rein in your savings and make some money. Here are some tips/suggestions that have helped me!

  1. Go on a spending freeze.

You heard it straight. STOP SPENDING MONEY. I have been able to do a successful spending freeze for about two weeks. The goal can be up to YOU. A spending freeze means you complete freeze spending on anything. Ideally, you want to try this for about a month, but you can adjust the time as necessary. One of my favorite bloggers writes in detail about this here. I have also shared my experience about what it was like to go on a spending freeze. You can save money REALLY QUICKLY doing this. You would be shocked at what you might spend on a daily basis, though it does take some prep work! A coffee here, a quick snack here, a stop over at this restaurant. Freeze your budget, expand your savings.

2. Download the Ibotta app and start cashing in.

I heard about Ibotta a long time ago and used it awhile ago! A friend recently sent me a link and was telling me about it and I decided to use it. It’s ridiculously easy. You shop at a store of your choice. After you’ve finished shopping, you look to see if any of the items you purchased offer a cashback reward on Ibotta. You scan your receipt, scan the item, and voila – you have money. After you’ve made $20 you can withdraw it and SPEND. This is by far an easy way to make a few bucks. It works even better if you look on Ibotta first and see what items you can receive cash back for!

3. Ebates.

Ebates is THE BEST. I’d heard about Ebates for awhile but didn’t get all of the hype. Finally, around Christmas season, I decided to look into it. Ebates offers a rebate anytime you shop online. This means that I can spend $50 at a store online and if Ebates offers 10% back, I automatically earn $5. You can also make major bucks for referring friends. They issue out two “Big Fat Checks” each year. I have one coming to me for about $50. There are Ebates for almost any store imaginable.

4. Sell your stuff on Ebay.

I started selling things on Ebay when I was pregnant and really started picking it up after the boys were born. Ebay is by far my favorite way to sell and in my opinion, the easiest. I have sold on Facebook group sites but I don’t like meeting up with strangers face to face. I’ve had the most success selling baby/toddler/children’s clothing and women’s clothing. Those jeans that don’t fit from American Eagle or Express? Sell them. That top you bought at Target that you don’t love anymore? Sell it. Those clothes your kids only wore a few times? Sell it. I’ve made a few hundred dollars doing it and it serves two purposes – you clear out your house while making money!

5. Yard Sale.

I recommend selling anything that you couldn’t sell on Ebay at a yard sale. These items will be priced to sell, so when you have a yard sale you should have a lot of items and be willing to haggle. This works best in the spring or summer. For example, our neighbor was having one and advertised well, she encouraged us to have one too to drive more traffic to the neighborhood. We made about $150 and we literally threw it together. I think with more planning and pricing things well, we can make even more. This is an easy way to make money.

6. Cut those coupons. 

It sounds like common sense, but this one will make a big difference in your savings. The average family spends about $380 a month on groceries! Grab your weekly newspaper, look at coupon websites, and get to clipping. Consequently, I saved $65 grocery shopping last week! As I was looking through our budget interested in ways to slash the budget (because who doesn’t like to save); I decided to resurrect my coupon binder. I divide the coupons into categories and when I make my list each week, use the coupons that I can. Combine your coupons with what’s on sale and you will slash your grocery spending greatly. Some websites will even show you how to be an extreme couponer if you’re interested!

7. Stop going to your guilty pleasure stores. 

We all have them. Well, I know I do. The stores that you go to and can’t help but spend money in. “This is on sale…” or “It’s SUCH a good deal.” Anyone who knows me knows what this store is for me – TARGET. I can go to Target for toilet paper and walk out with everything short of the end caps. When I’m trying to save or am in a freeze, I’ll avoid going here unless I have to.  I avoid the temptation.

8. Side Hustle.

Pinterest the term “side hustle.” You will find loads and loads of ways to work a side hustle, a.k.a to make extra money on the side. My suggestion is this – if you are good at something, find a way to cash in on that. My husband is the kind of person that’s good at so many things (piano, photography, Photoshop, and a bunch of other things), work a side hustle. Sell on Etsy, write for money, do online surveys, drive for Uber. I would say my side hustle is probably selling on Ebay!

There are so many other ideas, but these are some of the things I’ve done and have worked for me. What works for you?! Would love to hear some of your tips and suggestions!

 

2016, I Won’t Miss You

While everyone is over here writing really emotional posts about 2016…I’m over here like:

2016. I won’t miss you. Yes, there were so many amazing highlights to this year:

  1. My family – my sweet boys, my amazing husband. This year more than any other year, I have never been so grateful for this squad that I get to call my own family!
  2. My niece and best friend moving to the East Coast.
  3. An awesome student teacher who literally made this school year a million times greater because she was so amazing.
  4. A church family I love, pastors who are the REAL DEAL. Love them so much.
  5. Husband making a career move to full-time agent which opened up so much more family time.
  6. Home renovations.
  7. Boys went to preschool and are slaying the game.
  8. I’ve really learned who “my people” are this year – this has been amazing.

There are a thousand blessings upon blessings that I can go on and on about!

But…if I’m being truthful. I won’t miss this year. This year was a HARD year. There was so much triumph, but a lot of pain as well. I ended this year being confident in who I am, being unshakable in what I believe, learning how to prioritize my life (God, family, ministry) and the lessons continue to unfold. I am so tremendously grateful for such an awesome husband and two gorgeous little boys who give me endless joy every day. For that, I feel like a winner at life. Nonetheless, 2016…

I won’t miss you, don’t want to repeat you.

On the other hand, 2017…

The Power of a Forever Friend

Every woman needs a forever friend. That 3 am friend you can call at any moment and they will have your back no matter what. They listen. They don’t judge you. They don’t gossip about you to others. When you hurt, they hurt. Their victory is your victory.  You want to see each other win at every single turn and celebrate each other when you do!

I once read this post about how childhood friendships are the BEST friendships you’ll ever have. I agree with so much of it. I have been blessed with SOLID friendship from two people in particular who have been there through the best and worst moments of my life. We have had ups down, we have loved each other, fought with each other, forgiven one another…and over fifteen years later, are still the ones I can go to no matter what. Life has proven this repeatedly and I realize how blessed I am to have this! Maybe you don’t have that kind of friend yet. Can I make a suggestion? BE that kind of friend for someone else. Here are the qualities of a forever friend:

  1. They’ve seen you at your absolute worse and absolute best. And still love you.

In literally my best and worst moments, my forever friends have been by my side. Engagement? Check. Wedding? Check. Parenting craziness? Check check. When

2. They aren’t intimidated by your success. When you win at life, they win and celebrate you.

Sometimes women don’t do well with celebrating other women. In a culture that at times, tries to pit us against one another, it’s a great thing to be surrounded by people who WILL celebrate your life wins with you. Promotions, meeting the love of your life, a new house, new car, exciting achievement. I wasn’t always so good at this! I struggled with comparison! I can honestly say, I’m not at that place and have grown, and I’m proud of that.

3. They’ll keep it real with you when no one else will.

My forever friends are the first one to call me on my crap. If I’m being a diva? They won’t tippy-toe around it. They’ll call me out quicker than you can blink an eye. They don’t do it to hurt me or tear me down, they do it because they love me. And so when it’s hard to hear what they might be saying in that particular moment, in the longterm, I’m grateful.

4. They hear you.

Good listeners are EVERYTHING. Nothing is worse than being around a person who doesn’t genuinely listen when you’re talking to them. Instead, they are thinking of what they can say next or cut in with what they want to say. A forever friend will hear you out, process what you’re saying, and then respond. Or sometimes say nothing. And that’s okay too.

5. They know how to laugh. At you and themselves.

They don’t take things too seriously! I love being able to laugh simply by making direct eye contact and thinking the EXACT same thing when you probably shouldn’t be. When everyone was taking tennis quite seriously, we were thrilled we found the perfect air guitars!

6. Major life moments – they’re there.

You’re not an inconvenience, burden. They do everything they can to support you at every turn. My girls have stood with me through dating, engagement, graduation, marriage, first home buying, preemie babies, and more. Even in the little life moments, it’s not a burden for them to be there because they want to be!

7. They make time for you. You make time for them.

Not a novel concept, but one of the biggest friendship killers out there. If someone or something is important to you, you make time for it or them. With one of my girls, we actually get our families together once a week and eat dinner, watch our favorite shows, catch up on life. We trade off on who will cook and where it will be. With both, if we can’t see each other we will call each other on the way to work, when we get off work, or text throughout the week.

8. They’re ridiculously loyal.

This means they have your back. You know that no matter what, they are your “ride or die.” The end!

I feel grateful that our friendship has withstood the test of time. Circumstances have shown me the solid, steady, strength I have in these amazing women. For that, I am insanely grateful.

The Benefits of Living in South Jersey

benefitsoflivinginSJ

For a time when I was younger, I loathed where I came from. “It’s boring here…” “This place sucks…” were the typical things I  thought. But the older I get, the more I appreciate East Coast living. Particularly South Jersey East Coast living. There are tons of benefits.

  1. Beaches and beaches galore. 

An hour away tops, we can choose from Ocean City, which is literally known as one of America’s BEST family resorts out there. And I’m not even being paid to write this. If you want a different scene, you can choose Atlantic City, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, Cape May [which has beautiful historical Victorian houses and Lighthouses as well]…the list goes on and on. The point is, there is a beach for everyone and every occasion. I recognize that some people in other states will never experience a beach in their year. We have close proximity to some awesome ones.

2. We are a train ride away from NYC. 

Drive one hour to the train station. Hop on a train for two hours. Reach your destination. You are in New York City. People travel across the world to come to one of the most amazing cities that exist. We are only a few hours away and can go whenever we want. I have gone to NYC so many times and never take it for granted that it’s SUPER COOL that we have such easy access. NYC during Christmastime is especially a treat.

3. We are only a few hours away from Washington, DC. 

Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital and another place that people travel across the globe to check out, is only a few hours away. It can be checked out during a day trip, though we’ve had the chance to stay there as well and check out. AND THERE’S  SO MUCH TO DO. Georgetown has a trendy shopping area, cool restaurants, and obviously, there are all the historical sites too. And only a few hours away.

4. We are only forty-five minutes away from Philadelphia.

Another city that is so rich in history and also has a ton of things to do for families, singles, couples, etc. The Please Touch Museum is a MUST for kids, specifically toddlers! Penns Landing has a rich nightlife and is beautiful on summer nights. And it’s so close and easily accessible. It also has an amazing Ikea. Which is vastly important. Ha!

5. You can live close to a cool city without the city life – if you want.

As much as I love visiting cities, I am a country bumpkin. Sometimes I think I want to own acres of land. I like having a neighborhood I can walk my kids in, I dislike traffic, and people I love live in the city so I can have the best of both worlds. A win-win situation!

Ultimately, I enjoy living on the East Coast. There are tons of benefits! Though, if God wanted us to, I would be open to moving down South as well. Like I said, I’m a country bumpkin at heart.

6. Great variety of countryside and Jersey Fresh fruit/veggies.

South Jersey has a lot of country, farms, and all of the like. Jersey is known for having some pretty stellar produce, known as Jersey Fresh, and if you’re a foodie you will love that. And the fact that there are a bunch of farm stands where you can buy it some at any moment.

7. Tons of fall fun. 

I think South Jersey does a pretty great job at offering tons of fall fun from hay rides, to pumpkin picking, to apple picking, and more. Some of the top South Jersey hotspots to hit for this fun:

8. Rowan University, a Nationally accredited university, located in a fun college town.

I’m definitely biased because I graduated from Rowan University. Rowan has come such a long way from the time I’ve graduated, which has been about seven years or so now. It’s such a good college and it’s not as overwhelmingly large as Rutgers, which is another ridiculously amazing school (my little bro went there) but if you are into a small town vibe, Rowan is probably a good in-state college for you. Also, has a killer education program. Of course, this is my alma mater, so maybe I’m biased? Nope!

Overall, South Jersey has its perks and benefits, although it’s not necessarily the most exotic place in the world, it has some upsides. Thought I would share!