Tag Archives: planning

Clearance Toy Shopping

I truly hate paying full price for items at the store. It’s not just because I’m on a limited, very tight budget (though that’s certainly part of it). It’s because I discovered the magic of clearance shopping and I know how cheaply I could be paying.

By all means, I’m not going to get in-depth with clearance “hunting” here (and, yes, “hunting” is quite applicable here. Clearance shopping is definitely a sport!). This video by TheKrazyCouponLady gives a really nice overview of Target clearance shopping and how to read their clearance labels. In my opinion, Target seems to have the best clearance sales for toys, though you can sometimes find good clearance at Wal-Mart.

For this entry I will be focusing on clearance shopping for toys (though I may cover other clearance shopping, such as kid and adult clothing, etc. if there is any interest).

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge planner. I thrive on planning ahead and it’s one reason why clearance shopping really works for me.

I don’t know about other parents but it seems like my daughters always get invited to birthday parties a day or two before they take place (or it might just be that the invite sits in their backpack for a week before I eventually see it…) We go to A LOT of children’s birthday parties a year and, let’s be honest, buying presents for even a few friends a year can really add up.

After I discovered the thrill of clearance shopping (getting a good deal is actually VERY thrilling!) I created a “Party Present Stash.” When I find a really good deal on toys, I’ll buy several (sometimes setting a few aside for my daughter’s own “Present Stash,” which I will get to a moment). Since I have two daughters, the majority of their friends are girls and so I purchase mostly toys that they like, since it’s quite likely their friends will as well. I’ll also pick up a few toys that I know are popular with their boy friends (not to be confused with boyfriends! Note the space in between the two words! 😛)

When we get a birthday invite I can open up my “Party Present Stash” and have a nice selection of (cheap!) presents to choose from. It also works out well with my schedule, since I don’t have to find time to go to a store and shop. I store these items in the top of my closet, in several bags so you can’t see what they are.

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Squinkies seem to be a popular toy with most girls

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And at these prices, why not??

I also pick up toys on clearance that I know my daughters like but that I really don’t want to pay full price for. Since I like to plan, I’ll stock up my “Present Stash” for them with items for their birthdays, the holidays and even to be used as rewards. It does mean that you need to plan ahead but it’s worth it! I was mostly finished with my Christmas/Holiday shopping before Halloween and completely finished by Thanksgiving!

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Toys such as these make good little presents or rewards. The Monster High designer tape (or whatever it is) could be used in birthday party goodie bags.

 As I’m sure you can guess, I can save A LOT of money, buying toys this way. I do still occasionally purchase toys at full price but I mostly reserve that for “must-have” items (such as any new Monster High characters, which if you know anything about MH, can be quite difficult to find so you buy them when you see them.) Target currently has many toys on 30-70% clearance. Today I picked up all of the toys shown above for $40.98! All of the toys I purchased were 70% off.

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In case you are interested, here’s the breakdown:

Squinkies Carousel Dispenser ——-$5.98 (original price $19.99)
Monster High Designer Tape ——– 2 x $0.88 (original price $2.99 EACH)
Squinkies Mansion Playset ———– $14.98 (original price $49.99)
Mini Lalaloopsy Pet Parade Train — $4.48 (original price $14.99)
Squinkies Princess Crown ————- 2 x $2.96 (original price $9.89 EACH)
Squinkies Scepter Dispenser ——— 2 x $2.96 (original price $9.89 EACH)
Mini Lalaloopsy doll ———————- $1.94 (original price $6.49)

Total Paid: $40.98               Total Original Price: $137!!!

I hope this inspires you to clearance shop too! It may take a little bit of extra time and planning but it  can save you a lot of money and you’ll never be without a birthday present again!

P.S. Please don’t share these pictures with my kids (or yours!). The real magic of clearance shopping is that when a child opens their present they’re none the wiser…

 

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My Life is Hectic! (Here’s How I Deal)

My semester at school just started up on January 23rd and, despite being thrilled to be back, the change in schedule (and routine) has really thrown me for a loop.

This semester I have classes five days a week and I’m at the school until just after noon each day. Compared to my three-day school weeks I’ve been used to the last few semesters, I can certainly feel a difference. Going from a month vacation off from school to being at school every weekday is more difficult that I had imagined.

To keep myself (and my family) on schedule and as stress-free as possible, I employ a few methods to organize our week:

First, schedule. Schedule, schedule, schedule.

Since getting a smart phone a year ago, I’ve stopped using a paper agenda and instead have been using Google Calendar to keep track of my days.

Google Calendar is great for many reasons.

I can view, add and edit my calendar via my phone, as well as on any computer connected to the internet. When I enter an event, I can set a reminder to alert me 15 minutes (or other specified time) before the event.

I can invite someone to my event by entering their email. This is handy for event’s that a family member or friend should be aware of, for example, a Father-Daughter Dance.

I can also share my entire calendar with another Google Calendar user. My partner and I have both shared our calendars with one another. All of my events show up on his calendar coded in a different color then his (and vice versa).

This is helpful with kids, as he can see all of the activities and appointments they have scheduled, without my needing to individually invite him to each one.

I use Google Calendar in the same manner I used my paper agenda.

I write down all of the events that are static (class schedules, dance lessons, swim lessons, etc) and fill in any appointments or other events as I become aware of them. I also block off times for myself to work on homework, when class assignments are due, when I need to pick a child up early, etc.

I even use the calendar to remind me of things that need to be done, such as “Clean cat litter” or “Call to make appointment” so I don’t forget.

Second, I get as much I can done the night before.

We pick out clothes the night before in our house because mornings are hectic enough without worrying what you’re going to wear. And having two daughters only makes that trickier.

Each of my daughters picks out what they want to wear before going to bed each night. Before I go to bed, I do the same.

The rule is that what you pick out, is what you wear. When I started this, I said the rule upfront to both of my daughters. After a week, picking out our clothes the night before started to become part of our daily night-time routine. And it saves SO much time and drama in the morning.

Of course, you might end up with this. But remember, what you pick out is what you wear!

Anything else that can be anticipated needing to be done for the morning is also done the night before.

School lunches are packed and ready to go. Notes, permission slips and the like are signed and filed away into backpacks.

Homework is always completed the night before and everything needed for school is packed into backpacks as well. This includes me, as I’ve likely been guilty of forgetting items needed for school more times than my daughter.

Third, planning.

Yes, I know it seems like it could be categorized under schedule. But, trust me, planning isn’t quite the same thing (though they are intertwined).

The number one planning item is meals. After a long day at school/work/activities the last thing anyone wants to do is come up with what to have for dinner. I try to plan out two weeks of meals at a time.

I know some people plan out day by day, labeling X meal for Y day, but I can’t see doing it that way. What if I’m not in the mood for what’s planned? It’d very quickly throw the whole plan off.

Instead I plan out two weeks of main courses that I can then pick and choose from as I wish. Most of the time this is nothing more than a post it note and a list of meals.

This is an older meal plan. Back from when I still typed and printed them.

The one exception is Wednesday, which is our family’s busiest day of the week. On these days I try to plan an easy crockpot meal that I can quickly throw in the crockpot in the morning and come home to a wonderful smelling kitchen in the evening.

One of my favorite sites for crockpot recipes is A Year of Slow Cooking, which has some amazing (and easy!) crockpot recipes. I’ll likely go into further depth on my love of crockpot cooking in later posts.

Four, Breathe.

Being busy, being a student, being a mom and trying to be it all can be overwhelming. When everything starts to seem like too much, just take a break. Take a moment. Look at the sky. Count to 10. Take some deep breaths.

Take care of YOU.

It’s not going to be perfect. Ever. But sometimes all we need is a brief interruption of our steady swimming to stay afloat to realize that our heads our still above water and we can breathe.

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Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive how-to of juggling busy family life and stress (I didn’t even begin to cover procrastination).

But it’s a start. A change of any type will come with some added difficulty in the beginning but, with time and persistence, a new routine can be formed.

I know the next few months for me are going to be hectic and trying, filled with difficult courses and my self-imposed pressure to keep my high GPA (and that’s just my school stuff!). My goal throughout it all is to go easier on myself and enjoy the process as much as the outcome. Because it’s the journey that teaches us and inspires growth, not the destination.