Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Super Couponing

Every so often a new season of Extreme Couponing becomes available on Netflix, and my husband and I have a marathon of watching the show.  Even knowing that giant thousand dollar shopping trips that end up equally a few dollars are few and far between even for the extremers, we are always intrigued.  And each time, without fail, I am inspired to try to be a couponer, too.  Usually, my couponing splurges have last a week or two, and then they fizzle out.  But I have to admit that when I'm successful, it is exciting and satisfying.  And then I'm ready for more.  

Since our family of two is soon to become a family of three, I've been more motivated to save money and one of the ways that really does work is couponing.  Now, I don't mean simply cutting or printing a couple coupons here and there.  I mean stocking up when there's an awesome deal and being patient enough to wait for deals to arrive.  Extreme couponing is not a term that I would ever apply to myself, but there are days when I would say that I've accomplished super couponing!  

Lucky for me (and you) there are some amazing bloggers out there that already do much of the work!  So, instead of carefully reviewing the weekly ads and then searching for coupons to match, I simply follow several blogs on my Google Reader.  When I'm ready to make my grocery list for the week, I review the blog posts, find the best deals on the specific items I need, and then check to see if there are any amazing deals on items that we could stock up on and use in the future.  

The blogs I would recommend are:

This blog is one of my favorites because it is locally based in Lincoln, so all of the local grocery store deals are posted each week.  My grocery buying is made so much easier through this site.  Not only are the deals posted, but the coupon policies and other important tips for couponing in Lincoln, NE are posted.  

Both KCL and CAS are great blogs for deals both online as well as in store.  They do cover stores that are not located in my area, but it's easy enough to skip those posts.  These two I primarily use for national pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens.  

There is a CVS about two and a half blocks from my house, but it wasn't until I found these blogs that I began shopping there.  Now I know that it is an amazing place for couponers!  And both KCL and CAS post the weekly deals as well as potential deal scenarios to maximize savings.  Thanks to CAS last week I was able to earn $2 on a purchase.  I thought the money making deals were only on the Extreme Couponing show... I was wrong!

Both of these blogs are great, specifically for moms.  They also include some deals similar to the blogs above, but I enjoy the mom-focused element of these blogs.

Overall, I would recommend finding a local couponing blogger if possible and then check out the other bloggers I've listed here.  They are excellent resources for making couponing more straightforward and less time consuming.  As a grad student and a wife and future mom, finding ways to save time is almost as important as finding ways to save money!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Maternity: What to 8 simple tips.

As a mommy-to-be, one of the biggest things I've had trouble with is figuring out what to wear, how to buy maternity clothes, and what looks good on a changing body.  My internet searches were less than helpful on these questions and asking friends and family helped a bit, but for the most part, I've been figuring the whole maternity clothes thing out myself.

When I first started showing I couldn't decide if I wanted to look pregnant or not.  And those initial few weeks, I felt like I simply looked thick.  As a girl, you go through life with looking healthy and thin being stressed and then suddenly you are supposed to be excited to gain 25 to 40 pounds.  What?  Says who?  

So, I could suggest that new pregos should embrace their bodies and love that the baby inside is growing, but I won't.  For me that didn't happen until I could feel the little bean moving.  Then it was real.  Then I was okay with looking pregnant and embracing my body.  

But, I do have a few observations.

#1. You don't look fat, even at the "thick" stage.  

At the "thick" point, no one but you notices that your pants are fitting tighter though you think it must be obvious to the whole, entire world.

#2. Use the hairband method.

Who knew that hairbands could be so useful in pregnancy.  Just loop the band through the button hole and then around the button as shown below (I used pink for the photo so it would be easy to see, but I usually use a navy or black band to match my jeans).  So simple!  

For me, I decided that I wanted to wear my own pants and jeans as long as possible.  At 29 weeks, I still haven't had to buy maternity bottoms except for one pencil skirt that I bought for a conference.  The reason I haven't had to buy - hairbands.    Using a hairband to connect my jeans at the button and allowing them to be not completely zipped up works great.  I should give the disclaimer that I have outgrown some of my pants, but I still have a few pairs that fit as long as I use my handy dandy hairbands.  As you'll see later in this post, I ended up with a few maternity bottoms when I purchased a lot of maternity clothes used.  But, they are all capri length, so even if I can't fit into my own pants through the entirety of the pregnancy, I'm determined to make it until spring weather!

#3. Invest in a few clothing items:

Buy a belly band or two.

As I mentioned, my strategy has been to stay in my own pants for as long as possible.  The belly belt is an awesome accessory that covers up the hairband and adds some extra support around your belly.  

I ordered mine from Baby Be Mine on Amazon, and I love it.  Instead of going for the belly belt, I have combined the hairband method and the belly band.  So far, it has worked exactly as I wanted it to, and I feel comfortable that no one will notice that my pants are actually held together with a hair accessory.  

Buy several maternity tank tops.  

My take tops have been a life saver.  Even when I wear maternity tops, I still feel like I need one more layer.  I'm honestly not sure if I'm looking for support or what, but I wear stretchy tanks nearly every day under my regular tops.  I have a few that have ruching on the side seams allowing for a growing belly, but my absolute favorite I purchased at a local baby/maternity boutique in my home town called Bella Luna.  The brand is Nikitiki, but I can't find it available online anywhere.  They have other adorable maternity clothes as well, but I wish I had purchased about five more of these tanks or even one in every color!

#4. Box up pre-maternity clothes.

My house is over 100 years old.  It has character.  It has charm.  It is wonderful.  But, the closet space is rather limited.  So as I realized that certain pre-maternity clothes no longer fit, I have tossed them into a box to get back out after the bean arrives.  Storing these clothes has been great for two reasons.  First, I have room in my closet to add maternity clothes without taking over the entire closet from my husband.  And second, more importantly, instead of looking in my closet and getting frustrated because every piece of clothing I pulled out wouldn't work because it didn't fit, it didn't look, right, it didn't feel right, etc, I look in my closet and know that almost anything I pick out will work.  Before I started boxing up clothes that didn't fit, I admit that I had a few small meltdowns about what to wear.  Like I said at the beginning, clothes have been the biggest struggle for me.  And I admit that I still have clothes crises on occasion, but I'm getting there.

#5.  Buy larger undergarments.

How do I say this delicately?  You'll end up needed new bras (perhaps not surprising) and new panties as you grow.  One of my best friends told me this when I first got pregnant, and I realized that it would have never crossed my mind that I'd need to buy new panties.  I don't think I need to say anything else about it except to just make note of it.

#6. What size of maternity clothes do I buy?

One of my biggest questions was about how to buy maternity clothes.  I kept thinking, "I don't know what size to buy", "I don't know if what I buy early will fit at the end", and "I don't know if maternity clothes are sized the same as regular clothes or not".  The first time I went into a maternity store, I was completely intimidated.  Seriously, I wanted to run away.  But, I didn't.  I found that I could buy the same size that I usually did with regular clothes.  Also, almost everything is stretchy, so no big worries about items fitting later on (so far).  The one thing that shouldn't have surprised me, but still did was the costs.  I didn't want to spend $40 on a shirt that I would wear for only a few months.  Yikes!  Thus, #6.

#7. Buy used or borrow maternity clothes.-

As you'll learn from this blog, I'm a rather frugal person, so spending hundreds of dollars on maternity clothes was scary to me.  Lucky for me, I was willing to purchase some things used.  I figured that there must be someone out there who was willing to spend the money to load up on maternity clothes, but now wanted to get rid of them.  Others online suggested ebay, but quite frankly, I didn't trust the photo quality, and I didn't really want to wait for the clothes to be shipped.  Plus, there is just something different about being able to look at clothes in person rather than online.  The advantage to ebay is that you can find rather large lots of maternity wear, so you could buy one of two lots and be set for your pregnancy.  Depending on your area, I would recommend Craigslist.  The site can be hit and miss, but I was able to find some steals!  I spent about $65 total and got a lot of 47 tops and 4 bottoms ($50), two professional dresses ($10), and two dressy summer dresses ($5).  Beyond my used purchases, I've only bought a few other tops that were on clearance at Target and Kohl's.  

#8. Keep it simple.

While there still is a part of me that wants to go out and buy all of the cute, trendy maternity clothes, I've found that keeping my clothing choices simple has allowed me to buy less and to (hopefully) be able to wear my maternity clothes again the next time we have a little one on the way.  (Of course, I've also promised my sister and my friends that they can borrow the lot and we can just keep passing them around).  With the accessories I already owned, I can dress up simple tops and still feel like a cute pregnant lady without spending a ton of money.  (Photos coming soon in a subsequent post!)

And those are my eight simple tips for how to figure out the maternity clothes dilemma.  I'll update this as I go through the last couple of months of pregnancy and find out those last few tips and tricks. I think I've included all the things I wish someone would have mentioned to me at the beginning of pregnancy; I hope this was helpful for future mommas out there too!



Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rebranding . . .

In lieu of an update I'm simply going to start again.

Rebranding and reintroducing my blog as . . .

Mommy (Wife and Grad Student)-in-Training 

As the spring starts to roll around, I continue to juggle the roles of wife, grad student, and mommy-to-be.  This blog will become not just my journal or my place to share my life with friends and family, but also a place to share and interact with other new moms and others that juggle similar life roles.  

Look for more updates from me soon as I strive to become (drum roll, please) -