From the category archives:

living on less

This past Monday morning, I was jolted out of a deep sleep at 6:30am by a sound that no one wants to hear this time of year... the sound of our newly decorated Christmas tree crashing into our dining room table.

After shedding more than a few tears over the many precious ornaments that were shattered in the fall -- including our Lenox bride and groom ornament that topped our wedding cake, my blown glass turtle given to me by a sorority sister in college, the blown glass Hershey bar that we picked up on our Thanksgiving trip to NYC last year, and so many others -- we stood the tree back up and removed every last ornament from its branches.

This was the first time ever that we went out and purchased a real tree, so we're not positive on what caused the fall; however, we're pretty sure it was a faulty tree stand. My husband was ready to chop the tree up for firewood at this point, but I talked him into purchasing a new stand first to see if it was salvageable.

But even though the tree seemed far more stable with the new base, I was still very hesitant to redecorate it with what was left of my priceless ornament collection, so I decided to hit Walmart to see what was left in their seasonal decor department. Honestly, I really expected it to be quite picked over at this point, but I was pleasantly surprised to find they still had quite a large variety of styles and colors.

I fell in love with these beautiful non-traditional jewel-toned ornaments, but ultimately we decided to go with these larger sets in a more traditional color scheme.

At just $16.98 for 50 shatterproof ornaments, 2 sleeves was plenty to fill our tree nicely. It's been four days since we redecorated it, and it's still standing! Knock on wood...

I'll admit I do miss the personalized look that our ornament collection gave, but this late in the season, I'm perfectly happy these inexpensive alternatives. I have a few plastic icicles to add, and we'll call it good!

P.S. Be sure to keep an eye out for these really cool clip-on ornaments, as well. They come in lots of fun colors, and not only are they great for decorating your tree and wreaths, but they make super cute DIY Christmas napkin rings!

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Monster iSport Intensity In-Ear Headphones Review

by Tara Kuczykowski on December 16, 2013 · 0 comments

I was lucky enough to win a pair of these Monster iSport Intensity headphones when I attended a holiday trip to the Walmart headquarters back in October. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, as my husband had been begging me for a new pair of headphones to wear while running.

So I handed them over to him upon my return with the request that he give me his honest feedback on them after using them for awhile.

First, some specs on these headphones:

  • Apple ControlTalk for on-cable, hands-free smartphone and MP3 player calling and music control
  • Patented Sound Channel design seals in music
  • Patented SportClips and sound-isolating eartips provide a secure, customized fit that will not shake out or sweat out
  • Tough, durable, UV-protected and sweatproof for your most aggressive workout
  • Washable
  • Color: Green

But if you're looking to purchase a pair of these headphones, I'm sure you want more than just a list of features... Given that my husband went through three pairs of headphones over the summer before trying these headphones, I had my doubts. However, he absolutely loves the Monster iSport Intensity In-Ear Headphones. He's told me a number of times that the sound quality is amazing for the price, and he loves that they come with three sizes of SportClips eartips to allow the user to get a great custom fit.

In fact, his only complaint is pretty minor and is in regards to the placement of the Apple ControlTalk switch that controls the volume. He feels like it's a little too high up on the cord that's running to the headphone and could benefit from a little more slack so that it's not easily yanked out when used while working out.

A neutral point is that these headphones use a right-angle headphone jack. These are great when you want the headphones to plug in and stay flush with your phone or iPod, but they may not work with all cases and could require either an adapter or removal of the case for use. In my husband's instance, he just simply removes the bottom part of his case.

On the bright side, the flat, silicone cords discourage tangling and make these headphones much more durable than traditional round cords. Also, as both and indoors and outdoors runner, my husband is also very impressed with how these headphones are designed to seal in music, yet still allow the user to be aware of traffic noise.

The Monster iSport Intensity In-Ear Headphones are available both in stores and on for $99.95, and there's still time to purchase them with FREE shipping to arrive in time for Christmas!

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5 Last Minute Shopping Tips #PerfectGifts

by Tara Kuczykowski on December 13, 2013 · 0 comments

Black Friday Shopping Tips

Do you still have a number of holiday gifts to pick up? We're closing in on Christmas Day rapidly, but there's no need to panic just yet. Deals abound, and you should have no problem getting them wrapped and under the tree with time to spare!

1. Pull out that shopping list again.

Is it well worn and filled with chicken scratch? Mine usually is by this point, so I find that rewriting a fresh list with just the info for gifts I still need to buy helps me maintain focus. This is also a great time to take inventory of what you've already purchased and do a budget check to make sure you're staying on track.

2. Check the weekly ads.

Go through the ads before leaving the house to plan your trip. Add the names of the stores that have the best prices to your list, but don't feel like you have to run to 6 different stores to save your budget! Consider whether or not you can condense your trips into just a few stops by using programs like Staples' Price Match Guarantee. You may be pleasantly surprised that it's a one-stop shop!

3. Consider purchasing online.

Save time and gas by purchasing those last few gifts online. Staples has online daily deals, that offer big savings on what could be that perfect present for the last person on your list. Also, now that shipping cut-off deadlines are later than ever, you can often shop right up until just a few days before Christmas.

Plus many stores offer free shipping. At Staples, shipping is always free for rewards members, or for non-rewards members it’s free for purchases of $19.99 or more.  You also have the option to buy online and pick up at a local store on the same day, helping you streamline your trip.

4. Utilize rewards programs and cash back sites.

Make your shopping pay off by really taking advantage of Rewards programs!  By getting points, rewards or cash back you’ll carry those savings into your next purchase!  Staples Rewards program members receive 5% back in rewards on everything including technology, plus score FREE shipping on!

When shopping online, take a minute to click through a cash back site before placing your order to gain a small rebate on your purchase! Beware that not all sites offer the same amount though, so check out a few before settling on which one to use.

5. Check for coupons and promo codes.

Finally, before you check out, be sure to check to see if there's a coupon or promo code available for the retailer you're shopping. Whether it's a percentage off or a gift with purchase, it can help turn a so-so deal into something to brag about!

I'm thrilled to be on the Staples Holiday Council this holiday season, bringing you fantastic deals to assist you in finding the perfect gift for every person on your list. Staples will be offering great deals (including exclusive offers!) throughout the holiday season, helping you get more for less! For more holiday tips be sure to check out the Staples Holiday Center.

This post is brought to you by Staples. All opinions are 100% mine.


Helping Hand for the Holidays #FilltheTruck

by Tara Kuczykowski on December 12, 2013 · 0 comments

We look forward to a lot of family activities during the holidays, but I think I can safely say that the one that we all look forward to the most is our annual trip to Walmart to help fill their donations box up with toys for the needy. Just for fun, you can check out our trips from 2010 and 2012 -- can't believe how much my kiddos have grown!

I know this is a tough year for many of you, and we've had our share of tough times and holiday seasons where we were penny-pinching to the extreme, too. Somehow we've always managed to minimize the effect on our kids, while still blessing others with any little bit we had left over, and I'm grateful for that. The past few years have been good to us though, which means we've had more room in our budget for giving, and this year has been no exception.

Tuesday evening, after picking our first real Christmas tree ever at a local greenhouse, we decided to swing by Walmart to let the kids do a little shopping. Earlier this month Walmart had given me a $100 gift card to spend as I pleased, but the kids were super surprised and excited when I shared with them that we were going to match the gift card as a family, giving them each $40 to spend on the gifts of their choice for the less fortunate children in our area.

So my girls and I hit the "girly" aisles, and my husband took the boys to shop the more rough and tumble boys' aisles. After a lot of calculations and discussion, we all met up back in the holiday department with our choices to snap a quick photo. I think they did a fantastic job of picking out a variety of really nice toys, and while we discovered that someone *may* have miscalculated their purchase at checkout, I was more than happy to pick up the difference.

After checking out, the kids unloaded the cart into the Helping Hand Toy Box near the entrance of our store. This donation box is earmarked for the local Helping Hand Toy Drive, sponsored by Walmart, The Columbus Dispatch, The Salvation Army, 92.3 WCOL, and WBNS-10-TV.

Other stores across the U.S. are participating in the Fill The Truck promotion, so you may see a big red box in the front of your store. Whatever program your store is participating in, it's a great way to give a little something extra to charity while you're doing your regular shopping!

Walmart Moms Disclosure


Walmart Marketside Makes Quick Weeknight Meals Easy

by Tara Kuczykowski on December 9, 2013 · 1 comment

Between holiday plans and sports, getting dinner on the table each weeknight has been difficult at best. I'll be the first to admit that we've been eating out far too much, which can put quite a dent in our budget. As you can imagine, dinner out for a family of 7 often adds up to about a $70 tab, including tax and tip, and honestly, even a fast food meal comes in around $35.

So when Walmart challenged me to shop their Marketside products to put together a quick and easy weeknight meal for under $25, I hesitated before accepting, wondering if I really could pull that off for our large family. But I'm pleased to say, our meal did clock in under the $25 limit. And you know what else? We had plenty of food leftover!

So first let me show you just a few of the Marketside options you'll find in stores...

You're probably already familiar with Marketside pizzas and rotisserie chicken and even their delicious fresh-baked breads, but did you know they carry twice-baked potatoes?

Or how about soups? We picked up the Loaded Baked Potato Soup for dinner tonight, and it was fantastic. I can't wait to try the Chicken Tortilla Soup next!

Each container holds about two small servings of soup, so two containers was plenty for us since not all of my kids are as enthusiastic about soup as I am.

The Marketside Salad Kits are amazing too. My favorite is the Asian Chopped Salad, filled with crunchy cabbage and green onions, fried wontons, almonds, and topped with a yummy sesame ginger dressing! My kids wanted to try the Bacon Caesar Salad, so we picked up that kit as well. Judging by the way they devoured it, it must have been pretty good, as well.

We haven't tried this Cheesy Broccoli and Pasta yet, but it's also on our list for the future. I think it would be great paired with a salad and some of the Marketside fresh-baked bread.

We rounded out our meal with a couple of these sub sandwiches. I thought the price for the value was excellent. The sandwiches are very large and heavy on the meat and cheese, unlike the subs we picked up from a certain sub shop recently. There were several varieties to choose from, so you should be able to find something that appeals to everyone in your family!

As I mentioned previously, we did come in under $25 for our entire meal -- $23.94 to be exact. I apologize for the poor iPhone photo, but we were hungry! We purchased two of the sub sandwiches, a Caesar salad kit, an Asian salad kit, and two containers of the loaded baked potato soup. Even with generous servings, we still had half a sub and portions of both salads leftover.

I definitely need to get on the ball and cook at home more again, but in a pinch, Marketside from Walmart has a broad assortment of meal ideas that are a great alternative and much more budget-friendly than a meal out!

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