Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Two Cents: Charitable Giving

My Two Cents:
Giving Back

We give back, because it's about sharing our strengths to help others!

If you've ever attended a Savvy Shopper Seminar, you'll know how important helping others through donations means to me. It's a part of why I coupon and shop smart - because I have more than enough for my family, but I know many others do not. We give back, because it's about sharing our strengths to help others.

Last week, I took part in the first Savvy Shopper food drive on behalf of the Community Action Food Bank in Provo. Sponsored by the Daily Herald, the food drive collected food and monetary donations at Ream's in Springville and Crisp's Grocery in Salem. What amazing local grocers we have  surrounding us who went the extra mile to help further our efforts.  As I spoke with many shoppers through out the day, I was deeply gladdened by their willingness to give back to the community.

I was honored to use the donations raised to “shop 'til I dropped” and purchase as much food as possible for the Food Bank. As I made my purchases I couldn't help but smile at the savings. OK, I always smile at my savings, but this was a different kind of smile. This was even better! Every quarter I saved meant one extra can, box or package I could give away - it was electrifying!
Jim Thomas, with Community Action Food Bank, and Rick Taylor, met me at the door with an even different kind of smile - one of gratitude.

“We have 60-70 new families each month coming who've lost their jobs. In this economy we don't know how long this will last,” Thomas said. The food bank distributes 150,000-200,000 pounds of food a month to families from every walk of life and in every stage of need. It's staggering and truly a bit emotional to see what the food bank has done and continues to do for members of our community on a daily basis. As I walked past an aisle of orange crates filled with canned goods and perishables, I thought about how many people we could help if we all gave even a little, and not just at Christmas, but throughout the whole year! How many lives could be touched? How many parents would be able to know they could provide food for their children?

I've heard it said, that if you feel you have enough food for your family, you have enough to give some away. Our family has started a donation box, which we fill with “extras” we find around our house and pantry. It is a great way to teach children to think of others.

It was an amazing experience to witness so much generosity this holiday season! Thank you for your gifts in donating by whatever means were available and for allowing me to take part in this gift of savings!

If you would more information on what you can do to help your community, please visit or your local community food bank.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Savvy How To: Disneyland Savings (Part 2)

Disneyland - Quite literally the happiest place on Earth (besides Target!)

Savvy How To:
Disneyland on a Dime (Part 2)

You're packing, scheduling and you've got a great hotel lined up, so what's next on your Savvy Disney To-Do list? Here is a condensed list of my favorite ways you can stretch your dollar and make the most of your Disneyland/Southern California vacation funds:

THE TICKETS: By far the best discounts go to Southern California residents! Your only chance to get these deals is to find a friend who lives in sunny California, have them buy your tickets and get you in (ticket scanners will ask for proof of residency before admittance). Don't be fooled into buying half-used tickets online from “So. Cal. Residents” or even “renting” someone's yearly pass; proof of identification will be required. So what's the best deal on tickets? CityPass tickets offered by stores like Costco are a great way to save money if you have a week to spend. They include a three-day Disneyland Park Hopper Pass, one-day Sea World, oneay Universal Studios, and one-day SanDiego Zoo/Wild Animal Park ticket for use within a 14-day window. (Our hotel room neighbors visiting from Canada gave us the last two days of their four CityPass Tickets for FREE, so we added the San Diego Zoo and Universal Studios to our vacation - yes I am a deal magnet!)

If you don't have that much time, consider a 2-3 day park hopper pass or discounts available from Web sites such as, wholesale warehouse club stores, or even AAA or AARP. Universal Studios and SeaWorld are also currently running “Buy a one day ticket and get the whole year FREE” promotions. And don't forget, you can still get into Disneyland for FREE on your 2009 birthday and in 2010 you can get a FREE day at Disneyland by giving a day of volunteer service to approved organizations. Adults will also be able to get admission at kid rates in 2010!

THE FOOD: When you discover a small apple costs $1.59 and a single bottle of water costs $3 you know you'll need to bring some of your own food into the park! My tips and picks? If you choose to eat inside Disneyland, eat lunch not dinner, as lunch is less expensive. Also, many hotels that offer a free continental breakfast also include PB&J sandwich fixings, fruits and snacks. Use these to your advantage for a packed-in meal or bring grocery supplies from home (including sandwich baggies) for a do-it-yourself lunch or dinner on the run.

I pride myself on NOT buying snacks inside the park, but rather satisfying my children with fun items like multi-colored mini marshmallows portioned out in sandwich baggies (a BIG hit), Disney Fruit Snacks, Ring Pops, Cuties clementines, bottled water (refilled for free inside the park) with flavored drink mix sticks and even Mickey Mouse All Natural Fruit Crisps, the identical kind sold in the park, but pre-purchased at Wal-Mart for a fraction of the in-park cost. Use your in-room mini fridge, if available, to add to your snack selections (you can even use an in-room coffee maker to “cook” instant oatmeal packets or soups requiring hot water for a super cheap meal alternative). Backpacking in your own food is kosher (no large coolers allowed) and definitely a great way to save time and money! Online printable in-park and outside restaurant coupons are also available from

THE SOUVENIRS: You thought food was expensive and now comes the souvenirs! But wait! I've found a great way to have fun and save money on park purchases. The best Disney Souvenir treat deal for your money is the Mickey 5ct sucker packs ($4.95). At $1 each, these super thick suckers shaped like Mickey's head will delight your children and not break the bank. And my No. 1 family souvenir pick is collectable Disney pins. If you haven't started pin collecting and trading you should, my kids (and I) love it! Use lanyards, vests, hats etc., to display a variety of pins available around the park, then, trade them with other visitors or ANY Disney employee! The best buys are the pin trading packs, which work out to be about $4-$5 per pin. These aren't always the most collectable pins, but trading up is the objective (and Disney employees will trade for better pins). Watch your food receipts in California Adventure for 20 percent off souvenir purchase coupons printed on your receipt to save even more money on these great buys!

And here's one last secret: You know those overpriced $20 souvenir ride photos of you and your kids? Check outside the Buzz Light Year ride to email yourself a perfect ride photo for FREE - just make sure you score well or your lack-luster performance will be immortalized Disney style!

THE RIDES: You can't really save money on the rides, but you can save time, and time is money right! Utilize Fast Pass and Stroller Pass options to save on wait time. These passes allow riders to bypass slower lines by coming back at pre-selected time intervals or switching two riders at ride exits to allow families with young children to all enjoy the rides. And don't forget to join in the free hunt for Mickey while waiting in line. Park artists have hidden Mickey Mouse heads (full or profile) on rides, buildings or even in the landscaping. You get more points for finding harder-to-locate Mickeys. There are Mickey Hunt Club Clue Books available for purchase, but you don't have to buy one to be included in the free fun!

THE MEMORIES: Some things are priceless, like my memories of yearly childhood visits to Disneyland! Fun, family and freedom from life's worry- it's worth the cost! Remember, Disneyland vacations don't have to last a week or break the bank. One day and a little planning can bring enough happiness and smiles to last the year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Savvy How To: Disneyland Savings (Part 1)

A Savvy Christmas!

Savvy How To:
Disneyland on a Dime

Um? NO! Before I start, I'd better forewarn you that while it's definitely possible to save money at Disneyland, it will never be cheap to visit this magical land of mouse and men! Take it from an 11-year So. Cal. resident who's been to Disneyland more times than I can count: If there's a discount I'm on top of it, but it still costs a pretty penny to visit.

However, the sheer happiness of being inside those park gates (I actually wiped a tear from my eye as I passed through the turnstile), and the sudden rush of adrenaline as you scurry though the rides with childlike wonderment is priceless in my book! And, as my mother often says - sometimes you just have to throw a little money at it!

If you're planning a Southern California adventure, here is a condensed list of my favorite ways to stretch your dollar:

THE MONTH: Southern California residents and I know a secret you don't. Honestly, it worries me a little to tell you all, but here it is: December is the absolute BEST time to go to Disneyland. In fact, the first three weeks after Thanksgiving equals Mickey Mouse Gold Standard Time. Statistically speaking, these three weeks have the recorded lowest numbers of visitors of the entire year. And, the best day of the week for the lowest visitors? Tuesday followed by Wednesday. What are you waiting for? Stop reading this and run out the door right now, I say!

My visit Dec. 1-2 (a Tues. and Wed.) landed my family and I literally first in line for multiple rides with no wait time, and at the most a 5-10 minute wait for any other ride in the park.
(It's snowing mom!)
And don't forget the weather. The temperature in California this time of year is not too hot and not too cold. And the entire park was enrobed in Christmas decor (there is even fake snow at night!)

Now, you ask, if some people already know this secret, why isn't it as busy as any other time of year? It's simply difficult for most people to take a vacation during these three weeks. I pre-scheduled the vacation time, and we took a page from our sister-in-law and told the kids this trip was their main Christmas present, to which they all replied, “YAY!!!!!”

THE CAR: First and foremost, take the smallest vehicle with the best gas mileage possible. Choosing a smaller vehicle also ensures you'll pack lighter and have less to lug around. If you forget something, there is a Target about three blocks from Disneyland (and you know how much I love Target!). Next, use your GPS or borrow a neighbor's like we did to map out your trip for the shortest route possible and use a Web site like to determine the cheapest filling stations to fuel up.

Pack lots of snacks and bottled drinks to reduce stop time and convenience store purchases where extras cost twice as much as a local grocer. Don't forget to include boredom prevention devices like portable DVD players (with plug-in chargers), coloring books and crayons, books on CD and handheld games.

THE HOTEL: Finding the perfect hotel isn't always easy. There are several Web sites that will try to do the work for you like, which bundles multi-day park tickets and hotels together at great savings, but there are still several questions you should ask before you book your room.

Most hotels charge additional fees for parking and Disneyland shuttles, so make sure to ask if these amenities are included and figure these costs into your final decisions. They also advertise the walking distance to Disney's Main Gate. You need to realize that each block is an additional 7-10 minutes walking time.

And these features are a must: FREE Continental breakfast/breakfast buffet and a mini fridge for extra food storage. Consider how much it will save you in breakfast costs alone to feed your entire family! Our hotel, The Candy Cane Inn, was fabulous! It's 100 percent nonsmoking (smoke gives the hubby migraines), 250 yards from the Main Gate, super family friendly with all the amenities, pillow-top Serta mattresses, plus a coin-op laundry room (pack your own soap and dryer sheets) and the only hotel with a FREE shuttle!

Though the rooms were a little smaller, when I factored in all the extras, the price was a deal in my book at a cost identical to surrounding hotels. And when I checked out, they gave me a certificate for $10 off per night the next time I book with them.

Also, if you are considering stopping halfway in Mesquite or Las Vegas, you should know all hotels in these areas charge an additional Hotel Use Fee which ranges from 12-60 percent of the actual room costs. A hotel may advertise $29 rooms, but the additional $14 Room Tax puts you well over $45 when all is said and done. Ask up front about any fees.

For more information on how to make the most of your money on your next Disneyland vacation, watch next week for Part 2 of Disneyland on a Dime.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pantry Potpourri: Blue Dawn

Pantry Potpourri:

The Powerful Savings of Blue Ultra Dawn

One of my favorite, tried and true, pantry must-have products is blue Dawn. Blue Dawn you say? Yes, there are remarkable powers found lurking inside each plastic bottle of this original scented wonder detergent beyond simply cleaning dishes. You may likely have some of this magical dish cleanser in your pantry as we speak. If so, pull it out, dust it off and love it like I do!

Here are just a few things Blue Dawn can do:

1. Eliminates Clothing Oil/Grease Stains: Does your favorite shirt or apron have an old, set-in grease or oil stain that just won't come out? Don't throw it out and spend more money buying new clothes - try blue Dawn! Simply squirt a little blue Dawn on the stain, scrub lightly with a soft toothbrush or fingernail and let set for up to 12 hours and launder. Repeat if necessary, but do not dry until the stain has been fully removed. You may want to test a small, unseen area first on sensitive fabrics to prevent staining. I have tried this many times and found it to work amazingly well for removing a variety of "hopeless" stains!

2. Cleans Carpets: Red Kool-Aid on light colored carpet - impossible to remove you say? NAY!!! I have attempted this feat and been triumphant - no $200 carpet cleaning machine or service required! With this inexpensive trick I transformed my multi-colored carpet back to its' prime. Simply add 7 drops of blue Dawn liquid detergent to 2 cups of warm water. Wet the stained area with a tablespoon of the Dawn solution. Next, place a folded white cotton towel, dampened in the cleaning mixture, over the stain making sure the towel covers the entire surface area of the iron. Set your iron to a medium setting and place on top of the damp towel for approximately 2 minutes (If your iron shuts off after 30 seconds you will have to lift it upright an reapply the iron). The stain will transfer to the white towel! Refold the towel to a clean area each time you reapply the iron. You will have to do this several times to remove all the stain. When the stain transfer stops rinse the entire area and blot out all remaining liquid. Do not leave the iron unattended! Test in a small, unseen area for specialty carpets or for stain concerns.

3. Wonder Bubbles: If you want to make the worlds most amazing bubbles, look no further than the kitchen sink. I have made some truly gigantic bubbles using this simple solution! It will leave your children in amazement!

Here's my favorite bubble recipe from "The Unbelievable Bubble Book", by John Cassidy.

1 clean container
1 cup blue Ultra Dawn
12 cups Water
3-4 tablespoons Glycerine (Found near the pharmacy)

Combine water and blue ultra Dawn. Add glycerine (It makes the bubble stronger by reducing evaporation). Stir, but don't make a "froth" on top as it breaks the bubble solution. Let the solution sit overnight. Additional bubble wands are available at hobby and retail stores for super large-Guinness Record size bubble blowing if desired or make your own with make-your-own bubble wand instructions available online.
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