Wednesday, October 30, 2019

My Tremendous Issues with Byron Katie's "The Work"

Byron Katie 2
Byron Katie, author of The Work

There's this thing called "The Work" written by a woman named Byron Katie that has gained traction in the world in general and more recently among my social circles, with people talking about how much they love the book, and others giving classes in it, trying to teach it to others.

The basis of her teachings is this epiphany she had:
"I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn't believe them, I didn't suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment."
She calls this process of her epiphany, "The Work".
"Katie's experience, as described in her book Loving What Is, is that all suffering is caused by believing our stressful thoughts. This, she says, puts people into painful positions that lead to suffering, as she recognized to be the case with herself. Through self-questioning, she describes how a different, less-known capacity of the mind can end this suffering."

As someone who talks about mental health and therapy a lot, you'd probably think that I'd be a big proponent of this. Why not promote something that increases your mental well being?

How To Take The Pressure Off Your Parenting

Parenting is stressful. There's absolutely no question about it. But while certain parts of parenting will definitely be difficult no matter what, there are some things that can be done to ease the burden a little bit. Here's some ideas from a reader.

Photo by Kelli McClintock

Bringing a child into this world is one of the greatest feelings – it’s probably the greatest, actually. Throughout our lives, we constantly look for meaning; we wonder why we’re actually here. Nobody actually knows, and there is no real meaning in life. One thing’s for certain, though, and that’s regarding how we need to keep the human race going. Welcoming a new arrival is probably the only true goal that we’re aware of; the rest is completely open to interpretation.

So, we’ve established that having kids is wonderful and makes us feel as though we’ve achieved something in life. That doesn’t exactly make the job any easier, though, does it? A lot of things in this life are hard work, and parenting is right up there with the most troublesome. Sure, it’s not like fighting a war or pulling something out of a burning building, but you’re constantly on edge, and you have to get things completely right. You’re responsible for a small human, so you’re never really allowed to switch off.

Parents do need that time away from the stress and strain of parenting, however – they can’t be expected to do this stuff all day every day for the next eighteen or so years. If you’re a parent and you feel as though you need a little break, then here are a few things you can do to grant yourself such a blessing:

Single Mom's Day Out

I feel incredibly blessed.

As a single mom, things are not easy. One of the hardest parts is feeling so isolated. There's the fact that you're doing everything alone, without a partner to take some of the mental burden off of you. You're the one in charge of everything, it all falls on you. No partner to tag team with.

But in addition to that difficulty, there's the aspect that even your good friends sometimes aren't enough. Because no matter how much they're there for you, they don't really know what its truly like to go through what you're going through, unless they're a single mom themselves. Its a challenge that can make it sometimes hard to relate to people, or hard to feel heard. Especially when you're living in a community that is really revolved around families and specifically the husband/wife structure.

Since separating, I find my social life changing, and the people I spend time with different. Because when you're struggling, you want someone to know what it's like.

About a year ago, I saw an advertisement for a paint party night for single moms in another city approximately 2 hours away by bus. I'd wanted to go to a paint night since they started becoming popular in my area, but they usually were out of my budget. However, this paint night was subsidized by an organization that helps single moms in that city, so not only was it very affordable, it also was with a bunch of other single moms. And when I went to it, I had such a blast, and came home thinking "Oh my gosh, I found my tribe."

Habits that New Families Should Acquire to Have Financial Freedom

Do you want to get your family on a better financial footing? This piece by Tim Anderson gives some food for thought on how to do that.

We all yearn for financial freedom and the peace of mind that it brings. It’s the comfort in knowing that no matter what tragedy is about to strike, or an unexpected payment emerges, we’ll be fine. When it comes to understanding finances, we are rarely prepared, so if you and your family are just getting into the habit of managing your funds, and do not wish to end up drowning in debt, here are a few foolproof steps that’ll have your family set to enter financial freedom.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Aliexpress Trick

If you use Facebook regularly like I do, you probably also regularly come across video advertisements for cool sounding products. Many times these are unique looking tools that do interesting and fun things, or are inventive in a variety of different ways. I'm probably not the only one whose been so intrigued by these products and their apparent usefulness that I ordered one, only to discover sometimes that the quality wasn't exactly what I thought it would be.

And then I learned something. Not just about deceptive advertising, but there's that too.

Did you know that most of these video ads are really just re selling Aliexpress products? Yes, they are resellers, selling the same exact product as is on Aliexpress, but often at twice or three times the price, if not more.

4 Tips to Build or Rebuild Your Poor Credit Score

Do you have bad credit? It can be really problematic. Here's some tips from reader Joe on how to improve your credit score.

Your credit score as either an individual or a business can make a big difference in your life, as it will decide if you are or aren't able to apply for credit cards, loans, or purchases on finance. If you're not able to access these types of credit, it can be challenging to make important purchases such as cars, furniture, or even get a mortgage for a house. Some clear steps can be taken to improve your credit score, but it can also be ruined if you make some poor financial decisions. One of the most common ways that people get a black dot against their credit rating is by overusing and missing out on credit card payments. If you miss several payments or even default on a loan or credit card, it will become very difficult or almost impossible to get further credit in the future as you're seen as a risky person to lend to. If this happens to you for any reason, there are several key steps to take to increase your credit rating again.

We Got a Trampoline!

My 5.5 year old daughter Rose is extremely delicious and cute, but also has lots of behavior issues (due in no small part to her autism). One of the things that is most difficult for me, though, is that because of her sensory issues, she's nearly always sensory seeking, looking for ways to get sensory input. And I'm usually the one who she uses for sensory input, in ways that I can find painful or very irritating and make it hard for me to parent her in ways that are beneficial to her. When it's not on me, it often involves thrill seeking and doing dangerous actions, and she's quite lucky she hasn't yet gotten hurt.

I was at a meeting at Rose's school, with her psychologist (I think it's awesome that her school has biweekly meetings with the parents to touch base and to help improve your child's care, both in and out of school) and I brought up her frequent misbehaving not to mention the constant meltdowns she was having. And the answer I got was as simple as it was helpful.

"Get her a trampoline."

The Reasons Pregnant Women May Cry

Pregnancy is already a few years behind me, but boy do I remember how hormonal and emotional I got then. Here's something from Jane about amusing reasons for crying during pregnancy.

You have heard many stories of pregnant women watching random television shows and they start bawling for no reason. And you have heard of other strange reasons that pregnant women cry. However, there is a reason that a pregnant woman who finds out she is having a boy, and imagines dressing him in one of the baby clothes online that she purchased, then starts to cry. Why?

Friday, October 25, 2019

About the Sponsored Posts On This Blog

I wanted to have a word with you about the sponsored posts on this blog.

First of all, I wanted to say that I started this blog in 2010 because I saw another frugal blog who was making decent money from her blog, and I hoped I'd be able to do the same. We were in a position where we were really struggling so much, to the extent that I really couldn't even afford the $10 for the domain name, but I spent it anyhow hoping, somehow, that it would help change our financial situation.

For the past 10 years, I've been working really hard to keep this blog running. I've had nights where I stayed up till 4 am writing blog posts. I've had periods of time where I wrote one or two blog posts every single day.
My goal? To not let down you readers. To share information with you that will hopefully allow you to live better lives, to help you improve your finances, be better parents, feed your family delicious meals, and hopefully to inspire you as well.

And for all this, I ask for nothing in return. Some people told me that I should work as a coach in this, working one on one with people to try to help them better their lives, but I really feel tremendously guilty taking money  from people who are struggling.
So instead, the way I make money from my blog, to make it worth it for me to run this, is through sponsored posts and the occasional sidebar ad.
In my culture, we have a phrase that means "This one benefits, and the other doesn't lack anything." Meaning I benefit, the sponsors benefit, and you don't have to pay a cent.

How to Make a Good Deal of Hiring a Plumbing and Electrical Service

I'm definitely a DIY gal, trying to fix my own things around the house whenever possible, but sometimes things are beyond my level of expertise, so I hire a professional. Here's some great times from Jim Brown, filled with ideas I hadn't thought of before, but are definitely useful ways to save money when hiring professional handymen.

When it comes to your home's plumbing and electrical work, you need the assistance and guidance of a professional plumber and electrician that can aid you in fixing things and installing certain items in your home. Finding the perfect people for the job can be a little tough, but with the right mindset and plan, you can start hiring the right people for very good deals, too. So, in this article, we will take a look at some of the things you need to consider in situations like these.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

5 things you didn't know about CBD oil health benefits

What was once considered a bad choice and a dangerous drug is fortunately gaining acceptance worldwide, even in mainstream circles. Cannabis is no longer seen as an illicit or radical substance as countries around the world continue to embrace the plant in light of the steady stream of scientific research into the medicinal benefits of cannabis. This article will be focusing on 5 things you didn't know about the health benefits of cannabis oil. Hopefully this will leave you better informed and help you with your family's health.

My Amazing Haul From the Clothes and Houseware Share

I've written before about the Clothes and Houseware Share, that is like a cross between a clothes/book swap and a second hand store. It's located in someone's storage unit attached to her home, and people drop off whatever they no longer want, but still in good condition. This is clothes, household goods, books, etc... and volunteers come and help sort out the things there into categories, making it easier to find things. You can come whenever works for you, as long as you arrange it ahead of time with the one who runs it, and take whatever you want. Everything is completely free. You don't have to bring something to be able to take, and you don't need to take something to be able to bring. Its a great way for people to declutter things they no longer want and for other people to be blessed with things that work for them. It is an amazing service run by a wonderful woman and I'm always so excited when I go there. I never come back empty handed.

One day recently when my kids didn't have school and I didn't have work, I decided to pay a visit, and oh boy, did we strike it rich!

Oh, and the benefit of bringing my kids with me is I didn't take home anything they won't like, especially since they're relatively picky when it comes to clothes.

Here is what we got. And total cost, as I mentioned before, absolutely nothing, other than the transportation there and back.

This first picture is of a suit Ike found and loved. It fits him beautifully and he looks so dapper in it. He got everything from shirt to shoes to bow tie (that I can't find to photograph) and I love that he finally has some nice formal clothes he agrees are stylish enough for him to wear.

Monday, October 21, 2019

In Defense of Me Time

Once upon a time, I was "that mom".

You know, "that mom". The type of mom that you think you should be, but really, you're doing nobody any favors.

I did not have the best childhood in so many ways. I can't get into the reasons why here (among many reasons, I have a policy to not talk badly about anyone on my blog), but I decided that when I would become a parent, I would be the best possible parent. Be the perfect mom. Give my child everything that my kid needed. No matter what.

Do you know what happens when you try to do that?

Life happens. You realize how demanding and needy children are. And when you stubbornly insist that despite what you originally thought, parenting was much harder than you assumed it would be, you still give them everything and put yourself on the back burner. Come hell or high water, you will be the perfect parent. You can't do anything less.

And then, instead of just being a "normal" parent, you go to the opposite extreme, to try to compensate for what you didn't get as a child. And if that means that you're a wrung out rag, who cares, because your kids come first.

Food Ideas for The Whole Family

I love that meme that goes around saying "What? I have to make dinner every night?" because it does end up getting difficult to think of how to feed your family night after night. Yes, takeout is an option, but it is pricey. Here's some great ideas from a reader on how to feel your family. 

Figuring out what to make for dinner every night can become a huge hassle if you run out of ideas. I mean, no one's that creative, right? And of course, if you make a big meal and expect it to last the week, the kids will definitely get bored with it.

So what's the alternative? We've done the hard work of coming up with fun cooking ideas for you! Here are some delicious options for meals that are even fun to make as a family!

Homemade Pizza

While the temptation may be strong to simply call up your local pizzeria and grab food to-go, making your pizza at home with your family will be healthier! We all know that a good, home-cooked meal always tastes better than its fast-food alternative. You'll only need a few extra materials to make it happen.

You can get the low-down on what the best pizza cooking materials are at While this meal may take a little longer to prep for, making a pizza together can turn cooking into a family event!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

This is by far the easiest, and most rewarding meal there is. There is nothing more satisfying than putting all the ingredients in a pot and going on about your day, knowing that the food will be ready when you get home! This meal takes minimal preparation (20 minutes or less), and can fead several people at once, depending on how big your roast is! Simply toss in some beef broth, carrots, potatoes, other veggies of your choosing, and of course, the roast, and your perfect meal will be ready in 6-8 hours.

This takes away all the guesswork of what to cook, as you can just prep it in the morning and be ready to eat that night!

Ground Beef or Turkey Tortilla

This is also a super quick and easy meal to prepare. Basically all you need is the meat and seasoning! This entire meal can be prepared in about 20 minutes. Simply cook the meat in a frying pan and add the seasoning, which should take about 5-10 minutes. After that, all you have to do is chop up your desired toppings, and wrap it all up in a soft or hard shell tortilla!

The hardest part about this meal is just making sure to have all the ingredients on hand before you start cooking. This meal is great for picky eaters, as they can pick what they want to go in their own taco!

Army Stew

If you're really in a pinch about what to cook for dinner one evening, sometimes it's best to just give it everything you've got. No, really! Army stew is basically taking most of what you have at your disposal and tossing it in with some broth. You can add chicken, rice, onions, carrots, etc. Simply cook them all together in a stew with some desired seasoning.

This is a hearty, comfort-food kind of meal, which is especially great for cold winter nights. Best of all, you can make it however you want it, with things you already have at home!

Bottom Line

Cooking can be a hassle, but coming up with ideas of what to make shouldn't have to be! As a busy caregiver, you have enough to worry about without having to come up with creative meal ideas. Take the guess-work out of the preparation, give yourself a break, and find some ideas online. Of course, you can always have some creative leeway and add your own brand of "spice" to any meal!

See my disclaimer.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Frugal Accomplishments

Homemade vegan mayo

It's been a while since I did one of these frugal accomplishment lists, but I find them fun, and I hope you do too! Additionally, I sometimes feel like I am failing at being frugal, but then when I look over my list I get reminded that I'm not doing such a bad job.

Recent Frugal Accomplishments

How To Get Over A Big Loss In Online Gambling

I used to be very against gambling, because I felt it was a waste of money. But then I learned more, and realized that it all depends on our perspective. No one should ever gamble for the purpose of "earning money". Money spent on gambling should be budgeted in advance, and then treated just as recreational/blow money. Here's some more tips on how to do it money smart.

Online gambling can be great fun when it is done properly. With its rise in popularity, it is easy to get sucked into an online casino and can be difficult to escape the excitement.

The winning is what draws players in, but the losses are much more devastating. Watching money deplete from your bank account is never easy.

There are a few methods that can make losing money while gambling online just a bit easier to deal with.

If you can’t seem to get over a big hit to your bankroll, consider these few steps to make the coping process easier.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Easy and Delicious Coffee Chicken Recipe- Gluten Free, Allergy Friendly

When I was in the US recently, I got reminded of how much I loved coffee on chicken, and specifically Trader Joe's coffee spice rub. Recently when I was making chicken I felt totally uninspired and was looking through my cupboards and trying to come up with something yummy to put on it. I saw the coffee granules that sit unused in my cupboard since I no longer drink coffee, and decided that I'd do a super easy and quick version inspired by the Trader Joe's coffee seasoning.

Then before posting this, I decided to see if I ever posted something like this before, and found out that I have a coffee chicken recipe that had ingredients in it that I don't have in the house at the time and I've also posted my own version of Trader Joe's spice rub before but both of those are just more complicated than I feel like doing now.

I've now made this type of chicken a few times now, and I don't measure, just throw things on. But for the sake of you readers, I'll put an approximation of how much I put on of each. It really doesn't matter how much of it though, just throw it all on.

Easy and Delicious Coffee Chicken Recipe

7 gift ideas for kindergarten teachers

Gifting is really hard. Not only is it often hard to figure out what a person may like, but gifting also can be pricey. This post by a reader is filled with some great gifting ideas.

Buying gifts is never an easy task, so when the end of the school year comes around and it’s time to buy for the kindergarten teacher, you won’t be alone in struggling to come up with ideas.

They may have taught your children for the last 12 months, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve built up a good enough relationship to know what gifts they’d love to receive.

The teacher/parent relationship can be an awkward one, especially when it’s gift-giving season and there’s bound to be a fair few questions going through your mind.

Will they like a box of chocolates? What if they’re allergic to nuts? What if they’re allergic to chocolate - or boxes? Is this even an appropriate gift - will they get the wrong idea? It’s a stressful time, I don’t know how anyone copes.

If that’s ringing a bell then don’t worry, fret or stress - we’ve got you covered with 7 of the very best gift ideas to suit even the strangest of kindergarten teachers.

Monday, October 14, 2019

My Thoughts on the Article: Why Budget Cooking Tips Are Useless For Low-Income Families

A friend of mine sent me a link to this article entitled "Why Budget Cooking Tips are Useless For Low Income Families" and asked me what I thought about it.

So, here it is.

And I know it probably will get people on both sides of the coin frustrated with me, but I'd like you to hear me out anyhow.

I've had arguments on Facebook with people about this article, because they say that the whole purpose of it is to talk about people in abject poverty, not just "very low income" families. And that as the last paragraph says:
'Ultimately, it’s important for us as a society to stop insisting that timely, efficient and budget-friendly cooking is possible if you just try a little bit harder, Bowen and Elliott said. It’s unfair and puts a lot of responsibility on people to overcome problems that are, at their core, systemic."
I don't disagree with the fact that issues with poverty are systemic, that people who say that if you just worked hard you can "pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get yourself out of poverty" are wrong, that there are so many factors working against people dealing with poverty, whether its disability, classism, racism, lack of opportunities, etc... and that many of the poorest people work freaking hard every single day of their lives and still are dirt poor. And that as a society, we have an obligation to fix things, instead of just telling people to "work harder".

But if the goal of the author of this article is to share that message, as some of my friends are claiming, the authors did a really poor job of it. Because they get someone like myself, who supports that cause, who agrees with them, to just shake her head at every single paragraph in this article, and say "I don't agree, you're wrong."

Now I will acknowledge my privilege here and say that as a white person, I've not dealt with racism that contributes to this issue. And I'm also fairly intelligent which is another privilege. I'm educated relatively well (ok, only one year of college under my belt, but I'm the type of person who pursues education even outside of school). And I have access to the internet and the support of a community, which further increases my privilege. I also live in a place with pretty decent public transportation, which is further privilege. My body works properly most of the time; I don't have much by way of physical disabilities. I'm quite a strong woman. And I've never been homeless, or had housing insecurity. I will acknowledge that I am blessed in these ways, and am more privileged than many.

But as someone who has been blogging about frugal living and extremely frugal living for the past ten years, I've definitely heard comments like this blog title. And I think there's some truth to it that some "frugal bloggers" are completely not living in the same world as many low income people. Like the idea that people just "buy fewer lattes" to save money, when most of the financially struggling people that never do that. Many "frugal living" tips are basically irrelevant and pointless for the "average poor person" because they're assuming people have much more disposable income than they do.

That is why when I started my blog, I wrote about extreme frugality. Frugality for the people who were really struggling, who were already not spending on extras, and still were having a rough time making it. Tips to lower your electric bill even more, not just how to manage without AC, but how to manage without a fan even in the summer, or how to do without heating or the barest minimum heating in the winter. Really, really, extremely frugal stuff. Because I know what it's like to be there.

Cute DIY Baby Clothes You Can Make At Home

If you love to sew, and love fashion, consider making your own homemade baby clothes. These can be pretty cheap to make, especially if you repurpose old clothing for them, and you're sure to have the cutest baby on the block. Here's some great ideas from a reader.

What is cuter and more loving than to sew your baby’s apparel yourself? With a little help from online sources, you can do anything yourself, including adopting a new hobby of sewing. All that you need to start designing and sewing your baby’s clothes are the most basic sewing skills, the desired clothes patterns, and a sewing machine. If you love to sew, and love fashion, consider making your own homemade baby clothes. These can be pretty cheap to make, especially if you repurpose old clothing for them, and you're sure to have the cutest baby on the block. Here's some great ideas from a reader. Also, you can visit Digitizing Made Easy and find more information.

You could be overwhelmed by the number of sewing machines you can find on the market. But no matter what your sewing level may be, the Tool Report compares different brands to help you find a suitable model and make the best purchase for your needs. Whether it’s a mechanical, electronic, or a computerized sewing machine, they are nowadays packed with different features, coming with various motor sizes and weights.

Here are some adorable DIY clothes you can make at home:

Navigating Cities with Public Transportations

Intercity bus, from Cleveland to NYC
I live somewhere with amazing public transportation. We have very cheap buses very frequently to the nearby city, and both seven minutes away and fifteen minutes away I can transfer to a variety of other buses that can get me pretty much to any part of my region that is on the bus route. I've written about how my family manages without a car. I've had people tell me that I am lucky, that I should count my blessings, that most areas aren't doable with public transportation, especially with a family. And that just from my experience, I can't actually extrapolate on how it is to live elsewhere without a car.

So on my recent trip to the US, New York and Cleveland, and then to London, I wanted to share my experience with public transportation, and also my thoughts on how it would be if I lived there and needed to navigate the area without a car. Would it be doable?

I want to add a caveat and say that I am literally just talking about these three cities (plus a few more). I am aware that there are places with absolutely no public transportation, and that what I say can't apply to all places. But I still wanted to share my experience and thoughts.

Parenthood: Choosing The Best Yet Affordable Homes Interior

I lived for a long time in a home I hated. Fortunately I now live in a home I love that I designed to suit my tastes, and now have a passion for helping people make their home beautiful in a way that meets their needs, without breaking the budget. Here's a post from a reader on how to do that for your home when you have a new child on the way.

We’ve all had dreams of creating the perfect living space for us to live in, happily ever after. Those dreams may share a common goal of convenience, but they differ when it comes to the type of design itself. Some would like to go all posh with luxurious and authentic designs, and some may feel the need to ride the wave of minimalism and contemporary style to the end. Whether you’d like to live in a coastal or an artsy house, being a parent can pretty much transform your dreams into a twisted version of their former shell. Not really, we’re just kidding.

Being a parent is one of the best things that can happen to you. You’ll have to prepare yourself for some clutter on the floor and a bit of extra fun chaos. This is why it’s quite important for you to prepare your home's interior to handle a child through their very first days to at least 8 or 9 years old. Choosing the best home interior doesn’t have to cost you an arm or a leg. It can still be affordable and very convenient.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Our Big Family Trip to Sofia, Bulgaria!

Cathedral Saint Alexander Nevsky (23997168458)

For as long as my kids could talk, pretty much, they wanted to fly on an airplane. But we had no money, and most our of family was local, so we never flew anywhere. For the first 7 years I lived in this country, I didn't fly anywhere, and when I finally did, it was on a work trip, my expenses paid by a sponsor.

Only in the last 2.5 years did I start traveling. I have this insatiable need to travel, to experience and explore the world. I thought all doors were closed to me, because I was short on cash, but I found out how to do so cheaply, and I started traveling.
First to Poland, then to Belgium. I had tickets to Cyprus and Germany, but those trips ended up being canceled. In the past few months, I've been to Greece, USA, and England.

My kids, though, were jealous of me. They wanted to travel. And though I wanted to travel, the expense to take 4 kids abroad and pay for accommodations was just too steep of a price.

Why Every Home Must Have A Home Security System

We all want to keep our family safe. But how do we do that? Here's some information from a reader on home security systems that you may want to consider.

It is daunting that in parallel to the progress of the digital world, how misdemeanor and crimes are perpetrated also leveled up with technology. While you are never fully in control of your safety outside your home, you can take proactive measures to secure your household. This is the reason why you should consider installing a home security system.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Getting My Drivers License... Again

I never learned how to drive in high school. I got my permit when I was 16, but right after that my family moved abroad to where I live now. I was here for a year, then moved back to the US. Once I reached the age of 18, I took my drivers' permit test, learned to drive, and got my license all within one week. The only thing I got wrong on my drivers' test was parallel parking. Then I lived in a place where I had no car, so my license just stayed in my wallet, unused.

I ended up moving back abroad and for my first year there, per international law, drove occasionally, when I had a chance to use a car. (Mostly my mother's.) I practiced for a year, but then after that year, never drove again.

I wanted to transfer my license to a local one, but to do so at the time required at least a few lessons and then taking the local test, which, altogether, cost a decent bit of money, especially since most people fail the test on the first time since the test is very, very difficult.

Saving Money On Mandatory Parties

I love throwing parties, but I know how pricey they can be. Sometimes, though, even if you're really short on cash, you can't put off making a celebration (certain religious rites, for example, require celebrations) and when that has happened, I've self catered and done it on a really tiny budget. My friend Allen Brown is back with some more ideas, this time on how to keep down the costs of a party.

Everybody loves a good party. No matter who you are or what you do, celebrating is an essential part of life. It’s one of the few things that every culture in every country has. Now, there are some events that don’t really need much celebration. You know, things that happen often enough to acknowledge but not necessarily go all out for. Birthdays, for example, can just be a quiet dinner with someone special. But there are events that absolutely require festivities. Golden anniversaries, Bat Mitzvahs, graduations--these all call for some music and fun friends. But hosting can be a bit costly. If you go all out, you can be looking at a four-figure bill and a lot of cleaning up to do. Fortunately, there are options to save while still hosting a great party. All you have to do is plan ahead, and look for savings anywhere you see them. Here’s how you can do it without making it seem obvious.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Lessons Learned On My Recent Trip to the US and London

Don't worry, I still have a few more posts I wanted to write about what I did on my trip to London, but I wanted to share some lessons I learned with you on my recent trip to the US (New York and Cleveland) and London. Some of these lessons are location specific, but mostly they're good lessons for anyone traveling.

I've broken down the tips into a few different categories, to make them easier to find.

Phones and Directions

  • Phone plans aren't necessary when traveling. I know, I know. This is a thing that many people will probably disagree with me on, but its something about which my opinion has evolved over time about this. Yes, this is also personal, and not everyone can do what I do, but I'm just pointing this out as something to consider.
    The first few times I traveled abroad I made sure to get cell phone service from my country before I left. I paid a lot one time and then ended up running out of minutes while there and my service got cut off. The second time I paid for more time and it worked out, and it ended up being even more expensive. The third time I decided to buy a sim card once I arrived, and managed without until I found one in a store. Then these last two times I traveled I was without any phone plan at all.
    Here's what I discovered. It can be annoying to not have a phone with you when you travel. But that's what people did in the past. You make arrangements with people when you are in a location where you have access to the internet. And there are so many of those places these days. Unless you're going somewhere really remote, many places have free wifi. I only stay in places that include wifi (after my first trip where I accidentally only realized later that there was no wifi) and make my daily plans and reservations using the wifi there. And then as needed catch up throughout the day when I find a wifi hub. Many places have wifi completely open, as long as you sign in with something through their listed website. And other places have wifi for paying customers. And many public transportation methods even have wifi available while traveling.
    I've gotten people telling me that they think I'm addicted to my phone. But you know what? I did totally fine without my phone when out and about on my last two week trip. You just need to prepare a little bit in advance and all is fine.
    As for emergencies, I do have call roaming on my regular sim card, which I don't use since its a fortune. But when needed, I can be reached this way. In fact, with caller ID I am able to see who calls me, and then if its something important, I either answer it (and pay a lot per minute) or message them back when I'm in an area with wifi.
  • Google Maps works without wifi. You can download google maps for specific locations to be usable even when you don't have internet. The problem with that, though, is you can't search for directions on the maps when offline, even with downloaded maps. For me, I found the trick around this was to search for directions when I had internet, and then click on the route you want to take, and then even without downloading the map, Google Maps will update me where I am along the route as I am going along it, even without an internet connection, as long as GPS is turned on. The only issue with this is you can only do it with one set of directions at a time that you can follow along with, only getting new directions once you have wifi. Other directions you'll need to write down in advance.

Transportation without a Car

  • Public transportation is totally doable, with caveats. So far on my trips I've traveled to Lublin, Poland, Warsaw, Poland, a small town in Poland outside Lublin, Brussels, Belgium, Brugges, Belgium, Craiova, Romania, Heraklion, Greece, Chania, Greece, Agia Roumeli, Greece, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, and London, England. And in all of them, it was possible to get around without a car, just using public transportation. I actually have a blog post coming up on this with more details, but I just wanted to share that I rented a car on none of my trips and relied on public transportation.
    The caveats are that some cities are better than others, and you need to research public transportation options before you go. Some places public transportation ends relatively early in the evening, or there aren't so many buses a day, so you need to time things right. But so far I haven't vacationed anywhere where you couldn't use public transportation to get around.
  • There's more than Greyhound. Growing up in the US, I knew about Greyhound as the bus option for traveling from one city to another. Then I learned more recently about Megabus. However, when I traveled to Cleveland, I saw that they weren't serviced by Megabus. I heard about something called the China Town bus, but wasn't able to find out any information about it online. was where I finally found the information about the China Town bus, which is actually called the Great Wall Bus, but their website just directs you back to That's actually the best website to compare different public transport options between cities in the US, I've found. And a European equivalent is But really the best option when searching for transport between cities is to use google; you'll usually get great results that way.
    Oh, and by the way, about the China Town buses? Ask the drivers before you get on where they're ending their route. Because this was changed on me, and the bus did not end at the address where it said on the ticket. Which can be greatly annoying if meeting someone or you have your directions prepared in advance.
  • AirTrain in NY. If you're taking the subway to the airport and transferring to AirTrain to either JFK or La Guardia, don't expect to pay a regular subway fare for this. Not only did you need to buy a special AirTrain Metrocard and not the regular one, this short ride cost $5. Be prepared.
Your Airline Ticket. Basically, Don't Assume
  • Check Your Ticket. Check Your Tickets!!! I nearly botched things up terribly this time, because I assumed that there were only two airports in London, and since I wasn't flying out of Luton airport, I assumed that meant Heathrow airport. Haha!!! Not! This happened to me on my second to last trip to the US, I ended up in one airport in Chicago, and my flight was at another, an hour drive, and I missed my flight. This time, fortunately, I realized with time to spare before my flight that my flight was from Standsted airport, which is a completely different location than Heathrow. And fortunately I was able to find public transportation there, which was completely different than the transportation I would have taken to Heathrow.
  • Check your emails! So this time, since I decided to pay for an extra suitcase that I didn't pay for when I booked my ticket from London to my home country, I assumed that I would be checking in at the airport. So when I got emails reminding me to check in, I didn't even bother opening them, even when I got multiple emails. Yea, don't do that! Finally, I got an email saying that I missed check in time for my flight, and then I read it. Then I had to pay extra at the airport to check in there. Even if you're adding a suitcase, that is a second fee. Don't assume you should check in at the airport even if things changed about your flight. And with some tickets, you need to check in online at least 12 hours before your flight, so don't wait with this.

England Specific Tips

  • You can use European electrical items without a converter. I only learned on the plane to England that England uses 240 electricity, unlike the American 110 or European 220. I knew I needed an adapter for plugs, but I had no idea if my items like computer or cell phone that were ok for 110/220 were also ok with British 240. They are ok. Just letting y'all know that. Only a plug adapter is needed, no electricity converter.
  • Things are pronounced weirdly. Don't expect things to make sense. Like Leicester is pronounced Lester. Tottenham is pronounced Tutnam. Simple fact, nothing makes sense about British pronunciation. I mean, you can pronounce things phonetically, and it will make everyone realize you're a tourist, which will probably be obvious anyhow because of your accent. But when they're giving you directions, ask them the spelling of the places they're directing you to, so you know you're referring to the same place.
  • Things close early in London. I was surprised at how early so many London attractions close. 6 pm! That's ridiculously early. Be prepared.
  • Book things in advance. I wanted to go to the London Sky Gardens and the free tickets were all booked in advance and there were none left. I showed up at a comedy club and was told you need to show up an hour and a half to two hours early for tickets, otherwise you won't be let in. If you want to go to places, find out from them in advance how early you need to get tickets, and don't assume that just showing up when something is supposed to start is enough. It isn't.
  • Tescos rocks! I'd heard lots about Tescos before I went to London, but I definitely love it. They have so many great things there for great prices, and they have reduced rack items too, which I definitely took advantage of. There were even Tescos open until really late at night, and some open 24 hours a day! They had some great gluten free items, some that I brought home with me since I haven't been able to find good local equivalents (like gluten free wraps).
  • Bring forks and spoons. I was so used to local shops giving disposable forks with items you buy like salads or yogurts, but Tesco and the other British shops I went do didn't provide those. So bring those along with you.
  • Don't bring knives. I had brought along a sharp knife with me to be able to cut a hunk of salami for my lunch, but it got confiscated when I went to museums, despite my being upfront with them about it, showing it to them, telling them what it was for. So just don't bring knives, ok? Cut anything needed in advance.
  • Brits don't talk on the tube. I have no idea why not, but apparently its a big cultural taboo to talk to people on the tube. I did and I met some really nice people, but you should know what these cultural norms are and decide if you want to break them or not.
  • England is awesomely multicultural. I knew England was multicultural, but I guess it didn't hit me until I was there that it felt even more multicultural than New York did to me. I constantly was hearing languages all around me that weren't English, even one of our tour guides of London wasn't a British national. It was really nice to see so many different types of people in one area. 
I'm always learning, and these were just the lessons I learned on my last trip, and I wanted to share them with you so that you can learn from my lessons instead of just learning things the hard way.

Have you ever been to London, or visited NY? What lessons did you learn there that you'd like to share? Do you agree with the points I made, or do you disagree with some, and if so, which? Have you ever made any of the same mistakes that I did?

How to Choose the Perfect Car Seat Without Spending a Fortune

Car seat safety is super important. But is there a way to make sure your child stays safe, and not spending a fortune? Blog reader dad Allen Brown has some helpful tips for you to keep your child secure without breaking the bank.

One of the first items your baby will use is the car seat you purchase for them, taking the first car trip from the hospital to home sweet home. So it’s important that you choose a seat based on some essential features that suit your budget, but more importantly features that keep your baby safe when in a vehicle.
If the car seat has the basic features of safety and convenience, there will be no need to get into extra features that add to their price and that you might never need. So, what are some of the things you should be looking for in a car seat when on a budget?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Geeking Out in London on a Budget!

Me with the Platform 9 3/4 sign... in Primark! 
I'm a geek. When I was younger I used to be embarrassed by it, but at this stage in my life, I wear my geek label with pride. Oh, and I'm a Hufflepuff. And a Whovian. And a firbolg druid multiclassing as a barbarian in our weekly Dungeons and Dragons Campaign. I find geeks to be my favorite types of people, and I'm glad that as an adult I've found my tribe with whom I can geek out.

One of the reasons I was so excited to visit London on my recent trip abroad was because of my geekiness! Two of my bigger fandoms are Doctor Who and Harry Potter, and both familiarized me with London. When I was doing research about what to do on my trip to London, when I saw things mentioning the Thames I already knew it was pronounced Tems, thanks to Doctor Who. I remembered the episode where the Thames was frozen over and there was a monster under the ice. On my night walking tour along the Thames, so many of the sights were familiar because I remember scenes of one of the Doctor's companions walking across the bridge while talking on the phone with the Doctor, but I'm not remembering who. Basically, as much as it was a new place to me, because of London based shows, it seemed very familiar and it was awesome.

So because of all this geekiness, I decided that some quintessentially London tourism that I'd do was something Harry Potter and something Doctor Who.

How is CBD oil used in the food industry?

CBD is all the rage lately. I'm always interested in learning more about it, so when I got this post on CBD in the food industry from a reader, I was very eager to share it with you. 

A very notable and worthwhile ingredient which is creating a buzz in the global market is CBD oil. It has a number of promising health benefits and CBD is also used to get relief from insomnia, nausea,  and other mental disorders. In spite of the efficiencies and the health benefits of CBD, its consumption is illegal in many countries.

A report was made by World Health Organization stating that CBD has no measure indicating abuse and there is no real evidence of harmful effects of using CBD in its purest form. In a few years, CBD oil supplements are becoming widely distributed globally. The majority of the segments are flooded with the products having Cannabidiol oil, hemp oil, CBD oil, hemp seed oil or CBD hemp oil.

So What's With Rose's Autism Diagnosis?

In November of last year I wrote about my daughter Rose getting diagnosed with autism at the age of 4 and a half, which was such a relief to me and gave me so many answers and direction. As I wrote beforehand, she was diagnosed with autism as part of a study comparing the differences between girls and boys with autism, by a specialist who is one of the top in the field in my country, which is why she was able to see that my daughter has autism, even though she doesn't present typically with it, the way boys generally present it.
With my son, Ike, once he was diagnosed by a private psychologist who specialized in autism, I just went to our local child development clinic and they confirmed the diagnosis, and with those two diagnoses, it became official in the system, and I was able to get him the services and help he's needed and has helped him really thrive, and to be able to get the cheapest electricity rates that families of kids with disabilities are able to get, plus some more monetary benefits, meant to assist parents of disabled kids to give them as much help as they can get.
So I thought it would be simple for Rose. Once she had the first diagnosis, and by an expert in the field, I thought it would be a cinch to get the child development clinic's doctors to confirm the diagnosis and then move on to the next step.
Only it wasn't nearly so simple. To say the least.

5 Ways to Make Money if You're a People Person

We all could do with more money, no? Here's some tips from reader Carol on how you can make more money on the side that work well if you like working with people.

Most of us could use some extra cash, and if you are an outgoing person there are numerous ways to boost your bank balance. Whether you are looking to make money around your current work, study, or family commitments, there is something to suit your lifestyle.

Here are five ways to make money if you're a people person:

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Quintessentially British Touring, Nearly For Free

I had such a whirlwind of a time in the US, taking care of one errand after another, traveling from one city to another and then back again, trying to see as many friends and family as I could, that I basically didn't have a moment to breathe. And other than my one Sunday where I did three amazing and frugal things, I didn't do touring. The purpose of my trip was to get errands done, and I did it amazingly. And that was good.

But that meant that on my next leg, the leg in London, that happened because I didn't realize when booking my ticket that I had an impossible stopover between airports and ended up booking another ticket home from London a few days later, I wanted to take it easy and make it truly be a vacation and not be rushing from place to place. For that reason, I didn't even make plans about what I'd do in London (other than sleeping arrangements at a friends) until I already got there. I wasn't too stressed about it, because I'd already heard from my friend Michelle how to tour London on a shoestring budget, so I knew it was definitely possible.

When I go to new places, I like to not only find enjoyable things to do on a budget, I like to also go to places that are unique to that location. I mean, you can go to a zoo or a water park or a mall or a park almost anywhere, so I wouldn't want to spend my limited time in a foreign place doing something I can do countless other places in the world. For that reason, when I saw this list of 51 free things to do in London, I went through the list and tried to pick out the things that were most unique to London, the most "quintessentially British" things there, and not just things that you could do anywhere else.

4 Extra-Curricular Activities You Should Engage Children In

Do your kids do after school extra curricular activities? Growing up with did so many of them that I felt I had no free time or down time. For my kids, I try to pick specific ones and have them do those (and fortunately a few of my kids get those through their school in their afternoon program). Here's some ideas from a reader about what types of extra curriculars may be good for your children.

Most schools do a good job of engaging kids in very entertaining ways. Children generally do not have a very commendable attention span, so there’s a very high chance that they lose concentration easily. This is one of the main reasons why a child’s study plan should be infused with a lot of things that could stimulate their memories and help them remember things long after school is over.
However, regardless of how much is done in school, parents and guardians really need to do a lot more to make sure that there are more than enough extra-curricular activities to engage them in. The child’s average school day most likely have academic activity, so when they’re back home, you can put academics to rest and engage them in other things. Extra-curricular activities can really help foster a child’s sense of belonging, cognitive skills and general teamwork. Here are a few extra-curricular activities you can try from time to time.