My life remains an open book…

                                                                    Image My desire to want to be a writer came early. I was about five or six years old when I knew my future destiny. I was immediately drawn to books and stories after many visits to the library. Every time my mother or teachers would take me to the library my imagination was ignited and my spirit felt free when I touched the pages and climbed into other realms inside them. I was alive for reading and felt that I could create stories just as those writers had done for me! I began to feel one with a paper and pen. More than thirty years later, I feel the exact same euphoria when I read, write, or create imagery in my mind fit to be published or shared. I am a creative creature by nature. Singing, dancing, scrapbooking, clipping coupons and being FrugalMama extraordinaire is a real part of who I am and I love it!  I’ve recently fell back in love with an old friend of mine. (My book ). My book “College Life” was originally written by me, by hand in 1989. I was in the 9th grade on my way to high school. I am a Facebooker, with over 500 friends, many of them former classmates of mine from middle school onto college. Many of those folks were people who were privy to reading my book way back then and have to my delight loved it. Those friends, or classmates were highly engulfed in my story,partially because it was based loosely on my life . They could also identify with the characters! They were  young, hip , and everything “teen” at that time. I have always appreciated the praise that came with that book being passed around. That heightened my confidence and has boosted my love for the written word ever since! 

                                                           We were using typewriters back then, my mom bought me a Brother name brand one and I thought this is it! I will be a writer, or journalist of some sort. I was never big on technology , even later with computers and still prefer writing free hand. I feel that my thoughts come out more fluidly, and  more in synch with each page. My deepest passion is to be published someday! I want Image my work in a major magazine, blog, and to have a book published. I love to write and I know I have a lot to learn about the craft, however I feel that everyone deserves to live the dreams that they have held since childhood. Don’t get me wrong I am loving being a mom, and blogging, and learning new techniques every single day but having a book published will be a huge accomplishment! I have had articles, and reviews published in my college newspaper, and newsmagazines and am still gaining momentum on having other pieces published . I am practicing my craft right now with you lovely folks, its just a matter of time where all things unfold. I unfold my feelings in my stories. In my book “College Life” which I revised in 1991 unleashed many emotions that I was personally feeling at the time. The main female character had a crush on former- University of Michigan player Sean Higgins. He was my real life “crush” at that time, which I ended up meeting in real life in my early 20’s. He actually asked me out in “real” life, so there! You never know how true those words on paper can mirror actual life! I deeply believe in the power of words and in my passion and have not let go of it! I recently posted a photo of my binder which held the contents of  the 182 paged “College Life” novel that I wrote and I had over 15 comments, many questioning “Are you going to re-write it?, or publish it?”, and many comments on how they “remembered it, or loved it!”. I am extremely proud and flattered as I was back in 1991. Who knows what will happen with it ? I don’t, but I do know that my life , meaning (my words) in prose are still an open book. As my book remains to be in the Creator’s hands and publishing awaits I still hone my craft and keep being that same curious little girl who fell in love with story books. In the words of “Terry Brooks”, “This is for writer’s yet to be published who think the uphill climb will never end, keep believing. This is also for published writer’s grown jaded by the process, remember how lucky you are.”   Indeed.  Until next time, Smooches ~

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Coupon Cop-Outs?

We all know that those coupon shows like “Extreme Couponing”, and Extreme Cheapskates, don’t film in places like California. Typically, California is not a well known state for the doubling of coupons as they do on those shows in Midwest states that they feature. Midwestern states and down South states tend to reap the “real” deals and contain stock piles worth thousands! Californians are savers, there are some very thrifty folks in this state , such as myself the EastBay Frugal Mama, however our part of the U.S does not get to use coupons the way some people do in other parts of the country. There is not enough store competition like on the East Coast and in the South. We have chains like Safeway, Albertson’s  (Lucky), FoodsCo,Ralph’s  and Food Maxx, which does not max out to many stores in all of California. Many of our consumers, quite as kept have began grocery shopping in discount stores that aren’t even coupon takers such as, 99cent only store, BigLots, and the Dollar Tree chain. Although Kmart in Clovis, California does accept up to five coupons per purchase of $25 and up, many stores in the Golden State do not accept more than one coupon per item in a single transaction. Kroger stores who owns Ralph’s in Southern California did away with doubling in 2012! I’m surprised they even did it up to then. You get the rare places. I have even been surprised of going into a store such as Safeway and having a store coupon for an item and a manufacturer’s coupon and both of them working simultaneously! Wow, is that a double miracle! Ooh wee, East Bay Frugal Mama feels like a gazillion bucks when that happens! Savings Euphoria!!! It’s best to cross your fingers and just see if it happens… Safeway does , and not by surprise has an extensive rule list of 29 items on their Coupon Acceptance Policy. I was a little taken aback by it , however not intimidated. I will still fiercely shop there with coupons always in tow. The Extreme Coupon show drama that I learned of was what through me for a loop or two! I was unaware of the “CONTROVERSY.” I watched the show when I could mentally taking notes, while always silently wishing that I could live in Ohio, just to shop for my family’s groceries.. The show actually bent rules while camera’s rolled! Stores with policies on “NON” Doubling of coupons merely would do it exclusively for the “show.” Shopper’s were allowed to actually use coupons for items they (did not) actually “buy” and they made exceptions if there was a church on an episode ,letting rules go out the window because they were doing a good deed for needy people! So in “good faith”, the producer’s were lying to us because it made for good “T.V.” Ooooookaaaaay, very interesting. This certainly changes the way I look at reality t.V, and the grocery industry as a whole. Well EastBay Frugal Mama knows who to really trust! My own cheap , trusty instincts , and all else will fall in to place accordingly. Happy Savings Sweeties, Until Next time! 

 

*Smoooches!

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You can’t use a coupon on Divorce

You can't use a coupon on Divorce DIVORCE , the word that sounds like a curse word every time you hear it. Even if the act was amicable, even if it was done for the betterment of both parties involved, it is still a very painful word and a very hard situation to go through. Having gone through it myself I can proclaim that it certainly made me a stronger woman and mother. Divorce can also be an expensive journey lasting months and sometimes even years. Mine fortunately was over and done in six months but the scars last forever. I was married for seven years and divorced before our son was eight years old. He still harbors resentment, and the longing of not having his father under the same roof with him is still very real. I was fortunate that as a union member we get free legal aid. As the Eastbay Frugal Mama I wanted to go the cheapest route to get out of my marriage. I utilized my legal aid benefits and got an attorney and my divorce granted for practically “free”. I didn’t use a coupon but I was  thankful to have the luxury of using the benefits that I had been paying into for five years! It doesn’t matter if your divorce was free, cost $199 on Legalzoom.com, or cost several thousand dollars with a lawyer, it is a trying, hurtful time and for me has resulted me into using coupons.

I was always pretty thrifty before and during my marriage, however since pinching pennies has gained a new meaning. I had an ex who wasn’t gainfully employed at the time of our demise and to this day I have yet to receive a dime of child support. Granted my son’s father has chipped in and bought him new clothes, shoes , and has paid for extra -curricular activities, but nothing is more valuable than quality time and attention. This is one thing that neither my son , or I signed up for I expected not only for my ex to provide monthly financial support of some sort, as well as his time and love to my child. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and this normal activity does not occur for us. That being said, Frugal Mama has been in full effect saving dollars and cents on my son’s clothes, shoes, video games, (used from Game Stop) and everything else including sports and tutoring. I just signed him up for tutoring through Huntington Learning Center on Groupon.com. You get an assessment and ten tutoring sessions with a certified teacher for only $99!

It has all helped us tremendously! Cutting corners allows my son to get the fun things and designer clothes that he needs or (wants)and be able to thrive academically! I’m sure my ex husband would do better if he knew better and realistically , that is something I try my best not to be concerned with. I have moved on and have a man in my life that treats my son like his very own. Even with the financial help and quality parenting my boyfriend gives my child, divorce is always an unforgettable event that is life changing for all parties all involved. You just have to navigate through all the bumps in the road,give as much time and attention to your children and reassure them that it’s not their fault, and you certainly can’t scan a coupon on that.

Smooches ! and frugality folks…

A FAMILY VACATION FULL OF FRUGAL FANTASY

D ISNEYLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!                                                                                                                                                      Image                                 

When planning a family vacation, finances are typically the biggest factor when coming up with an idea of going somewhere with your clan. Do we have enough money to take a vacation this year? How much will it cost? Will we have to take out a second mortgage or sell our souls to be able to do it? What kind of corners can we cut to make it happen for our kids? Awe, the questions, the questions…It happens to the best of us, even myself, the Frugal mama had those questions and many more, but low and behold it can be done! I’m going to tell you how. The magic word is “planning.” As with anything in life, planning ahead makes things a little better, relaxed, and smoother (most of the time) and also gives you more leverage in case any changes have to be made before you go. 

Money is surely a dominant issue when planning any getaway. Just breathe deeply and take the plunge, it’s not so bad. I have two children and our trip was a Disneyland one for my daughter’s birthday who just turned five. The first thing I tackled was the transportation. My boyfriend and I decided that we would fly there because we both do not like driving long distances. It is also much easier to jump on an hour flight (from the Bay Area to LAX) and rent a car saving time and energy for your trip. You will be driving in the city when you arrive there, so save your energy! You will definitely need it for Disneyland! The cheapest airline search engine that we found is Onetravel.com where we found four seats on United Airlines for under $500! It was a late flight out and a really empty plane. We chatted with the friendly flight attendant, mentioning our daughter’s birthday trip and she gave us a bunch of snack goodies that we added to our stash for the 5 days that we were staying in Southern California.

The actual Disneyland park tickets were the only thing on this entire trip that hurt our pockets. Each one cost $210 for two-day park hoppers, with the exception of our daughter’s , the birthday girl’s was $197. We were lucky to stay at a Hyatt hotel where my boyfriend and I work and purchased the tickets at the desk there. We learned that Disney does not give discounts, however I did learn a tip standing near the gates. If you are with smaller kids and just want to give them an experience there for a day, you can walk up at the ticket counter and purchase a one park ticket for kids 3 to 9 years old for $86 and they can see just about everything, but you have to choose between Disneyland, or touring California Adventure. Older kids and adults are $92. It’s a toss up, both of them are magical, but California Adventure seemed to have better rides for the smaller kiddos. My son is twelve and not very tall and could pass for 9, I almost wish we would have bought his ticket at the gate for $86 each day for a savings of $38! Yes, I’m really, really frugal guys.

Your trip can be as amazing and as frugal as ours was, you will come back with more money in your pockets and your kids will think you are the greatest parents on planet Earth! For hotel deals try sites like hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity or Google hotels in the Disneyland area and check for specials. I did spot a Travelodge and a Marriott Residence Inn which  usually have fair prices. You will not be in the room that much anyhow. Residence Inns have tiny kitchens inside where you can cook your own meals and save on restaurant dining. Food can be expensive! Packing snacks ahead of time saves you a ton of money! Go to the Dollar stores and stock up on healthy items that wont have your kids to amped up to where they will crash shortly thereafter and act cranky during the trip. I packed things like, peanuts and almonds, dried apricots, granola bars,corn nuts and little juice boxes and coconut water which I mostly drank. You can take all of these items in Disneyland along with bottled water. Everything in the park is highway robbery unless you share a meal, and only eat once. The best thing is getting full at your hotel before you get in the park. My son was the only one who got hungry toward the end of the evening and he was happy with his $11 chili dog which came with chips and a drink.

It helped a lot bringing that backpack full of snacks!

We also carried it throughout the entire trip because frugal mama was not stopping at any fast food restaurants. This also allows you to enjoy more because you are exploring instead of stopping constantly and eating. When we were really hungry it would be meal times such as lunch and dinner in which time we cold splurge and sit down comfortably as a family. Another great tip is to pre buy the souvenirs and pack them so that you save yourself from spending a mint inside the stores in Disneyland. I went to the Dollar stores and bought my daughter those glow lights for the night time, princess necklaces and a tiara (all Disney merchandise) , for a fraction of the cost! I also went to Ross and found her a Minnie mouse tee shirt that she wore on her birthday for only $3.99!

They have boys items too like Buzz Lightyear,Cars and all other Disney characters! Your kids wont bug you in Disneyland (as much) about buying those items and your pockets will thank you! It’s also a good idea if they already have the dress up clothes at home, to bring them and let them wear them in the park. I saw many little girls dressed up like the princesses, and boys dressed like the Goofy character as well as adults! Other fun, free things that we did while in Southern Cal were going to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and checking out the stars and Venice Beach for some free sand and people watching on the beach boardwalk! Santa Monica Pier is nearby too for unlimited carnival rides for about $22 each, half off on Groupon.com I hope these tips have helped you prepare for a fabulously frugal family vacation! Smooches*