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So, before I get into some pretty long-winded thoughts, I’d like to give you a friendly reminder that there is currently a Happy Maps giveaway happening here on This Tiny Blue House. Feel free to enter for a chance to win your very own personalized Happy Map if you haven’t already! Good luck to everyone who has already entered!


Recently, Mer and I sat down to watch a Hemingway documentary on Netflix called Papa. Have you seen it? It really is an interesting window into Hemingway’s life so if you haven’t seen it I would recommend you watch it. Mer isn’t much of a reader and although he knew who Hemingway was he really didn’t know much about him so he was especially interested in watching.  When we got to the part about Hemingway’s 6-word novel (the famous: For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn) – Mer and I just looked at each other with a blank stare and understood perfectly well what the statement was insinuating.

Or, did we?

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What ensued was an interesting conversation about time, perspective and circumstance.

Clearly, we both assumed that there was a dead child involved. But, were our assumptions based on our own experiences of time, perspective and circumstance or is there some universal understanding that when a pair of unworn baby shoes are sold there is a deceased child involved?

When I was a kid my father would tell me that everyone had “cobwebs in their closet” and that “some were thicker” but ultimately everyone had them. I think the conversation started when I broke down crying after my parents separated. It was the late 80’s and by cultural standards at that time I was ashamed of my home life. He told me not to worry about it because everyone had dusty cobwebs hidden in the very back of their closet.

Okay, back to what I was getting at here.

It’s really quite amazing how our own experiences have shaped the way we perceive things around us. Before our losses, I doubt we would have made such a heartbreaking assumption about such a potentially simple statement. We likely may have arrived at it eventually but it would probably not have been our first conclusion. Years ago, my brain would likely have wandered to ideas that the child outgrew the shoes before getting the chance to wear them or perhaps the child had more than one pair rendering this pair unnecessary or that poverty was at the root of the decision to sell them. I doubt though that my brain would have instinctively led me down the path of dead babies.

But, now it does. And, it  highlights that perceptions are altered based on circumstances that are unique to each and every one of us. Our story really dictates how we perceive the world around us doesn’t it?

To the parents who have lost children, that 6 word-novel could mean that a child died. A miscarriage, a still birth, infant loss – the possibilities are endless.

While to some it could be an example of poverty.

To others it could be interpreted as necessity – selling a child’s baby shoes to feed a habit, to turn the lights back on, to buy food, to fuel the car to get to a job interview, to make some extra cash to purchase medication. The possibilities are truly endless.

I suppose then that our individual perceptions of what that statement truly means is fueled by who we are, where we come from and what our  lives look like both past and present.

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Interpreting blog posts functions quite the same way I think. When I write something it comes from my perspective – an anxious repeat loss mom who is acutely aware of what it means to be poor, move up the socioeconomic ladder only to find herself in heaps and heaps of consumer debt years later. But, to those who don’t have those same set of cobwebs, my opinions and beliefs could potentially be misinterpreted ya know?

Perhaps, when I make a blanket statement like “I’m jealous of other women’s pregnancies” it might make me appear to be vile, envious and shallow. But, to those know me, know my story, know my struggle- I might get a little leniency.

The reality behind that statement is that getting my baby here safely was horribly difficult.  Does my statement now become less terrible? Does the meaning somehow change? Does my own circumstance change the intention?

Blog posts, and writing in general is tricky. Often times I catch myself reading and re-reading my posts because I know what baggage comes with my writing but most of the time you the reader don’t. Clearly, there are certain aspects of my life that I’ve shared and if you’ve been reading for a little while you’ll know that I mean no harm by statements like the one above but to a new reader who doesn’t necessarily understand my history that statement might be interpreted completely differently.

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As I’m growing this here blog I’m realizing more and more how perspective and circumstance influence both what I read and what I write. I’ve read countless blog posts from women who are “over” their pregnancies. From their perspectives it’s an innocent claim that likely has no intention of piercing through a loss mom like me. From my perspective, that claim makes me cringe because well you know – some women would give absolutely anything – make a deal with the devil even to bring a healthy full-term baby into the world. Perspective and circumstance.

This applies to everything really. Discussions on minimalism, vegetarianism, veganism, politics, opinions, beliefs, religion on so on and so on.

Essentially, anytime we put something out there we are opting to have our words which are inspired and peppered by our own perspectives interpreted by people and their unique worldview right?

How much effect do you think perspective has on interpretation of blog posts and writing in general?

What are your thoughts and interpretation of  Hemingways 6 word-novel?

 

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I got treated to a coffee date with one of my dearest girlfriends Saturday. After speaking to her Friday and letting her in on my need for a break she asked me on a date so we could chat and catch up. Since our move last summer I haven’t really been able to see my friends on a regular basis – we’ve all got a ton going on and with this new distance between us it’s a little difficult to get together as much as before. So, this was an extra special treat. Naturally, the conversation came full circle and we ended up talking about our kiddos (break right?). I told her about my blog and how I write about how damn hard parenting is sometimes and she stopped me dead in my tracks by asking me what makes me an awesome parent.

Well shit, do you know that I really didn’t know how to answer her? I just looked at her dumbfounded and in that moment I realized that I don’t give myself enough credit for the parts of motherhood that I’m actually pretty good at.

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I don’t have it all figured out- nope, not even close but I am doing the absolute best I can. There are days that I consciously ignore my kids saggy diaper butt to avoid another diaper change meltdown. There are also days where she watches more T.V than is recommended and we don’t delve into book reading, creative activities or momtastic activities like foot painting or glitter gluing.

There are days that my brain, heart and body are just tired and you know what, I think that’s okay… sometimes.

There are bad days and there are good days and on those good days I’ll tickle my little girl until she laughs so hard she cries. Those days are the ones where I let her explore, make messes and let her just be her – in all her messy glory. Those days actually happen more often than they don’t. So, maybe I’m being a little too hard on myself.

After much thought and reflection this weekend I came up with a random list of reasons why I’m an awesome mum to Margs. I think “us” Mums/Dads are far too hard on ourselves and often fail to see and acknowledge what a good job we do most of the time. We are good enough – we just have to stop, take a deep breath and appreciate it more often, don’t we?

Let’s have at it, shall we?

/ I am an awesome Mum because I’ve created and maintain a safe physical and emotional space for Margs

/ I am an awesome Mum because I love Margs unconditionally and always put her first

/ I am an awesome Mum because (despite my type A personality) I’m allowing Margs to “fall” so she can teach herself to get right back up again (both figuratively and literally)

My friend reminded me to stop and pat myself on the back every now and again so now I’m going to do the same for you – some days we just need that extra shove to put it all in perspective.

Now, I absolutely, categorically insist that you share why YOU are an AWESOME parent too!

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Good morning! I hope you are all well!!!

I’m super excited to share that I’ve got a guest post being published over at Ditch The Stuff later today. Hailey kindly asked me to share some of my ideas about minimalism and family life and was generous enough to offer me space on her blog to discuss how we navigate minimalism as a family. So, if you’ve got a minute and want to have a read please feel free to head on over!

Thank you, thank you thank you for sharing kind words, experiences and advice with me last Tuesday when I opened up about our scary weekend with Margs and some anxiety I was dealing with after visiting our pediatrician. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your support.  I am so honored to have such wonderful people following my journey and taking the time to share their experiences with me. I am so incredibly blessed. In related news, Margs has successfully slept alone in her pack and play a few nights in a row. We’re doing a modified sleep training program and it seems to be working (fingers crossed).

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Have you fine folks noticed that there are now ads running on This Tiny Blue House?

Yup. I’ve decided to take a stab at monetizing my piece of internet real estate and I want to share some of the reasons I’ve decided to take TTBH in that direction today.

Quite honestly, I never imagined that I would have committed to blogging long term – I’m still not sure I can say that I’m 100% in for the long haul but for the time being I’m  having an amazing experience writing and interacting with you fine folks.

The idea of monetizing was actually the furthest thing from my mind. I didn’t really understand what monetization really meant (I’m still by no means an expert – at all) but knew that some bloggers out there make a little extra cash from their blogs. After an interesting conversation with Mer and receiving an email explaining some of the ins and outs of making a little extra dollars with your blog I decided that it was something I’d like to explore. (Who wouldn’t want a little extra dough right?)

 First things first, I want to get this off my chest

  • I do not anticipate making more than a couple of dollars on my blog
  • I do not plan to change how I interact with you fine folks
  • I do not plan to change my blog niche (minimalism, parenting, frugal living and simplicity is my thing)
  • I do not plan to peddle things that I do not 1000% believe in because of my own personal beliefs when it comes to relationships with “things”.

What does this mean for this space?

  • I’ll continue to write about topics that interest me. Namely, parenting, motherhood, pregnancy loss, minimalism and simple living. Having said that I might include an affiliate link within those posts from time to time to give you a heads up about products that I enjoy using on a day to day basis.
  • I’ll continue to write from the heart and be transparent with you.  If I’m ever offered an opportunity for post sponsorship (big gigantic if here) I’ll be 100% honest with you. If I’m doing a product review of an item that I feel might be useful in my life and it’s a dud – you bet I’m going to tell you all about why it sucked.
  • I’d like to discuss blog monetization openly and honestly with you guys. I might explore a monthly post highlighting any sources of revenue this blog generated in the previous month to open up a dialogue about how money is earned in the blog world. I’m viewing this as a little bit of an experiment because I’m not entirely convinced that earning money from your blog is as easy as it’s made out to be. I just don’t buy it.

Why I decided to jump in and monetize

  • Money: Clearly, if I can make a little bit of extra cash by writing I’d be silly to turn it down. At this point I’d be over the moon if TTBH could earn me enough to buy diapers for Margs once a month.
  • Curiosity: I did some research because I’m a geek that way and it seems there are just so many bloggers with monetized sites that I became curious as to whether running advertisements and affiliate links would generate any income at all. I’m really looking forward to sharing that information with you folks because it seems there’s a lot of secrecy when it comes to earning money from blogs- or how to earn it. It was very difficult to get any concrete numbers and precise details and you know how much I love numbers!

See you  back here Wednesday with some thoughts on how I’m officially not the fun parent in this house.

Is your blog monetized?  If so, what pushed your to pursue that avenue?

If not, is it something you’d consider exploring at some point?

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As a child, I spent nearly every weekend in the beautiful tiny city of St-Donat Quebec some 3 hours north east of my home. In the winter I learned to ski and snowmobile while in the summer I spent lazy days with my father on the lake learning to fish and admiring the peaceful beauty of the woods that surrounded us.

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Icy back road heading to the lake

With a population of just over 4 thousand most of which are seasonal residents, St-Donat has that small town feel where you’re guaranteed to see a familiar face when strolling through their small city center.

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St-Donat city Center with views of the mountain.

Early in our relationship Mer and I went up there on a drive date to pick up a pie. St-Donat has this tiny convenience store hidden behind thick brush off the auto-route that sells the most delicious blueberry pie I’ve ever eaten. It’s one of these places that you’d likely never stop to visit let alone believe could bake such decadent pies out of wild blueberries harvested from the surrounding area. As a child, we’d pick one up every Friday evening as we cruised up the winding auto route to our cottage and enjoy our special treat throughout our 2 day stay in the woods – this is probably one of my all time favorite childhood memories.

After my parents divorce, the cottage was sold and I didn’t get the pleasure to visit  again until that day Mer and I made our way up for pie.

I’d spent weeks speaking so highly of the area and was actually quite nervous that Mer would think I was nuts when he laid eyes on this tiny snowy town. Would he also fall in love with the place that was responsible for creating some of my best childhood memories?

We drove with a steaming pie in his backseat to see my childhood cottage. It wasn’t fancy, a wooden Canadiana with red shutters that sat on an awkwardly shaped plot of land and surrounded by thick woods. By that time the home was really starting to show its age but I couldn’t help but be transported back in time;  I saw past the discolored siding and unglued shingles, in my eyes it hadn’t really changed at all. I’m sure he didn’t get it – but the nostalgia I felt filled me with so much happiness.

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A Canadiana with its sloped roof thanks to getty images.

I told him then and there that one day I’d love to return to my beloved St-Donat and let my children experience the same joy I did. Little did I know that that  journey would be far more difficult than I ever imagined and that nearly 15 years later I’d be married to the man who ate pie with me that day on the side of snowy highway with a plastic spoon.

Lately, I’ve been drawn to perusing real estate listing in the area. Mer and I have oohed and awed at the beauty of some of these homes and imagine what it might be like to own one of these beautiful properties ourselves one day.

This is absolutely a pipe dream since we’re in no financial position to take on a second property but through our perusing we’ve fallen in love with a second blue house. This property really pulls at our heart strings and I’ve caught myself checking in on it daily for the last week or so.

Isn’t she a beaut?

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The listing says she was built in 1975. She’s a 5 bedroom, 1 bath lakefront property sitting on just over 15 000 square feet of land. Her interior is quaint – featuring a wood stove, large windows that let in tons of sunlight, sloped ceilings and gorgeous wood detailing. And, the view. Oh my gosh, that view!

If you’re interested in viewing the listing – it’s available here. (There are quite a few photos of the interior if you’re curious)

I can just imagine Margs growing up spending her summers and winters there-playing on the grass and swimming in the lake just like I did some 25 years ago. At a whopping $499 000 this is clearly not something we could realistically afford  but it is nice to dream.

Mer and I both agreed that at some point we’d like to invest in a second property. Most likely a second property would be an investment property with rental units because we feel it’s the wisest investment of our money. I can’t help but wonder though if owning a beautiful property like the one above could one day become a reality if we create a plan to invest in revenue property here and then in 10-15 or even 20 years use our earnings to purchase a lake house. My gears have been turning non stop since we starting playing with the idea, I’ve been calculating and recalcalculating to get an idea of what exactly we’d need to do to get us to this goal and although my estimates are extremely rudimentary I think one day it could be possible. Margs might not be the one able to spend her childhood there but perhaps her children could.

For now though we’ll make it a point to bring our daughter up there yearly. We’ve been heading back for day trips and picnics on the beach in the summer since that snowy day we ate pie. Last year we skipped our yearly trip because we’d just moved and had a tiny Margs who didn’t do well with long drives. This year we’re planning to continue on with our tradition with our toddler in tow – I’m so incredibly grateful I’ll have the opportunity to show Margs a place that holds such a special place in my heart.

We may not be able to purchase that property but it’s so nice to get lost in our dreams sometimes isn’t it?

What are some of your pipe dreams? Do share!

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This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using the links to any of the products mentioned below.

Morning! How was your weekend?

Ours was quiet but we did manage to get outside and enjoy some fresh air despite this terrible cold snap we’re under. Late Friday I ended up running to my dentist because I broke a premolar almost to the gum line . Talk about karma. I’d just posted about having an emergency fund and issues popping up when you least expect it and then bam the tooth broke and I found myself sitting in the big chair getting prepped for a crown. There goes our January budget (FYI, Mer’s insurance covers 80% of preventative dental but anything restorative is at 50%. So, I’m looking at approximately 1000$ out of pocket to fix my tooth). To be fair, I knew this day would come because I’d had a temporary fix done to this tooth last March when it broke the first time. I was told it should only last approximately one month but I was able to stretch it to 8. I’ll be heading back to have a permanent crown placed at the end of January and hopefully apart from my routine cleaning (approximately 36$ after 80% insurance coverage) I wont be spending any more money at the dentist in 2017.

I’d also like to apologize to anyone subscribed to my blog who has been getting spammed by weird zero content posts. I was playing around with the theme last week and it looks like my blog somehow was sending out “temporary posts for theme detection”. I’m so sorry if your reader or inbox got spammed as a result of my indecisiveness. I’m pretty new to all this so I had no idea that you’d get alerted to all the changes I was making. Thank you to a dear reader who alerted me to the problem last Thursday! I think I’ve finally settled on a theme that works (I don’t love it but also refuse to pay money to buy a theme when there are so many perfectly acceptable free options).

So, let’s talk about saving money

If you missed my first post about how we save a couple of bucks in TTBH you can find it right here. In a nutshell, I told you guys that we buy used whenever we can, sell whatever we don’t need/use anymore, stockpile essentials, clip coupons and grow our own produce to lower our monthly and yearly costs. All these things helped us pay off $21000 in credit card debt and build up a sizeable down payment to buy our first home.

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Margs new pre-loved shoes. Shes still wears them daily.

Today, I wanted to share the methods we use to keep tabs on our spending when it comes to providing for Margs. Kids are expensive – more expensive than we ever imagined and so we took to finding frugal ways to provide for her pretty early on. Above and beyond the immediate necessities: diapers, food, clothing and medical/dental care we had to think ahead about how we’d eventually help fund her education so saving money right now is a huge priority for us. The following list is a few things that we’ve come up with that work for us and help us add to her education fund regularly without necessarily compromising her day to day life. We don’t feel that being frugal with regards to baby care is about deprivation – instead, we strongly believe that we can still provide a great lifestyle for our kiddo without spending a fortune.

Making Baby Food

You can save a ton by making your own baby food. In the early days when we were first starting experimenting with solids I’d make large batches of things like squash, sweet potato, carrots, fruit compotes and soups and blend them in a baby bullet. A blender or food processor would probably work just as well though. This Magic Bullet Baby Bullet Baby Care System was on sale last spring and I had a coupon so I couldn’t pass up the deal. Best decision ever because I made all of Margs’ food myself and ended up saving a ton.

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My lovely bullet which I ended up selling for 20$ when we no longer needed it.

My only qualm about the bullet is the lack of freezer storage options that comes with the system. The set I bought included one silicone freezer tray which simply was not enough to freeze the food I’d make. When I’d make baby food I’d make sure to make enough to last me at least a month and unfortunately the tray only accommodates 6 freezer portions at a time. At first I’d freeze, pop them out, freeze another batch and so on and so on until all the food was frozen but this became really annoying and time consuming and some batches ended up taking about 3 days to freeze. I got really lucky in early summer when I managed to stumble across 2 more silicone trays for 50 cents each at a garage sale. A Baby Bullet Storage Completer Kit is available through Amazon if you can’t score them second hand. I was beyond excited because freezing 18 at a time was going to make things far more efficient in my kitchen. Sadly 18 wasn’t even  enough and eventually I stopped using them altogether and turned to muffin tins instead. It made freezing portions far easier and it also allowed me to control each portion size as her appetite grew.

Not all diapers are priced or made equally

.. and we use this to our advantage.

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When Margs’ was first born we experimented with different diaper brands to try and find one that provided enough absorbancy at a fair price.

We figured out pretty quickly that our best bet was to go with a combo of Parent’s Choice (Walmart store brand) and Huggies Little Movers

On average, I change about 10 dirty diapers a day. Of those 10 diapers we use Parents Choice brand during the day (9ish diapers) because although far less absorbent than big brands like Huggies they do the job perfectly well. I change her so often that a day time diaper is rarely soaked and so I can hardly tell the difference that she’s not wearing a designer diaper.

Nighttime is a completely different story. In the early days, Margs would wake once or twice throughout the night for a feed which included a diaper change so using the cheaper diapers worked just fine. As she got older and started sleeping through the night and drinking more throughout the day she started producing more urine and the cheaper diapers started to fail us. We’d have blow outs and pee stained sheets night after night. That’s when we decided to buy more absorbent diapers by Huggies and use one as a night time diaper. So far, it’s working out quite well and we’ve been blow out free since making the switch.

Now for a little frugal math

Daily diaper usage costs – combination method: (0.14 x 9) + (1 x 0.24) = $1.50 per day = 547.50 yearly

Potential diaper usage costs – designer diapers only: 0.24 x 10 = $2.40 = $876 yearly

Potential savings: 876.00 -547.50 = $328.50

So, if my kiddo is in diapers until the age of 3 that’s a savings of $985.50 which is a heck of a lot of money I’d literally be throwing in the garbage.

*Note: cloth diapering is far more inexpensive and it’s by far the cheapest choice. I was just so overwhelmed with motherhood that washing poop stained diapers just wouldn’t have worked for me. Chapeau to those ladies & gents who do it though!

Clipping/Printing coupons

There are coupons available for just about any and all baby products. When we need to buy diapers, wipes, soap and formula I hunt down a coupon to save a little cash. If you’re feeding your baby any Enfamil formula product they have an awesome program where they periodically send you coupons by mail. The coupons include savings for formula in addition to Fisher Price products. I’ve actually used one of Margs’ coupons to buy a birthday gift for a friends son.

These are the websites I use the most. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a coupon for Parent’s Choice Diapers.

Money savings tip: when I use coupons and rebates I pretend that I’ve paid the original amount. I then transfer however much I’ve saved directly into our savings account. It’s never a huge amount because I’m not an extreme couponer but every little bit helps. Some months I’m able to add about 60$ of padding to our savings just by transferring out “coupon” money.

Bartering baby stuff

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My kiddo loved her jumperoo- boing, boing.

After moving, I joined a local play group where I met a wonderful woman who showed me the ins and outs of frugal motherhood. I will be forever grateful to her for suggesting I find barter buddies. Basically, I’ve found a few other moms with children Margs’ age who barter their toys with me. I met these ladies at a baby playgroup and an afternoon kiddo reading hour hosted for free by our local library. Trading toys helps keep Margs entertained because she’s basically playing with new stuff every few months and this keeps our costs next to nothing. I’ve traded a Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo for a Graco Walker and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’ve also traded a few toys that she’s outgrown to a mom for a second convertible car seat (she had older children who had outgrown it.).

In addition to having barter buddies who I keep in touch with via email, I also periodically barter through online garage sales in my area or on Craigslist. Not everyone is open to an exchange but asking kindly wont hurt. I’ve been able to trade a few items this way as well. Namely, Margs’ snowsuit was obtained by trading a bunting bag she used as an infant in her carrier – again I was dealing with a mom who had an older child and an infant so the trade was mutually beneficial.

I’ve also bartered at the consignment shop. Sometimes I’ll have an item that Margs no longer needs and head over looking for something specific and ask if a trade would be accepted that day. More often than not, the owner is more than happy to trade with me assuming the exchange is fair. My latest trade was 5 warm winter footie PJs for a diaper genie that we were given but never used. This way I don’t touch my consignment balance and avoid having to wait for my items to sell to earn store credit.

Cycling her toys

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A recent photo of her toys after I'd purged out half.

Margs is easily distracted and she’s also not always easily amused. I keep her toy collection to a minimum and find that she’ll easily get bored if the rotation of toys is always the same. As a result, I cycle out her toys and keep some stashed in her closet where she doesn’t have access to them. Every couple of weeks I trade them out and they are brand new and super exciting again. This kiddo likes to keep things fresh!

I’ve also started planning ahead and bartering and swapping out toys that she no longer plays with to accumulate toys that she’ll enjoy playing with as she grows. I was on the hunt for wooden puzzles for months after seeing how incredibly pricey they were at both Toys R Us, Walmart and online. Luckily a couple weeks back one of the ladies in my barter group had a set of 5 wooden puzzles up for grabs and we came to a mutual agreement. 5 puzzles for a gift basket of Bed Bath and Beyond products I kindly received as a housewarming present from a relative but cannot use because of my sensitive skin.

So there you have it folks. This is what we’re currently doing to save and stash away a little extra cash for our little girl.

What money saving tips do you use in your house?

Ever bartered with someone to get something you needed? If so, tell me about your swap!

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