Category Archives: Money

SHOP LOCAL: Non-traditional Christmas Gifts for little ones

Last year my sister kick-started this idea for me as she gave both of my kids a super cute certificate for a date night with Aunt Ra-ra.  It included dinner at a restaurant of their choice, arts and crafts, special dessert, and a sleepover.  BEST GIFT EVER.  The kids LOVED it and it was so memorable for both of them.  It adheres to the old adage that kids spell love T.I.M.E.  So, thought it might be great to make a helpful list of LOCAL ideas to pass along to family members that are beginning to request a “list”.

*Downtown Boone Footsloggers Climbing Tower Passes.  (The tower is operated by Rock Dimensions).  You can find more info here


*Ski Passes/Lessons: I would suggest App Ski Mtn for the closest slopes and most family-friendly atmosphere.



*Children’s Playhouse Membership:  This is an idea that I recycle year after year. The membership is so incredibly reasonable considering the mileage you can get out of it with your little ones.


*Mystery Hill Pass: a great place to take them in the winter months to engage their curiosity.


*Blowing Rock Art and History Museum Membership: The calendar of events changes each month but always includes great children and family programs!

*Fun factory passes: The kids always leave exhausted!

*Caving Trip: This is a great activity in the winter.  River and Earth Adventures provides a phenomenal service exploring Worley’s Cave!

*Emerald Village Gem Mining: Such a cool place to visit and a unique experience.

Outside of this shopping local theme, a list of memorable “home” themes could include: baking date, arts and crafts, movie date, spa day, “build” day….the list is endless!

My family has also hosted a “theme” each year which you can have a lot of fun with.  I’ve heard of many that do an “alphabet” theme where the letter gives direction to that year’s gift ideas.  Feel like you are in one of those families where everyone already has too much?  Think about a “food and game” theme!  You typically exchange names for this and spend the day eating yummy food and playing all the new games!

I hope these lists give you a few ideas to get the ball rolling with your family.  Do you know of a local experience I missed as a non-traditional gift?  Or another fun theme you have done before others should try?  I would love to hear them!




Starting Responsibilities and Chores

We have really found a great stride with our oldest child in having a responsibility and chore chart. With school starting back in 2 months, this would be a great time to start if you haven’t already! Here are some of the BIG questions that I worked through in the beginning:

How do you start and how consistent do you have to be?
It all started for us one night about 9 months ago when my son began complaining that he didn’t like bedtime because we would get short and snippy and tell him to “do this” and “do that”. We were happy to oblige him the next morning with his own checklist of morning and nighttime responsibilities. (This later paved the way to adding the option of chores to earn spending money). He is about 5 ½ now so I guess we started somewhere between 4 and 5.

IMG_4549See the X on the “eat breakfast” on the picture? I asked him about it when I saw it, and he said I had given him Cream of Wheat one morning for breakfast which he didn’t like.

With his responsibilities, we are pretty well consistent. But as you can see from the picture of his list (posted on the mirror at his desk in his room), most of these things usually have to get done regardless. In the mornings, he does not get breakfast until his responsibilities are done. He starts kindergarten next month (EEK!!), and we will have to adapt to this system then. I will probably use an alarm clock and if he gets his responsibilities done in time, he can then have the option of doing his chores in the afternoon after school.

We are NOT as consistent with chores (separate concept from his responsibilities). Some days he asks to earn money–other days I could really use his help and will bring it up, and some days both of us just ignore the idea altogether.

When should you start doing chores with your child?
Chores were introduced as soon as we saw that his responsibilities were in a strong enough pattern. We decided for us that chores would be optional. One day work would not be optional for him, but right now it would be. Let me tell you though, he ALWAYS chooses to do them. The only condition we put on chores is that his responsibilities always have to be done first.


(NOTE: If your child is not reading yet, it would be easy to draw pictures next to the words)

A hiccup I had for a long time in introducing chores was I saw all these fancy/crazy organized charts that locked me into doing laundry every Tuesday and vacuuming every Friday. I don’t really structure my house cleaning that firmly and wanted the flexibility to decide day by day what activity would work best. So…. as you can see from the picture, it is a simple list posted on the refrigerator that has a small black magnet that I put next to the task each morning. By the time he has finished his responsibilities, I have figured out what housework needs to be completed.

How much do you pay them?
We pay him .50 cents a chore and give him that option 6 days a week. That totals about $3/week. We liked that amount because he could go spend it on something right away if he wanted to, but if he wanted something of quality, he would have to learn to save.

Do you let them spend it on whatever they want?
We really do. But that being said, I have never been one to walk him around a toy store in my leisure time. To give you a couple of ideas, his last purchase was from Mast General Store. He had just seen the LEGO movie and became mesmerized by growing his very own crystal.


I would show a picture of the final product, but it is still materializing in the solution and should be another 7 days or so before finished. Clearly, he is VERY excited.

He also has fallen in love with taking things apart. For awhile, this was a BIG problem in the house and severely hampered my level of peace during “quiet time”. I have since learned to give him different projects of MY choosing for him to take apart and he is also welcome to spend his money at the thrift store purchasing (preferably broken) electronics. Spending all his money at Menchie’s for frozen yogurt isn’t a rough way to spend the evening either!

If you are thinking of beginning this journey of chores, I hope it blesses you as much as it has us!  It might take a couple of weeks to establish a new routine in the mornings and evenings, but the payoff is worth it!




Are you a “Southern Saver”?

Southern Savers is hands down my favorite savings blog.  I had the opportunity to meet Jenny Martin, owner of the blog, a few years back when she came to the High Country to teach a couponing workshop.  Jenny is also a big supporter of Operation Christmas Child and co-creator of the Becoming Conference.  One of my favorite things about Jenny is her passion for savings AND caring for her family.  I would love to share a few of the ways I use Southern Savers to cut costs in our home.

Workshop in Blowing Rock, NC – 2011

  • Jenny shared a great post about how to save on diapers.  As a mother of a six month old that cloth diapers 75-80% of the time, I still rely heavily on this information to make the most of my disposable diaper purchases.
  • There are some great coupon tutorials on the blog.  Jenny helps you figure out how to start small, even if you’re unfamiliar with the whole couponing process.  I have tried a few couponing methods but definitely felt her method was the best way to save time and money so that you are able to still spend time with your family.
  • I probably use the weekly grocery store posts more than anything.  Jenny pairs the grocery store sales with coupons and you can even create a customizable list to take with you to the grocery store.  She also includes the sales lists with coupons for CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid.
  • Southern Savers also has daily posts about many different types of deals (new coupons, online and brick and mortar store deals, restaurant coupons, etc.).  I’ve scored some great restaurant and movie deals by keeping up with these posts.
  • If you’re looking for a certain coupon and wonder if it exists, you can check the coupon database for it.  This is a fantastic tool!
  • If you don’t have a subscription to the Sunday paper and you buy them each week from the paper stand (where many coupons are located), you can check Southern Savers to see whether or not there will be a paper on holiday weekends. You can also see the weekly coupon inserts for your local newspaper.
  • You can also search current sales and find the best deals of the week.  There is also a weekly post just for moms: Best Baby Deals.

I encourage you to take some time to explore Southern Savers.  You might be surprised at what you find to help you save more money and spend more time with your family.

A Personal Guide to Thrifting

One of my favorite places to shop is at thrift stores.  Thrifting takes patience and time so if you’re not in a place in life right now where you can put forth those two things, that’s okay.  I’m not either, with a sweet little babe in tow!  However, IF my husband is with me OR my mom takes care of baby girl, I can sometimes find a few things while I’m out and about.

I’d like to give a review of some thrift stores nearby and a few “off the mountain”, as we like to say around here.

  • Goodwill of Boone – I’ve found an average amount of great things here.  A good friend advised me that the best day to shop is Tuesday or Wednesday as this gives the staff time to put out everything that was donated over the weekend.
  • Hebron Colony Thrift Store – If you’re going to Goodwill, you might as well stop next door at this shop.  My husband found a large floor puzzle of the world for $3 that baby girl is already enjoying.  My favorite find was a piece of my Grandmother’s framed tatting for a buck!








  • Goodwill of Wilkesboro – I’ve been here once and wished I had more time to look around.  There were some great brands in the ladies’ department and I picked up the cutest Tommy Hilfiger baby dress for $1.50.  I’m looking forward to another visit to this store.
  • Goodwill of Lenoir – I have a friend who has found some great treasures at this store, although I have not frequented it very much.  However, we did pick up a bookend in the shape of the Golden Gate Bridge (where we spent our first Thanksgiving), a meaningful piece for our home.
  • Habitat Re-Store of Boone – The prices seem to have gone up at this store but I have friends that have been known to negotiate in the past.  We found a little side table for $10 (pardon the dust in the picture – I am obviously behind on that chore), a bread maker in perfect condition for $8, a water bath canner for $10 and an electric ice cream maker (with a wooden, old fashioned look) for $10.  I am still using all of these today.
  • Goodwill Stores in Mooresville and Cornelius – I absolutely LOVE these stores!  Some sweet finds include:  Ralph Lauren down puffy vest for $5, multiple name brand dress shirts for my husband for $3.75 each, name brand maternity clothes for $5 or less.  Angela from Button Bird Designs lives in the area and she recommended some of these stores to me.

Some of my other favorite thrifted items include a My Brest Friend Pillow and cover for $3 at a thrift store in Colorado ($35 retail!), and an old fashioned red chair (reminded me of my Grandmother’s chair) that we found for $25 at the Salvation Army in Foscoe.

A word of caution about thrifting:  prices are on the rise.  You can still find some things, depending on what you are looking for, for a good price.  I think I’ll take Angela’s advice and start hitting up some yard sales if I can make myself get up that early!  I don’t consider myself a savvy thrifting expert like Jen over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam but I do enjoy finding a good deal on something from my wish list.

I would love to hear from you!  Do you have some thrifting advice or another great store to share?  Happy Thrifting!

Saving Money and Mom’s Sanity

I am very passionate about saving money but even more so when it comes to helping others save a few dollars.  We try to cut costs so that I can stay home to care for our daughter but there are many reasons to save money these days, including the rising cost of food and goods.  Here are some of my top tips for saving in today’s economy, most of which I have learned from Jenny Martin at Southern Savers, a reputable savings blog for the Southeastern part of the United States:

  • Budgeting – Two years ago we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at our church.  Although I was hesitant to take it at first, I am so thankful that we did because we learned a wealth of knowledge and even more practical ways to work on our finances.  We learned how to improve our budget and more importantly, our budget meetings.  If you haven’t taken this class, I urge you to find the class nearest you and check it out.
  • Doing Without – We choose to go without a few things in our home and lifestyle.  Some of these things include cable TV, new cars (and car payments – our cars are from the 90’s), eating out every weekend, etc.
  • Rebates – I used to be an avid couponer and then I moved away from my favorite store for a period of time.  Although I still coupon occasionally, I prefer grocery rebates.  (Perhaps I’ll return to couponing in the near future.)  You can find rebates on Ebay or sometimes at your local grocery store.  I’ll share more in depth about rebates and coupons in future posts.
  • Diapers – Before we had our baby, I thought I would cloth diaper exclusively, with the exception of travel.  The reality for me is that I use cloth diapers when I’m at home.  There were other things that were more valuable to me when it came to spending time and money so I decided to use both types of diapers for my sanity’s sake.  I save money on disposable diapers by using Southern Savers’ diaper guide.  Right now we’re in size 2 and I never pay more than 16 cents per diaper, according to this guide.  I do this by pairing coupons with the drug store sales and shopping local grocery stores when they have size 2 diapers on sale for $6.99.  I also participate in the Pampers Gifts to Grow Program and use my points to buy $5 off codes for, which allows me to stay within the recommended price range, as well.
  • Cloth in the Kitchen – Instead of using paper towels for everything, we use cloth napkins for meals and old rags for cleaning.  I still use a paper towel every now and then but I only buy them a few times per year.  A few months ago I realized I needed a sturdy cloth napkin in a dark color and I found a great deal on Amazon, which has made laundry a bit easier when I serve something that stains easily.
  • Thrifting – I love a good bargain for a high quality item!  I have been known to take a trip to the Lake Norman/Huntersville/Mooresville area solely to shop thrift stores, as well as take a trip around the High Country for a day of thrifting.  My favorite stores are the Goodwill stores in Wilkesboro and Boone and when we lived in Avery County I enjoyed the Blair Fraley Thrift Store at Crossnore School.  More to come in the future about thrifting!
  • Restaurant Discounts – When we do choose to eat out (we have a small budget of $75 per month), I like to use coupons and check out for any local deals. is also a great source for saving some money on local, High Country restaurants.
  • Saving on Movies – We hardly ever go to the movies and when we do, I usually use a deal that I purchased from Groupon or another similar site.  Southern Savers will usually post these deals on her blog, which makes it easy to find the deals without spending too much time it.

Although we have a few things we already do well when it comes to saving money, I have a few goals for my future.  I would love to:

  • Make my own laundry detergent
  • Make my own cleaning supplies
  • Make my own baby food

I would love to hear from you!  How do you save money in your home while saving your sanity in the process?

Designer Nursery on a Budget

About a year ago, my husband and I found out we were having a baby and I immediately knew I wanted a special, simple and practical nursery.  I’m not one for flashy things and when we found out we were having a girl, I definitely knew I didn’t want to decorate the entire room in pink.  Although I had lots of ideas, I couldn’t seem to figure out how to get started or what I needed to do to make my ideas come to fruition.

I decided to turn to my friend, Betsy Cain, owner of Sweet August Interiors.  She came to my home, took photos of our former office and spent time asking questions and talking with me about my vision for our baby girl’s nursery.  I was so amazed at her ability to take all of my random ideas and turn them into something beautiful.  A couple of weeks after our meeting, Betsy had completed my inspiration board and accompanying resource list, all for a very affordable price.

I was amazed at how she was able to put together my ideas and envision the type of nursery I wanted to create.  From this board, I was able to put together the lamp (#19) by purchasing a $3 lamp stand from Goodwill and following the tutorial for the ruffled lampshade (about seven dollars worth of fabric bought from Wal-Mart) over at Dear Lillie.  I also loved the floral mobile (#9) and I followed the tutorial at Jones Design Company, spending about $35 on this project.  A little steep for me but since the lamp was so inexpensive, I was okay with it.

I shopped last fall’s inaugural Wee Cycle Home Goods and Adult Clothing Sale and found the perfect wooden frame ($6) to hang with the white baby dress (#14) that I wore when I was a newborn.  I also scored an eight dollar ivory oval mirror to hang above my childhood antique dresser, which serves as the changing table.  We bought our glider secondhand from a friend for $180 and my husband painted the wainscoting with a new shade of Benjamin Moore paint while leaving the walls the original color.  My favorite part of the nursery is the window valence, bumper and crib skirt, which were custom designed and created by my friend, Lynn Windmeyer, owner of ada b. & me.  I used this model from Restoration Hardware Baby & Child and Lynn was able to create what I wanted for less than the price of RH’s design.  I wanted something different and neutral that could be used again.  My friend, Ann, surprised me with a matching toddler comforter, too!  Don’t you just love friends that can sew and design?

If you’re looking for someone to custom design a piece of clothing or home goods on a budget, look no further than ada b. & me.  Looking to plan a party or redesign a room in your home?  Check out Sweet August Interiors for an affordable and professional design!

It feels so great to invest in local friends’ businesses and know that we are supporting their family and business goals.  Not to mention the perk of having something custom designed!  Our nursery turned out to be so peaceful and beautiful, which was exactly what I envisioned for us.

Photos used with permission from Betsy Cain of Sweet August Interiors.

Mom-friendly Businesses – Part 2

I recently highlighted some Mom-friendly businesses that are part of our local high country community.  Here are some other locations where I’ve had recent positive experiences.

Looking for great service for your vehicle?  Call Judd Huffman at Alray Tire & Auto, located on the Highway 105 Extension in Boone.  My car has needed maintenance a few times, and each time my husband was out of town.  The guys at Alray accommodated me by arranging towing or allowing me to drop off and pick up the car when someone was available to help me.  We really trust and appreciate them and their service.

Our local Earth Fare is also a favorite of mine.  There are just those Sundays that I don’t feel like preparing lunch after a tiresome week.  Earth Fare’s Burgers for Bucks is a great way to eat better on a budget.  Three dollar burgers is my kind of deal!  Family Dinner Night is another great way to get out of the house with the kids.  Head to Earth Fare on Thursdays from 4-8pm to get a free kids meal with an adult meal purchase of $5 or more.  Check out all the Earth Fare has to offer to our local mom community.


Finally, the biggest task that I still avoid is grocery shopping.  And thanks to Harris Teeter of Boone, all I have to do is place my order online, drive up to the special parking spot, push a button, give my name and they bring the groceries out to me.  I can pay with a credit or debit card at my car window and they even load the groceries for me!  The cost is $4.95 per order or $16.95 for unlimited shopping for thirty days.  I’ve taken advantage of this more times than I can count and the folks that work there are so friendly and helpful.  They’ll call you when your order is ready, let you know if they had to substitute any items and ask if you have anything you want to add to your order.  You can check out all the details here.  We even manage to work this into our grocery budget and let go of some other extra things right now so that I can go without some stress as I learn how to be a mom.

I am certain there are many other businesses that moms find helpful but I wanted to highlight a few great experiences that I’ve had lately.  What about you?  Have you had a wonderful experience with a local business that you would like to share with our High Country Mom community?  I would love to hear from you!


Mom-friendly Businesses – Part 1

Before I became a mom, I really did believe everyone who told me that a baby would change my life.  What I didn’t understand was how much our baby would change my life, decisions and everyday routine.  After our baby (now four months old) was born, I no longer felt I could go to the grocery store, restaurants or other local businesses without a large amount of work and stress.  Since my husband travels frequently for work, I had to figure out how to make everyday life happen on my own.  Throughout my journey as a new mom, I have been so appreciative of several local businesses that have made a difference in my daily outings.

Have you ever driven through the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru and been pleasantly surprised by the hospitable service you receive?  How about driving through with a crying infant in the backseat because she doesn’t like the fact that the car has stopped?  The folks at Chick Fil A are always courteous and even encouraging in such a stressful moment.  They have gone out of their way to show what I feel is an abundance of kindness and a pleasant smile.  So it comes as no surprise that Chick Fil A of Boone has introduced a new service, Mom’s Valet.  This video, made by another Chick Fil A restaurant, offers a fun introduction to this service to moms.

 Mom’s Valet:  How It Works

  • Place the order and pay at the drive-thru.  Mention you want to use the Mom’s Valet service
  • Park your car and unload kiddos.
  • When you enter the restaurant, they will have your order ready at a table, including high chairs, place mats and condiments, if requested.

Don’t forget that you can check out a range of exciting Chick-Fil-A events here.

Before I had a baby, I loved to serve others through baking and cooking.  Don’t get me wrong; I still love to do these things but my time and energy stores have decreased.  I wanted to share a snack at a recent MOPS meeting but could not figure out how to make something in time.  So an hour before the meeting, I called up Josiah and Meredith, owners at Local Lion and placed an order for a dozen donuts.  All I had to do was go through the drive-thru, give my name and pay.  The donuts were ready to go and they e-mailed the receipt to me!  This totally made my day, not to mention how much we enjoyed those donuts at MOPS!

Need to grab a pizza for that next sporting event or kids’ sleepover?  Papa John’s makes it easy for moms.  We recently had some last minute out of town guests come for dinner and I didn’t have to stress because of Papa John’s new online ordering system.  Simply place your order, choose delivery or carryout and pay online.  If you’re like me and you live outside of pizza delivery zones, you can pick it up when you’re out and about later or I ask my husband to pick it up after work.  He likes it because the pizza is ready and already paid for so it’s a quick errand for him.  Right now Papa John’s Rewards Program is featuring a great deal through April 8 that you can learn about here.  There are frequent coupon codes and discounts, as well.

Next time we’ll take a look at some other local businesses that make life a little bit easier for moms.