vacapic

Go on vacation in off-season.

If you are in a position to do so, you can usually find some pretty great deals on vacation spots in off, non-peak seasons. Depending on the vacation spot, a lot of times you can find good deals during the school year. For example, many places start dropping prices after labor day. If you have young children not of school age yet or no kids living in the house, this may be an ideal time to go. Not only do you save costs, but a lot of times places are less busy during these non-peak times. Check with your favorite vacation spot and find out if they have lower rates at various times throughout the year. You may find that you can save quite a chunk this way.

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CodySenior400

Love beautiful portraits of your family but hate dropping big bucks? Check out this post by guest writer, Amber Lachniet, as she explains how to create beautiful pictures at home that you can treasure for life and save money along the way.

 

Do you want to take pictures of your kids or family at home? You can do it yourself! All you need to know is 5 basic principles to get started: how to get the best lighting, how to make a backdrop, how to pose the person, how to take the picture, and where to print. With these 5 simple principles you can take your own portraits & save a lot of money.

The most important part of pictures is lighting. Lighting is what makes a photograph. First off, you want to avoid using the flash that is on your camera at all cost! The flash on your camera is very harsh and unflattering. For shooting indoors, the best lighting is daylight coming through a window. It is a natural, soft light. Have your subject stand a couple feet away from the window, and then just try different things. Facing the person towards the window will give light across there entire face, where as turning the person so that one shoulder faces the window will produce more dramatic lighting. Just play around with it to see what you like.

Next comes the backdrop. A sheet works really well as a backdrop. A solid color sheet is best. White works good for casual portraits, black for formal, and colors just for fun. There are plenty of ways that you can hang the sheet. The easiest way would be to tack it to the wall or ceiling; however, if you don’t want to put holes in your wall then just hang it over a door or on a tall object. If you are taking pictures of small children then you can just hang the sheet over a table. Be sure to leave a few inches of the sheet on the floor for your subject to sit or stand on. If your sheet is not long enough then use another sheet of the same color to lay on the floor. Make sure to set up your backdrop near your window!

Now it’s time for the fun part. Grab your subject and start posing him or her. This part is not as difficult as you would think. Basically, you want the person to be in a comfy, natural position. This could be standing with one hand in his or her pocket, sitting with his or her knees ups, sitting in a chair, or anything in between. The only rule you need to know about posing is that you generally don’t want the person’s shoulders square to the camera. Always try to have one shoulder a little closer to the camera than the other.

Picture time! Pull out your digital camera, turn the flash off, and start shooting. The only thing you need to know when it comes to taking the pictures is to focus on your subjects eyes and try to have the camera at eye level with the subject. So if you are photographing a child then don’t be afraid to lie down on the ground!

Finally, you can get those awesome photos printed. There are lots of places that you can get photos printed and pick them up the same day. Some of these places include Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens. Those places are good for small prints; however, if you are planning on blowing the picture up to frame for your wall then I would suggest spending a little extra money and get it printed through a higher quality printing service such as Shutterfly, Snapfish, or AdoramaPix. The great part is that most online printing places offer you free prints when you first sign up, so you could end up getting some of your prints for free! Here are some of the sign up deals: Shutterfly-50 free 4×6 prints, Snapfish-20 free 4×6 prints, and AdoramaPix-25 free 4×6 prints. Plus, if you sign up for the email subscription they will notify you about any deals that are going on.

Now try it out for yourself. Grab your camera, a sheet, and your kids and start shooting!

 

Amber Lachniet is a college student who specializes in photography. She has started her own photography business, Amber Lachniet Photography. Using the tips that she listed above, I hope this helps you creative some beautiful portraits. However, for those special times you need an outside photographer, check out Amber Lachniet Photography for stunning, budget-friendly portraits. She is available for work in the Central Virginia area. Plus, for the Thriving on Thrifty readers, she is offering a $10 discount on any portrait package with the code thrivingonthrifty.

 

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Trying to manage your time better? Check out this article by guest blogger, Brian Lachniet, who just happens to be my husband. He has his own blog on his passion, computer programming, at www.blachniet.com.

Time is a precious resource. We never seem to have enough of it. I’m a software engineer and my industry, like many others, is constantly trying to find ways to make more with less time. In this post I’m going to detail a process that I’ve used to improve my efficiency on tasks at work and at home.

Collection

If you do this step correctly, it will be painfully tedious. Start by tracking the amount of time that you spend on every task throughout the day. I mean it, every single little task: cleaning dishes, responding to emails, giving your child a bath, paying bills, making dinner, mowing the lawn, etc. Track it all. Before you start a task, write down the name of the task and the time you are starting. Before you move on to the next task, write down the time you finished and the total amount of time it took.

Notice that we didn’t plan out the tasks that you want to do yet. We’re just getting a record of the things that you actually do throughout the day and the amount of time it takes you to do them. Do this for a week.

You may notice that this really helps you stay focused on a task. You may be less likely to allow distractions to slow you down, because you want to see how fast you can get the work done. However, you may also quickly notice that you spend a lot of time tracking the amount of time you do things. That is why you only do this for a week.

Analysis

Now it’s time to take a look at all the data that you’ve gathered. There’s two important piece of information you should extract from your data collection:

  • For each task, the average amount of time it takes you to complete
  • The total amount of time that you spend on tasks throughout the day

In addition to gathering this data, you should also take a look at some of the tasks that took the longest and try to think of ways that you could reduce the time you spend on them. You may have already thought of ways to speed them up in the previous step. Something that you can do to speed up almost any task is to reduce the number of distractions that you have. Maybe you need to have your son play in his room while you make dinner so you don’t have to chase him down to retrieve the pots and pans that he stole.

Planning

After you’ve gathered the information from the previous step, you can plan tasks for the upcoming week. You have a set of tasks that you would like to complete in the upcoming week and you have an educated guess of how long each of those tasks will take. You also know how long you generally have during each day to complete work.

Let’s say that you generally spend 10 hours total during the day on tasks. Go ahead and plan the work that you want to complete on each day of the upcoming week. Use your estimates of how long each task takes to make sure you don’t plan for more than that 10 hours per day.

You may notice that a side effect of all this planning is that you actually end up with more time on your hands. The planning helps you focus on the task at hand and you don’t waste any time during the week trying to remember what work you needed to get done.

Rinse & Repeat

I like to repeat this set of steps every few months. The collection and analysis steps can be rather tedious and time consuming, so you don’t want to have to do it too often. The planning step should happen on a weekly basis. By performing the entire set of steps again in a few months you can account for any environmental changes that might cause some of your tasks to take longer (maybe another child), or account for new tasks that you need to complete on a regular basis.

As far as tools, I love using Toggl to track my time. There are a lot of time tracking tools out there, but I love Toggl’s simplicity. However, an app is not the best choice for everyone. For some people, an app may just be another distraction, so a pen and notebook might be best. The most important part of all of this is to make it work for you. Everyone works differently, so you need to find the way that you best improve your efficiency.

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All new moms have certainly learned how expensive a new member of the family can be. I’ve found ways to save money that I personally used plus some I wish I had done myself.

1. Making your own baby food:

I can’t recommend this money-saver enough. I got a Baby Bullet for my baby shower and absolutely loved it. I used it to make fruits and vegetables and would make large batches to save time and would freeze them to maintain freshness. It really didn’t take as long as I thought it would, and it allowed me to know what was truly in my baby’s food.  Next time around, I also plan to mill my own grains for baby cereal. I didn’t realize the other attachment had this feature until my son had almost outgrown baby cereal.

 

2. Breast Feeding or Formula Couponing:

I personally breast fed, which of course saves you money on not having to buy formula. But for those who can’t or don’t want to breast feed, there are so many coupons out there for you. Sign up for Gerber or Enfamil coupons and they will send high dollar, money-saving coupons right to your house. I was constantly getting them in the mail and I didn’t even use formula.

 

3. Cloth Diapers:

Cloth Diapers was on my radar at one point before having my son, but I ruled it out during my rough recovery so it was one less chore. So I personally did not do this, but I may attempt it the second time around. I know many people that do use cloth diapers though and claim it’s not as tough as it seems plus it saves a lot of money. Check out Diapers.com for a wide variety of cloth diaper or disposable diaper options. For new customers, if you enter my referral code totreferal at checkout you get 20% off your first order. Plus new customers can get free shipping for their first 3 months when code GOCRAZY is entered at checkout.

 

4. Homemade “Toys”

This tip is good for the first year and beyond. I heard so many people tell us that a child is more interested in the packaging than the toy, but as first time parents we were determined to get our little man the coolest toys out there. Even with my couponing skills, with the exception of a few toys, it was a waste of money . He is more interested in our old credit cards, cell phones, and the cabinet full of tupperware. It’s amazing what babies and toddlers find interesting. Now obviously, make sure whatever you give them is safe and clean, but save a few hundred on their toys for the first year or so and re-use your old stuff as toys.  What is old and outdated to you is a new treasure for a 1 year old.

 

5. Hand Me Down Clothing

Fortunately for me, I have a nephew 1 year older than my son, so I get a lot of hand me down clothes. For those who don’t have family or friends with children close in age to their kids, you should take the time to check out consignment shops. If you are anything like me, I’m not in the mood to hunt down nice clothing at consignment shops, so I let the consignment shop come to me. ThredUp is an online consignment shop featuring children’s clothing. Everything I’ve ordered from there has been in excellent condition. Plus, you get $10 off when you make your first purchase. This makes for a pretty awesome deal!

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