Sunday, May 23, 2010

Another Birthday! :)

Well, our new years resolution was tested yet again by another birthday! We celebrated my youngest love's first birthday! We decided to go Luau style (in April) since she wouldn't remember and we would have lots of fun!

I was so blessed by the generosity of friends AND our church to both loan and give us things for the Luau. EVERY decoration was provided for. My husband and youngest son had matching shirts (loaned to us :) and my birthday baby had three Hawaiian dresses to pick from! She also had the cutest little grass skirt given to us. I found a couple leis at thrifts stores but most were given or loaned to us. I offered leis as favors but most people just left them. I made the cupcakes and we all barbecued. It was a really fun day. Instead of spending money on gifts for my bday girl, we spent the money on loving our family and friends with a free meal. That was a definitely blessing. My daughter certainly wont remember that we didn't get her anything in particular... besides, so many others gave to her. We asked for used/re-used gifts so her bday wouldnt cause OTHERs to buy new either :) Some did, some didnt. But at the end of the day I was so honored to spend the birthday money on our dear friends and family who so love my little one... instead of filling our house with a bunch of new shiny noise imagination-killer toys ;)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Resoluting in Disneyland! :)

The inside of the book that I made. You can see that Corban added his own autograph too.
The autograph book that I made for the kids.

Yeah, you are reading that right. We went to Disneyland and worked VERY hard at not buying anything new! As a matter of fact, we worked hard at spending little to no money! Here is what we did :)

First of all, we jumped on the opportunity that Disneyland offered: Give a Day, Get a Day. I think its over now... but basically they gave 1 million people the opportunity to volunteer for an approved day of service and in return they gave a free ticket to the park! Jeremy and I and our two oldest children were blessed to help friends with a fundraiser for the domestic adoption. We made greeting cards for two hours and got tickets! (Just a note: we would have helped them regardless. The fact that Disney supported them was such a blessing!).

We were able to get ALL SIX of us into the park FREE. Do you know how much money that saved? Almost $300. Amazing. Liz had never been to Disneyland (Hannah either) so it was especially neat to take them!

We paid for gas with a Visa Rebate I had received for $90. Money already spent that we used to fuel our vehicle. I made lunch and dinner for the road. We stayed with a dear friend in Costa Mesa so our housing was FREE (along with a breakfast the next morning!). We slept and then headed to the park on Mother's Day. We paid $14 for parking. Then as we entered the park we were each given a number of buttons... Celebration buttons (for mother's day), Volunt-ear buttons (for earning our tickets) and my other two got First Visit buttons for being newbies. Then, they gave mothers a carnation for Mother's Day! There were all of our free souveniers (not to mention the plethora of pictures we took!)

We bought ONE meal in the park... which totaled about $50 (ridiculous, I know :) but used our saved up yard sale money from a couple months back. Then we bought sandwiches as we drove home that night.

Sounds easy, maybe. But really... I have had a tradition my WHOLE LIFE LONG of buying a stuffed animal (big or small) with every visit to Disneyland. I DIDN'T! And Im okay with that. I grew up in San Diego so you can imagine how many of these "traditions" I've collected over the years. The kids were content with their autograph books that I had made them, filled with signatures to pair with the photos we took. Our great friend Allison made all of the kids tie-dyed disney shirts (See above photo :). (the books cost $5 to make as opposed to the $10-15 for the ones at the park).

It was such a fun day and so inexpensive! I felt really good about our decision to stick to the "buy nothing new" plan. I think, in the end, we didn't have to use any of our month's income on the trip because we used my rebate card and our yardsale money... with some to spare! Its possible!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Because I told them I would: Why Not to use Avis Car Rental

A while back, some of you remember my troubles with AVIS. Here's the review in case you forgot (or never saw it :)

Before taking my trip from Cali to Orlando, I CALLED Avis to ask about renting a car. I needed to get from our cruise ship to the airport. I verified my trip with them to which I was told there was a free shuttle from Avis (at the airport) to my to my ship and back again.

Once we got off of the ship we were taken to the rental location in Port Canaveral. Here I was told that my car was reserved at the Orlando Airport (duh) and I'd need to pick it up there (with the free shuttle, right?). They told me that they'd change my reservation for me (which I had verified BEFORE my trip) but that they were out of cars and couldn't even provide cars for the people who HAD reservations. Really? There were a number of events in Orlando and they weren't prepared so people just weren't getting their reserved cars. I have 4 children... including a 2 year old and a less than one year old. So my family of 6 was stranded in Port Canaveral. They said they'd get us a shuttle to the airport which I was grateful for (since I'd been assured before my trip that there would be one, and it would be free). We all got on the shuttle when it arrived and only THEN were told that it would be $50/person PLUS a mandatory $30 tip. They even charged us for our 2 year old... so we had to pay $180 cash to get to our car (which again, I had verified would be there before I left for this trip).

When I returned home I contacted AVIS, explained the situation, and asked for some compensation, if not for an entire refund. After 2 1/2 months of faxing my receipts and getting past disconnected numbers, I was told they would only give me $75 in gift certificates. Seriously? I NEVER EVER EVER will use Avis again. They were rude, REALLY expensive, and wouldn't hold to their own mistakes of mis-verifying my information. I don't want gift certificates to use a rental Ill never use again... maybe Ill try to sell 'em. :( but certainly don't want to pass this problem company on to someone else.

I'm telling you this because in one of my letters to the supervisors of Avis, I explained that I would be using my various modes of social media to let people know how they handled the situation. They made their decision KNOWING that I'd be telling people about it. Unfortunately, as I'm reading the reviews now (so I can also leave one), I'm realizing many people find their service under par.

Of course make your own decision! But I wanted to share my story. Sometimes they come up as the less expensive option on expedia or orbitz... but really, they ended up WAY more expensive than any of the other options I could have used. Hertz made the same mistake on the way in and only charged me a $25 change in location fee. No big deal. They at least fixed it and gave me a car. Also, Hertz cars go through the tolls and Hertz pays them. NOT Avis! Guess what showed up on my credit card? TOLLS! I sincerely urge you to pay a couple dollars more to NOT use Avis.

That said, be on the look out for my next post: Hannah's Birthday Party, and LAPTOP LOVE!