The Procrastinator’s Guide to Easter

Dyed Easter Eggs

I’m a total procrastinator. Why do something now when it can be done later? This allows me to do something right now that I want to do. Like watch something on my DVR. Don’t hate. You know you do it too. So it should come as no surprise to you that I haven’t planned a thing for Easter.

Scratch that.

I do have one thing done. Hershey was so kind as to send me an Easter Basket full of delicious candy. Which I received and put up in my closet so the kids won’t see it.

Hershey's Easter Basket

So what do us procrastinators do about yet another holiday? It seems like this one is a big one for a lot of families. We tend to downplay most holidays and just do something small. My kids will most likely wear their purple Christmas dresses (I purposely bought them in a spring-ish color so they could wear them multiple times) and we will most likely have a meal together. What else is on my procrastinator’s list? Well have a look. Here are some last minute, easy ideas to celebrate Easter with your kids. Over achievers need not apply here. This is for us simple and sweet folks.

1. Die Easter Eggs Die!

IMG_2106

Um, ok that’s meant to be dye. I love homophones. And yes I had to look that word up because I don’t actually know all that English jargon by heart, even though a good friend of mine is a high school English teacher. Sorry Kris.

Ok, dyeing Easter Eggs! Yes, I know this one may be obvious. It may sound messy. It does not have to be. I found a good tip over at Parent Hacks to use a muffin tin for the dye. It works spectacularly. We did this activity last night while my husband made dinner. And by “made dinner” I mean he followed the directions on the back of a hamburger helper box. He’s totally gourmet that way. So it took all of 15 minutes. My finger tips are still slightly green. You gotta make sacrifices folks.

2. Easy and cheap Easter Basket

Easter Basket

I’ve already admitted to you that I received a basket chock full of candy from Hershey. So you could say I’ve already cheated a little. But I have two kids. The smaller one, the 18 month old, will NOT find it humorous if the 3.5 year old gets candy and she doesn’t. She has just learned recently how to slam her hand down and say “NO!” which makes me laugh every time. I anticipate the absence of her Easter Basket candy would not only solicit a few “NO!” hand slams but also a knock down, drag-out wrestling match between the two girls over a peanut butter egg. This, you might think, would be hilarious and probably get 10,000 views on You Tube. I may do it for that purpose. However, having a second Easter Basket to introduce after the viral wrestling video shoot would probably be a good idea.

Ok, you know how I am about spending on useless crap. So here is what I plan to do… use pirate’s booty as the grass. Reuse a basket from last year. Purchase some frosted sugar cookies from the bakery section (you know the kind that have a ridiculously perfect look to them even though you’re sure they’ve been sitting out for 2 weeks?) and split a bag of the candy up between the two. Voila! They will be so excited.

I wonder if I should have a jello pool ready for the toddler wrestling match? Hmm. Probably not. Ok. I’m just joking people. Mostly.

I know a lot of people will make a huge deal about Easter Baskets. If you want some ideas from the Hershey site you can view a video here with ideas from mommy bloggers. I feel like such an a**hole mom when I hear all the work they put into it. We just find simple and small works best for us.

3. Easy Easter Egg Hunt

Those plastic eggs drive me batty. Not only do the egg halves linger around my house forever with no visible match, they also are incredibly painful to step on when you’re trying to rush to the bathroom to pee because you just sneezed. (Yes, I’m 6 months pregnant. Yes this is a problem only us preggos have. Suck it.)

The easy Easter Egg Hunt is the one that is done inside your house with wrapped chocolate eggs. You take a bag of chocolate eggs, preferably a kind that you enjoy because, let’s face it, you are going to eat most of them eventually, and you hide them around your house.

This is what my parents did for us when I was a kid and I remember it being awesome. My sister and I used to sleep in the living room with hopes of spying the Easter Bunny in the night hiding the eggs. For my sister, she’s an incredibly smart engineer by the way, this actually happened and to this day she swears she saw the Easter Bunny’s foot. Mmmm hmmm. For me, it was more about knowing where to find the eggs. I sleep like the dead so I never gained any advantage. It was still fun. And we ate the rewards! No ridiculous plastic eggs lying around.

4. Easter Dinner

If you’re attending a family dinner and have to bring something, I would suggest volunteering to bring the rolls and a dessert. Rolls can be purchased pretty cheaply and dessert can be break and bake cookies! Or if you feel ambitious (why are you reading this post if you’re ambitious?  Get out of here you overachiever!) Then I suppose you could make something awesome like Dirt Pudding. It is great for crowds and I promise you people will ask you for the recipe. It’s easy to throw together last minute too. (side note: I do NOT put it in a flower pot or serve it with a shovel. 9×13 lasagna pan works great but we’ve already established that you’re a brown-noser so go ahead with the shovel just don’t do the gummy worms that some people do. That just ruins it.) Another one I’ve seen done really easily is put cans of corn in your crock pot with a stick of butter and a stick of cream cheese. It is ridonkulous.

If you’re like us, and you don’t live near family, then you’re doing Easter Dinner all by your lonesome. This still does not have to be hard. Roast Chicken is always my favorite for Sundays and looks incredibly hard but is actually ridiculously easy. Mashed potatoes and a vegetable, like green beans, are also done pretty quickly. Make a sauce with the chicken drippings and voilà! Serve with something fun like milk with a little food coloring in it or pink lemonade.

Here’s my Roast Chicken recipe for you:

Take a roasting chicken. Slather it in olive oil and rotisserie spice. Cut a lemon in half and shove into the cavity. (Remove the giblets obviously). Put in the oven at 400° for 1 hr. If you want the full tutorial there are tons out there. Everyone has an opinion on how to do this. I find it is best to just keep it simple.

There. Dinner is done. Sit back and reap the rewards in the form of back rubs and “hooray for mom!” bursts. Or, if you’re like us, do the awkward clean-up dish dance with your husband and hopefully retire to the couch while he cleans up.

Did I cover everything? Good. Now go back to the DVR.

Disclosure: I was invited by Hershey’s to create an Easter basket online and have it sent to me. I did not turn this opportunity down because, hello?, free candy. They did not ask me to post about it or compensate me in any other way. You can view their site here: CelebrateWithHersheys.com

“I can’t afford to save.” – How to save during tight times

This year my biggest goal for our family is to save more. With two kids and one on the way we have a number of expenses that have creeped up over the last few years. From diapers to groceries it seems that having additional little people around really digs into our budget. Finding the money to put away into a savings account has become less and less of a priority when it should be the opposite.

So what do you do when you don’t think you can afford to save?

It takes a little extra time and effort but it is possible. With the additional laughter, tantrums and stinky diapers comes unexpected trips to the doctor and $3.99 orders of macaroni and cheese at the restaurant that the toddler will inevitably refuse to eat. How is it that my husband and I used to go out for a date night and have a $20 dinner bill and now that barely feeds my kids? I think a cheap, family-friendly restaurant that delivers food instantaneously without the threat of contracting the ebola virus in the process is like the mythical unicorn of the world.

Ok, back to how we accomplish this task of saving for these unexpected increases in our expenditures. Your biggest tool in this task will be strict budgeting. Your second biggest tool will be levelized billing options. Third, you will have to menu plan. Ok, let’s go through these one by one.

Budgeting:

Sure, we all know what this is. How much money do I have? What bills do I owe? Whatever is left is what I use for gas, food and entertainment…. right? Ok, if it was this simple we could all do it pretty quickly. The bottom line is that you are missing the most important part of budgeting. SAVING.

Many times in a financial article or class you will hear the phrase “pay yourself first”. Financial planners and advisors love this phrase. It refers to the thought or practice of taking the money out for YOU first and living off the rest. So if you were working a full-time job where you had the opportunity to put money into a 401k, that money comes out pre-tax. Meaning you never even see that money in your bank account. This is one way to pay yourself first.

Another way to pay yourself first is to set aside a set amount each month before you have the chance to spend it. This is the part most of us suck at. You see the money in your account and then it gets moved and all of a sudden it was taken from you. You want to run after it and say “wait!! I need you!!!!!” This is almost always followed by the feeling that if you need that money you can always get it back. Here is where most of us fail. We run out of money, we transfer a little back from our savings account to cover an expense promising ourselves to repay this bridge loan… you know where this is going.

Here’s where you need to modify your way of thinking about this. Saving should be a bill. It should be gone once you move it out of your checking account. Never to be recovered. Well, ok SOMEDAY you will access it. Just not today.

How do you change this mindset? First, I think the best way to save is to put the money in an account at another bank. We use Capital One 360 accounts for our primary savings. The reason for this is to prevent me from staring at the money. Honestly I forget about it most days. You can set up automatic transfers into this account on a regular basis. I would suggest starting small. $50 after each paycheck will be enough to get you going. After a few months, you up the amount slightly. Pretty soon you’ll be putting money aside without missing it.

Levelized Billing:

Another big key to saving is to be able to predict your expenses each month. Levelized billing is a great tool that almost every utility company will offer if you ask. Our utility companies required us to have up to a year in history of paying our bills on time before they would allow us to set it up. Since we live in the South our electricity bills are significantly higher in the summer versus the fall and winter. It is so nice to be able to pay an amount each month and not wince every time I opened the bill.

Menu Plan:

Ok you may be doubting me on this one. I get it. Menu Planning is a pain in the financially responsible ass. I hate doing it. Each week I procrastinate doing it. It takes too much of my energy and requires too much effort. However, if I don’t menu plan, I end up spending TWICE what I would. Also, my cupboards end up being clogged with crap. And to make that all even worse, I still have no idea each night what I’m going to make so I end up ordering out.

Menu Planning while such a pain, is financially worth it. First, eating in is much cheaper. Second, I can lay out meals and utilize ingredients over and over. For example I can plan a roast chicken on Sunday and utilize the leftovers to make chicken salad for lunch later in the week, thus reducing waste. Third, menu planning keeps you on track with dietary goals, etc. Mainly this just means that my kids won’t have to eat macaroni and cheese more than twice a week.

Try this for two months. If you can’t find any extra pennies then it is probably time to revisit your expenses and look for areas where you are wasting money (ie: subscriptions you don’t use, etc.).

If you don’t want to try this you could always just start a jug. You know I love the jug.

**Capital One 360 is the savings account we use. Formerly ING Direct. I was not compensated in any way to promote them. I just really like them and have had a good experience.**