Pocketfuls of Sunshine

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It’s been a busy time, as usual, around here. I’m sure everyone is feeling that time is slipping away as the holidays grow ever closer. I’ve never been one to say that I get “stressed out” about the holidays, though. Really, I have bigger things to “stress” about rather than gift buying and decorating the house. I consider those generally to be fun things to do. This year, though, many people are stressed about the finances associated with gift buying, decorating, and feasting for Christmas celebrations. This includes the Bloggerista’s family, which is why I am a deal shopper. I brave the crowds every year, with the exception of the last two years because I was with a newborn or very, very pregnant. This year, I took back my space in the parking lot and shopped on Black Friday.

Now, apparently, if you haven’t heard, we are in a recession. The economy is failing. Times are tough. However, if you were at a mall at approximately 6 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, you would think certainly this is a falsehood. Parking lots were packed, stores had lines wrapping around in circles inside so as to not cause the sensor at the front door to do that annoying loud beeping that nobody really checks out anyway, and people were making trips to their cars because they couldn’t carry all of their purchases. I did this. Three times. I told you, I excel at bargain shopping.

Ok, so it was Black Friday and people expect crazy shopping to happen that day. I’m sure you all heard of the poor worker trampled to death at Walmart because a bunch of people are nuts for televisions. It’s disgusting really. But that’s another post for another day.

Now I generally try to go to the mall with my kids during the week to walk, window shop, grab lunch while they watch the carousel, and count how many other mothers with strollers we pass making loops around the mall. It’s quite pleasant actually. You don’t have to say “excuse me” a thousand times or wait in line for a simple Coke and a cookie from Mrs. Fields. It’s relaxing, and if you do need assistance at a store, there are more than enough employees to help you.

In the last two weeks, however, I managed to arrive at a nearby mall on two different Sundays. I thought it would be a quick trip, as I am so used to the ease of weekday shopping. Ok, so maybe it might be a little bit busier. Surely, I couldn’t be turning into one of those people who says, “I don’t shop on the weekends. It’s too crowded. I don’t like the mall on weekends.” Who doesn’t like a mall based on what day it is?

Well, me. I’ve crossed enemy lines and I want my weekday pleasantries back, please.

Yes, I know it is the Christmas season. But I kid you not when I say that the ENTIRE parking lot was FULL. I was circling and circling, just waiting for that person who is always ever so slowly sauntering back to the car that is in a aisle she doesn’t really remember. More circling. Nobody was leaving.

Really? Everyone is in the mall, shopping, and nobody is leaving. I thought everyone was broke. Ok fine. I’ll be patient.

I finally get a spot, three hundred yards away, and my mother and I haul the kids into the stroller and make a mad dash for the department store doors. Once inside, we take off their coats and hats and position the snacks and sippy cups accordingly. I should have dressed them in short sleeves, though. It is so packed inside that we can feel the warmth of too many bodies in one place. Ick.

Speaking of bodies, there are far too many in the Apple store. Now, I know that people like their technology. I’m using a wireless laptop to blog on as I type, and I have convinced myself that it is an essential item in our household. But, I’ve never quite understood the mass of people loitering around in the Apple store. How many iPods do you need, really? I still don’t own one, and at this point, I’m thinking of making that a permanent mantra (unless someone bought me one for Christmas–then I will gladly accept). Anyway, the last few times I have been to the mall, I walk past the Apple store to get to the center, where the all-knowing, super-plump Santa sits. The kids like to wave and look at Santa, so we head there first on most December days. But as we pass the Apple store, there is a distinct smell.

I know it well. I taught high school, remember? It’s too many people in one small space. It instantly takes me back to those passing times where I watched two hundred kids cram their backpacks, coats, and books into lockers that were only 6 inches wide. You do the math. Average high schoolers are wider than 6 inches across, but somehow they are all supposed to stand there simultaneously and shove their belongings in that space in one minute flat before running off to the other side of the building. But, I digress.

This smell is obnoxious. But the store isn’t as packed as a high school locker bay. It’s just full of people who mill around and touch every little screen they can get their greasy little fingers on. You think I’m kidding? Check out those touch screens when you walk by one day. There are little prints all over them. You wouldn’t need a CSI team to catch a criminal there. You can visibly see multiple sets of hands on each little device.

The last time I went to the mall was with the Hubby, and I mentioned the Apple store and its stench. He caught a whiff, too. And we quickly moved on. It reminded me of a Seinfeld episode, as many things do in life. “When the B leaves, the O goes.” That is how it is supposed to work. And really, with the economy faltering as it is, more people should take note. Save your money and have cleaner air. Now who can argue with that?

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Time for another edition of Works For Me Wednesday from Rocks in My Dryer.

With the end of the economic crunch no where in sight, coupons have become more valuable to the consumer than ever.  And, I’ve noticed, they seem to be more valuable to stores, too.  In the last couple of weeks, I have been receiving “generous” coupons nearly every day.  Free candles, free stuffed animals, free digital cameras.  The list goes on and on!  I’ve even received back to back coupons for $15 off a $40 purchase at Macy’s.  Obviously, stores are realizing the value of a coupon.  And I do too!

The problem with all these wonderful coupons is organizing them in a way that allows you to use them effectively.  My previous organizational tactic was to throw them (quite literally) in a coupon drawer.  Then, when it came time to use them, I had to dig and dig to see what I had.  More often than not, I ended up buying something and then realizing later that I found a coupon in the bottom of the drawer. Not really the most effective way to save money.

So, I grabbed some trusty mailing envelopes and a Sharpie.  I sorted all of my coupons by theme.  Retail (i.e. mall stores and Babies R Us), grocery, food (as in restaurants), formula (which I will no longer need in another few months), and Bed, Bath, and Beyond (since they are bigger than my car).  After sorting them, I put them in the appropriate envelope and labeled them.  I am happy to say that this is a neater and more effective way of organizing coupons.  It isn’t so daunting to go through an envelope to see what I have for a particular outing, and I can easily throw away ones that have expired.

So take back your drawers.  Invest in some envelopes.  Save some money.  Sounds good to me.

How cute and cozy would your little one be wrapped in this blanket? You can win it today!!

The girls over at The Secret is in the Sauce are hosting yet another fabulous giveaway, and it ends tonight! So get in on it while the getting is good! All you have to do is check out Star Looks Boutique. They have some very unique and chic items for babies and kids. Look around and pick your favorite.

Then, go to this blog to leave a comment for Charlotte and let her know which item you just love to pieces!

And if you want two additional entries, post the contest on your blog and link back to The Secret is in the Sauce. It only takes a minute and you could be snuggling with your baby wrapped in this cute blankie!

Check it out and don’t forget to leave a comment here!