Tuesday, September 9, 2014

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The Busy Budgeter


Located at: BusyBudgeter.com

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If you are not automatically redirected, click the link above for all the same great Tips, Tricks and Money Saving Ideas with a new look!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Goodbye and Hello! Born Free Grows Up!

I'm so excited to announce that just as we hit 3 million pageviews, Born Free Northern Virginia is finally growing up into a big girl blog. :) I'm officially moving to my own private domain website. This gives me tons of exciting opportunities and is long overdue.

I originally started this blog during the pregnancy of my first son as a way to keep busy while resting. I expected my Mom to be my one and only fan. What it became is much larger than I ever could have expected and writing grew to mean a lot to me. You guys grew to mean a lot to me. I found friends locally who love the same things that I do, that I never would have discovered without this outlet. I found out that I'm not alone in my love of all things budgeting.

When I move this weekend, Born Free Northern Virginia will take on a new identity as it grows up.
The Busy Budgeter struck me as the perfect name because while I give tips and tricks on living a simple life, decluttering, organizing, budgeting, and easy recipes, everything is written from the perspective of budgeting. I'm a fan of the bottom line, what will this cost you?, what will you save?, and is it worth it?. We all have way too many things on our plates right now, and we need inside information to save money easily.

Starting this weekend, you can find us at http://www.busybudgeter.com/. Because of the way that these emails are set up through the free blogger site, I won't be able to take you all with me. You'll be able to head to the new site this Sunday, September 7th 2014 at 6pm and you can subscribe to my email list there. You'll still be able to go to http://www.bornfreenorthernvirginia.com and it will redirect you to the new site.

Thank you so much for all your support over the years, and I can't wait to start the next leg of this journey!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I pay $41.00/month for my iPhone Plan! Ting Review.

I pay $41/month (an average of $32/month!) for my iPhone and use it all the time through Ting! Between me and my husband this saves us over $1,000/year! It's available everywhere that Sprint is and the service is great!

One of the few luxuries we have is our iPhones. It's such a useful tool that's fully integrated in my life. I can blog on my iPhone (Blogger), keep our family calendar up to date (COZI), track my calories (Myfitnesspal), my pregnancy (What to expect), my work outs, my weight, my steps and sleep quality (Fitbit) , handle task lists (Reminders), get directions based on my current location (Maps), do my banking (Mint), upload memories for my son to his life book (Moment Garden), play free music (Amazon Music), find out how close my husband is using his gps coordinates to get dinner ready on time (Find iPhone), and plan my meals for the week then create a shopping list in ten minutes (MealBoard). Needless to say, the iPhone is almost a necessity for me.

The downside to the iPhone is the monthly bills! Two years ago, we were paying $202 for two iPhones through ATT with unlimited everything. Last year, we switched to Sprint and paid $170 for the same. The service is not as great with sprint as ATT, for instance you can't surf the internet or use data while you're talking on the phone but the few minor hiccups were well worth $30/month to me

Then I found out about Ting. 

Benefits of Ting:

1. There's no contract! Try it for a month. If you hate it, just cancel!

2. You can bring any phone with you from Sprint at no cost.

3. You'll use the Sprint Network and won't notice a difference in service if you already use Sprint.

4. It's so cheap! My bill is always under $41, my husbands averages $57.00, both with heavy use.

5. You can check what your bill will be before you sign up! I entered 12 months of text, data and voice usage from past bills for both my husband and I before I made the switch. It generates the average bill amount for me. I already knew what I would be paying before I signed on.(click here for their website to use this feature)

6. Everything on wifi is free, which includes iMessage to other iPhone users (including photo texts!)

7. Ting roams to the Verizon Network at no additional cost to you for voice and text. This ensures that you can get a signal wherever you are!

8. They run bad ass promotions that show they know you won't leave if you sign up (see the last paragraph).

9. It's free to tether! They even encourage it! You can run your laptop or your iPad off of your iPhone's data.

10. Very transparent charges. You don't have to worry about hidden anything. (See the chart at the bottom of this post).

11. You can save $25 on your first bill by signing up using this link!

My Last Bill With Ting. 

When I heard about Ting, I was intrigued but figured the service was horrible, or that there was hidden fees. I waited 6 months until my contract with Sprint was up before I tried Ting! I could have saved $600 if I had just done it then! It was easy to transfer service, I never had to bring my phone anywhere, and my phone was only out of order for about 15 minutes during the change over. I haven't noticed any difference in the service and they have an awesome app that let's you know what you've used and based on that, what your estimated bill would be.

If you don't have sprint and don't have a sprint phone, you'll have to get a Ting capable phone (just like your ATT phone wouldn't work with the Sprint Network). You can go to the Ting website here, and they'll assist you in selling your phone and buying a capable device. It's a bit like eBay, so as long as you're buying and selling a similar device, the costs should be nominal. They also have warranted refurbished phones for purchase although they would be more expensive. 

I haven't found any drawbacks with Ting, as long as you use the estimated savings calculator before you switch. Just to make sure you aren't one of the 2% of users that wouldn't save money by switching. 

If you have questions, I'd love to answer them. There's very few companies that get brand loyalty from me (Wegmans and USAA), but Ting has officially made the list.


Use this link for a $ 25.00 credit when you sign up!
Early Termination Fee: They'll pay 25% of your early termination fee up to $75.00. (Click here)
iPhone and Samsung: They'll pay any difference in price for buying and selling the same model phone if you don't have a sprint compatible device.(Click here)
Small businesses: if you have 6 or more devices for your business, send them your last few bills. If you won't save money switching to Ting, they'll send you a foosball table! (Click here)

Monday, September 1, 2014

22 Free and Cheap Date Nights in Northern Virginia! Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, Alexandria, and DC included.

FDR Memorial at Sunset: Washington, D.C.

Let's face it... Northern Virginia is not a cheap place to live. Friends from out of state gasp at how much we paid for a 900 square foot townhouse. If you commute to work (which is likely to be a half hour or more!), you're going to spend a fortune in gas from the constant braking/ accelerating thanks to the traffic on our lovely Interstate system. But there's a beauty here too. I love this place. I love the access that I have to so many amazing places. If you look out of the ordinary there is so much for this area to offer you, especially in the name of cheap love! (That didn't sound right did it?)

Whether it's your first date (Don't be boring and do the dinner thing!), or you're 7th anniversary and you have 6 kids, Try out a few of my favorite date nights in Northern Virginia!

1. Blueberry picking at Great Country Farms (Loudoun County): 

         There's plenty of other pick your own farms in Northern Virginia but Loudon definitely has the most diverse. Great Country Farms is my favorite because they have blueberries! Pick a ton, freeze them and you'll be eating blueberry pancakes to commemorate your date for a while! Pack a picnic to bring with you. Click here to head to Great Country Farms and then click here for a full listing of Loudon county pick your own farms.

2. Cosmic bowling at Bowl America:

           Is it a little lame? Sure. Are the shoes pretty goofy? Yup. But it's also an absolute blast! Cosmic bowling is when the lights come down and the glow in the dark features come out. They even have glow in the dark balls! Games and shoe rental can get more expensive than I like (I have mentioned I'm cheap right?), but look on the website for Bowl America (who has a heavy presence in NoVa), right now they have a 25 cents per game and 25 cents per hotdog promotion going on all weekend! Click here for the bowl America website.

3. Potomac Nationals ball game:

          I'm not a sports fan, I barely know anything about sports at all. But I love heading to P-nats games. They have dollar nights for every Monday night home game (click here for their website), where hotdogs and tickets are each a dollar. Parking is $5.00, but it's well worth it. I was so excited about this date, I wrote a full write up on it... Click here for that.

4. FDR Memorial at Sunset:

         Quite possibly my favorite place in the world. It's beautiful and meaningful, and if you pack a picnic, it'll be the best date of your life. Click here for more info. 

5. Manassas Airport:

          We did this not too long ago. Pack up a picnic, beach chairs or camp chairs and take them out to the airport. It's a small airport but fairly busy. Set yourself up in the grass before sunset and pack a blanket to keep warm. You can watch the planes take off well into the dark and it's always one of my favorite places. If you have particularly cool friends, have them meet you with the same. We did that and had a blast. Click here for the airport website. 

6. Planetarium:

          Air and Space Museum's Saturday Star Parties- click here for the link. Meet up in Sky Meadows State Park on assigned nights (click the link to check the schedule) to look at the night sky with both amateur astronomers and astronomers from the observatory. And of course... Pack a picnic!

7. Potomac River Waterfront Park at sunset:

          While we usually avoid the Woodrow Wilson Bridge like the plague, there's a good reason to head over there. There's a beautiful park on top of the bridge on the Maryland side. The views from there are stunning (and occasionally of accidents on I-495) and both sunset and sunrise will take your breath away.Click here for more info.

8. Geocaching:

         You don't have to be in NoVa to try this out, but thanks to our zillion people living in close quarters, it makes it a great place to get into it. Geocaching is the epitome of frugal entertainment. You and your date register for free at this website, then type in the zip code you want to head to. You'll enter a real life treasure hunt where you follow the instructions that will lead you to the treasure. The treasure might be anything from a log book to an Xbox. I should mention that geocaching rules state you must leave something of equal or greater value if you take the treasure.

9. Hiking at Prince William Forest Park:

          There's an entrance fee per car to enter the park, about $7.00 but I would pay the 20 per year if you live close for unlimited access. You can click here for updated information. It's absolutely serene and beautiful. You'll have no idea that you're in the middle of Northern Virginia. They have ponds and deep woods and the bathrooms are all clean (am I the only one that thinks about these things?) This is also several beautiful spots for a picnic. 

10. IKEA:

         Head to Ikea to plan your dream home then stay for hotdogs! IKEA is like my vacation home. Seriously, I'm there that often. Besides the $.50 hotdogs, we love the showroom. We love walking through and planning what our future house (you know, the house we'll have once our babies learn not to destroy things and we have enough saved that we feel comfortable spending money on decorating) will look like. If you have kids, they also have free child care for a bit in smaaland.  You can find their website here

11. Biking/Walking the Mount Vernon Trail:

           This trail winds along the Potomac River and offers breathtaking views and tons of greenery. There's no fee, and it's one of my top picnic spots. Click here to head to their website for more info.

12. Free Yoga at National Harbor or Lorton Workhouse Arts Center:

          Are you a yogi? Head over to the sites for Lorton Work House Arts Center and the National Harbor to check for updated information about their free yoga days. Both are done outside during nice weather and would be a great date!

13. Free outdoor movies at (tons of places! Stonebridge Towne Center in Woodbridge and National Harbor are my favorites):

         Outdoor movies are amazing for so many reasons! You can bring a picnic or your own snacks, you can bring the kids (this is perfect for a toddlers first movie!). These are typically only available in the summer, so plan accordingly and follow the facebook page of National Harbor (found here) and Stonebridge (found here) for updates. If you live in Prince William County, save yourself all of that trouble and just follow Prince William County Moms page (found here), she'll list events for any Prince William area outdoor movies.

14. Gravelly Point on the Mount Vernon Trail:

         You can walk the Mount Vernon Trail in Arlington, or you can head right here for a memorable picnic. If you spread out your blanket and lay down, the planes fly directly over your head (closer than you would think! I swear I could see duct tape on the door of an overhead plane once). You can get some really cool photos with he planes overhead as well. This park is right on the shores of the potomac and offers beautiful views of the DC monuments. Click here for directions- The link goes to the yelp page for the park, which has both directions and the reviews. The reviews say it all.

15. Screw the traffic, stay in and have a cooking date night:

          Tough week at work? Sick of traffic? Drop the kids off at the babysitters house and stay in. You can plan an amazing meal right into your grocery budget. Make it something that's a little time consuming but well worth it. My dream cooking date night meal would be sweet and sour pork with vegetable eggs rolls, fried rice, fortune cookies and pistachio ice cream. All done by hand:) You can do some of the food prep work ahead of time if it helps. Cooking together is fun, sensual  and builds team work skills (which really, team work skills is pretty much essential to a good marriage). 

16. Washington National baseball games- 

          If you're a huge baseball fan and would get more out of the Major League game than the Potomac Nationals, they do have dollar nights! If you take the Metro up (just a few dollars) and take the nosebleed seats, you can go to a game very cheaply. If your not really into baseball, I would stick to the P-Nats which are amazing and fun. Click here for their website. 

17. Ingham family Mystery Challenge:

If you have a bit to spend and want to splurge (a little!), try the Ingham Family Mystery Gift Challenge. Each of you is given an envelope with the exact same amount of cash. It can be anything from $3.00 to $50.00, hit a mall (Potomac mills is kind of big for this!) and coordinate your cell phone clocks. You have 1 hour to spend exactly that amount of money on your partner in gifts. Read the full instructions here but to date, this has been my favorite date night ever! 

18. Pinterest project date night: 

All of those amazing projects you would love to do on pinterest, but take some sort of skill that you don't have (woodworking is my achilles heel). This develops the same team building skills as the cooking date night and gives you something in addition to just your memories for your money. You can build a new kitchen table, create a family mission statement, or any project that you're both excited about! 

19. Arlington National Cemetery: 

This is both a powerful and awe inspiring place that will make you really appreciate one another. We're very blessed to live so close to it. Besides walking through the tombstones of soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country, you can see JFK's tombstone and the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I'm incredibly proud to say that my husband served in the changing of the guard ceremony for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and you won't be disappointed by the dedication of the men that serve there. Click here for more information. 

20. Dollar Night at Arlington Cinema and Draft House: 

This is a full movie theater that has tables at every seat and offers $2.00 movie nights (usually on Mondays and Tuesdays), you can order full meals, elaborate snacks (nachos are amazing!) or draft beer! Click here for their movie schedule.

21. Cherry Blossoms in DC!

If you plan to head up to see the cherry blossoms, take a good camera (or at least an iPhone) and check out some of the free monuments. The weather is normally beautiful this time of year (March/April) and it's the perfect time to play tourist. You can use the metro and pop on and off to see what interests you most. Try out Bens Chili Bowl if you plan to stay for lunch (only pack a lunch if you have a backpack cooler- you won't want to lug a traditional cooler around). Click here for cherry blossom info. Click here for Ben's Chili Bowl information including menu and prices (the photos are mouth watering).  

22. The National Zoo: 

This amazing place is completely free if you do it right! Pack a picnic (take the stroller if you must, sans baby to stash your stuff in- no one will be the wiser), take metro up (parking is $25 if you'd rather do that but they run out of parking right after they open) and print off a zoo map from the website online (they charge for copies there). The absolute best time to go is off season (we went on an unusually warm day in February and had the time of our lives. It can get really hot and crowded there in the summer.

Click here to follow my local NOVA boards on Pinterest!

Gravelly Point: Arlington, Virginia courtesy of www.dcnaturephotography.blogspot.com