What would your vision board look like?

I was reading this post at the Picmonkey Blog about how to make a digital vision board and immediately became intrigued and set to work making my own:

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Have you made a vision board before? What things are on it? Mine is filled with pictures and phrases that visualize a life of travel, yoga, writing more and maybe a new Subaru?

My mantra for 2017 is about saying no more often so that I can say yes to the things I love – or to put it more simply “less is more” – these are some of the “more” things that I’d love to embrace along with more game nights with friends, movie marathons with the kids and date nights with my hubby.

Those three things are easily tangible and clearly within my grasp – but the things on my vision board are goals that feel a little harder, that will require a little more planning, motivation, mindfulness and lottery winnings. Hence, vision board material.

What things would be on your vision board?

Cutting the Cord: Cable Alternatives and What Worked For Us.

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Last summer Dan and I started brainstorming ways we could save some money and our cable bill was quickly mentioned along with “stop going out to eat as often” and “lose Target’s address“. Since those last two are unlikely to happen anytime soon, we decided to start thinking about whether we could ditch cable without cramping our style too much – and whether we’d actually end up saving money in the end.

It took about six months to figure out the logistics AND commit to actually doing something about it. I thought I’d share with you the switches we made to save you a little leg work.

The first thing I did was figure out what tv shows we watch on the reg and how much we were spending for our TV. We are admittedly hardcore TV watchers.

Here’s what we had to begin with and how much it costs us each month:

  • A second tier cable plan packaged with our Internet: $200ish dollars
  • An HBO subscription (we’re all about that Game of Thrones life): $15
  • Netflix Streaming: $9
  • Amazon Prime (for more reasons than TV, but still): $8.25

As for the TV shows we watch, I was really surprised to find that about 75% of the TV shows we watch are actually on network television, not Cable networks. And the Cable shows we watch were largely in the “not essential to my life” category.

Exceptions for us included:

  • The Walking Dead (AMC)
  • Doctor Who (BBCA)
  • Archer (FX)
  • Dirk Gently (BBCA)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • Westworld (HBO)
  • Project Runway (LIFE)

Technically my kids also consume a lot of Disney Channel shows but truthfully they are more into watching shows on their Kindles these days and I know there are plenty of other channels in the sea so I decided that Disney Channel wasn’t a priority. Sorry, kids.

Cable Alternatives We Considered

Next I started researching all of the Cable alternatives and what channels / shows they offer. Here are the ones I looked into:

  • Playstation VUE – One of the few cable channel alternatives that offers a cloud based DVR. We were leaning heavily towards VUE but found their navigation confusing. [starts at 29.99 / month]
  • Sling TV: streaming only – Sling has most of the Cable channels we love but no ability to record. We still may give them a try at some point. [starts at $20 / month]
  • HULU: streaming and on demand for a wide assortment of shows – integrates beautifully with a TIVO. Had way more of the shows we love than I originally expected. [starts at $7.99 / month]
  • TIVO: This isn’t a tv service provider so much as a DVR / software to organize your TV life. It integrates with a lot of streaming services so you can have one list to rule them all. You pay for a TIVO box (approx. $200-500). After that you pay $15 / month for service OR you can pay $150 for an annual service plan or $500 for a lifetime plan.

TIVO is the only service in this list than includes any kind of contract because their monthly plan requires a 1 year commitment. However, they have a 30 day money back guarantee. The other services all tend to offer a 1 week trial but have no contract at all.

What We Have Now

We decided on a TIVO box because recording shows was kind of a deal breaker for our TV watching lifestyle. We are kind of madly in love with the TIVO setup and I’m glad we splurged but if watching recorded shows isn’t important to you, you could totally save some dollars here.

We added a HULU subscription to bridge the gap for shows we’d be losing because of cutting our cable plan. We are not doing Sling or VUE as of right now because the handful of shows that aren’t available on HULU are available to watch on the channel’s website or App. This includes Lifetime and AMC for us. This isn’t a one size fits all decision though – the shows we watch might be totally different than you – check the channel line ups and see what service is the best fit for you.

So far the only channel that we haven’t accounted for completely is BBC America, which we could get on Sling or VUE but most of those shows we watch can be found on Amazon Prime and other places. So we’re considering this a future problem for right now.

We’re keeping Amazon Prime, obviously, and also Netflix and HBO which you can buy without a cable plan at all. 

When we cut our cable we also switched internet providers because we found a different provider that was offering faster internet for less money, at least for the first year. Cord cutters – do your homework and make sure that your Internet provider is still a good deal after your package is gone.

Here’s what our rundown looks like now:

  • TIVO Plan: $15 (obviously we also paid a one time price for the DVR box itself, too)
  • Internet: $40
  • Hulu plan with no commercials: $13
  • An HBO subscription: $15
  • Netflix Streaming: $9
  • Amazon Prime: $8.25

So we are saving over $100 per month and giving up almost nothing. Heck, I’m even finding some new shows to love on Hulu that I couldn’t have watched before.

The moral of the story is: Do your homework, decide what is important to your family, make sure you are getting your money’s worth and if you are ready to try something new – take advantage of those free trials and just see which services you like the best. We ended up with totally different services than we originally expected.

Have you cut the cord yet?

What services does your family use?

All The Holiday Stories I Meant To Tell You.

My in laws came into town to celebrate the holidays with us and now there is almost too much to share. This is what happens when I don’t blog regularly for a couple of weeks – too many pictures and not enough time to do them justice. Let’s try and clear through the backlog a bit with some mini stories, k?

In no particular order.

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  1. I took the kids to my favorite coffee shop on the last day of vacation and my ten year old was  kind of “meh” about what to do for fun at first – he’s finally maybe too old for the play kitchen and whatnot. But he quickly got sucked into designing epic pictures on an Etch a Sketch they had lying around and made this message to send his Portal loving father.
  2. The kids got a build your own melting snowman kit in a recent subscription crate that I ordered them (a one time buy of Owl Crate Jr. because I couldn’t resist being such a big fan of their regular crates which boast a new release YA novel along with a box full of bookish goodies)
  3. The kids’ crate also came with a copy of The Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig. The ten year old read it first and gave rave reviews so I snagged it shortly after the holidays and blew through it. Such a cute story with awesome illustrations and so much #lifegoals. I definitely recommend this one for your kids and I think it would make a good read aloud, too.
  4. We took the kids to my hubby’s office on New Years Eve for our annual family photo fest which involves a lot of walking through various buildings while I mutter about lighting and tripods and ask the kids to stop giving each other bunny ears.
  5. lately1My in laws always stay at awesome hotels while they are in town so that they can squeeze in some pool time. Our kids were veritable fishes for the week, joining them every chance they got. Their swim skills are really coming a long way and my seven year old might have fins now.
  6. The ten year old got his first camera for Christmas. It’s one of those Fuji film instant cameras because everything old is new again. It’s so much nostalgia waiting for the pictures to develop and I kind of love the pictures he’s taken so far, even if they are tiny and blurry. I think he has a good eye for the framing of his pictures. #momblebrag
  7. We took the in-laws to my favorite brunch spot and my kids continued their quest to try and draw a recognizable Mickey Mouse which soon devolved into drawing Minecraft Mickey because obviously. My seven year old actually churns out some really nice drawings – they don’t look anything like Mickey but she draws a mean teddy bear which Mickey aspirations.
  8. We also went to the local botanical gardens to see their holiday train exhibit that they put on every year. This year was LEGO themed and kind of a dorky paradise with lots of Star Wars and Minecraft legos and even a TARDIS spotting in a far corner.
  9. lately3I’ll finish this off with some outtakes from the two days we spent taking pictures at Dan’s office. The second day was just squeezing in one more building and giving the ten year old some more chances to try out his new camera. So many buildings, so little time.
  10. One of the new buildings has a nod to moving pictures like from Harry Potter which was way too amusing. The ten year old was obsessed with this picture of a brave knight that was largely uninterested in us. The kids pretended they were knights, too, and showed off their sword fighting skills.
  11. I posted about the giant tractor last week so you already know how my ovaries feel about this one. The seven year old was just a giant bag of sugar for both outings and would not stand still for a picture to save her life which was super for my patience level. But in spite of her absolute lack of playing along (for the most part, unless it suited her) she continues to look fabulous in general.
  12. My favorite building was Alice in Wonderland themed. Someday when I’m really bored I might share with you the thirty million pictures I took there. For now enjoy this mad tea party that went down in a small nook or cranny of some such thing.
  13. Lastly, behold the very best family photo that my kids were willing to sit still for a hot second for. Thanks to my father-in-law who took the picture for us:

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And now, we are mostly caught up. Enough. Happy 2017 guys. Is it redundant to say that yet?

 

 

Then and Now: Family Photos

Every year we go to my husband’s office on New Years Day (sometimes New Years Eve) and explore some of the new buildings and take some family photos. Each building has a different theme and their artwork lends itself to some fun pictures. Back in 2014 we stumbled across this giant tractor and the kids were obsessed with it.

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We stumbled upon the tractor again this year and the kids were, once again, all over it. I snapped a bunch of pictures and had to share one here along with the photo above so we can all oooh and ahhh and clutch our ovaries over how much the kids have grown in just a couple years.

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Seriously. I literally cannot even.

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If 2017 looked like New Years Eve…

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This week Mama Kat wants to know: If the way you spent your New Year’s Eve is any indication of how the rest of the year will go, how would you say your future is looking right about now?

For us, it would look slightly blurry and upside but full of joy and wonder.

It would involve Doctor Who marathons, take out pizza and telling each other silly jokes. 2017 will look like saying yes to random fun but no to following through on traditions that leave us drained or don’t bring us true joy. It will involve a lot of family time and delicious breakfasts. Good chocolate and sweet wine.

What will 2017 look like for you?

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