Car Talk, Deals, Education, Money Saver, Tips and Tricks

Finding The Best Car Insurance in Washington Is Full of Surprises…

Trying to find the best car insurance can be a trial. We all know the big car insurance brands: State Farm, Geico, Progressive, Allstate — but after browsing those sites, I’m never sure if I’m actually getting the best deals. So this time I used Clearsurance, and what I found totally caught me by surprise. All those household brands we all see advertised so often? They aren’t ranked very highly. Clearsurance, which is a website that collects reviews from people about their insurance company, uses the data it gathers to create unbiased rankings of car insurance companies, both by state and nationally for 2018. The detailed breakdown helps you compare companies and find coverage that’s actually the best deal for your location and driving history.

Once I got over my surprise, I decided to see what companies other consumers ranked as the best car insurance options in Washington and if my car insurer was rated highly by other consumers. I didn’t even recognize some of the companies that ranked ahead of the giants in car insurance, including my own insurer.

For instance, Amica Mutual, which offers a home ownership discount, was founded in 1907 and ranks as the third best company in all of Washington. Amica Mutual’s 4.46 rating out of 5 on Clearsurance is significantly higher than that of Progressive (4.16) and Allstate (4.1).

Take a look at what companies are ranked as the top 5 car insurers in Washington on Clearsurance:

  1. USAA — 4.68
  2. California Casualty Group — 4.47
  3. Amica Mutual Insurance Company— 4.46
  4. Metromile— 4.45
  5. American National Property & Casualty Company — 4.43

These aren’t the names we typically associate with car insurance. So why are these brands so much better than the big companies we all know? Clearsurance has tons of great information to help you navigate your car insurance coverage, and one of the things I discovered is that companies like Geico and Allstate spend billions of dollars a year on advertisements to become the names we think of when it’s time to buy car insurance or consider switching car insurance. But those advertising dollars have come to from somewhere, and it ends up driving up the cost of our insurance premiums.

 

Why should we be paying more to insure our cars so that our insurer can solicit new business?

For the most part, the companies rated highly in Washington are lesser known than the big names. But the bottom line is, they’re better. These are the companies that other policyholders have found offer fair prices with good customer service and claims handling.

Still, we’re not all eligible for these top insurers, and we don’t all have the same insurance needs. That’s something else Clearsurance understands and helps you navigate. For example, USAA is the best car insurance company for Washingtonians, but it only serves active and former military members and their families. And at a company like Metromile, it offers a multi-car discount. Plus, not all car insurance companies cover high-risk drivers, so if you have a lot of accidents on your record or a DUI, you may not be able to obtain coverage from one of these companies.

What’s a good option for high-risk drivers in Washington?

I did some digging into the car insurance companies that sell in Washington and offer policies to high-risk drivers, often referred to as non-standard drivers. If you’re looking for a cost effective option, The General offers affordable coverage. The General has a rating of 3.68. Consumers seem to believe The General offers cheap prices, but the low rates are reflected in the customer service and handling of claims.

 

Finding the best car insurance for you or your family shouldn’t have to be completely mind-boggling. Once you step outside the buzz of all those big name brands, figuring out which companies actually offer the best customer service at the best price becomes a lot easier, especially if you’ve got Clearsurance on your team.

Healthy Living, Kids, Parenting, Tips and Tricks

10 Tips for Kids Staying Home Alone

10 Tips for Kids Staying Home Alone

As our boys neared about the age of 10 or so they began to hear of friends who are home alone for a bit such as from the time the bus drops them at home until parents are back from work. To a pre-teen and teen this sounds so cool. The idea of being home alone is a huge milestone and they are eager for doses of independence wherever they can get it.

As parents, so many thoughts pass through our heads when we get to that point where perhaps we can try some doses at being left home alone. What if there is an emergency? What if they forget to have their phone charged? What if strangers try to enter the home? What if they decide to turn on the stove or fall? We can drive ourselves silly with the ‘what-if’s’ and never leave them home alone. But, I think it is important to reach this milestone.

Teaching a child to be home alone can bring some valuable lessons and even if you don’t think there will ever be a need to leave your child home, I think finding ways to teach a child this independence and leaving him or her alone in spurts is more valuable than that thrill of independence for them. It can introduce talks about trust, making plans and perhaps they will have a minor panic moment that teaches them the importance of making sure that phone is available or to have to think on their feet. They may need to use these lessons elsewhere in their young lives.

We have recently begun training our youngest to be home alone. Notice I use the word TRAINING? This is because like an important job, you need training. This is an important responsibility and it requires planning and tasks to follow.

  1. First and foremost, check about your State Laws. In Wa. state we do not have a formal law about a child’s age to be left home alone but we do have an advisory of 10 years old. Our youngest just turned 10 so it is a great time to start training them after their 10th birthday. Keep in mind there may be a separate law on what age to leave a child responsible for another child if you have 2 left home alone. Know your law!
  2. As soon as you know your State’s law on children home alone, consider your child’s maturity level. We have 3 boys and they are all very different people.
  3. Put the rules on paper! Trust me, your child’s head has a big ego as they lavish in this idea of being home alone. The opposite may also be true, they may be nervous and anxious as you get to the point of actually leaving. So, rest assured that all those rules you mumbled at them did not stay in their heads very long. So have your rules written down and left out for them.
  4. Start small. We began by allowing our son to stay home alone as we took our evening walks. Eventually I may run to the grocery store 5 minutes form our house and then that graduated into longer errands. But never at night after sunset and never longer than 1-2 hours for maybe the first year or so.
  5. Check in! As much as you want to test them on their independence I always give a call within 5 minutes of leaving for 2 reasons: First is to test they have their cell with them and it’s on and working. Second, is to gage their level of nervousness. If they keep asking when you will be back or exactly where you will be, they may be showing their nerves by asking so many questions so I know to make it quick.
  6. One of my top rules are DO NOT CLOSE DORS BEHIND YOU. We have an over 3,000 square foot home. If he decides to go upstairs and close his game room door behind him he will get lost in video games and potentially not hear noises or alarms that may go off in the home. They need to keep volumes down and doors open for safety. Once I came home and he had the door shut-he did not even know I walked through the door and was home because I startled him. For 2 months the game room was off limits if we are gone. He lost the game privileges.
  7. Keep them busy! I tell my son he can watch the downstairs TV where he is in the main part of the home, play computer or video games only if he keeps game room door open at all times and if he lost game privileges I leave a list of chores he can do AND earn money form to make it motivating. If they get nervous or scared, it keeps them busy and passes the time which helps them out a bit. I also have a NO FRIENDS over rule when I am away too.
  8. The emergency plan! Like you have the babysitter list-that becomes your child’s new sheet! I have all numbers in his phone AND written down incase he has a phone issue and I have a trusted neighbor I alert when he is home alone.
  9. The doorbell! Under no circumstances should your child answer the door when home alone. If you need a neighbor to check in for you, have a secret knock code or alert your child that at a certain time neighbor will knock to check in.
  10. Check the home! Have a very curious kid? Do a double check that stoves are off (make sure your child knows cooking is off limits home alone), weapons are locked up, all windows/doors are locked as you leave, garage door is shut, etc..

These all seem pretty basic. However, a guide and a plan is great to ease their discomfort as well as your own. It is much better than roaming a grocery aisle and suddenly panicking that maybe you left the back slider wide open and they are vulnerable or you left the stove on!

Even thoughts like, “they do know silverware does not go in the microwave, right?” are scary thoughts so have rules and plan so you are covered and your child is safe.

What can make this even easier on you are two tools I use in my home! The Ring Doorbell and Security Camera and a Wi-Fi, app controlled indoor camera. I can turn off the daily schedule on our Ring and set it to motion alerts so anytime someone approaches our driveway or front door my phone chimes. I know if someone is lurking and I also can see if my son broke any “door answering or inviting friends in rules”. I also have an app for my indoor video cameras that has 2-way talk. I can see if he entered the game room and shut the door and all I do is hit the microphone label and tell him to get off or open the door! I can also have motion as he enters the kitchen and have a view of what he may be getting into. See them grab a large knife to cut or about to stick metal in the microwave I have eyes and a voice to shout out at him. Now that you are covered, let’s do this! They will learn some very valuable skills under your control.

(I left links to what I use below if that helps you get set up for the Home Alone plan)!

Kids, Money Saver, Promotions, Reviews, Reviews by Anthony, Summer, Tips and Tricks, Travel

How To Experience Great Wolf Lodge in Under 24 Hours

I was provided Paw Passes in exchange for this feature. I attended GWL on my own and opinions are my own

On the last day of school we hoped into the car and joined friends for a night at the Grand Mound, Wa. Great Wolf Lodge to celebrate the start of summer. It was the best way to celebrate with these new fifth grade boys. We have been before and this time was a bit different and actually the most fun we have had. The difference is that we had Paw Passes and we crushed our stay in less than 24 hours!

When you reserve your stay (or at check in) you have 3 play options to choose from which is a fantastic way to save in more ways than one! I’ll explain…..

For the littles, the Pup Pass is a great start and for the older boys the Paw or Wolf passes are best. Have you ever been to Great Wold Lodge and seen families with these large paws around their necks? These families know how to save and I wish I had discovered or really jumped on board sooner. We checked in and the passes were waiting for us and so was our room at 1:30 – bonus! We were able to go grab all our bags and go upstairs right away to change and head to the water area. After some swim time we changed and grabbed the passes to begin some indoor fun!

Here is the back of the Paw Pass $79.99 (saves over $32 in activities). First we sent the boys to do a quest. They have done this before and even have wands so they chose toppers and played MagiQuest. Because we bought the pass I didn’t have to bring any cash downstairs-it is all pre-paid and off they were running the halls. Us adults went upstairs to get dinner ready.

After dinner they wanted to have some arcade time and they got a game card with 20 points loaded because of the Paw Pass (that’s about $5 free pre-loaded). We added some more cash and off they went. They actually played day 1 and day 2 and were able to save the tickets on their cards from day 1 and combine when we left for their prizes.

After dinner and arcade they wanted to check more off of their Paw Pass list so off to the candy shop where they got to fill an entire cup with any of the bulk candy on the wall. Then next door was Oliver’s Mining Experience where they got to mine for gems. At this point I still have not spent any money besides the extra I put on his arcade card.

One more item to check off for the night…. Creation Station characters! There were many to choose form and Anthony chose Oliver. The game was down you play with after creating your stuffie so they offered us a free backpack and GWL character tee. 

Up to the room to munch on their candy and rest and then at 8pm was a BINGO game downstairs. We played a few games and all 3 boys managed to come away with wins. They pick lots of winners each round so winning is common and they got husky pups.

That was day one! They crashed right away and woke up wanting more water fun. The best time to hit the water park is right when it opens in the morning. A quick run to Starbucks downstairs (Amen to a Starbucks inside), made them waffles and to the waterslides where it is quiet in the morning with no waterslide lines. They had many rounds of slides with little lines. Once it came close to checkout we went upstairs to change but we still have a Paw Pass item and arcade points to spend.

At Great Wolf Lodge you check out at 11 but do not have to leave. Come back in and have some more fun! We completed our last Paw Pass experience in the gift shop where the boys chose a bracelet and got to engrave a name on it. Anthony wanted one for his puppy’s kennel so he chose pink and put Maya’s name on it. He traded in his arcade tickets for a Spiderman character and them homebound! The boys (and us gals) were beat!

The only item on the Paw Pass we did not do was the glitter tattoo ($8 value) because none of the boys were into it but the little girls in the Creation Station the boys offered it too were so excited. The crew allowed the boys to donate their tattoo item to these little girls we saw inside so it got used.

How the Paw Pass really saves!

When you arrive your room and any passes have been paid for if you chose them at purchase time. What I found is that I would spend so much more at GWL without passes and there are 2 reasons for this. The cost of the Pup, Paw and Wolf Passes save you an average of $30 because you bundled and pre-paid for activities in a package. When we don’t have a pass, we also don’t have a plan. There is so much to do and it all costs money.

With the pass the boys are so focused on getting all they can off their passes they aren’t constantly asking for money here and there. No, they didn’t golf or play both Quest games and they would want to do it all normally but these passes were a way to confine them and they never asked to do above and beyond. They had enough going on to keep them occupied. The passes save right away and give your kids a range to stay within.

So, what did we pay for inside the park? We brought our own food so no meal money was spent. We did pass by a bar where the boys were so excited to see Italian Sodas only I read it better to see they were Red Bull Italian Sodas so the guy at the bar told them he could make them sprite Italian Sodas and charged us $3.10 each. Deal! I gave my son $20 to add to his arcade card. I got coffee at Starbucks that my friend actually bought me, but still an expense for us. That’s it! $80 passes plus an extra $25. Know what I have dropped without a plan or pass inside before? At least twice as much! I am very proud how little after checkin we got away with and it makes it much more enticing to get back again soon. Oh and our stay was a Groupon deal so we still saved a ton on the room.

Our suggestion for Great Wolf Lodge

As we stood in line at the top of the waterslides we can see the Rope’s Course outside. It is a bit pricey but fun. Then my friend asks why GWL doesn’t offer a Teen Pass? There are many teens roaming and that would be fantastic. We figured maybe they can have some rope time. They can trade things like mining, bracelets and stuffed animal creation for more arcade points, slices of pizza, Ice Cream scoop, T-Shirt or water bottle from gift shop. They can maybe redeem for a room dedicated for teens (that would be fun to offer) for a movie or perhaps GWL swim area stays open a half hour longer and uses that as teen time for a small fee or free with a Teen Pass. We thought about our boys getting older and still having a blast but they won’t be into stuffed animals anymore so there is plenty that could be available for a pass for them. Maybe?

Visit Great Wolf Lodge and choose the Pass package that fits each of your family members!

 

 

Food, Kids, Recipes, Summer, Tips and Tricks

Let’s Party this Summer with Palmer Candy

I have partnered with Palmer and was sent samples. Opinions are my own

Let's Party this Summer with Palmer Candy

You have seen the R.M. Palmer Easter bunnies recently and then there are the popular R.M. Palmer Peppermint Patties and Peanut Butter Cups. But, did you know about all you can find by visiting the RM Palmer website? Let’s take a look and then I have also shared some fun candies you can get for your summer parties and BBQ’s.

R.M. Palmer sells bulk candy like the red, white and blue chocolates you see below. This is great for themed parties, weddings, corporate dinners and even crafts with candy. Have you seen my Pokemon party favors I made with R.M. Palmer bulk candies?

First of all, make sure you sign up for the R.M. Palmer newsletter from their main homepage. This is how you can get savings, hear about promotions and find new happenings. You can also browse recipes like Palmer Peanut Butter Cup Parfaits or Dark Chocolate Peppermint Patty Brownies.

Along with recipes you can find crafts using R.M. Palmer candies like a Chocolate Candy bouquet or a Shining Star Trophy for your kids sports team. Also learn what stores near you cary the candies in their store locator.

Anthony loves the Peppermint Patties and they are a great cool treat for the summer heat. Then celebrate the Fourth of July with Red, White and Blue caramel-filled chocolates like the ones I featured.

Whether you have a sports team to celebrate the end of the season with or a birthday party to throw, visit R.M. Palmer to find great candies and fun ideas!

Tips and Tricks, Travel

From a GPS tracker to smart queues: The changing dynamics of modern theme parks

Theme parks are one of those areas where technology is there for all to see. Whether you went twenty years ago, or twenty days ago – it’s environments like this which really do get the best out of technology, at least in the eye of the general public.

photo source

For a lot of years it has been the rides which have been heavily focused on, and rightly so. However, we’re starting to see waves of new technology which impact the in-park experience to extremes that we never thought were possible. Here, we’ll take a look at some of these developments, to highlight how hi-tech the theme park really has become.

Keeping track of the kids

From a safety perspective, there’s no doubt that this has been one of the big developments in the industry. With that being said, it’s not the industry itself which have devised the traditional GPS tracker – but theme parks are certainly one environment in which these contraptions can work absolute wonders.

As we all know, in the middle of summer, these places can be so full that you can barely move. We’re talking about tens of thousands of people congregating in one park and suffice to say, it’s quite easy for someone to become lost in seconds.

Traditionally, wrist bands would be handed out to small children in case the above did happen. The rise of the GPS tracker means that this isn’t necessary now – and parents can find their little ones in a breeze by locating them through one of the devices.

The end of queuing?

Next on the list is a serious pet hate for any theme park enthusiast. Considering the fact that the parks tend to contain more rides than most of us have time to go on anyway, the fact that some demand a queue time of two hours or sometimes longer is frustrating to say the least.

This is why we have been impressed by the smart queuing philosophy. This effectively means that people are queuing on their phone, and simply turn up to the entrance of the ride when their designated time is shown.

There will be occasions, especially in peak periods, where it might be a little difficult to orchestrate. However, there’s no doubt it’s come as a monumental improvement for most people.

An app which actually helps your experience

This next point follows perfectly from the previous one we have discussed. For the theme parks that haven’t implemented smart queuing fully, or for those which initiate a charge for utilizing such a service, the apps that are on offer usually solve the problem anyway.

These apps will highlight the quiet areas of the park, telling you roughly how long it will take to queue for each ride. From a time saving perspective this is invaluable, and means the days of traveling seemingly miles across a park only to see that the queue is of a similar length are long gone.

Gift Guides, Holiday Gift Guide 2017, Holiday Shopping, Tips and Tricks

Gift List Organizer – Free Printable

How organized are you right now with your gift giving regimen?

I thought so! Let me help you out and explain how I stay organized as I shop for those on my list. Christmas is a 2 day event for us. Both my husband and I have our families near with both of us within 60 miles of all parents, siblings and some uncles. 

Gift List Organizer - Free Printable

My husbands family hosts Christmas Eve and my family is Christmas Day so that leaves Christmas morning for our boys and us alone for Santa gifts and breakfast.

I need lists! I need ideas too so when I get them I need to keep them in one spot and with me while I shop. I know I can keep notes on my phone but I also use my phone for store apps and coupons so flipping between deals and notes is a pain sometimes.

Now there are a few tips to maximize your organizing when buying multiple gifts……

I kept the spaces wide. You can always print extra copies if you have more names and lines needed, but here is why the space is important. Take a look at my ‘actual’ lit for the kids i shop for (who won’t see this post so no worries about spoiling their gifts they will be getting)

List example

Keep scrolling to print your Gift List Organizer —>

Take Austin, my nephew for example. I sent him a text asking for ideas, he said he wants the game Destiny 2 and after confirming it wasn’t already bought by my SIL I told her he will get it from me. But, then one day I was at Ross and saw some Seahawks PJ pants on clearance and had to get them for him. He is a huge fan so I have 2 gifts to fit into the space. See I am not done with my nieces yet-I still need to pick up gift cards for them.

stay organized

Even your donations can be entered so it stays all together for your budget checks.

Keeping it neat is much batter for your organization so having this much space is just clean and better to look at. I use a binder like the one advertised below to take shopping with me to hold my lists, ads and savings coupons.

You will want these printed out and jot your ideas down as you head shopping. If you purchase, a quick cross out with a pen will keep you from having to remember when your knee deep in gifts days later and shopping that long night is a blur now.

I check the ‘Purchased’ box once I am done with that person. That feeling to see a check mark in every box of your entire list is such a fantastic feeling.

The cost section is for you. To look at and cringe or state your budget in advance. But, hopefully it’s there because you did better than expected and you beat your budget!

*Here it is! Click on the Gift List below and print your copies!*

Happy shopping!***

Shop smart and make sure you visit one of my go-to sites Cuckoo for Coupons. They are on it for on time sales at about every store out there! I always browse her site and take notes on who has the best price on what I need that week! New to couponing or using store apps-she has all your tutorials and info in the website too!