I went to AC Moore craft store yesterday to get some beads for a craft for my daughters upcoming party. She picked out two packages of beads prices at $4.99 each. A bit more than I wanted to spend but I knew she would use any leftovers over the summer to make necklaces, bracelets etc. so they wouldn't be wasted. I went back further into the store to look for a gift for a party she has to attend this weekend and saw the same beads (down to same package and same SKU# on the package) in a different aisle, priced for $2.99. When we finally got to the register, I asked the clerk to check which price came up when the beads were scanned. It was $4.99. I told her about the same beads being priced differently in two different places and she immediately offered me the lower price. She said they had probably gone up in price, the price had been changed in the computer but they had goofed and not changed in on both shelf locations. Their goof was my good fortune as I saved myself $4.00 - Yeah! This also brings me to my birthday gift savings secret. Both local chains of craft stores in my area, Michaels and AC Moore, run weekly coupons for 40% and sometimes even 50% off the price of one item. I often like to buy presents for my kids friends that are craft type books and kits so I make sure to buy them at 40% off. I can get a nice kit priced between $15.00 to $20.00 for $9.00 to $12.00. I feel this works out well for both sides - they get a nice gift and I don't have to break the budget to get it. I would normally spend around $15.00 on a gift anyway but they do not need to know how much I actually spent. I also get lots of presents for my youngest two kids this way. My DD who just turned 8 loves crafts and had requested several for her birthday. You can bet that I purchased them with 40% off coupons over the course of a few weeks.
Archive for June, 2007
My youngest DD turned 8 on Father's day and we are having a birthday party for her this weekend. She loves dogs (to the point that she stalks people with dogs when we are out so she can pet the dogs) so we are having a dog themed party. I almost always have at home parties. I just don't see the point of spending hundreds of dollars on a kids party. We went to a very cool store on Sunday to get themed party favors. US Toy/ Constructive Playthings. They are an educational/teacher resource store but also have all the little prizes, favors, etc. in all sorts of different themes. They have a catalog and probably a website. For $12.30 we were able to get 2 dozen each of dog pencils, dog print erasers, mini dog notebooks and a roll of dog stickers. These along with bone shaped sugar cookies (to be baked tonight) and a bit of candy, will make the "doggy bag" favors for the guests to take home. I got a pack of 30 cellophane treat bags from the dollar store for these (also pink plates, napkins and tablecloth). We will use existing felt and materials to make dog ears for each guest to wear and probably get some beads to make "dog collar" necklaces. That will be a craft for everyone to do as they arrive. We will play games like "dog trainer says" (Simon says), Pass the Puppy (Hot Potato) etc. The highlight will be a dog food eating contest where they have to eat a bowl of dry dog food without using their hands (it will really be generic chocolate cereal which looks alot like dog kibble). The trick is, I will not tell them right away that it is cereal. I am planning to drag in my 33 lb bag of real dog food and make them think I am using it to fill the bowls. I have done this before at previous parties and it was really funny. Some thing eating dog food is a cool idea and others won't even eat it after they see the cereal bags. I am making an ice cream cake and will decorate it by sprinkling colored sugar in the shape of dog bones (using a cookie cutter to create an outline). I will also hit the local produce store for some fruit and veggies to put out, along with some pretzels and chips. If I a feeling really creative, I may even make up a batch of cupcakes and decorate them to look like dogs or footprints. We will see how pressed I am for time. Either way, I think I can pull the whole thing off for less than $50.00. I will have to keep track of my expenses and see how I do. So far I have spent 12.30 for favors, 4.24 for paper goods and 6.97 for postage for the invites.
Back from our two days at the beach. I left with $97.00 cash in pocket and returned home with $20.00 plus a boatload of change so I am generally happy with the spending. I also bought a tank of gas on my debit card on the way home but our spending included a few rides on the boardwalk, several treats and all tolls etc. Overall, not bad for the two days. Also the day before we left, I went to the bank to deposit two checks and ended up saving myself $84.00 a year. I realized recently that I had a savings account with a low balance that I was not being charged $7.00 a month maintenance fee. I could up the balance but with the interest rate so low, it was just not worth it to me. I no longer use the account much due to my ING account. So, I closed the account and transferred the balance $429.00 to my checking. $200 will go towards DH's current credit card payment do soon and the other $229 will get transferred to the ING account. There it can earn higher interest and more importantly, not cost me $7.00 per month. It really burns me up that you have to watch every account every month cause they can change the rules and the fee schdedules on a whim (or at least it feels that way).
My cousin has an beach house that he rents out most of the summer but when he is spending time there with his family, he usually invites us to visit. He had some cancellations for this week so I am taking my four kids down for an overnight stay. It is about a 2 hour drive each way, but not too bad if you are staying over. We will leave tomorrow morning after rush hour and be there in time for lunch and an afternoon at the beach. I promised the kids we will try to drive to the closest boardwalk (not one in his town) in the evening. We will head back home the next day after dinnertime so we will have another full beach day. My dh is staying home to work and take care of the dogs. He likes to act as if this is a big sacrifice but he actually enjoys the quiet. I offered to let him be the one to take the kids - he was very quick to answer no! The trick for me will be to keep it frugal at the boardwalk. It all seems to add up so quickly - a treat, a ride, some salt water taffy etc. I am going to have explain to them that they will have to make a choice rather than having everything. Of course, they can always bring their own money but this is hard for the youngest two who do not really get to earn their own money yet. I want them to have a good time, especially since we are not taking a vacation this year, but I also cannot afford to break the bank over a short trip. DH gets paid this Friday but I am still waiting to receive certain bills so I don't want to spend and then regret it when the bills come it. (Electric for example - I never know how high it will be, can only estimate). I am packing food for us to take down with us so it should still run under $100.00 for the two days since we have a free place to stay and a kitchen to cook in. Actually, that is not to bad, works out to be $10.00 per day per person or less if I can keep it frugal at the boardwalk. The most frugal choice would be to skip the boardwalk, but I enjoy it also. Oh, well, I am sure we will have fun. Here's hoping the weather is in our favor!
...bad vision that is, at least in our family. Took DS(10) to the eye doctor last Friday. He had been complaining about not being able to see the blackboard in school etc. I had the school nurse give him an eye test which he failed so off the to eye doctor we went. He does need glasses, not for everything but for distance things like watching TV, movies, reading the board in school etc. Out of 6 of us, only my DD (8) is left not wearing some type of corrective lenses (DH, I and 2 DD's all wear contacts). $418.00 for the appointment, frames and poly-carbon (?) lenses that get darker when you go outside. It was expensive but I got very good "boy proof" flexible metal frames that should hold up for several years. We have been using the same eye doctor for 8 years and I really like him and his office administrator. She is great at helping pick the right frame for your face and making recommendations. I told her I would rather pay a bit more up front for really good frames and then just get the lenses replaced if his prescription changes. She discounted the frames and the appointment for me and it still came to $418.00. Oh well, I have it set aside so it will not add to debt and hopefully I can get reimbursed from our flex plan for out-of-pocket medical. It still comes out of DH's pay but at least you save the taxes on that amount. I'll take every bit I can back in my pocket thank you very much. DD(16) needs her yearly eye appointment and she says she wants glasses to wear when she does not feel like wearing her contacts. Her glasses are 3 or 4 years old and she does need the prescription updated but I refuse to pay for really expensive frames for her. She will hardly wear them so she and I will have to do some negotiating on this. I will probably pay a set amount and if she wants anything fancier, she can make up the difference. I want her to be able to see but we pay for the contacts, the appointment etc. and she never really wore her glasses once she got contacts so I don't see the point in paying top dollar for fancy glasses. She definitely needs a pair as back-up but we don't need to break the bank getting them.
I definitely find that when I am feeling tired, down, frustrated etc., doing something for someone else is a great mood booster. I have a neighbor who is undergoing chemo for cancer. I asked recently if there was anything that I could do. She knows that I bake and enjoy baking so after first saying no, she said she would actually enjoy some cookies. She said sometimes when she is feeling really sick she craves sugar cookies - her favorite. So, today I had some time and I baked her a batch of sugar cookies. I also made some chocolate chip cookies - some for home and some for her kids. I figured this way her kids would not eat her cookies.
I went back to my January post with my 2007 goals and I am pleased to see that we are definitely making progress.
1) DH increase income to be able to cover all basic bills - accomplished with his return to former employer starting 4/30/07.
2) Add no new debt other than home equity to pay mortgage and COBRA. I personally have accomplished this but as a family we did not. I added no new debt and now that DH's salary covers the bills we are working on paying off the equity line. DH on the other hand is another story. He has a small side thing - he would call it a business, I would call it a hobby since it is costing money not bringing it in. He buys and resells car accessories and could make a profit it I could convince him to stop overbuying. So, he has created credit card debt with this and I am working on showing him the light.
3) Add miminum of 2 new sources of income myself by June. I have added one small source - started selling some things on E-bay and earned about $100 so far. I need to work on finding something else.
4) Re-assess all current fixed expenses. This is a work in progress. As each thing like insurance comes due, I am price checking and getting quotes to make sure we are getting the most for our money. This month I have to call around for quotes on trash removal cause our yearly contract is up and I know our provider is raising their rates. They already sent me a post card about their higher expenses so I know this is their way of trying to prepare me for an increased bill. I will call other providers to see if I can get a better deal.
5) Home equity line of credit paid off by December. I am not sure about this one. I have since decided that it should be a priority to make sure we fund IRA's so if that means the equity line gets paid off slower, I am okay with that.
6) Rebuild savings to a minium of $2500.00
Already well on the way to this. Actually, we are over it right now but will have to take out $4000 or so for taxes in August so I am not counting that money.
When I look at things this way and see the progress we are making I feel much better. It is just that I want it NOW and I have to remind myself to be patient.
My kids get out of school next week. Since I have off two days a week (Weds. and Fri.) and they have half days the next two Fridays, I am counting the days left when I have the house to myself. As of this morning, it was two. As of 10:30 this morning, it was down to one. There was a campus wide power failure at their school and they were sent home early. I as not happy at first - not that I don't love my kids, I just also love my time to myself. But then I decided I couldn't do anything other than go with the flow and make the best of it. I was still able to run a few errands with the 13 yo DD babysitting and then got the laundry done, a bit of the cleaning and finished getting my garden in with my 7yo DD. All in all, not everything I needed to get done today but not a bad day anyway. After dinner I went to Bath and Body to take advantage of their semi-annual sale. I was able to get shower gels as teacher gifts for $3.00 each instead of paying the full price of $9.00 or more. I also stocked up on extras to use as teen gifts when the older girls get invited to a party etc. I was also able to take advantage of an on-line coupon for a free lip gloss so I made out quite well. Also got one of my favorite scents in bubble bath at 75% off so I predict a nice bubble bath in my future this evening.
Today is only Tuesday but I already know this will be an expensive week for my family. All four kids have dental appointments today. We used to have dental insurance thru DH's previous company, then COBRA but the new company does not offer dental. I am looking into getting our own policy. I basically have to find the time to sit down, price shop on-line and figure out if it is cost effective. (If the cost of the insurance is not more than the cost of basic routine care, then it is definitely worth it - otherwise, it is a guess). Anyway, for today at least, it will be out of pocket. I will ask them to forgoe anything not critical like x-rays until I decide if I want dental coverage (by the next check-up). My dentist does provide a discount for cash payments and I do have a flex account for unreimbursed medical expenses so it should not be quite as bad. The second expense will be on Friday. My son failed his school eye test and has an eye appointment. Since DH, I and the oldest two DD's all wear glasses/contacts, I knew it was coming. I was just hoping it would be later, rather than sooner. I told the eye doctor's receptionist that by the time my last (youngest DD) needs to see him, we will want our own personalized chair in his office. Again, this will be an out of pocket expense cause the new employers benefits also don't cover eye care. The receptionist knows us well and will give us whatever discounts are available. I will also be able to submit the expense to the flex plan. But still, it will be an expensive week with medical stuff. Thnankfully, with DH's new job, we have the money in the bank to cover this and it will not have to increase our debt at all. I am working really hard to discipline myself - I want to build up our savings/emergency account and also payoff the equity line of credit. I think later this week I need to revisit my goals that I posted in January to see where I stand.