For anyone that has not seen this toy, simply do a search for flying slingshot monekys and you should find a multitude of sites selling them, many with videos showing how they work. They are basically small toy monkeys with stretchy hands/arms. You launch them into the air and they fly through the air like a slingshot and make a screaming sound as they do so. I have a goofy sense of humor and I am dying to get some of these as gag gifts for friends and family. I had seen these in catalogs for pricing in the range of 3 for $30.00 plus shipping. It did not occur to me to do a web search until yesterday. Imagine my delight to find them priced much more reasonably all over the web. My problem is now my DH who runs a side business/hobby selling things at flea markets. He would call it a business since he has good cash flow. I would call it a hobby since the cash goes right back out for more merchandise. He wants to order them wholesale and sell them for the holiday season. I found a decent price but am loathe to purchase without having the money already set aside. To me, it is just one more thing he will be spending money on and running up credit card bills. He has no problem with this - I have huge problems with this. However, I concede that he is right about the timing - before the holidays is the time to be selling them. They could be sold for about $5 and would make a great small gift for a child or a great gag gift for an adult (okay, one like me who has a weird sense of humor. I prefer to think of it as a playful sense of humor but then I am also known to hide rubber cockroaches in my kids rooms to "surprise" them.) Anyway, I am trying to decide to buy or not buy 100 flying slingshot monkeys. It would cost about $200 max including shipping and I could get him to sell them for $5 each. There would be no additional outlay as he is already going to the market anyway. So, to buy or not buy, that is the question.
After a nice Thanksgiving Dinner, I joined the Black Friday madness, with a twist. I was working, not shopping! My DD 16 recently started a job at a big new "Premium Outlet" center about 15 minutes from our house. The outlet center just opened the first week in November and had a slew of opening week sales. Traffic was insane that first weekend. You would think nobody had ever had a place to shop before (instead of being about 20 minutes from a huge mall - one of the largest on the east coast). Anyway, the stores were opening at 12:00 am on Thursday night/Friday morning and they needed people to help out. DD could not work since she is not allowed to work that late according to PA state child labor laws. Must be over 18. Many employees at many stores are 16 and 17 yo teenage girls so many stores were doing the same thing - recruiting friends/family to help out with the overnight shift. They were offering $10/hour, paid in cash immediately after the shift so I said, what the heck. I figured it would keep me from even being tempted to get up early to join the madness. My plan was work from 12:00 to 8:00 am, go home and sleep til 2:00, thus missing all chances to join the crazy early morning madness.
I was not sure what traffic would be like that night so I got there a bit early and just waited in my car. I got there at 11:30 pm and the stores were not opening til 12:00. I had not trouble parking and the lot was about 1/4 full when I got there. By the time I went into the store at 11:50, the lot was 3/4 full and traffic looked like it was backed up for miles. I worked til 3:30 am and was released to go home early due to the rush dying down and them having over scheduled people. No problem for me since I did not really relish the idea of staying up all night. When I left at 3:30 am there were still plenty of people milling around the mall and the lot was about 1/2 full. Every available space had been taken at one point and people were still parked all over any additional space like grass, islands etc. All I can say is people are crazy. My dd went with me to meet some friends and they left around 1:30 am. She did not even buy anything and said the deals were not really any better than they had been around opening weekend. Yet, people were lined up outside the stores before they opened. The Coach store was apparently having a 20% off sale and people were driving an hour or two just to get there. Wonder if what they spent in gas and coffee, snacks offset any savings they may have gotten? Again, people are crazy. I just found myself saying that over and over on Black Friday watching the madness. I went home at 3:30 and went to bed - I did not even want to be tempted to shop. (Although I must admit to getting up before noon and hitting two sales for holiday gifts that were already planned for.)
This weekend was thankfully way less expensive than last week. Friday I did do some holiday shopping but it was all with money I had already set aside for gifts. I am about 1/2 way done with shopping for my 4 kids but since we celebrate Hannukah at home (DH is Jewish) I have to hurry up. I have already started wrapping things. I find (with credits to Flylady) that I am much less stressed if I start wrapping things ahead of time and just wrap two or three things a night. I can fit this into a five to 10 minute block of time and by the time the holidays are here, everything is done. No last minute, late night wrapping session in a panic to get it done. Also, having things wrapped is a great way to thwart those who would like to sneak and peek to see what their gifts might be. I also go out of my way to wrap things in unusual ways, use unusual containers, boxes etc. to help prevent guessing. My two oldest DD's are teens and prefer to pick out many things themselves. I have no problem with this but I think it is less fun if you know what most things are before you even open them. So, I cleverly disguise things so that they are still surprised. For example, I might put books in some sort of round container and wrap that, put small things in larger boxes, stuff shirts etc. into small boxes - anything to disguise what things really are. My DD 16 picked out some boots she really wanted and I said I would put them away for a holiday gift. I am going to do my best to disguise them. I might even just wrap a piece of paper with the word boots on it and put it in a tiny box. She is expecting me to try to trick her so I will have to really use my imagination on this one. I love to see the look of surprise on their faces when they think they know what something is and then they unwrap it, only to find that it is something else entirely.
I realized this morning that yesterday marks one year ago that I started this blog. This time last year we were worried about DH finding a job (took til end of April to find a decent job) and living off of savings. This year DH has a decent job, health benefits again (we were paying $1000 a month COBRA last year) and we are working on building savings back up rather than spending them down. We do have some debt incurred as a result of his long unemployment but I am slowing working on paying that down. Anyway, things are definitely better this year than this time last year. With that in mind and next week being thanksgiving, here is just a short list of some of the things I have to be thankful for. I find this really helps me when I am feeling sorry for myself, discontented etc. - to focus on what I do have as opposed to what I do not.
1) DH and 4 healthy children
2) My mom
3) My mastiff babies
4) A warm, dry safe home
5) DH is employed with benefits and a regular paycheck!!!!!
6) Savings for emergencies and unexpected bills (like extra tires and a truck cap!)
7) My basic frugal nature - we would not have made it thru this last year without this.
8) This community of like minded people - it really helps to know others out there are on the same wave length and you are not fighting the fight alone.
There are many more but I'll save that for some other time.
I took my car in on Friday to get new tires. I had planned ahead, priced them out and got a deal for buy 3, get 1 free. I might have done a bit better if I really shopped around on price but I got them at our local STS tire place where I have had good service in the past, plus they come with guarantee on free rotation, free patching etc. I had gotten my last set of tires from them and found this well worth it. Plus, they are close by and will usually squeeze me in when I have any sort of emergency. So, I like to give them business when possible. Anyway, I had known I needed new tires, had gotten an estimate a few weeks ago and set aside the money. Well, DH also turned out to need two new tires. I knew he needed them but did not think they were as bad as they were. My plan was to price out the new tires and set the money aside again and get them in a few weeks. Well, turns out that his were worse than mine and so we also had two new tires put on his truck. Of course, tires for his truck are much more expensive than for my van so that was money I was not expecting to spend this week. I have plenty in savings to cover it, I am just trying to slowly rebuild savings so I hate to have to take it out if not absolutely necessary. I much prefer to preplan and save ahead. That alone would not have been so bad but DH also discovered this week that the vinyl trundle cover for his truck bed is tearing and leaking. He decided that he MUST have a cap for his truck NOW! I was not of the same opinion but he did manage to find a used fiberglass cap which fit his truck and got it installed for a little less than $600. A new cap of the same type would run over $1200 plus installation so I am glad that he was able to find a used one and was more than happy with it. It gives me hope that perhaps my money habits are rubbing off on him after all. After 21 years of marriage, one would certainly hope so! Anyway, it was not great timing with the holidays coming up and gifts still to buy but we will make it work out without taking too much out of the savings account. I already have the money set aside for my tires and when I get paid this week it will cover his tires. Now all I have to do is save the extra $600 for the cap. Easier said than done but I can always put my next cleaning check towards that and all will be covered. I just now need to buy the rest of our holiday gifts out of our regular household budget or wait til I get my check at the end of November. Either way, I am glad we are in a much better financial position than we were this time last year so I cannot complain.
I know I am not as good at this as some but there is nothing I like better than getting things I will use for free. I have greatly increased my ability to do this by doing the following:
1) Clip coupons for all groceries I would use, even if it is not something I would buy all the time. If I would use it if the price was right (ie. free) then I will clip it. I file my coupons alphabetically and this takes less than 1 hour total a week. I do it while I am watching TV.
2) Scan the grocery store sales circular weekly and see what is on sale that I would use,and that matches coupons I have. I also keep a running list of things I need to buy and try to match coupons to that also.
3) Bring my coupons with me. I have them in a little index card file box and always take the whole box to the store. This way, I can always take advantage of a surprise sale.
4) Shop stores on double or triple coupon days if available. My regular store doubles coupons up to $.99 every day - I love it.
5) Keep my eye out for unmarked sales on items I use regularly and also try to combine with a coupon.
By using these 5 steps, I usually can net a few free items each week as a part of my regular weekly shopping trip. For example, Betty Crocker Scalloped Potatoes (yes, from scratch is better but the kids love these and I have been known to make them) on sale $1.00 each. I combined this with a coupon for $.50 off which doubled to FREE. Another example, Fleischmans Yeast 3 pack strip, on sale for $1.50. I prefer to buy jar or even from the natural foods store but combined with $.45 coupon, doubled to $.90 plus register coupon for $.50 off next grocery order brought my cost down to $.10 for the strip. Not free, but not bad at all.
I have never been a believer in getting into debt for holiday gifts but with money being tight these last few years I am finding it even more important to fund my holiday shopping without resorting to credit. That is not to say that I don't use some credit cards to purchase on-line etc, just that they are paid in full so there is no lingering holiday debt come the new year. Here are just a few of the ways I accomplish a debt free holiday:
1) Commit to spending only what you can afford. If you will be tempted to overspend with credit cards, don't use them at all. If you cannot afford it, don't buy it just because someone else tells you that you should.
2) Start setting aside small bits of money each week or so during the summer or even earlier in the year if you can. If you can take 10, 15 or 20 dollars that you would otherwise spend on something else and set it aside (I transfer it to my ING account) do so - you can easily have a few hundred dollars set aside before you even need to begin shopping.
3) Take all small amounts from sources like rebates, survey sites, rolled coins and add them to your stash. This easily gives me at least another $100.
4)Plan out your gift needs. I poll my 4 kids and try to find out what they want, what they need and what I think they will really use. If it is really expensive, they know I won't be buying it so no personal computers, personal cell phones, etc. for my kids. We have bought a new family computer, PS2 and other larger gifts but they were family gifts and were bought during years when we could afford the extra expense.
5) Shop the sales, look for coupons, rebates, on-line deals etc. My youngest daughter loves crafts. Last year I got her several craft kits, all purchased at 40% to 50% off with coupons from Michaels, AC Moore or Joannes
6) Participate year round in retailers loyalty programs and use your credits/coupons to purchase gifts. I have a credit card which gives me gift certificates to Toys-R-Us. I only use it for purchases that require a credit card and it is always paid in full but I have managed to accumulate $30. I will be able to use this to buy a few gifts and hopefully combine this with store sales. Many other stores have this type of program. Even if you only net a few gifts this way, it is that many less that you need to pay for.
7) Do your research and try to make sure you are purchasing at the best price. Some things I like to see in person before I buy them. I pre-research on-line and then hit the stores. If I like it and the store price is good, I buy it while I am there. If it is significanly cheaper, I buy it on-line now that I have seen it and know that I really want it.
8) Talk tactfully to family and friends to cut back on gift giving. Last year DH was unemployed. I spoke to several family friends who we routinely has exchanged gifts with "because we had always done so". With several it had gotten to the point where we really did not know what to get their kids and they really did not know what to get ours. Both sides were more than happy to retire the gift giving tradition with no hard feelings.
9) If you are talented in a particular area, get creative and give a gift that makes use of your talent. I like to sew and do crafts so I have given my nieces presents in past years that were handmade and cost less than if I would have had to buy them.
10) Most important, remember the spirit of the season is what is important, not the size of the gift or the price tag.
Although money is tight this year, I refuse to ignore the need to save for retirement. I am using money refunded to us for healthcare expenses to fund this years IRA contribution. My DH has a flex benefits account that reimburses us for out of pocket health costs. Since we already spent the money, I take the refund checks and earmark them for our retirement savings. It is money we do not miss since is has already been spent. With 4 kids and 4 people in the family, between glasses, contacts, dentist visits, doctors office co-pays etc. we should have no problem meeting our plan max of $2500. That means I will have $2500 to add to the retirement savings without having to further stretch our budget.
I feel like I go thru weeks where nothing on great interest is going on financially so I get lazy about blogging. Actually, I should find the fact that things are chugging along much more exciting given the fact that this time last year DH was unemployed and we were living off our emergency fund. We still have debt to pay off from his unemployment period but otherwise things are back on track, bills are getting paid, small amounts are going to savings etc. I think the biggest challenge for me is to keep paying in cash for large purchases. I don't mean literally always cash, but putting the money aside before making the purchase. Right now my car needs four new tires sometime in the next few months, and DH's call will need a major tuneup and 2 tires. I have no problem remembering that these things are coming up but I keep having to remind DH and play the budget bully and it is a role that gets tiresome. My oldest DD wants to go for her drivers license soon but we want her to complete a driver's ed course - both for her safety and for the insurance discount. It runs about $400 for the on-the-road portion. His response, just call and sign her up. Mine, after I have the money set aside and by the way I am still trying to put aside money for the tires, tuneup etc. Oh yeah - and the holidays are coming up and I insist on only paying cash for gifts so I still have to deal with that. Her drivers ed might just have to wait a month or so. It is not like we have a third car for her to drive whenever she wants so I am not sure what the hurry is. That is another sore subject. He feels (and of course she adds her agreement - not that she should have a say in it) that we "need" to get a third car so that she will have something to drive. My response - she will have something to drive when she saves up the money and buys it! Argh! And on it goes. Sometimes is feels like I am the only responsible adult in my household. I don't expect it from my 16 yo DD but is it too much to expect from the 44 yo husband?
I made some really yummy and really inexpensive vegetable soup about two weeks ago. It was so good and the weather right now is perfect for soup so I am planning to make another large pot this afternoon. It is easy to make and one of those things that you can kind of throw in whatever veggies you have on hand and use up stuff that might have otherwise gone to waste. Another plus is it is low in calories but really filling and healthy - all at the same time. Who could ask for more!
The basic recipe is to take a cup each of carrots, celery and onion and saute in a bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add a clove or two of garlic. Simmer another few minutes but don't let the garlic burn. Then when everything begins to get a bit soft, add chicken stock (a quart or even two, depending upon how much soup you want to make). Also add a can or two of whole peeled tomatoes, but breaking them up with a spoon or your fingers before putting them in along with their liquid. Bring to a boil and add whatever other veggies you want. I used about 1-2 cups of green beans and shredded cabbage - about 3-4 cups. I let this cook a while longer til the beans and cabbage started to soften and then added a bag of baby spinach leaves. My dh and kids took one look and went - EEEW! Their loss and my gain but I will work on converting them anyway.
These days I feel like I need a time machine. Not to go back or forward in time but to somehow make more time in the day. Primarily, I would like to spend it sleeping but really I always feel like I have so much else that I could/should be doing. I feel like my weekends, which should be spent relaxing and recharging, are spent running kids around and doing things around the house. So, I never quite seem to get to the things that would relax me, the things that I really want to do like sewing, quilting or scrapbooking. And, when I ever do have the time, I don't really want to spend the money on the materials so I am basically driving myself crazy, spinning myself in circles. I feel like my dogs must feel when they try to chase their own tails. Almost got it, almost got it, then they fall over dizzy from trying. Lately I have been wanting to find an extra source of income but that gets me right back to the issue of time. If I don't have enough time as it is, how will I find the time to generate additional income. I am basically ranting to myself here so feel free to ignore. I think it comes down to me just feeling stressed out and stretched at both ends. I really need my DH and kids to kick in and help out more but getting them to do that seems like another whole project that I do not have time for. ARGH! I guess what I will have to do is attack this situation one step at a time. The first step should really be to start with myself and see what I could be doing better. I know I waste time in the evenings. I go upstairs to get the youngest two ready for bed and end up laying on my bed watching TV while waiting for them and almost falling asleep. Once I get into that zone, it is a hard place for me to get myself out of. I think my first step will be to limit the amount of TV I watch to 1 hr a day. That way, if there is something I really want to watch, I can but I will stop the mindless zoning out which puts me into a very non-productive mood. So, tonight, Grays's Anatomy and nothing else. I will see if I feel like I accomplish more and feel less stressed. This other thing I will try to do is analyze the chores I have to do on a regular basis and see which can be turned over to the kids as part of their chores/allowance. Feeling better already. Sometimes a good rant is just what the doctor ordered. But, if anyone has a spare time stretcher that they would like to donate, I'm still interested.
Last Friday seemed to be my lucky day for getting free stuff. My DS (10) won one of the new i-pod nano's with video. He dropped his name in a contest at a local community fair last weekend and was thrilled to find out that he won. I picked it up on Friday. Now if I could just find the time to call Apple Support to figure out why I cannot get it set up, we would be good to go. I also took my car in to my local tire/repair shop for a tire with a slow leak. They found a nail in the tire and patched it for free since I had bought the tire from them. Saved me about $20.00 so I was not about to complain about that.
I also finally finished painting both of my daughter's rooms. I am now being asked by me DD(8) when I will have more time to paint her room and her brother's rooms. I need to get thru Halloween (I usually sew some costumes) and then I can focus on more painting. In the meantime, I am keeping my eye out for good deals on paint. I really like MAB and they usually have a buy one/get one free sale about 2 times a year. I would love to be able to take advantage of that to get the additional paint. If I have to wait, in the meantime I have two bathrooms to paint and already have leftover paint from other projects that I will use for the bathrooms.
I also need frugal ideas for adult Halloween costumes that start with the letter "N". My neighbors host an annual Halloween party that has a different letter theme each year. Last year was "L". I went as a litterbox. I got a flat shirt box, glued kitty litter (yes - clean!) to the bottom, added "molded" tootsie rolls and pinned a stuffed cat to my shoulder. It was really funny and not hard to make. Another neighbor went as a lightening but - she made wings and attached large glow sticks - it was really cute. Others go all out and buy costumes. One year another neighbor who is male and over 6 ft. wore an inflatable "barmaid" costume and definitely deserved to win funniest costume. So, any frugal "N" costume ideas would be appreciated.
Love 'em or hate 'em, we are probably all familiar with them. Each year, within the first month or so of the new school year, the order form comes home. Complete with pictures of bright, smiling children, tugging on a parent's heartstrings and wallet to buy, buy, buy this precious rememberance of your child. I actually do like to get school photos of my kids each year becuase I think they will enjoy showing their children what they looked like at certain ages. However, I do not enjoy paying the ever increasing prices for school photos. I think this year I am even more sensitive to it because I have kids in three different schools and have seen three different order forms. All are using the same photography studio and I have ordered similar packages for all but the prices have varied widely. My two oldest DD's (one in 11th gr. and 1 in 8th) go to our local public schools and their packages varied by about $2.00 for the same thing. Not really a big deal but it still made me wonder why? Then this week my youngest two (DS10 and DD8) came home with their picture order forms. They go to a local charter school. Their price for a similar package (from the same photography studio) was $12.00 more. I called the studio to ask them to explain the price difference. The best answer I got out of the customer service girl was "Different schools are priced differently". Gee! really! I told her I doubted any of the schools really asked to have their photos cost more so I wanted to speak to someone who could offer me a better explanation. Much to my shock (sarcasm here) no one was available. I then asked her what they meant on the order form "Ask about our family plan". (Mind you this was buried in almost microscopic print). She told me that the first two kids are full price but any child after that is 1/2 price on the same or lower priced package. I was also told I could still use the discount even though all 4 were not at the same school. I just have to note on the order form the other kids names, schools etc. Put this in the category of "Boy I am glad I asked". Now I am off to e-mail my kids teachers so they can let other parents know. I am not impressed by a company that offers such a policy but does not really seem to want people to know about it. Not to worry, I will take care of that job for them! They can thank me later!
Wednesday is my usual day to hit the grocery store to stock up and take advantage of whatever is on sale that week. I am working on buying what is on sale and stocking up rather than buying as needed for most non-perisables. I do feel like this is saving me some money but it is hard to quantify. Anyway, this week my regular store had several great coupons $5.00 off $40, free 6 pack of water, and free can of coffee. A new competitor opened up down the road and they are trying to maintain customer loyalty. Works for me cause I like them better anyway, just don't tell. Let em keep guessing and giving away extra freebies. In addition to those deals they would triple up to 4 coupons (under 99cents each). I got a free Suave deoderant (1.79 less a tripled 60cent coupon) free Quaker oatmeal (on sale for $1.50 less 50 cent tripled coupon) and two more such deals that I forget right now. All in all, my total before discounts and coupons came to $111 and after, $57.00 I was very pleased. Add to this the fact that I earned a 10% discount certificate off next shopping order and another $1.00 off coupon - a great shopping/savings day. Too bad I can't seem to do that well every week but I love it when it does happen. It also reminded me why it pays me to clip all coupons for things I might use but I will blog about that later.
One of my goals this summer was to paint my oldest 2 DD's rooms (after all, I had bought the paint 2 years ago!). I can finally report that I am in the home stretch - finished the oldest's room (DD16) and just have a bit more sponging to do on DD14's. Her walls are totally painted and all the woodwork but we are sponging it about 1/3 up (like to chair rail height) and finishing with a 2" wide stripe of one of the sponged colors. I have just one part of a wall left to sponge but it is currently behind her new (from a garage sale) desk. I need to get someone to help me move the desk to its final spot (now that it has been painted) but DH is out of commission for the moment. He pulled something in his arm/shoulder last week and it is still bothering him. I really don't want him to make it worse - it is bad enough that he refuses to take the doctors advice to rest it and ice it. Anyway, the desk is solid oak and came in three pieces. None of which I am capable of moving myself. Luckily, I have great neighbors on either side. Both of them better hide today cause I will probably ask whichever one I see first to help me out with this. Actually, I am sure that they won't mind. Both were willing to tromp thru the woods in the freezing weather with me when our dog was lost back in March. What is moving a bit of furniture compared to spending hours freezing your behind off in the woods? Boy do I count myself lucky to have such great neighbors.
Anyway, once I get the furniture moved I can finish her room. I am taking the concept of summer literally - so that gives me a few more days to reach my goal of being done before summer is over (ie. by Sept. 20th) (or is that actually the first day of fall?) All this painting has got me wanting to get more done. We have bathrooms that have not been painted since we moved in 8 years ago. I am going to hit those next (cause they are relatively small and don't involve moving furniture) and then move on to the two other kids rooms. My goal is to accomplish the painting of the bathrooms without spending a lot more money on paint. I want to paint them both some shade of blue so I can do at least one with leftover paint from my son's room (a sort of soft baby blue) or my DH's office in the basement (a darker blue with a touch of grey or slate in it.) I can also combine if needed to create my own shade. I have done this before with much success. So much so that someone asked me what color I had used cause they wanted to duplicate it. I laughed first and then told them good luck with that and explained. I also saw yesterday that a local t-shirt/sweatshirt outlet has a room where they sell partially used cans of paint for around $2.50 or so a can. This could also be a great source for any other small room if they have a color I like. It seems to be stuff people have either used a bit of or did not like or was mixed wrong for what someone wanted. I will definitely have to check into this further. It could be an interesting frugal source for small projects.
Boy was last week an expensive week around our house. I took our dog to get spayed on Thursday - $609.00. It was more expensive than usual because she was over 1 yr and over 100 lbs. (We had been advised by both breeder and vet to not to get her spayed at the usual 6 months of age.) I new this would be an upcoming expense so I have the money already sitting in the savings account to pay for it. I put it on my cc (no balance carried on this) to get the reward points but it will be paid in full when the bill comes in. Then our car insurance, homeowners insurance and additional liability policy were all due to be paid this week. We do not have the bank escrow for taxes and homeowners - I prefer to pay ourselves - makes me more aware of what we are spending on it and work to keep costs down. Anyway, that added up to at least an additional $1500. Actually would be more if I paid the entire car insurance bill at one pop but I pay it quarterly right now because I do not want to totally deplete our emergency fund just for this. Again, I new these expenses were coming up so I had worked hard to set aside the money in advance. While I hate paying large bills, it feels so much better knowing that we have the money to pay them and are not depleting savings to do so. This time last year DH was still unemployed and these bills all had to be paid out of savings. This year our savings is lower (it was depleted by the unemployment period) but I am working hard to get it back up there. Progress seems slow at times but it is steadily inching up and I am working extra hard to make sure to set the money aside for all new expenses rather than having to pay out of savings. Oh, I almost forgot. We took DH's truck in for inspection last week also. That plus an oil change and a few minor things on the car cost $191.00. I put that on the credit card also but I will be getting paid before this bill is due and will also have the money set aside. Now my goal is to somehow set aside, or even better, earn extra for 4 new tires for my car and 2 new for DH. All of our tires passed inspection but we will both be needing new ones in the next 3-4 months. So, my goal will be to have the money ahead of time. I am going to try to re-energize myself to sell more of DH's car care accessories (that he sells at the flea market) on E-bay and earn enough for at least a portion of the tires. I figure if I blog about this goal, I am way more likely to seriously work to make it happen.
I took my oldest DD to the dentist today. She just got her braces off her top teeth a few weeks ago and we had some discoloration issues to deal with. These were issues she had before the braces went on - staining and white areas due to too much fluoride in the water when she was really young. We knew beforehand that we would have to deal with it when the braces came off. She went two weeks ago and the dentist tried some microabrasion to with success. At the time he was only able to do her 6 front teeth due to time constraints so this was the second appointment to finish the other top teeth. I was under the impression that I would owe another $90 for todays visit but he told me we had already paid in full for all the top teeth at the last appointment. The check I had written then was for all the top teeth, not just the 6 he did. That made me very happy - $90 in our pocket rather than back out like I was expecting. I will have to make a point to transfer it to the emergency fund, otherwise it will just vanish into regular spending. It is amazing how money seems to have a way of doing that if you are not careful.
After taking last week off to get things done around the house, I am back to work this week. I am 85% done the painting on my daughter's rooms and will make myself finish by this coming weekend. This week will be a busy week at my house - we have family coming to dinner for the Jewish New Year and lots of straightening up and cooking to do. My less than frugal DH's response is just order something but I am not going to spend $50 - $100 on ordering food when I can make it myself for way less. Sometimes I feel like his response to any difficulty is spend money, rather than being creative and finding another way. I really do think that without me he would be like his two brothers - 1 always in debt and broke with nothing to show for it, the other with a huge house and many trips, fancy clothes etc. but with huge debt to match. Their father was not this way at all but their mother sure was. Boy did she teach them well the lesson of instant gratification - too bad she didn't teach them about delayed gratification and saving. Sorry for the rant, just the thought of seeing them this week gets me started. I hate being judged (and found lacking) by people like this. Yes, my house is smaller, my clothes are plainer but my debt is also way smaller - like not even in the same zip code.
My friend whose home was up for sheriffs sale has still not mentioned it but I know (again by checking the county web sites) that they have had the proceedings stayed. I am not sure if that is a permanent fix for them of just temporary but I am happy for her that they will not be faced with eviction soon. Her DH will be starting a new job next week making at least $10,000 more a year and she just found a part time job. All this is good news in terms of paying their bills but I wonder if they have learned anything. She is already talking about being able to take a real vacation and getting a cleaning lady since she won't be home as much. What!!! How about paying all your bills and then starting an emergency fund, a college fund for your three kids, retirement accounts!!! She is truly a good friend and has been through a lot with me but her attitude toward money just makes me crazy. We are definitely not on the same wavelength when it comes to finances.
I took one of my dogs to the vet today for her annual check-up and shots. She needed two bosters, had a cut on her shoulder that requires antibiotics (she scratched it and got it infected) and her "glands" needed attention (if you are a dog owner who has ever had to deal with this, you know what I mean. If not, remain blissfully unaware - you do not want to know!) The whole visit lasted less than 30 minutes and cost me $271.00. Wow! $100 of this was for a years supply of heartworm medication and at least $40.00 was for medications for the infection but still! On top of this, I have been needing to schedule to get her spayed. This will be done next week to the tune of at least $500.00 (she is more expensive due to her size). I already have the money put aside for the spay but still, I was not expecting to have to pay over $800 this month just in vet bills. My other dog needs to go for a check up but I think I will put it off a week or two and have a chance to set the money aside. I may even check out another vet. I like two of the vets in our current practice but I still have some bad feelings from when my dog got away from them back in March. I have been told by other neighbors who used them that they switched and have found several other vets they like who were less expensive. I am having the current vet do the spay (with one of the two vets I really like doing the surgery) but after this I think it is time to look to other options. I love my dogs and they are like children to me but if I can get them equal or better care for less money than I am going to.
I took this week off from work and am trying to finish my painting project from this summer. I still have a bit to do in each of my DD's rooms and then on to some sewing of curtains, duvet covers etc. to finish up. There is no way I will be able to get to the sewing this week but I am trying my hardest to be finished with all of the painting by Sunday. I have been working on it each day but I also have a lot of things scheduled this week like Dr's appts. for the kids, orthodontist, vet etc. I had two kids to the doctor yesterday for well checks. I told them they were lucky I did not bring them to the vet or show up at the pediatrician with the dogs. Thats the way I have been feeling this week - too much to do that it is hard to keep it all straight. But, so far, so good - all the right people have been to the right places at the right times! My youngest two DD8 and DS10 had back to school night last night. My DD8 has the same teacher my son had and I really like him so she should have a good year. My DS10 has two teachers that my older DD's have had and I like them both, plus a new science/social studies teacher who seems really good with the kids so I think he will also have a very good year. Both do well in school anyway but it really helps motivate them when they really like the teachers. On a financial front, we are slowly moving along, paying off the home equity line of credit from when DH was out of work. It is still over $11,000 but I am trying to chip away at it each month. I am also working to rebuild our emergency fund back to a point where I feel comfortable (minium $5000). It was over that but I knew this would be temporary - had to pay close to $4000 in school/property taxes in late August and I had the money sitting in the account for that bill. I currently have a bit over $3000 left in the emergency fund but both my car and DH's are due for inspection this month and I am not sure what they will need. We are pretty sure DH's will need new tires. We also have our homeowners insurance and auto insurance due this month. I will have the money to cover all but it will cause a hit (hopefully not too seriously) to the emergency fund balance. Once all this spendy stuff is over I will re-evaluate the balance and see how far we need to go to reach the $5000 mark. It seems like slow going but I am making steady progress. Each pay period for DH I round his pay down to the nearest $100 and that leaves an extra $36.00 which I immediately transfer to the emergency fund. Plus, if I feel we are doing really well with spending during a week (as in not having a lot of expenses) I will transfer another $25 to $50 that week. So, I am saving at least $100 a month to the e-fund. Just wish it could be more.
I am still wondering what is going on with my friend whose house is up for sheriffs sale. She still has not mentioned it and talks like all is fine. She even called me to ask for recommendations on where to have her daughters party - again! I told her I was not the one to ask as I have all parties at home but I would be happy to help with ideas if she wanted to do an at home party. She said no, just thought I might have some input based on parties my kids had attended. I don't know if she is in denial, really clueless or what. If I were her, I would be totally freaked out! If she is, she hides it really well. I still feel really bad for her but on the other hand, I keep wanting to shake her and ask what she is doing to fix the situation. She has a part-time job working nights at a local dept. store. The kids are back in school now - surely she could take on some more day hours to at least have a bit of extra money to throw at the situation. I just don't get it!
It seems that you cannot turn around these days without reading or hearing something about the current "mortgage crisis". Part of me feels bad for people who might lose their homes but another part of me wants to yell at people for being irresponsible. Just today I was reading an article about a family in danger of losing their home. They had refinanced to a interest only loan with a high interest rate cause they had some "blemishes" on their credit record. The reason they refinanced - to have more money to pay for their SUV and other vehicle. At what point does someone decide to do something like this - just keep on spending and digging themselves in deeper and then act surprised when the walls of the hole they dug finally start collapsing on them. Along this same vein, I just found out recently that a close friend is having her house foreclosed on and it is going up for sheriffs sale. They have three kids and I feel really bad that they might lose their home, but on the other hand, I cannot help feeling angry at them. I only found out because they had a notice posted on their house by the sheriffs department. I don't feel mad cause I think they had any obligation to tell me. I feel mad cause they are continuing to live in denial. The same week the notice was posted they went out to dinner (just because, and they do this several times a month). And just yesterday my friend called to ask my opinion about where she should have her daughter's birthday party. I felt like screaming - How about at home - bake a cake, plan some games and put the money you save toward your mortgage. I did not say that cause she has not mentioned the foreclosure at all. I was going to mention it and ask if there was anything I could do to help cause I am pretty good and budgeting and figuring out essentials from non-essentials but now I am just frustrated with them. I checked the sherrifs dept website and saw that this case has been on-going for at least 6 months and this is the 3rd time in 3 years that they have been served by their mortgage company. During this time, they have eaten many meals out, she worked with a personal trainer several times a week for months and all their kids had birthdays parties at movies, bowling, etc. I don't think there is anything wrong with any of these choices when you have the money but if you are constantly threatened with foreclosure, I think it is fair to guess that you should not be spending money on these non-essentials. The whole situation just makes me want to scream at them! I just want to ask them "What the **** are you thinking???"
My DD14 has been wanting a desk for a long time. Now that we are almost finished painting her room and will be re-arranging her furniture, she has been on a hunt for a reasonable desk that she could paint if needed. Nothing fancy but she really wants a desk. We have been looking at thrift stores, garage sales and I also tried free-cycle. Until today, no real luck. She has even been talking of buying a desk (retail) with her own money, but I kept telling her that she just had to be patient and she would find a desk. Well, this afternoon we had a few spare minutes and a townhouse development nearby was having a garage sale. We drove by but it was so hot that only a few people still had anything out. As luck would have it, one was a really nice oak roll top desk. We asked the price, they wanted $100.00 This was actually a fair price for a nice solid oak roll top desk, but more than she was looking to spend at a garage sale. I left my name and phone number and told them to call if they were willing to take $60.00 for the desk. Lo and behold, we got a call later this afternoon and now a beatiful oak roll top desk is sitting in her room. It is a bit worn in a few area but very solid with many drawers, nooks and crannies etc. I told her if she ever got tired of it, I will buy it from her for her original $60.00 She is thrilled to get such a nice desk and to make it even better, not five minutes after we got home one of her pet sitting customers came by to pay her for watching their cats and rabbits this week. Guess what she earned - yup $60.00 so she made back what she had paid for the desk. It gave both of us a really nice feeling. Yeah for garage sales and for not being afraid to ask. I almost drove away before leaving my number but then I though, what have I got to lose. Boy am I glad I decided to leave our number. It is one of those tips that I had read before but never really tried. I will definitely be trying that again in the future. It feels really good to know that my DD got a desk she really loves for a price she felt comfortable with.
I would say my best money advice is to put on your thinking cap when you need something. Instead of running out to buy the thing you need, get creative. Maybe something else would work, you could borrow it from someone, make one yourself etc. If none of these works, keep that thinking cap of while your purchase - where can you get whatever it is for the best value? Can you purchase it from E-bay, a garage sale, a thrift store, with a store coupon etc. Always try to avoid just plain going to the store and paying full price.
I read an article last week from the Dollar Stretcher on building your emergency fund. Most of it was things I would say I had already heard before but one bit really caught my attention. It was mentioned that paying your bills more frequently (as in when they come in rather than saving up for one or two sessions a month) saves you money. Actually, the idea is that it makes you more aware on a daily basis of what your intake and outgo is and thus less likely to spend/splurge on those smaller things that can really add up over time. I have just recently, in the last two months, switched myself over to paying the bills each week, rather than twice a month when DH gets paid. I would definitely say that I am saving more money this way. In the past, I would pay all bills due with his check, put a bit toward savings and anything left over would fund cash purchases til the next check. It seemed like I was always running out of money before the next check. Now, every two weeks I put aside 1/2 the mortgage payment, put aside a bit for savings and split the remainder into two - half for each week. I then pay that weeks bills with that weeks half and what is left over is for cash purchases that week. At the beginning of the second week, I pay any new bills and continue the same way. Since I am paying the bills at the beginning, I know I must make the remaining money cover our expenses that week, or better yet, reduce expenses and bank any left over for the emergency fund. I am more aware if I only have $100 dollars that I must make it buy both gas and groceries that I cannot buy $90 worth of groceries and a cute dog toy when I am in PetSmart. I find it forces me to be even more disciplined and even better at stretching my money. If I feel I really must have that cute dog toy, I will have to wait til the end of the week and buy it with any remaining money or even better, by that point, I will have decided that the dogs don't really need another toy to destroy and saved myself the $10.00. Anyway, this system seems to be working for me and I was wondering what others thought of this concept?
In the past two days I have had two separate incidents that just reconfirmed for me the need to pay attention as a cashier is ringing up your purchases. Tuesday evening I ran to Walmart for a few things while my DD8 was at karate. I had coupons for things we needed and Walmart also has the best prices in our area on their store brand of contact solution (under $3 compared to $5 or more at other places). I had a $3 coupon off two hair care products that I regularly use, making it better than a buy-one get-one deal. The cashier had a bit of trouble with the coupon at first but then resolved it (or seemed to ) and went on. Since I wasn't sure he had actually resolved it, I checked the receipt immediately. He had not taken off the $3 coupon. I needed to get back and he was already ringing up the next person so I just asked for my coupon back so I can use it in the future and actually get credit for it. Then yesterday, I was grocery shopping and the cashier rang up a $3 dollar item one extra time. I could hear the extra beep and asked her to stop and check. Sure enough, it had rung up an extra time. She deducted the extra with no fuss. If I had not been paying attention each time, I would have been out $6 total. Not a huge deal but $3 a day would really add up over the course of a month. I am an honest person and have no problem paying a store for what I am buying but I certainly want to make sure that I am not paying for things I am not buying. I could go home and check my receipts but after the fact it is pretty hard to prove that you did not buy something that the receipt says you did. Much easier in my book to be aware as your purchases are rung up.
We got gifted with 4 tickets to a major league baseball game by my boss who has season tickets. They are great seats and my DH and three oldest love baseball. They are going to get hoagies and tailgate once they get to the game. Of course, I know they will also buy something to eat at the game but the cost of eating hoagies in the parking lot sure beats the cost of dinner at the ballpark. Plus, free tickets, you cannot beat that. That leaves my youngest DD and myself on our own for the evening which is just fine with us. She has karate and after that she has requested a swing by the local pet store to see the puppies. I personally will not buy a puppy from a pet store, nor patronize a store that sells puppies and kittens but I have no problem just going in to let her look at them. Then we will take her bike to a local school and work on her biking skills in the empty parking lot. How's that for a cost free evening of fun. Of course, when we finally get back home, it is still more painting for me but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am also looking forward to reading my new library book "America's Cheapest Family" while she is doing her karate. I will blog about it after I finish it.
Yes, I am still painting my daughters rooms. DD13's room is mostly done, just have to move her bunkbeds to get to the wall behind them. Then sponge the walls from about chair rail height down. DD16's room will be ready to roll the walls and ceiling by midweek. After that, her room will be done except for her second set of built in bookshelves. Both girls have built ins in their rooms with 5 removable shelves each (X 3 sets total = 15 shelves). Each shelf needs 3 coats of paint on all sides so this is part of what makes it seem like I will never be finished painting. At this point, my goal is to be done by the time they all go back to school in 3 weeks.
My silly spending spree was not a real spending spree, just a $25.00 of unplanned spending. I took 3 of my kids and 1 dog on Saturday to the opening of a new PETCO near us. I really just wanted to check out the store, see what giveaways they had and get the dog some socialization. My dog did great, got lots of petting and attention and most important in her eyes, treats! I was perusing the dog aisles, just to see what they had and what their prices were like when my kids reminded me that we were out of dog "cookies". I often bake homemade treats for the dogs but have not had the time (with all the painting) or the interest (too hot to bake in the summer). So, $4+ dollars for a box of dog treats. I told myself, absolutely nothing else, just the dog treats. Then we walked down the aisle with the bowls etc. and saw the largest stainless dog bowl I have ever seen. It is huge, probably could hold at least a half gallon of water without being filled fully. Water bowls are an issue in our house with two large dogs who drink a lot and SPILL a lot. I am forever wiping up puddles and small ponds created by someone getting a drink. And our current bowl, while rather large, is always running dry and needing to be filled up. So, my son convinced me to give this "super sized bowl" a try. It was only $19.95 so I rationalize that I will have it virtually forever so it will work out to less than a dollar a year, at a minimum. (How's that for the power of rationalization?). Anyway, I am pleased to report that the dogs like the new bowl and we have not had a single pond since Saturday afternoon. I forbid the kids to fill the bowl more than 1/2. Since it is so big, this makes it much harder to slosh when drinking so we just have small drips, not tidal waves. It may sound like a small thing, but trust me, it created a major mess and at least one kid week was taken down while walking past the former bowl. So, in addition to being aesthetically nicer, I look at is as a savings on future medical bills since now no one is in danger of breaking a leg or arm while slipping on a pool of water. I guess the dogs will just have to find some other way of making a mess. I am sure that they are up to the challenge!
...to take my oldest DD16 to see her favorite band. They were playing a free concert at a mall about an hour from our house. It is very close to where I grew up and where my mom lives so I dropped her off at the mall with a friend and then DD13 and I went to see my mom. We hit a few thrift stores looking for a desk for DD13 but no luck. But we did have a nice dinner with my mom and got the latest Harry Potter book using old gift certificates that DD found when cleaning out her room prior to painting. (Must confess, I am already half way thru the book). After dinner, I returned to the mall to pick up DD16 and her friend. They were in line to get shirts/CD's signed by the band members. (the group is called the Plain White T's and considering what DD16 usually listens too, they are not that bad.) She had an extra shirt she wanted signed but to keep things moving, they would only sign one item per person. So, she convinced DD13 and I to get in line and get her extra shirt signed. Fortunately, the line was moving pretty fast and we only had to wait about 10 minutes. As they were signing the shirt, I asked "What does my age do to the average age of your fan base?" since I was surrounded by teen/pre-teen girls. One of the members looked at me with a smile and said "Actually we have lots of 25 year old fans!" I told him he was definitely my favorite band member! Not that I think for a moment that he thought I was 25 (I am 43 and would say I look my age) but it was nice of him to lie! In general I do not approve of lying but that one was definitely okay with me. Sunday it was back to painting but I should be ready to roll the walls in both rooms sometime this week or by this weekend at the latest. So, the end is at least in sight! (Until I have to do DS10 and DD8s' rooms - they are already asking - I told them I will need a break first!)
I went to the grocery store yesterday on my regular weekly trip and when I was leaving there was a truck outside from PennMaid dairy. They had a stand up and were giving away free (regular sized - not small samples) of cottage cheese, yogurt, string cheese etc. Don't worry, they had plenty of ice to keep everything cold. I bagged a flavored cottage cheese for DH (he just loves them), some string cheese for the kids, some free pencils and even a few coupons. I just love getting free stuff that we can actually use. Speaking of free stuff, Staples has been running weekly rebates where you buy an item and they refund you the purchase price. In addition to this, they have several loss leader back to school supplies each week. Since there is a Staples not far from my work, I have been stopping is just to get the rebate item and the loss leaders. So far I have gotten several 8 packs of pencils for 3 cents each, rulers, protractors and pencil top eraser packs for 5 cents, etc. Basic school supplies don't go bad and if I find that I have more than we need, at these prices I am happy to make donations to the school or other places trying to collect school supplies for needy kids. I would not drive way out of my way each week for these deals but if I am going to be driving right by anyway, why not stop in and take advantage of the deals?
I feel like thats all I have been doing in my spare time since the beginning of this month. I am painting my two oldest DD's rooms and it is taking forever. Part of the problem is that they both have quite a bit of wood work that had never been painted so it needed three coats (built in book shelves, crown moulding etc.) Part of the problem is lack of time. I am trying to squeeze in painting between the rest of my already crazy busy life - doesn't leave too much time for other things like eating, sleeping etc., to say nothing of the mundane like laundry and house cleaning. The last part of the problem is trying to work around all the stuff in the rooms - move this here to paint that wall, move it back to paint over there etc. My oldest asked if I would be done before the end of the summer. My honest answer - I sure hope so but who knows. On the plus side, I have finally gotten to the walls and so it finally feels like progress. Plus, I can get the girls to do some of the simpler things around the house like folding laundry by saying things like "I would love to paint, but I have all this laundry to fold" Since the painting is in their interest, they are much more willing to pitch in and help with the rest (which admittedly, they should be doing anyway!) I guess I could also let them help paint but I am a bit of a control freak about how it is done so I haven't gotten to that yet. When we get to rolling the walls I will put them to work whether they like it or not. In the meantime, I just go on painting and painting. I will know it is too much if I find myself painting in my sleep.
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