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Archive for February, 2011

March no spend month?

March 1st, 2011 at 01:20 am

Hubby and I briefly discussed making March a No Spend Month. We did this in November 2008 and managed to sock away a lot of money. With (maybe) a mortgage in our near future, having extra money on hand would be really nice.

Last time, we gave ourselves a budget of $400 for the month to cover groceries (excluding milk for the babies), gas, entertainment and incidentals. Our regular monthly bills were no included.

We managed to squeak through to the end. Hopefully we will decide what to do, as March is only a couple of hours away!

real estate ping pong

February 28th, 2011 at 06:31 pm

We finally heard from the seller. We are in the process of counter-offering. Hopefully we will all agree on a price. The sellers came down 10,000 on their first offer back, which is a good sign, I think. We raised our offer 10,000, and if we meet in the middle between those two prices, we will be at the target price we had agreed to before we wrote the contract. Fingers crossed.

And we're still waiting

February 28th, 2011 at 02:00 am

Turns out the seller is out of the country, half-way across the world, and her realtor can only reach her by email. He's hoping she checks her email and sees we made an offer.

Ugh. Technically, it expired tonight at 7 p.m., but I guess that won't matter given circumstances. I hate being in limbo. It drives me crazy. I am trying to just do what I have to do as if nothing is happening, but it's hard.

On the bright side, we did learn that the seller had rejected an offer that is about 7k more than our initial bid, but about 7 k less than the max price we are willing to pay.

now we wait...

February 26th, 2011 at 06:47 pm

We made an offer. $28,000 below list. Now we wait.
And, if we end up in contract, I start to freak out about not selling this place and moving. This is going to be hard!

Clearly, I need a new plan

February 24th, 2011 at 09:25 pm

We still haven't put the offer in on the new house. I am dragging hubby to go look at three more places Saturday before we sit down with the realtor to make the offer. (I just want to be 100 percent sure!).

I am coming to grips with my terror at not having this place sold before we move or make an offer. Yes, we are in a better position than most people to carry two houses, I just hope it doesn't go on too long or else I will be a landlord. I have always kind of wanted to have rental property, but when I'm ready not because I can't sell!

Anyway, I got a late check today for January freelance projects. It was for $600. Until this whole house whirlwind started, I would have known exactly where to send that check, but today, I realized I need a new plan.

I couldn't help myself. I did send $50 to the car loan and $200 to the kids college ($100 each), but I left the other $350 in the checking account. I guess I should start stashing as much cash as possible whenever it comes in, in a bid to build up reserves to meet our inevitable expenses should we buy the house.

I forgot how much of a racket this whole mortgage loan and moving process is. Loan fees, moving expenses, improvements, it's just money out constantly. It isn't make me feel better.

Hubby is not concerned. He is amped about being able to bike to work and have all of this done and over with with plenty time to spare before kindergarten.
Clearly, I am the worry wort!!

Fixed rate or adjustable? Hmmm...

February 23rd, 2011 at 03:03 am

We have yet to make the offer on the house. First, the banks were closed on president's day, and then today, the mortgage guy at my local bank magically called me back during the whole 10 minutes I wasn't in the house today, then I couldn't get ahold of him at all the rest of the day.

I did print out all of the documents we'd need to get preapproved and prequalified. During that process, I forgot how much I hate having to deal with all of this-- shopping around for loans, having some stranger look over all your numbers! Blech. Just hand over the cash. I'm good for it, really.

I did briefly consider a 5 year adjustable rate. It could save me about 10,000 in interest during the first five years, and I like the idea of that money going to pay down the balance rather than pad the bank's coffers. Still, I'm not sure the interest-rate reset risk is worth it, even if we are planning to pay off the house within five to seven years.

**update**
I just got off the phone with the bank offering the seemingly attractive ARM loan. Yep. Not worth it. The rate lock option I was interested in doesn't lock it at the incredibly low rate you get for the first five years, it locks it at whatever the market rate is when your loan resets, or you have the option to just take the normal 2 percent increase. Too much interest rate risk. I'm not comfortable with that.

**

So, tomorrow I begin again trying to set up meetings for preapproval. I plan to shop at a few smaller community banks as well. I have heard from friends that they are offering better rates than even some of the larger locals. We'll see.

I almost feel like a pro at this. This will be the third house we've bought in eight years!!!

Well, decision is made

February 21st, 2011 at 07:12 pm

It looks like we are making an offer on the house. Hubby really loves it, and wants to go for it, so he has pushed me off the fence. I have to go to the bank tomorrow to get preapproved and officially start the loan shopping process. Eek.

I looked at the money and I know we will be okay. We have a lot of things we could adjust or resources we could tap to free up money if we got into a serious pinch. And, if this place doesn't sell within six months, we have agreed to rent it out until the market improves.

Looks like we have a plan, now let's see if the seller will agree to our price. My realtor forwarded some emails from their realtor, and I'm not sure how willing they are to wheel and deal, but we'll see. If they won't meet our price, I may walk away, and then if it doesn't sell in another few months, hit them again with the same offer.

Complete coupon failure

February 21st, 2011 at 02:34 am

So, I made the mistake of sending hubby to the store with the coupons. I had two Colgate toothpastes on the list, because they were free after the sale and double coupons. He promised it would all go according to plan.

So, he comes home and admits that he forgot to use his store loyalty card. That means he paid super full price for all of the groceries. And, that the toothpaste wasn't on sale for 98 cents. AND we both learned that coupons are doubled ONLY when you use the card. Ergo, what was supposed to be two free tubes of toothpaste ended up costing us $3. This is why I do the shopping...

The good news is that I popped by the thrift store and found an amazing gigantic action figure of Sully from Monsters, Inc. It's one of my son's favorite movies. Since the movie is 10 years old, all of toys are all out of print and considered collectible, so finding a Monsters Inc toy is a real treat. I had looked at several similar items, but refused to pay $18 on ebay. I paid 90 cents at the thrift store and he was super excited when I brought it home.

Fence sitting

February 20th, 2011 at 04:10 pm

Well, we looked at two more houses yesterday. We still have not decided what to do about the seemingly "perfect" house.

Hubby said house hunting hasn't gone how he thought it would. He thought I would be giddy and excited. I said I just can't be considering what a huge financial move it is.

We toured two houses on similarly sized lots, but they were all wrong. Very cool vintage features, but all wrong. Then, we spent about 45 minutes at the house we are thinking of buying. It's not all wrong. It's just right.

Still, I just don't know what to do. It's got everything we want, it's got a great layout. We would use every single space in the house. It doesn't have any "Stupid" rooms-- as hubby likes to call the odd spaces we've seen in other houses. There would even been room in the basement for a proper library area (necessity, if you've seen our books), and a space for ping pong! (as well as an office, and a manspace media room with a fireplace.

We drove around the area. We mapped out the walk to school-- very close, with sidewalks-- the parks are nice, and they are close. They are even adding a new skate park and they have a water park. Great for teens. The neighborhood is great. There were two little boys playing in the adjoining yard. Not too much older than our kids.

So, I don't know why I'm hesitant to jump. I think the big part is the price tag, but that's just what houses cost in that area. The second maybe is that I am overwhelmed by idea of moving and staging a house to sell. And being farther--albeit 15 minutes-- from our caregivers.

So yes, still as yet undecided. It's a great house. We'd have to put carpet in the basement and a rail on the stairs, but that is about it. All the systems are done. New roof, new furnace, new windows.

BUT, the yard is not wholly fenced, so sending the kids out to play at this age would require constant supervision unless we ponied up for two gates and one long row of fence to finish it. Hubby said we might not need the fence, considering the little kids in the attached yard and that in a couple of years, they won't try to run off like they do now. He says it's a temporary problem.

I could also have a large proper garden and some fruit trees, (Heaven.)

Still, I would miss my sunporch, and my patio. Yes, we could add these things. But with a mortgage, who can say when?

So, we've left it at the realtor is going to talk to the agent and try to get a sense of the owner's urgency to sell (ergo, willingness to lower the price), and then we will take it from there.

Yay for money!

February 18th, 2011 at 08:04 pm

Hubby's bonus hit on today's check. It was much more than we both expected, so I managed to shuffled $9900 into savings today. I also paid all the bills, and thanks to the bonus, the pad has been returned to the checking account.

I also filed our taxes, and we are looking at about $12,500 in combined federal and state refunds. I'm quite excited.

Of course, the jury is still out on if we get to keep that money or if it's going to go toward buying our next house. Sigh.

We're heading out to look at three or more houses tomorrow, as well as take another look at the strong maybe house.

I'm hoping something will click, either one of these places screams "YES!" or sways us toward "We can find something good, even if we wait."

Let's hope the stars align and offer us some guidance.

The argument for staying put

February 17th, 2011 at 05:35 pm

Today, I've been thinking a lot about staying in our current house. We love it, we enjoy it, it's paid for, and it suits our needs right now.

There are other benefits to staying put for another two years, while the kids are small.

Closer to childcare and preschool

We could SAVE money-- probably at least 35,000 more in savings in two years

We could have the car paid off without tapping assets

I'd be able to concentrate on what we need now-- my personal goals of novel finishing and weight loss via my gym.

Getting the kids in swim lessons and kung fu. ( I KNOW we'd be able to afford them if we don't have a mortgage!)

And, of course we would have the luxury of time to declutter and fix up the house. I could take time to really sort through every area, maybe have put some things out at the community yard sale this summer or sell via craigslist instead of freecycling or donating because we are rushing.

I KNOW I'd be able to afford to go to Las Vegas next spring for my best friend's 40th birthday trip.

And maybe, just maybe, we could get our house for sale and have an offer in hand BEFORE we put an offer on a house.

All of this is very tempting. Life is crazy with toddlers, and part of me feels like it would be foolish to upend our routine right now. What we are doing now is working.

Will we risk that we won't find another completely updated house with a half acre lot less than half a mile from all the things we want? Yes. And that is the downside.

Everything is full of so many unknowns!

Plecosaurus Rex, and things I've learned about myself while house shopping

February 17th, 2011 at 02:14 am

What a title, huh?

For the record, Plecosaurus Rex is the name of the clown pleco the well-meaning clerk at the pet store sold us. I was convinced, once I brought him home, that he was going to die a horrible death in the tank. But alas, a week later, he is alive and seems to be doing well. He has also managed to get the fish tank so squeaky clean and algae free that ironically, I have had to buy algae chips to feed him. Who would have thought. I also rewarded him with a piece of driftwood, which in theory, they also like to eat and lounge on.

Anyway, as y'all know I have been obsessing about whether or not to buy a house now, or wait for another year or two. That has not been decided, but I will say that I have learned a few things about myself in the few short days we've been discussing it.

First, I should probably just go ahead and pay off the car. When thinking about reordering our budget, and cutting expenses, the car just glared at me. We have to pay for full coverage insurance (cut!) as long as we have the loan. We have assets, so why not pay it off? That's 200 less a month in bills and lower insurance. So, whether we do or don't buy the house, I will be paying the car off this year.

Second, we have too much stuff. I have always felt like this, but looking around and thinking of moving, my list of what I am willing to transport has gotten significantly shorter. Moving or not, it's time to start selling, giving away, and purging purging purging!

I have also come to terms with some of the things that will not change between now and our original one to two-year time frame:

It won't be any less scary trying to sell our house

It won't be any less work moving, painting, and prepping this place to sell

The money I will get for my house won't be significantly higher.

So, all of those things are no longer deciding factors. They will be universal, now or then. Moving is never easy. Moving with kids is never easy, and you will never know how long it will take to sell.

The factors that do count, and are specific to now:

Driving 15-20 min longer to the preschool and babysitter. That will disappear once kindergarten starts, but we are committed for at least another year. Already paid and enrolled, and we love the program.

Paying for childcare, to the tune of $400 to $600 a month, until kid 1 goes to kindergarten in two years. Then, we'll only be paying a yet to be determined amount for kid2. In four years, we won't be paying for any, so there is savings in the future. But for now, this expense isn't going anywhere, which would mean a tighter budget if adding in a mortgage.

On the money front, I have mulled our options:

I need to talk to the bank, and look at our assets. I would prefer a monthly payment, including taxes and insurance, of closer to 1200 a month. (which would be a mortgage of up to 130,000 on a 250,000-260,000 house.)

We can generate a $50-60k downpayment now out of tax refund and bonus plus non-retirement brokerage accounts. That would put our loan payment at 1600-1700. If we took out a bridge loan of 100,000, we could get the payment down to 1200 ish. I would have no reservations about a mortgage payment of that size.

Just not sure if it's a viable route until I talk to the bank.

Or, if we opted against the bridge loan, my plan would be to drag out closing or put in a contingency clause on the new house, so we can get our current home on the market and see if we can get a bid.

And, in worst case scenario. Say we bought the new house and our current home doesn't sell in six months. I may consider renting it out at 1,000 or more a month, and putting all of that toward our new mortgage. Being a landlord wouldn't be easy, but it would be an option if we are in a pinch.

If we didn't want to do that, and we found ourselves in a pinch, we have options. We could
-adjust witholding on hubby's checks to free up more cash. We get a huge refund every year.
-use my freelance money to pay expenses, rather than sending it all to savings/retirement, etc.
-and if we were absolutely desperate, we could temporarily cut back on hubby's retirement contributions. We max out every year at 16,500. When we were in a bind after Katrina, we suspended them for about six months to get back on our feet.

Essentially, through the process, I have realized that we are incredibly blessed and lucky. We have options, we have flexibility.

And as our realtor said, we are in much better shape than a lot of people out there trying to buy houses. But I suppose that is what worries me! Will the person who wants to buy mine be in good enough shape to seal the deal!





Yay tax forms!

February 15th, 2011 at 10:25 pm

I never thought I'd be excited to see my last tax forms roll in, but I am and they did today. Now I can wrap up the taxes and get another big chore crossed off the to-do list!

The ill-timed house: need your advice

February 15th, 2011 at 01:57 am

Hubby and I just talked about the house we fell in love with. I outlined how much we bring in every month, and how much the mortgage plus taxes and insurance would likely be. He didn't flinch. He said he was comfortable with that. For a 200k loan at 5 percent for 30 years, we'd be looking at 1650-1775 a month, once the property tax and insurance was added in.

We bring in about 4500 a month steadily (more when there are three paychecks), plus the 1000 to 1400 a month I bring in (1000 always, steady. sometimes more.)

Our only debt is the car loan at 219 a month. Our biggest expense otherwise is preschool and babysitting so I can make that money and give our kids the level of activity they need. That costs about $637 a month. It will go down to $400 in the summer, during vacation, and go up to about $525 to $600 in the fall, with our new schedule. We have a free grandma one afternoon a week, which really helps.

The rest of our money goes to savings in some form or another-- a lot of it to the kids' 529-- something I can'[t stand the idea of cutting back on. Otherwise, we spend money on groceries, and whatever-- the occasional trip, CDs, that sort of thing. We've haven't had to scrimp in a long time. I'm just worried. We would have to to make the mortgage. (I'm not opposed to cutting cable, or the gym membership, by the way.)

If we bought this house, money would be tight for a while, until kid 1 went to kindergarten in about 2.5 years.

We did do a payoff plan. If we get the BARE minimum out of our current house after commissions, we'd get $125,000. That would bring our mortgage balance down to $75,000 and, with no extra payments, we'd have it paid off in 2018.

If I used $400 a month of my freelance money for the mortgage, we'd have the new house paid off within five years.

I like the sound of five years. I can do tight, if I know there is an end.

And, if hubby keeps his current job, we could use all or part of his annual bonus (6k to 9 k after taxes) and our annual tax refund (3k to 10k) to build up savings or chip away at our payoff date. Or, we could reduce our withholding and throw that money at the mortgage. That would increase monthly cash flow, but I don't want to risk underpaying. Plus, it's nice to get a big forced savings bonus every spring.

We both like this house a lot. It's everything we want. Yes, our daily life would be inconvenient for a bit-- we'd have to drive 15 minutes longer to get to preschool and the sitter. And, my mom would have to drive an hour to our house, instead of 45 minutes (once a week). But, we'd have the place paid for by the time the youngest hit kindergarten and we'd be right back in the sweet spot we're in now, except with a bigger house and one of the best school districts in the state.

The house is also in walking distance of the elementary and middle schools, and less than half a mile from four parks, including a river/reservoir with walking and bike trails. Hubby could also bike to work. It's less than 5 miles.

What would you do? Is it worth it?

Now we are really in trouble

February 14th, 2011 at 06:22 pm

We took the family to look at houses yesterday. Our plan is to move into the best school district in the area in the next 1 to 2 years.

And of course, we found a house we adore on the first trip out. We have agreed to discuss logistics-- selling this one, staging it, etc.

Anything with two toddlers is crazy.

We will no matter what be losing money on this place, but we have 100 percent equity, so no matter what we make we will be able to put that toward paying down the next place.

Still, it's depressing. We paid 154k, put 40k into serious upgrades and maintenance, and the realtor says we need to list in the 130s, because the house is small. UGH!!!! Even if we waited until the market were up, we wouldn't get our money back.

We plan to look at more houses, but if this one still sticks with us-- do we go for it? Or do we stick to our original plan?

Bonus dreams and lookey-lou day.

February 13th, 2011 at 04:11 pm

Hubby said yesterday that his company has confirmed he is getting a bonus this year. When that happens, it usually posts to the last paycheck in February. I am praying it does. This will be just the boost to savings and everything that will really jump-start things.

I am not sure how much it will be. Last year, it was somewhere around $7,000 after taxes. If it holds steady, I think I will put $5,000 toward savings and then divide up the other $2,000 between the other goals--namely the car loan and the kids' college.

Still, hard to plan until the egg is squarely in the bank account.

In other news, we are going to look at our first four houses in our target school district today. We aren't planning to move for at least another year to two years, but decided it was time to casually see what is out there, how much it sells for and to start driving around the area deciding what part we want to live in.

It's exciting and weird at the same time. We also went on a family outing to Lowe's yesterday (the kids had fun, amazingly) to price out some of the smaller improvements we are going to make.

Menard's is having an 11 percent off of everything sale this week, so I may drive down there (it's about 40 minutes away) to pick up some of the odds and ends we need to do some of our designed to sell projects, such as a tub sink for the laundry room, a gallon of paint for the laundry room, and some mortar for the chimney and exterior stonework.Little stuff, but I may as well get a discount, right?

Taxes, rewards, houses. Too much to process.

February 12th, 2011 at 04:42 pm

As soon as it comes in it goes out. My $500 freelance check cleared, so I sent

$250 to my IRA
$180 to the kids 529s
$75 extra to the car loan.

I also got $10 worth of Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks and a $25 Amazon card from my rewards credit card. I am going to try (though unsuccessfully) to amass as many credits on the Amazon account as I can, and use it toward Christmas. I know I will fail, as we are always buying something on there!

Anyway, it feels good to make progress. I am also so ready to file taxes, but am still waiting on my brokerage account forms. They are no online, and our broker has said they will not be ready until end of February.

Argh. I want that refund in my house fund! It will feel really great to put that tax refund to work, and cross a big goal off of our ambitious list. But alas, I must be patient.

The state tax refund will likely go toward upgrading our electrical box, which will need to be done before we put our house on the market, next year. Sigh. We do love our house and we will be sad to leave it. But it's also clear we will soon outgrow it. It will be time to move on.

Still snail-less on shopping trip 3.

February 11th, 2011 at 06:41 pm

So I took the youngest to the fancy pet store today, intending to leave with a snail. They had only one selection of snails. It was a tank filled with goldfish and snails. At first, I thought Eureka! Then, I noticed that the tank was instead littered with the corpses of snails. Only a handful were still living.

The girl working there was "like yeah. Some goldfish like the at the snails. Some don't." The carnage. But, there was potential. I bought a $1.74 plant out of the live plant tank, hoping I might get a hitch-hiker.

And, in the goldfish tank filled with snail corpses, I spotted a lonely clown pleco. I was not wanting to go this route, but it will stay small (mx 4 inches, vs 12), AND supposedly, it won't attack my goldfish. The girl assured me it would eat my algae and be peaceful. I paid through the nose for that little guy. $9.99.

And, now that I am home on the Internet I find out that clown plecos can't live on algae, need warmer water than I have in my tank AND need wood to eat. Seriously? I quit.

They are now all in the tank. The pleco looks stunned, like someon hit him over the head. He's probably mad that his new place isn't as swank as his tank at the pet store.

Anyway, let's hope this works. I have snail fatigue.

In other news, I deposited a $500 freelance check in the mail today. On Monday, when it clears, I will send

$250 to IRA
$175 to college
$75 to car

I'm also waiting on a $600 check for another project. It should be here any day! Can't wait to put SOMETHING toward the goals.

A little splurge, for moi!

February 10th, 2011 at 06:59 pm



My splurge shoes-- yes, clearance rack at DSW is considered a splurge--- arrived today. Just tried them on. They are super sexy and amazingly comfy. I don't regret buying them one bit!! I like them so much, I have my eyes on the all black pair. (I have a $5 off coupon, but it isn't good until Feb. 15)

I have also checked a couple of fashion books out the library. I don't even recognize myself anymore!!! One Hundred Pieced by Nina Garcia, and How to be a budget fashionista. The firs it super helpful. It's a guide to the classic, never out of style items stylish women should consider owning.

Since I am basically starting over from scratch with clothes, it's an interesting read, and helpful for planning my approach.

Snail saga, part two

February 10th, 2011 at 12:30 am

I just thought I would let you all know that the Petland that refused to sell me the snail just last week went out of business!! Now I wonder what happened to all of those snails that could now be cleaning the algae off of my fish tank.

In other weird news, I had to spend an extra 15 minutes at the checkout at Target because the cashier refused to press the total key because my order total was $36.66. Seriously? She called over someone from customer service to press the button, because it was the devil's number. I'm still in shock.

Brother, can you spare a snail?

February 8th, 2011 at 01:52 am

I'm having an algae explosion in my fish tank. All I want is one of those tiny, simple snails that goldfish do not find interesting or delicious.

Petland refused to sell me one. The little guys were all over the tanks. But they were like "what those stupid things? you don't want that."

Um yes, I do. They tried to sell me a big mystery snail for $3.95. Um no. Goldfish eat their eyes off and they die horrible deaths. Not on my watch.

My hubby thinks it's ironic that no one wants to give us or sell us a snail, considering our last tank was riddled with them. They do a great job on the algae. I'll guess try another store this weekend.

***Why am I broke? Oh, it's Feb.***

This has been a huge money out week. We paid homeowners insurance, car note, $300 deposit for kid 1's 2011-2012 preschool tuition, credit card bills, regular preschool tuition, 529 plan debits, electric bill. The list goes on.

I had to take money out of savings to cover it all. It's always depressing, but it's always the same this time of year. You'd think I would expect it by now. From January 1 to the end of February is always tough, because we have so many big bills due.

Then, like magic, we manage to tread water and then get ahead again come March.

*** Coupon experiment***
In coupon news, I did take mjrube's advice and bought the Renpure Organix shampoo at Walgreens. They are having an unadvertised BOGO sale, plus each item has a hang tag saying "Try Me Free" for a rebate of the total purchase price.

So, fingers crossed. I paid $6.99 retail price for one, got one free, and sent in the rebate card for the $6.99. We'll see if it works. I'm skeptical, but a lot of the coupon sites swear by this kind of thing.

I just hope it's accepted. It would officially be my first free shampoo!!

I am finally getting the hang of it. I only look at couponmom.com. The funny thing is now that I have been doing this for a while, I can spot the errors. Like coupon values they forgot to double, ergo a better deal than the site leads you to believe. And, I'm finally starting to catch deals.

I.e. Target has a $2 off store coupon, plus there is a $2 manf. coupon in the 2.6 Sunday insert for any Garnier face product. I smell something for maybe cheap or free. I plan to check it out this week.

***Couponing for a cause***

Now that I am getting the hang of getting things for free with sales/coupons, I printed out a list of wants and needs for the two main family shelters here. I put them in my purse. If I find a great deal, I will put it in a box to donate to the family shelter.

The idea of homeless babies and toddlers drives me crazy. It may not be much, but I will do as much as I can.

Getting the hang of it...

February 6th, 2011 at 07:56 pm

I ventured out once again last night, coupons in hand. I need hair dye. My target price was less than $3. I ended up getting it for 65 cents each for three, after tax, thanks to a Walgreens sale and three $3 off coupons. I did pay $7 out of pocket, but got $5 in Walgreens rewards bucks back, hence 65 cents each.

I also three of my favorite shampoo at Walmart last night. No sale, but cheapest price in town, plus $1 off for each.

And at Kroger, I used a coupon for $1.50 off three gerber graduates, plus a cataline for $1.50, paid $2.31 each before coupon. And at checkout, got two more coupons-- one $1.50 catalina and $1.50 off another three.

My toothpaste stockpile is sufficiently large now,so my plan is only free toothpaste from now on.

Now, I'm trying to build up the food, cereal, body wash, and shampoo stockpiles. Problem is, I only like one shampoo. Is it worth switching it up if it's free?

Coupon Question...

February 5th, 2011 at 03:30 pm

For all of you who are into serious couponing, I have a question.

How do you decide when to use a good coupon and when to keep it?

And what is the target price you pay for cereal, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.? What is the number I should aim for?

I ask because this was the first week I actually was able to get some things for free or super cheap.

For instance, I got 3 deodorants and 2 tubes of toothpaste for free stacking sales/coupon. But, I opted to use a couple of additional coupons because I thought they were good deals even though they weren't free.

For instance: bought 2 more deodorants (dif. brand), and two more tubes of toothpaste, and after coupon/sales paid 50 cents each. Should I have held out for a future sale hoping to get them for free? Or was it a good move to use that coupons and pay a nominal amount?

I also bought a body wash, reg. $4.99, on sale for $2.99 and I had a $1 coupon, so $1.99. This isn't super cheap, but it's cheaper than the brand I would have normally bought. Any thoughts?

I'm new at this and trying to figure out the strategy.

I also got a catalina for $1.50, and at the same time got coupon for $2 off four of that item for future purchase. I bought four more, used the $2 coupon plus the catalina, then got another $1.50 catalina at checkout. I use the stuff. It wasn't super cheap. Cost $8 for four- $3.50 = $4.50 - another $1.50 off= $3.00. Is that good? Is that the approach I should be taking?


Good, Bad, and Ugly weekly update 2/4

February 4th, 2011 at 03:41 pm

The good:

Yesterday, I saved $52 at the grocery store using coupons. I got about a dozen items for free. It felt really good. I can see how the hunt for the discount can become addictive. My "stockpile", which will one day allow me to buy only on sale, is slowly growing. This doesn't even include all the toothpaste:



In other good news, my tax forms are finally arriving. I have input most of them into our tax program, and it appears we will be getting a huge refund, which will go directly into the house fund. Yay!

And, I finally shopped for a new cell phone. After several calls and hours wasted on the phone with customer service (who would have thought changing plans with the same carrier would be so hard?) I have a new plan. It will save us a minimum of $300 a year.

The bad AND the ugly, all rolled into one:

I have spent WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY too much money these past couple of weeks. We had to stock up on some big ticket item we were out of, such as tea (I buy bulk, yes I drink that much), and cat food.

Our 15-year old cat is on a very special diet for his health issues. No getting around it.

My sister and I are also taking my mom on vacation to Las Vegas in April. It is one of her Christmas gifts. It's on her bucket list, plus my late dad's sister lives there. Have to do it. I put all three airfares on my CC (sister said will pay back, but will likely wait until her tax refund arrives. Ugh. ) So, that's $992 on the card.

I also paid the deposit for the first night in the hotel -- $123.

Plus, hubby and I took a one night, 2-day minication while the in-laws were here, just to have some adult time. So, we had one night at a hotel, plus ski lift tickets, and food. Not expensive, but still. Money out.

And here is the UGLY UGLY.

Go ahead. Yell at me. I deserve it. I had frugality fatigue something awful. I work so hard, and every penny always goes to some goal or some responsible means.

CeeJay will appreciate this: I look terrible. I used to be pretty. Now, I am a hot mess, so to speak. None of my clothes fit (thanks kids)... my hair is crazy, my wardrobe is nil because I sold my clothes to consignment. Even if you lose the weight, your body will not be shaped the same after babies. No getting around it.

So, I have zip to wear. I wear the same pair of jeans just about every day.

So yes. I was bad. I took myself shopping. Everything was on sale, but it still wasn't cheap and it was still money I shouldn't be spending. I'm not going into debt or anything, but I haven't exactly been putting anything in savings lately, either.

I bought two pairs of boots at DSW. I love love love them and will keep them for years. Unfortunately, I am now out $100.

I also bought a Saints T-shirt (they are my team!), and two pairs of jeans on sale at Old Navy for $20. Too good to pass up.

I bought some undies at Victoria Secret. I had a $25 gift card, but still spent $11 out of pocket.

And today, I bought myself an awesomely cute purse off the clearance rack at Target, as well as some more undies. That set me back about $35.

Okay, it's not exactly a shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue, but it might as well be for me.

I am also planning to hit up the Sally Beauty Supply this weekend to get some supplies for my hair and nails. I'm way overdue.

Coupon nirvana!!!

February 4th, 2011 at 01:40 am

I finally did it. I saved a ton of money using coupons. For one brief moment, I became that lady, who cut her grocery bill by 60 percent via coupons.

Can you tell I'm excited. On a lark, I decided to check out couponmom.com and see what kind of deals I could get this week. Kroger is having its Game Day promotions. Things are on sale, then if you buy 10 participating items, you get $50 cents off of each.

I have a decent stock of coupons built up, because my mom brings me her Sunday circulars, ad I combine those with mine.

I spent 45 minutes combing through fliers clipping multiples of a few coupons. Then I tackled the grocery store. At the checkout, I was convinced it was too good to be true. I was scanning my Game Day items, and none of the discounts were showing up. I thought I had been had. Now I know they don't show up until you or the cashier hit the Pay button, then all the discounts magically come off.

I was sweaty palmed as my bill hit $80-- way more than I was planning to spend. By the time the cashier handled my stack of coupons AND I got the gameday discount, I was down to $35.19. Totally awesome!!!

I got:
2 giant tubes of colgate, for free. On sale for $1.50 and had two 75 cent D (double)coupons
2 giant tubes of Crest for 50 cents each, $2 on sale, had two 75 cent D coupons
3, yes 3, free Dove deodorants. On sale for $2, and had three coupons for $2 off. Too too good to be true.

I also bought 9 cans of Hunts diced tomatoes, reg. 99 cent, on sale for 49 cents, plus I had three 45 cent coupons (off three). I paid about 20 cents a can at the end.

And, as if the stars aligned, Kroger mailed me a packet of coupons to thank me for being a customer. Four of them were for FREE store brand items. I got 1 lb of butter ($3.29), 1 pack of cheese ($4.19), 1 dozen eggs ($1.69) and 1 free jar of peanut butter ($1.99).

All told, I saved $52.57 due to coupons (according to the receipt). $16.90 in manf. coupons, plus $35 in coupons including the Game Day discount and the store coupons for free items.

It felt really good to have this sort of degree of success. I know I won't be able to do it all the time, but I certainly will do it as often as I can.

After I went to Kroger, I took a trip to ALDI to fill in on basics that weren't on sale at the regular store.

The items I bought today-- some are now in the basement cabinet, which is where my stockpile is. The more I can stockpile for deep discounts, the more I will be able to wait to buy until we have a great deal in the future. It just takes time, I suppose.

Aargh

February 2nd, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I just checked our online savings account and realized that the interest rate went down again. It's held steady at a craptacular 1 percent for about a year. Now it's down to .9 percent. What more humiliation can this economy throw to us savers?????

In better news, I did put $200 more to kid 1's 529 and $35 more to the car fund today. Too bad it will earn less interest!!!

Phew!

February 2nd, 2011 at 06:04 pm

Looks like we avoided to worst of the storm. Last night, the news acted like the world was ending. We made it through without losing electricity. This morning, the ice had melted off the roads and the roads were clear. It's still very cold and very very windy, but I think we are going to be okay.

In other news, I also finally got all of the new cell plan issues worked out today. When I bought my new phone at the store Saturday, they gave me a new phone number, even though I wanted to keep my current one. The salesguy told me just to call and everything would be transferred. Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Three phone calls and two hours of my life later, it's finally all settled. New phone has the old number, and all the minutes I bought are attached to the right account. Now, what do I do with the old phone? Is there a way to donate it?

Eek!

February 1st, 2011 at 05:38 pm

I just got an unexpected freelance assignment today. This on top of my two weekly projects.

It's good pay, but I wasn't expecting it. I hadn't set aside time for any extra work. So, I am now in super work mode. So much to do, but in limited time! Plus, we are one day into the massive ice storm, with two more days of ice on the way. I am just praying I can keep electricity, so I can keep the family warm and get some work done.

I suppose this is a good problem to have. I certainly do like when the check arrives, but actually getting the work done is very very hard!

Two more personal finance books

February 1st, 2011 at 02:49 pm

Here are the last two personal finance books I've read:

Point, Click & Save. Mashup Mom blog book. I really like this book. I think it's very helpful and relevant to the interests of SA folks. It has a lot of information on how to coupon and stack coupons to get good deals; lists of web resources for saving and making money; and lots of info on how to make money online. Worth reading.

Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day. Interesting stuff. It is very academic, but there are a lot of lessons those of us in affluent countries can learn from the world's poorest people. It tells you how these people manage to save money, even though they are very poor.