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Archive for July, 2011

Mixed coupon feelings.

July 26th, 2011 at 09:04 pm

I had a little bit of time to myself today thanks to grandma, so I decided to clip a few coupons and look for a few deals.

At the grocery store, I scored:
2 free Crest toothpaste
2 free Ivory body wash
4 free Oral B toothbrushes
2 free gallons of milk (had a special buy 4 cereals, get 2 free gallons of milk. Of course I had coupons for the cereal too.)
2 boxes of barilla pasta for 14 cents each.

I picked up a few other odds and ends for dinner tonight, and ended up saving 50 percent off the total bill thanks to the coupons.

I think I had less success at CVS. I tried to get the free gas card with the $30 purchase, but am now wondering if it was worth it.

I got 4 herbal essence/ aussie shampoos and hair sprays. on sale 2/ 4.97, but I used two coupons worth $4 off, so paid .97/2. Not bad!

I bought the Kotex UP tampons with a $1 off coupon, and got 2 ECb back, so paid 49 cents, plus a pack of free pens after 1.99 ECB.

For the gas deal, I also loaded up on a few more 2/$7 Arm and Hammer laundry detergents ( I had coupons for $1/2) and it's my favorite brand. No stinky perfumes.

I was $6.06 shy of the $30 before coupons to get the gas card, so I bought candy-- which we really don't need, but I had coupons and the gas card was dangling!

So, my thought is this is how they get you. Would I Have been better off just walking out with the shampoo and the ECB items? I feel like I'm spending to save. Not sure how I feel about that.

Coupon coup!! And a Q for you extreme couponers.

July 24th, 2011 at 04:01 pm

First, a question: All your extreme couponers out there, I do need some advice. Any tips on getting free or cheap shampoo and body wash? I'm not really brand loyal, but I can't seem to get anything for less than about $1.50. Is that on track??

And on to my tale....

I finally had time to clean out and organize the coupon binder. I've been meaning to do this for months, but we've just been so busy. I'm glad I did!

I had to use a $5 off $35 coupons from my local Kroger today, and I noticed they were having a sale on many of the brands/items we use a lot of (like deodorant, body wash, toothpaste, and laundry detergent.)

After scouring the Sunday Coupon Preview, and the coupons I already have, I managed to make some good matches.

I also decided to change my strategy.

First, I got wild and crazy and bought 4 extra Sunday papers for the coupon inserts. This worked well-- except the ones I bought from the store didn't have the Red Plum insert, just the Smart Source. I'm mad because there was a $1 off my fav shampoo in the red plum. Anyway, I'm wondering if the Red Plum only comes in the home-delivered paper?

Second, I normally clip the coupons I know I will use then leave the rest at home. This time, I brought along my coupon binder. Am I glad I did! I managed to get double coupon plus the good sale on several items, like tampons and hubby's favorite deodorant (usually $3.79, for 69 cents each-- and because I bought extra papers, I was able to buy 4 at that price). Same with body wash, on sale, had $1.00 off and had four coupons. Can you say stock up??

So yeah, while cruising the store, I was able to put those extra coupons to use and score some really great deals for the stockpile. I had been paying full price for just about everything during the whole house buying and selling fiasco, just for lack of time and energy to be smart about coupons and sales. Feels good to be partially back on track!

Anyway, I was thrilled when I saw my receipt. Between the coupons, the store sale, the store coupon, etc. I shaved 51 percent off the bill. And now I have a stockpile of some of our favorite brands, so I can take even more time to buy only when the price is lowest.

Hopefully this can save us some money in the long-term.

Complete Budget FAIL

July 23rd, 2011 at 01:45 am

Today was payday, and the level of out of controled-ness that our budget has taken on since we put an offer on this house in February, then spent months in survival mode, dealing with mortgage loans, moving, fixing up and selling another house has finally hit home.

It was payday today, and our credit card bill alone equalled the entire paycheck. We haven't managed to save a dime since Feb. (although I replaced $2500 we had taken out for misc once we sold the house). Seriously. This is out of control.

Granted, the credit card included one-time expenses such as plane tickets for three to grandma's house. But still. Those kinds of things happen more often than we'd like to admit.

After the kids went to bed, I took a walk/run around the park and couldn't stop thinking about money. Wondering how we are going to meet all of our goals with this huge new mortgage (I'm including the extra we send in hopes of sticking to our 5 year payoff plan). I couldn't come up with any answers, I just realize I need to seriously comb over what we have been spending our money on and while I'm figuring this all out commit to only buying essentials.

A No Spend Month may also be on our horizon, maybe in September? And, I think I should get back on track with savings by starting our biweekly transfer to savings again, albeit for a very small $50 each time (down from $400 when we had no mortgage. Sigh.). And, maybe back to an envelope system for weekly expenses so we don't have any more giant shocking bills.

I knew we were going to take a hit when we moved, even though in the long term it's more economical. But still!!!

I was thinking one solution would be for me to bring in more money every month, but I'm exhausted at the thought of staying up later on yet another night to work when the kids are in bed. Ugh.

Any sage advice?

Got a Chase Sapphire offer

July 20th, 2011 at 02:38 am

It came in the mail today. I was hoping it was one the fat deals you guys had been talking about, but alas, no. It was only for $25,000 points, ergo $250, if you spend $750 in three months. We could do it, but it's not worth the hassle or credit ding for $250....

$17 grapes. Seriously.

July 12th, 2011 at 01:18 am

I've been on a kick to turn around our eating habits and start prepping healthier food for me and the kids. I clipped out that dirty dozen pesticides fruit and veggie list, and have been trying to buy pesticide free at the farmer's market and the rest organic at the store.

So, as you know, grapes are up there as far as pesticides. My chain grocery doesn't carry organic grapes or strawberries, so I decided to go to Whole Foods to pick some up. I had a few other things to get, as well.

I grabbed two bags of the grapes, not thinking twice about it. Well, my mistake. I get to the check out and those two little baggies of grapes cost me $17. I jsut about passed out.

Is going organic for dirty dozen even going to be possible? I can't afford $17 a week for grapes!!

Free gardening and a huge toddler milestone!

July 10th, 2011 at 02:34 am

Today was a big day. Little man (aged 3.25) FINALLY did No. 2 on the potty-- and we didn't have to ask him, force him, or bug him about it. Those of you who have ever been parents will know what a huge deal this is. So, we gave him his promised ice cream party, and spent about $14.78 at one of those self-serve, add your own toppings tart yogurt shops. Money well spent. Let's hope he can keep it up.

Hubby also took the kids out to the zoo today for a few hours to give me some peace and quiet. That was all free, as we have a membership so each trip is free. We packed PB & Js, and spent three or four dollars on carousel and train rides.

While they were gone I got a little bit of work done around the house. I painted our bedroom and moved the furniture around. It's starting to feel sooooo much better. The bed and the dressers were still pretty much where we dropped them on moving day two months ago. A far from ideal arrangement, but it got the job done, although not elegantly. My plan is to put together our new IKEA platform bedframe and lay down the rug tomorrow, and voila! Instant, finished master bedroom. It's very exciting.

As for landscaping, the last owner clearly didn't know a lot about plants. I think she just wanted the gardens to look full immediately, ergo didn't leave any room for when the plants actually grew. We had one part-shade spot along the back with nothing in it. So, I cleaned that out today and transplanted four struggling hostas from other flower beds. I think they will do well in this new spot-- with the right light and plenty of room-- if they survived my July transplanting. Not the best time, I know, but hey.

I also broke down and spent $20 on a SunCalc light meter today. Growing my own food is very important to me, and our new lot, although a full half acre, is big, it has challenging light conditions. I still haven't been able to figure out how much sun each potential garden spot is getting each day. Hopefully the light meter will help me figure out where to put the raised garden beds this fall, so they will be ready for intensive gardening next spring.

Two phone calls = $398.60 saved!

July 6th, 2011 at 05:04 pm

I finally got around to switching my home and car insurance to another company (from State Farm, who had almost doubled my rates the last couple of years, to Allstate.). I spent about 30 minutes on the phone and it cut my annual bill for two cars and one house by $398.60 a year. That feels good. I'm also paying less, but getting more auto coverage.

I'm not a big insurance company hopper, but clearly it does pay to reevaluate every couple of years.

I also cancelled my homeowners insurance with State Farm (on the house I just sold), and will be receiving a refund. I will also be cancelling the car insurance, and will be getting another refund for that. I suppose that money will go either to the kids' 529s or to pay down the car loan.


We're in the middle of getting estimates for gutters and insulation for the new house. So far, they have come in a bit above what I expected to pay. I budgeted a max of $2000 for each of the three projects we need to have done here.

--Tree removal of a dying and deadly tree is $1900. It involves a crane. Of course.

--First insulation quote came in at $2800. We have R5, and want to add another R38 to meet the Dept of Energy recommendations for our area.

Here's the rub. If we have an energy audit from our local gas company, we will get a rebate for putting in the insulation. it can be significant-- from 20 to 70 percent. That's great. But I just called and they are all booked up for this year and won't be able to get to us until some time in 2012. Is it worth waiting up to another year to get the discount? I'm not sure.

-- the first gutter estimate came back at $1900. But for another $1200 with a leaf guard system. After some research, I'm skeptical of the leaf system, as it can potentially cause problems in winter with ice dams and snow. Looks like we will have to just clean the leaves out.

Still, I am waiting for more estimates. So hopefully we can get a good deal.

Back to being cheap...

July 4th, 2011 at 09:45 pm

Now that the other house is sold, I feel like it's time to try to get a handle on expenses again-- clipping coupons, shopping around for better deals on insurance (almost done), etc. I know I've been paying too much for groceries and just about everything else since February, due to lack of time and energy.

To kick off the season of clipping coupons and buying on sale, I stocked up on all natural hot dogs. They were BOGO, plus I had coupons, so I saved some there. I also bought 3 bags of cat food. It was on sale for about $3 off a bag, plus I had coupons for $1 off. Laundry detergent was also on sale, no coupon, so I bought 3.

I also returned about $40 in items I didn't use or need to Lowe's (bought too much for project) and one sheet to Target, still in package. I needed a fitted but accidentally bought a flat. For me, returning things is a big deal, because I never used to do it. I hate hassles, and I always felt like it was a hassle to return stuff, but now having my money back is worth it.

So, hopefully the dust will settle financially these next couple of weeks and I can figure out how our new-- with mortgage-- budget is going to work. I haven't really been able to save anything while maintaining two houses, so hopefully the outlook will improve and I can get back on track.

Another postive day

July 3rd, 2011 at 05:15 pm

It's amazing how much sunnier my outlook is without all of this house stress. I had yet another lovely 24 hours focusing on the house we live in. Yesterday, I organized, and sorted (for donation or otherwise) the stuff in the basement laundry area. It now looks clean and clear.

I also started on the garage. I posted several freebies on craigslist. A double jogging stroller and a car seat, and two rugs we don't have space for in these houses. All needed to be seriously cleaned, and it wasn't worth the energy for me to do it. Within two hours of posting, all was taken.

I have at least three big boxes headed for the thrift store later this week.

I just sold our old reel mower for $20 as well, so that went into the home improvement piggy bank. We now have enough in the piggy bank from craigslist, recycling cans, and birthday money that hubby and I can buy the new platform bed frame we've been eyeballing. And maybe a little something else.

So, the house is a little bit cleaner and the piggy bank a little bit fuller. What a way to kick off the weekend!

We're heading to a BBQ at my sister's soon. It's funny. I am a serial party thrower. She rarely has parties, so she is freaking out about everything. It's cute. I guess she didn't realize how much work it is!

The transfers for the mortgage pay-down are scheduled for Tuesday ($118,000), and the $2500 to savings is scheduled as well.

I've also already set up some appointments for estimates for the work we need to have done on this place. I have about $8,000 in sale proceeds set aside for these projects. Any left over will go to the other goals.

It's weird. This round of stuff (a tree removed, new gutters, more attic insulation,) and other than that, the house only needs decorating. Considering I spent the last five years fixing up a house that needed major things every year, this feels too easy!

The check cleared!

July 2nd, 2011 at 02:37 pm

The check for the sale of our house cleared. Yay! I am going to set up the transfers for Tuesday morning, so I can start tackling those goals. Yay!

Update: So, I set up a transfer to my mortgage account (at the same bank). Weird. They only let you pay up to $99,999.99 at a time. So, I had to set up two transfers on two different dates to send the $118,000 I had budgeted. I wonder why they do that?

I also got a freelance check for $160 yesterday, so I sent $100 to each kid's 529.

Waiting for the check to clear...

July 1st, 2011 at 08:59 pm

So, I deposited the check for our house sale yesterday at about 4:30. Of course, on the receipt, it said it would post today, but no. I do understand, though, as there will probably be a bigger lag because it's a bigger check. I just hope it doesn't take too long. I'm anxious to pay down the mortgage, and it's a holiday weekend, so waiting is going to drive me up the wall!

Anyway. The check was for about $128,700.

My plan thus far is to send $2,500 to savings, to replace the money I spent fixing the place up so we could sell it.

$118,000 to the current mortgage balance, to get us under $100,000 and on track for our 5-year mortgage pay-off plan.

The rest will be budgeted for a handful of projects on the new house. Since most of the work here is done, these are really the only big-money projects we have to do. Everything else is little stuff.

So, $1665 to have a gigantic dying tree with multiple split trunks removed. It's 50 plus years old and ready to fall on the house any second. Requires a crane, hence the price tag.

about $2,000 each (hopefully less, but the estimates are not in yet) for insulation in the attic and new gutters.

We may also have a handful of small plumbing and electrical projects done, depending on how much is left. Or, I might just send even more to paying down the mortgage.

Now if only the check would clear so I could get to work....