Saturday, March 28, 2009

Family Movie Night

Friday night in our house is family movie night.  There was a time when we would attempt an occasional movie and pizza out of the house.  But, with the cost of a movie being around $8.00/adult and $6.00/child in addition to the cost of around $25.00 for us to get a pizza, we determined that it was time to have movie night at home.  It soon became a Friday tradition that we rarely skip.

Until recently, we would buy frozen pizzas for our movie night.  Homemade pizza is great, but I make home cooked meals every night and had decided that I deserved a break one day a week.  But, with the cost of frozen pizza being about $12.00 for 3 pizzas, it seemed like it was time to search for a way to make Fridays easy for me, while remaining cheap.  Luckily, I am married to a great cook, who is not afraid to try anything.  Eric makes a batch of frozen pizzas (generally 8 at a time) and freezes them for future use.  As you can see by the photos, these pizzas are made to our liking, with organic ingredients and no preservatives.  He makes the crust from scratch, par bakes it and then adds the ingredients.  They go into a freezer bag, ready to go on Friday.  He feels that he needs to work on the recipe, but they taste fine to us.  He is his own worst critic.

The movies that we watch come from Netflix.  What a GREAT concept!  I wish I would have thought of it.  We choose family friendly movies that we all enjoy.  The kids curl up on the couch with a blanket and pillows and we watch the show in the comfort of our own home.  I have not forgotten the ever important movie theatre candy.  You know, the candy that is $4.00 a box at the theatre.  The candy that somehow tastes better because it is in that movie theatre candy box.  I stock up on that candy at Wal-Mart for $1.00 a box.  My kids love it.  They look forward to me pulling out those boxes every Friday.  I swear, that candy makes the night for them.

When I do the math for movie night I come up with these numbers.  Going out: movie=$34.00, candy=$12.00, pizza=$25.00 for a grand total of $73.00.  Staying home: movie=$1.00, candy=$3.00, pizza=$6.00 for a grand total of $10.00.  With these numbers, it is pretty clear to see why we do movie night at home, almost always.  That is not to say that we do not do the occasional matinee for a kid movie, we do.  But, after seeing these numbers, I think we will start bringing that movie candy from Wal-Mart.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Energy Bill

In my daily journey with being frugal, there is one area that my family and I have failed at miserably, the energy bill.  Where we live, the electric and gas bill are combined into one bill.  We have chosen to participate in "reliabill" for the gas segment of our bill.   With this part of the bill, we pay for gas futures, meaning that we may either pay more or less then everyone else for gas.  But, we know exactly what we will pay every month.  We will have no surprises at the end of a budget cycle, an unexpected surprise that happened to us several years ago.  The electric half of the bill is not budgeted and does give a reliabill option.   We received our bill yesterday and the electric bill was high, very high.  It has been high for months and I have chosen to ignore it.  

Ignoring this bill seems foolish and not very frugal.  Now that I am writing a blog on my journey with frugality, it seems like the perfect time to tackle the electric bill.  So, for the next month, I plan on putting the same energy (no pun intended) into lowering the electric bill that I put into coupon clipping, meal planning and researching free activities.  My family will probably hate it, and possibly ignore it.  However, I have a plan in place to encourage their full participation.  When I was a kid, my dad was constantly on my case about turning off the lights, TV, stereo, etc.  We drove each other crazy in this ongoing struggle.  In the end, every time I left a light on, I had to give him a nickel.  I plan on implementing this same technique with my family.  Of course, the price has gone up.  I was giving him a nickel in the mid 80's, I think it is safe to say that I can increase the price to a dime.  Maybe, I can even get my husband on board.

Look for pictures of the "electricity bank" I am going to make to make this a family effort.  That is all for now.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bargain Shopping for Clothes in Today's Economy

With spring here and summer quickly approaching, I find that I need to shop for summer clothes for the kids, my husband and myself.  Being the bargain shopper that I am, I refuse to pay full price for any of our clothes.  That being said,  I do acknowledge that 2 of my children are now tweens and that clothes have become very important to them.  Gone are the days of filling their wardrobes with 90% off t-shirts and shorts from the Target clearance rack (how it pains me to admit that).  Instead, they long for clothes from stores like Gap, Abercrombie, Hollister and Justice.  While I would love to say to them, clothing does not make you who you are, it is what is on the inside that matters.  I know better.  At the ages my children are at, clothes make a difference, I reluctantly accept it and have found ways to fill their wardrobes with those longed for brand names at a discount.

First thing I have done, I get help from Grandma.  My 11 and 10 year olds prefer clothes, among other things for gifts.  They are very fortunate to have grandmothers who buy them gifts for every holiday known to man!  I keep an ongoing list of clothes the kids want and what store that clothing is at, so that I am armed and ready when grandma calls looking for gift ideas.   I am very lucky to have such generous family members who are willing to provide such gifts for my kids.

Second, I have made sure that the stores I shop at have my email address.  That way, when clearance sales start, I can go shopping for any desired items at the sale price.  This morning I got an email from Abercrombie stating that the Spring clearance had started.  I was at the mall by noon and had purchased a couple of summer items at 50% off.   As a general rule, Abercrombie is very expensive, but, I found the clothing today to be very reasonable because of the sale.

Third, I take advantage of all coupons that I receive from the stores that we like to shop.  While at the mall today, I walked by a new store, Crazy 8.  My 6 year old, who is not at all picky is also in need of some summer clothes.  While we have plenty of hand me downs for her from her sister, she still needed a couple of additions to her summer wardrobe.  When I walked into the store, I was given a 25% off coupon off everything in the store, plus, if I spent $40 I would get an additional $20 off my next purchase.  To top it off, everything was already on sale!  Knowing what I needed, I picked out those items, knowing when to stop at $40.  My grand total for 2 shirts, 2 pairs of shorts and 2 pairs of shoes, $41.63 before tax.  I plan on finishing my shopping for her next week when I can use the $20 off coupon.  I plan on clothing her this summer for around $75.00  

Fourth, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I utilize hand me downs for my youngest.  I have never had to buy her a winter coat, spring coat, or pajamas.  I always buy her what she needs, but only after carefully going through the hand me downs I have on hand.  One word of caution on hand me downs.  Never reuse shoes.  I learned this the hard way.  My poor little girl got bunions because she had been wearing her sister's old shoes.  I don't cheap out on good athletic shoes anymore.   I have their feet properly measured and pay for good shoes.  I still feel very bad about that parenting mistake.

Clothing my husband and myself is a bit easier, but obviously more expensive.  My husband needs good work clothes, but he is fortunate enough to be able to wear business casual every day.  The best place I have found for his clothing is Eddie Bauer.  I use the Eddie Bauer credit card (which I pay off right away) and I use the Eddie Bauer Friends Card.  We get amazing deals and gift certificates by using the Friends card.  Living in Wisconsin, the home of Kohls, we of course buy a lot of our clothing there at deep discounts.

I have to state that I do not buy much from Goodwill or Thrift Stores.  I think those stores are great!  I don't shop those stores, because they can be hit or miss and often time require a lot of time in order to find good deals.  Unfortunately, I don't have as much time as I would like in order to shop properly at these stores.  Any ideas on how to utilize these stores more efficiently would be much appreciated.

I will be the first person to admit that I could probably save even more money on clothing my family.  But, I find that I must be doing something right, our monthly bill for clothes falls below what I hear my friends spend.

That is all for now.  Happy shopping:)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First Post!

Wow, this is my first posting to a blog.  I am new to this.  But, after reading the blogs of others the last couple of years, I thought that it was time for me to join the 21st century and blog my life, however boring it may be.

My goal for this blog is to document my daily adventures as a stay at home to 3 active, crazy, delightful children.  As a stay at home mom, in this ever changing economy, I am always on the look out for a fantastic deal.  My frugality has allowed me to stay home and to be debt free (mortgage excluded) for several years.  I cut coupons, plan meals around sales, never buy anything full price and plan entertainment around free or drastically reduced activities.   My children are often frustrated with me, but get over it quickly when I point out the wonderful things they have had because of my frugality.
Unfortunately, my first post will have to be short.  It is nearly 8:00, time to read to the kids.  My husband and I have been taking turns reading novels to them every night.  Currently, I am reading "The Swiss Family Robinson" to them.  They are enjoying it, but finding it hard to follow.  I am optimistic that as we get further into the book, they will find it more enjoyable.  I hate stopping a book midway.