Saturday, April 4, 2009

Things we have done in the last 2 weeks to save money

Every 2 weeks I am planning to do a blog that lists what my family has done in the last 2 weeks to save money.  Maybe others can get ideas from what we have done.  If someone has an idea that I missed, let me know!

1.  My husband grabbed some grapes that a fruit distributer had given to his company to give away.  Free fruit for kids lunches.

2.  Used 2 Michael's 40% off coupons for Easter baskets.  I saved $5.00 so far.  I have a 50% off coupon that I can start using tomorrow.

3.  Saved $94.02 at the grocery store when combining sale items with coupons.

4.  Saved $303.00 on a family room rug by combining coupons and sales.

5.  Checked CD's out from the library instead of buying them.

6.  Saved $54.50 on summer clothes for my daughter by using coupons with the sale price.

7.  Paid all credit cards off in full, therefore saving on any interest that we would have accrued.

8.  Fed my children dinner at home before taking them to the school carnival.  I know, I know it is a fundraiser for the school.  But, I would rather they use the money we had budgeted for it for games, not hot dogs (which I gave them for dinner at home anyway).

9.  My husband has started his garden.  900 square feet of vegetables this summer.  He has started seeds that are sprouting all over the house.

10.  Fed my family on food in the freezer this week.  Using a lot of left overs, which always saves money.

Savings at the grocery store

For the last several months I have been going to Costco to get the majority of our groceries.  I need to go about once a month to get the majority of the  groceries that we will need for the month.  Of course, I usually need to go to the grocery store a couple of times in that month to replenish produce and dairy.  It is a system that I like, it saves me time and money. Unfortunately, this month I will not be able to make it Costco.  Our local Costco is not all that local.  It is about a 45 minute drive.  With the schedules that we have had the last few weeks, we just don't have the few hours required to make such a pilgrimage.

With that in mind this week, I scoured the sale ad from our local grocery store for bargains and sale items that I had a coupon for.  I had great success this week.  This was a week that had several buy one get one free bargains in addition to healthy options on sale.  When I added my coupons to these deals, I saved a lot of money.  Before sales and coupons were applied my bill was $288.65.  After the sales and coupons were applied, by final bill was $194.11.  

I know that sounds high, very high in fact.  But, I have 3 kids.  One of those kids being an 11 year old boy who is a bottomless pit.  My daughter who is 10 is a vegetarian, so I need to pick protein rich options for her.  The food I bought today, when added to what I already have in the freezer and pantry will easily last me 2 weeks (with the exception of the bananas that I will need to replenish several times).

If anyone has pointers on how to bring this bill down even farther, let me know.  I am always open to more ideas to help in the ongoing journey with frugality.

Friday, April 3, 2009

My latest great deal.

We have had a rug in our family room since we moved into our house, October 2000.  When I bought the rug, it was perfect!  It matched the furniture, it had a cute pattern, and the price was right.  When I bought this rug though, I failed to keep one very important thing in mind.  It was cream colored.  Notice how I say "was" cream colored.    When I picked out this perfect rug many years ago, I was not thinking about the toddlers I had at home, the dogs that run wild through the house or the fact that getting anyone to take off their shoes in this house is a daily struggle that I may devote to a future blog.  Instead, it was calling my name, I had to have that rug.

Recently, I was looking at that brown rug of mine thinking it was time to replace it.  So I started checking out sales at stores when I had a chance.  I found rugs that I liked, but nothing that fit in the budget I had in mind to replace it.  That is, until yesterday.  While running errands I decided to run into Kohls to use a $10 off anything $10 or more coupon I had received from Kohls for my birthday.  My plan was to find something that we needed for $10 so I would get my choice for free.   I found myself wandering the store aimlessly and then in the corner of my eye I saw a red sign which said 80% off.  To my amazement that 80% off was for rugs! Jackpot!  With my $10 off in my hand, I ran to that display and found the perfect reddish/brownish very busy patterned rug.  It matched our furniture perfectly, it was dark enough to hide the stains that will inevitably find their way on the rug and most importantly, it was 80% off!  The original price was $350.00 on sale for $70.00.  I grabbed my rug and took it to the checkout counter to pay.  Then to my surprise, I was handed a scratch off card for an additional discount.  My additional discount was 20% off which was added after the $10 coupon was used.  Before tax was added, my $350.00 rug cost $47.99, score!  After tax was added, I was only .44 cents above my budget. 

I am so happy that I had decided to stick to my budget for this purchase.  I was getting to the point of going above what I wanted to pay because it was an item that desperately needed to be replaced.  Patience won this time! 

Above is picture of a small part of the new rug.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I have a confession to make.  I have an addiction that is not frugal, and proves to take a bite out of our checking account every couple of months.  I am addicted to magazines!  I love them.  To me, receiving a magazine in the mail is as good as getting an unexpected package from UPS.  I love the colorful covers,  the grab you headlines and the shiny paper.  But, as we continue to trim expenses, I realize that it is time for me to detox and to stop renewing the endless stream of magazines that come into the  house.

Currently, my husband and I have 17 magazine subscriptions.  I know, doesn't seem frugal.  I justify subscribing by telling myself I am going to get a free gift that is worth more than the subscription.  Unfortunately, I have yet to learn that the free gift never looks as good when it is delivered as it did in the colorful photo.  The free cookbook that comes free with the subscription is actually just a 4 page pamphlet or the free tote is big enough for an apple.

My addiction started when I was pregnant with my first child.  I became convinced that everything I needed to know about being a good parent was in the parenting magazines that I saw in the children's section at the bookstore.  So, before I entered my 2nd trimester we were getting Parents, Parenting and Child.  I read them cover to cover, preparing for his arrival and even preparing for the preschool and school age years.  As the years went by, I realized that those magazines were recycling the same articles over and over.  I should know, I had been reading them for years.  

Next, I decided that it was time for me to become the perfect gourmet cook, so I subscribed to Food and Wine, Gourmet and was given Bon Appetite as a gift (a gift I love, mom, so DON'T cancel it!).  Again, I realized that these magazines tend to recycle and Gourmet and Bon Appetite are pretty much the same.  So, I let Gourmet go and kept the other 2 to help me continue improving my culinary skills.  

The next great phase in my addiction was when I decided that it was time for me to organize my life and to improve my health while balancing our budget.  Enter Real Simple, Woman's Day, Redbook, Whole Living, Prevention, Forbes and Taste of Home.  My ambitions were high and I found that I was spending so much time reading what I needed to do to improve my life that I was too tired at the end of the day to actually implement what I had been reading.

As I write this, I realize that I am in fact the main culprit here.  But, my husband tends to do the same thing.  Recently, he has become an Earth loving organic gardener.  With this new found hobby, we now receive Utne, Mother Jones, Mother Earth News and Organic Gardener.  I have to admit, I am the one who subscribed to Mother Jones, it came with a free pound of coffee. Worth more than the subscription.

As anyone can see, we need to stop.  So, here, on my blog, I vow to start letting my subscription lapse and I will start checking my magazines out from the library.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Babysitting Class

Yesterday I signed my 11 year old son up for The American Red Cross babysitting class that is offered in our community.  The upfront cost for this class was $87.  When I first saw this price tag I thought, no way!  Spending that kind of money on an 8 hour class is not frugal! But, after careful consideration and number crunching, I realized that signing him up for the class is actually one of the more frugal things I have done recently.

Why?  My husband and I do not go out a lot, but when we do, it is for at least 5 hours.  We live in a suburban area where the babysitting rate is between $8 and $10 per hour.  For us, a night out can cost us a minimum of $40, often times it is more than that.  With 3 kids, I tend to pay on the high end of that rate.    When you throw in the cost of the dinner we ate, the activity we did and the gas spent on transportation, it becomes an expensive night.

My son is almost at the age that he can babysit for us.  He will of course be compensated for his work.  A little money is enough motivation to make him behave the way we would expect of any babysitter we hire.  However, he will not be receiving the $8 to $10 an hour we pay the regular sitter.  We have agreed to $4 an hour, which is a savings of around $5 an hour.   We will break even with the baby sitting class when Alec reaches 17 hours of baby sitting for us.  When I saw those numbers, I realized that signing up for babysitting class really is frugal.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My son's refusal to get a haircut!

 In my daily adventures to save money, I am always open to any idea or strategy that will help remain true to my frugal roots.  In recent months though, I have found one annoyance that I would be willing to go for broke in order to cure.  My son will not get a haircut!  He is 11 years old and at that age where he is determined to exert his independence.  It doesn't help that shaggy hair seems to be the norm these days.   Or, that boys seem to be convinced that their self worth is directly tied to how long their hair is.  I know that I have to pick my battles and that this is one battle that I am not all that interested in fighting to the death.  However, he really is starting to look ridiculous, not to mention I forgot what color is eyes are.  While I can say that my patience with his new found style is still somewhat intact, I don't think I can say the same for his father.

My husband has been trying to use any opportunity presented to him to win this particular war. For example,  Alec wanted to sign up for a game on the internet.  Eric suggested he could do that if we could think of something that Alec could do for us in return.  Maybe, a haircut?  Alec decided he didn't want the game that much after all.  Suggestions of a haircut instead of a punishment have been casually mentioned, Alec falls into line immediately.  Even comparing him to Zac Efron has done little to lessen his resolute on this matter, the hair stays. My husband remains frustrated and I still wonder what color my boy's eyes are.

In the end, I do believe that my husband and I will have to admit defeat, surrender to the power of peer pressure and the belief that the hair makes the boy.  We have lost every battle and now it is time to admit we have lost the war.  When all is said and done, we can chalk this up to a savings of about $90 so far (he has refused a haircut since July).  I guess that is being frugal.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Library

Saturday morning proved to be the start of a difficult day for the kids.  It was a cold morning and we all knew that more snow was on the way.  Living in Wisconsin can be so frustrating this time of year. We have weeks with fluctuating temperatures from as high as 70 degrees and as low as 20 degrees. My kids had a combination of cabin fever and spring fever, which inevitably led to fighting and frustration.  We knew that we had to get the kids out of the house and quick.  After going over the normal list of activities, my husband suggested the library.   The kids reluctantly agreed to going to the library, after we promised to let them play at the park afterwards.  As always, the trip was a great success.

We are very fortunate to have a library rich with current books, movies, computers, music and a play area.  When we arrived, the family scattered to their own areas of interest.  My husband, immediately found the gardening section, my youngest the play area, my middle daughter found a Judy Blume book, my son the graphic novels and I found the cookbooks.  We were all able to spend time alone with the things we like to do or read, while being together.  When all was said and done, we left the library with a pile of movies, books and CD's, all for free!  Best yet, we had a really nice time together.  After the library, we followed through with our promise to go to the park, which was REALLY cold!  But, the kids ran off a lot of excess energy and played together nicely without any fighting.  Always a good thing. 

The local library is such a wonderful resource for anyone, being frugal or not.   My family does not visit it enough, but after our visit Saturday, I plan to change that.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth Hour

Saturday night, March 28th, was Earth hour from 8:30 to 9:30 pm.  For those who do not know what Earth Hour is, it is an effort to bring awareness to global warming by turning off your lights. This was a worldwide event, as many as 1 billion people participated.  My family chose to participate in this event.

It turned out that the hour spent in our home with the lights out was one of the best times my family has had together in awhile.  At first, it seemed as though Earth Hour was just going to be an excuse to go to bed early,  but it turned out to be a great opportunity to spend time together. We decided to play the game where one person starts telling a story and then each person adds to the story.  My 11 year old son started the story with a werewolf who was a cannibal (gross, I know, but he is 11) my 6 year old ended the same story with a beautiful princess getting everything she wanted.  Somewhere within that same story, great philosophers who were in fruit form (yes apples and peaches) were teaching everyone life's great lessons.  I wish I would have had a tape recorder going while we did this.  It was 45 minutes of great fun.  My son asked us if we could do the same thing again tonight.

What I learned in this lesson of frugality is that you do not need to spend a dime to have a wonderful time with your family.  Something I had already known, but wow was it ever apparent last night.  What made it even better, my kids learned something about global warming because we had to tell them why were taking this hour to sit in our family room in the dark.  Who knows, maybe we even saved a dime with this little exercise.  What I do know, is that we created a memory with our kids that I think they will remember for a very long time.