Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pinching the pennies until they scream

I am a very frugal woman. I watch our budget closely. We spend very little and I am always looking for ways to shave from our spending here and there. I'm sure there will be some posts soon about ways in which I save money, but, for now, let's talk coupons.

I checked out a book from the library the other day titled Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half With America's Cheapest Family by the Economides. Seriously...that is their name. I read their first book and it was full of money-saving tips. I open this book. I'm rubbing my hands. I can't wait for the juicy tidbits that are going to save my family hundreds a month. Then...the first page. The ugly little number. The average American family spends $170 per person, per month on groceries. Boo. I'm already at half, if not less per person. The wind came right out of my sails. I was going to have to look for other ways.

I jumped over to Money Saving Mom. The last time I tried to work through the price matching/couponing going on over there, the twins were still in diapers and I didn't make it very far. I was ready this time. I read the Store Deals, made my lists, and readied my coupons.

OK, wait, I made that sound WAY too easy. It really took me several hours to get it all together. That was just for two stores. I decided that the Register Rewards and proximity to my house of Walgreen's was too good to pass up. For all the other deals, Wal-Mart will price match not only identical products, but also their store brand for another store's brand. For instance, if Office Max has Office Max brand of paper folders for 1 cent, Wal-Mart will let me have their brand of paper folders for 1 cent. Amazing. Add any coupons on top of those prices and I'm hoping my grocery budget will plummet.

I made my way into Walgreen's, found the items on my list, save one that had already sold out, checked out, $17 spent and went home. I sat down to check my items against my list and something just didn't add up. I was supposed to have $9 in Register Rewards and I only had $6. What went wrong? I got the ads out. I bought the wrong type of toothbrush!! Jeez!

I went back to Walgreen's, which I had planned on doing anyway to use my Register Rewards and because I was buying 2 of one item and wanted to get Register Rewards for both of them. That doesn't happen if you buy them both in the same trip. (That may sound more confusing than it really is...) I easily exchanged the toothbrush, got the $3 Register Reward taken off the order, paid with a $5 Register Reward from the trip that morning, and 65 cents out of pocket. I also got another $1 Register Reward. I could get used to this...

Here is what I got in the 2 trips for somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 with $2 in Register Rewards still in my pocket:

2 Oral B Complete Deep Clean Toothbrushes

Crest Complete Deep Clean Toothpaste

4 Large Bags of M&Ms

2 Boxes Playtex Tampons

3 Cans Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup

2 Bags Dove Minis Dark Chocolates

That night, I went to Wal-Mart and bought only great price match and coupon deals. I'll spare you the list. Just out of curiosity, I went over my receipt after I got everything put away to see what everything would have cost me if I had paid Wal-Mart prices without coupons. It would have cost around $145. I spent $75.

I can see where all of this will cost a bit more up front - stockpiling, building up Register Rewards, and most importantly in my time with familiarizing myself with "the system," but I can also see where it will lower our grocery bills in the long run by allowing us to wait for the lowest price possible before buying or paying nothing at all. It will also allow us to give more items to others in need. I believe that will be worth the investment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Frugal Fun With the Monkeys

So, we finally got our bed! It is wonderful. And, from all of those flat-packed IKEA boxes, we have lots of cardboard and blank newsprint. This is not a joke. I've been swishing about knee-deep through the stuff for two days now in my Living Room trying to piece the bed and side tables together. I put in the last screws to the tables tonight and thought it a shame to waste what I saw as all that crafty goodness...

Soooo...after making ginormous paper airplanes and beautiful drawings on some of the paper, and swords from some of the cardboard and duct tape, I was inspired by the busy bag swap activities, in particular the Number Wheel, over at money saving mom, who was, in turn inspired by the Brenda over at unsolicited advice, (so simple, Not only did I want to use up the corrugated treasure trove filling my living room, but, cute though it is, when I saw the printable number wheel, all my thrifty heart could picture was the ink draining from my printer cartridges. We can make this ourselves with what we have in the house. I traced our laundry basket and cut out 2 large circles.

My next thought? Why not just have the kids make the wheel? Crazy, I know, but I was feeling a bit reckless tonight. I got out my 1inch circle craft punch and a handful of construction paper. Why not just a regular old hole punch, you say? Well, 2 reasons, really. The first was that I thought that the craft punch would not only intrigue them, but take them longer to use. I was right! Yay! Second reason? The visions of a confetti-strewn living room that looked like it was left over from a rather raucous New Years party. I mean, not that, upon close inspection, my carpets don't have that 'I had a party last night' feel most days. I just didn't want it to be so obvious.

Maybe I've taken a blow to the head that I can't quite remember, but I think that tomorrow, I'll let them paint the circles and maybe even let them glue those dots...If no one hears from me in a few days, send in reinforcements.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ambition and Standards

This is going to immediately sound wrong, but I think, on some level, when it comes to what I can and can not get done, I need to lower my standards. I know. There are other levels in which I need to up some levels. But today, I'm talking about every other Tuesday.

Every other Tuesday, my dear, dear mother takes my 3 little ones and keeps them for the day and overnight. I make a list and I plan to conquer the known world on these days and end up throwing up my hands and wondering why in the world I can never get everything accomplished.

My list for yesterday included: bi-weekly grocery shopping at 2 stores, picking up Red Box movies, so I could use my coupon codes, stopping by the Habitat Re-Store, picking up A's registration, so I could go to the County Clerk's office and pay our registration renewals, having lunch with A, making copies, going to the bank and library, doing 5 loads of laundry and the dishes, cleaning the kitchen, baking a cake, putting together the new bed, taking pictures for some Craig's list items, refilling prescriptions, and making dinner.

Yeah, I only got to about half of that. I try to go from light walker the other 13 days of those 2 weeks to full-fledged marathon runner on that one day. Impossible. The plan? Practice. Pacing and setting the bar a tad lower.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Me-isms" in the Kitchen

So, at 4:30p.m. yesterday, my kitchen looked good. No, I mean really good. Better than it had in a long time. I started dinner, smooched all my boys and had a night out at a dear friend's Thirty-One party and didn't return until after the boys were in bed and my dear husband was in the basement playing his guitar - something he gets very little time to do these days.

Fast forward to this morning. When I walked into the kitchen, it was an absolute disaster - pans on the stove, a plate of zucchini and a bowl of flour on the counter, 2 sinks full of dishes, AND a partially loaded dishwasher...Harumpf! How did my perfectly clean kitchen turn into this?! I could feel it boiling up...the real question: why didn't my scoundrel of a husband just clean all of this up? How hard is it really? I mean, the binder with the checklist was right there and it was even open!! He knows how hard it is for me to get things done with 3 boys here. And why was he playing guitar when I got home?! What did he have to do, anyway? Let's see, OK, he did have to feed the kids. Big deal. I made their plates before I left! This just kept getting better and better! Well, he did have to bathe all three of them by he has done since they were all born...fine. He did worship with them as he does every night...hmmm...He did get them all in bed...alone...while I was out...having a night off...gulp...This bite seems to have a bone in it. ouch.

Funny how quickly we buy into that McDonald's "You deserve a break today" mentality. You know what I should have seen in that kitchen? The blessings of a kitchen in which to cook, a family to feed, food to eat, work to do, and a healthy body to get the work done, but I didn't. I chose, like the Israelites in the desert to pout about what I didn't have, about what I thought I deserved. God, may I see the many blessings in beautiful messes around me today.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Interesting that on the first post of the first day of my blog, I have to confess that I have failed, because, while this blog is not necessarily about failing, I do it...A LOT. This blog is more about getting back up after you've failed, recognizing where you've gone wrong, and taking steps to fix it.

So, here's the background. I've struggled as a wife and a eating that elephant...for over 11 years now. I tend to just get overwhelmed, stick my head in my sand and hope that the dust bunnies don't cause too much damage. Stupid, I know, but, we all have our eccentricities.

This week, I had started anew. I was going to get it together. My oldest child was driving. My second was officially starting 1st grade in home school. No more, "Yeah, we really think it's best to just not push it too soon," conversations, and, to put the cherry on top of that large dollop of whipped cream, my twins are on the verge of turning 4. They can make their own beds, for heaven's sake! Head out of sand...

I bought a binder. I printed off some checklists. (May God richly bless you Money Saving Mom!) Monday went wonderfully. Tuesday? Even better! Wednesday I was even able to go out and buy a huge load of school supplies for less than $10 and raised my voice at none of my children in either store...cue halo sparkle.

HOWEVER, this is Thursday. Everything started off so well. We all got up & were following those lists. The boys had eaten, made their beds, and started their daily chores. And that's when it happened...the phone rang. Not usually a big deal. on. off. carry on. However, this happened to be my cousin, who I usually talk to several times a week and whom I had not spoken to in almost two weeks because she had been out of town on a mother/daughter retreat and who I just had to talk over an hour.....while snapping at and shushing the kids...and putting on a video...and not doing what needed done around the house.

Now, this also would not have been a day ruiner if I had not allowed it to be, but, as usually happens in these situations, I look at the clock, think to myself, "Self, there goes the day and well, the kids are still watching that video, so you may as well sit down and work on a ring." All logic has gone out the window at this point. Looking back, I wish I could give myself a bit of a shake and a smack, wake myself up.

You'll be glad to know that I put down the ring, got the kids a snack, got in the shower, and chose to be a blessing to my family and not a curse. If God taught me one thing from having twins, it was that sometimes, you have to make your choices moment by precious moment. Today, for one hour, I chose what was good over what was best. Then I shook the fog out of my head, picked up my fork and took one more bite of that elephant.