Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Back to School Part I

This year back to school shopping has been ongoing and challenging.  There have not been too many great sales that I have been able to find.  I have not picked up very much this year.

Yesterday, I got another email from Hollister that said you can get 50% off their red lined items (clearance items).  We finally went to check it out last night and got some great deals.  It is really hard to find sales like these, so when I can find them it is a real deal because getting name brand clothes at deeply discounted prices is great!

Here's what we got:
jacket: on sale for $19.89 (reg. $39.50)
shorts: on sale for $20.00 (reg. $39.50)
polo: $7.45 (50% off $14.90)
polo: $12.45 (50% off $24.90)
jeans: $9.95 (50% off $19.90)
jeans: $12.45 (50% off $24.90)
t-shirt: $9.45 (50% off $18.90)

Also, I got myself:
2 graphic t-shirts: $6.95 (50% off $13.90)
1 graphic t-shirt: $7.95 (50% off $15.90)

Total spent: $120.20
Total savings: $120.20

A Summer of Learning

This summer, we have made it our mission to continue to encourage our kids to learn new things by doing things in fun and different ways.

The school year ended and summer started.  We will have a one kindergartner and a high schooler in our house next year which are both really great things.  For our soon to be kindergartner, I am making a book of things we will work on during the summer so that he is ready for his first day of school.  I want to continue to encourage him to learn as much as he possibly can so that he is not behind during his first year in school.  I am excited to create this book of learning for him.

This summer we will teach our kids new things including showing them how things work, how to make some home improvements, exploring our environment and discussing ways we can keep our resources safe for them and future generations, caring for our garden and fruit trees so that they are aware of where some of their foods come from and how much work it takes to grow them from seeds and bulbs, visit local spots that are educational and so on, the possibilities are endless.

This summer we will continue teaching our kids about sharing with others, why we freecycle, our impact on our environment and our community, how growing vegetable seedlings and sharing bags of food with other freecycler's is how we hope to help end hunger in our community and so on.  There is so much more to learn and learning together makes it more fun!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Our Financial Overhaul

This year and for the next few years, we are focusing our attention on how we can live on less and put more money into building our savings and paying down our debt.  With our recent downsizing or pairing down of our belongings, it gave us a look into what more we can do in terms of saving money while keeping the clutter out.  We are brainstorming ways we can pay down debt quicker while simultaneously saving along the way.  We are committed to making this change happen beginning this year and for the next few years to come.

So far, some of the things we have been looking at are:
1. We are in the market for a new internet and cable plan while cutting our landline phone.
2. Our purchasing habits have been pretty lax lately but it is now time to get back to being frugal.
3. We will be running the dishwasher less.
4. When doing laundry, we will do it right away instead of dewrinkling them over and over again.
5. We will be going back to drinking soda stream instead of purchasing canned sodas.
6. We will be eating out much less and will utilize Mommy's Diner more often for home cooked meals.
7. The kids will police themselves in making sure lights and tv's are off when not in use.
8. We will turn up the thermostat and utilize the fans more often to keep energy costs down.
9. We will utilize the grill more during the summer so we don't heat the house.
10. We will turn off the lights when we are watching tv.
11. We will use the pool pump to help keep the water in the pool clean so it does not need to be changed out as often.
12. We will cut down on the amount of cleaning products and try to use natural products including baking soda, vinegar, newspaper, borax.
13. We will cut down on the amount of processed foods and try to make them fresh (i.e. mashed potatoes, fries, etc...).
14. We will try to eat out of our freezer and pantry to keep costs down.
15. We will try to utilize rechargable batteries.
16. We will search in books and online for simple delicious recipes to try with items we already have.
17. We will try to reduce wasting food by freezing leftovers.

We will continue to do the following to keep costs down:
1. We will continue to make our own laundry detergent because it is saving us money.
2. We will continue to combine errands so that we save on gas.
3. We will continue to use as much free light as possible.
4. We will continue to utilize our local library for books, cds, dvds and magazines.
5. We will continue to use coupons.
6. We will continue to utilize Freecycle.
7. We will continue to grow a garden to help cut back on dollars spent on food, canned, fresh and frozen.
8. We will continue to save used paper and use the back of the paper to print some things or do artwork on them.
9. We will continue to have regular maintenance on our vehicles (i.e. oil changes, recall items, paint protection, etc...) to keep them current and running great.
10. We will continue to keep our tires inflated to the recommended amounts and drive near speed limit to reduce our gas usage.
11. We will continue to search for the cheapest gasoline or purchase it on base.
12. We will continue to have yard sales to sell off stuff we no longer need.
13. We will continue to consign our unused items at the thrift shops.
14. We will continue to make our purchases work for us by joining customer loyalty programs, online rebate programs, online coupon code sites, etc...
15. We will continue to request samples as often as possible to try new products and so we do not have to pay for those items.
16. We will continue to utilize Craigslist to sell items we are no longer using or have a need for.
17. We will continue to use to trade dvds, books, cds and video games.
18. We will continue to share the crops from our garden to try to help end hunger in our neighborhood.
19. We will continue to recycle our aluminum cans for money.
20. I will continue to do online surveys for points to redeem for gifts.
21. I will continue to scan all my purchases for the National Consumer Panel to make my voice heard with manufacturer's and earn points every time I scan or do their surveys.
22. We will continue to wash our clothes in cold water to save money.
23. We will continue to make some of our food from scratch (pizza crusts, cinnamon rolls, bread, muffins, cookies, cakes, etc...).
24. We will continue to take advantage of any/all deals for free admission for military members.
25. We will continue to carpool when possible.
26. We will continue to wash our own vehicles versus going to car washes.
27. We will continue to look for either free or inexpensive events, activities, parks, etc...
28. If we travel, we will continue to look for the best deals available to us.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Family Fun Day

Today was a scorcher of a day, 97+ degrees, however we decided to make it a family fun day.  We decided to redeem a groupon we had previously purchased online.  When we redeemed our groupon, they gave us four coupons for four tokens to redeem for four baskets of balls, four coupons for four tokens to redeem for four turns at the batting cages and another four coupons for four plays of miniature golf.  The groupon says all needs to be redeemed on the same day, however when we got there the coupons they gave us did not expire until April 2011.  

We went to Arundel Golf Park in Glen Burnie, MD and had a great time together at the driving range, at the batting cages and at the miniature golf.  We took pictures and enjoyed the day together.  This was our first experience doing these things together and it turned out to be a lot of fun...yes, even in scorching hot weather.

When we were at the driving range, all the golf lessons I had when I was little came rushing back to me.  I did pretty good.  My husband taught our youngest how to hit the balls and my husband hit some really far himself.  Our oldest had learned golf from a friend's husband a few years ago and the lessons came back to him.

At the batting cages, we had a little trouble with the softball machine but after it got started back up, all was ok.  I had never been to batting cages before.  It took awhile to get used to but it was a lot of fun!  Our youngest got hit on his finger from the softball so he was in too much pain to continue hitting his softballs.  Our oldest, my husband and I had a blast doing it.

Miniature golf was a little tricky on some of the courses.  At the end of the round, my husband won, our oldest came in second and our youngest and myself tied for last place.  

Hasbro Family Game Night

On Saturday, June 19, 2010, I hosted a Hasbro Family Game Night at our house.  About 10 of my family and friends attended.  There was a lot of food served including crackers with dip and assorted salsas, fruit kebobs, garlic chicken, barbeque chicken, grilled corn on the cob, rice and key lime cake.  We started out playing Taboo and had a blast and moved on from there to Trivial Pursuit Bet You Know It to Electronic Catch Phrase.  Prior to this party, I hadn't played Trivial Pursuit in such a long time and now I remember why, I am not that great.  Electronic Catch Phrase I had never played as well and turned out to be an interesting game.  Out of all the games included in the party pack, our guests absolutely loved Taboo, then Trivial Pursuit and then Electronic Catch Phrase.  Our family and friends had a blast checking out and playing the games they were not as familiar with.  This was my first House Party and we absolutely had a blast and can't wait to experience it again.  Thank you Hasbro for affording us this opportunity to explore games with our family and friends!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Downsizing or Pairing Down

We are in the midst of downsizing or pairing down our belongings again.  To get to a place where we want to be - only living with things that we need and use, we know that it is going to be all uphill from here.

To give you a little insight, when we first moved here, we got rid of about 1/4 - 1/3 of our household goods which felt great because we had not realized how much we had accumulated after being married for 11 years.  By got rid of, we mean consigned, sold and freecycled. Our loss was their gain and it freed up a lot of space in our home.  We made every effort to make sure our items would be reused or re-purposed and kept them out of our landfills to lessen our carbon footprint.  Four years later and we are in the same situation where we are back to square one and are downsizing again.

This Spring, we went through everything that we own from the kitchen, shed, attic, kids rooms, jewelry, bags, garden items, outside toys, everything and put together things that we did not use/do not need anymore.  Before we knew it, it was more then we had anticipated.  What we did was we separated our items into three categories - consignment, sell and freecycle.  Once all the items were in their respective categories, we moved on it.  We put a lot of our items up for sale on Craigslist, we took some of our items to our respective consignment shop and we have freecycled quite a bit of stuff that others can reuse and pass on whatever they cannot use to others.

Most of our outside toys and garden stuff sold very quickly on Craigslist, however we do have a few more items available.  One of our consignment shops you can only take 10 items in twice a week and we have not been making it down there very often in the last month.  Starting this week, we will try to make it down there to consign our items to try to make at least a little money on our stuff.  We have not taken anything down for quite some time to the other consignment shop that is currently accepting everything but shoes and clothes.  We tried having a yard sale this past weekend and barely anyone showed up even after much free advertising, however my friend and I swapped a lot of stuff (electronics, clothes, kids stuff, stuffed animals, etc...) from each other and saved ourselves money that way.  We love swapping items amongst friends because we are saving money and getting semi new items in the process.  We are also posting some free stuff on Craigslist which is going quite fast as well.  We have freecycled quite a bit of items lately which makes us feel good about helping people/other families and giving back to our community.

The downsizing process continues as we try to free up more and more space in and outside of our home.  We will be trying to have another yard sale in a different area toward the end of the month which we are hoping will bring in more people in to look at our stuff.  This time all the advertisement will be done for us and my friend and I will share the cost of the space.  To sit for a couple of hours to try to sell our stuff is worth it just to get rid of our items and keep them out of our landfills.

We still have options at this point to try to get a little money for our items - consignment shops, posting items in lots on craigslist, freecycle and if all else fails donation (tax write off).

We could save ourselves a lot of time and headaches by just donating our stuff and taking the tax write off but since we are a single income family who constantly tries to keep as much money in our pocket, we want to make sure we make every effort.

We can already see the difference from all of our hard work paying off - consigning, selling and freecycling.

It will be so nice to have all the extra space once all is said and done.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Multi Family Yard Sale Update

We are finally having our multi family yard sale this Saturday...yay!  My good friend and I went through both our houses and got everything out and prepped for our yard sale.  Pricing every single piece was a chore but it will make it a ton easier when it comes to tallying up how much money we all made at the end of yard sale.  A few other people will be joining in as well, so there should be a wide variety of items.  We used different color stickers and will remove them and place them in a book before each item is sold.  Then at the end, we will tally all the numbers up.

This week, my friend and I have been posting and selling some of our items on Craigslist.  There has been a lot of interest especially because we both priced our items really low to make a little money on our items and to free up more space in our homes.  We are both downsizing and it will be nice when all of our unused items are in homes where they can be used and appreciated.

Prepping for our yard sale has taken so much of my time.  I am constantly thinking of ways we can display our items that would encourage people to come and look instead of everything being laid out on different blankets.  I will display all of our $1 clothing on the shelves on black cabinet that we are selling.  I will display our more expensive items on our tables and our more expensive clothing on garment racks.  I've got our shoes on two racks and the larger toys will be laid out on blankets.  We have different boxes too - under $1, $1, $2, $3, $5, $10 and a few other items.  All items are priced to go!  My awesome husband said to make a map of where I want our posters hung and he and our oldest will go and hang them for us.

Wish us luck on our yard sale.