Archive for April, 2010

Triple Coupons at Harris Teeter – April 28 through May 4

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Grab your coupons and head down to your nearest Harris Teeter!  If you live in one of the 8 states and 1 District of Columbia that Harris Teeter is located in you are in luck.

From April 28 through May 4 they have triple coupons up to $0.99.  You can use 20 coupons per day, per household.

Check out my earlier post about triple coupon madness.  This time around, I’m going in prepared!

Looking back on the month…

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

I have been under the weather this past week and have been sleeping rather than typing.  I think I caught a bug while we were out camping.

I just realized today that it has been one month since I left my job and one month since my blog has been “live”.  How did the month go?

1) Becoming a full-time mom was rough.  I felt like I didn’t know my own kid.  I didn’t know what to feed him, what to do with him, or how to entertain him.  I didn’t know what stage he was in developmentally.  I didn’t know what to teach him or how.  I pretty much spent the first two weeks on the floor watching him all day and trying to figure him out.

I spent any extra time I had reading baby books and found out where we stood amongst it all.  Oliver and I started developing routines as we ironed out his feeding and nap schedules.  We started getting out of the house for our little “field trips” to the grocery store and the farmer’s market.  He seemed to miss the hustle and bustle of daycare, so I found him opportunities to play with other babies and be around other children.

Now that it’s been a month, I feel like we are two peas in a pod now.  We have started communicating with each other and he even sings with me – so freakin’ cute.  We have been adopted by a stray cat and Oliver loves playing with the cat through the sliding glass door.  His first words were “itty at” and he meows back to the cat.

2) Not spending money is easy.  Worrying about not having enough money is rough.  We are able to live just fine on one income, but there’s always that big “what if” out there makes for a few sleepless nights.  Looking back, the “what ifs” have always been lurking around.  I guess going down to one-income just amplifies them.

3) Writing a blog post every day is not feasible.  I think I was crazy and under some adrenaline rush when I thought I would be able to do that!  It’s not that I don’t have a plethora of ideas (I have a 4-page document of post ideas alone), it’s that I don’t have an excess of free time.  I have just as little free time now as I did when I worked.  The quality of my work has changed, but not my hours.  My day starts at 7am when he wakes up and ends at 830pm when he goes to bed.

I had envisioned being able to blog while he was napping or while he was playing by himself… HA HA HA.  I was delusional.  Instead of blogging, I’m digging the latest plastic wrapper out of his mouth or de-crusting the latest mountain of dishes for the washer.  For those of you who faithfully follow my blog – I know there are at least 16 of you – thanks for sticking with me!  I will be posting 3 – 4 new posts a week from here on out.

4) I miss being around adults!  One thing I took for granted when I worked was the cheap and easy accessibility to adults whom I could chat with, have coffee with, and go out to lunch with.  Now that I’m a SAHM, it is so much work to connect with people.  Seeing people during the day is rough because everything revolves around the baby’s schedule, you have to tote him everywhere, and he demands attention from everyone around him.  Seeing people at night is rough, because all I want to do is sleep and because seeing someone at night usually involves money of some sort (dinner, coffee, drinks).  Sleep and money – 2 commodities which I am short on.  For all you people out there that I want to stay in touch with – hang in there.  We will get together, I promise!

5) Living frugally has a big learning curve and takes a lot of energy.  To be a true frugal, you need to question everything – how can I do this in a less expensive way?  That’s a lot of work.  I’ll have to add the 3rd commodity that I am short on – energy.

Slowly, but surely, we are integrating some of the things into our lives.  We are happily making our own laundry detergent and are satisfied using the magicJack for our home phone.  We’ve cut back drastically on the fast food and eating out.  We shop at Aldi regularly now and have started using coupons.

Other things I am reluctant to give up, like paper plates and Clorox wipes.  I still haven’t handed over my poor dilapidated cell phone for a pre-paid Tracfone and we haven’t switched over to cloth diapers yet.  I think I am clinging to the convenience items because I find that I am still so short on time and the rest…I haven’t had time to figure them out yet!

Overall, I would say that this past month has been a success.  Quitting work cold turkey led to a rough transition, but we have weathered the storm and even pulled out a family camping trip!  Next month we will add a few more penny-pinching tricks to our hat and see if we can batten down the hatches even more.  I would also like to spend a few more hours a week on the blog and figure out how to find and interact with more readers.

We will be trying out the cloth diapers next month, so be prepared to learn all you ever wanted to about poo!

Photos from the Camping Trip

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

I finally got the photos from my camping buddies for last weekend.  Here are a few of the highlights!

Nothing beats hot chocolate over an early morning campfire.

Daddy caught an Oliver size fish for the baby.  He wasn’t too thrilled when he grabbed the slimy tail.

There were all sorts of critters out there wanting to share our grub.

We packed a bag of the baby’s favorite toys.  This got us through the weekend!

Going fishing!

Camping was a nice little getaway for the family.  The total cost to us was roughly $66 = $36 for the campsite and $30 for the food.  We camped close to home, which saved on time and gas.  I packed Oliver’s things in 2 rubber maid totes and he didn’t seem to miss anything.  It did help that we went with 4 other friends who helped us keep tabs on him around the campsite.  Aside from the hoot owl scaring the baby to death one night and the 46 degree low we had, it was a great time.

Save Money on Printer Ink by Changing Your Default Font

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

About a month ago, an article circulated the web about how the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay was saving $10,000 a year by switching all computer default fonts to Century Gothic.

I gave it a try and found that the Century Gothic font lines are thinner and use less ink.  The font is also very easy to read, but I noticed the letters seemed much bigger than Arial.  This meant that a full 4 page doc in Arial now took up 4 1/4 pages.  For printing short one pagers like emails, directions, recipes, etc… I love Century Gothic.  In fact, I think I will keep the font for longer docs as well.  Ink for my printer is more expensive that a few extra sheets of paper.

When I researched this further I found that Printer.com tested out which fonts used the less ink thereby costing less to print with.  Century Gothic came in first, Times New Roman second, and the old Microsoft Word standard, Arial, came in 6th.

  1. Century Gothic= $46.32 /yr
  2. Ecofont
  3. Times New Roman= $47.53 /yr
  4. Calibri
  5. Verdana
  6. Arial= $66.73 /yr
  7. Sans Serif
  8. Trebuchet
  9. Tahoma
  10. Franklin Gothic Medium

After reading about the test done at Printer.com, I will be staying with Century Gothic and getting off of Arial.

Change Your AC Filter or Shell Out the Big Bucks for a New System

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

We had a strange heatwave here a few weeks ago.  At the end of March, we hit temps in the 80s!  We had to turn on our central AC 2 months ahead of schedule and found out that there was no cold air coming from the vents.  I called our trusty HVAC handyman and he had us up and running in less than an hour.

It was getting so hot in here the baby had to take off all his clothes!  He supervised our AC guy to make sure we didn’t get ripped off.

AC was broke so baby got to wear a diaper all day

Here was his Number 1 piece of advice for keeping your AC unit working:

#1 – Do not let the air filter get clogged up.  Change it regularly and use good quality air filters.

I’m sure we have all heard, “change your filters every month” or other words of wisdom along the same lines, but HONESTLY – how many of us actually check our filters regularly?  75%? 50%? um 25%?  I had always thought the filters were in place for the breathers benefit – clean filter, clean air.  WRONG – that is one benefit, but not the prime benefit.

I’m going to attempt to explain how a central AC unit works and why it’s so important to change the filter.  I’m not an engineer nor do I have any HVAC experience.  I’m translating what my handyman, my husband, and my dad have explained to me…

The AC system basically has 3 parts:

1 – The evaporator coil/blower unit, which is generally under your house or wherever your furnace is.

2- The compressor, which is co-located in the outdoor unit with the condenser.

3- The condenser coil, which is co-located in the outdoor unit with the compressor.

Here’s the gist:

All these parts are connected to each other via copper tubing.  A refrigerant, normally freon, is pumped into this closed system as a liquid.  The liquid freon is cold and goes down the pipes from the outdoor unit to the evaporator coil.  At this point, warm air from your house is blown over this evaporator coil.  The liquid freon absorbs heat from the air and turns it into vapor inside the tubes.  That heated vapor then gets sent down another set of pipes to the compressor unit.  The compressor forces the vapor back into a liquid and gets pushed through the condenser coil where the heat is expelled and that big fan blade blows the heat out into the air.  The liquid freon is now cold again and loops back around to the evaporator under your house, etc…

My handyman said that when the air filters in your house get clogged, or if you use very cheap air filters, the evaporator coil gets covered in dust/dirt.  That directly affects how the freon is able to absorb the heat from the air.  By having a clogged filter you also affect how much air is being blown over the evaporator coil.  The less air, the less heat can be absorbed.  On top of all this, when a clogged filter doesn’t allow enough hot air to get through to the evaporator coil the freon doesn’t turn to vapor.  It just gets colder and colder until it freezes up your system.  When I say freeze, I mean literal ice coating the pipes and parts (this has happened to us).

Long story short!  Spend a few bucks on air filters and change them when they are dirty to save you thousands of dollars on a new AC unit years before its time.  How often to change the filter depends on what type of filter (a high quality filter that traps more dust will need to get changed more often), what type of dust your create in your home (how many people/pets, etc…), how often you use the AC (more in the summer than spring, etc…), and how clean you keep your home (if you dust often or very little, etc…).

Frugal Tip of the Day: Check your air filter monthly and write down the date when you change the filter.  After a year, you will notice when the filter needs to get changed once a month versus every other month, etc… Don’t use the cheapest filter you can find.  Those type let too much dust get through to clog up your system.

Camping Fun

Monday, April 19th, 2010

During baby’s first camping trip our camera bit the bullet.  We don’t even have one photo of the experience.  I am relying on my camping buddies to send me some pics from their cameras and then I’ll post a few.

If you have camping gear (or know people who do), camping is frugal and fun.  If you have to purchase your gear, buyer beware – it can get expensive.

Here’s what I figure to be the most basic list of what you NEED:

Tent – Size is up to you and your comfort level.  Our tent is 9′ x 11′ with a square base and a 6’6″ center height.  This is our 3rd tent – each was progressively bigger – and we are happy.

Sleeping bags – The thickness and warmth factor are up to you.  We like to do cool/cold weather camping in Oct/Nov, so we have nice warm sleeping bags.

Sleeping pads – This is anything you put under the sleeping bag to 1) increase comfort and 2) insulate you from the cold ground.  We go with 2 full size eggshell foam mattress toppers.  I think they were $15 each at WalMart.

2 or 3 tarps – 1 tarp goes under your tent to protect the bottom of the tent from the terrain. 1 tarp goes inside your tent to help keep it clean and to protect the bottom from rips and tears caused by you. 1 tarp to string from the trees over the tent in case your tent isn’t waterproof and it rains or to provide shade (you would need rope also to string up the tarp).

Tent stake mallet – This is helpful to stake down your tent and to pull up the stakes when you leave.

Flashlight – Most campsites have zero light at night, particularly if it is just a tent only campsite.

Trash bags – A few trash bags to collect your garbage is a good thing.  Leave the campsite as clean, if not cleaner, as you found it.

Believe it or not, this is all the gear you need for the most basic camping trip.  I have seen some people literally live out of their cooler all weekend using paper products and grilling over the camp fire.  They’ll have cereal and milk in the morning, sandwiches and chips in the afternoon, and burgers in the evening.  They drink bottled water, sodas, beer, etc…  They don’t have any sort of cooking gear other than a spatula maybe to flip burgers.  Everything is paper or plastic and goes right into the trash.  These people seem to be more focused on getting out and “doing” something – hiking, kayaking, etc… or are out to party and get drunk.  Either way, they don’t like to waste time cooking, cleaning, setting things up, etc…

All the rest of the things you “need” to bring depend on where you are camping and what you intend to do.  Does the site have bathrooms/showers?  Does it have running water? Can you have  a fire? Do they have a grate to place over the fire? Is there electricity available? Each campsite can be vastly different from the next.

We are more the “camping experience” type of people.  We love cooking over the campfire using cast iron skillets, aluminum camp cookware, and enamelware.  We love the gizmos and gadgets that bring a little bit of home to the great outdoors.  We pack our gear in clear Rubbermaid tote boxes and load up the minivan to the max!  We are definitely what you call the “car-camper”.  :-)

Now that we have a baby, 1/3 of our space is needed for his gear.  After this weekend, we have new plans to streamline, minimize and organize our camping gear.  Gone are the Rubbermaid totes and in comes the chest of drawers with wheels!

First Family Camping Trip

Friday, April 16th, 2010

We are heading out today for our first family camping trip.  So far 95% of the people that we talk to think that the baby is too young to go camping (10 months old).  Taking that into consideration, we are going to a state park 40 minutes away from our house.  If things don’t work out, we’ll turn around and come home!

If we don’t get eaten by bears, I will post pictures and money saving tips for frugal camping on Monday.  Wish us luck!

Save a Pretty Penny by Shopping at Aldi for Groceries

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Aldi was founded by 2 brothers in Germany in 1962 as a low cost grocery store.  Aldi opened its first store in the US in 1976.  Today, there are 1,000 stores throughout America and over 8,000 stores worldwide.

They have a “no frills” approach to selling groceries and strip away any excess spending on their part to bring the cost of groceries down for you.  Here are examples of what they do to maintain a low overhead:

1) Require a $.25 deposit for a grocery cart.

This is my personal favorite! To use a grocery cart you need to have a quarter.  The carts are all hooked together by means of a chain, a “key”, and a “lock box”.  You insert your quarter in the “lock box” and it pushes the key/chain out of the box from the rear and you are free to take the cart.  When you are done shopping, bring the cart back, insert the chain/key into the rear of the box and your quarter pops out of the front.  By doing this, they have eliminated the need to have employees constantly gathering carts.  I have NEVER seen a stray cart in Aldi’s parking lot.  People always want to get their quarter back.

2) Sell food off pallets and do minimal shelf stocking.

Their grocery items are sold stacked in boxes on pallets.  In some cases they have shelves, but the shelves are intended to hold the boxes of smaller items.  When an item sells out, they wheel out another pallet.  It reminds me of a small scale warehouse store like Costco and Sams.

3) Sell Aldi brand products.

Aldi, as an international juggernaut, has made the best deals with companies to provide quality products and the best cost for all their stores.  I saw a special on TV where many of Aldi’s products come off the same production line as name brand items just with an Aldi brand name. They are so sure of their products that they offer a double guarantee:  If you do not like the taste or quality of the food you buy at Aldi they will replace the product AND refund your money.

By the way, they also sell name brand products of items that they have collectively bargained for. Ex. Hershey chocolate chips, etc…

4) Keep a smaller inventory of staples.

They sell what moves.  Think staples: milk, bread, eggs, cereal, flour, sugar, spices, canned soups, canned veggies, paper products, etc…  They also have popular veggies and fruits:  lettuce, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, bananas, oranges, apples, etc… And they sell meat and frozen items:  Hamburger, hot dogs, lunch  meat, chicken, beef, pizza, ice cream, hot wings, etc…  I shop Aldi first and then go to a big grocery store later to get specialty items like cilantro or saffron.

5) Their checkout process is FAST and efficient.

Once you shop at Aldi, you will develop a strategy for putting stuff on the belt at the checkout.  Generally, they only need ONE cashier.  They do not bag any items at Aldi.  You put your stuff on the belt and they have a shopping cart at the end of the line to put your items in.  They don’t stack or arrange, they don’t organize or worry about crushing things – they just scan and drop stuff into the cart.  I have seen them put bread and eggs in the child seat, but mostly the food is FLYING off the belt.  This is no joke, by the time you have unloaded your cart, the cashier is done ringing you up and is waiting for your payment.

7) Cash or debit ONLY

Nice and simple.  No credit cards, no checks.

8 ) Charge $.25 for grocery bags.

Since they do not bag for you, you must bring your own bags or pay for theirs.  When you are done checking out, you wheel your cart over to one of the long counters and bag your own items.  You can also scan the aisles for empty boxes as you go and use those to box up your groceries.

Those are a few of the highlights of how they save money to save you money.  I just spent $89 on groceries to feed 6 people 5 meals for our camping trip this weekend.   That’s $2.96 per meal!  While I was bagging my groceries, I overheard a lady exclaiming over the cost of her purchase.  This was her first time and she was shocked that she got an entire grocery cart of goods for $80.  She said, “I’d pay twice this much if I was at Food Lion.”

If you have never heard about Aldi, go to their website and see if there is a store near you.

For the Brave of Heart: DIY Haircuts

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

One way we save money is to have the boys’ hair cut at home.  My husband used to cut his own hair before he met me.  Now he makes me do it.  If you and your significant other aren’t a strong couple, then do not attempt home haircuts – it could really wreck your relationship!  Nothing says I love you like a 2 inch wide reverse mohawk down the middle of the head.

Now that the baby needs haircuts, I do his as well.  So far, I’ve done it twice in the last two months.

In my hair salon, I have a set of hair clippers with the different length attachments and a good sharp pair of hair cutting scissors.  A stool helps for the big guy as well as a brightly lit hallway mirror.  For the little guy, the first time I cut his hair was in the high chair and the second time while he was laying down on the changing table.  Laying down was way easier.  I kept him occupied with a toy and his body was still since he was laying down.  After I did the top and sides, I sat him up to trip up the back.

Is it worth all the work to cut my guys’ hair?  You bet.  A cheap haircut goes for around $12 in my neighborhood, plus $2 or $3 dollar tip.  Say it’s $15 (including the gas to get there).  My husband likes his hair nice and short on the back and sides and we cut it every 2 weeks – that’s $390 per year!  Say we cut the baby’s hair once a month – that’s $180.  By cutting both of their hair, we save $570 a year.  That’s a conservative $570 as nice quality cuts are much more expensive.

It takes a lot of practice and a very forgiving husband, but it is doable and saves us money.

Frugal Tip of the Day: Make sure you have nice sharp hair cutting scissors. Don’t use them on paper or anything but hair – keep them sharp!  It makes all the difference in the world.  Use a rat tail comb to separate the hair pieces.  Smooth the hair between your fingers and make the first cut at the length you would like.  Move on to surrounding pieces of hair and smooth those chunks between your fingers – INCLUDE a part of the hair that you just cut.  You will instantly have a guide to show you where to cut this chunk of hair. Continue around the head in the same manner.

Here’s Oliver’s first haircut.  He wasn’t too thrilled.  After a trim off the top, I snipped around his ears and he turned out adorable! :-)

by Needs a Haircut

Oliver was getting a little shaggy.

First Hair Cut“Hey…you don’t have food!  I’ve been tricked.”

Cute as a buttonCute as a button!

Target Lets You Stack Coupons

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Did you know that Target let’s you stack coupons?  This means that they will accept one manufacturer’s coupon and one Target coupon for the same item.  They also accept coupons printed off the internet.

Last week, Target sent out coupons for baby products.  I remember hearing somewhere about stacking coupons and looked up Target’s coupon policy.  Here’s the gist:

•    Target accepts one manufacturer coupon and one Target coupon for the same item (unless prohibited)
•    Super Target coupons can be used in any Target store if the store carries the item
•    We gladly accept valid internet coupons

I searched through my coupon stash to find ones that matched Target’s coupons.  If I didn’t have a coupon for an item that I wanted, I went online to the manufacturer’s website and printed one off.

Here’s how much I saved:

A & D Diaper Rash Cream: Original price  $3.94 minus $2 Target coupon minus $.95 manufacturer’s coupon = $.99

Desitin: Original price $4.94 minus $.75 Target coupon minus $1 manufacturer’s coupon = $3.19

Earth’s Best Rice Cereal: Original price $2.09 minus $.75 Target coupon minus $1 manufacturer’s coupon = $.34

Total cost pre-savings: $10.97

Total cost after savings: $4.52

Total saved: $6.45

Frugal Tip of the Day: Deals like these sound good, but be smart about your coupons.  I had a coupon for Pampers and 1 for Huggies.  Combined with the Target coupons I could have saved 6 more dollars.  However! Even after the coupon deals, the Pampers and Huggies were still more expensive than the diapers we buy at Costco.  Keep an eye on the prices and don’t get suckered by the bargain.

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