Archive for July, 2010

2 Pennies Taking a Break

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Rather than disappear without warning again, I’m letting everyone know that I am taking a 2 week break.  This has been a busy month for us and will get even busier until August.  I can’t believe that almost every day of my calendar has been filled with something to do.  We are both worn out, run down, and in dire need of free-time with no obligations.  A break will be good.

I promised my hubby that I would take it easy starting in August and spend more time “being pregnant”.  Hey, if that means laying around and eating bon bons then I’m all for it!  In August we are also starting the “baby transition” for Oliver. 

We are packing up the crib and putting him on a twin sized mattress on the floor.  We are also breaking out the potty for him.  Montessori says that children are ready after 1 year if you make the potty a natural thing.  Ex. Every time mommy goes, baby goes and sits on his potty as well to get him used to it.   We are also moving him to his big boy table on the floor.  He already eats some meals/snacks there and loves having things his own size. 

We will have 3 1/2 months to get him comfortable being a toddler before the new baby comes.  Plus, it will help me immensely due to the fact that it will be harder and harder to pick him up the further along I get.  We shall see.

I’ll let you know how it goes in a couple weeks!

Kids Consignment Debate: To Volunteer or Not.

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

While working yesterday, there was a debate going amongst the volunteers on whether or not it was worth it to work 2 shifts just to shop 2 hours earlier than the 1 shifters.

I say that it depends on:

1) The age of your child.  There is a plethora of items for infants, babies, and young children.  However, as your child ages above 4 or 5 years the merchandise thins out.  There are less clothes, less toys for older kids, less kid gear, etc…  You may want to be a double-shifter to buy stuff for your older children.  I’ve seen many parents focus on clothing in sizes 4 and up in particular.  If you have babies or young kids, waiting two more hours to shop isn’t going to make a big dent in the 100 hundred exersaucers that they have.

2)If you have other children or other sources of kid stuff. If you have readily available second hand goods from other children, friends, or family members you will inherently need less stuff and it may not be worth putting in the extra time.  This is also true if you have generous friends or family members who stock you up during the holidays and birthdays.

3)If you have specific items that you are looking for. Make no bones about it, if you have specific items that you want or need, the only way to ensure that you find them is to volunteer for extra shifts and shop early. 

For example, we wanted an outdoor play set, a Sit-N-Stand stroller, and a changing table.  These are considered to be “big ticket items”, meaning that they are large, often more costly, and usually have a smaller inventory.  When the doors opened, there were only about 10 play sets, about 8 Sit-N-Stand strollers, and maybe 15 changing tables.  By shopping first, we had our pick of the litter in both price and quality.

4) How thrifty you want to be.  There is an inverse or negative correlation between the amount of time the sale has been open to the amount of low cost items on the shelves.  In other words, as each hour and day passes, the number of low cost items dramatically decreases and all you are left with are the expensive, no discount items in the end. 

For example, when we shopped first (2 hours before the regular volunteers) we had our choice of 2 identical play cubes with the exception of the price tag – one was $10 and the other was $30.  Same with the changing table – ours was $10 versus $20+.  We were able to save over 50% just by being there first.

5) If you are looking for the best value.  Shopping early gives you an advantage if you are shopping for the best value.  You will have more choices of the same item to chose from in a varied price range.  Sometimes it’s not about finding the cheapest price.  It’s about finding the best quality for a price you can afford. 

For example, when we purchased the strollers we were the first people looking amongst the 8 or so Sit-N-Stand strollers.  After test driving them, we chose a $60 model.  By far not the cheapest, which was $20, nor the most expensive, which was about $80, but it was the cleanest, most complete, most balanced, and the smoothest.  Being that they retail for $120+, we were willing to pay $60 for a decent stroller.  We got the best value for our money by shopping first.

6) How much free time you have.  Unfortunately, no matter how you feel about reasons 1-5, if you don’t have the time to volunteer for more shifts, or if you can’t get off work for the early sale then you simply cannot do it.  Most people forget that time is money.  The amount of money spent on a babysitter or the amount of money lost from not working those hours isn’t always worth the savings you could find. 

My hubby and I could not possibly swing volunteer shifts on any day but Saturday or Sunday.  That narrows down our options immensely. If I had not signed up on the very first day that we could, we might have been screwed.

So, are you wondering why I dedicated an entire blog post to the “Volunteer Debate” versus waxing poetic about the color I am going to paint my nails today?  Simply put, I did not hear one thoughtful conversation about this while I was volunteering.  Many of the volunteer veterans were pushing the “its not worth giving up 5 more hours of your time for 2 hours of shopping” to the newbies who were asking.  The biggest reason they gave was that there was so much stuff that 2 hours wouldn’t matter. 

I don’t think it is that simple and I hope I’ve helped some of you to decide for yourselves what is more important.  If you think that I’ve put too much thought into such a trivial matter, just wait until you see my blog post about whether or not to buy brand-name versus generic canned goods…

Hubby Caught a Shop Lifter at the Consignment Sale!

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Both my husband and I completed our volunteer shifts at the consignment sale today.  I worked from 845am – 2pm and he worked from 145pm – 7pm.  Well, he actually got let go over an hour early – lucky dog.  He brought the baby to the sale and swapped me for a grimy orange volunteer vest.

He worked security and stood at the door checking people’s bags against their sales receipts as they left the building (think Costco).  He busted two perps during his shift – a small child and a forgetful mom.  The child was with his mom who was leaving the building without purchasing anything.  Unbeknownst to her, he had a toy in hand and was heading out the door.  Using his eagle-eye, he spotted the object and wrestled him to the ground.  Well, not really, but it does sound cooler that way.  The other suspect was a woman who had shopped her fill and then unknowingly walked out with a bag over her shoulder that still had the tag on it.  Oops!  He had another bust under his belt as he had someone chase her down before she made her escape in her waiting vehicle.  Not only did he see some action, he also got off an hour early to boot! 

I had no such luck.  I spent 2 hours sorting through thousands of 3T girl clothing items on the rack – taking out clothes of different sizes, rehanging fallen items, and pulling items without tags.  Then I spent 2 hours working in the checkout “corral” pulling tags off items and bagging them.  Then it was 1/2 an hour in the book room moving one stack of books from one table to another and then the last 1/2 hour wandering the clothes racks tidying up and praying that my hubby would get there early to relieve me.  I hung in there better than I thought.  I took 3 short breaks, mostly to cool off and get off my feet.  By the end of my shift my feet and my lower back were hurting, but it was worth getting to shop early on Wednesday.

What did I learn?

1) Volunteer with a friend.  It helps the time to pass when you have someone to talk to.  If you are alone, talk to the other volunteers.  Again, same concept.
2) Wear comfortable shoes. 
3) Bring water and snacks in a bag/purse, etc… that you can wear. 
4) Dress in cool clothes.  Those vests they make you wear are HOT as most of them aren’t ventilated.  Imagine wearing plastic wrap over your clothes and then run around for 5 hours.
5) Smile and talk to the shoppers.  Many of them want to know how they can “get in” on the sale (ie. how to be a seller).  You can drag out a conversation for at least 10 – 15 minutes.  Not only is this good advertising, but it passes the time and brings in more merchandise that you can pilfer through at the next sale!

Tomorrow, I get to go in early for the 50% off sale.  I’ll be looking at a few basic items for a newborn.  Not too many though as we will probably recycle what Oliver had and we will probably get some clothes as gifts.  I’m also going to grab some basic 2T stuff for Oliver. He has enough pants, but we are light on the long sleeve shirts.  This is where I get all my $1 deals on clothes.  I can’t wait!

We Survived the Kids Consignment Sale!

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I’ve had a few inquiries as to how the sale went on Wednesday and to be totally honest – I have been recovering for the past 2 days, almost out of commission.  I had to wear my right arm in a sling most of the day and slept as much as possible around the baby’s schedule.  We are true consignment warriors! 

This is the first sale that we’ve taken a fully mobile child to, the others he either wasn’t born, was in daycare or was at home with dad.  Considering the magnitude of this sale, dad had to come with me to help me haul stuff which meant juggling baby on a hot, hot, hot summer day. 

Here’s how it went down:

My hubby got off work early to be there by 130pm and to grab a spot in line.  We got there at 2pm and the doors didn’t open until 3pm.  They had people lining up down the side of the building and with the sun directly overhead there was zero shade. 

You can see me here in bright orange holding an umbrella over my little one.

There were probably 25 spots ahead of us (maybe 40 people).

And who knows how many people were behind us!  The line went passed the end of the building. 

Let me be clear that this was just the line for those of us that had volunteered to work 2 or more shifts.  We are called the “Super Work Exchangers” and we are the first group to shop on opening day at 3pm.  On the other side of the building the one shift only volunteers or “Work Exchangers” were also lining up to shop at 5pm. 

We brought our wagon and our hand truck/rubbermaid bin contraption to the sale.  You can see in the photos above some of the other devices that people brought to haul stuff away.  They had strollers with bins strapped to them, wagons with pvc pipe clothes racks screwed into them, luggage carts, laundry baskets, garbage cans – anything and everything.

After about 15 minutes in the hot sun, the baby and I had to retreat to the air conditioned van.  At 2:45pm, we got the call from the hubby that the masses were stirring.  We joined him back in line and everyone had started packing up their folding chairs and getting their carts lined up and ready to go on the sidewalk.  At 3pm the doors opened and we surged forward, electricity rippling down the line.  My hubby followed us with the dolly and at one point our wheels got locked together when he bumped us.  Here we are holding up a line of hot, anxious shoppers – I’m surprised there wasn’t a mad stampede!

Once inside, the crowd dispersed as people speed-walked their way to the big ticket items.  I had already secretly laid out the game plan to my hubby in case anyone was eavesdropping and we hit the ground running.

In the first building, where the big ticket items were, we would hit up the outdoor play equipment.  While one of us guarded our find, the other would go stake out a changing table for the new baby.  One of us would pay for those items, while the other ran into the stroller corral to find a double stroller for both kiddies.  After paying for that, we would head to the second building, stopping to grab a tricycle on the way and score a wood work bench for our son.  After that, we’d go to baby gates and bed rails, then onto wood puzzles/toys and musical instruments.  Finally, we would end at wooden train sets and Fisher Price Little People.  We did all this in 45 minutes.

Oliver was a champ!  Once we found a little keyboard for him he was content to play music for us while we shopped.  You can see our dolly on the right and his tricycle hanging precariously off the end of it with the work bench stacked on top.   And by the way, the rows and rows of tables behind us – this picture was taken from the front wall of the second building and we were about 1/2 way down the wall.

Here’s a pic from the front wall to the back of the building – mind you, only 1/4 – 1/2 of the building is shown.

Now are you starting to see why you can save so much money at consignment sales?  They literally have everything you need at discount prices (5% – 30% off retail values).  Not only do you save money, but you recycle goods and keep things out of our landfills. 

This time around we had a pretty modest haul in comparison to our infant crazy days of last year.  Here’s a brief list of what we picked up:

Climbing cube and slide, outdoor play slide, changing table, Sit-n-Stand stroller, tricycle, wood work bench, 4-5 wood Melissa and Doug puzzle toys (these “toys” rock), 2 wooden train sets, 2 keyboards, a baby gate, a bed rail, foam alphabet floor puzzle pieces, 20-30 books, 3 sets of picture flash cards, 3 Baby Einstein videos, 4 pairs of jammies, bath toys, bath tub spout cover, bath toy hanging bag, sleep positioner, and my personal favorite – 4 large tumbling mats!  The mats are going to be awesome to place around the climbing cube so we don’t have to worry so much about our son cracking his head on the floor.  They’ll be great for tumbling too.  I can’t wait!

As the days pass and we clean our treasures, I’ll post pictures and prices.  Right now I am headed to bed as I have to get up early to work my volunteer shift tomorrow.  I don’t know how I will manage the 5 hours of standing tomorrow being pregnant and all.  It will be a challenge.  My hubby trades off with me mid-day to do his security shift. 

Some people ask me if it is really worth volunteering just to get in early.  I say, YES!  By the time the public gets to shop I would estimate that 40-50% of the items have already been hauled off by us volunteers and sellers who got to shop early.  I know that when I go in tomorrow, they will have consolidated the items down to one building.  Don’t forget that the volunteers also get to go in early on Sunday when most everything that is left is 50% off.  (That’s when I shop for baby clothes and get them at $1 per item.)

There will be a couple smaller sales before my baby girl is due, but we are pretty much stocked up on baby stuff.  Maybe some clothes (girl outfits are so cute) and other rare treasures that we will spot for Oliver.  Otherwise, I think we had a good day!

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I wish I had something cool to write about – well, actually I do. I just don’t have the energy to do it. 

My hubby and I have been burning the candle at both ends for this past week.  We’ve had doctor appointments, social functions, and a sick child.  On top of that, he has been working long hours and I’ve been getting ready for the consignment sale and our big trip to Florida.  It seems neither of us has slept for the past week! 

We just hauled the stuff that we are selling down to the fairgrounds tonight and scoped out a few items that we’d like to pick up tomorrow.  Have no idea how we are getting a slide and swingset home, but we shall see.  I also had my last sewing class tonight.  I finished the pair of pants that go with the shirt that I finished last week.  It doesn’t look to bad actually.  With the same pattern, I can probably whip out several more tops and pants/shorts for the summer.  Now I need to find inexpensive fabric.

I have a few more things that I could have hauled down to the sale and I just might tomorrow morning.  That means that I need to get to bed asap!  I have to have all the goods there by 11am and we will get in line at 1pm for 3pm shopping.  Yikes! So much to do, so little time.  I’ll bring my camera and take pictures of the craziness.

The Big 5-0! posts that is…

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

This is my fiftieth blog post. Wow, I feel like I should celebrate a little bit!

My blog has been live for about 3 1/2 months and I even managed to keep it going after a slump there in April.  50 posts is peanuts in the blogging world, but here is why it is important to me:

My husband was very concerned about the state of my mental well-being after we decided that I would become a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM).  Why? When we moved down here from DC, I had a period of 8 months where I was unemployed and 2 months where I was waiting for my new job to start.  For those 8 months, I was mostly miserable.  I began to hate the monotony of the household chores.  I was dying to be around people.  I felt trapped in a house that was too small, cluttered and constantly falling apart.  We used to fight (alot) and I used to cry (alot) and it was basically a miserable time in general.  Having gone through all that, he was skeptical that I could be happy not working again.

Here is what he did not take into account.  We had just gotten married in September, the month before I left my job in DC.  We also miscarried our first child at 3 months.  My grandmother also died the week I quit my job.  Our water heater broke in our attic 2 weeks after that.  Our car failed inspection and needed to be overhauled a month after that.  I had continuing medical problems and bills that continued on for 6 more months.  The debt started piling up as we had month after month of $1,000 expenses to add to the lingering expense of the wedding and continued expense of doctor’s bills. 

As anyone knows, when debt climbs and income drops so does your general happiness.  In January, I started looking for employment hardcore.  I found that after working at a large international non-profit in DC, coming down to Raleigh was difficult.  I wasn’t qualified to do much in this job market.  My technical IT skills from my tech support days were non-existent after a 6 year hiatus.  My non-profit IT skills (I was a manager), were not useful in Raleigh’s technical market.  Week after week, I had zero responses – not even one inquiry.  I attended job fairs and was thoroughly disappointed.  I started lowering my standards and looking for entry level work – guess what?  I was OVERQUALIFIED.  Someone with my resume would never be happy working a menial desk job -or so I was told.  I started “dumbing” down my resume.  I actually have 14 different versions which each hacked up my career (Secretary – yes, I can answer phones, and file, and type on a computer).  The whole experience was pretty demoralizing.  I couldn’t even get a job making $10/hr at Mailboxes, etc. 

Add that demoralization onto the stress of not being able to pay the bills and guess what?  I was Miserable.  While we were at it, lets add the fact that I was desperately missing my life, my friends, my job, and the city of DC.  I had worked so hard to get out of Raleigh and to do something with my life and here I was back in Raleigh and back in the same old house that I had been desperate to leave. 

It sounds like I am rambling, but I am getting to my point.  The miserable unemployed person that I was 2 years ago does not exist anymore.  The reasons I was miserable had very little to do with me just being “unemployed” and more to do with – well, you can read it again in case you missed it.  Here is how I have changed:

My husband and I finally started meshing as a couple – mind you, we met in 2006 – married in 2007 -got pregnant in 2008 – had a baby in 2009 – and have another coming for 2010.  We didn’t really have a long “honeymoon” period before we started making big life decisions.  Once I started working again in 2008, we were able to start paying down our debt, stop living so desperately, and start enjoying ourselves a little.  I also started settling in to my new lifestyle and stopped missing DC.  Raleigh is a different city to us now that I am a part of a “we”.  This is also a different house – it’s “our” house and with our home improvement projects my hubby definitely has put his touch on things around here.  We also had a HUGE garage sale and finally got rid of the excess stuff and merged our households into one.  And the biggest change: 

We have started our family!  I have wanted to be a mother my entire life and now I have the most precious little boy ever, with a girl on the way.  Everything that I have ever done, from my upbringing, my travels, my jobs, my education, and my experiences have come down to my greatest project – raising children, laying the foundation for the future.  I would say that this is my biggest and most important job to date.

Regardless of how my life has changed, how great things are, and how happy I am – my husband does have a point (Now we are getting to it!).  Without a goal, without focus, without self-expression, I tend to get lost and lose my drive, my forward momentum.  Hence, 2 Pennies 2 Rub was born!  He pushed me to come up with a way to keep the inner me challenged and satisfied, above and beyond taking care of my family. 

My goals are my own, but I get to challenge myself constantly with this blog.  Did I hit my number of posts?  Are they balanced between family, living, and being frugal?  Do I have good ideas?  How do I get my site traffic to go up?  How can I enhance my readers experiences?  Did I make my milestones at 3 months, 6 months, a year?  Not only does this blog keep my happy, but it keeps us focused on saving money, living frugally, and finding the best deals so that I have more to share with you. 

So back to the beginning – this is my 50th blog entry! Woo hoo!  Thank you hubby for pushing me and thank you readers for keeping me writing.  My little one is now slapping my keyboard and demanding to be fed now, so I am off. 

BTW, I love being a SAHM and my mental health is doing good.  :-)

10 Tips for Shopping at Kid Consignment Sales

Friday, July 9th, 2010

I’ve been in a tizzy this past week getting all amped up for the consignment sale next week.  I’ve been making my lists and checking them twice.  I’ve been mapping out an attack strategy between my husband and I.  I’ve been greasing up the wheels on our carts so they will fly…  Sad, but true – I am OCD about my kids consignment sales.

Here are some tips and tricks to get the best deals at these sales:

1) Volunteer:  Each sale is different, but almost all of them let volunteers shop early before the general public.  Some sales have different tiers of volunteers based upon how many shifts/hours you work.  The people who volunteer the most get to shop before the other volunteers.  I have volunteered many times at 3 distinctly different sales and each time the volume of goods has decreased by almost half after the pre-shoppers and before the general public even gets in the door to shop.

2) Sell: If you want to get in early, but don’t have the ability to volunteer – become a seller.  Most consignment sales let sellers shop after the volunteers, but before the general public.  Some sales even have a “Fist Time Mommy” sale day when pregnant women or moms with children under  1 year can shop before the general public.  Read about each sale to get details on early shopping.

3) Make a list: Write down your “must haves” and your “like to haves”.  Once you enter the sale it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of “stuff”. 

4) Price items in advance: Take that list you made and jot down retail prices for your items.  This is a BIG help when you need to assess the value of the used items at the sale.  Just because someone is selling an item used, doesn’t mean that they have marked the price down sufficiently.  General rule of thumb: Consignment items are usually priced 1/3 of retail value.

5) Map out a strategy: This is where people think I’m crazy, but seriously – the big ticket items go FIRST and there is usually a race to get to them.  When you have a list of “must haves”, check to see if any are:  baby furniture, strollers, wagons, outdoor play sets, car seats, cloth diapers, etc… Basically, Big Items that cost a pretty penny when purchased new. 

The last sale we went to, I went to the sale 2 hours before the doors opened to get in line.  I was number 23.  My husband got off work early to join me 15 minutes before the doors opened.  When they let people in at 3pm, numbers 1-22 were hightailing it to the large item section with my husband in hot pursuit with his furniture dolly and bungee cords.  This is no joke.  (see what you miss when you don’t volunteer?)

6) Bring an extra body/find a sitter for the kids:  Bring someone to help you either A) stake out goods B)work as a tag-team partner in line so you can go to the bathroom C)help watch the kid(s).  Ideally, you will want to leave the kiddos at home.  Unless you strap your kids to your back, it will be a challenge to A) keep them from getting trampled/lost/underfoot B) keep them from the mounds of toys piled everywhere C) keep track of your stuff when you have to drag them to the bathroom for the umpteenth time and hope nobody poaches out of your basket.

7) Cash, Check, or Credit: Read the fine print about the sale.  Find out the different forms of payment they accept.  Some sales do not accept checks.  Some sales charge a fee for using credit cards or do not accept credit cards.  All sales accept cash.

8 ) Wear comfortable shoes/clothes, bring water: Many sales happen in facilities with concrete floors.  You will probalby be there shopping several hours.  Sales in the summer are sometimes hot and stuffy.  Be comfortable as there are usually no places to sit and rest.  The last sale I worked, a woman fainted dead away in the checkout line. 

9) Shop the discount day:  At most sales, the last day is the 50% off discount day.  Some sales even have 75% discounts.  I buy most all of my baby clothes on the last day.  For children 0-24 months there are so many clothing items that there is still plenty to choose from on the last day.  (As the child gets older most people shop the clothes items first as there are fewer choices.) I also hit up the books and bedding.

Not every item that is left on the last day is on sale.  It is up to the seller when they initially set the price if they want to let their unsold items go at a discount on the last day.  Pay attention to the rules of engagement (ie. Only items with prices in RED ink or Only items with GREEN tags).  They will have the rules posted throughout the sale.  The last thing you want to do is load up on a bunch of stuff and have to pay full price when you only brought $20.

10) Bring something to haul your stuff in:  Maybe I should have listed this one as #1, because I see newbies ALL THE TIME wishing they had brought something to put their stuff in as they try to balance armloads of goods.  Most consignment sales do NOT have shopping carts.  If they do, they have a very limited number and there will be a long wait to get one.  The newbies that go with kids tend to sacrifice the stroller for a buggy and haul their kids around all day on their hip.

As for a “hauling contraption” anything goes.  Here is what I have seen:

Laundry basket being dragged on the ground with a rope tied to it.  Empty strollers with no kids.  Furniture dollies.  Luggage carts from hotels that have the clothes bar.  Wagons.  Garbage cans with wheels.  Grocery carts.  Huge bags.  Rolling suitcases.  Folding luggage carts used in conjunction with Rubbermaid bins and bungee cords.  (Pretty much anything with wheels that you can put stuff in, attach stuff too, or stack stuff on.) 

We have our system down to a science.  My hubby brings our furniture dolly and lays it flat.  We then bring 2-4 rubbermaid bins and a bunch of bungee cords.  We can then stack 2 bins on the bottom and 2 bins on the top with no problem.  We can also stack 2 bins against the handle and leave the other half open for large items.  After the first round of shopping, he loads up the van with all the large goodies and I take 2 bins + bungee cords from him.  He goes home. I then pull our red radio flyer wagon out of the car, grab my huge IKEA shopping bags and head back in for round 2.  (Round 2 consists of clothes, books, and other items that my hubby would get bored looking through).  After another hour or so, I load up the car and head home.  Didn’t I warn you that I was a freak about consignment sales?  :-)

I’m sure there are more tips out there, but these are the big ones that have helped me get organized, stay focused, and save the most amount of money! Hope it helps you too. 

Frugal Tip of the Day:   Know that the big ones tend to happen twice a year and prepare in advance for them.  It’s hard not to impulse buy from a retail store throughout the year, but you will save so much money if you can wait.  Each sale is different. Read the fine print on the website before you go.

Save a Fortune at Kids Consignment Sales

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

If you are pregnant, have children, or know people who have children I am going to let you in on one of the biggest money savers of your life:  Kids Consignment Sales

I’m not talking about consignment stores – I’m talking about the big sales where 20/ 50/100s of people are selling items in one centralized location and are usually held seasonally.  Ie. In the Spring/Fall or Summer/Winter.

The largest of the consignment sales in my area is starting next week.  They usually have hundreds of sellers and thousands of buyers.  One year, they had over 12,000 attendees during the 5 days of the sale.  This sale spans 2 large buildings at the state fairgrounds and its insane how much kiddie paraphernalia can be stocked to the rafters.

You will find anything and everything related to a child from birth to the teenage years.  Most of the items are gently used, some hardly used, and some are even brand new in the original packaging.  All are discounted from the original price – normally about 1/3 of the retail cost.   The advantage of going to the larger sales is that there is more competition amongst the sellers.  Out of 150 exersaucers available, there will always be sellers undercutting others just to get their item sold.

Here’s a small list of some of the items you will find there:

Clothes (racks and racks of them), shoes, bedding, bottles, bottle warmers, diaper bags, baby carriers, sleep positioners, boppies, high chairs, bumbos, cribs, bassinets, car seats, strollers, wagons, play forts, bicycles, exersaucers, play gyms, riding toys, train sets, tables dedicated to Fisher Price Little People, Mega Blocks, and Sesame Street,  dolls, robots, dressers, baby gates, sports equipment, video games, dvds, books, blocks, and puzzles. (Trust me – this is just a SMALL sample of what they sell.)

Here are some photos of things we have bought at past sales:

Each of these clothing items were $1.  I usually buy his clothes on the last day of the sale when things are 50% off.  You can see that some of items even have tags on them still.

These outfits were so adorable and all $1 each.  I outfitted him with an entire wardrobe for a 12 month old for about $25.  That included shirts, onesies, pants, shorts, pajamas, and socks.

These little fire trucks were $2 for the one on the left and $1 for the one on the right.  The one on the left, a Fisher Price Little People Fire Truck, retails for $12.99.

These are Melissa and Doug Latches and Locks Boards.  We paid $4 for both of them and they retail for $24.99 each.  Oliver is getting incredibly good at opening all the different types of latches.  A great find for us!

This Mega Blocks Fill & Dump Wagon looked brand new.  There wasn’t even any wear on the tires or a spec of dirt to be seen.  There were even more blocks than what was listed packed inside.  We paid $5 and it retails for $30 brand new.  FYI – He LOVES this wagon.  When he was smaller we filled it with wooden blocks to weigh it down and he would push this wagon all over the house.

This Lincoln Logs Frontier Fort was a great find.  It is in like-new condition and has all its pieces and then some.  It retails for $49.99 in the stores and we paid $8 for it.

And the pièce de résistance, a collection of musical instruments that we pieced together.  The rain shaker with the blue and yellow ends retails for $12.95.  The Stir Xylophone (above the maracas) retails for $15.95.  The jingle bells retail for $4.25 each.  The drum sells for $24.95.  The rest come from various other music kits.  We paid $10 for everything. 

What I’ve shown you is a smidgen of what we’ve purchased.  When I shop, I make a list of what we’ll need for the next year and then go price the items retail.  I take that list with me to the consignment sales to make sure that I am getting a good deal or a fair price for the condition of the item.  The last sale we spent a total of $147 on approx. $650 worth of stuff.  Not only that, but we earned $44 from selling stuff that we didn’t need anymore.

I will be a consignment sales maniac for the next week as we prepare ourselves for the sale on Wednesday.  Tune in tomorrow for some tips and tricks on how to shop.  I will also post an entry on how to sell.

Walgreen’s beats CVS for deals

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Previously, I had waxed poetic about my love affair with CVS.  Well, there’s a new beau in town and its name is Walgreeens. 

I noticed in the Sunday paper that Walgreens and CVS had many of the same items posted in their flyers.  They also had many of the same items on sale.  In general, Walgreens tended to be less expensive than CVS item per item.  What really got my attention were the items at CVS that had Extra Bucks tied to them.

At CVS they have a program called Extra Bucks.  The idea is that if you purchase a product that has extra bucks listed for it, you will “earn” those extra bucks to be spent at a future purchase.  The difference between Walgreens and CVS is that Walgreens gives you the savings up front and doesn’t make you come back in to “use” your saved dollar. 

For example: CVS charges $2 for Puffs Plus and gives you $1 in extra bucks for your next purchase.  They say it’s like purchasing Puffs Plus for $1.  That’s splitting hairs.  You have to give them the $2 and then you have to come back and “spend” that $1 savings on something else.  You have to keep spending money to keep earning your savings rewards.  At Walgreens they just give you the savings up front, no strings attached.  Sounds easy enough.

So I gave Walgreens a try.  I picked the items that were on sale via Walgreens specials/coupons and matched my coupons to them.  Here’s what I purchased:

This all cost me $40.56 pre-tax post coupons, discounts, and specials.

This seemed a little high to me.  I was worried that the drugstores were jacking up the prices so they could “discount” them to get people in.  To soothe my penny pinched mind, I went to WalMart to do price checks.

FYI – Last year I created a spreadsheet of all the grocery stores in the area to compare prices of our commonly purchased items.  Aldis and WalMart tied for #1 cost savers with Aldis slightly higher.  I chose Wal Mart for my Walgreens price check because they would have comparable brands.  (Aldis has their own brand)

Here’s what I found:

Item for item sans any sales/discounts/coupons, Wal Mart was $3.17 less expensive than Walgreens.   

WalMart = $67.66  Walgreens = $70.80

However, AFTER sales/discounts/coupons, Wal Mart was $27.10 more expensive than Walgreens.

WalMart = $67.66  Walgreens = $40.56

Final analysis?  Walgreens is actually less expensive IF you buy the items that are on sale and use Walgreen’s coupons from the Sunday paper.  The savings amplify when you match those sale items with manufacturer coupons.

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Love drugstore sales, but Beware!  Only buy what is on sale or discounted.  An extra bonus if you have a manufacturers coupon to match that sale item.  Many items that were NOT on sale were outrageously more expensive than a grocery store.  I’m guessing that they hope you make some impulse buys once you get in there to buy the sale items. 

19 weeks and 3 days

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

In a few days I will be half way through my pregnancy!  I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed.  I am so busy with my little man that I have not been paying much attention to my baby girl. 

Two things happened this past week to make me take notice: 

1) I switched my email newsletter subscriptions from Parents.com to include my pregnancy tracker instead of just my toddler tracker.  When I was pregnant with Oliver I got weekly, if not daily, updates from various baby and parenting websites about the status of my pregnancy as the days passed.  When he was born they switched over to weekly developmental updates of the baby and now the toddler. 

After adding the new baby to my email lists, I’m suddenly getting emails showing my developing baby at 19 weeks, emails talking about labor preparations, and emails full of checklists to prepare ourselves for the little one.  YIKES!!!  All of a sudden this pregnancy feels VERY real.  All of a sudden, we have realized that we only have 20 more weeks… wow.

2) I’ve been feeling my baby move more frequently now.  For the past few weeks I would feel a flutter or a roll and then nothing for days.  Talk about motherhood freak out!  Without the morning sickness, the baby moving is an affirmation that the pregnancy is going good.  Without the movements, I’ve been a basket case.  Well, these past 2 days I’ve been feeling her move much stronger now and for longer periods of time.  Still not much during the day, but at night she is a bit more active.  Thank goodness!

This Friday we go in for my 20 week super mega utrasound at the hospital.  They’ll do all the bone measurements and look for any abnormalities in the organs, etc…  If all goes well, this is the last time I will “see” my baby until she is born.  After this, it’s all sonograms only where we listen to the heartbeat.  Keep your fingers crossed for us!

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