Archive for the ‘Money Saving Tips’ Category

Reciprocal (free) Entry to Kid’s Museums

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

One of Oliver’s favorite places to visit is Imagine It – the children’s museum in Atlanta.  It is very similar to the Marbles that we loved so dearly up in Raleigh, NC.  They have plenty of exhibits set up for kids to play with, to explore, and to learn from.

Oliver was over the moon about the full size tractor!  He felt like a very big boy up in the driver’s seat.

They had some very cool train tables with holes cutout of the top for 360 degree play.

There was an entire section devoted to this very strange “sand”.  The sand stuck together as if it were wet, but was remarkably dry.

The museum also had painting stations, balls for vacuum tubes, gears, a mini-grocery store, and a big water play area for “fishing”.  All of this fun doesn’t come cheap though.  The regular admission price is $12.75 per person over 2 years of age.  In contrast, Marbles was $5 per person. 

As luck would have it, I noticed a sign in the entry way listing free reciprocal entry to other kid’s museum as a perk to museum membership.  Most large children museums are members of the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM).  If you have a membership card from a museum that is in the ACM, you are allowed to visit other ACM affiliated museums for free. 

Your card should have a small ACM logo on the back if it is in the Association.  If not, just ask the museum you are visiting to look it up in their database (as was our case).  They told us here that we could get in for free until our Marbles membership card expires in May 2012.  That’s great news for us and is another benefit to purchasing yearly memberships.

 

Skype Video Call – Remote Parenting

Monday, September 26th, 2011

One way that we are going to stay connected while the hubby is in Atlanta is to use Skype video for the kiddos.  The hubby normally tucks Oliver in every night.  Last night, without Daddy, Oliver had a hard time falling asleep and kept waking up.  Tonight we tried Skype and it was a big hit!

Oliver was a little nervous at first, but he kept pointing at the screen and saying “Dah dee?”.

The hubby and Oliver did the Itsy Bitsy Spider together with perfect streaming video and audio.  It was so cute I could have died.

Oliver spent about 15 minutes talking to his Daddy.  Daddy even got Oliver to pick up his room and put all his legos away.  I panned the camera so the hubby could watch and coach as Oliver cleaned up.  Oliver didn’t put up any fuss at all for virtual Daddy!

The best part about it?  It was free!  Well the Skype Video service is free, but there are some sunk costs involved. 

First, you need a computer/laptop/tablet/smart phone of some sort that you can install Skype on.  Second, you need a video camera and microphone (We bought a little Logitech webcam/microphone combo for only $35 and it is amazing.).  Third, you need a decent internet connection for smooth operation (The hubby had to pay to upgrade his service at his hotel after the first test on basic wifi hardly worked.)

After you have all that in place, you need to go to skype.com and download the software, create an account, hook up your webcam/microphone, and call away!  There are a few tests you can run to check the sound quality, but overall it’s been decent for  us. 

BTW – Oliver went right to sleep after video calling his Daddy.  He hasn’t uttered a peep so far tonight.  Looks like we have a new bedtime ritual!

Yard Sale Tips and Tricks

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

“It was an immense achievement!”-Prof. Higgins

Our sale wasn’t open until 8am.  At 6:30am, when we opened the first box, the sharks smelled the chum in the water and were on us in an instant.  Thanks to the Craigslist posting that I renewed the night before, people had our address and they weren’t going to wait until 8am!  We had a babysitter come over at 7am to help with the kids while the hubby and I tore around setting stuff out.  Thank goodness we had already set up the tables and clothesline the night before. 

The hubby put our yard sale signs up at 745am and we were flooded anew with people.  From 630am – 930am we must have had over a hundred people stop by. 

The crowd slowed down by 10am, the sitter left, and the kids came outside with us.  They loved it! 

I had to keep an eagle eye on Oliver, but Evelyn loved sitting on the giant tarp climbing over clothes mountains and playing with all the toys. 

I felt bad selling some of Oliver’s stuff.  He wasn’t too thrilled when people kept walking away with his toys.

We were lucky it didn’t rain, but -dang- it was HOT and humid.  Evelyn had enough of it after an hour. 

The kids went down for their naps after 12 and we started wrapping things up.  By 2pm, all of our stuff had been boxed and sat awaiting their donation to charity.

As promised, we did not keep anything that did not sell.  A nonprofit came by after dinner to haul the rest of our stuff away.

Here are some tips that I’ve picked up from doing several yard sales throughout the years:

1) Price and pre-sort everything before the sale.  If you are expecting a lot of people, pricing ahead of time is such a time saver.  A hundred people aren’t following you around asking, “how much for this?” and there is also less haggling.  Pre-sorting your items makes setup a breeze.  Even if you don’t have time to unpack your boxes, at least related items are all together.

2) Make a plan and advertise.  You can take out ads in the newspaper if that’s how your community hunts for yard sales.  You can also place ads on Craigslist for free.  Lastly, always make signs.  60 – 70% of our traffic comes from the signs alone.  I actually sketch a map of our neighborhood, drive the routes to my  house, and mark on the map, with a number, where a sign would be helpful.  I then make my signs accordingly (ie. need 3 right arrows, 2 straight arrows, and 6 left arrows) and mark the number on the back of each sign using the map as reference.  Also, use an obnoxiously bright color posterboard.  I can make 4 signs out of one sheet and I use a small foam brush and paint to write on the signs (see pic above).

3) Setup as much stuff the night before as possible and wake up EARLY to set out your items.  Elevating objects on tables, benches, or even plywood on milk crates, is a big help for the buyers.  Hang clothes, if you can, and use a big tarp on the ground for other items.  We went to Costco and picked up some low-sided banana boxes to group like items in.  We also made the huge tarp baby central and piled all the clothes and toys over there.  The serious shoppers plopped right down on the tarp and sifted through all the stuff!

4) Be prepared!  Have small change – some ones, fives, tens, and quarters available.  Also, stash a couple 20s inside in the event someone busts out a hundred dollar bill for a twenty seven dollar purchase (thank goodness for pin money).  Protect yourself from the sun.  Wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, etc…  Have plenty of water on hand to prevent dehydration.  Pack yourself a little snack or lunch, just as if you were going to work.  You might not get a chance to run in and eat.  Have some plastic bags or boxes available for your shoppers.  The more convenient you make it for them, the more likely they will keep shopping.  Buddy up with someone to help you run the sale, especially during those first few insanely busy first hours.

5) And as the great Kenny Roger’s says;

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away and know when to run
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealing’s done”

Be prepared to wheel, deal and bargain during your sale.  Know when to stand your ground and when to give a little.  When people combine items, go ahead and take off a couple bucks.  Throw in a freebie for gracious buyers and enjoy the give and take of bargain hunting.  There will always be the hardcore people out to lowball every price.  Try not to take offense.  They are just opening negotiations.  As the sale goes on, try to keep your change money separate from your profit money.  Don’t tempt people by pulling out a wad of cash and rifling through it – count your money when the sale is done…  Lastly, know when to end it and have an exit plan.  What are you going to do with all your leftover stuff?  If you are donating it, make your arrangements beforehand so you aren’t hauling all that stuff back into the house.  If you are saving the leftovers, box, label, and seal your items right at the end of the sale – again, so you aren’t cluttering your now empty house back up.

This last bit doesn’t need a number – take down any signs you posted and be a good steward of the neighborhood.  There’s nothing tackier than leaving your signs all over the place to rot in the weather and annoy all your neighbors.  Taking them down is also thoughtful to all the would be shoppers who are spending time and effort to track down a finished yard sale.

Enjoy the feeling of purging your unused stuff and know that your things are being loved by someone else.  Enjoy the emptiness and peacefulness of your clutter free house.  Remember the beaming smile of that little girl who gave you a dollar for a butterfly parasol that she kept open in the minivan as she drove away.  Life is good.  :-)

Do you have any yard sale tips and tricks to share?

Year end steals

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Instinctually, humankind must hunt and gather to survive.  In the modern day male, this need manifests itself in sports.  In the modern day female, we have a need to shop!  It’s not just about spending money either, it’s about hunting for the best deals.  I’m sure hundreds of anthropologists out there are shaking their heads at me right now.

Earlier this week I wrote about shopping the year end Christmas sales to save a pretty penny.  I finally managed to get to a few sales myself and only reinforced my money saving ideas.  From my previous blog post:

Item #1 – Christmas decorations, lights, and other holiday things – We don’t need much in the way of decorations, but I did pick up 2 little stockings for the kids for next Christmas.  They were 75 cents a piece down from $3.99.

Item #2 – wrapping paper for all occasions –  I scored 3 gorgeous rolls of wrapping paper that will do me for the rest of the gift giving year.  I even had several people “hunt” me down to ask where I had found my rolls. 

Item #3 – wired ribbon – Michaels and A.C. Moore are chock full of ribbons at rock bottom prices.  I purchased several spools in neutral colors and already have a Valentine Day craft in mind for the little one using my ribbons.

Item #4 – Napkins, paper plates, party supplies, etc – These I didn’t need, but they had massive inventory at the different stores.  I wish I had my camera with me to show you how much you could save.  One store was selling 25 pack small red paper plates for $1.50 in the Christmas section and then at the front of the store in the Valentine Day section they were setting out 25 pack small red paper plates for $4!!!  That’s a difference of $2.50 for the same item.

Item #5 – Regular items packaged for Christmas sale – I also didn’t need any of these, but saw shelf upon shelf of every day items that were 50 – 70% off.  At Target they were selling trunk organizers, touchless soap dispensers, emergency flashlights, mini-reading lights, coffee warmers, etc… for 50% off.  In Michaels these items were labeled “40% off Holiday Impulse Buys”.  They had tons of what they considered to be stocking stuffers that would make excellent party favors for your child’s birthday party.  They even had full fledge wood puzzles that would make excellent gifts period.

In addition to my 5 savings categories, I did break away and took advantage of the sale on regular items as well.  I purchased a winter jacket for my son for $18, down from $47.  That’s about a  60% savings from the regular price.  I bought it in a size 3T which will probably fit him for the next 2 winters.  Not a bad investment for only $18!

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Please understand that I am not suggesting that you go out to spend money just because there are sales out there.  I am telling you to change the way you think about shopping.  By planning ahead and cutting out impulse buying you can schedule your shopping around known sale dates, such as Black Friday or the day after Christmas, to save money.

Shop the after Christmas sales for year round savings

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

If you aren’t snowed in like we are, get out and shop!  Spend a little money now and cash in on some year round savings.  (I sound like some TV ad.)  Traditionally, the day after Christmas is when the prices are slashed for leftover Christmas items. 

Here’s a list of things you can save on:

1) Christmas decorations, lights, and other holiday things – This is an obvious savings.  If you get in the habit of shopping at the end of the year for the next year, you will never have to pay full price for Christmas stuff again.

2) Wrapping paper for all occasions – This is my favorite.  Usually the wrapping paper that is leftover were not festive enough for Christmas, which makes them perfect for the rest of the year!  I never have to buy wrapping paper off the shelf on any day other than December 26th.

3) Wired Ribbon – You’ll normally find these in big spools of gold or silver and little specialty spools of blues, reds, and bright patterns.  I buy gold, silver, white, and anything that doesn’t scream Christmas to use in crafts for bow-making, or to jazz up presents all year through.

4) Napkins, paper plates, party supplies, etc – I stock up on generic party supplies that can be used for other holidays and festivities.  Red napkins and table cloths can be used for Valentine’s day.  Red also can be added to your 4th of July celebration.  Green plates for St. Patty or as accents for Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Silver and gold for any classy affair, such as cocktail parties, birthdays, and anniversaries. 

5) Regular items packaged for Christmas sale – Keep an eye out for items that aren’t necessarily holiday related, but were marketed for the season.  Serving platters, gold chargers, placemats, candles, candle holders – the list goes on and on.  You will find everyday items on sale just because they were packaged to be sold at Christmas .  For example, we bought nice regular non-holiday bookends for 75% off just because they were packaged to sell for Christmas as “Gifts For Him”.

Frugal Tip of the Day: If you are a shrewd bargain hunter, take advantage of the year end sales on all merchandise to do your shopping for the entire year.  I have known people who actually do their Christmas shopping on December 26 for the next year!

Finger Painting Fun

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I broke out the art supplies today so my little boy could make a birthday card for his daddy.  We had new fingerpaints and brush paints that we bought for 50% off at a back to school sale.  It was worth spending the money rather than use my personal art supplies due to the non-toxicity of the Crayola formulas.  I think he ate more than he got on the paper! 

He had a blast and was thrilled that he got to jump into the tub afterwards to play in the water.  Double score for him!

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Shop for your toddlers stuff when the big kids stuff goes on sale.  I couldn’t believe the bargains they had!  If you don’t wait for the sales at least use a 40% off coupon from Michaels or AC Moore.  You can usually find them online and can print them at home.  I hate to buy things brand new, but the Crayola products are worth it for the ease with which they clean up and also so I don’t have to worry when he inevitably puts everything in his mouth.

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. 

Dry Clothes Outside.

Monday, June 28th, 2010

We did tons of laundry today.  At least 6 or 7 loads.  Our poor air conditioner has been struggling to keep the house cool from the 90+ degree temps outside and here we were adding to the heat indoors by running the dryer all day and night.

I finally ran out to Wal Mart and bought clothespins for the clothesline that we haven’t been using all year.  We found we can fit about 2 loads of laundry at a time in the line and that it takes about 2 hours to dry in this heat. 

Save Money by Air Drying Clothes

So why haven’t we been doing this all along to save some dough?  Two reasons: pollen and mosquitos. 

I have very sensitive allergies and hanging out clothes in the spring and fall is out.  If you can’t tell by the picture, our little 1/3 of an acre lot has about 40 trees on it.  This isn’t counting the other 40 trees in all our neighbors yards as well.  That’s alot of pollen in the spring! 

The other problem we have is with mosquitos.  They literally hover outside our glass door waiting in line to suck our blood when we come out.  I think I saw one wearing a little bib once.  The solution? Those clip Off mosquito repellants.  Wow! Those things work like a charm.  They have a little fan that disburses some sort of repellant and instantaneously – NO mosquitos.  Of course, we are careful to keep that stuff away from me and the growing baby.  We don’t want 2 headed children or anything.  That leaves the clothes hanging to the hubby, which is perfectly fine with me! :-)

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Save money by drying your clothes outside!  They will smell unbelievably fresh.  To avoid having them dry hard and crinkly, use liquid fabric softener in the wash.  If you don’t have a dispenser, buy the Downy ball.  You fill it with softener and throw it in the wash.

Coupon Revival

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Coupons have a second chance in my house for 2 reasons:

1) We finally got a subsription to the Sunday paper.   Having the paper delivered to your house makes it more convenient to keep on top of the coupons.

2) My husband has gotten involved.  He not only goes through the coupon inserts, but he goes through all the store flyers cutting out their coupons too. 

We’ve been sitting together on Sunday nights matching coupons to store sales and making out a shopping list of sorts for me to tackle throughout the week.  He also watches the little one while I “dash” out to clean up with my coupons.  It is amazing how much extra time and effort is involved when I have to shop with the baby.  My hubby has been very supportive of watching him while I shop at night so I can 1) get a break from the baby and 2) get out of the house!

Anyway, I am on an about face from my earlier post cursing coupons.  We’ll see if we can pinch a few more pennies this week.

Clipping coupons is not for me.

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Okay.  So in the very early days of my blog, I touted clipping coupons as a way to save money.  There are entire coupon clipping blogs and websites that do nothing but tell you how to save using coupons.  There are books and dvds about how to use coupons.  There was even a lady on the Today Show last month showing how she always pays less than $10 for $100s worth of groceries using coupons.

My comment?  Bah, humbug.  On the triple coupon days, I toted all my little coupon filled and category sorted envelopes down to the store and still spent $80 on the same amount of stuff.  The only difference from normal?  Now we have $80 of “name brand” and fru-fru stuff.  I have dish soap that smells like lavender.  I have deoderant that smells like perfume.  I have weird fruit gels that I’m afraid to try.  I have all this strange stuff because I had a coupon…

Now people tell me- only use a coupon for the things you buy.  Well, I rarely see coupons for things we use.  Maybe the problem is that we are too set in our ways or are not adventurous enough.  We like what we like and we don’t want to deviate.  I’ve been using the same face cream, toothpaste, shampoo, deoderant, dishwasher soap, handsoap, dish soap, and toilet paper for the past 10 years.  I’m 37.  My butt has been there and done that.  It prefers Scotts 2 ply toilet paper over all others.  Who am I to argue with my ass?

I think the last straw came when we were at Wal-Mart this past Saturday.  Having memorized my coupons by now, I felt a rush when my hubby needed shaving cream, shampoo, and deoderant.  Finally!  I pulled out the coupons that I had been sitting on for months just waiting for this day.  They were all expired by 2 weeks.  There went $2.50 in savings and my coupon box had to be rescued from the trash by my husband.

Ever the penny pincher, he has gently suggested that we get a subscription to the Sunday paper so that we always have current coupons.  He has also asked me if I want him to buy me that Today Show woman’s book on how to buy groceries for next to nothing.  I told him to go ahead as long as he doesn’t mind walking funny for a few weeks if you get my drift.

Nevertheless, I am going to give it another try.  We finally have a subscription and I have the current Sunday paper in hand ready to cut out the next batch of coupons.  I GUESS that if I see a coupon for something we use, I should just go out and buy it IMMEDIATELY rather than wait until we need it.  I’ll let you know how it goes in a couple months…

P.S. If anyone out there has ANY tips for me please send them my way.  I cannot believe that I can’t figure out how to maximize my savings using coupons.  Talk about the little things in life that make you feel small.

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