Posts Tagged ‘saving money’

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.

 

Bought a New Used Car

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

We took our 1996 Maxima in to see what it would take for it to pass inspection and be trip worthy.  They came back with a detailed list and a grand total of $4,400 for the repairs.  $4,400 is worth more than the blue book value of the car!  We decided to bite the bullet and bought a “new” car today.

I searched on www.autotrader.com for 4-door sedans, less than 70,000 miles, and less than $6,000.  This 1999 Ford Crown Victoria popped up for $5,800 with only 61,000 miles.  I showed it half-jokingly to the hubby and he fell head over heels for it!  It’s an old fogey mobile! He said, “Didn’t you know you married an old fogey?  See?  I have grey hair right here…”  geez.

This car had a clean Carfax report, had one owner (an old man), and had all the maintenance records dating back to 1999.  There’s one scratch on the body, but otherwise, the car is in immaculate condition.  I couldn’t believe how well maintained it was.

Tell me this doesn’t look like a cop car 100%.  Look at that rear!  You can fit alot of junk in this trunk.

We ended up buying the car on the spot (after talking them down $300) and my hubby got his Foginator.  He loves how much room there is inside.  He is a big dude and he always felt cramped, near claustrophobic, with all the kids in the Maxima.  But that’s not the best part.

On the way home, the cars parted like the Red Sea when he drove up behind them.  Driving a classic cop car make/model does have it’s perks when you are trying to get from point A to point B.  I told him he needs to install a ski rack to really freak people out.  :-)

(btw – they wouldn’t touch the Maxima with a ten foot pole.  They suggested junking it…)

Curb Appeal Always Includes Flowers

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

We met with the realtor yesterday and he did a walk through of the house to let us know what else needs to be done before we list.  He sympathized with our renovation fatigue and said this:  The bottom line is curb appeal, curb appeal, curb appeal, NO CLUTTER, and cleanliness. 

One of the best ways to amp up your curb appeal?  Flowers!

Adding flowers to your landscape seemed like a no brainer.  Here’s a lesson learned – save it for the end.  Don’t add your flowers until you are ready to sell.  Otherwise, you will have to devote too much time and effort into maintaining them and keeping them alive before you sell.  Case in point, we bought a ton of flowers at the end of May thinking that we wanted them to become well established before we listed.  I had visions of huge blooming mounds of marigolds and geraniums dancing in my head.  Two months later? Over half of those flowers are deader than a door nail.  With regular temps in the 100s, little to no rain, a crazy busy remodeling schedule, and two kids to raise the poor plants went the way of the dodo.

Our second attempt is looking good.  Lowes has hanging planters of flowers for $5 each.  The planters are stuffed with many plants and they are blooming like crazy.  I plan on planting an entire pot at a time in the ground.  For the yellow ones, the flowers are so dense I will subdivide each pot into two separate “plants”.  In the end, I actually saved more money by purchasing the hanging baskets than if I bought individual flower plants.

OMG, I have hostas in the front yard!  With all the junk we had piled on our driveway and the weeds a mile high, I was never able to tend to my front of house.

I gave all the shrubberies up front a buzz cut, pulled out the rotted fencing, weeded and mulched the flowerbed and dropped my pots in the ground.  It’s not a bad start.  I have one more layer of plants that I will add in between the bushes and flowers, but that step isn’t critical right now. 

As for my own advice about waiting to plant until the end?  You heard it here… We are 2 weeks away from listing – at least, that is what we are pushing for.  The realtor will be back next Tuesday to check on progress and the following week to hopefully post the house.  Fingers crossed!

Christmas in July – Kid’s Consignment Sale

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

This last weekend was the big biannual kid’s consignment sale at the state fairground.  This is the first sale that I haven’t volunteered for and shopped early for in 2 years!

With the baby boom over, there’s not much that we need right now.  I picked up a few books for Oliver that were more age appropriate (a.k.a. Not board books), a few Sesame Street videos, and a Sit-N-Spin.

Evelyn got a Bat and Wobble Penguin, but she was way more interested in whatever her big brother was doing!

All my items were $2 or less and I spent $21 the first day.  I went back on the 50% off day to buy some clothes for the kids.  Oliver has officially outgrown all 24 month and 2T clothes and Evelyn is in 12 month clothes now.  I spent another $30 for 26 items of clothes and the kids are set until winter.  If you have kids, consignment sales are the way to go!  With 2 kids, saving money is always a good thing.

Painting Ceilings

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Not a single person who has come into our house since we have painted the ceilings has noticed that we painted the ceilings.  However, they have commented on how big the place looks and how bright it is. It could be that we have finally gotten rid of enough “stuff” to make the place look bigger OR it could be that we’ve gotten rid of the grimy, dingy, grey ceiling that was holding us down.

We didn’t have a clue how we would paint the cathedral ceiling until we spotted an awesome extendable pole at Lowes.  We didn’t even extend it it’s full length!  (Um Dad, just how tall did we think our ceilings were?)

We hit the dining room, kitchen and living room in the same night.  We taped off the walls with plastic sheeting as we went.  We also piled as much as we could in the center of the room and threw another plastic sheet over that.  We did pretty good with the splatter control, especially later in the night when the roller was super saturated and paint was dripping off it in big gobs.  As you can see, it was past midnight when we did the living room and well into 2am until we finished the main parts.  I have to follow up later and cut in around the edges.

Can you believe the color difference!  We used Valspar, Ultra Premium, Interior Finish Eggshell in Ultra White 72322.  The living room alone took about 2 gallons.  Popcorn ceilings have a greater surface area than a smooth ceiling with all those nooks and crannies to fill.  Talk about a pain in the butt to paint.  The Eggshell finish does have a very slight sheen, which reflects light beautifully.  This is a big plus as we don’t have much natural light in our house to brighten things up.

In some areas, the popcorn started peeling off the ceiling and sticking to the roller.  You have to immediately stop, lighten the pressure and carefully roll/pull the brush off.  Load the brush back up with paint and roll it on in one direction only using very light pressure.  Roll in the direction that goes against the peeled up popcorn, like you were smoothing it back down.  If it starts coming off in large amounts, stop ASAP and let the area dry 110%.  Come back after the area has dried and follow the tips from above or use a paint brush and dab paint on the area.

We had thought about hiring someone else to come in and paint for us, but once we got organized it was a breeze.  We saved a ton of money and it was easier than we thought.

Here’s the list of supplies that we used for painting the ceiling:

* Roller brush appropriate for ceiling texture – the thicker the nap, the better it can handle popcorn ceilings.
* Roller brush tray and roller brush frame.
* Some sort of extension pole to screw into the end of the brush frame.
* A ladder to help you cut in the edge of the ceiling along the wall.
* A hat to keep the paint flecks and splotches off your head.
* Plastic sheeting out the wazzo to protect your floor, furniture, TV, walls, etc…
* Blue painter’s tape to hold the plastic sheeting in place.
* A 2 inch paint brush or angled trim brush to cut in the edges of the ceiling where it joins the wall and to work around light fixtures, etc…
* Paint.  A latex is easy to clean.  An eggshell finish gives off a very subtle “glow”.  (The matte ceiling paint seemed to suck light away and looked dark.)  If you have popcorn ceiling you will need more paint than you think to get the job done (ie. one gallon for the master bedroom).

Anyone out there have tips to share from your own ceiling endeavors? 

Clean Up Your Inside Doors With Paint

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

You never know just how grimy your house is until you start painting.  Once one area is fresh and clean the rest of the house screams – Paint Me!  It’s no surprise that the doors, which are some of the grimiest, scuffed up, and well used surfaces of the house, need a fresh coat of paint too.  With little effort, you can save money and do it yourself.  No need to buy new doors or hire someone else to help out.

Yesterday, the hubby set up a paint station for me out back.  We have 8 internal doors total.  He took off the hinges and the door knobs and let me loose.  TIP: Use a permanent marker and write on each door what room it came from.  Write in the space cut out for the hinge so you can see it after the door has been painted.

The first chore was to sand every surface of the door to 1) roughen the door so the new paint will stick and 2) remove loose and peeling paint.   For my purposes, sanding also served to clean the door.  Otherwise, you would need to wash the door down so the new paint will stick better.

If you are doing one or two doors, by all means use sandpaper and do it by hand.  If you are doing multiple doors (like, 8 of them) then do yourself a favor and beg, borrow or steal a random orbital sander or  you’ll be sanding those doors until the cows come home.  (To all my kleptomaniac fans, 2 Pennies does not advocate the stealing of sanders in any way.)

Orbital sanders are relatively inexpensive as far as power tools go.  I used a little $30 el cheapo Black and Decker sander for 10 years, before it went to tool heaven.  The hubby went with a more expensive replacement, because he wanted more power (don’t they all?).  It still works the same to me.

I used a white Valspar semi-gloss latex for the doors to make it pOp and because a semi-gloss finish is easier to clean.  I rolled the paint on with a roller meant for super smooth surfaces.  For the best finish, you need at least 2 thin, even coats.  I don’t care what the advertisments say, I have yet to use a paint that only took one coat. 

When I came back to do a second coat, I discovered a flaw in our brilliant paint setup – trees and other debris.  Most every door had some sort of gunk on it from pine needles to bird poop.  The hubby had to string up a tarp to protect my finish.  After a second first coat, we were back in business…until the thunderstorm.

By the third day, I was able to finish 5 doors 100%.  I was outside working on the last 3 (see pic above) when a storm rolled in.  Not only did it roll in, but it stayed for 5 days. 

The tarp was able to keep debris off my doors, but it collapsed under the weight of the rain.  I managed to haul in 2 half finished doors, but the 3rd door bit the dust.

With the hinges and knobs replaced, the new doors look spiffy indeed.  We can’t help but marvel at how clean they look!  I still have 3 doors to finish, but considering I’m juggling packing, moving, and kiddos I think I’ll be okay.

TIP: If you went through the trouble to take the door off the hinges to paint, you might as well paint the door trim before you put the new door back up.

Tips and Tricks for painting an interior door:

1) Remove hinges, knobs, hooks, and other items attached to your door.  Write which door goes where on the door itself in the space where the hinge attaches.

2) Setup a well ventilated workspace that is protected from the environment.

3) Wash or sand the door to prep it for paint.  Use a 120 grit sandpaper for the first run and then 220 to smooth everything out.  Random orbital sanders rock. 

4) Roll on your paint with a smooth surface paint roller.  Brushes will leave too many marks.  You may use either the roller or a brush for the edges.  Be careful not to paint over your door markings in the hinge area.  Also, be careful not to goop up paint in the hinge cutout or your hinges won’t fit properly.  Give it at least 2 coats and dry thoroughly before flipping door over.

5) Reinstall hardware and bingo – you have a nice and clean door!

Freshen Up Planter Box 1

Friday, June 24th, 2011

In 2007, the hubby built these wonderful planter boxes around some of our trees in the yard.  Since then, the stain has faded and the soil has eroded somewhat.  As a part of our curb appeal project, my mission is to refresh the boxes with more dirt, new stain, fresh plants, flowers, and mulch.

It’s been tough finding time to do this with 2 kids and a million things to do.  Yesterday, we pulled together as a family and tackled it while Evelyn took her late afternoon nap.  Even Oliver helped out bringing flowers from the back!

The hubby had already translplanted the mums and hostas from this box to the side yard.  I then raked the box clean and turned over the existing soil a bit.  The hubby threw in an additional 6 shovelfuls from our “excess dirt” pile from other projects. I split 2 geraniums to make 4 plantings and also planted a host of marigold flowers in between.  I’ve been told that marigolds will keep the mosquitos away.  I am crossing my fingers that it is true.

Luckily for me, I scorched and destroyed my favorite little sauce pot on the stove earlier this week.  The pan is absolutely perfect to use as a scoop to dig soil out of the big bags.  I added several pot fulls of Miracle Grow potting mix to each planting section and worked the soil in with my hand trowel.  When I planted each plant, I tickled the roots apart and nipped flower buds off to encourage new growth.

The last thing I managed to do before I passed out from 90+ degree temps and high humidity was to mulch with large pine bark nuggets.

While I was busy planting, Oliver helped clean up the random bricks in the yard.

Look at that form!  Children naturally know the proper way to move heavy objects.  How come we forget that as we grow up?

This morning I was able to duck out and restain the boxes while Evelyn slept.  The hubby had already power washed the box when he did the porch earlier.  I took a stiff broom to brush off the dirt and went at it with the stain.

Here’s our little box all complete.  Looks much better!  I will hit up the other boxes next week.  I have one little one up front and a monster one in the back.

Project Costs: $24.50
Time: 4 hours
2 Geraniums – $10
1 flat of Marigolds – $10
1.5 bag Pine bark mulch – $4.50
Stain – leftover from original project

To save money on labor costs, hire a toddler to help.  They work for cookies…

Shout Out to Cici’s Pizza

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

With everything going on right now, sometimes it is easier to run out and grab something to eat than cook up a meal at home.  With the four of us, its a little harder to find someplace affordable and tolerable for the kids.  Oliver and Evelyn don’t have the patience for a sit down restaurant and we don’t want them to become McDonald’s junkies.  Where do we go?

Cici’s Pizza!  We love Cici’s.  It’s an all you can eat pizza buffet with a salad and dessert bar.  It’s also amazingly affordable.  Two adults can eat and drink for less than $15.  Kids are free until 4 years old.  The buffet ranges from place to place, but it’s normally $5 or $6 dollars and the drinks are a little over $1 (water is free).

Oliver can down 3 or 4 slices of pizza (they are small) and a plate full of tomatoes and cucumbers from the salad bar.  The hubby likes to build a crust mountain and I get my fill of the sticky sweet cinnamon buns.

Evelyn’s too little to enjoy it yet, but she likes the atmosphere. :-)  In other words, her car seat fits perfectly in the booth so she can see mommy and daddy at all times.  We can get in and out in under 30 minutes, which is the perfect time for the kiddos before they start going nutso.

If you love pizza and haven’t been to a Cici’s yet, check out their website to find one near you.  When you get there, you can ask for your favorite pizza to be added to the buffet or you can have it brought to your table for no additional cost.  My fave is the BBQ pizza.  When I was pregnant with Oliver, the manager would pop one in the oven when he saw me waddle in and bring it to my table.  They aim to please and we are pleased every time!

Homemade Gift Wrap Using Stamps

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

For us, summer means lots of birthday parties and presents.  One of my favorite things to do is to decorate my own wrapping paper.  For pennies, I can make a unique and homemade design.

I love using the new clear acrylic blocks and rubber stamps.  The rubber stamps usually come several to a sheet for cost savings over the traditional one per wood block of yesterday.  The clear acrylic blocks also make it so easy to see where you are placing your stamp – no more guess work!  Since I’m only a part-time stamper, a nice multicolor ink pad works for me. 

I wrap the presents in plain drawing paper that I bought in rolls from Ikea.  The rolls are $4.99 each and are 98 feet long. That’s about 5 cents a foot!  Depending on the package, I may wrap the package before I stamp or after.  It’s all up to you and your creativity.

The colorbox stamp pad has “petals” that you can take out to use individually.  All the ink cleans up easily with soap and water.

Add some ribbon and for pennies, you are done!  This was something fun for a kid’s birthday gift.  I have several stamp sheets and can do more intricate and elegant designs, as well as some theme stamps for the fun of it.

Your initial investment for years of stamping fun is probably about $25-$30.  I always buy my stamps on sale or use the 40 and 50% off coupons for Michael’s and AC Moore.  The large acrylic block is $10, but with a coupon is $5.  The stamps range from $2 – $20.  I usually get my sheets for $7 or less with a coupon (and there are always sales on this stuff).  The ink pad was about $5 with a 50% off coupon and has lasted me 4 years so far.

I cannot wait until the kids are old enough to help me decorate.  It will be so much fun to have them stamp their own paper and doodle designs!

Frugal Easter Baskets

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

I made my kids Easter baskets for the first time ever!  I used little buckets and pails that I had bought on sale for less than a dollar each.  I figured that these would be more useful than baskets in the long run.  I then waited until the week before Easter to buy the little plastic eggs.  I ended up getting 12 for a dollar on sale.  The obligatory Peeps were 50 cents for 3 boxes.  I bought Oliver a book and Evelyn some bunny ears for one dollar each in Target’s $1 bins.

Instead of buying that fake plastic grass, I made my own for pennies.  I folded up 2 sheets of construction paper accordian style.  With the paper folded up like a closed fan, I cut off 1/4 inch strips.  I fluffed the pile, and voila!  – instant filler for my buckets.

Oliver liked his bucket.  I filled the eggs with strawberries and blackberries.  He was hooked!  He also got to eat one peep all by himself (the other ones vanished in thin air!).  He stuffed the entire thing in his mouth and after giving it a few chews he spit it out.  Smart kid…

Evelyn liked her little bucket too.  The Easter bunny brought her a spring outfit to wear, a teething ring, and some cool rabbit ears.

After chowing down on peeps, we tromped outside to hunt for eggs.  That wascally wabbit couldn’t pull the wool over Oliver’s eyes!

He very efficiently found every single egg and then dropped the bucket to go play on his slide!

The shirt says it all!

Their Easter baskets cost $7.50 to make, including $2.50 in fruit.  Evelyn’s outfit is a hand me down from a friend that she is now able to wear and her teething ring was a gift at Christmas that we had put away.  Everything else was on sale.  The best part is that Oliver can use his pail (and shovel) outside for play and Evelyn’s bucket is going in her room to hold tubes of butt-cream and nose spray.  The eggs and bunny ears will be stored until next year and the “grass” will be composted.

We hope you had a happy Easter too!

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