Posts Tagged ‘saving money’

Marbles: Best 100 Bucks Ever Spent

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

We took advantage of the hubby being home all week to take the kids to Marbles one rainy afternoon.  I have to admit that buying a family membership was one of the best investments we made last year.  Normally, it would cost $5 for each of us (Evelyn excluded).  The family membership costs $100/yr.  We’ve well exceeded $100 of use out of it and have probably saved over $300 in admission costs.  If we only went once a month on First Friday, when the museum is open late, we’d save $80 ($180 vs. $100).

Evelyn is even getting some benefit out of it.  The baby area is covered in mats and she loves digging her little toes in to flip over.

She can almost go from her belly to her back too.  Pretty soon its crawling, then walking and no more baby!  Hmmm… maybe I’m getting rid of the baby gear too soon.

The boys came to get us when the museum closed.  Oliver loves playing with his daddy doing “big boy” things.  The baby area is too small for Oliver now.  Both the kids are growing so fast.  (sniff)

Clear a Slow Moving Drain with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

I have read from several sources that vinegar and baking soda will unclog a drain without using harsh chemicals such as Draino.  Now that I’m in my full post-partum hair shed-a-thon, we’ve finally gotten the opportunity to try.

Here is what you will need:

1/2 C. of baking soda
1 C. of water
approx. 1 gallon of hot water
drain plug

Helpful items: 1 wire clothes hanger, 1 paper plate/funnel, 1 chopstick or screwdriver

Okay, so here’s the gross part: the clog.  Our tub drained very, very slowly and got worse over a week or two.  It wasn’t fully clogged, but it was getting close.  When you are standing in 4 inches of water after a shower, you know its time to fix the problem!  We bent the end of a wire hanger into a small hook and fished out a hair clog.  The leftover gunk was extensive soap buildup and probably more hair down the line.  The drain was a little clearer after fishing out the hairball, but still clearly gunked up.

Using a paper plate as a funnel, we dumped the baking soda down the drain.  You’ll notice that the drain makes a 90 degree turn a few inches down.  The baking soda won’t magically turn the corner and pour down the drain.  You will need to coax it down with a chopstick or long screwdriver.

It took some fiddling, but the hubby managed to pack in 1/2 of cup of baking soda.

He poured in 1/2 of cup of vinegar and had the plug ready for the INSTANTANEOUS foam eruption (think back to your volcanoe science project).

When he capped the drain we could still hear the mix foaming and then a very audible “PoP” as the clog was pushed through.  We poured in the second half of the vinegar and plugged up the drain.  A much smaller pop was heard and there was much less push back from the foam.

We waited 15 minutes and then poured about a gallon of hot tap water down the drain.  First off, the drain was clean as a whistle!  The soap scum had vanished from the drain itself.  Second off, the clog was 100% gone and the water ran free.

Very Cool!  We were amazed at how well this worked considering how bad the drain was clogged. 

Here is more food for thought: 

A) We haven’t tried this on a clog with standing water.  I don’t see how it would work as the baking soda would dissipate in the water and wouldn’t react with the vinegar.  I could be wrong though. 

B) We also did not use boiling water as some other websites suggested.  We weren’t sure how hot our bathroom plumbing could stand.  212 degrees is a big difference from 120 and the hubby thought it might melt the caulk and cause leaks in the plumbing.  Hot water did just fine. 

C) I’ve read that it may take more than one application to clear the clog.  I guess that depends on what the clog is made of and how bad it is.  By digging around first, we were able to break through the first try. 

This treatment is suggested as a monthly ritual for all your drains to keep them clean and running free.  I am so impressed that I am adding it to our chore list!  Much less caustic than Draino and MUCH less expensive!  More money to save for a new house.

Love the Flexible Flyer Swing Set

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Last week, Kmart had super sales on old fashioned Flexible Flyer metal swing sets.   This simple set was $120, reduced by $50.  He loves, loves, loves to play outside and he has totally outgrown his simple plastic slide.  He could play outside for hours on end if we let him.

He is a still very shaky on the regular swings, so we attached the Little Tykes swing chair to the swingset.  We bought the toddler swing at a consignment sale last year for $3 and never found a place to hang it up. 

The first thing he did was climb up the ladder and slide down the slide.  After the first ride, he squealed and then ran right back to the ladder and did it again! 

I’d say the swing set was worth every penny.  Now I’ve got to figure out how he can use it into the summer after the mosquitos swarm in.

Do you have a swing set for your kids?  Is it metal or one of those new fangled wood fortress types?

Seed Starting

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

This past weekend I finally started my seeds indoors for the summer garden.  I’m about a month late, but I’ll still be able to transplant some seedlings near the end of May.

I have been saving up yogurt containers to plant my seedlings in.  I bought seed trays from Lowes for $1.50 a piece to hold my containers and I’m using Miracle Grow potting mix to fill the containers.  I also have one Jiffy 72 pellet set that I am using for bedding plants (impatiens and coleus).  I bought 1/2 of my seeds at Lowes and the other 1/2 I ordered online at Evergreen Seeds.  Evergreen Seeds specializes in Oriental/Asian herbs, fruits, and veggies.  To round it all off, I have a 4 foot long heat mat that I bought on e-Bay for $32 and 2 borrowed 4-ft long shop lamps that hold 2 flourescent tubes each for a light source. 

After last year’s horrible seed starting venture, I have found the mats to be a necessary expense.  In year’s past, I have never been able to start seeds without a mat.  The mat keeps the soil in the containers consistently between the 75 and 85 degrees needed for germination.  Without it, my results were always spotty and mold/mildew killed most my plants from the cold and wet conditions.

We drafted all sorts of wacky plans to build a structure that would suspend the lights over the seed trays in a single and double stack formation.  We even went so far as to buy $60 worth of PVC pipe and fittings, which we returned after a visit to Costco.  There in Costco, they were selling a 5 wire shelving rack unit for $80.  The shelves are 4.5 feet wide and are adjustable.  We could have several rows of plants growing at different heights if we wanted to and the shelves could be repurposed in the future in my hubby’s dream workshop or garage.

With that said, we drilled drainage holes in all the yogurt cups and filled them to the brim with potting soil.  We thoroughly watered the cups and the pellets in their respective trays, then drained the trays of excess water after 15 minutes or so. 

To plant the seeds I sprinkled some onto a white paper plate.  I then moistened the tip of a chopstick and dabbed at 2 or 3 seeds to stick them to the end of the chopstick.  I then deposited the seeds into the potting mix.  For the superfine seeds, like mint, I used a toothpick to plant the seeds with. 

The paper plate was very handy to use as a funnel to pour the excess seeds back into the seed packets.

For my yogurt cup tray, I wrapped the top tightly with 2 sheets of plastic wrap.  For the pellet tray, I just put the lid on it.  Once some seeds sprout, I will vent the trays until all the seeds have sprouted.  At that point, I will remove the covers entirely and turn on the flourescent lights.  I labeled the outside of the trays to keep track of what I planted.  I will be making some individual plant markers this weekend for each cup.

Here’s what I planted:

6 Thai Holy Basil
6 Thai Chili
3 Purple Eggplant
3 Thai Green Eggplant
3 Siam Queen Basil
2 Oregano
2 Thyme
4 Peppermint
4 Mint
36 Impatiens
36 Coleus

Once the seedlings are a couple weeks old, I will move them to the upper rack under the second light setup, sans heat mat.  I will then start another batch of bedding plants with the heat mat. We should have a constant flow of seedlings being grown and transplanted from now until the fall when I grow Pansies and Mums in September.

Have you ever started seeds before?  Share in the comments any tips and tricks you have for growing platns indoors.

Planting Holly Bushes

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

After having our weekends derailed by rebuilding the porch for the past 2 weeks, we have finally planted our holly bushes.  These were the bushes that we had on our February “To Do” List.  We faithfully checked our local garden centers all through February and they didn’t get any bushes in until some time in March.  Home Depot had small holly bushes on sale for $2.50 each.  Lowes had the same bushes for $6 each.  We ended up buying 18 bushes from Home Depot to create a hedge along two sides of fencing in our “back 40”.

Evelyn got to charm daddy while mommy checked the placement of the bushes.  She was so excited to be with him she barfed all over and had to go inside!  That’s baby love for you…

We planted the bushes 4 feet away from the fence and 4 feet apart from each other.

Here’s one of the reasons why we need the hedge.  We have dogs on pretty much every side of our house.  Oliver likes to go up and poke his hands through the fence at the animals.  Not a good idea.  Currently, we have a couple pieces of plywood and a shredded tarp tacked to the fence.  We chose holly because 1) they are fast growers, 2) they are nigh indestructable/drought tolerant, and 3) they are prickly and hopefully will be good child deterrents.

Evelyn changed into one of Oliver’s outfits and rejoined the party.  This might be Oliver’s old jumper, but Evelyn is just as cute in it!  It’s for 6 month’s old and is already too small for her.  She’s growing as fast as those holly bushes!

Oliver had a piece of mommy’s pop tart – a rare treat.  He actually carried it around the yard savoring it with tiny nibbles for a good 1/2 hour.  (His hair looks much better, doesn’t it???)

We ran out of hollies faster than I thought.  We did make it to one of our neighbor’s wood panel fence, so that’s not too bad.  Our plan to shut out the world is in motion.  Only one length of fence open to the public is left and then we can potty train Oliver outside bare butt without anyone watching! (just joking … or are we?)

How do you screen out unpleasant views from your home?

Tending to my sweet peas

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

My sweet peas are doing great!  Both the sugar snap and the Evelyn varieties.  I had to leave this sweet pea inside due to the 40mph wind gusts outside while I tended to my spring garden.

The peas have bloomed prolifically and are ready to be thinned out.  If you don’t thin them, they will start to choke each other off and die.  The roots will compete for nutrients and the tendrils will literally grab the plants on either side and choke the stalks.

The arugula and lettuce look great, but will need to be thinned next weekend.

Here’s what a 4 week old pea plant looks like.  You can see a good root is starting to form at the base.  I pulled this one out of curiosity, but the rest I used a pair of scissors to snip the plant at ground level.  When the plants are very close together you risk disturbing the soil by pulling the plants out of the ground.  You can also pinch the plants with your fingers at ground level.

Looks much better doesn’t it?  I may have to come back and thin out a few more plants in a week or so.

While I was weeding the garden, I noticed these sprouts poking out from under the wood beam I was kneeling on.

It looks like there were seeds left in the lettuce packet that I had tucked under the beam to use as a marker!  Experimentally, I broke this bunch up into small chunks and planted them in the ground.  I wonder if they will continue to grow?  With all the rain we’ve had, I haven’t needed to use the soaker hose once this past week.  So far so good!

Did you start a garden yet?  How is it doing with the strange weather we’ve been having?

How to Cut Hair with a Weedwhacker

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

No, I didn’t really cut my son’s hair with a weed whacker – though it looks like it from most angles… Normally, I cut his hair with scissors.  Lately, he has been screaming bloody murder when I get near him with the scissors.  Oliver doesn’t seem to mind the electric clippers though, after watching Daddy cut his own hair with them.

This was my son 2 days ago.

This is only half the hair we ended up cutting.  I probably should have stopped at this point!

This is the after!  He wouldn’t let me get near his ears with the trimmer, so I’ll have to go clean those up with the scissors after he stops having nightmares.  The top is 1 inch long and the rest is 1/2 an inch. 

The hubby was shocked and a bit horrified from the sound of his voice when he saw the pic I sent him at work.  He says it makes Oliver look like a Vulcan.  He then asked me not to cut Evelyn’s hair…

I think that after a few days it will look just fine… I must say that it is much cooler for him now that the temps are rising.  The poor guy was always sweating with the mop from before.  As he grows, I might bring him to get it professionally cut someday, or maybe for a special event like his birthday.  Otherwise, this is the 7th trim I’ve given him since he’s been born.  That’s $175+ in our pockets.  With all that money saved, I can buy him a baseball cap to wear until his hair grows out a bit!  :-)

I can’t be the only one doing home haircuts out there!  Anyone have a hair raising story they want to share? 

Blowout on the Highway

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

This was our rear passenger side tire.  Totally shredded, both sides.

My hubby and son were heading out to borrow a power washer from a friend and traveling about 70mph on the interstate when, BLAM!!! the tire blows out.  They were able to safely pull off on the shoulder.

He calls me to tell me that Oliver is freaking out being strapped alone in his carseat as cars and trucks thunder by while daddy is changing the tire.  I got dressed and packed Evelyn into our other car to go rescue Oliver.  Poor Oliver’s eyes were wide as saucers when we showed up and he was ready to get the heck out of the van.  What an adventure we had!

From start to finish it took about 5 hours to change the tire, drive to a repair shop, swap out carseats and screaming, hungry, and sleepy children, and get the van back to the house.  I left the hubby at the shop and he managed to talk them down $20 on the new tire.  It never hurts to ask for a discount, especially if you are the only customer.

Needless to say, I didn’t get to plant my lettuce, radishes, and onions today.  :-(  On the plus side, we made a trip to Lowes and Home Depot to buy small holly bushes.  Lowes had them for 6 bucks each, Home Depot had the same ones on sale for $2.50 each.  We bought 6 of them and will go back tomorrow for another 6.  We always do a price comparison between those two stores when we go out to buy something from either one.  One of them is always less expensive than the other for various items.

Let’s hope tomorrow is a better day and we get our seeds and plants in the ground!

Preparing the Spring Garden

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Ready to get dirty?  Two weeks ago, we prepped the spring garden. 

My hubby turned over a plot of dirt 18 ft long by 3 feet wide to a depth of about 8 – 10 inches.   We ran it down the length of chain link fence to take advantage of a natural trellis for our sugar snap peas.  I had previously gardened here before and had amended the soil with a ton of compost in the past.  Can you believe this used to be red clay???  I was serious when I said a TON of compost…

My sweet baboo helped to turn over the dirt with his daddy.  He worked on his little plot for almost 1/2 an hour!

We used a nifty little hand tiller to break up big clumps of dirt and to pull small weeds out.

Next we layered on the Moo-nure! (I love saying that)  Following the instructions on the bag, we only needed 1/2 the bag.  The hubby raked it into the soil and leveled out the garden bed.

We are using the chain link fence for the bottom half of our pea trellis.  We staked some simple fence posts into the ground and clipped in some wire fencing for the top half of the trellis. 

We are using a soaker hose for the spring garden due to the nature of the plants.  We are growing sugar snap peas, lettuce, radishes, and green onions.  Since there will be so many of each plant, it made more sense to use a soaker hose and deeply soak the ground.  We are using drip irrigation for the summer plants as those are lesser in number, are much larger, and require more water. 

We laid the soaker hose out overnight to uncoil and relax.

The next day I dug a 2 – 3 inch trench and buried the hose under the ground.  I did one straight run about 6 inches away from the fence to water the sugar snap peas.  Then I came back down the plot and made big curves. 

I choose to do curves for 2 reasons:

1) I didn’t want to spend the money on extra soaker hose to make 3 straight runs in the garden.
2) I’ve found that plants like leaf lettuce and arugula grow great between the curves.  Not too much water and they can be grown in clusters.

I placed broken pieces of sticks at the peak of each bend to mark where the soaker hose was buried.  I can reasonably follow the path from stick to stick to know where to plant.

After installing the hose, I ran a test for 15 minutes.  You can see my pattern and saturation after 15 minutes.  During the growing period I’ll water for about 30 minutes, once a week.

We are ready to plant!  The only thing we’ve purchased so far was the Moonure and the soaker hose.  The rest we already own or we’ve borrowed from friends or neighbors.  You’d be surprised at how much you can save if you ask around.

Over $750 Saved by Shopping at Consignment Sale

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

It’s taken us almost a week to clean our consignment sale finds, organize the new items, and put away the old.  We went out and bought 6 more clear Rubbermaid bins to store the things that Oliver’s either too old or too young for.  The clear bins let us see in an instant what is inside each box.  This is incredibly helpful as we recycle the items for Evelyn as she grows into them.

Oliver loved these trucks.  They are in perfect condition and look like they were never used. 

I searched for toys appropriate for a 2 year old.  The gear board is for an older child, but we couldn’t resist spinning gears for Oliver.  We picked up the cutest little tin lunchbox for him to tote his toys in when we travel or go on playdates.  He hasn’t quite figured out what the See N Say is supposed to do, but hey – it spins!  The xylophone is surprisingly in key.  We will bring it out when we have our music days along with the other instruments we’ve picked up from each sale.  The bowling set will be excellent for building his gross motor skills.  He hasn’t figured out how to roll yet, but we still have tons of fun knocking them down.

At every sale we look for wood puzzles or wood Melissa & Doug learning games.  A few of these items are too advanced for him and will go up in the attic, such as the alphabet puzzle, farm maze, and lacing game.  The rest are right up his alley and were even brand spanking new!  None of these items were over $3.

Bring on the books!  I also hit up the book section at every sale to keep adding to our library.  Oliver loves reading, eating, and drooling on board books.  Right now he is big into trucks, cars, and anything with wheels.  He also likes animals.  All of the books are used, some gently, others not so.  Most of the books come packaged together.  For example, we got 3 Touch and Feel books for $1, 3 Things That Go books for $2, and 5 Truck and misc books for $2.  The advanced books go up in our attic.

There’s even stuff for mommy to read!  I’m also slowly building up our flashcard and educational items box.  The kids are too young for them now, but they may be useful in the future.  The flashcards were about $1 a box.

The more expensive items were still a great deal!  We found the high chair that we wanted for Evelyn.  It straps to your kitchen chair and saves the floor space from having a standalone high chair.  Oliver has his potty, so we can start teaching him how to “go” and I finally have a real diaper bag!  It’s taken me this long to figure out what configuration I need and lo and behold, the first bag I picked up suits me to a tee!  I can finally get rid of the free hospital bag that’s starting to wear through at the bottom.

Oliver’s most loved new item is his train table.  He literally spends hours each day playing with it.  I help him put the tracks together and then we run the trains around it.

He also likes his bead wire toy.  The hubby says he’s never known a child that actually plays with these things, but our son loves sliding the beads along the wires.  And guess what?  The beads spin! :-)

That’s pretty much all we purchased at this sale.  I didn’t get pictures of the shoes, the play kitchen and play food.  We spent $250 and ended up blowing our budget by $50.  I found the prices for most of the items brand new and they totalled $1,014.87.  I did not add in the costs of all the individual books, the trucks, some toys, the shoes, or all the play food.  Buying secondhand, we saved well over $764!  I dare say that we are closer to $1,000 if I were to go back and include the other items.

Here are the take aways from this post:

1) Consignment sales are our biggest money saver.  Please check them out yourself.

2) One person’s junk is another person’s treasure.  Please don’t throw away your items.  Become a seller, earn some money and make other frugal families happy.

3) Plan, plan, plan and be organized.  I asked for help from the blogging community before we went to the sale on what to buy a 2 year old.  I did research online and asked friends who have kids.  By creating a list, we were able to maximize our savings and only buy what we wanted/needed.  If you do not, I garuntee you will get overwhelmed, start impulse shopping, and spend way more than you wanted.

For reference, here’s my price list.  Most of the items I found the exact same brand online.  For a few, I picked the closest match:

roller coaster bead maze by anatex – 69.99
bowling 24.99
mother goose 14
take and play thomas 22.99
gears 39.99
cups 5.99
xylophone 36.95
summer infant step by step potty 21.99
diaper bag 30.79
kitchen 78.99
pots and pans 24.97
baking 24.97
plates 24.97
high chair 64.99
zoo – 25.99
abc – 14.99
farm puzzles – 11.99
magnet fish – 12.99
lacing 9.99
large peg – 14.99
farm maze – 16.99
touch and feel 6.99
big truck – 5.99
can you see – 13.99
bb flash cards 5.49
eric carle flash – 15.95
play food step 2 101 piece set 39.99
play food small world 19.99
lunch box 11.99 tin
transforming train and activity table – 140.00
120 piece train set – 120.00
fisher price trike – 39.99

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