Sunday, May 31, 2009

Being Intentional


I was just reading another blog that I enjoy and my mind was brought out of the deal seeking clouds and back to reality. The blog was about being intentional in our blogging. I need to keep reminding myself that this blog is not just a deal hunter's blog, but a blog to preach to myself the things I need to hear over and over again. If someone else benefits from it, fantastic. If not, I am a better wife, mother, daughter, and friend for having blogged.

I am thinking ahead to this upcoming week. I have laid out a goal for myself in my spending for groceries that frightens me a little. $200 for all groceries for this month. I have already spent $25 (we ran out of dog food - our pooch has a sensitive tummy and needs the expensive stuff - I DID have a coupon though!) and wonder if I can reach my goal. I need to be intentional.

I need to be intentional in how I plan. Intentional with the menu. Intentional with meal prep. I can't get lazy night after night and opt for a quick and easy meal - I need to spend a few extra minutes here and there making some things like bread, pizza dough, and cookies from scratch.

I invite you to join me on this adventure of cutting way back in grocery spending. Coupon like you never have before. Plan menus and meal prep like crazy! Save as much money as you can. Summer is here and we can all use a little extra cash for vacations and recreation activites!

I am up much later than normal enjoying the quiet of the house. We went to the Saturday night service at church so we get to sleep in as long as our dear son lets us. Tomorrow I will get some yeast and some extra flour. I will try my first loaf of 5 minute artisan bread. I was intentional in not purchasing a loaf of bread when I was out tonight to force my lazy butt to make my own bread.

Time for bed. Time for visions of Little House on the Prairie to dance in my head.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What a Shopping Day!


Well, I went out and did some shopping today. I didn't plan things out very much and just went to see what deals I could find. I went to Old Navy and Target and spent a total out of pocket for both stores of $24.62 and got a $5 gift card back from Target! Here's the breakdown!

Old Navy - I used a 10% discount from doing the online survey within 5 days of my last shopping trip. I will always do these from now on! The total WOULD have been $68 at full price!
  • 2 Women's graphic T's on sale for $3 each ($2.70 each after 10% Q)
  • 1 Men's polo style shirt, clearance plus extra 50% off for a total of $1.79
  • 1 Men's striped T shirt, clearance plus extra 50% off for a total of $$2.92
Target - I had $15 in gift cards from a deal I did a few weeks back with Swiffer products (free after gift cards and rebate). I did get a few things that we needed that were not on sale such as baby food and printer paper. Total at full price would have been $54.45. My subtotal was $28.91. I used $15 in gift cards and spent $13.91 out of pocket and got $5 back!
  • 6 Gerber 2nd food 2-packs at 87 cents each
  • 1 Bic Soleil Bella on sale from $6 to $4.39 - $3Q
  • Arm n Hammer refill - clearanced from $3.79 to $1.88 - $1Q
  • 2 Arm n Hammer Cleaner - clearanced from $2.70 to $1.37 - $1Q
  • 1 Betty Crocker cookie mix - on sale from $1.70 to $1.49 - $.40Q
  • 1 box 80 ct. Hefty Tall Kitchen bags - $6.99 - $1 Target Q - $1 Manu Q
  • 2 Two-pack Bounty paper towels - clearanced from $3.94 to $1.98 - two $.25Q's
  • 1 750 ct printer paper - $5.49
  • 1 Nice n Easy Haircolor clearanced from $11.98 to $5.94 - $2Q + $5 GC to use next trip
My total for the day WOULD have been $122.45 and I spent$24.62 for a savings of 80%!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Living with Intention


in⋅ten⋅tion⋅al

[in-ten-shuh-nl] –adjective
  1. done with intention or on purpose; intended
  2. of or pertaining to intention or purpose

in⋅ten⋅tion⋅al⋅i⋅ty, noun
in⋅ten⋅tion⋅al⋅ly, adverb


1. designed, planned. See deliberate.


1. accidental.

A few months ago, I was horrified at how time was sand slipping through my fingers. It hit me all of a sudden that my son wasn't going to remain a baby forever. He will grow. He will do. He will learn. He will leave. The time I have with this sweet boy in my care in this house is but a breath. I have been sitting back just waiting for something to happen, feeling as if I am on summer break. My "summer break" has lasted nearly a year now since I finished teaching. I'm not going back. It is up to me to structure my life and to live intentionally.

This series is preaching to the choir. God put this area of my life on my heart. I have succumbed to laziness. I have been a victim of the law of inertia - as in "an object at rest will stay at rest..." although I haven't felt like I have been resting. I spend a lot of time being busy but not getting much done. Organization has been out the window. The house has been a mess.

I need to be intentional - to be diligent in my role as a wife and mother. My first goal - be intentional with our menu. This month starts our car payments so money will be extra tight for awhile. It is time to stretch that dollar like never before. My goals in this area are:
  • plan a menu for all meals - 3 meals a day
  • incorporate more healthy and less processed elements into the menu
  • grocery shop no more than once per week (deal hunting is different as it normally does not use out of pocket money once you get started - I am using gift cards/ECB's from previous promotions and deals at CVS, Rite Aid, and Target)
  • spend $200 or less on groceries for the month (including paper goods and health/beauty items)
  • pay for groceries with CASH from an ENVELOPE
I am excited about one aspect of eating less processed food. I plan to try making bread again. I made our own bread for an entire summer once and LOVED doing it. The bread was so yummy and fresh and healthy. I no longer have a working mixer with bread hook, so until I get the food processor I want that does bread dough, I plan to try making artisan breads. Check HERE for recipes and instructions for super simple artisan breads!

I want to start getting to know those of you who read my ramblings. Let me know what areas you need to work towards being more intentional.

Even More

What a day for good links! Here are some more!

A Few More Links

I will be back later with another post, but for now, here are some good links!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Link List


I wanted to share some links with you today. There is no rhyme or reason to the subject matter, just things I hope you enjoy! Some are freebies, some are articles.

Remember - you can still enter to win a free Bic Soleil Bella razor by commenting on posts this week. You can comment on every post for multiple entries in the contest! Contest ends Friday evening. The comment doesn't need to be spectacular at all - just a hello will do!

Links:
This last link sort of kicks off a topic that has been on my heart of late - being intentional in life. This article highlights the importance of being intentional in parenting. I am preaching to myself here!

Come back later for more deals and info! Come back and comment often to snag a free razor!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gratituesday: Family and SLEEP!


I am so thankful for my husband and son. God blessed me abundantly. My son is nearly 8 months old now and was 4 weeks early. We have struggled with sleep all along. Gone are the days of nursing ALL NIGHT LONG with only 5 minute breaks here and there in the hopes of gaining a few ounces. Gone are the days of worrying if he's doing well, eating enough, sleeping enough. Things are easier now in many ways. He sleeps in his crib most of the night waking 2 - 3 times to eat. At his last waking he comes to bed with us and has recently let us sleep until about 8am each morning! He naps at roughly the same times every day although those naps rarely last more than 20 minutes unless he is sleeping on one of us. He is so mobile now - just about crawling. How this precious time of snuggles has flown by! I am also so thankful for how my hubby cares for us. He saw how tired I have been with the night wakings and my inability to nap during the day that he took the morning shift yesterday and let me sleep in until nearly 11am! It is amazing what a little extra sleep can do!

Go check out what others are thankful for at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day. A day of picnics and parades. A day to spend time outdoors with family and friends. A day of celebration. A day of remembrance. A day devoted to heroes.

Are there any who served to protect our freedoms in your circle of family and friends? I want to honor those in my circle today. My uncle, father-in-law, grandfathers, many friends, and now several past students have all served or are currently serving this great nation.

I encourage you to not forget the meaning of today amidst the celebration. Thank those who served. Thank those who are serving. Pray for them. Kristin over on the We Are THAT Family blog has a great post about a way to serve those who are currently serving. Click on over there for the details. Have a safe and happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My First Coupon Confrontation


I am still all a-twitter about this (no, not Twitter - I'm not tweeting) over 24 hours later! This moment is marking the official start of my "coupons are my crack" mentality. Here's how it all went down.

My scenario:
1 Contour Blood Glucose Meter on sale for $19.99
1 Contact Solution (Rite Aid brand)
1 small box Always Infinity

I used:
1 manufacturer coupon for meter for $20.00
1 store coupon for contact solution for $1.00
1 manufacturer coupon for Always for $1.00 (plus $1 SCR - Single Check Rebate)
1 store coupon for $5 off of $25 purchase

What went wrong?
I thought this transaction through for quite awhile since it was the first time I tried to do a meter deal (fyi - meters are often used to get the total amount high enough to use a $/$$ coupon - only when shopper has a coupon making the meter free. This results in free money from the $/$$ coupon and sometimes from overage with the meter coupon). I knew I needed to have more than $25 BEFORE coupons were scanned. I gather my loot, my Q's, and my baby and head to the register. I hand over my loot and Q's and immediately knew I had a problem. The cashier looks at the Q's, gives me a funny look, and walks over to another cashier and whispers to her. She comes back and starts ringing me up but gets confused with the coupons (after scanning just the meter - not ANYTHING else) and goes back to talk to the other cashier. This other cashier comes over and looks over my purchases and Q's and let's me know I cannot use all 4 because my total wasn't above $30.oo. I argued a little and eventually gave in and had them take out the $5/$25 Q so I could get on to Kroger (cashier said it just wouldn't work - never tried scanning the Q).

After ringing everything up, I just couldn't let it go. I asked again why it wouldn't work. She kept insisting I didn't have a high enough total. I am guessing that she had confused the meter coupon and thought it was a $/$$ coupon as well. After I assured her that the total of $25 was met before coupons just like the store policy states, she asked yet ANOTHER cashier to come over. At this point, there were 3 lines of customers waiting to check out and I had all but one cashier working to sort out my coupons. By this point, I didn't care - I was getting a little angry and feeling like they thought I was trying to do something illegal. The third cashier got out her calculator and my receipt and coupons and did the math. She looked at the other 2 and said that it should have worked (she didn't realize they wouldn't even TRY to scan the Q). The other 2 apologized and told me they had an issue with something similar where it didn't work. The third handed me a $5! My total out of pocket for $35 worth of product was $4.71 and I am getting $1 of that back as a SCR!

I happened to talk with the other person who tried a similar deal. She had the same problem but spoke to the manager to resolve the issue. She was there before I was so the cashiers should have understood what was going on. Oh well! I got my $5!

As for the meters, I know I will be amassing them. I plan to donate them to a shelter in the area. I just had to share my little victory!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Car Buying Basics - Take Three


It's time to shop! I am going to give you a bunch of websites and tools to use in your hunt and haggling. Unless you choose a no-pressure/no-haggle dealership like CarMax (although the one time we shopped there, it was no haggle but HIGH pressure), you should be prepared to negotiate price.

If you don't have a lot of time to research every aspect and you know the make and model of the vehicle you want, Consumer Reports has an amazing tool to help you negotiate a good price. This tool was one of the best purchases we made in this process. One other tool that you should not skimp on is the Carfax report. This report will show you some of the repairs done on the vehicle (if done by a garage that reports repairs - many do not), if the odometer is accurate, and if there has been major damage (rebuilt after accident, flooding, etc).

Be prepared with information to back up both the price you are offering to pay for the vehicle and the price you want for your trade. When the dealership gave us the $2000 offer on our Honda trade, DH pulled paperwork out from NADA and Kelly Blue Book showing trade values. Having this information at his fingertips was quite helpful when the manager took him to the computer to pull up their own information.

Once you have gathered your information, have fun! Go for a few test drives. Put the vehicles through their paces. This is a major purchase. Many people spend more time and effort for a stereo purchase than they do for a vehicle purchase. By doing a little research before hand, you can save a lot of money.

When it is time to negotiate, don't be afraid to walk away. Here are tips that served us well:
  • Don't say right away that you plan to trade something. The trade-in should be a separate transaction so you know what you are actually paying for the car and what you are getting for the trade.
  • Don't be afraid to walk away. Many times, we got the dealership's best price on a certain vehicle and said, "Thank you" and went on our way. Every time, we got a follow up phone call. Armed with these "best prices," you are able to use the lower prices as leverage to bring the higher prices down. In our van transaction, the manager actually called another dealership with a similar van that was priced less. At the time, the dealership was offering a pitifully low price on our trade and had mentioned that his competitor may have the van for less money but wouldn't offer as much for the trade to make up the difference. DH called his bluff. When the manager called his competitor, he learned they would offer a full $1000 more for the trade.
  • Don't assume the deal is done when a price has been agreed upon. Some dealerships may try to recoup some profits through creative financing. Make sure you understand the terms completely before signing anything.
  • If you are buying a used car, don't be afraid to ask to have your mechanic look it over. Don't be afraid to work some repairs into the deal. We had a check engine light on at the second test drive. In our deal, the engine light and whatever problem caused it would be fixed before we took possession. It took over a week for the problem to be fixed correctly, but now we have a great vehicle in great running condition!
Happy shopping!

Diaper Study


Arquest is doing a size 4 diaper study. Basically, you get free diapers and a survey to complete when done. Many times you will get a small check as well. DS is ALMOST big enough for size 4's so I may call!

The number to call is:

1-888-DIAPER2

Ext 634 for boys (Cheyla)

Ext 646 for girls (Georgia)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Car Buying Basics - Take Two


So, now you have an idea of what type of vehicle you want and the rough price range you hope to pay. When we were in this step, we had narrowed our search down to a mid-sized SUV, minivan, or large sedan - something that would fit 2 and potentially 3 carseats that we could use as a family car for long trips with luggage and the dog. We had pretty much decided on an SUV or sedan with 4WD/AWD (we live in the mountains and winters can be rough) but we knew we wanted a minivan eventually.

You have also made the decision about what to trade or sell if applicable. We went back and forth on this issue as well. My car was a 13 year old beater that we just replaced the transmission and knew needed brakes and knew had some sort of leak (turns out it just needed a new power steering pump - not too pricey). My car had a Kelly Blue Book trade in value of a whopping $500. DH's car was in much better shape - a 1999 Honda Accord that drove great. The biggest problem was it was a stick. He had developed foot problems and has been getting shots in his left foot. Shifting wasn't very fun for him. I hadn't driven the car in over a year. I know I am able to drive it and now that most of my anxiety issues have resolved, I could relearn, but we also knew that when I am pregnant again, I would quickly be unable to reach the clutch with my belly in the way (I could no longer drive that car at 5 1/2 months pregnant). Lastly, the Honda had a much higher trade-in value. In the end, we traded the Honda. We thought about doing a private sale. We had done that in the past and decided it wasn't worth the extra hassle for the relatively small amount of money we'd make above trade-in value.

Let's talk finances. I am a huge Dave Ramsey fan. DH and I took the Financial Peace University class last year. We've always been very careful with our money and have tried our hardest to stay out of debt and to pay off my student loan. We have never had a car payment. We never wanted to have a car payment. When we looked at our situation, we weighed everything carefully and decided to finance a small amount and pay extra to get it paid off as soon as possible. If the medical conditions weren't an issue, we definitely would have paid cash. Dave Ramsey suggests always paying cash and never buying brand new unless you have over a million dollars. He feels that unless you have a LOT of money, you just can't afford to take the butt kicking in depreciation with a new car.

I strongly urge you to consider saving up to pay cash for a car. Pay yourself a car payment into a savings account each month. Scrape together as much cash as you can. If you are in dire need of a car, Dave suggests buying what you can with cash even if it is only a $1000 car. Drive that car while you continue saving up money. Once you can, sell the $1000 car for $1000 (no depriciation left at that level) and use what you saved up plus the sale price (ex. $1000) to move up to a $2000 car and so on until you are in a comfortable car.

If you are unable to pay cash outright, I suggest keeping your cost down as much as possible and financing as little as possible. Shop around for rates before purchasing. You can get some quotes, ideas, and information from Bankrate.

Now, for the fun parts! You are just about ready to start test driving! I don't have the willpower to go for test drives without being at the point where I can buy. DH can. Stop back tomorrow for some great links to fill in all the information gaps so you will be ready to shop smartly and buy smartly. I leave you with a FANTASTIC article that looks into the inner workings of car dealerships and car salesmen. This is a long article but a very worthwhile read. Enjoy "Confessions of a Car Salesman."

Kayleigh


Rest in peace, sweet baby. I "met" this family on babycenter and then through their blog. She is no longer in pain and is dancing with Jesus.

Kayleigh Freeman

Monday, May 11, 2009

Car Buying Basics - Take One

And so begins the series on car buying. My husband and I tend to research any major purchase we make to the point of overkill. I take that back. Overkill is an understatement. We do A LOT of research. This week I will write about what we learned through our car buying experiences. I feel like we got a good deal. I'll start with that and let you decide.

Our deal. We got a base model 2005 Nissan Quest minivan with 71,000 miles on it. The asking price was $9100. We paid $8000. The offer for our trade was $2000. We got $3250 for the trade. We got a minor engine repair covered before the purchase plus have free tires and oil changes for the life of the car plus an engine warranty as long as we follow the strict rules on the oil change program. The only thing we need to pay to stay in the oil/engine/tire program is $35 every 6000 miles for a tire rotation. After all our research, we saw this as a pretty good deal. We have a very reliable vehicle that suits our needs and will grow with our family.

Now, step by step, how did we get to that deal? I'll start with the first step - Know Your Needs. This step may seem obvious. This may seem easy. For us, this may have been the hardest step. Ask yourself:
  • What is my price range? (I highly recommend paying cash for all cars - more on that later)
  • What type of vehicle do I need? (sedan, coupe, SUV, minivan, truck, etc.)
  • What size do I need of that type?
  • What features do I need? (4WD, AWD, manual, automatic, etc)
  • What bells and whistles would I like to have?
Once you narrow down your needs/wants, you can start your research. Spend a little time learning what vehicles are available in your price range. Get to know what is a good price for the vehicles on your list. Here are some websites that can be great help in this step:
Another part of this step is deciding if you will be trading in a vehicle or selling one yourself. Now is a good time to get to know what your vehicle is worth. Use those same sites above to get a good realistic idea of what your vehicle is worth. If you are trading, this information can save you a lot of money. If you are selling it yourself, you will be able to price it appropriately for a quick sale.

Check back tomorrow for step two!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Great Blog Posts


As my little boy went to sleep for the night early, I have had a few moments tonight to catch up on reading other blogs. I wanted to highlight a few that caught my attention - namely one about saving money with a toilet and another comparing savings at regular stores vs. warehouse clubs.



I also found some good ideas and some freebies to share.
Tomorrow I promise to begin a series on car buying!

Happy Mother's Day


I just wanted to wish a very happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! This is our first and it was a blast! My mom (and dad) came to visit and we all spent Saturday shopping and then watching the Penguins WIN then had a Sunday filled with church, special breakfast of Bob Evan's blueberry crepes, lunch cooked out on the grill (it is FINALLY not raining here), and then concluded with an afternoon at the zoo! My little one was awake for about half the zoo trip and really enjoyed looking at the ground as we walked! He also liked the wild dogs and the big cement turtle he got to sit on.

I hope you all had a blessed day!

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Host of Links


There are so many links I want to share so I thought I would bite the bullet and just post them all together before I forget what I wanted to post in the first place! I'll try to give some detail surrounding each. Hope you enjoy!

Deals -
  • Huggies Rewards Program - Huggies has a new rewards program called Enjoy the Ride. Currently, you can earn points through referrals (please let me know if you want one! I can help get you started with codes too), watching short videos, posting pictures, and taking polls. Eventually, codes will be found on Huggies diaper packs once the package redesign is complete and in stores. Many online friends of mine have won prizes in their instant win game. The game costs 2 points to play and you can win various gift cards ranging from $10 - $25 at Applebees, Subway, Gap, or just a prepaid Visa debit card! I haven't won yet, but I am hopeful!
  • Caregivers Marketplace - Anyone who cares for a child under 5 (healthy or otherwise) or an older child/adult with special needs qualifies for this program. Caregivers collect recepts for supplies and mail them to Caregivers Marketplace. The caregiver then gets a rebate check for specific items. One example, Huggies participates in this program so if I purchase Huggies diapers, I can get a rebate check. I would save receipts for 5 or more jumbo packs of diapers (doesn't have to be all on one order) and then fill in a rebate form and mail them in. In a few weeks, I would get a check back for $.75 per pack of diapers.
  • Free Trees and Plants - Just like it sounds, this is a place to get free trees and plants and just pay shipping. People with disabilities that have trouble finding work elsewhere get jobs fulfilling these orders as well. Check it out for your next landscaping project.
The Church

I have such a heart for the local church. At some point, I will post more on this subject and I hope to get many who are much wiser than I am to post about the biblical importance of the local church. In short, as Christians we need to be part of the local church and support the church both with time and with finances. Most of all, we need to support our local church with prayer.
  • Mark Altrogge - Up until about 4 years ago when we moved away, we called Sovereign Grace Ministries home no matter where we lived. Mark was our first pastor as a couple. He gave us fantastic advice right after we were married. My husband and I were contemplating a move after graduating college. Mark sat down to counsel my husband and told him that first and foremost, even before finding a grad school or a job, we should find a good solid church. He told us how many people move and assume they will find that perfect fit church only to spend months or years church hopping and not being fed spiritually. We were so thankful for his advice and with the help of the internet, we were able to find a church home before we made any of our big moves. I could go on forever on this topic, but that will wait for another day. I wanted to post this interview done by CJ Mahaney of Mark Altrogge. It is quite informative and very entertaining. I also want to be clear that we have since had several wonderful church homes and pastors (as well as currently) and I hope to share from those churches as well in the future.
  • Ian - As part of praying for the church, I point you to Ian's blog. Ian is the son of the pastor who married us nearly 9 years ago. Ian was in a terrible car wreck 2 years ago and nearly lost his life. After a very long time in a coma, he is beginning to talk on his own again. His story is a testement to God's grace and power.
  • Kayleigh - I do not know Kayleigh or her parents. I found this blog through babycenter.com. Kayleigh was born at under one pound. She desperately needs our prayers now.

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