Monday, June 30, 2008

June 30-Deals of the Week

So, after a rather frustrating Sunday of losing documents, I left for work today armed with my shopping list. It's amazing how quickly one can shop if you walk into a store with very specific goals in mind!

Before work, I hit Walgreens. On my lunch hour, I ran to CVS with a friend of mine who's also into these games, and then after work I popped by Dillons on my way home. Lots of shopping? Yes, but well worth it. I hate having to do multiple shopping trips throughout a week.

Walgreens: Some of my Walgreens deals were not quite as nice as I would have liked; however, like I said, I'm allowing myself some screwups as I figure this out. Some of better deals though were as follows:
  • 3 cans of Pringles for 69c each. They were on sale for 0.79 each plus I had a 0.30 off coupon on three.
  • 2 bottles of Shout - $1.00 apiece. These were on sale for $2.50 each. Plus I had a $1.00 coupon, and then there is a $2.00 rebate which will be coming in the mail. Pretty good on that particular buy, I thought!
  • 3 - 27oz bottles of Johnson baby lotion/body wash. $5.99 each, plus 3 $1.00 Walgreens coupons, plus a $1.00 manufacturer coupon = $13.97. Plus I got a $5.00 Register Reward (RR) for next time which brings it down to about $3.00 apiece. As these tend to be astronomically expensive, that made me happy!
  • And there is a chocolate bar that is intriguing me and since it cost $0.99 and has a charming 0.99 rebate - I decided to go ahead and try it. Can't argue with FREE!

CVS - There's a mascara on sale for $7.99 get $7.99 in ECBs back; however, I had to take a rain check on that item since they're all out. I love free!

So my actual major purchase was soda. Lots of soda. For those familiar with my darling husband, he likes Mountain Dew. A lot. And it's one of those more expensive purchases. Granted, the amount he drinks of this green substance has gone well down over the last year or so, but it's still a regular buy around here.

Well, I've decided the Fourth of July is a great weekend for soda deals. I bought 4 12-can boxes of Mountain Dew for $9.00. Well, $11.00 with a $3.00 ECB. That's about the cheapest you can find them at.

Except for Dillons which was selling 5 for $2.20 apiece.

Let's just say that he is thoroughly stocked up on Mountain Dew for the next 5 months! And I'm okay with that. Hopefully by the time he starts running low again, there will be another good deal around.

Dillons is having some great meat sales this week as well as soda. Lots of discounted prices and B1G1 offers. That's actually one of the best ways I've found to buy meat affordably. Buy it when they do their B1G1 sales. I won't go through all my purchases there. Let's just say that except for chicken, we're stocked up on meat for the next few months. My freezer groaneth in satisfaction, one could say. All in all, with all the purchases from Dillons today (not just meat and soda, there were other deals I picked up as well), I spent $112 (before tax) with $80.03 worth of savings. I'll accept that!

I'm planning on seeing if I can give a total spent and total saved at the end of this month. See how well that lovely budget of mine is doing with these changes being put into practice.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's official

I've lost my mind.

I've had a biggish meeting that I've been planning towards the last few weeks. What day? June 24th - Tuesday. A day that I've been typing up the date/name in a lot of documents/emails. Getting dressed this morning I was thinking, "Oh, it's Tuesday the 24th. Got that meeting to deal with today..."

So why is it that when my baby sister tells me that she's flying in and I need to pick her up on June 24th, I automatically think - THURSDAY! Oh yes, I've been planning for several weeks to pick her up on a Thursday. The 26th. Which would be a problem given that she would then have been stranded at the airport for two days because she's coming in the 24th - today - a Tuesday!

How did this revelation suddenly come about? Because I emailed her to ask her for her flight number, and mentioned that I would definitely be there on Thursday to pick her up. And she promptly emailed me back with said flight number and a comment that she's coming in Tuesday not Thursday. *sigh*

The little gray cells have gone kaphooey.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Money Mini-Game #2: Walgreens

OK, so I've messed around a little bit with Walgreens (WG) the last few weeks, a few purchases here and there, but tonight was my first "big" min-game shop!

Grand total? $47.78. Doesn't sound that impressive, I know. However, I'm pretty pleased with the results, especially when I really break down the individual prices for everything. Still got some bits and pieces to figure out, but I think I'm getting the hang of it.

Here's the breakdown (for those who care!).
  • Benefiber - $18.99 (for 125 serving size). WG coupon - $3.00; Manufacturer coupon $2.00 = $13.99
  • Eclipse Gum (the only gum Chris really likes). Normally we buy the little packets that in a set of 3 each with 12 pieces. Can't remember the exact price off the top of my head, but around $2.50 for a sheet. Walgreens sale for a 60 piece packet at $1.99 each. Bought 3 for a total of $5.97. That will last him hopefully for the rest of the year! I've really rarely seen coupons or sales on this gum, so I decided it was worth stocking up on while I could.
  • OFF bug repelent (very necessary for disc golfing) - $5.49 - WG coupon - 1.00; - 0.75 coupon = $3.74
  • Lysol Toilet Cleaner (I make most of my own cleaners now; however, laundry detergent and toilet bowl cleaner I really haven't found anything I like). These were on sale for $1.50 for 2. I had two coupons for 50c each making my grand total - $1.00 a piece!
  • Aluminium foil - Walgreens had a coupon for 2/$1, and I bought 4. It's not like it will go bad, and for $.50 each, a pretty good bargain.
  • Walgreens Hydrogen peroxcide and rubbing alcohol - $0.99 coupon - bought 3.
  • Deerfield dried fruit on sale for $1.00 a box. Bought 3 boxes (raisins and prunes - yes, yes, I like prunes. Get over it!).
  • Encore Spices: I like fresh best; however, with my reputation as a plant killer and given how expensive fresh is to buy in the store - we stick with dried. Normally these are $.99 each. However, WG was running a special on 2/$1 so I bought the limit of 6 for a grand total of $3.00!
  • Wheat thins. One manufacturer's coupon for $3.19. Paid $0.40.
  • Anna's cookies (which I adore) - $1.00 a box (normally anywhere from $1.50 to $2.50 depending on where you shop).
  • Ziplock bag - on sale for $0.99 each - bought 4.

And my two favorites...

  • Cereal: 2 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios and 1 Fiber One. WG had a special of buy 3 for $7.00 get a $2.00 in-store credit for a future trip. Add to that $2.60 of coupons, and I got them for $0.80 each!
  • Edge Shaving cream (Chris' preferred brand) - originally $2.99. On sale for $1.99. Add in a coupon for $1.00 - grand total of $0.99!

Subtract an additional $5.50 for a purchase I had made a few weeks ago which gave me an in-store credit.

And there you have my total of $47.78 plus a $2.00 in-store credit for next time.

Total Savings? $43.38!

I love these games :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Money Minigames - CVS

My first "mini-game" I've been learning the rules of is the CVS game.

For those who are unfamiliar with CVS, it is a drugstore, similar to Walgreens, Rite-Aid, etc. Oftentime higher priced than just shopping at Walmart or other such big discount stores, but if you shop it right, can provide amazing deals! CVS has this charming system (if you're a member - free btw) whereby if you buy certain advertised items, you can get what they call Extra Care Bucks (ECBs for short). These ECBs are basically credit money towards future purchases from the store.

Of course the advantages for CVS is (a) if you want to use those ECBs, you have to shop there and (b) most shoppers don't buy just the few good deals from the store but wind up spending a lot more money on things that are more expensive had they shopped elsewhere.

So, what is the game?

Well, the first step is learning to shop only the deals. On my earlier post I talked about the generic rules of money games. To play a specific minigame, those rules have to be in place - or at least you need to be working on putting them in place.

That said, the idea is to find out which deals (you can actually use) are available on a given week. For example, the other week there was a deal for a mouth-wash which cost $3.49. However, in ECBS, you get $3.49 back to be spent in the store at a future time. So essentially, I got the mouthwash for free. Initial investment on my part? Yes. But when I shopped there this week for more deals, I already had that "money" credited to my account so I didn't pay for a new item that I bought and needed.

Now, add to those lovely ECBs - coupons.

If there is an item that is say, $2.50 and the ECB reward is $1.50. That means the item would cost $1.00. Now, let's say you happen to have a $1.00 off coupon. And all of the sudden the item is, essentially, free.

Now, do you get everything for free? No. However, as ECBs start rolling over from purchase time to purchase time and I am learning to be a smart shopper by buying only when I can get the best deals for my money, the money I'm actually paying from our budget becomes less and less.

Confused yet? Yeah, it took me several weeks of studying other people doing this (see Crystal's blog as a great resource). Let me show you what I have done the first two tries of playing this game. Did I succeed perfectly? Heck no! Could I have done better? Probably. But, I'm learning and it's fun.


Week 1: I bought $40.90 worth of items. Nothing we can't use. Nothing that at some point we wouldn't have bought. This is what I was talking about in the earlier post - you may have to invest a little bit first off to start earning some of the credit. With that $40.90 worth of product, I got back $20.47 in ECBs for a following purchase.

Now, confession time. I did make a mistake the first time around and bought something that I thought was one of the ECB deals but turned out not to be. I've already promised myself that as I'm learning some of this, if it's under a couple of dollars, I'll probably just deal with the mistake and let it go. Chalk it up to a learning experience. However, in this particular case it was more like a $16 mistake! So I did have to take a trip back to the store to return the one product and switch it out for the (much cheaper - think $12 cheaper!) product that the ECBs actually went with.

Lesson learned: READ CAREFULLY!

Week 2: This week is where the savings really are beginning to come into play.

I bought $37.32 worth of products. Again, all of them items that we need and use (maybe not need this week - but in the future they will be needed). Well, all of them except for a couple of items which will make good small presents sometime in the future and were a really good deal! Stocking up...

Subtract from my $37.32 - $2.97 worth of coupons.

Confession time: still learning to make sure I read closely enough. My total would have been $0.80 cheaper if I had read closely enough on one of my coupons. Oh well. Chalk it up to the learning curve!

Any ways, with my coupons, my total drops to $34.35.

Now, add in my ECBs from last week, and my total drops to $13.88.

Add into that a $4 off $20 worth of products coupon, and my total is down to $9.88!

And, truthfully, two of the items on that total were ones that I had to pay full price for because I couldn't find any coupons for them, they weren't on sale, didn't award ECBs, and we needed them immediately because we haven't established any kind of a stock-pile at home. That's what I was talking about in my last post about being able to control your own spending rather than the stores controlling you.

So, if we take the two items off that are a part of this whole learning process, it actually brings the total down to $3.30.

And the really cool part?

I earned $11.00 more ECBs for my next purchases!

Have I spent money that I wouldn't have otherwise? Absolutely not. And I'm definitely seeing how as our stockpile grows of supplies, meaning I only buy when items are discounted/couponed, and earning me money, the amount of money I will spend weekly shrinks astronomically.

Hee, hee. I love this game!

Money Game Rules

Obviously as with any game, there are rules that have to be followed otherwise the game doesn't work. The trouble is that unlike a board-game, I don't have a nice instruction book spelling out all the rules, consequences, etc. However, by study, prayer, and probably some mistakes along the way, they are decipherable!

And please note, as I write these, I know they are probably going to be changed, added to, and possibly even laughed at (by me at a later point or those who are much better at these games than I am). However, these are just the rules I'm observing that I need to learn to play as I learn how to more frugally shop. Am I queen and strict adherer of these rules yet? NO! But I'm getting it slowly.


1. Just like the old cliche "to make money you have to spend money", so it goes with starting to shop more frugally. Now, I'm not necessarily talking about a lot of money, and most people probably won't feel it if they're like me - looking to cut down on how much I spend any given month on groceries/toiletries/cleaning supplies, etc. But it seems a little cost is involved to get going.

For example, coupons - where do they come from? There are free printable coupons online, but not tons. The best places to get variety of coupons (that I'm finding) are newspapers and magazines. Even the websites that have the most number of coupons generally require a processing cost of some sort. Are there free coupons places, oh yes. But to find the greatest types you are going to have to pay for some.

Another cost is that with a lot of the stores that have the best deals to offer, you actually have to shop there first without immediate high-yield rewards. Once is all it takes to start though.

2. Stockpiling is a good thing. In order to not HAVE to buy something at full price, you have to not need it. If you have a stockpile of items and only buy when they are on deep sale, you become the controller of your spending more than the stores. You are not at their mercy.

3. Menus are good. Planning ahead means that I know what I have in my cupboards, what we are cooking next week, what we need, what we can use, what is just an impulse buy that really in the long-run isn't worth the money.

4. You have to know yourself and your family. For example, a couple of weeks ago we bought a spaghetti sauce that was a good deal cheaper than the brand we normally buy. However, Chris had it and, although he ate it, really didn't enjoy it very much (with my current diet, I didn't have the option of weighing in with an opinion). Was it worth the saved $1.00? Not really. Now what will be worth the saved money is if I learn to make my own spaghetti sauce that he likes better than store-bought. If I can do that, for cheaper than buying it in the store, then it's worth the money!

There are certain items that buying one brand over another just because it's a good deal or cheaper isn't going to pay off in the long run. Generic can be good or it can go to waste.

For example, I am a tissue snob. I will only use higher quality, soft, preferably slightly lotioned tissues - in my case I prefer Puffs. Kleenex or other rougher (cheaper) brands of tissues, I despise. Yeah, maybe you save a dollar or so, but is it worth a red, sore, scratched up nose? Not in my books!

5. Impulse buying can destroy good frugal shopping. Even one or two "small", "these won't really cost that much extra" items can ruin a good day's frugality!

All right. That's all I got so far. I'll probably be adding more as I discover them, but at least this is a start.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ontology and Frugality

Since even before Chris and I were married, we began discussing money and putting together our personal family philosophy regarding that necessary yet sometimes frustrating thing. I will always be so grateful for going to pre-marital counseling and really having some of the money issues brought up before us before we ever even said our vows.

The end result has been that with some stupid mistakes along the way (we started out our marriage with some credit card debt and accumulated a little bit more initially as we went alone), we have found our balance and in six years of marriage have worked very hard to pay off as much debt as possible - including our latest car. At this point we are left with three areas of debt: our house and both of us have student loans. I wish I could say those are going away quickly, but they're not. But at least we've made a start.

I got to a place, in the last few years, where I've been feeling pretty good about finances. Even taking into account the downsize in salaries from my teaching position to what we're currently living on, we're comfortable. Perhaps even getting a little lackadaisical at times.

The last few months, I've felt quite a bit of a nudging in my spirit and I have begun to question if we really are as careful and prudent as I sometimes think we are. And frankly, in doing research and through prayer and some rather random coincidences (although frankly I don't believe in coincidences. The God I serve is certainly bigger than that), I've begun to see a lot more of what we could be doing. And, indeed, I believe these are things we should be doing. These aren't necessarily drastic things; although, they will require some habit changes for us. But it's just one more step towards improving our stewardship of God's money. A responsibility I feel very strongly about.

So, I invite you to step into this new type of ontological journey with me as I begin to explore a lot of different areas of growth regarding our finances. Learning ontology as it relates to our finances as well as other areas of our lives. I'm probably going to have screw-ups along the way, and I'll confess to them. But I'm excited nonetheless.

Besides, my ever existent love of organization is having a field day with some of the ideas I've found!

Does that just confirm my nerdiness?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Getting Better

I've had a lot of people ask me if I think this new eating program I'm on is helping. It's been hard to tell because the changes are so gradual. Well, it WAS hard to tell. Until this past weekend. Then I did something kind of stupid but was well-worth it in inspiring me to continue with this crazy eating.

After about a month and a half of extremely limited eating, I was tired, crabby, and hungry...and would give anything to have fettucini alfredo. So, after discussing it with Chris, I gave into my craving and had some.

And then made myself thoroughly ill. Apparently, I really have been feeling better. The majority of my neck tension has gone away and simultaneously many of my headaches. The stomach issues have gone away. My allergies (after the initial spike) seem to be getting better. And I'm not as tired as I used to be.

After eating the fettucini, I immediately started dealing with the stomach issues again, by the next day my shoulders were like rocks and I had a headache for nearly three days. And I was exhausted nearly this entire week.

So, I hurt myself physically, but the incentive of seeing how much of a difference this eating pattern truly is making in my life was extremly beneficial.

The really interesting thing will be when I can start incorporating more foods back into my diet and finding out exactly which ones are the ones that make me feel so ill!

All in all - I paid a price for my giving into a craving, but I think the ultimate mental benefits will outweigh the temporary discomfort. It's a lot easier to do something when you know that it truly is helping!

One Year Ago Today

On this day, one year ago, we completely changed our lives. We drove away from jobs and home and loved ones to a new adventure of the very m...