Friday, December 31, 2010

finance friday - use cloth

Happy New Year (almost)!

With a new year comes new resolutions.  For some, it is working out.  Which my husband will start reminding me tomorrow as the gym will be full of people and he will have to wait for the equipment he uses, but I always remind him that by mid-January, it will be back to normal.  What's your resolution?

My resolution this year is to provide 52 tips for saving money in my Finance Friday post.  My hope is that this will allow you to implement the change, if you desire.  I think a large part of why individuals do not do more about saving money is because they believe it takes time.  I have been in this situation and know that more time isn't easy to find in a busy life.  However, these tips will be quick ideas to save money over and over.

Tip #1:
Use cloth napkins everyday.


This may seem fancy.  If your dinner table is anything like mine, there is usually food all over, so you may think that cloth napkins won't work for your family.  However, think about how many napkins you use every night.  Let's say you have four people in your family and you use four disposal napkins per meal.  Depending on what napkins you buy, you could be going through a package of cheap napkins in just a few weeks.  So you are having to buy napkins every few weeks at around $3 a package that can add up fast.  About a year ago, I bought eight cloth napkins for everyday.  I believe each set of four was around $8.  So for around $16, I purchased napkins for years.  I bought white so I could throw them in with a white load because we never have a completely full white load, so I am not wasting more water and energy washing these.  I don't bleach them because I don't care if the napkins have stains.  However, if you don't want your napkins to have spaghetti stains, I would suggest buying darker colored napkins.  As an added benefit to saving money, you would be reducing garbage going to the landfill.

Enjoy cutting the crust off your budget. 

If you implement this change, comment and let me know how it is going.

Friday, December 17, 2010

finance friday - upromise

upromise logo
This post reminded me of another way to pay off some student loan debt.  I have seen Upromise all over the place the last couple of years, but I never looked into it because I thought it was just a credit card that earned money rewards.  I realize now that I missed out on lots of money by not signing up earlier.  There is a credit card available and you would earn money if you signed up for it, but there are many ways to earn money without signing up for the credit card.
About two months ago, I read a post on Upromise and decided to look into it.  I signed up that day, used a promotional code that I found using Google, and starting earning money that we will use to pay off our student loans faster.  If you don't have student loans, you can start saving for your child's college tuition, paying your tuition (if you are in school), or any number of other things related to higher education.

Learn more about Upromise.  Here is what we are doing to earn more money through Upromise.
  • We signed-up for dining rewards, so we earn money at participating restaurants using our credit or debit cards that are registered.
  • We registered our credit cards and debit card with Upromise, so we earn money through the dining rewards, as mentioned above.
  • We sign in to Upromise and link to our online shopping sites to earn more money (like Target.com, JCP.com, etc.).  You will earn a different percentage of total sale depending on the retailer.
  • We registered our store card from Rainbow and log in once a month to "clip" eCoupons, in which the savings go directly into our Upromise account.  For example, if you "clip" a eCoupon for $.50 off salad dressing, buy that item, swipe your store card, you will earn $.50 off in your Upromise account.  Each month the eCoupons change and you need to log in to clip the eCoupons.
Because we are using the money to pay for our student loans, we need to wait until we have $25 in our account to request a distribution.  After only two months, we have earned $14.37.  My goal in 2011 is to earn a total of $100 to put toward our student loan payments.

Here's to finding more ways to pay down debt.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(re)decorating

After living in our place for almost three years, we decided earlier this year, that we want this to be our permanent home.  Until now, we really debated moving to the suburbs versus staying downtown.  There are some things that we know would be easier in the suburbs (think schools), but overall, we are committed to living and raising our family downtown.

With this new level of commitment, we decided that we needed to make a few changes to make this space work for us long term.  Obviously, we can't add square footage to our condo unit, but we can increase storage, better utilize our space, etc.  In deciding this, we started and finished decorating the kids' room.  Next, we started looking at ways to reduce our energy bills, so we started with insulated curtains.  In doing this, we decided that we needed to update the master bedroom.  Join us over the next couple of months as we finish the master bedroom.  We have big plans and ideas, but we will need to save up some money before completing the project, so we'll document step-by-step our projects until the end.

Monday, December 13, 2010

free yogurt

Yoplait Million Cup GiveawayYoplait yogurt is giving away a million free yogurt cups.  Sign up here to receive a coupon for one.

Continuing to cut your grocery budget.

Friday, December 10, 2010

finance friday - bills on a budget

Your Heating Bills!Our heating system is electric as opposed to gas.  Electricity is generally higher in cost than gas, so our bills in the winter tend to be pretty high.  Some of this is due to heat loss because of the large windows throughout our home (read next week to find out what we are doing to stop this heat loss).  However, to avoid the unexpectedly high bills in the winter, we are on a budget plan with Xcel Energy.  Every month, our bill is the same, even if our electric usage fluctuates.  I believe gas companies offer the same plan, but we don't have a budget plan for our gas usage because the bill is so small.  Call your electric and gas company to see if they offer a similar plan.  It makes budgeting and planning much easy when you know exactly what your bills will be each month.  Oh and be sure to confirm that there are no additional fees for this plan.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

give a blanket, get a sub

Bring A Blanket

Tomorrow, December 5, Subway is giving away a free 6" sub for a clean, gently used or new blanket.  Here is the link for more information: http://twincities.subwayfreshbuzz.com/

Friday, December 3, 2010

finance friday - bill pay

Bill pay is a great way to save a little money.  With the increasing postage rates, free bill bay reduces each bill by $.44 each plus the expense of an envelope if one isn't included with the bill.  If your current bank doesn't offer free bill pay, look at smaller banks.  We currently bank at a small bank about two hours from where we live because of the great interest rates and free bill pay.

Never missing a payment is another added benefit of bill pay.  Once we receive a bill in the mail, I log onto our bill pay system and enter it immediately to pay at or around the date that the bill is due.  Then I enter it into our Quicken program, file the bill away, and forget about it.  Quicken allows me to see that we have the money to pay the bill and future dating the payment allows me to forget about my bills because they are all entered and will be paid on time.

Here's to minimizing spending...

Friday, November 26, 2010

home repairs

Home repairs can be expensive and eat away at the budget, but after some ups and downs in the last month, I am determined to save some money in the home repair category.

Our fireplace has been broke since last March, so about two weeks ago, I was determined to figure it out. It stopped working when we replaced the batteries in the remote. Both my husband and I had each looked at the fireplace several times to no avail. However, I decided that if I couldn't figure it out, I was calling someone to fix it. After looking through the owner's manual and figuring out that the remote control figure was not the standard for this model, I was able to re-program the remote and get the fireplace up and running. So exciting, we were able to save some money and enjoy the fireplace again.

However, last week our dryer stopped working. Imagine having no dryer with laundry for two kids.  We have been surrounded by clothes drying throughout the house.  The drum wouldn't turn, so we could easily narrow it down to the motor or the belt. After speaking with several repair companies, we were looking at around $230, assuming that it was the belt. One of the repair companies had me look through a few things and determined that it was likely the belt. So I went looking online to see what I could find. After searching, I really wanted to figure this out on our own. Last Saturday, my husband and I took apart the dryer and determined that it was the belt. I was hoping the belt just came off the drum, but unfortunately, it was broke. Then, I called the manufacturer and order the belt for $45. I wouldn't recommend doing this all of the time, but we thought we would at least give it a shot and it worked out.

Here's to saving some serious money on home repairs.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

thanksgiving

As I look back over the last year, I have a lot to be thankful for.  Here's a few points in my life that I truly appreciate:  two healthy kids; a supportive, loving spouse; a happy and fun home; an amazing extended family; a well-balanced, successful career; volunteer committees that strive to really make a difference; and lastly, my great blog readers - thanks for entertaining me with your reading.

Whether your traveling, cooking, relaxing, or working on Thanksgiving Day, be sure to take time today to appreciate everything that you have.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

splish, splash, i was taking...

... a bath.  Tonight, I was helping my son with his usually nightly routine - dinner, bath, play, and bed.  Tonight he was in the tub playing with his bath toys.  We were picking out letters and saying the letters with corresponding words.  We spelled out a few words - Up, Down, Nate.  It was a lot of fun... but it reminded me that everything we do daily to cut the crust off is just that - cutting the cut off to get to the good stuff.

After we spelled a few words, he began splashing, laughing and having a blast... all the while I was getting soaked.  Some days this would incredibly frustrate me, but tonight I just enjoyed the moment I had with my three year old.

Remember to enjoy the small moments.

Friday, November 19, 2010

friday finance - black friday

I am one of the crazy shoppers out fighting the crowd on Black Friday.  I am so crazy about Black Friday shopping that I usually start planning out my shopping trip starting in early November when the Black Friday ads are leaked or released and posted on sites such as bfads.net and blackfriday.info.

I use a spreadsheet to plan out my trip with a list for each location which includes the price per item.  One of the big benefits of doing this is that I am not tempted to buy that door buster deal that I didn't need when I was planning out my list and definitely don't need now that I am in the store.  Some additional benefits:
  • I know exactly how much I am going to spend before I leave the house (at an insanely early hour).
  • I prioritize locations for the best deals.
  • I usually finish all of my holiday shopping.
If you are planning to fight to crowds next Friday, hope you are able to cut your spending a bit by getting some good deals.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

scrapbooking frustration

Scrapbooking has been exhausting.  I finally broke down last week and decided that I was going to get rid of all of the photos that I had printed at one point or another.  So, now I can focus on getting pages done digitally.  I started designing pages with a software that I purchased, but that took way too much time.  Then, I decided that I could breakdown and do the pages through Shutterfly for over $6 a page.  Can you tell I am frustrated?  I was willing to pay $6 A PAGE to finish my scrapbook.

But now, I am focused.  I am working with a software called Smilebox.  Right now, I am on the 14 day trial, but so far I really like it.  I have been using the templates and inserting pictures, then saving the layouts as jpeg document.  Once I have 2010 done, I am going to upload these jpeg files to Costco.  For $2.99 a page, I can have all of my scrapbooking done within a few weeks.  Today, I was able to get 15 pages done.  After three weeks of trying to figure out how I can get this done, I am no longer frustrated but focused on the end goal.

Cutting the frustration out of scrapbooking.

Friday, November 12, 2010

finance friday - student loans

I am starting a new weekly post titled Finance Friday.  My hope is that every Friday I will write about some finance topic that we practice or hope to practice in the future.

Today's post is about student loans.  If you hold a four-year degree or higher, chances are that you and/or your spouse have some student loan debt.  For my household, we have prioritized on paying student loans for the last four years and have reduced that debt by half.  How did we do this?

Set up a payback schedule
We use a spreadsheet with all of the loan detail, so we can adjust the numbers and see how the payoff time frame and interest amount changes.  This allowed us to layout the total amount we owed, how much interest we would pay, and how long we would be paying.

The turning point for us was a variable interest rate on one of our loans.  At one point, it had reached over 7%.  This is low compared to credit cards, but was 4% higher than some of our other student loans.

Here's how we set up our spreadsheet:
  • Each of our loans has a separate tab.
  • The columns are: Payment Date, Payment Amount, Monthly Interest, Principal Payment, Remaining Balance, and Interest Rate (if you have a changing interest rate).
  • We set up formulas to calculate the total amount paid, interest paid, and principal paid.
This first step was the key to understanding our debt.  Prior to this, we made payments and knew that eventually we would get a letter stating that the loans had a zero balance.  Now, we make payments, know how much interest we paid, and know the exact date that our debt will be paid off.

Prioritize loans
Before we started looking at our student loans, we paid off our other higher interest debt.  This allowed us to focus on student loans with any additional money we had left over every month.  If you have other debt, prioritize these loans first, using the methods in a similar way.  When you realize how much money you are spending on interest (especially interest that isn't tax deductible - did someone say credit card debt), it is easy to make the loans more of a priority.

Even after we paid off the variable rate loans, we prioritized loans based on the amount of principal remaining.  This allows us to have a short-term goal, which is attainable.  So for 2011, our goal is to pay off one more student loan and only have one remaining.  If we paid these loans equally, it would take a couple of years before either of the loans were paid off, but by having a short-term goal, it keeps us focused on eliminating the debt.

Paying more than the minimum
This may seem obvious, but it really works.  Has anyone noticed the new breakdowns on credit card statements?  It is amazing how paying a little extra than the minimum can save time and interest.  If you aren't able to afford more than the minimum, start by trying to round to the nearest dollar, adjust your spreadsheet to see how much of a difference that makes - it might not be much, but every little bit helps.  Since we have been paying more than the minimum for some time, our statements currently show that we owe $0, but because we have our spreadsheet, we are able to see that if we paid nothing, we would add about $30/month in interest to our principal payment.

Another factor into paying more than the minimum, if you are deferring your student loans for whatever reason, try to make some payment.  Depending on the loan and deferment type, the loan may or may not accumulate interest.  If interest accumulates, try to make payments that at least match the interest amount to not add to the principal amount.  If interest is also deferred and you are able to make some small payments, these payments will help reduce your debt quicker, since your payments are going directly to the principal amount.


Hope this helps you cut the crust off your debt...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

kids' artwork

The final decorating project for the kids' room revolves around the great artwork that comes home from school.  Every week, our daycare sends home cute art projects that the kids complete.  Some of these go into the scrapbook (or will eventually when I finally get to starting that).  However, I really wanted to be able to display the artwork for a bit.  The fridge is not an option because ours is stainless steel and does not hold magnets.

I bought these frames at Michael's for around $7.99 each and used 40% off coupons for each, so with tax $5.14 each.  I decided to paint the back of the shadowbox in magnetic paint ($8 for a can).  This was painted with three coats of magnetic paint.


Then I painted one red and one blue to match the room.


I added some scrapbook paper for less than $3 total that matches the color scheme of the room to put into the shadowbox.  Here's the end product with two magnet clips for the artwork.


Project #2 done - kids' room complete!  Here is a rundown of the kids' room progress and some pictures of the final project.  Hope you enjoyed the journey.  I enjoyed breaking down the process of completing the kids' room.

On to project #3 - scrapbooking... I have put this off for three years, so here's to hoping that I can get this all cleaned up.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

modern wall circles

When I first saw these circles, I loved them, especially after discovering the theme for the room.  These circles would be perfect painted in multiple colors on the wall.  However, I couldn't choke down the $33 for a set of four, considering I was looking at needing at least four sets.  It would still be around $130, but I didn't love the circles that much.


I looked for weeks to find a deal on the paintable circles and then I found a post about DIY paintable circles, using embroidery hoops.  So, here's my play-by-play on making this wall art.

I picked up a variety of hoops in different sizes from Joann's Fabric for around $20 total.  I used only the interior of the hoop for the circle.




I painted the hoops in red, blue, yellow and brown to match the bedding.  Then, set them out on the floor to see what would work best on the wall, however, I changed a few things as I was putting them on the wall.  Here's the layout on the floor:




To mount the hoops to the wall, I drilled at approximately 45 degree angle through the top and bottom of the hoop and then used a small nail through each drilled hole.

Here's the final result on the wall.


One project left to go for the kids' room and it's complete, but not hung on the wall yet.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

designing something new

The kids' room is almost finished, but I am on to designing a new room - this blog.  I redesigned the blog with a simplier look.  Let me know what you think.  If you don't like it, can't read it, or would change something let me know.

Continuing to finish the kids' room, and start the scrapbooking...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Naming Art

One art project done, three to go.  This next art project is focused on the kids' names.  I purchased these letters at Michael's for around $30 total and then purchased some additional paint.



At first, I wanted to decorate the letters with circles and stripes, but after looking around the room and all of designs that would be up, I decided to paint each name in one solid color. 

Here's Nathan's name finished in blue.


Here's Madyson's name complete in red.

And the names together on the wall.


Two projects to go to finish the kids' room.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Furniture... last minute arrival

Our furniture finally arrived about two hours after I went into labor.  That's right - two hours after.  We were at home getting everything cleaned up for the furniture to arrive the evening before Madyson was born when I went into labor.  I knew that I had some time to get to the hospital, so we decided to wait for my mom to arrive to watch Nathan and hoped that the furniture would arrive before we had to go to the hospital.  As our luck would have it, my mom arrived minutes after the furniture arrived, so it was chaos.  However, I really wanted to get all the furniture out of the boxes and get rid of the cardboard and styrofoam, so we unpacked the dressers and nightstand.  Then, we finished getting packed, slept for a bit, headed to the hospital, and Madyson was born about 14 hours after we had the furniture unpacked.

Thanks to my dad and Nathan for getting the crib together while we were at the hospital.  We absolutely love the furniture.  Find out how we picked this furniture here and the bedding here.





Getting closer to finishing the kids' room.

Bunk beds

After buying the lumber back in March and April, the bunk beds are finally complete.  My husband and dad built the bunk beds from the plans at Knock Off Wood.  They started working on the beds at the end of May and continued to figure out different ways to ensure that the bunk beds could adjusted to two separate beds as well.

Here is the long awaited pictures of the final product (including the new bedding):



Here's to getting the room complete... checking off item #2.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

On Saturday, October 23, I will be walking to make strides against breast cancer.  After having my daughter just a little over two weeks ago, this walk has even more meaning to me.  I am walking to fight against breast cancer to create more birthdays for future generations.  My goal is to raise $150 to help fight this disease.

To donate or join the team, click here.

Thanks for all of your help in supporting Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wall Art

Here is the first project for some wall art for the kids room.  I bought two 12"x12" canvases at Michael's last week for $4.79 each.  Then six small bottles of paint for $.85 each.



I started by painting one canvas yellow for Madyson and one blue for Nathan.



I let Nathan start by painting his canvas with green and orange.  Then, we added his hand prints in red.



For Madyson, I did her foot prints in purple and green.  I wanted to do her hand prints, but I thought it would be too difficult to keep her hands open.



After both canvases were dry, I took paint markers (which I had previously purchased for a different project) and added their names to the top of the canvas.

Total for this project was around $15, but I have lots of paint left over for some additional projects.  Once I have the room complete, I will add pictures with these on the wall.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Decluttering

Since I am now off work for the next couple of months, I finally have some time to do all of the projects that I haven't had time to complete.  Here's my to-do list:
  1. Clean closet
  2. Finish kids' room
  3. Scrapbooking (this has piled up over the past three years)
  4. Start and finish re-decorating master bedroom
  5. I am sure I will think of more things over the next couple of weeks.
So here's to checking off item #1 on my list.  This week, I cleaned out my closet.  These garbage bags are all of the extra clothes that we will be donating.



I don't have before and after pictures, but here is an after picture, so you will have to imagine adding four garbage bags full of clothes, plus two bins of maternity clothes.





Last month, I read two blogs that talked about O Magazine's article by Martha Beck's called "The Joy Dividend".  In the article, she broke down shopping and money into four categories:

  1. I need it and I love it
  2. I don't need it, but I love it
  3. I need it, but I don't love it
  4. I don't need it and I don't love it
This week, I went through my closet with these four categories in mind.  I decided that everything in my closet should fit into the top three categories because I will wear it if I love it or if I need it.  For example, I don't really love socks, but I clearly need them (especially in Minnesota).  However, when buying any new clothes, everything needs to fit into category one or three.

With these categories in mind, I tried on a lot of the items in my closet.  I was true to myself in the fact that I asked myself - do I love this?  If not, it went to the donation pile.

This project felt so good.  This is one of the many projects that was weighing me down.  Now, on to finishing the kids' room.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back on Track

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  Our second child was born about 10 days ago, so things have been a little crazy.  We are working on finishing decorating the kids' room, so look for lots of posts over the next couple of days.  Thanks for understanding!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grocery Budget 9/12 - 9/18

Sorry I missed an update on last week's grocery budget.

Here is this week's grocery breakdown:
Rainbow Foods
Quaker Instant Oats: $2 - $1 printable Q (doubled) = free x 2 boxes = free
Cap'n Crunch: $2 - $.50 printable Q (doubled) = $1
Quaker Instant Oatmeal: $2 - $1 printable Q (doubled) = free
Quaker Oatmeal to Go: $2 - $3 in-ad Q (for purchasing 5 quaker products) = -$1
Cottonelle Toilet Paper: $5.99 (in-ad Q) - $1 Q from All You (doubled) = $3.99
Total after coupons and discounts: $3.99 (plus I will use the $5 gift card that I purchased last week to get to the $25 regular price minimum to double Qs)

Target
Bananas: $.49 x 3.16 lbs = $1.55
Braeburn Apples: $.99 x 1.99 lbs - $1 Q = $.97
Red Grapes:  $1.99 x 2.40 lbs - $1 Q = $3.78
French Bread:  $2.29 - $1 Q = $1.29
Deli Turkey: $4.10 - $.50 x 2 Q = $3.10
Bread: $1.39 - $.50 Q = $.89
Sobe Water: $1 x 2 = $2 - $.50 Q x 2 = $1
Almonds: $3.99 x 2 = $7.98 - $1 Q = $6.98
Total after coupons and discounts: $17.60

Total for week: $21.59

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Maximizing our food budget

This summer was our first summer participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  We did this to get fresh, organic vegetables from a local farm. This experience has been wonderful and I hope to have a weekly update next summer with all of the fun things we did with the veggies. However, this summer was a bit overwhelming because some of the items we received, we had never heard of, much less used or bought. It’s sad to say, but the first week, we had quite a few veggies go to waste. However, when the second week rolled around, we were prepared with all sorts of ideas. By the fourth and fifth week, we just had too much squash, we couldn’t keep up. So being my frugal self, I thought about the different ways we could use it and decided to try blending it into a puree. This worked great. I cut the squash in half, put the inside face down, and baked the button squash at 400 degrees with a little water in the pan until the squash were soft. Then, I blended them into a puree in our blender. This first batch I put into one baggie and froze it to be used in some various dish that I am trying to add some nutrients for my son.

However, last week as I looked in our vegetable drawer full of more squash, I realized that I could make some organic, fresh baby food. So last night, I started the adventure. I baked the squash as indicated above and then poured it into ice cube trays, since each ice cube is 1 oz. I ended up with 36 oz. of frozen squash in 1 oz. size portions. I also ventured on cooked carrots. I steamed the carrots for 15-20 minutes to ensure that they were extra soft. Then blended them in the blender with a little bit of water for consistency purposes. I put this puree in the ice cube trays and ended up with 14 oz. in 1 oz. portions. After the portions were froze solid, I moved them to baggies and labeled with the appropriate name.

Here is the frozen squash in the ice cube trays.
Last night's final product

Overall, I would say it was a success and I plan to do it more often over the next couple of weeks – apples, bananas. The apples will be coming from the trees in my parent’s yard and the bananas are ones that are leftover and placed in the freezer for banana bread. I am not sure how the bananas will turn out, but stay tuned for an update. The vegetables I used last night were essentially free, since they were part of our CSA and would have been thrown out because we couldn’t keep up with the squash and carrots. Plus, they are organic, fresh vegetables, so not only did we save a lot of money on baby food, but we are also providing better options for the baby.

Do you have any great ideas for baby food?

Continuing to cut the crust off to get to more economically green options…

Grocery Budget 8/29 - 9/4

Here’s this week’s grocery breakdown:

Rainbow
(2) Oscar Meyer Turkey Franks (reg. price $2.79): $1.50 - $1 printable Q (doubled) x 2 = -$1.00
(4) Old Orchard Juice (reg. price $1.69): $1 x 4 = $4 - $1 printable Q (doubled) = $2
(2) Chinet Paper Products ($3.19): $1.98 - $1 printable Q (doubled) + $2.50 - $1 printable Q (doubled) = $.48
Old Spice Body Wash - $3 x 2 = $6 - $3 (BOGO Q) = $3
Total after discounts and coupons: $4.48 (only $1 towards grocery budget)

Target
Milk: $8
Yogurt: .49 x 10 = $4.90
Eggs: $1.19
Doritos: $4 (this was a last minute purchase for a change in our plans, so we normally wouldn’t purchase this and it ends up being bad planning as it will be 16% of our weekly budget)
Mozzarella Cheese: $2.29 x 4 – 2 Q for $.50 off (8 oz. blocks) = $8.16
Corn on the cob: .20 x 3 = .60
Strawberries: $1.99 x 2 lbs. = $3.98
Bananas: $.49/lb x 4 lbs. = $2
Deli Meat: $3.99/lb x 1.5 lbs. = $5.99
Cheese: ½ lb. free (coupon for free cheese with 1.5 lbs. of deli meat)
Bear Naked Granola: $3.99 x 2 – $3.99 (BOGO Q) = $3.99
Crush Orange soda (12 pack): $1.99
Hunt’s Pudding Packs: .97 x 3 = $2.91
Total after discounts and coupons: $36.91

Total for week = $37.91 ($12.91 over budget, but since we did very little grocery shopping last week it seems to even out)

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Glue and Pens

If you did not take advantage of the glue and pens earlier this summer at Staples, next week is your second chance.

This coming week (August 29 - September 4), while supplies last, Staples has 8 pack of Bic pens (limit 1) and bottled glue (limit 2) for a penny each.  I am hoping that the teacher limit for each of these is 20-25.  That's been the trend lately, so I'll hope for another good deal.  Both of these deals require a $5 minimum purchase, so I will probably purchase the $.50 scissors (limit 2) on the front page, and the Sharp 10 digit calculator which is free after rebate ($6.99).

Total after rebate:  $1.50 + tax for 25 bottles of glue, 200 pens, 2 scissors, and a calculator.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Composition Notebooks

Earlier tonight I stopped by Staples to take advantage of the composition notebooks for $.10.  I was hoping to pick up the maximum number allowed for teachers.  This week the composition notebooks were a limit of 20 (for teachers) for $.10 each with a $5 minimum purchase.  I was able to get the remaining 12 composition notebooks at the store I visited and then paired it with a $5 gift card to use on next week's deals.

Here's the status of my husband's classroom list:
  • Pencils - 200 purchased for $.25
  • Composition Notebooks - 25 purchased for $3.60 (12 from Walgreen's for $2.40 and 12 from Staples for $1.20)
  • Thin Markers - hoping for a good deal this week or next
  • Colored Pencils - 10 for $2.50 from Target
  • Pencil Sharpeners - hoping for a good deal this week or next (I did get a battery operated one for free after rebate from Staples)
  • Folders - 25 for $.25 total from Staples
  • Scissors - 12 for $7.96 from Ikea
  • Glue (sticks and bottles) - 25 bottles for $.25 (we decided to skip the glue sticks this year unless there is a really good deal this week or next)
  • Small Post-Its - 12 for free after rebate from Staples
  • Kleenexes - hoping for a good deal this week or next
  • Hand Sanitizer - hoping for a good deal this week or next
Total spent - $14.81

Saving money on Groceries

Ordinarily I would be excited about saving money on groceries.  However, this week we spent little to no money on groceries because we were all sick with the flu.  We are finally starting to recover, but have no appetite, so for this week, it was only ginger ale, soda crackers and our CSA vegetables.

Hopefully, I will have more to update on next week's grocery list, but for this week, we stayed well within our $25 weekly grocery budget.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Crust Cutoff Recommends Coborns Delivers

On Wednesday, we picked up our Coborns Delivers delivery.  The delivery arrives in green totes that are insulated if the items are refrigerator/freezer items or in green totes with brown paper bags if the items are general grocery items.

Here's how our order broke down:

4 bags of shrimp (16 oz. each)
3 bags of chicken breasts (2.5 lbs. each)
2 bags of Mission chips (22 oz.)
1 lb. fresh green beans
6 cobs of corn

Total was $50.69, but I had a $50 certificate that I purchased from Living Social for $25, plus I was a new subscriber, so I had a $5 credit.  In total, this order was $20.69.  What a great deal for all of that food, especially since we were out of chicken for a couple of weeks (it's a staple in our home).

The frozen food was completely frozen when we unpacked the totes, which was great.  The fresh items look delicious.  And the best part, I did the order while sitting at my kitchen counter.  Plus, in the future, I plan to shop on Coborns Delivers with manufacturer's coupons, which can be easily added into your online order.  This time around I didn't because the items I purchased did not have coupons available.  Also, occasionally Coborns Delivers has store coupons.  Here is the latest set of coupons (good through 9.23).

Cutting the crust off our grocery budget...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Paint reveal

When we decided to paint the kids’ room, I looked through hundreds of pictures online to find a neutral, modern, kid friendly design. I discovered that: 1. most design were only for infants or only for kids, but not both, and 2. most were not gender neutral. That lead to the problem of trying to figure out ways to make this design work. The first thing we decided on was that the room would be green. After looking at hundreds of paint samples and buying some neon green colors, we decided that the best thing to do would be to pick out the bedding first. As you can see from this, the bedding has a circles and stripes theme with lots of gender neutral, but fun colors. Although it may look like this was easy, we spent a lot of time trying to find something that worked within our budget.

However, when the bedding arrived, we were thrilled. It was perfect. So last Thursday night, I looked at the changing pad covers and really liked the colors, including the green. On Friday morning, my husband went to Lowe’s to pick up the paint. He was reluctant at first, given that I am 7 months pregnant, a perfectionist, that is sometimes very difficult to please (if my husband were writing this he would probably say that I am always difficult to please while pregnant). But I reassured him that he just needed to be sure that we could have the paint re-tinted if it was not what we wanted. I did some research online and found that Lowe’s had a no-VOC, low odor paint that could be tinted. Here is the paint that we picked up in a custom-tinted color to match the bedding.  The wall color is the previous wall color in the kids' room.


So off he went to pick up the paint. He called mid-afternoon to let me know that he started painting and he really liked the color. I was excited to see what it looked like. When I came home from work around 6:00 that evening, I did not expect that he would be almost finished with the first coat. The following morning, he finished the second coat.


As you can see, it looks amazing. The lesson learned on this adventure is that we did lots of research, tried different colors, but in the end needed some inspiration for the final color. We think this color will make the furniture and accessories pop, but now I can’t wait for our furniture to arrive (only 3 more weeks, hopefully). However, the bunk beds should be complete within the next couple of weeks, which will make a huge difference in how the room looks. Next step, buying the DIY accessories, creating the art, and placing it in the room. Stay tuned for these kid-friendly, fun projects.

Oh, I almost forgot, the total came to just over $48 for 2 gallons of no-VOC and low odor paint. Also, Lowe’s was great with helping my husband get everything in order for painting.

Cutting the crust off before the baby arrives, so we can enjoy every minute in the kids’ room with our soon-to-be family of four.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jumping in head first

Some of our family and friends say that we are students for life, but in reality what they mean is that we are crazy for taking on too much at one time. To give you a little insight into our life – in the last four years, we have had our first child, both worked full time during this time, planned a wedding, completed a law degree, completed a masters degree, sat and passed the bar exam, between the two of us have switched positions or jobs six times, moved two times, and are now pregnant with our second child.

It’s been a whirlwind over the last four years, but we’ve enjoyed every minute. Our life would be very different without all of these pieces, so we are thankful for each opportunity to build strength in our relationship. Plus, it is a lot easier looking back on it. There were definitely trying times – for instance, trying to figure out what to wear to work when there has been no time to wash laundry let alone iron anything. But, we couldn’t have done it without our families. They were there to help us catch up on laundry, do some ironing, or simply watch our son while we studied, took a break, or just slept.

When we finished our advanced degrees, we talked about taking at least six months off to enjoy life. At that point, we would decide whether more education would be a good option.

It’s been eight months since either of us have been students. During this time, my husband and I have been able to focus on our family and friends, which has been so exciting because previously we had little to no time for sleep… let along social time. It has been fun to catch up with friends and family, enjoy the outdoors, relax in the evening, and play with our son.

This may be a surprise or shock, as we haven’t announced it to anyone, but then again, if you truly know us, it does not surprise you at all – my husband’s headed back for more school.

For the last couple of months, we have been discussing the idea of having my husband go back to school. For those that are unaware of how public school teachers are paid in MN, here’s a quick synopsis. There are different lane changes and subsequently pay scales changes depending on your education and years in position. For most districts, it is something like this BA, BA+15, BA+30, BA+45, BA+60, MA, MA+15, MA+30, MA+45, MA+60, and PhD. With each lane change, your salary increases and with each additional year of service, your salary increases generally (there are some flat levels, but generally include some yearly increase due to changes in contract amounts from year to year).

About two months ago, my husband learned of a distance learning program, where he could obtain additional credits, but these would not count toward a degree. We talked about it for hours on end – would it be better to spend the money to get a PhD, should we hold off for another year, etc. However, just this week, we decided that this program offered the best of both world – distance learning at a reasonable price with classes that he enjoyed taking, so it would be less time consuming than a traditional program and he could always go back for a PhD.

Because of the way that teacher’s pay scales work, we were able to determine that the total cost of the program would be paid off within six months after he completed the program due to the incremental increases he would receive during the program. It’s really a small investment up front to help us cut the crust off in our budget to save a little more each month in the future.

As of today, he submitted the enrollment and will soon be receiving his books. We are now back in the student world – at least for a year. The most exciting part is that my husband is really excited about the class offerings because he isn’t worried about getting certain credits for a degree, so he can take the classes that are most relevant to his classroom setting and interests.

Now the only outstanding question is will this be the last adventure for us as students… my guess is that it’s not.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Grocery Budget 8/15-8/21

Here's this week's grocery breakdown:

Coborn's Delivers
We had a $50 certificate that I purchased on Living Social for $25, so we were able to stock our freezer with shrimp and chicken breasts, as well as a few fresh produce items.  It was a great deal and I will be on the look out for it more often.  Our shipment will be arriving on Wednesday, so stay tuned for more details on how our groceries compared to what we would pick out at the store.  I ended up spending an additional $.69 to get over $50, but there was free shipping, so it was a great deal.

Aldi
Nectarines:  $.19 each x 6 = $1.14
Peaches: $.19 each x 6 = $1.14
Bananas: $.39/lb x 3 lbs = $1.17
Total after tax and discounts = $3.45

Local D'Lish
Organic Milk: $3.50 x 3 = $10.50

Total for this week:  $14.64, plus the $25 for Coborn's Delivers (but I am not counting that in this week's budget since I purchased this over 3 months ago).

Continuing to cut the crust off our grocery budget...

Pencil sharpener

As we continue to stock my husband's classroom with school supplies this fall, we spend each Sunday searching for the best deals that week.  This week at Staples there are notebooks for a penny, with likely a teacher limit of 25, so lots of notebooks to fill his classroom.  Copy paper and 4x6 photo paper for our home for a penny after rebate (limit 2).

The best deal this week is a battery operated pencil sharpener which is free after rebate.

Total out of pocket will be $46.20, plus we will use a 20% off coupon (which may or may not apply to some of these items, we'll see).  After rebates, the total is $.27 plus tax.  Not too bad for 25 notebooks, a pencil sharpener, two reams of copy paper, and two packs of 50 sheets of 4x6 photo paper.

Cutting the crust off of school supplies shopping...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Saving time by freezing food

Since I love to save money and time, I thought I would quickly share how I save lots of time and money in the kitchen. A while ago I was watching a Rachel Ray episode where she covered ways to save money by freezing black beans. I haven’t bought a can of black beans in forever, but I think a can runs around $.50, but a 1 pound bag runs around $.99. I think it takes around 5 cans to equal one bag, so by buying the 1 pound bag at $.99, I save at least $1.50 on just black beans. That may not seem like much, but I also weigh the fact that with a bag of black beans, I can use it for around 8-10 meals versus 5 meals with the cans.

Here’s the trick to stocking up using your freezer and saving time: we cook lots of food as soon as we purchase the item and then divide it into meal size portions in baggies and freeze it. This week, my husband cooked and froze the beans and rice. For the black beans, he cooked 2 pounds following the directions on the bag and for the rice, he cooked 3 pounds following the directions.

To use these for a meal, we add a little bit of water to the rice and cook it in a glass dish in the microwave until warm. It turns out perfect and saves so much money and time because we aren’t buying the 5 minute rice, which is more expensive. For the beans, we toss them in a skillet until warm.

Continuing to cut our budget while enjoying life…

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Grocery Budget 8/8-8/14

Last week, my husband and I decided to challenge ourselves with a monthly grocery budget of $100.  Generally, we try to stock up on groceries when they are reasonably priced, so this could pose a problem for our normal routine.  However, the more we thought about it, the more intriguing it sounded.  On a weekly basis, that would be about $25.  However, we generally like to shop one bigger run, plus a few smaller runs throughout the month.  For the last two weeks, we have been eating out of our freezer trying to get it cleaned out before fall comes, as we will have lots freezing to do (apples, pumpkins, various purees, etc.).


Here’s this week’s Grocery Budget Breakdown:

Aldi
Cantaloupe: $.99
Grapes: $.79/lb x 4 lbs = $3.16
White Rice: $1.39 for 3 lbs.
Total after discounts and tax: $5.54

Rainbow (Double, double days this Wednesday)
Organic Milk: $3 - $.50 Q doubled = $2 x 4 half gallons = $8
Ronzoni Healthy Harvest or Smart Taste Pasta: $1.25 - $.75 Q doubled = free x 8 = $0
Newman’s Own Lemonade: $1 - .$50 Q doubled = $0
Total after discounts and tax: $8.07

Target
Bananas: $.49 x 2.6 lbs. = $1.27 - $1 Q = .27
Black beans: $.99 x 2 lbs. = $1.98
Quaker Breakfast Squares: $2.50 - $1 Q = $1.50
Annie’s Mac and Cheese = $1
Canned Tuna = $.67 x 6 = $4.02
Bread = $1.39 - $.50 Q = $.89
Brownie Mix = $.65 x 2 = $1.30
Snack Packs = .95 x 3 = $2.85 - $1 Q = $1.85
Total after discounts and tax: $9.72

Total this week: $23.33 (we stock up throughout the year, so we generally don’t just eat from our weekly grocery list)

**For the summer/fall, we joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture - www.hayriverfarms.com), so we get weekly vegetables for $375 for the entire season. During these months, we spend less on groceries on a monthly basis, so I really try to stock up on our pantry items.

Cutting the cut off our budget…

Friday, August 6, 2010

One more checked off

This morning I viewed the upcoming Staples ad and saw some great deals.  Filler paper is on sale for a penny (limit 2) when you spend an additional $5, so hopefully the teacher limit is 25, which would mean 25 packs of filler paper for $.25.  I am guessing that my husband does not need all of this for his classroom, but it is such a good deal, that I think I am going to pick it up and we can always donate it. 

The best part of the ad this week is the free after rebate sticky notes.  These are on my husband's school list and I never anticipated that we would be able to get these free, so I am really excited.  This is a 12 pack of small sticky notes.  The sticky notes are $3, with a $3 mail in rebate.  Next item is Scotch pop-up tape.  Normally, I wouldn't purchase this, but what a great way to get some nearly free tape ($5.29 out of pocket minus $5.29 rebate).  Plus, I can use this during Christmas time for wrapping presents.  Finally, a four pack of highlighters are also free after rebate.

Staples rebates are really easy and can be done online after creating an account, so I love taking advantage of rebate deals at Staples.  Plus, you can track the rebates online, so you know when your check should be arriving.

As a side note, I keep track of all of our rebates by placing the duplicate receipts in an envelope.  When we receive the check, I toss the corresponding receipt.

Total for this run will be .25 + tax after all of the rebates.  What a great week for school supplies.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stratus to Jetta

Monday was a sad day for me. Back in high school when I started driving, I envisioned having a new car that I could drive around in and enjoy. My parents helped me achieve that vision. The deal was that I had a loan through my parents with 5% interest. I made car payments of $325 a month to my parents for the vehicle while competing in two-three activities. I had to work hard to pay for the vehicle and never missed a payment. I was proud to own the vehicle and officially take title from my parents. There are a lot of really good memories with that car, but here is one that I will never forget.

After I had the car two months, my parents were on their way to Hong Kong, but before they left, the one thing my mom said was to only drive the vehicle if I absolutely needed to. Of course, that lasted two minutes. Before they had left the Minneapolis airport (so literally they were gone less than 3 hours), I was on my way to the golf course only one mile from my parent’s house. And of course, what happened – I was hit by someone. That’s right, I didn’t hit anyone, I was hit in my rear passenger door from a person coming out of a private drive. My poor, beautiful car would never be the same. At first, I was sad and then I realized that I would have to call my parents. I would have to explain why I had to drive that one mile, which obviously was not a necessity – I could have easily walked. I had to call my parents and tell them that I not only didn’t listen to the one thing they said, but now I had a huge dent in my car that would need to be fixed.

Today, we traded in that car. That’s right my one and only car that I have had since beginning to drive. Although, we needed to get a new one because it didn’t have the latch system and wouldn’t work with two car seats, I am a little sad to see the car leave our home.

Although, it’s hard to say goodbye, it’s time. What’s really important is that the kids are safely secured in their car seats… the crust here is just saying goodbye… it’s hard.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Test Driving

Since finding out that #2 is on the way, we knew that eventually we would need to get a new vehicle.  Our second vehicle does not have the latch system at the base, so with two car seats, it would be difficult to keep the kids safe.  We decided in March that July would be a great time to look at vehicles because last year’s model would still be new, but the next year’s models would be released and perhaps available.  We decided that we were really interested in some type of hybrid car because of the gas mileage, so we are thinking that a newer vehicle is the way to go for us.  Although the Toyota Prius has great gas mileage, we ruled that one out because of the safety issues with Toyota in the last year.

On Wednesday, we went to test drive three vehicles – Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, and VW Jetta TDI.  Our qualifications for the vehicles we chose to test drive ranked in the following order: Safety, Available Space, Gas Mileage, Price, Overall Maintenance Cost, Features.  The Sonata and Altima were recently featured in Consumer Reports for best family sedans and we saw a TDI advertisement for 43 mpg, so we thought we would at least test drive it.  At this time, the Sonata Hybrid has not been released, but we thought if we decided on the Sonata, we would wait until this fall when the hybrid version is released.

We brought the infant car seat, toddler car seat, and BOB jogging stroller.

We wanted to be sure that we could fit our regular items with some room to spare (especially in the front seat for our knees).  The available space has the highest ranking on our list (of course, after safety) because if we are not able to comfortably drive the vehicle with our two kids in the back seat, it’s not the right vehicle for our life.

Here is what we determined:


Sonata - all around a great car for the price.  We were able to test drive a 2011 Sonata, not a hybrid, but the dealership indicated that these would likely arrive in Minnesota some time this winter.  We really liked the available features and it had lots of space in the trunk and back seat.  However, one of the cons was that the hybrid would have a smaller trunk, so that probably wouldn't work, but the Sonata has great gas mileage without the hybrid technology, so we really liked this vehicle.  In fact, my husband wanted to get it right away, but being the planner I am, I convinced him that we needed to test drive some more vehicles.


Altima - it has great features, but the regular Altima gas mileage doesn't cut it for our requirements, so we immediately had to look at 2009 used hybrids.  The first one had a funky smell, which I couldn't get over.  I will blame that on the pregnancy.  The second one was really nice, but then we looked in the trunk.  We could barely get our jogging stroller in and there would be no room for anything else, so that ruled out the Altima.


Jetta TDI - great vehicle, but you have to be willing to find diesel.  The Jetta TDI runs on diesel, so it has unbelievable gas mileage.  The advertised mileage is 31 city/40 highway, but the Jetta SportWagen TDI holds the world record at 58.8 mpg, which also has advertised mileage of 31/40.  Once we found out more about the new diesel regulations in the US, we examined the vehicle.  From the outside it is surprising compact, but in the interior, it has lots of space and a huge trunk.  The TDI version also has a lot of upgrades in the interior.
Our top ranked choice is the Jetta TDI. Here are the main reasons we decided on the Jetta TDI - the overall space, unbelievable gas mileage, solid construction, and amazing power.  There are a few small items that we had to give on – price is on our high end and the middle console is really small with the digital radio/navigation system.  However, we still have a few vehicles to test drive to be sure that we have made the right decision.

If you are in the market for a new vehicle, check out Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the safety ratings for your potential vehicles.  You will need to look at past models, but it should give you a good indication of the manufacturer's quality of design.

Stayed tuned for our final decision.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Circles and Stripes

After searching many blogs and interior design websites, I have decided that the theme in the kids’ room will be circles and stripes.  I have found what I think will be perfect bedding from Target.com.  However, I need to wait for the bedding to arrive to match or coordinate green paint for the walls.  Hopefully, it will arrive soon, so we can get moving on the painting.  The bunk beds are ready for the final sanding which will happen over the next two weeks and then staining, so they should be complete by the end of August.


I decided to order two sets of twins sheets, one stripes and one circles for the bunk beds.  I am still determining what color comforter I will pair with these, so more to come on that.  For the bunk beds, I am going to use this curtain to make throw pillows.  I am thinking maybe a couple 16x16 pillows and 20x20 pillows, so the kids can lay on these in the room.  The pillows should add lots of color to the room too.  As for the bunk beds, more to come of the comforters and making the pillows.

As for the bedding, we decided that we would reuse most of the bedding that we had with our son, but I couldn’t resist picking up a new bed sheet to match the theme of the room.  The bed sheet is the same as one for the bunk beds, so the two areas should tie together well.  We also decided to pick up this matching changing pad.  If there is any extra fabric from the curtains, I might also make a blanket for the crib.  I ordered two curtains, so I am hoping there is some extra, depending on how many pillows and the size of each pillow.

So far that’s what we have decided on for the bedding, but there will be more to come as the room comes together.

So, how did we decide on this bedding?

I looked through a lot of pictures to find modern ideas that fit a neutral, modern kids’ room.  Circles and stripes were a bit theme through many of the pictures that I found, but the challenge is mixing these together in a cohesive way.  While searching bedding at Target.com, this set was perfect.  The set has circles and stripes in one pattern, but I could also find coordinating striped bedding. It helped that the bedding was available in both twin size bedding and infant crib bedding.

There are many ways that you could go.  We started by determining that we wanted to paint the room green, but we needed to find bedding that included green so we could coordinate that color.  We looked for inspiration and found that circles and stripes were fun and modern.  We used this pattern in ways that we can easily change – bedding, accessories, but will have a major impact on the room.  However, another idea would be a specific color and finding fun accessories to go with this.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will post on how we tied the circle and stripe theme to the decorations throughout the room, all while putting personal touches on the art.

Oh, and on this order, I spent around $119 $99 (I forgot that I ordered an extra set of sheets that I ended up returning), but saved over $40. Overall, well below our budget. Crust is cutoff…

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pens and Paper

Although pens aren’t on our school supply list, I know that middle school kids will use pens just as often as pencils, so when I saw this deal at Staples, I couldn’t resist.  Now through Wednesday, Staples has an 8 pack of Bic pens for a penny with a $5 minimum purchase (limit 2).  So far, the teacher limits for the penny deals have been 25, so I am hoping for that again this week.  I am planning on heading to my local Staples tonight or tomorrow night.  Here is my plan: 25 packs of pens for a penny (because of the increased teacher limit) and two reams of paper.  The paper is $4.99 with a $4.98 rebate, so after getting the rebate back only a penny.  The total out of pocket will be $10.23 + tax, but after getting the rebate back only tax + $.27. So for $.25 (+ a little tax), we will be able to supply my husband’s classroom with 200 pens.  I will keep the paper at home.

Continuing to stretch our budget by cutting the crust off high-priced school supplies…

Furniture

We are still working through getting everything ready for the kids' bedroom, but we have decided on furniture.

We agreed on espresso colored furniture to tie in with the rest of our place. Since our first crib was a drop-side, we purchased a new crib.  I searched high and low to find a crib that was modern, but good quality.  The lesson we learned since having our son is that cribs are expensive, but usually not high quality.

I found Knock Off Wood through one of the many blogs that I read and really like these bunk beds.  Initially I thought that with a little help from my husband and sisters, I would be able to build these.  So we ventured to Home Depot, where I fell in love with some high quality wood, which was a little more expensive than I had budgeted.  So, on to plan B – a call to my dad.  Five months later, we have bunk beds that are done a thousand times better than I would have ever been able to do.  I will have pictures to post soon.  We are going to stain these in espresso to match the other furniture for the kids room.

Now, onto the crib. For about five seconds, I thought about building one, or having my dad build one, but that was quickly subsided when my husband reminded me of the expensive lumber from Home Depot.  So I quickly turned to reading many blogs and websites.  After hours of looking, I found Romina Kids Furniture.

We loved the design of the Ventianni collection.  Clean lines and minimalist look with all of the great features we were looking for – solid wood, eco-friendly, and solid to last for years.  Next, we researched like crazy online to see if this was the one that we wanted. After looking through more blogs and websites, we decided this was the finalist.  Next, we went to check this out at the only store in Minnesota that carries this brand – USA Baby.  When we first drove up, I was a little skeptical.  However, once inside, they have a great selection of furniture.  We looked at the Romina furniture and we were sold.  However, the price was a little steep, so we looked through a few more sets and decided that nothing compared to the quality and look of Romina.

We talked to the sales associate and decided that we could save quite a bit of money if we waited a month to order, but that would mean with the 10-12 week shipment timeframe, the baby might be here before we have the crib. But, we were willing to wait for this quality and as many of you know, I am a deal shopper, so I had to take advantage of a sale.

We decided to order the crib that coverts to a twin bed,
  

the 6 drawers chest,

the 5 drawers chest,


and a nightstand.

The nightstand will go next to the bunk beds and the kids will share the two dressers.  When these arrive (hopefully only two more months), I will post pictures of these items in the bedroom.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sticky Situation

I stopped in at Staples earlier this week to take advantage of the penny glue bottles.  Although my husband preferred glue sticks, we decided that penny glue bottles were too good of a deal to pass up.  We will still be on the look-out for a good deal on glue sticks, but the glue bottles will help supplement the art projects.  As part of this deal, I needed to spend another $5.  Normally, I plan out my shopping lists to a “T” and even have back-up plans.  However, this trip was more spontaneous, so I went in with no game plan.

I verified that the teacher limit for the glue bottles was in fact 25, so I headed to count out the bottles.  I was so excited, but a little nervous as I didn’t have a plan for the additional $5 and I had my preschooler in tote, so there was no telling how much time I had before he would have a break down.  Together we quickly counted out 25 glue bottles.  Then, I quickly grabbed the ad to look for the best deals.  I noticed that copy paper was on-sale with a rebate for $1, but the register price would be about $5 a piece.  After thinking about it, when I buy a case of copier paper, there are 10 reams, and my buy price for it is around $20, so $2 per ream.  So, if I picked up 2 reams of paper and 25 glue bottle, my out of pocket cost would be a little over $10, plus I would get around $8 back in rebates by check.  Plus, I could use the reams of paper for printing all of my online coupons.  Overall, our school supplies list totals $.75, plus a little tax.

The outcome was that I was able to quickly access the best deal for the items that we needed while maintaining a preschooler’s interest and getting in and out of the store in a matter of minutes.  As an added bonus, I was able to spend quality time with my preschooler while getting items checked off my ever growing list, and we both had a great time counting the glue bottles.

Pencils, folders and glue (partially) checked off the list… continuing to cut the crust off in our school supply budget.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Modern Kids' Bedroom

Since we found out that number two was on the way, our first challenge was to figure out where all of the baby items would be stored.  Living in the city is challenging and fun in many different ways, but one of the biggest challenges is space.  We are constantly evaluating our belongings to see if there is a better way to organize or utilize space.  Through this process with baby items, we replaced some items with items that can be collapsed to be stored under beds or in a closet.  However, the biggest factor in being able to fit all of the items in our place was elimination.  Over the last two months, we have slowly paired down our belongings through trips to Goodwill and the recycling center.

The next task was to figure out how we would decorate the kids’ room. We are lucky to have three bedrooms in the city, so we wanted to keep the third bedroom as an office, guest room and lounge all wrapped in one, so that means that the kids are sharing a bedroom.

So on to the tricky part. We don’t know if baby #2 is a girl or boy, so we need a neutral kids’ room. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll post about the transition from plain preschool boy room to fun, modern kids’ room to suit two boys or a boy and a girl. As a sneak peak, our main color will be green (or at least that’s what we think) and we are trying to focus on organic items within our budget.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

School Supplies

Our family has a goal of only spending dollars on school supplies. Originally, I had set a budget of $100. However, after seeing all of the great deals, I am hoping that we can stay under $20, and depending how good the deals are maybe even $10.

Here's our list:
  • Pencils
  • Composition Notebooks
  • Thin Markers
  • Pencil Sharpeners
  • Folders
  • Scissors
  • Glue (sticks and bottles)
  • Small Post-Its
  • Kleenexes
  • Hand Sanitizer
So far, we have picked up pencils, 8 packs for $.01 each, and folders $.01 each. We found these at Staples last week. The limit was two, but since my husband is a teacher, we were able to get 25 for a penny. So for 200 pencils and 25 folders, we paid $.50. Also, this week glue bottles are $.01 each with a limit of 2, so I am hoping for teachers this is a limit of 25. I'll keep you updated.
We try to find lots of supplies for my husband's classroom for kids that either don't have supplies or need more throughout the year. Also, I am hoping that I can find some good deals on crayons for our kids' daycare to donate. If you don't have kids in school yet or are able to afford picking up a few extra school supplies, there are a lot of teachers that pay for their own supplies, so think about picking up a few extras and donating them to those districts most in need.
Continuing to cut the crust off in our budget...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Skuut

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been looking at our budget and planning for baby #2. It's been a bit overwhelming. We need to get a few new things that can handle two kids and our first major purchase was going to be a double stroller. The stroller we wanted came with a price tag of $500, which was a steal. However, last night we ran into neighbors with a toddler that had a Skuut Bike.




After reading reviews, we decided that our toddler could handle going for long walks with the Skuut bike while our soon-to-be born infant could ride comfortably in the stroller.

We learned to cut the crust off and get to the middle of our goal in buying a new stroller - being able to go for long walks with two kids. The Skuut bike solves our problem and saves us around $400.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Welcome

Welcome to Crust Cutoff. A blog about everything related to kids, career, and life - cutting the crust off everything and really getting to the good stuff.

As a child, many of us wanted the crust cutoff. It didn't have the peanut butter and jelly or the ham and cheese. But as adults, we have to eat the crust everyday.

After contemplating for months about starting a blog, I was stuck trying to find the perfect name. I wanted to encompass all of my ideas in one short blog name. The credit for the blog name is from a colleague that has to eat the crust of life everyday to get to the good stuff.

This is a guide to eating the crust with less pain to get to the middle where the laughter, fun, and excitement begins.