Free Shipping at Children’s Place and Target!

I have been on the hunt for a pair of snow boots.  My eldest needs a new pair this year as his sisters are moving up in sizes and well, his feet are getting larger.

I wasn’t able to score any snow boots last year at the end of winter clearances in February (although in north Idaho that is still very much winter…) so here I am paying more for a pair of boots than I did last time I bought some.

As I looked online and even on ebay and craigslist for used boots- I found that Target and Children’s Place have some good sales right now.  However, the kicker is the free shipping! And it’s not free shipping on $50 or more- it’s really free shipping….

I had an issue with buying used boots for 15 dollars when shipping is at least 5 dollars or more on top of that.  I purchased boots this morning from Children’s Place, BRAND NEW, free shipping for 25 dollars after tax.

Check it out….

childrensplace.com

target.com

 

Advertisements

Why An “Extra” Fund is as Important as the “Emergency” Fund

file0001893938572

 

In the world of money management it is important to have an “emergency” fund.  This is pretty well Whether you are getting out of debt, saving, or investing, we all need a certain stockpile of cash to go to when something happens.  Maybe there is a trip to the ER, a leaky shower, or some sudden car work that needs to be done (all occurred to us this year).  Even though the expenses weren’t planned, we had enough “go to” or “emergency” cash to cover those sort of emergencies.

In living a frugal sort of life, it is smart to have an “extra” fund as well.  It doesn’t have to be as big as the emergency fund, nor should it be, but it should be a fund that you can contribute a little each month to.

Now what’s the purpose of the “extra” fund?

The extra fund would be the cash you pull from when you find something that is at an incredibly good deal, that isn’t budgeted for.  For example, my kids needed more storage for their rooms.  At Walmart last week, I saw that 3 drawer bins were on sale for 8 dollars each when they are regularly 12 to 15.  Each of my 3 kids needed one.  Although, they were all blue, I was able to spend 24 dollars on 3.  However, if I didn’t have the “extra” fund, my budget would be thrown off for the month.  Where that might be doable to borrow 24 dollars from the food budget, when you’re in the market for a couch or something that is more than you can float from one fund to the next.

Next time you are revamping your budget, consider the extra fund.  It allows you to budget for those things you are looking for.

 

 

 

Saving Money on Snacks

DSC_2169

I hate opening crackers in the pantry because there is only so long that they can stay there until they go stale.

A lot of times I find something like Teddy Grahams on sale or my son’s favorite flavor of Cheeze-its on sale, but my kids don’t want to eat the whole box over the course of the week.  The opened bags though can lead to staleness.  That staleness results in me throwing the last quarter of the box away.  I mean who would eat mushy teddy grahams anyway?

In order to combat the nasty staleness of opened and forgotten crackers, I go through my cupboards before my grocery shopping day.  If I find a mostly eaten box of something, I get out sandwich bags and divide the crackers into 3 (if possible) bags.  Sometimes I find more than one box of crackers open and I will also add those to the sandwich bags.  This creates what we call in our house a “snack bag” and viola, afternoon snacks are made and stored in a place that I can quickly grab and go with them.

So why has this been helpful?

The zip-lock feature of those wonderful sandwich bags keeps the snacks fresher longer!  Which means less waste- and full value for the money I spent on that snack.  It also eliminates the stress of finding snack before soccer, dance or whatever.  Plus, I save because I am not buying ready packaged snacks!  We just create our own.  And when I am on top of keeping up on the snack shelf.  My life gets easier and I keep more $ in my pocket.

Save Big $$ Now!

file7431278621848

It is time for stores to clear out their summer inventory!  This means big savings for those who can think ahead to next year!

Now is when all of the summer clothing racks are cleared out.  Even clothes, that you swear you never saw during the summer season seem to make it on racks and at much reduced prices!  Sometimes I’ve found shorts for as little as $1 and not because they are a bogus brand, but because I wait until the right time to buy it.

You need some new items for your summer activities?  Swimsuits? Inter tubes for your boat? Gardening supplies?  Lawn mowers!?  See if you have any extra cash and start looking at your local stores and try to anticipate what you need next year during the summer.

If you are a frequent shopper, do realize that in a week or two (especially when we get closer to Halloween when (ironically) Christmas items start sneaking on the shelves) those summer items might be found at an even greater discount- but then you could run the risk of the items not being there.

So over the next week really think about what you might be in need of next summer and see if you can find it now!  It will save you lots!

Is It Really A Sale?? A Closer Look into Special Sales and Black Friday

file3891244009827

I mentioned in an earlier post about benefits of reward programs such as Old Navy’s Super Cash (This post has nothing to do with furniture).  I try to use those coupons because it essentially is a large savings… at least in theory.

However, it isn’t.

On September 8th, I used my Old Navy Super Cash.  The deal was if you spend 75 dollars, you get 30 dollars off your purchase.  Well we needed jeans (we being my husband and I).  Here’s how it priced out.

4 pairs of jeans x 30 dollars each = $120

$120 – $30 Super Cash = $90 dollars for four pairs of jeans.  So that’s about $22.50 per pair of jeans.  Really not a bad deal.

 

However, last week on September 17th my mom was visiting and wanted to get some jeans.  So we went to Old Navy.  Jeans were on sale that day for $19.99 each!

If I had waited and bought the jeans when they were twenty dollars and foregone the Super Cash…

4 pairs of jeans X $20= $80

I would have saved 10 dollars!!!

 

One of the only times we took part of Black Friday shopping we bought our kids some legos thinking they were not going to be on sale again before Christmas.  When two weeks later, still before Christmas, we saw the SAME legos on at an even better price than we saw on Black Friday!

 

This year I am going to experiment with Black Friday.  I am going to track prices for 3 items from the beginning of November until Chrismas and see when the prices really are cheaper!  If there’s something you want me to track, please suggest something in the comments!

All Good Things Come to Those Who….

file4891302474512

….WAIT!

We’ve all heard the saying “all good things come to those who wait.”  It’s essentially a saying that is about being patient.  If you wait long enough something good will happen right?  At least that’s always what I’ve thought it meant.

Although, as most adults know, just sitting on your duff and doing nothing isn’t going to get you anywhere…

However, when it comes to buying something, the best thing to do is wait.  Many times waiting means you are shopping around and you’ll find what you want at a lower price.  Waiting can also mean that perhaps you weigh whether or not you really want or need the item of purchase.    Waiting can also mean, that you simply wait, and someone either ends up giving you that item or you find it “free” on Craigslist.

Either way, if you take a minute and wait before buying something, it’s typically a better financial decision.

 

The Secret To Finding 2 tickets For the Price of 1?

hartfordFair_06And the secret is…… well, you must read on…

Most people buy pay for some sort of entertainment throughout the year.  In 2012 the average American family of four spent $2,605 on entertainment.  Surely that number includes video games, tv, technologies etc.  However, that number includes ticket sales. 14 billion dollars were spent in 2009 on performing arts tickets sales.  Wow, right!? And that doesn’t include sporting event tickets.

Since entertainment is a large portion of our yearly budgets, it’s important to find the best deals as possible.

This week in my town is the county fair.  What I love about our fair (besides the people watching- apparently I am not the only one who thinks so) is the fact that our fair is free to get in and there’s free parking.  The only things we have to pay for besides all of the delicious healthy food that is served at the fair (sarcasm) is the rides.

Every year the fair falls on my daughter’s birthday.  It has become a tradition that we go to the fair for her birthday.  That’s it, just the fair, no birthday party.  But she loves it.  However, rider braclet tickets are outrageously priced!!!  $30 dollars per bracelet, for one day, times that by 3 kids and viola $90 just for rides.

Heck NO!  I am not paying that!  How could I find a better deal?

The answer:  PLAN AHEAD

We knew the fair was on my daughter’s birthday.  We knew we were probably going, but really, $90 for some junky rides that a junky runs?  It hardly seemed worth it.

But I “googled” the fair online and found the brochure.

And guess what I found?

“Buy ride tickets in advance and only pay $22, limited time offer!”

Sweet!  That means that I could buy 3 tickets for $66 dollars!  That would have just about been the price of two bracelet bands had I bought them on the spot.

So the secret is, plan in advance.  If you know that you want to do something, see something or go somewhere… buy ahead of time rather than at the door.  More than likely you can find better deals when you buy ahead.  Think about it, an entertainment group would rather guarantee a certain number of people to buy tickets and attend (or buy and not show) an event at a lower price.  It makes sense.  They still make their money but then they ensure a certain amount of money was paid to them… plus there is the highly likeliness of those people buying food and souvenirs also.

Just plan ahead, I bet you can save!

This is the first year I bought fair tickets in advance, and I am definitely going to continue to do it.

5 Ways Meal Planning Makes Life Easier

IMG_6327

I have been a meal planner for a while now, but it has evolved over the years.  Most of it, like anything is trial and error and coming up with your own system.  I had mainly been planning weekly meals which I was finding wasn’t helping me keep within my budget, we were eating the same types of foods and it did not reduce my stress level at all.  It was beginning to seem as if it wasn’t worth it.

But I decided to revamp my meal planning with those goals in mind.  I made a 16 week meal plan.  I mean really, there are left over days, and picnic with friends days so my 16 week meal plan is going to end up being much longer.  I have enjoyed my new found plan, and I am going to share with you the 5 reasons my extensive plan has made my life easier.

 

1. Less Meal Repeats–  My husband, bless his heart, can’t eat the same things every day.  I can but he can’t.  So it has been interesting for me to try to find a variety of meals (that fit my limited cooking skills) without creating more stress for me.  I sat down with my recipe box at my computer and went through the recipes I use (or had forgotten about).  I threw the rest of the “extras” away.  I then made a list of all the meals I make and sorted it out into a schedule.  I was surprised at how many meals I’ve made over the 9 years of marriage.  A lot of them I make more often than others. I wrote out a 16 week plan to use each dinner once.  So far (besides left overs) I haven’t duplicated a meal nor have I thought about what I am going to make.

2.  Pair Dishes For Left Over Use–  Once again, my husband isn’t a fan of left overs.  (He’s really not a picky dude- but he is not a big eater… same with my son- but my family growing up eats everything in sight so it’s been different)  If planned right you can use some left overs from one night and transfer/add them to another.  For example, last night I made a chicken noodle skillet.  Well I had some left over plain noodles in the fridge.  Instead of tossing them when they get moldy (which is what happens normally) I added them to the dish I made last night!  Less waste more $ saved!

3.  Plan According to Budget–  Hopefully you have a grocery budget.  If you don’t have a grocery budget, I highly recommend setting up one.  The first time I set up an extensive meal plan, I did not pay attention to the meals I was planning back to back.  Some times I would have Shrimp and Flank Steak one week and then Tortellini and Salmon the next.  Well, my grocery budget isn’t set up for those types of meals in two weeks.  Once per week (minus the flank steak) maybe, but otherwise it broke the budget.  This time around I made sure to have just one or two expensive dishes per month, with the middle of the road ones and some casseroles.  That way I could afford to eat what I was planning.  If planned right, with using left overs, my grocery bill has had a surplus at the end of the month!

4.  Stock The Left Overs!–  So yes, my family isn’t a fan of left overs.  However, if I freeze the left overs that I can’t use in another meal, and bring them out later… my family thinks I made a whole new meal!  Granted this doesn’t really fit with the “no repeats” but if the majority of your meals aren’t repeated, you don’t feel as if you are eating the same thing over and over.  In my freezer right now I have some Fejoada, Enchiladas, and Spaghetti Sauce.  I am beginning to work these meals into our week just one at a time.  Tomorrow I will use the enchiladas and simply pair it with chips and a salad.  Boom! Already made, and very cheap.  Less waste, less money thrown away and most of all….

5.  Less STRESS–  I have found that having this extensive system has eliminated my DISDAIN for cooking dinner.  In fact last night I thought, ‘oh I kind of like this’. Once I realized what I was thinking I literally shook my head…. Cooking dinner has been so stressful for all of the reasons above and not to mention it’s the time of the day where everyone is tired and cranky.  I’d rather cook breakfast, but my husband commutes and the kids aren’t quite old enough yet to take over dinner, so I am stuck with it.  I just make sure I take out what I need to thaw (if necessary) the night before or morning of and it’s good to go.  I know what I have and I don’t worry about it all day.  Who knows maybe I’ll like cooking some day!

Anyway, those are the five ways my meal planning has helped me in my home… both monetarily and sanity wise.  What benefits does meal planning give you?

DISCLAIMER:  My husband has never complained about my cooking.  I do know my culinary skills are below par (even though he doesn’t say so).  He just isn’t a fan of eating the same thing over and over and over… and when you have such few culinary skills like myself, you cook what is easy and at the forefront of your brain…. over and over and over…. 🙂  Until now….

5 Ideas for a Frugal Date Night

file000852810870

Date nights are so important in romantic relationships.  Both partners need to be able to connect in an uninterrupted way, shape or form every once in a while (hopefully more regularly than not).  Most people would agree with me when I say this one on one time is vital to these types of relationships.

However, for those who are cash strapped, dates are overwhelmingly expensive.  Throw in babysitters into the date night tab and your “normal” date cost can easily double.  However, date nights don’t have to be the typical dinner and a movie…

Here are five ways to curb date night costs:

1.  Stay Home–  You don’t always have to leave the house for a date.  A date can be any sort of quality time together.  One of my favorite dates is staying up late (way after the kids have gone to bed) and watching a movie or T.V. series with my husband.  We make a deal to swap naps/sleeping in times the next morning.  No sitter needed, the rental for the movie is fairly cheap.  Throw in some home made junk food, like homemade jalapeño poppers, or chicken wings and you’re good to go.

2.  Sitter Swap-  If you have kids, I hope you have friends with kids.  A lot of times people in the same set of circumstances in life get a long real well and kids seem to fall into that category.  We have friends who have three kids like us and we swap babysitting.  On Monday, we dropped our kids off at their house and had a small date.  Next time it will be our turn to watch the kids.  But this way we aren’t paying for a babysitter and are able to help out a friend as well.

3.  Take-Out-  If you have to eat out, try to-go instead of sitting down at a restaurant. Take out is less expensive than eating in.  First there’s no tip and second, you seem to order less for a “to-go” order, which also saves money.  Most restaurants accommodate to-go orders.

4.   Cut out the Booze-  Alcohol is expensive and even if you are planning a romantic evening, try to forgo the wine.

5.   Something Free-  When we do our date swap with our friends, we don’t want to go and spend a lot on an activity.  Most of the time we end up chatting and taking a walk.  It’s great exercise and it’s free!  Communities sometimes have free events that you can always check out.  Some other free ideas include taking a hike, playing Frisbee golf, or taking a bike ride, to name a few.

 

It’s important to have your date nights, but the real satisfaction is having your date nights while meeting your financial goals as well!

 

 

 

Two Alternatives to Expensive Swimming Lessons

100_7295

Disclaimer: My two alternatives are tailored to beginning swimmers or younger children.  Those kids who need actual stroke instruction or are ready for the butterfly probably won’t benefit from these alternatives.

Alternative 1:

I have 3 young children who’s ages are close in range- (6, 5 and 3).  With the kids so close it was such a hassle to take them all to the pool, especially as the pre-school aged child was a toddler.  I was loosing my mind “baby chasing” around the pool, while the oldest child was jumping on the platform (not allowed)  and the middle child cried the whole time (just simply annoying) because she didn’t want to get her face wet.

So naturally, I gave up.

Lessons were expensive (65 dollars per kid per session)… kids only get about 5ish minutes of one on one time with the instructor per class (for 8 classes that’s a whole 40 minutes)…. essentially I was paying $130 for 80 minutes of “swim lessons” or $1.50 per minute for two kids….  OUTRAGEOUS!  Especially when they wouldn’t even put their face in the water!

Screw it- I figured they can learn how to swim when they are twenty!

But at the beginning of this summer I started to fret a bit because, the kids were getting older and are more able to do some fun things…. like fairs, amusement parks and my favorite… WATER PARKS— but if only they could swim.

I sat down and budgeted out lessons for the summer and I couldn’t stomach the thought of spending another $130 dollars for 80 minutes of swim instruction— for ONE session… you know the session where they make bubbles and do the alligator or shark or whatever they call it…

Then my husband (who solves most problems in our house) said….”why not buy a pool?”

“Cause it’s a lot of work? And expensive?” I replied….

He looked them up and Walmart sold an Intex 10 ft in diameter pool that was 3 ft deep for the cost of one session of lessons for one kid (60ish dollars at the time- in May).  Then of course we calculated the cost of filling it and the chemicals and cover to keep it clean…. the total came to a little more than $150.00.   He reminded me that it was the time that was spent in the pool that made the kids comfortable with the water.  If we had a pool in our back yard, we’d probably be surprised at how much they’d use it.

Within the first week (even right after my son had his tonsils removed) those kids were doing flips under water, swimming around, and having breath holding competitions!  I highly doubt it would have happened had we just done swimming lessons.  They spent over 10 hours that first week in the pool.  And have enjoyed it all summer!

 

Alternative 2:

My friend has a swimming pool in her “gated” community and also has a large number of children.  Her children are a bit older and more advanced in their water skills than mine are.  She knows a young teenager who has worked as a life guard before.  We were talking once again about swimming lessons and I told her what I did this year with the Intex pool.  She said that her yard wouldn’t accomodate room for play and a larger pool like I had.

So I suggested for her to pay the teenager for private lessons.  My friend offered to pay the teenager $70 dollars for the week for 5 hours of lessons, 1 hour per day of lessons which are 20 minutes per hour of one on one lessons for 3 kids.  So that is 14 dollars per hour and the kids get 1:40 of private instruction per week.

Such a better deal than group lessons.  Plus the one on one lessons will accelerate her kids’ ability quickly.

 

So there you have it… two ways to beat the swimming lesson racket at the local aquatic center- bummer summer is pretty much over— but they’re good ideas to keep in mind for next year!