Monday, December 6, 2010

New Year New Resolution

I happened to come across another blogger's blog about an email that I found interesting and I started to think about the upcoming new year. It was about buying American products. There are a lot of people that have lost jobs, homes or are headed in that direction. It is time that we as Americans look at how we are spending our money this holiday season. Are we contributing to the job loss? What are we doing to prevent it? Now Kristen is a Pro-USA military wife living in Hawaii, she hit the nail on the head with this excerpt that I've pasted:

"Are we North Americans as dumb as we appear --- or --- is it that we just do not think???

While the Chinese, knowingly and intentionally, export inferior and even toxic products and dangerous toys and goods to be sold in American markets, the media wrings its hands and criticizes the ex-Bush Administration for perceived errors.

Yet 70% of Americans believe that the trading privileges afforded to the Chinese should be suspended.

Well, duh. Why do you need the government to suspend trading privileges?


Now I have to agree, that we shouldn't have to depend on the government, it is simple economics. We need to lower the demand for these products. I have to admit, I don't check to see "where it is made" every time I buy groceries. There are a few products that I know they are American like Imperial Sugar and Blue Bell Ice Cream that are made here in Texas, that I'm loyal to. I have to agree with Kristen, it only takes a second to look at the bottom of a can or the back of a box to make an impact. Yes it may be a few cents more, but you can probably find a coupon that will offset that.

I've given it some thought, and I hope there are some fellow Americans that will do the same. My New Year's resolution is going to be to buy American products when possible and hopefully get more people to do this too, together we will create jobs. The only question is whether or not this will be a resolution that I can keep. I mean, are we so dependent on Chinese products that I won't be able to find certain necessities made here in the USA?

Here is were I need help, a lot of people may be willing to do this with me, but they may appreciate a list of American made goods that they can keep in their purse or wallet to refer back to while shopping. Please email or post any business that may benefit from this movement. I'm going to create a list and I'll post it as a download for anyone that wants to use it.

Please post if you would like join me in making the same New Year's Resolution, I would love to see how many people will do it with me.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Every Drop Counts In A Single Income Family

Clean drinking water...not self-evident for ev...Image via Wikipedia

Lately I've had a really sick baby. I know they get sick, but this one takes the cake! The baby is on an antibiotic that has vomiting and diarrhea as side effects. So needless to say, the water bill is going to be a little higher than I would like it to be. Fortunately for me, I've been holding onto a large glass tea pitcher that is too big for my refrigerator (It holds approximately 2.5 gallons). I just have really liked the way it looks too much to give it away. Since it has gotten cold, my eldest son indicated that we have to wait a long time for the water to warm up in the morning when he wants to wash his face. That is when the light bulb went off! I could catch and transfer the running water while I'm waiting for it to warm up, and transfer it into the tea pitcher! Then when I need to do my laundry, I just set it on the side of the washer, turn it on, and let it drain into the washer!

Now I know you may be thinking that is a lot of work...well if you do the math... 2.5 gallons x 3 people washing faces = 7.5 gallons x 2 times a day = 15 gallons a day x 30 days in a month = 450 gallons of water.  Okay, now you are going to say how does this affect your bill? Water is just a few cents per gallon. Well in Houston, you are placed into a "bracket" based on the amount of gallons of water you use per month.

If you would like to be confused, see below:

Single - Family Residential - TU 01, 02, & 03

   (Gallons)             Water Charge              Sewer Charge
     0 - 1,000                      $3.45                              $6.52
      2,000                           $8.18
      3,000                           $8.18
      4,000                          $16. 04                            $15.81

      5,000                          $19.00                             $18.77

     6,000                           $21.97                      $3.96 per 1,000 gallons
                                                                                + $1.14  fee

7,000 - 12,000                $21.97                       $3.96 per 1,000 gallons
                             + $2.92 per additional             + $1.14 fee
                             1,000 gallons over 6,000

Over 12,000                   $39.49                       $3.96 per 1,000 gallons
                             + $5.28 per additional             + $1.14 fee
                            1,000 gallons over 12,000

Note: The $1.14 fee will not appear on the bill as a separate line item on the bill.

EXAMPLES (The layman terms):

1,000 gallons $3.45 Water

(low-user rate) $6.52 Sewer

$9.97 Total / Month

7,000 gallons $24.89 Water

$28.86 Sewer ($1.14 fee included)


14,000 gallons $ 50.05 Water

$ 56.58 Sewer ($1.14 fee included)

$106.63 Total / Month

So basically, I'm paying to be in a 7,000 to 12,000 gallon per month usage. I'm using a lot of water, I know! that is why I decided to post it! The thing is, that I could be using 7,001 gallons or 11,999 gallons a month and still pay the same price for water.  This bracket is too expensive for me. So I'm hoping I can move myself down a bracket by using my outdoor rain barrel (which isn't doing so well since we haven't had a lot of rain) to water the yard and plants; and my smaller indoor (drinkable water) rain barrel to do laundry, water plants and animals, and occasionally boil eggs and noodles. Who knows, maybe I can come down to the 1,000 gallon usage bracket. I could use the additional $40 a month!
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Coupons, Coupons and more Coupons...

I follow a blog called The Days of a SAHM, I saw that she recently wrote about how she organizes her coupons and she uses a SPREADSHEET! Now this is a woman after my own heart! I'm a strong believer in coupons, if you are willing to invest your time, you will see the rewards immediately. There are several ways to organize your coupons, I'll list the ones I have used.
  1. The Coupon File:  This was a little plastic check organizer that I found at Target, it only had about 8 tabs that could be labeled. I would put the newest coupons at the back of the section so that I could use the ones that were about to expire first, and they would be near the front of each section. now I'm a little OCD, so I had to put all like coupons together and spend  hours organizing them and not using them (my eyes would get so tired). I only had to drop it one time to realize that it was not for me. I currently use it in the truck to keep all of my reciepts, I tend to have a lot of paper clutter in the truck without it (that is another system for another day).
  2. The Hanging File: I found a milk crate to use as a hanging file holder, and I had several green hanging files that were given to me from a previous job (the best price = free of charge). I don't recall what life changing event caused me to fall behind on my coupon clipping (oh yea, I dropped all my clipped coupons and decided to take a hiatus from clipping); so I had several Smartsource and Red Plum (back then known as Valassis) inserts that were stacking up. I noticed on the side (what would be the "binder" of a book) there was a date on each one. I was already using the website and she indicates the date that each coupon comes out  along with abbreviations for the inserts. Now I like to color code everything, so I used one color to represent Smartsource and another for Valassis etc. I used the same abbreviations that "Couponmom" used, and dated each label (in pencil of course, I didn't want to buy more labels). I would just cut out the coupons I needed to go with the list I printed out, and put them back into the file when I was done. I would just have to look at any old dates, pull the file and any unused coupons would be expired anyway, so I would toss it. So now you are probably wondering why I changed systems...I was throwing away a lot of expired unused coupons!
  3. The Binder: This is the system I currently use with Couponmom. The double binder I got on sale at Target (yes I do like Target a lot), and I bought some baseball card protector sheets (you can find them in the store near the check out where the Pokemon and Yu Gi Oh cards are found). Now this is were the correct dividers are needed. I couldn't find any that I liked so I made my own (if anyone knows where to find dividers that have tabs that stick out far enough to be used with these sheets, please let me know). I used some manila file folders that I cut and punched to fit in the binder. I also labeled both sides of the tabs, I didn't want to waste time flipping back and forth. I have all of my food product coupons on the left binder and the toiletries, cleaners etc. on the right binder. I also like to dedicate each page for the same product. For example, I have a "refrigerated" section, and I have two pages dedicated to yogurt, two pages have meat coupons, a page for eggs/butter and so on. it makes it a lot easier to find the coupons. Now that I have a baby, I can only clip one insert at a day, so once I get them clipped I separate them into stacks, one for each side of the binder. I'll put them into the sheets during nap times. Now if anyone announces that they are going to the store, I ask what are you buying and which store are you going to, and give the appropriate coupons to be used (I still throw out unused coupons, but not as many as before).
Now don't get me wrong, I'm probably not going to use the spreadsheet system, mine works for me, and I can do it blindfolded. I will say this, there is always room for improvement, and I love spreadsheets. I'm going to create a spreadsheet to use with the binder that will help me identify any spur of the moment coupons that can be used the next time someone announces that they are going to the store (I may even time myself).

If anyone needs any help with a spreadsheet or would like one created for them, please email me the specifics and I'll be happy to do it for you at the best price (the best price = free of charge)!
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Monday, November 22, 2010

It is OFFICIAL! I'm a SAHM!!

Ok, so I officially became a SAHM as of today. I can honestly say that I woke up early looking forward to starting my day. Last night my daughter and I discussed us walking to school together and we weren't exactly sure how much time we'd need to walk 1.9 miles to get to the school. (This will save me $15/week since we live too close to the school for her to ride the school bus, I have to pay for a weekly bus service to pick her up and drop her off at home) We got a late start this morning so it turned into a power walk. We can walk it in 20 minutes! The baby was content with the new route and was pointing at birds and trees the whole time. He would even giggle when we went over bumpy sidewalks. The only drawback is that we live in a humid climate, so my daughter's hear needed another visit with the flat iron.

When I returned home, I was tired, and needed to get my crock pot going, I'm making potato soup from a recipe I got off of crockpot365, I'll let you know how it turns out. I still wanted to finish my "to do list" and if I could finish it early, would mean that I can get used to this...The last major thing that I needed to do today was to go to the courthouse to pay for my registration for my truck. I don't know how I let it expire, and secondly how did I not find the time to pay it between August and now. Either way, the penalty for not taking care of it online or on time, was a ONE HOUR wait in line. Now I guess I'm a glutton for punishment, because not only did I add the baby to this wait, I did not bring a stroller. The best part is once I got to the part of the line that was against the wall that leads into the actual tax office to continue to wait in line;, I saw the sign that  read, " cash or checks only". I had to get out of line to go to the ATM which was in the same building, to return and start over again in the back of the line. I truly put the baby's diaper to the test today, and we made it home in time for what could have been a nightmare in a public restroom.

So now that I have put the baby down for a nap, wouldn't you guess it, I'm exhausted too! Why didn't anyone warn me about overdoing it on the first day. I still have another 1.9 mile walk to get my daughter and another to come back home. The house doesn't even look like I've been home today, and I'm hoping potato soup is going to be enough for dinner (My husband likes hearty meals).

I've got to hand it to all of you SAHMs out there, this is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, I'm up for the challenge, I just need a nap first.  KUDOS!!
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

1 Week Down, 5 To Go!

Grown Ups Enjoy Reading, Also.Image by New York Public Library via Flickr

I'm one week closer to being a SAHM! I had a good week last week, I talked to some other people that I work with, and they think it is a good thing for me. I'm still a little nervous, but I'm really looking forward to it now.  I truly am going to focus on helping my son raise money for his senior class activities, and my daughter and I are looking forward to our walks to and from school. The baby seems like he is ready to be potty-trained (he takes his own diaper off when it is soiled). This will keep me busy until the end of the school year.

I've also been very fortunate to find other "bloggers" out there that can help with this transition. I found another blogger named Darice Rene who described how overwhelmed I've been feeling to a tee! It has been a struggle in the morning since the baby gets up at the same time I do; no matter how hard I try to get up earlier than he does. I can't tell you how many afternoons I've been thinking of my 2 hour commute that ends with washing diapers. Fortunately for me my husband has been on diaper duty for me. Whew!

Since I've subscribed to Money Saving Mom, I've found other blogs that have been very interesting and informative. This has probably been the most motivational site, since she has become debt free and has several tips to help you do the same. Through her site I've found Crockpot 365  she is a phenomenon when it comes to crock pot cooking. I was so impressed with what she can do with her crock pot that now this is going to be my next project. I have a crock pot that gets very little use. I don't have time to prepare in the morning, and the times that I've prepared it in advance, I forgot to turn it on! Now that I'll have undivided attention to give to my home, I'm going to put that crock pot to work! There are several recipes that I want to try and there are several I can freeze. This is going to be a lifesaver for me since I'm going to have days that I'll want to spend away from home. I strongly suggest that if you have a crock pot, you take a look at her site. it will be time well spent. I pledge to never forget to turn my crock pot on again!

I want to thank all of the blogging moms out there, you have been a Godsend to me. I hope that you realize how much power is in your words.
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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Random Acts of Kindess

I attend Lakewood Church, and last weekend we had a visitor to our church, Dave Ramsey. Now I'm not a Ramsey follower (yet), but I know several people that do listen to him and have suggested that I listen to him. I did listen to his radio show briefly prior to last weekend, and he does give good financial advice. Last weekend when he was at our church, he mentioned doing Random Acts of Kindness. Basically, if we do what we can to help random people, it will create the "butterfly effect", which may end up helping someone else on the other side of the world.

We Walk By Faith

Well with that being said, I recently started following a blog called The Days of a SAHM. As you may recall from my more recent posts, I will be a SAHM starting in January, Jenn's blog has helped me realize that this is a blessing in disguise, and I need to embrace it! I was so concerned about the financial ramifications, that I didn't see the big picture. If you look at her blog and her pictures, she has a beautiful family and truly enjoys being a SAHM. I plan to be just as proud.

Recently posted that she has also learned how to create buttons for your blog,  and for a short time will create them for you at no cost! Would you like to advertise on her blog or do you need an ad on your blog? Well, you can with Jenn as well (I'm not sure for how long) FREE OF CHARGE! Now you'll need to be patient since I'm sure that she may have a significant number of people taking her up on her offer.

I know that there are several small businesses that can and will benefit from what Jenn is doing. This may be bigger than what she may have imagined! Should you decide to contact her, please make sure to let her know how much we appreciate what she is offering. Don't forget that you can sign up for her giveaway too!Once I get my button, I'll add it to my site, and I'll also add her button to my blog as well.
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Low Budget Party Idea #1

We have one more day to prepare for our Halloween Party, and I've had a few request for the other low budget parties that have already been thrown. Now I can't take credit for the ideas, since other frugal family members have thrown some of these parties. This is the box car party that my sister threw for my nephew earlier this year. He loves the Cars movie.

Cars- The Movie WallpaperImage by Cthomasuscg via Flickr

Cars movie theme, you'll need:
White spray paint
4 Orange cones (can be found at the dollar store)
Boxes (banker's box size, but make sure the handles are on the longest sides of the box) Cut out the bottom
Black Paper Plates (regular size)
White paper plates (small)
Cars movie theme stickers
Additional colored paint (optional for painting the boxes prior to the party)
Checkered Flag
Trophies (optional)

If you are going to paint you boxes different colors, you'll need to do that first, then you'll need to attach the Velcro to the back of the plates and to the boxes. Make sure that you attach the correct sides to the boxes since you'll be attaching the white plates to the "front" of the box to serve as headlights, and the black plates will be attached to the sides to serve as the wheels. You will need to spread the 4 orange cones out far enough to allow 2-3 adults to stand (they will serve as the pit crew), and use the spray paint to create 2-3 lanes in your "track".

As your guests arrive, give them 4 "wheels", 2 "headlights", stickers, and ask them to assemble their cars while they are waiting for the remaining guests to arrive. The kids will like the activity, and they will use the assembled car in a race later at the party. Not all of the kids will want to race, but they should enjoy the activity.

Once your pit crew is in place, you can start your races. Each kid will need to step into their box, and hold it up with the handles. They will each run one lap around your track. There will be some crashes and some stumbles since it is a little difficult to run carrying the box. Your pit crew will need to get the car (kid) off of the track immediately and re-assemble the car should they want to continue to race. Upon completion of the lap, you'll need to wave the checkered flag to indicate that the race is over. Each child can get a trophy if you opted to use trophies, if not they can keep their car as a party favor.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Party Plan

Jack-o-laternImage via Wikipedia

Well tomorrow is my youngest son's first birthday. We plan on having a Halloween party to celebrate his birthday on October 31st and we plan on going Trick-or-Treating as a group with our party guests. Now this is where it gets a little tricky. The last few years for my family have been very different, my family throws really good parties on a brown bag budget. It seems as though each party is an attempt to outdo the last one. No one is jealous or upset about it, the consensus is pretty much that we can't wait for the next party. Everyone wants to see what we'll come up with next.

We have decided to have a carnival theme. Of course everyone must come dressed in a costume since we'll go Trick-or-Treating together after the party. We have games that the kids will play to win a prize. All of my prizes I got on sale for 40% off at Party Boy. There is a 40% off Halloween items in the ballroom that in the back of the parking lot. I got plenty of Halloween themed plastic crazy straw cups for the little kids, and rubber rats and skulls for the bigger kids.

I've designated "spots" in the back yard for the activities. Each person will get a small gift bag of candies, toys and ten tickets. You can buy a spool of tickets at Party Boy, I should be able to use them at another party. My daughter the "artist" (but will be dressed as a pirate) will offer face painting for 2 tickets. She took a nice cardboard square and some paint, and painted a nice selection of Halloween themed pictures for the kids to choose from. My eldest son (the banana) will be in charge of the ring toss and the can table (knock the cans off of the table to win a prize), these will cost 5 tickets each.  My husband the vampire will be in the miniature pumpkin patch were the kids will pay with 4 tickets to try to choose matching pumpkins that have the same color painted on the bottoms.

I am going to be dressed as a witch, and I found a really scary looking cauldron that I'm going to use to hold all of the prizes and any extra tickets that the kids will need. We do plan on having the traditional birthday cake with a Halloween twist, and of course we will have a Halloween themed pinata. It isn't a party in my family without a pinata.

Now it will be more cost effective for me to shop for next year's Halloween party when this season comes to an end. For the most part, I've gotten all of my Halloween decorations, candy and prizes on sale. The cans and the bottles for the games, came right out of the recycle bin. The paint, school supplies I already bought during the summer, when I went back-to-school shopping.  So no rented equipment or clowns for me. I'm blessed to have a family that will work for free!

Happy Halloween Everyone!!
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why I don't "Grocery Game"

Example of an American grocery store aisle.Image via Wikipedia
I've had several people ask me if I'm a "Grocery Gamer". For those of you who may not know what that means; the grocery game, is a website that requires you to purchase a membership, to get instructions on the best way to use your coupons with the grocery store sales to get the biggest discount. There was a lot of publicity over the years about it, and how you could save a lot of money on your grocery bill. Now I did use it at one time. I did use it almost 6 years ago, when I was new to coupons. I had my doubts on the membership fee though. I just couldn't get past the fact that I needed to pay a membership fee for this information. It is more of a convenience fee. You may decide that it is worth it, and the fee is not very expensive. You will see that the savings will offset the cost significantly.

One day I was watching the morning news as I got ready for work. They showed another person that had a website that you could use to get the same information. Coupon Mom was her name, and she had an IPhone that had a coupon app! This was an easy name for me to remember, and the App was intriguing. I went to the website it has a lot of information I don't use, but I go there to print out my "List". I know there are a lot of helpful links, I just try to stay focused on printing out my list since I usually don't have a lot of free time to clip and organize my coupons. I usually just have enough time to either print out one list, and gather the coupons for that list, or I can print lists for several stores, and prepare for shopping later in the week.

I've used this site for a few years now, and I upgraded my cell phone to a phone with Apps. You see, I used to download my coupons onto my Kroger card via the website before the new phone. You have to wait at least one hour before you check out to redeem your coupons. With this App, you only have to wait 10 minutes! I can also use my phone to look at the coupons I've downloaded while shopping. This is probably the best financial decision I've made. I don't pay the membership fee to print out a shopping list; and even though I paid for the upgrade on my phone, two trips to the grocery store have already paid for the cost of the phone in savings. I'll have to upload my receipts, this way you will see my actual savings.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

To Work or Stay At Home (2 of 2)

June supervises the boys and their friends, To...Image via Wikipedia

Well it looks like I may have until the end of the year to work full time. That will help since I'm still working on paying down our debt. I've been using this debt reduction calendar that I found online, it is fairly simple to use. I've talked to my husband and we are trying to figure out if we can afford to live on one income or if I cut back my hours to work part time if that will help. I found this stay-at-home calculator on the website, I do like it but I'm looking for a calculator that I can use in Excel format. I want to have the ability to adjust my expenses and possible income as a SAHM.

It is a mixed blessing, my daughter has been asking for time with mom that I haven't had. My eldest son is graduating this year, and he wants to look at colleges together. The youngest son is walking (I missed his first steps because I was working), and I know my babysitter is not going to feel comfortable with potty training.  So when it comes to these issues, I need to be home. I've come to accept that this is going to be a good thing for my family.

The negative is that I know that once you leave the work place that you don't come back earning the same pay as when you left. This is where I'm hoping that the savings and retirement plans that I have in place are going to be sufficient. I've got some money saved in case of an emergency, and I've also decided that I would try to sell Premier Jewelry. I would be an independent consultant, so I'll have to keep you posted on my progress.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

To Work or Stay at Home (1 of 2)

How do you decide if it is feasible to work full time or to become a stay at home parent? I know I've been blogging about some money saving tips, unfortunately with the changing economy, I feel the need to be prepared. My husband and I have been discussing this for some time. Nowadays, there are no guarantees. We are trying to lower our debt so that should I leave the work place; money would not become the subject of arguments. I know that I can save money by clipping coupons, and using my freezer to do bulk cooking. The bottom line is that I hear about many people losing their jobs, and it scares me. The reality is that I can see the "writing on the wall" so it is time to prepare for the worst. Here is a little back ground information, I'm a people person, I need to find some way to be around people, otherwise I think I may be unhappy.  On the other hand, I'm not really happy working full time anyway. I feel guilty leaving the family to go to work, and I work late most of the time. Then when I need to take time off from work for my family, I feel guilty leaving work undone and most of the time I'm off I'm getting calls or texts that are work related, so my kids really don't get that time with me. Becoming a stay at home mom may actually be a blessing in disguise. Right now I'm having. to chose between work or family.  This should not be a decision anyone should have to make. Frankly, it is only a matter of time, and the decision will be made for me. Don't get me wrong, my husband is very supportive, but he wants me to leave my work at work, or not to work at all.

We have paid off my husband's truck and I'm almost done with another credit card, but there are some bills that I'm having to pay because I work full time. I pay for daycare/babysitting, on top of the cost, I prefer to use my sister-in-law which adds a two hour commute to and from  work. I also have to pay for a private bus service for my daughter since we live 1.8 miles from her school, in order for her to ride the bus provided by the district, we need to live 2 miles from the school. I'm not home when she gets home but she does call me when she gets home. We recently had our microwave break, so the option has been to eat out or order take out. I do think that if I was home more I could offset some bills and be more of a parent to my children. I also have a 17 year old that needs to get his college applications sent off before December 1st. My gut is telling me that becoming a SAHM is what I need to be doing right now anyway.

I've been looking online for a way to calculate the cost of working vs. staying at home. there are several calculators out there, but they aren't accurate. They don't include the loss I will take to my retirement since I won't have the money to contribute, and I won't have my employer to contribute to it anymore. Not to mention medical insurance, mine is paid for by my employer, so my husband and the kids are on his. I know that it is cheaper to pay cash for regular doctor's visits. I would do that instead of using my insurance since my deductible was so high. I may have to create a more accurate spreadsheet to truly see what the savings vs. cost will be.

So it looks like my blog will not only have some tips about saving money, it will also include a diary of a working mom turned SAHM.
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Family Game Night

Hasbro Family Game NightImage via Wikipedia
I'm not sure if you have seen the commercials for "Family Game Night" on your local TV stations, but my family and I have decided to give it a try.  We have been doing it for over a year now, and it has been a hit! I really am not in a position where I can take the whole family out for a movie, so we have been playing board games instead. We have dedicated Fridays for now, and we have several games to choose from, since my other family members found out that we have been doing this, we got several board games last Christmas. Now we have a variety to chose from, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, you name it! A game that I've played and really have enjoyed has been a game called Beat the Parents family trivia game. I've never seen it in the stores, but I found it on I bought it for my Daughter last year after reading the reviews.

Beat The Parents is a trivia game that requires the players to divide into two teams, the kids vs the parents. Now I've become very confident in my board game skills, I'm pretty competitive so I knew I was not going to lose at this game. I've seen "Are you smarter than a 5th grader", I figured the questions would be similar.  My husband and I played against the kids, by kids I mean a 17 year old and a 13 year old. This was not an easy game! When I  or my husband read the questions out loud, we thought to ourselves, these are too easy. The kids could not answer the questions, and when the kids read the questions to us out loud, they were amazed by our inability to answer. Now the questions really aren't difficult, I mean, who doesn't know what the letters ATM stand for! Especially a 17 year old, shouldn't he know since he asks for money on a regular basis?  Beat the Parents had us laughing the entire time. I'm not going to give any examples of the cards that are read to the parents since most of my readers are adults.  It wouldn't be fair should you decide to purchase it (which I strongly suggest you do). My family and I look forward to Family Game Night, and we have enjoyed all of the games we have played so far.  I would recommend Beat the Parents to families with kids ages 10 and up. We have had several families over to play this game, and they have enjoyed it too.

Now that I have two teenagers in the home, they really don't want to spend a lot of time with "Mom and Dad" when they are home. The spend a significant amount of time in their rooms, Family Game Night has given me time with my kids again without them complaining about it. We have found a low cost way to entertain ourselves and others when we have company over to visit.  This has been such a blessing to our family and it has kept us close.
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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Flylady's crisis cleaning really is a lifesaver!

Do you look for your car keys on a regular basis?  How about your mail, do you have a spot in your home that collects mail on a daily basis?  Well lately I've been doing both.  I used to be a lot more organized. I'm not sure if it is the combination of having a family on top of a full time job and a two hour commute, but I've started to notice how much time I waste. It really hit home this week, I have my in-laws coming to visit on Monday, I've got tons of laundry to do since I was in Toronto last weekend, and unfortunately my husband left the mail for me to sort out. I haven't had time to go grocery shopping, and I'm not even sure where to start cleaning my house. The panic started to hit on Friday while driving to work.  I knew I would be working late, my husband has to work on Saturdays, so I wouldn't have a lot of help with the baby, and there would be a possibility they would get here on Sunday since they were driving from New York to Houston.

I decided to go to and send an email to Flylady for help.  If you are not familiar with Flylady, she has a wonderful approach to cleaning your home 15 minutes at a time.  I found her website about 4 or 5 years ago and somewhat "cherry picked" the routines she suggested to fit my lifestyle. I explained my situation via email with a little more panic in my text, as I typed, I could feel my heart racing as I really started to think about all of the things I needed to do. I finished my email hit send...and waited...I got an email immediately in response with the first line reading "breathe" and that Flylady has a podcast that I could listen to about crisis cleaning. I couldn't help but to feel a little relieved and chuckle when I read that word. I clicked the link in the email to listen to the podcast.  I couldn't believe that she already had a plan to deal with a situation like mine. The scenario that she created only allows one hour to clean, I've got the whole weekend! I had to listen to it twice. The baby pretty much sleeps through the night, so I couldn't let him nap all day. He is starting to walk now, running after him is a job in itself! I strapped the baby on, and started to go to work in the kitchen. The baby was facing out, so he played with the water while I washed the dishes. He actually giggled as I went from room to room to drop things off.  I feel a lot less stressed about the situation, and I've started to reclaim my spot for my keys. The mail is going to take some time to go through, I'll have to do that when the baby is asleep. 

I'm really looking forward to the visit from my in laws, the baby will be a year old at the end of this month, maybe  they can help plan the first Halloween/birthday party! I'll try to get some pictures posted for you to see.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Google helped me save $$ on my phone bill!!

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

 I've been trying to cut costs as much as I can in almost every aspect to try to get us closer to becoming debt free. The problem is that not everyone is on board yet. My latest venture is the phone...we have had at least two cell phone bills this year that have been over $500.00.  Yes you read that correctly, we had to take my daughter's cell phone off of our plan, increase our family plan minutes and yet somehow we still went  beyond our plan. I will also admit that I am not proficient with the new technology that exists, but I do okay. My latest venture and it may be old news to you Techies out there, is Google Voice and GMail.

Image representing Google Voice as depicted in...Image via CrunchBase

Now I've seen the icon to the left of my screen indicating that I could call my friend Jeannette every time I'm checking my email, but I figured it was a chat screen or something I would need to pay for.  Well I was at work one day and the IT person was working on our laptops when he needed to call another client. He used Google Voice and I happened to overhear the computer being used as a phone. This was intriguing to me. I have some family members that I would like to call, but it would e a long distance call from the home phone (we have a basic phone line) or I would need to wait until after 9:00pm (central) or the weekend to call.  He briefly explained how it works, but I didn't really give it much thought until recently.  I had to go to Toronto for business meeting. I learned when I was in Toronto, and was roaming, that I did not have an international plan and would have to pay .25 for every text (even though I have unlimited texts on my plan), and calls would be .69/minute (you don't even want to know how much Internet was). Now I'm sure you would be thinking, just turn your phone off. Easier said than done... this trip required me to use my phone since 6 other people came with me. We couldn't even find each other in the airport to catch the shuttle to the hotel upon arriving in Toronto.  I'm afraid to find out what our phone bill is going to be.

Needless to say, I have several friends that want to hear all about my trip. Some of them have moved here from other cities, and kept their old phone numbers which makes me need to wait until it is after 9:00 to use my cell phone to make the call. So I decided to use Google voice, I created a phone number, and set it up to make a call to my real-father. I could hear the phone ring through the speakers on my laptop and the person on the other end could hear me fine (this was a call to California).  Well, he wasn't home and I had to call him on his cell since he is in Las Vegas right now.  I made another call to his cell using Google voice, and had to leave a message. I gave him the "Google number" to call so that he could save it to his cell phone. Not too long after that, I had a Google voice "voice-mail" from him. YES, not only does Google voice allow you to make and receive calls, it also transcribes voice mail messages into what looks like an email with a "play button". I could read the message or select play and I heard my father's voice! This probably the best way I can offset the cost of our phone bill for now. I don't have to wait until the weekend or off-peak hours to make any long distance calls! I'm LOVING IT!! Feel free to call me at 832-377-0864, I would love to put voices to my follower's faces!!
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

To All The First Time Parents

Ok, I just found out that there are a few new parents out there that don't know about all of the free stuff and coupons that you can get when you register as a new or expecting parent online. I know a lot of hospitals register parents but they don't tell parents about what can be done to save money.

I know that if you are planning on bottle feeding, you can register for Enfamil and Similac on the websites. I received several cans of Enfamil in the mail after my son was born. I didn't register for Similac until my son was a few months old, so I got coupons in the mail to use toward the purchase of Similac in the mail. Enfamil still sends coupons and checks for their products, and the coupons have changed to more age appropriate foods.

I recently registered on the Playtex website, (I don't know why I didn't register sooner) and I'm getting coupons for spill proof cups, and the bottles that we are currently using. If you are expecting, I strongly recommend that you register prior to the arrival of your baby. (A friend of mine had twins, and got a Diaper Genie free) You'll see that it is a few minutes well spent.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cloth Diaper Challenge

Different kinds of inner cloth diapers. Baby d...Image via Wikipedia
Yes I grew up with parents that were Hippies, my mom used cloth diapers and my dad sang songs to us with his acoustic guitar. Perhaps that is why I decided to give the cloth diapers a try.  Now for those of you that are thinking that I'm using safety is a new millennium, and the diapers are much better than that now. I did a lot of research on the Internet, and decided to use BumGenius cloth diapers.

You can find them at,, or if you are in the Houston area;  They are cloth diapers that can be adjusted to fit your baby. They have Velcro tab closures like disposable diapers, and they are extremely soft to the touch on the side that touches your baby's skin. There are inserts that come with the diapers that you adjust for absorbency. Initially we used one thin insert, but now that we have been using cloth diapers for nearly one year now, we use two thin inserts for our daytime diaper, and one thick insert combined with a thin insert for our night time diapers.

Now I'm not going to sugar coat the cost, they were expensive initially, but once I purchased enough diapers to keep up with my baby, it became more cost effective. I went to Bebeverde and attended an instructional class on cloth diapering and got a discount. I bought 20 diapers in the beginning, I could not keep up with the laundry and take care of a newborn (trying to breast feed), and sleep when the baby slept. It was overwhelming.

Now I have 30+ cloth diapers there are fewer diaper changes and cloth diapering has become a breeze! Yes I do have to wash the diapers still, (approximately every other day) and I still cannot get my husband to understand that I do not want him to use fabric softener when we wash the diapers (it makes the diapers less absorbent). The savings alone have been well worth it. I do have two older children, (used disposables on both) and I remember having "leaky" diapers and DIAPER RASH, I really didn't have those problems this time. We did have a couple of accidents, but those were indicators that I needed to adjust my inserts to accommodate a larger baby bladder.

My son is almost a year now and has taken his first 3 steps. I'm looking forward to potty training, not because I don't want to use the cloth diapers, it is because he has learned how to open the Velcro closure when his diaper needs to be changed.

Now here is the challenge, I need to convince my husband that we should have another baby!
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Organizing Your Home??

HoardersImage via Wikipedia
I've been watching "Hoarders Buried Alive" on TV, and it has given me a different perspective on the time I spend sorting the mail etc. If you haven't watched it or aren't familiar with it, it is about people who have the need to collect things without discarding anything. Ultimately they become overwhelmed with stuff that they have accumulated over time. It is beyond belief!

My family doesn't know why I watch it, but it makes me wonder if I may become like that. I mean, I cannot keep up with the junk mail that I receive. I put it aside hoping to get to it, and then in no time I have a pile of papers that I don't know what to do with.

I will not allow myself to become like that, and I've decided that I will use modern technology to help me with this. Don't ask why, but I have two printer/scanner/copier machines, that are sitting collecting dust. (still not a hoarder) I tend to hold onto paper, so I decided to scan the documents onto and external hard drive. It is easier for me to organize them and if I need to see them, I can go straight to the computer (a lot faster to search for a file) all of those statements...shred...goodbye paper pile!

I've created both jpeg and pdf files that I can use to store the documents, and my next project will be to scan and label all of my photos that are getting ruined due to the heat and humidity in my garage.  I know this may sound bizarre, but I live in an area that may get hit by a hurricane. It will be a lot easier for me to evacuate with all of my pictures and important documents since they will take up less space.
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Monday, September 27, 2010

When It Rains It Pours!!

Logo for The Home Depot. Category:Brands of th...Image via Wikipedia
The house seems to be needing repair after repair, after repair. First it was the microwave, then it was the hinge to the door, not to mention that the bathtub has a really bad leak, now the kitchen sink is leaking and the drip pan to our air conditioner has a leak too.

We have looked, and even though I may be frugal, I would like to get a microwave that still matches the existing appliances. So we have put that on hold. It gives us more time to save money for the Maytag microwave. On the other hand, I need to do something about the money going down the drain! My water bill has gone up $10 every month consistently.

I started to look online for some ideas. I found this site: and learned that you can use barrels to collect rain water. No we won't be drinking this water, but in Houston, when it rains, it doesn't just pour, it FLOODS! I can collect the water to use later and save on my water bill. We can water the yard. I can collect the water that is dripping from the faucets to use later. No more money going down the drain. I didn't get one since it is a little more than I can afford right now. I did get one from Home Depot that doesn't look as rustic, but will serve the purpose. I'll have to give you an update in a month or two.

They make some decorative items to use to collect the rain water, called rain chains: soon as I can afford one, I'm getting one!
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

One more step towards FREEDOM!!

I've been gone a while, I'm sorry that I haven't had time to post. It has been a crazy month, with the kids starting school again and adjusting to the routine, the blog sort of fell to the wayside. I'm sorry to all of my followers.

With that being said, my husband and I have been having a few discussions about how we should spend the money that we have saved.We don't have a lot nor do we have a lot to lose. Our babysitting expense is causing us to feel stressed. (I think it is the combination of the baby, house note and two truck notes)
I downloaded a spreadsheet that I could use to determine how long it would take to pay off my credit card debt. I'm not a Dave Ramsey follower, but I'm pretty sure that there is a debt calculator that you can get from him too. We entered most of our debts, and it will tell you how to allocate your monthly payments to get out of debt and how long it will take you to do so.

The outcome was: WE PAID OFF HIS TRUCK!! We only owed $4,200.00 to pay if off, my truck is approximately $5,000 - $6,000 so we could have an additional $350 per month to use toward babysitting or any other credit cards that we still need to pay off. I know, I know, my Dave Ramsey followers are going to say that I should have paid off the credit cards first. But our monthly payments for credit cards were $100, and we need money for the babysitter NOW. I will still try to pay off the credit cards in the next few months.  It was a strategic move for us. Now we will have a car for my 17 year old to use for school when he goes off to college.

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It will take a month for me to see if this really works, but for some reason when it rains it pours! Now we are having a few household repairs come up one after the other...UGH, bear with me as I figure out a way to save on that.

Until next time, thanks for following!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Goodwill is GRREAT!

I don't know about you, but I like to shop at Thrift stores from time to time (it is too hot in Houston for garage sale shopping for me).  I like Craigslist, but sometimes there are the same items at Thrift stores if you can find the time to go.  Now I have a confession to make, I used to think Goodwill stores were a step below the thrift store (so to speak). This is where it comes from...I moved to Houston in 1979, my dad lost his job in Arizona when they laid him off, he worked in the mines. The economy was a lot like it is today, so we packed up the car and moved to Houston to live with my Grandmother. We didn't have anything, we slept on the floor (it was fun), and we had to go the Salvation Army for our clothes.  I used to get picked on at school because kids knew I had "Goodwill" clothes. (yes this is where it started, I never corrected them)  In essence though, I learend that it was cost effective to purchase second hand clothes, but I was reluctant to go to Godwill or the Salvation Army.
Goodwill IndustriesThe Goodwill store on 290 and Mangum has recently been remoldeled. I always knew it was there, but never went in. I decided to give it a try one day, and I've been addicted since. Oddly enough, it looked and felt like a Marshall's or TJ Maxx inside. I've been able to purchase more brand name items that look new, at a price that I not only feel comfortable with paying, but will help keep me within my goal for becoming debt free.  I bought a Kate Spade purse for $2.40, Ann Taylor suits for $5.00, Banana Republic blazers for $8.00, I could go on and on. I've seen clothes with Talbot's labels, Minolo Blahnik shoes, and Baby Einstein DVDs.  The point is when money counts, check Goodwill first, I'll bet it will be worth the trip.  My husband finds it funny that he does not worry about his wife's shopping habits, he knows there isn't alot of damage I can do at Goodwill. Happy shopping!!

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Credit Card Company ticked me off!

I've been trying to pay off my debt, and doing a pretty good job at it. I've started to get those tempting pre-approved envelopes in the mail.  I got this one piece of mail from HSBC Card Services (it was a pre-approved card I got a long time ago), the card was approximately $300 from pay off, and I got a "credit limit increase" of $1,200.00!!  Now keep in mind, I had planned an outing with my 12 year old daughter. We were going to a meal preparation place called dream dinners, it gives you some variety to the freezer cooking menu. 

With that being said, we went, (cost $370 plus tax) enjoyed it so much, we had to sign up for the next month's class in order to save on the cost of the meals. (It's complicated, but it made sense at the time)  I knew I had to spend another $300 but I couldn't afford to spend it out of this paycheck (truck payment is due).  Of course, I remembered the letter in the mail from HSBC, and checked to see if I had the card with me.  Wouldn't you know it, I did. So when the lady swiped the card, it was declined.  I couldn't believe it, so I asked her to try again, and told her about the new credit line. I decided to call HSBC to find out what was wrong.

HSBC Bank in ArmeniaImage via Wikipedia
Apparently, I was late on my $15 minimum payment, and that needed to be paid before I could use the card at all. (It did not matter  that I had avalialble credit)  I politely asked the person on the phone to let me speak to a manager ( I really wanted to use the card now). I could feel the blood rush into my face as I asked the manager to look at my payment history, look at how long I have been a cardholder, and if it made any sense to her that HSBC is willing to trust me with an additional $1,000.00, but they won't trust me with $15 worth of credit.  I explained to her that her company is about to lose a paying account.  She apologized to me and I paid for the next course with my debit card. (The truck would have ot wait, mom and daughter time came first)  I came home, turned on my computer and paid off the card with my online bill pay.

This was a mixed blessing, I've been trying to get out of debt, and this forced me to use the money I had.  It was a little embarrasing to tell my husband that we had .16 in our account (I paid the truck anyway to avoid a late fee), and that we couldn't eat out.  He was fine with it, he knew what my goal was , and he supported my decision.  I told a couple of co-workers, and my sisiter, they all said "Good for you". I paid that card off and am now one step closer to my goal.
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