Saturday, September 17, 2011

Spare change anyone??

My Father came to visit over the summer and told me that he paid off his car using the spare change he would have at the end of each day. For as long as I can remember, my dad had change that he was rolling into tubes to deposit in the bank, or he would have a huge water jug that he would drop loose change into. So having him tell me that he paid of his car using loose change, was believable, coming from him. Could I do that? Nah.

So over time, the thought of what I could do with the loose change that I get when I do laundry, or I see around the house has been bouncing around in my head. You see, I didn't want to spend it, I wanted to save it. I spend spare time cutting and sorting coupons, so I don't have time to roll coins. Who goes into the bank anymore? I do everything online now, so I wasn't going to make a deposit once I got it rolled anyway. I know, I sound lazy, but I'm being very realistic about me. 

So one day I was talking on the phone to my friend about the loose change, and she mentioned Coinstar. Now if you aren't familiar with it, it came out a few years ago. It is a machine in most grocery stores and it counts your coins for you, for a small fee. When it is done you get a receipt that you take to the customer service desk and they give you the cash that has been counted up. I found this picture and you can see that the person had $10.00 in pennies but after the fee would get $9.11 once they redeem the receipt at the customer service counter.


Now, I knew I didn't have $10.00 in change at the time that we were having this discussion and I didn't want to pay a fee to use the machine. Here is the good part, you can use Coinstar to count the change and get a Kroger gift card without a fee. So you get to keep the value of all your change and you can use the gift card when you purchase groceries at Kroger (minimum of $5.00 to get the gift card). 

Okay, so here is my version...I used the machine (I found a dime on the ground in front of it) and I had $7.02, and now I have the Kroger gift card with that amount on it. I don't want to spend that money, I want to save it. So I went home went to my online banking account. I transferred $7.02 from my primary checking account (which is what I would normally use to pay for my groceries), into my savings account. This is how I plan on saving some money, I only need $6,992.98 to buy the used station wagon I found! I know it is a slow process, but it works for me! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Using a Rain Barrel

Drastic Times Bring Drastic Measures!

I bought a rain barrel a long time ago. I thought I could use it to collect the rain and water my yard between rains. That in theory was supposed to save money. Well, I'm in Texas, and if you haven't already heard...there is a drought in Texas. I'm not getting the use out of my rain barrel that I hoped I would. There is another option though...

You see there is this term: "grey water", it is the water that comes from your washing machine, that can be recycled. It isn't water that you can drink, but it is usable water. This drought is horrible, it is supposed to make it into the record books. We have been advised to water our foundations with soaker hoses, which I did, but my water bill is going up. Now we have been asked to conserve water (and electricity), so here is where the rain barrel comes in. I have a 57 gallon rain barrel, it looks like this: 

My washing machine uses a little over 40 gallons of water each time I wash clothes, and that water goes down the drain. It is water that I can use. It is ridiculous that I'm waiting for rain that isn't coming to collect water to use (not on my grass, on my FOUNDATION). I talked to my husband about how the city is dealing with 1,000 water leaks a day, and how we could conserve water. I also talked to my sister (she is frugal too), and she is noticing the effects of the drought on her home as well. Well one thing led to another and now my rain barrel is in my garage collecting the grey water from my washing machine. The spout on the rain barrel at the bottom has a male part, so I connected my water hose directly to it, and it waters my foundation and yard each time I do a load of laundry.

It isn't as productive as using a water sprinkler, but it is helping me maintain my water bill, and helping me take care of my home. I never would have thought at the time that I bought the rain barrel that it would be used this way, but it is getting the job done!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Collecting Box Tops For Education

Box Tops for Education

I've been collecting box tops for a few years now. It started when my daughter was in elementary school (she started high school this year), but once we moved, the new school didn't participate in it. I usually have to ask around to find someone whose school is participating and give them my collection. It is really easy to do, I just put a magnet inside of a sandwich/snack size bag and stick it on the fridge. As my family and I see them, we tear them off and drop them in the bag. Once I have a decent amount to give away I start asking who would like them.

Now you are probably wondering why this would be a subject I would choose to talk about. Well if you have school aged children, you may have noticed that there are more and more school supplies needed for school. It isn't just backpacks and binders anymore. It is pencils, glue, crayons, paper, tissues, and paper towels. When I was in school, the school provided the thin brown paper towels. It has changed a lot. I have noticed that almost every product I purchase with a coupon has Box Tops on them. Since my husband is a teacher, I know that it was an uncomfortable year for us with all of the layoffs that occurred. He wasn't one that was let go, but he only has a 1 year contract. Anything can happen next year. Now most of the teachers that we know, pay for school supplies for the classroom, and the parents provide the additional supplies. So if the issue truly is a monetary issue, I think it would be good if we could get every eligible school to participate in this program and try to help out. You see EACH school that participates in Box Tops for Education can earn up to $20,000.00 using the 4 ways to earn. I know that doesn't sound like a significant amount, if you multiplied the amount of Elementary and Middle schools in each district, it is a significant amount that can be earned. I do see the value in coupons, the Box Tops can be just as valuable, especially if the item was purchased at a great price with a coupon.

Collecting them in the work place can be just as easy, the same ways some businesses have designated a clearly marked trash receptacle as a recycle bin, and recyclables appear in it. A clearly marked cup/bin in the work place can be just as effective. Your co-workers will take notice and donate, just give it a try. I'm not sure why my daughter's new school didn't participate, but I'm going to see if I can set them up. If you have any ideas or suggestions to help raise money for schools, by all means, please comment! They will be greatly appreciated!
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Green, Greener and Greenest!

Okay, so there are a lot of ways that you can be "green" and I've implemented a few things to become more environmentally friendly. I've always recycled (paper, plastic and glass), and we still use cloth diapers (even though we are potty training), and I drive a flex-fuel truck (and have a scooter that is even better on gas). I changed jobs, so now I'm working 2.2 miles from home, and we have a rain barrel that has been severely under-used since we have had a dry spell practically since I bought it. it has been really hot, I have a programmable thermostat, but my air conditioner is still working hard to keep up with this heat. With that being said, we have had temperatures over 100 degrees consistently, so I was thinking about buying a solar oven...

It has been so hot here, that I've forgotten to take meat out of the freezer for dinner, and simply put it outside for a few minutes, and it was thawed so that I could cook (no water wasted to thaw it). It may sound a little cliche, but you really could fry an egg outside in this heat. That's what has me thinking, I could be taking advantage of the heat (similar to my rain barrel collecting free water), not to make sun tea, but something bigger!

Solar cake in a solar oven (GSO: Global Sun Ov...Image via Wikipedia

I mean, I'm still going to try to make fruit roll-ups in the truck, just to prove to my kids that it can be done, but I have a feeling that I could use my truck to cook until I save enough money to get the oven that I want (it is a little pricey). I know, I can use my crock-pot, but a sun oven, once it paid for itself wouldn't cost anything to use it. It does sound like I would be pinching the pennies, but the crock-pot, even though it costs very little to cook with, still gives off a good amount of heat (at least mine does). This way the heat stays outside. So in the meantime, I'm going to play around with my truck. My first experiment will be with cookies, I'm going to stick with smells that I wouldn't mind in my truck. I will add the photos later, but in the meantime if anyone has used this oven or anything like it, please feel free to give me some pointers or recipes! I would love to hear from you!
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let's Create A Gas Price WAR!

Ok everyone, I've come up with a plan to try and create a price war among the gas stations. I know, I know, everyone has an idea. Please just hear me out, and if you can, support it for 3 weeks and lets see if it is working. Right now the gas prices are going to be outrageous by the time summer starts. I have a schedule on a Google calendar that we can use to boycott the big 3 for the first 3 weeks, after that, we will start to implement the program. It will take time for the news to spread, so I figured during the first 3 weeks we could avoid the big 3.

Here is the plan, there are a lot of gas stations that we can go to, and that is a good thing. So I've come up with a list that we will use and together we will start to use only the ones on the list for the corresponding week on the calendar. I've created a  Gas Calendar that is public, if you already use Google calendars, you can add the schedule to your own. The main thing is that without helping me spread the word about this, it will not work.

Please give it a try and show some support. I can't sit back and watch what is happening without making an attempt to make a difference. If someone has a better plan, please feel free to make a suggestion. I'm not looking to put people out of business, I'm just wanting to get the message across that we have tolerated this too long, and it has to stop. So please, help me spread the word, Twitter it, Myspace, Tumbler, it etc. You should see it as an event on Facebook already.
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gas prices are rising again...UGH

2004-2007 Nissan Titan photographed in USA. Ca...Image via Wikipedia
      Has anyone noticed that the gas prices are slowly creeping up again? I drive a big truck (Nissan Titan), so I've noticed regular unleaded is $2.89 in my area. It will probably be $3.00 in a few more weeks. I'm writing to remind you that you can use your Kroger card at the pump to save on the cost of gas. I'm already aware that you may be thinking,  a few cents off each gallon doesn't really help. I want you to maximize your savings by using coupons while you are in the store. You see, Kroger will give you 10 cents to use towards gas for every $100 you spend. In my case, I have a 22 gallon tank, so I save $2.20 each time I fill up.

      I am mentioning Kroger because, for those of you that don't use coupons,  not only are you losing money in the store, you are losing money at the pump. You see, the 10 cents that Kroger gives to you to use toward gas, that comes from the total cost of your groceries before the coupons have been deducted. You don't actually spend the higher amount,  you just get the points to use toward your next gas purchase. I have noticed that since I've been using coupons for the last 5 years, I have unused points that could be used for gas that roll over toward the next month to use.  These points are used by both my husband and I, and on occasion if I'm riding with someone else and they need gas; I allow them to take advantage of my points at the pump.

      Now if any of you have any suggestions on how to save money at the pump, they will be greatly appreciated. We can all use the help.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Extreme Couponing

A young girl and her mother shop for chicken e...

I'm not sure if any of you have already seen the show Extreme Couponing on TLC, I saw the first episode last night. Now I'm not new to couponing, I use my binder to organize my coupons, and I do have a stockpile. I found this episode to be a little scary. I also know about the "rush" you feel when you have a significant amount of food for minimal money. I only got that in the beginning when I first started to use coupons. Now I pretty much know what I'm going to pay and the percent I've saved. The amount of merchandise these people have in their homes is incredible, and they continue to shop for more stuff. My jaw dropped open when I saw how much toilet paper was in the first person's stockpile. There was the "Crazy Coupon Lady" as she called herself, I was impressed with how well her son behaved while she shopped. I tend to get distracted by my kids when I take them with me shopping. Mr. Coupon  actually converted his entire garage into what appeared to look like a grocery store.

I'm not judging, don't get me wrong, if it works for them, then more power to them, but my family would call an intervention if I ever got to that point. I found it a little scary in that I do a lot of what they do on the show.

1. Do your research online (I use several online sources)
2. Clip and organize your coupons in a binder (It is purple and everyone has seen it at least once)
3. Stockpile your groceries (I keep an inventory sheet)
4. Know the terminology/lingo (I "stack", "stockpile" and "haul")
5. Know your math (I love numbers!)
6. Shop at Kroger (I love Kroger!)
7. Talk about couponing to others (I've posted my receipts on Facebook)

So the question is, did I enjoy it? Absolutely!! I will watch the entire series! Will you see me on the show? Nope, I'm not that good at it! I like to spend time with my family, I try to fit the couponing into my family life. It will never be the other way around. I do have some people ask me about couponing from time to time. If it happens during my shopping trips, I am willing to help. Do any of you use coupons? I would love to hear if you are an Extreme Coupon person or not, and the experiences that you have had.
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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Do You Want $15,000.00!!

I called my sister on my way out and she told me that I had many blessings coming my way. I had no idea that it would happen that same night. You see, that evening I had no idea that I would be at a restaurant where the food was prepared right in front of you, and would be served on a piping hot plate. I was treated like royalty, I had about 7-10 servers at a time bringing me fresh coffee, clean silverware, clearing the table as soon as I was finished, only to bring me another helping. I felt a little overwhelmed, I mean I could not keep up with this never ending feast!

I was given soup, coffee, fresh bread, hamburgers, salad, juice, spaghetti and would make anything for me per my request! I was amazed at how quickly they were able to prepare the food and also clean the kitchen and utensils, this was a feat in itself. Every single person working there had such a pleasant attitude, and made my time there very enjoyable. I was sipping my coffee when the girl at the cash register showed up already calculating my bill. I started to become concerned, she actually placed the register on the table and sat down beside me. She stopped calculating and looked at me with such joy and excitement in her face, and said, "Do you want $15,000.00!!"... I couldn't believe what I just heard, she waited for my answer with a big smile. As what I just heard continued to sink in, I sat there speechless looking at her two Afro-puffs, her eyebrows moved up and down and her finger was hovering over the cash register keys ready to press another one.

She gave me a little nod, and I said "$15,000.00? Sure! I could use $15,000.00!"... She pressed a few more numbers on the cash register, and it popped open. She took out $15,000.00 and simply handed the money to me. I took it, and I must have hesitated, because she told me to put it into my pocket. I did, and the food continued to come. A minute must have gone by, and she asked me if I wanted $1,000.00 more. Again I said yes, and she gave it to me. This was probably the best night out I've had in years, and it is truly one I will remember for a long time! I went home with a big smile and made several phone calls to people to tell them about it!

You see, I am volunteering at my church, and I am working with 3 year olds. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was blessed by every kid that was there that night! They were so excited to have someone there that was willing to give them well deserved attention. I know that their parents have been served those same dishes, and have enjoyed them too. I just think they liked the fact that they could test out the dishes on someone new. It is a blessing work with children, I do agree with my sister. I truly have been blessed.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!!

I hope that everyone has had a fabulous start to the new year. I've had a pretty good start to the new year and I'm hoping that this year will be the year that I can truly say WE DID IT, WE ARE DEBT FREE!!

So I need to give everyone an update: I still have credit cards that I'm paying off (one of which is a balance transfer with a lower interest rate), we paid off my husband's truck last year but we still need to pay off my truck, he still has credit cards to pay off, and I'm also trying to plan a Graduation Party or dinner for my eldest son.

Needless to say, I'm going back to work. I'll be working part-time for less money less than a mile from home. I'll be able to take my daughter to and from school to avoid the expense of the bus service.  I'll have less of a commute and more time with my family. I also was able to do a lot of research online since I have been home. There are a lot of organizational tools for working moms to use that I know will be a lifesaver for me when I go back to work.

I found an index card organizational system that I plan on using on a daily basis. For some reason, this is a system that everyone in the family is willing to try, and it will allow everyone to have some variety when it comes to the household chores. Each one of us will draw two cards daily.

Some of you may already know that I follow I strongly suggest that you either follow her or sign up for her twitter alerts, she helped me save a lot of money this past holiday season. I think that is how I kept my sanity knowing that I did not have any money coming in.  I also learned how to menu plan (I'm not very good at it, but I'm working on it still). Now she uses plain old pen and paper when she does her meal planning. That is too complicated for me ( I know it may sound crazy, but I just can't wrap my head around it).  So I did some more research, and I found a simpler way to do it using Google calendar. Now let me keep it real for those who really know me. I'm still not planning my meals in advance, I'm letting the calendar do it for me. I can't keep the sale papers away from the baby long enough to look at without getting torn, so I'm doing what works for me. I've tried a couple of recipes from I enter what we have eaten as an event into my Google menu planning calendar, and if it is a hit, I make the event repeat itself. I just ask my family when they would like to have it again, and make the adjustment in my calendar. I guess you could say that I'm taking baby steps to the menu planning concept. It is working though, I know what I'm having for dinner at least 3 days a week, and I know what I need to buy from the grocery store to prepare the meals.

Lastly I would like to add that we finally got some rain to fill up my rain barrel! I thought I was going to get a lot of rebellion from my husband, but surprisingly he is on board too! I think once he saw how much 55 gallons of water looked like, he realized, we could actually save a little money! I have used the water for 4 loads of laundry (wash cycle only), washed all of my windows, and I saw him putting some on the over sized flame he created after grilling some steaks we bought on sale. I still have water that I can use to water our indoor plants and clean out the cat litter.

I can honestly say that even though I'm going to be making less money than I did before, I may be able to save and pay off my debts more effectively than before! I hope all of you can do the same, what are you doing this year to save money or reduce debt?
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