Sunday, July 29, 2007

Zoo Points

We're starting to train our daughter to clean up her toy room. For incentives (since she doesn't understand money quite yet) we're using a point chart with a goal in mind at the end. Everytime she cleans up her toy room she gets to check off a square (I think we do 20 squares).
This morning she got her last point and we're looking at a few hours at the zoo.
I'm kinda excited about it. And I'm quite proud of what a happy responible child I am raising. ; )

Maybe it's because she's four but she's quite glad to get small simple joys rather than whining for what she's not getting (expensive toys, frequent trips to McDonalds, etc.). Right now she hasn't heard much of "my {} is better than your {}."

This is my last opportunity to be on the computer for a few days. Hubby is taking his work laptop on a trip so I'll have to find other ways to keep busy.
You'll hear from me again soon though.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Birthday parties and ways to spend more of your money

One of our daughters friends had a birthday party at Build-A-Bear today.
I had never been to a Build a Bear before so I didn't know what to expect.
It was really fun for all the girls. They all got to pick out their own bear to stuff, name and 'dress' with bows. I wasn't quite sure what the 'dress' part of the party consisted of because there are racks of clothes all throughout the store. But, for the party which was ten dollars per kid (the party parents paid for all the girls) the clothes are bows to go on the bears neck, ears and tail.

So, I can easily see how a parent could get sucked in spending lots of money on multiple outfits, shoes and purses for your bear. I briefly considered getting an outfit for her bear but held myself back. She didn't seem to think her bear was lacking anything (it isn't) and I think I will wait to put something under the tree for her at Christmas. And it will give me a chance to see how attached to this bear she gets. You never can know which toy is going to be a favorite or one she just goes "Eh." too.

I have seen other Build A Bear for sale at thrift stores and garage sales before though. I bet I can find some clothes this way too and have a little something for her stocking.

Which reminds me of a great present I found for my little boy at Tuesday Morning yesterday. Tuesday Morning has higher end housewares for a discount. Most of the time I walk by their offerings because they are unnecessary or still high priced. But, they have good clearance deals.
I found an eight in one wooden toy set with a puzzle, blocks, shape sorter etc. on sale for 5.99. This is going to be his big present so I'm quite pleased I spent so little and I think he'll use it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Wal-Mart Commercial

One of our new channels is Sprout. It's a division of PBS but it has commercials for consumer goods unlike PBS which has 'sponsors' who get endorced through repetition. Sprout plays this Wal-Mart commercial where there's a nice suburban looking mom with a baby in a snugli and a pre-k'er walking alongside throughout the store.
First the Mom stops to grab some Huggies and some Huggies baby lotion. And she looks down to see her big kids has spilled grape juice on her shirt from her juice box. The child is wearing a jacket but Mom hightails it over to the kids clothing to pick out a new unsullied shirt for her daughter. A few seconds later Mom looks down to see that baby in the snugli has lost a bootie. Of course the next shot is of Mom going to the sock section to get new socks to replace the lost one.
And on the way out we see the big girl grab a stuffed animal out of a display bin and drag it behind her for Mom to buy. Then comes the announcer saying something like, "Wal-Mart is the place where Moms can get all their supplies for baby at the Wal-Mart price."

Now, I don't love Wal-Mart and I try not to shop their too often because I don't like the way that the company is run and because it seems like our local Wal-Mart is full of grouchy customers of questionable cleanliness and unfriendly clerks (go figure). However, I do shop there sometimes with a baby and a pre-k girl. For the sake of comparison we'll say that my son is still a little guy capable of and willing to be snuglied.
This is how my similar Wal-Mart experience would go:
Baby is in a snugli that I purchased from a garage sale for 2.00 that has already seen a lot of use from his older sister. I am searching through my coupons to find one that is the highest value/closest to expiration date for the package of Huggies Overnights. I bypass the baby products because I don't need the lotion. I still have a full bottle of Huggies lotion that I picked out of the grocery store clearance bin and used a coupon for a grand total of .80 Big girls spills a drink on herself (probably not a juice box since those are special treats that get doled out rarely.. we'll say it's a .25 pop from the Sam's cola machine outside because we do that occasionally.). I would zip up her jacket to hide the spill (unless it was a big spill then I'd take her to the bathroom and take off her shirt and then zip up her jacket putting her shirt in my purse to take home and launder).
When I notice baby's lost bootie I would retrace my steps to find it. If I couldn't find it then I'd take off the single bootie and let the child go barefoot until we got home. I can always hold their feet in my hands if it's cold outside.
As far as the grabbed toy out of the toy bin, with my child it wouldn't happen. We've taught her early that we only buy on special occasions and she accepts that. I let her look and touch toys (within reason) all she wants but they almost always go back on the shelf. If she did happen to grab a toy and I didn't see her do it I would make her put it back. That simple.

Now I now I could be more of a tightwad. I could bypass the Huggies Overnights (which are the only diapers that don't leak on us) for cloth diapers. I could skip the .25 pop. But, without those things there would be no Wal-Mart commercial.
Hmm, what a concept.

The Amy Challenge.

So, I've been perusing my Tightwad Gazette daily lately. I'm reinspired, which is the case whenever I reread it.

I'm still doing cloth diapers whenever we're home during the day. I did my first small load of diapers and they are hanging to dry in our laundry room. I splurged and bought the cheap drying rack from Target. I put it together while I watched a Joyce Meyer show on some religious channel that we now get.

Oh yeah, we shaved many many channels off of our DTV package for a $20.00 savings monthly. It was a compromise between keeping the big package that we had (I will miss you TLC, DHC and A&E) and getting rid of it completely. Our reception isn't good anyway and we really love having a tivo. Now I think I'll watch less tv during the day since my favorite shows are no longer available to me. At least until Lost, Survivor, and Grey's Anatomy restart.

I made two jugs of sun tea instead of drinking up our hoarded cases of our sale pop.
My husband is a big dude who needs lot of hydration so this hits the spot. And I enjoy seeing my tea jug perking on the patio in the sunlight.

I made lentil soup for dinner which was pretty good but not toddler friendly. We had bing cherries for dessert.

On a not so frugal note I settled on a day care provider for my son when my daughter goes back to preschool. Because we don't live close to relatives or anyone I know well enough to leave my children with I don't have a free sitter. And I have to be available for helping and field trips and I can't take jr. Yeah, it bugs me too but, the side benefit is that those days that I'm not at preschool.. I get to grocery shop alone or see a Dr. w/o small companions. We're looking at 5-10 hours a week. Next Tuesday is his free trial day and I hope he likes it.

I think that's all for now.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bits of joy... frugal and otherwise.

We've been having a good weekend.
Friday night we went out to eat at a Chinese buffet and then we drove downtown to the arch to see a free concert by one of our favorite musicians, Ani DiFranco.
That wonderful concert was followed by a fireworks show over the Mississippi river.
Then we drove our sleeping children home and tucked them in bed.
Saturday hubby finally got a few hours to try to take apart our laptop and see if he could fix it. Apparently not. The particular model that we have is prone to problems and it had been taken apart for repairs (by the Apple people) too many times.
We're looking at dropping 1500 on a new one. Not great but, the old one was a pain and we use a computer so much that it's almost necessary. So, there goes some money and a wanted purchase. Oh well.
Anyway, while he was working away on the laptop at the picnic table in the back yard the kids and I were out there too. Yesterday was a wonderful summer day when their was a cool breeze and it was sunny. In the shade it was perfect weather. So, we got out their sand table and filled up a blow up wading pool with some water. The kids played and got dirty while I watched happily and gathered some fallen limbs and sticks.
And I did something I've never done before. I got out our old Little Smokey bbq grill and barbequed up some veggie grillers for dinner. I burnt them a little on the bottom but, they were still edible. We had bbq burgers with the trimmings and a bowl of cherry tomatoes outside. It was very satisfying and I'm looking forward to doing it again. Without the burnt part.
My mom requested a trip to Red Lobster for her birthday (which is tomorrow). I didn't order the gift cards from our Discover cash back program quick enough. So, it looks like we'll be paying out of pocket. I love our Discover card for the cash back. I use it almost exclusively. The cash back becomes gift cards to give out for presents and the rare occasions when we are short of money, I can apply it to our bill that month.
So, after a nice breakfast of french toast, scrambled eggs with cheddar shreds, and veggie sausage I am relaxing with hubby's work laptop.
The hubby and kids are straightening up the toy room which is out of hand and I need to go sweep the kitchen floor and clean off the dining table.
I'm looking forward to going to the Global Foods store later. I'm hoping they have tvp because I am out and I do not want to fight the crowds at the Whole Foods.
Life is calling. Must dash.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cloth Diapering.... again.

With my first child we started out using cloth and disposable diapers. I was fortunate enough to have generous in laws who offered to pay for three months of diaper services for us. Well, that company went out of business at the end of those three months and I was able to buy up some of their very nice diapers for 5.00 a dozen.
I also accrued two dozen unbleaced diapers, a dozen unfolded diapers, and various covers and snaps. All told I probably have invested 150 dollars in cloth diapers. My daughter wore mostly disposable after those first few months with another try at cloth diapering around the time we were ready to potty train.

So, I've been rereading my Tightwad Gazette for inspiration... and I stumble on a diapering article that I'd forgotten about. Here's an easy way for me to pinch a couple lincolns... cloth diapers. I have them. I have a toddler. Voila.
My son is now 17 months old and I decided that it was time to finally get my money out of those cloth diapers that are sitting in his closet.
So, this is his second day in cloth diapers. We still put him in a disposable for outings and for sleep. Now I have to think about buying a drying rack for the diapers and covers. We don't have a clothes line outside.
Another thing to consider.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Summertime treats

Tonight we had fresh from the garden (of my in-laws) sweet corn on the cob. Man, it was good. I made whole wheat spaghetti with mushroom and veggie crumble sauce but it was just a sideline to the corn.
For dessert we had fresh bing cherries and a ripe peach. Delicious.

This is a good reminder to me of how much better fresh food tastes than processed food. We enjoyed this a lot more than our restaurant dinner of Mexican food for $20.00 last night.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Saving money on good candles.

I burn a candle almost every day. Yankee Candles are my favorite. They smell really good and they last a long time. But, they cost 15.00-20.00 for a decent sized candle. Too cost prohibitive to indulge daily.. I save mine all year until it's time to make my Christmas list for my husband.
But, I found a decent cheaper alternative. The Dollar General Store has a candle that comes in a mason sized jar with a bow on it. They smell good and they burn a long time. And they are five dollars. They come in flavors like Vanilla Cupcake, Sugar Cookie and my personal favorite.. Cinnamon buns. They are also cute enough to give as gifts. They don't have that typical Dollar Store giveaway look. Perhaps it's the bow. I don't know.
Next time I'm in Dollar General I'll have to pick up a few more.
It's been awhile since I've blogged. Our personal laptop is still broken as we haven't had time set aside for hubby to fix it.
Right now he's out with the kids taking a walk and I'm supposed to be cleaning up the dinner dishes. I'll get to that in a minute.
It's been kinda crazy around here.
Hubby and I had a great time in Florida two weeks ago. We went to the movies three times. That is something that we used to do a lot of before we had kids. We loved going to a matinee or to the drive in and smuggling in our own drinks/snacks. This time though we did pay for one small popcorn and a drink and there was no smuggling.
I'm not sure how ethical it is.. but, I hate how much movie popcorn costs.

I've been itching to get out my Tightwad Gazette again and start reading. I've been thinking about making some cuban bread. (note: buy yeast) And I need more ideas on healthy snacks for the kids. It seems the only things they will snack on are crackers, cookies, popcorn, cheese, and certain fruits.
I've been tivoing a show about a family of ten- Jon and Kate plus 8 -- that really makes me want to be organized and thrifty. I love the episode where Kate goes grocery shopping with her calculator and coupons. Now, I don't do the calculator part. Mostly because I have two little kids in tow and I need to get in and out as quickly as possible. But, I almost always have a list and coupons. I guess in some ways taking children saves us money because I don't stay in the store as long and I want to go to the store less frequently.
I also like to see how Kate runs through her daily round while taking care of six two year olds and two 6 year olds. She has to be so organized. I like seeing what she puts on their plates for lunch. I have been working on feeding my big girl better. Today she had sliced tomatoes from grandma's garden, half of a veggie chick patty, banana slices, three pickles, and a dollop of ketchup. So, not too bad. The baby is so picky though. He really only likes veggie burgery stuff, bananas, and cheerios. So, that's what he had for lunch.

We've been blessed by seeing the in-laws frequently too. They give abundantly from their garden and chickens. We get fresh eggs and produce. Right now I've got fresh corn, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and broccli sitting in my fridge. I need to make sure they get eaten before they go bad. We're still working on eating up the last clearance produce from my last Save A Lot adventure.
Tonight we had veggie pizza. I used a Save a Lot crust mix, a bag of pizza cheese (save a lot), six clearance mushrooms, half a clearance pepper, a handful of fresh spinach, the last bit of an onion from the fridge, the bottom of a Prego spaghetti sauce jar (bought on sale for 1.00) mixed with a can of tomato sauce (Aldis) and spices and a sprinkle of sugar, and three or four tablespoons of Morningstar sausage crumbles. It came out really good.
For dessert we had Marble Cake. I used a Duncan Hines cake mix on sale for .50, a can of Diet Cherry Coke, and half a container of Betty crocker frosting (on sale for 1.00). I think it's a Weight Watchers recipe. You take a box of cake mix and mix it with a can of diet soda... no other ingredients... and follow the box directions.
It doesn't taste quite as good as regular mix but, it's faster and easier.

I haven't gotten much free lately. I did call Huggies today to ask for coupons because we are running low on Overnight diapers. I hope I get some good ones.
My boy hasn't had one cloth diaper on his butt even though I have a whole trash can full of cloth diapers and supplies. I feel guilty about it. I do. But, I just really never have liked cloth diapers and my husband refuses to help diaper if I use them. Oh well. There's always ebay or freecycle if I never get around to using them.
Well, that about wraps things up.