Wednesday, December 17, 2008
* Eating green and organic might make me skinny but it is ridiculously expensive.
* A LOT of green things are more expensive, i.e. cleaning products, clothes, sheets, etc
* Something I aspire towards (writing a book) could make me richer, but printing books certainly isn't green...
Those are just a few examples. I can only thing of a few of my changed practices that are conducive to all three of goal areas--one of which is running. Its free, it's green (no travelling to a gym or purchasing something like an elliptical machine), and it definitely made me skinnier.
Anyhow, I'm reading a great book right now called "Green Chic--Saving the Earth In Style" by Christie Matheson. I received this book as a Christmas gift from my wonderful friend Tara, along with a year's subscription to "Green Guide." Anyhow I am truly enjoying this book for several reasons.
1. I appreciate well written and humorous prose. Let's face it, there are lots of topics (i.e. being green, personal finance) that can be pretty boring to read about if just the facts are listed. This book is funny, engaging, and I'd even go so far as to call it a page-turner.
2. For each green tip it explains WHY you should do what the author suggests, and HOW to do it. I particularly like the HOW: its great to say "Well, I'd really like to purchase some organic sheets next time" and quite another to actually find them in your local WalMart.
3. My favorite thing, however, is that the book is intended for REAL people, i.e. ME. People who care about the environment, who want to make changes in their lifestyle, but who don't want to live in a mud hut and give up certain pleasures of life (such as blow dryers.) One of the biggest annoyances I find in reading green blogs and green literature is that there seems to be a certain snootiness amongst super-green people towards people like me. Sort of a haughty "Oh you think you're saving the earth because you have 4 canvas bags and you hang 1 load of laundry a week? You naive simpleton!"
Green Chic addresses that every little bit counts, and we can all find ways to change things in our life that will positively affect the environment. She doesn't gloss over the fact that yes, the earth is in bad shape and WE are the reason, but she also doesn't preach or use scare tactics. She simply advises many ways to green-ify your life while still remaining chic. Although I'd be hard-pressed to refer to myself as "chic", I have a feeling this will be a book I will keep coming back to in the weeks and months and years to come.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
* It would be beneficial for me to get some type of paying job. Multiple ideas were thrown out, but complications stem from several factors.
- Neither of us wants to put G3 in daycare. Besides that, going back to my job as a vet tech would basically clear me about $10 a week after daycare and gas. So not worth it.
- Gabe's job is not time-specific. Meaning, he does not punch out at 5pm on the dot every day. And he is "on call" every other weekend and 2 weeks a night. So me getting an evening/weekend job is also pretty limited.
- Something that I could do from home would be ideal, such as babysitting another kid or a legitimate type of work from home job. Legitamate being the key word. Scams are rampant.
* In lieu of getting a "real" job (or until I find one) I need to be more aggressive with eBay and my writing. I have made a small amount of money writing for Helium (about $116 total) but by making myself write at least 1 (or more) articles a day I can certainly up my chances. G2 also suggested entering more contests and submitting to more magazines.
* We also made a list of ways to cut back on the amount of money we spend each week. Since we've made a lot of snippets over the last year, there isn't a whole lot of room, but there's some. We're not quite at the point of completely lowering our standard of living, but yet there are a lot of things we could do to save a buck (or 20, or more). Our main area is food. We spend a ridiculous amount of money on food, even with me CVSing and couponing and all that. We buy expensive, top of the line ingredients. We almost always buy fresh vs frozen. We throw a lot of leftovers away. And, twice to three times a week we buy food from a restaurant. Tuesday nights are "take out night", Thursday night is "G2's Night Out" and its pretty likely that at some point over any given weekend we will eat a meal out. I also do something social involving eating out about 1-2 times a month as well.
So, we've come up with our list, and while G2 is not willing to give up his weekly night out (as well as me not wanting to give out my random Girls' Night Out) we have agreed that take-out can be more sporadic and that we need to STICK to the grocery list, buy generic where it really doesn't matter (such as our toddler son's snacks...I know, we're terrible. Gourmet cheese for us, store-brand crackers for G3.) There are also a few other household things on the list (but we do pretty well in that dept.) as well as changing our cell and satellite packages to cheaper ones.
ANYHOW, the point of this post (you knew I'd get here eventually) is that when I sat down to make our list, I first googled "ways to save money". And I came across a GREAT blog, that I have read almost all of in my spare time over the last few days, and plan to add to the list of blogs I read regularly. Check out http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/. Its written by a 20-something Indian guy and is geared towards younger, college educated people, but its full of great advice, challenges and ways to--you got it--become rich. The really generalized theme is that instead of focusing on the economy and the world at large, focus on how much money YOU can save.
My husband has a ton of personal finance books, most of which can put me to sleep simply by looking at the cover. This blog is actually entertaining and a "good read"...as well as full of important and smart advice. I highly advise everyone to check it out!!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
But I did go to CVS today, because after not doing it for oh, about a month or so, I noticed that it had for sure been making an impact on our grocery bill. Stocking up on things like diapers, cat food, and toothpaste while they're cheaper/on sale was definitely helping us not spend nearly as much at the grocery store. As we head into a recession I'm realizing that playing the CVS game, bargain shopping, and coupon clipping are not just lovely little ways for this housewife to pass her time. (You know, 'cause I have so much of it...) In reality now is the time to be thrifty, snatch up good deals, and cut out unneccesary spending.
Anyhow, at CVS this week they had a few good deals. Here are the two that I got:
* Huggies Jumbo Packs of diapers were on sale for $10 a piece. THEN if you spent $25 on Huggies products, you received $5 ECBs. So (essentially) 90 diapers (3 packs) for $25. Not bad.
* Duracell Batteries were on sale for a large pack for $15-something...and then you got $5 ECBS if you spent over $15 on Duracell. So, something like 24 batteries (which go like hotcakes in this house) for $10.
So now I have $10 ECB to get me back in "the game." Go me.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I have used half a roll of paper towels in the last month. This does not bode very well for the remaining 8 or so rolls to last me the next year! In my defense my husband is responsible for some of the usage, and my dog puked not once, but twice. But other times I simply felt too lazy to go to the drawer (5 feet away) that contains rags and get one, wet it at the sink, and use it. Bad, lazy, wasteful!
I have used a significant amount of my remaining stock of Swiffer wet pads and Clorox Clean-Up wipes. Again, no excuse but laziness and, paradoxically, being super busy lately. I have been a lot better about using rags and mopping with a bucket of water instead of the Swiffer, but there have been quite a few incidences that I thought to myself "f*** it". No excuse, again!
Running is over, for now. With the exception of any mild days that may make an appearance over the next 4 or so months, running is out. If it was just me I could stick with it (and probably would, because I do enjoy getting outside) but I think anything below 40 is too cold for my bundle of joy, even if he is bundled up. I have resorted to my old DVR'd workouts and Tae Bo, but since its a lot harder to do crunches and kickboxing with your toddler than it is to strap them into a stroller, I'm somewhat limited. Meaning--nap time is when I now need to squeeze in exercising, along with cleaning, writing, and showering. Since nap time is (average) about 2 hours long, somethings gotta give now and than. I'm trying to make a conscious effort to at least do a half hour work-out when I'm pressed for time...especially with the holiday season coming up!
I need to get a drying rack. Or get something in my laundry room. Though I have been hanging clothes out when I can, they aren't really drying. And, today I went out to check them and found the whole line of towels and rags frozen solid! So, I admit I have been using the dryer WAY more often in the last 3 or so weeks. I have the perfect spot to hang two bars in my laundry room, and that coupled with a drying rack should be more than enough. I just need to DO it. You would think with my next confession I would be all over having to run to Walmart and, you know, buy things.
I keep buying things. Its hard this time of year. I know we're in a recession, and I know that my son is too young to remember this Christmas. I know that I don't "need" a new wreath for the door, new stocking for the whole family, or a Magnadoodle for G3. But lately, I've been bad about spending, and I've been TERRIBLE about using coupons and CVSing. I had started to develop a really nice stockpile of non-perishables and know I missed a lot of good deals. But--sometimes life is just too busy! I really need to sit down and start shopping the way I had been for groceries and necessities.
My final confession...I don't want to be green with Christmas wrapping paper! Well, in my head I do but in my heart I want to wrap everyone's presents in brilliant holiday paper adorned with bows and ribbon, or stuffed into decorative bags with oodles of tissue paper. I recently wrote an article on Helium about ways to be green during the holidays, and a big focus of it was re-using materials like newspaper, paper bags, and previously used wrapping paper, and skipping the embellishments. So why don't I want to follow my own advice!!??
Okay. Confessions over. I promise to be better!!
Friday, November 7, 2008
Running: My initial goal was to exercise 5 times a week, on top of running in the evening with my husband. This has changed a bit, because (1) My husband stopped running for awhile due to a myriad of health factors, mainly a herniated disk and (2) Its now dark at 5pm so our days of post-work running have come to a close, at least until March or so. I'm still continuing to aim for 5 workouts a week and its constantly an uphill battle. I generally get 3-4 workouts a week, 5 is an excellent effort and does happen sometimes. Unfortunately, slacking also occurs, mostly due to extenuating circumstances like going away for a weekend--and I feel it when I do not exercise.
"Thinner" Goals in General: You may have noticed I don't have a whole lot of these. Other than diet and exercise, there isn't much short of liposuction I can do about my shitty metabolism and my post baby flab. Perhaps I need some more specific goals in the future...such as "never eat french fries or cookies ever!" Yeah.
Now onto the greener goals...since these seem to be the most plentiful...
Dryer Usage: By far, cutting out the dryer usage has been the easiest and reaped the most tangible benefits. Surprisingly, I found that I enjoyed the process of hanging clothes out to dry and using the dryer only for necessary items. Our electric bill is significantly lower. I do need to get a drying rack for indoors for the winter, but then again, I think as long as there's no precipitation there's no reason not to hang clothes out in the winter and just touch them up with 10 minutes in the dryer...we shall see...
Going Wipe less: Found a few glitches in my plan to go wipe less. 1. I started doing some minor potty training with my son. Cleaning out the potty (human waste) and then throwing the rag in the laundry? Not going to happen, at least not with the extra gross clean-up jobs. Also, during a party or gathering of people, its really hard to limit your usage. About a half roll of paper towels was used in ONE night. (The other half had been sporadically used over a few months.) The dishwasher was run multiple times, and although I had visions of not using paper plates, I did anyhow b/c I didn't feel like loading and unloading the dishwasher yet again. But really, I'm not going to ask my guests to watch how many paper towels they use or count the squares of toilet paper.
Conserving Energy: My husband and I are getting better about this. We used to be horrible ones for having every light in the house on, unnecessary things plugged in, and taking ridiculously long showers (well, that was more my husband than me!) I think seeing it reflected in our electric bill--we can view it online at any time and see how much energy we've used) has helped a lot. But we could be doing better.
Recycling: Remember, when I started this, we didn't even recycle? Its amazing how many alcohol bottles, I mean recyclables, we go through in a month. Amazing.
Future endeavors: Solar panels. We might have to work on the "richer" part of this blog before that happens. Compost pile. Haven't gotten there yet, and must research to see if things like wild animals and unruly dogs will prevent a compost pile from happening. We shall see!
And finally, the richer goals. I know people laugh but the CVSing has made a difference, and I've changed my mentality about shopping a bit--stocking up when I can and comparison shopping a bit. I have put a lot more energy into writing for helium.com, and it has paid off a bit. And hopefully will continue to do so. Right now it doesn't behoove our family for me to go outside of the home to get a job--we both feel its important for our son to have a parent home with him for now, after all, in a short year and a half he'll be in preschool (sob!) And, my "trade" of being a veterinary technician would probably just cover childcare--unfortunately we aren't lucky enough to have a family caregiver (read: free babysitter) locally. So, although my income from eBay and writing and what I save through shopping conservatively is slim, I do feel it has made a difference.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Sharing". Anyhow, we both noted the funny thing about this book is that of all the reasons they cite for being NOT wasteful, protecting the environment isn't one of them.
For example, the book illustrates how taking a long shower uses all the hot water...and then you have nothing but cold. Or, how using large amounts of shampoo means that then, you have none. Nothing about how it costs more or how its not very eco-conscious.
Amazing the difference in the world in a mere 24 years...
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
* 1 pack of Huggies diapers: on sale for $9.99, plus coupon for $1.50 off
* 4 packs of Huggies wipes: on sale for $2.79 (I think) plus a $0.50 off coupon for each
* 2 boxes of Q-tips: on sale for $2-something
By purchasing $25.00 worth of the above products (I think the total for them was about $26.00) I received $10.00 back in ECBs. Yes, I'm aware that buying individual boxes of wipes is not very green, but the interest of a good deal won over here. I also purchased:
* 2 cans of Progresso soup: $1.99 but they were B1G1 so about $1.00 each. I eat this kind of soup constantly for lunch, and in hindsight it would have been smart of me to get a few more.
* 3 bags of Brach's candy corn: I forget how much they were but I received an equal amount back in ECB's so they ended up being free
* 3 cans of Red Bull for $5.00: This saved me roughly a dollar, but since we're having a party this weekend and its foreseeable I'll need a pick-me-up to dump my vodka into, this was a likely purchase no matter what
* 4 boxes of Kleenex: on sale for $0.89 a piece, had a coupon for $1.00 off 4.
So, my grand total after coupons (I also had $5.00 in ECBs to cash in) was about $33.00. And then I received $12.00 in ECB's back, making my expenditure for the week $21. Normally the diapers and wipes alone would have been more than that, so I was pretty happy with this...
Monday, October 20, 2008
Helium also has tons of contests, message boards, and freelance writing opportunities. There is also the Marketplace, which consists of specific titles submitted by specific publications. These are topics that are for certain going to put a little bit of cash into your pocket. You also earn a piddling from Helium just for your article being on there (for example, I have now earned $2.37 for the first article I ever wrote--about a year ago.)
So--Helium sounds like a great place for me, right? I like to write. I think I am fairly good at writing. Writing comes very easily to me. I'm not good at things that require extra work, discipline, or going outside of my box too much. But I am good at what I know. And I can write an article on a topic I am familiar with in roughly a half hour or so. Which is very conducive to my other job (G3's caretaker.)
Anyhow, I started with Helium about a year ago. I would write a few articles, slack off for a bit, write a few more. I found it fun, cathartic, and it was exciting when one of my articles would inch closer to the top of the pack. Over the summer I totally stopped writing, mostly just because of life--being busy, running around after my little boy, going on weekend trips.
Anyhow, after my recent failed attempt to step out of my box and sell candles (again, "attempt" is a strong word, I know) I made the decision that I need to make more of an effort to earn a little cash. EBay immediately came to mind, and I decided to start writing more often on Helium.
In the past two weeks I've probably written about 8 or so articles. Since I'm on the money-making path, I wrote strictly for titles listed in the Marketplace. AND today...not one, but TWO of my articles were purchased, by two separate publications! I've never heard of either of them, and my grand total of earnings from both was just under $60.00...but what a motivator!
Monday, October 13, 2008
I'm not sure if I have mentioned on here that I belong to an online "mommy group" that formed after we all became regular posters on Babycenter.com--the "due in July 2007" boards. Its a very tight-knit group of women--I would 100% consider them my close friends. I would probably go above and beyond to help one of them if needed, and I know they've got my back.
We talk about and share everything, and about a year ago one of our "mommies" joined Gold Canyon Candles as an independant demonstrator in effort to bring in more income for her family. She's been wildly successful with this (basically, she sells candles in the same manner that one might sell Avon or jewelry or gourmet food.) She has become so successful that she's inspired a number of us to try this candle business out. I should also mention she's become so successful that she's put in a gigantic, impressive in-ground pool with a waterfall.
Anyhow, awhile back another "mommy" joined under her and has done the candle business in a more limited scope, but she too has been successful. This week, there was a lot of discussion on our boards about becoming an independant demonstrator and before I knew, 3 other mommies had signed up. One was a SAHM mom like me (who's preggo again!), the second is a working mom, and the third is a mom with 3 kids who is in school working towards being an RN. As in all of them are definitely busier than I.
At first I just thought it was an interesting discussion, and although I was inclined to give it a try, I was holding back mainly because...I'm not really a salesperson. I don't really have enough local friends to see myself having a party, and I personally don't really like it when people try to sell me stuff. Still, the idea of extra income sounded good, and I kept telling myself Why don't you just try it? My friend (we'll call her Chris) was extremely encouraging, and when she said "you can basically do almost everything without ever leaving your computer" I was hooked.
For about an hour.
I sat down on Friday night with a glass of wine and my laptop, debit card in hand, ready to sign up, create my website, and order my sampler kit! I was excited! Until I immediately hit a wall and needed Chris's help. Over the next hour, after about 15 texts back and forth to Chris, I was slowly starting to realize...I don't want to sell candles!!! I had signed up, paid my $55, and I didn't want to go any further. It was too complicated (I'm sure being tired and tipsy while doing this was not the best laid plan, but oh well...) Chris was totally and utterly helpful, and when I shamefully told her I wanted to quit she wasn't upset with me, which was good.
So, things I've learned:
1. Weight the pros and cons and make sure I really want to do something BEFORE charging it to my debit card!!
2. Listen to myself. Never along the line did I really feel like I wanted to do this, but it sounded good and there's always the tiniest bit of guilt of not having an income, despite the fact that I DO have a job...
3. My friend Chris rocks.
So anyhow. No more home businesses or candle-selling. I'll stick to what I know--writing, and hope that in my ventures I will come across something that makes me a bit of cash (um, maybe this blog?) But I do want to put a shameless plug in for my girls who were brave enough to start this up. So far I only have one of their websites, so here it is. If you want a candle, need a gift for someone, or just want to help a SAHM starting up her home business...GO HERE:
Cortney's Candle Website
Jen's Candle Shop
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
- Scott 12 pack toilet paper: Regularly $11.99/On sale for $6.99 with card/coupon for $1 off=$5.99 spent
- Bic Soleil Razor: Reg. $6.99/On sale for $5.99 with card/coupon for $2.00 off=$3.99 spent
- Colgate Toothpase: Reg $1.30/On sale for $.99 with card/coupon for $1.00=FREE!!
- Head and Shoulders: Reg $5.89/On sale for $4.99 with card=$4.99 spent
I also had an ECB rewards coupon for $3.50 off, and I received a total of $5.00 in ECB back (plus a coupon for $4.00 off $20.00 of Playskool items...which probably won't be used, but still.) Anyhow, after using coupons and factoring in the "money" I got back, I technically got the above 4 items for $6.74. That's not too bad, right?
After hitting CVS I moved on to the grocery store. I was inevitably going to spend less money today because I was shopping alone (i.e. without my husband) but I was impressed that I got a week's worth of provisions for around $69.00. I know Money Saving Mom feeds her family of 4 on $35 a week...but I don't think we're there yet, actually I don't think we'll ever be there. But we usually spend between $100 and $120 a week, so $69.00 is pretty good to me! This included ingredients for a sirloin steak dinner. I think not "needing" to get things every week allows me to buy what's on sale to stock up and the fresh items I need (i.e. milk, produce, meat.) To make this week even sweeter, I then used my gas points at Giant (not sure how that works but basically they give you cents off gas after spending x amount of money at the grocery store) for a full tank of gas at just $3.17 a gallon. Not bad at all.
One final note, I found a blog of interest: Cousin Yellowstone. This guy (I think its a guy) picks up recyclable trash as sport. Pretty noble.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I'm going wipeless.
No, not giving up the toilet paper (and probably not the paper towels, but more in a minute on that) but I am going to change my methods of cleaning by switching out all my convenient wipe-type products and go back to the method that people used for eons...rags.
Seems like a simple enough habit but there's a reason why wipes of every kind sell like hot-cakes. The convenience factor is high. Pull out a wipe, clean the intended part of the house with it, toss it. No mess, no fuss, and a new clean wipe every time. I've known for a long time that such products are really unnecessary, that they pollute the earth, and cost a ton more than regular cleaners. But I've sort of ignored those thoughts, kind of like I ignore the little voice in my head that tells me french fries are bad for me. Somewhere along the line, I've convinced myself that wipes are the best thing since sliced bread and french fries count as a vegetable serving.
Yesterday, though, I was reading an article on AOL; it was basically readers' comments on the 41 things that are a complete waste of money. One, of course, was wipes, and the way it was worded was "it's basically like paying money for your trash." Something about that hit me in a different way...and set me on my new adventure of wipeless cleaning.
There are three types of wipes I use. The first is Clorox wipes, which are the best thing in the world to a clean freak. They're good for everything from counters to toilet seats to sinks--the smell of Clorox working is so powerful you can practically see germs curling up and dying. I love these things. As someone who likes it clean and also someone with a child, dog, and husband (and cat, but she keeps herself clean) I rely on them greatly. I will say that since my efforts to go green came about, I've cut down on the wipes quite a bit...but not completely. I still have 3.5 containers of these floating around the house. I am going to ration their use to serious situations--basically times when I am so crunched for time I really don't have the extra two seconds to scrub a little harder. But--when they're gone, they're gone. I have pretty much kept a container in each bathroom and the kitchen since about 2002 or whenever they came out. I've instead stocked each area with some rags and a bottle of the Clorox Anywhere (which another reader told me is quite easy to make by diluting regular Clorox vs buying the slightly more expensive sprays--may try this in the future).
The next wipe is the Swiffer. I know they are ridiculously expensive but one can't deny the convenience of attaching a cloth to your Swiffer mop, mopping, and then throwing it away. It is for sure less work than the bucket and regular mop. I use Swiffer a lot. I have for a long time and its also going to be a tough one to say good-bye to. And, unlike the Clorox wipes, I have just 3 single Swiffer wet wipes left...and when they are gone, they're gone. I do have a sponge mop, and I bought a second sponge mop for upstairs for about $7.00 (which is about the cost of a container of Swiffer wipes, ironically.) Buying replacement mop heads is pretty inexpensive. I also had the brainstorm of attaching a wet rag to my Swiffer mop in the same fashion as the wipes and directly spraying the floor with floor cleaner. I attempted this method in my bathroom yesterday and I have to say it went well, and was only about 10% more effort than the regular old Swiffer.
The final type of wipe I use are the Mr. Clean Magic Reach ones. I love these just because the wand makes it easy to clean the entire tub without a lot of bending and stretching, but again--its nothing I can't do with a rag and some tub cleaner. I have none of these types of wipes left so I'll be going straight to the greener method.
The two types of wipes I'm not quite ready to do away with are baby wipes and paper towels. Baby wipes are pretty essential--I've heard you can make them but you use super soft paper towels to do it, so isn't that just as bad? I do buy the refill packages instead of a new tub each time, so I suppose the plastic used is a bit less.
For paper towels--I would say that we've cut down on our usage quite a bit simply by me alone deciding to use rags in place of them as much as possible. My husband purchased some snazzy microfiber rags for cleaning the inside of the car, which was probably his biggest use for paper towels. I'm not saying I won't still use them on occasion--sometimes there are things to clean up that just need to be thrown away (dog vomit is one of those.) But I have consciously tried to keep my usage to 1 roll or less a month--and I've been surprised how easy it is. I have about 10 rolls stored up so it will be interesting to see if I can go a year before needing more.
So the overview: I would say the average cost of each type of wipe is between $3.00 and $7.00 (more if you're buying in bulk.) The Clorox Magic Reach wipes come like 8 in a pack, so I mean--that's totally a waste, right? Consider that yesterday I spent about $12 on a mop, an extra mop head, and rags. (Walmart has an 80-pack of rags for $3.00.) $12 would probably not have bought me 1 package of each of the 3 types of wipes. I realize I will have to replace the mop head occasionally (okay, often) but its still less waste. And, at about $2.00 a head, less cost.
Stay tuned for updates on how this transition goes for me...I'm hoping as easily as switching to hanging my laundry has been--I thought that would be such a hassle but it really hasn't been, I've cut down dryer useage by 75%, and I'm technically preserving the life of our clothes since dryer lint is apparently clothing falling apart, bit by bit...
Monday, September 29, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
In the way of being more green I have finally convinced my husband to turn off the air conditioning. I know, its the END of September (ahem, we live in Pennsylvania. Northeast Pennsylvania to be exact. I know some people who have already turned their HEAT on.) Anyhow after a battle of wills the AC is finally off and the windows are open and the house smells of fresh, fall air. Of course, I have to put up with my husband storming around snorting his nose dramatically in a not-so-subtle attempt to let me know open windows irritate his allergies. Honestly...I don't care. I love, love, love fresh air and I get, literally, a few days a year to enjoy a breeze flowing through the house, since G2 insists that air be on until October, and the first nice spring day of the year usually finds him giddily adjusting the thermostat to "cool", caressing it like an old friend.
But what does this have to do with anything?? Well its gotten me thinking about ways to lower our bills in the winter...winterizing, if you will. We have a large house, and gas is expensive...so anywhere to cut costs in the winter is golden. My ideas so far:
1. Close the flues to the fireplaces. We don't plan on using them ever, at least for the next 5 years or so, for several reasons. Mainly, it only heats the general vicinity--so either the living room or the basement. Its mostly for ambiance in a house this size that has an open layout, in my opinion. Most importantly though, we have a 1 year old. He is just not at the age that I can teach him NOT to touch the fireplace. Even if we only use it when he's not around, there's still always a chance of something happening. Its better to just...not use them. And closing the flues will keep cold air from entering our house.
2. Close up the rooms we aren't using on a regular basis. This is really just the guest bedroom, and the basement. The basement is a tough one, because its a wonderful, great big space, but it operates on electric heat, so its like paying for 2 heating bills. We basically turn it on when we have company and we might want to utilize the area. I realize as my son grows, we will probably need to keep the heat on down there in the winter, since that's where the toys seem to be gravitating to. But for now--heat on an as-needed basis.
3. Fix the weather-stripping on the front door. Anyone who's come to our house in the past 2 years has probably been whacked in the face with black rubber weather stripping that hangs down. Ghetto, I know. And not very conducive to preventing drafts.
4. Discuss window treatments with my husband. This is another questionable issue. We have NO blinds or drapes of any kind in our house, save for my baby's room. The house faces a beautiful valley, and the view is what makes this house unique and special. The entire front of the house is huge windows and doors; it's open and airy and really--breath-taking. However, part of me wonders if we had heavy drapes that could be closed at night, would it cut down on the energy needed to heat the house? Would it really save us that much? Enough to be worth the cost of good quality and aesthetic drapes? My surroundings matter to me--I can't stand clutter, ugliness, mismatched things, or yucky drapes. If I'm going to be covering up a stellar view, I want something nicer than velvet drapes from Value city on a metal rod, know what I mean?
One area that we already do pretty well in is not abusing the heat. This is mainly because my husband apparently radiates heat from his own body, and thus needs nothing more. Our thermostat is never above 68. I keep my son's bedroom door shut at all times, and this keeps his room nice and snug. He is too busy to notice how cold it is anyhow, and we just dress accordingly.
So that's my start. Any other suggestions would be appreciated!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
This week I made two separate purchases. I didn't intend to, but apparently you cannot purchase cold and sinus medication unless you go to the pharmacy and show ID. Although, I think the chances that you're running a meth lab are greater if you're over 18, but whatever. It worked to my advantage as I got $3 in ECB's back for my main purchase. I understand now why people make multiple purchases in 1 trip...though I'm not sure I'd do that. I already feel like the annoying coupon lady. Anyhow onto the tally...
- Aleve Cold and Sinus 10-pack: Regularly $6.29/On sale for $3.99 with card/Received $3.00 ECB=Total spent .99.
- (2) Boxes of cheerios: On sale for 2/$5.00, plus coupon for $1 off 2=$2.00 apiece
- (1) Box Malt o Meal cereal: Regularly $1, on sale for .49 with card
- (1) CVS brand Ziploc bags, quart size: on sale for .49 with card
- 16 pack of batteries: Regularly $15 and change/on sale for $7.99/coupon for $2.oo off=$5.99
- I also got (no deals on these): a package of Crayola kids paint, a roll of wrapping paper, and a sheet of stickers for part of a birthday gift.
Then, used $10.00 in ECBs and the coupons mentioned above, for a total expenditure of $12.03. Not too bad, considering the batteries alone normally cost more than that. And, my "total saved" on the bottom of the receipt says $25.40. I received 2 coupons at the register--one for $1 off Colgate, and one for $5 off a $30 purchase--but, I need to use it by next Monday. So, we shall see...
Monday, September 15, 2008
I have wanted to have a yard sale for quite a few years. Just never had any idea how to go about it, and where I currently live is not the most desirable location...back road that no one travels on except people who live here, and a long steep driveway that would probably deter customers. Or, they'd walk down and then have a heart attack walking back up, and that would just be a mess. So no yard sale for me.
But, my friend was having one and since she knew what she was doing in terms of advertising, putting up signs, and pricing, I figured I would haul all my stuff over to her house and join in on the money-making. Here are a few things I learned this weekend:
1. Having a yard sale is a shitload of work. A few weeks of getting stuff together. Pricing everything. Loading up my husband's truck with everything. Unloading at Bree's house. Storing everything. Bringing it out and packing it back up 3 days in a row. Going to get tables (which a friend of hers was kind enough to lend us.) Making and hanging up signs. A lot of work. I do realize that it would not be as much work if I was having it at my own house, but still.
2. Having a yard sale during hurricane season is stupid. After postponing one weekend and wavering for 3 days over this past one, we finally took the plunge and it was a bit of a gamble that sort of paid off. Friday was great for the first two hours...then it grew cold, blustery, and drizzly...eventually turning into a steady rain. Which meant moving EVERYTHING inside. Did I mention that we each have a toddler? So, doing all that while chasing after two cranky munchkins. Saturday we had better luck, and ironically, Sunday--the most beautiful day of the weekend--was the least profitable.
3. People buy weird stuff. While no one wanted to buy any of the nicer jewelry we had, they snatched up the cheap costume jewels like it was candy. Large ceramic elephants from Bree's grandmother's house sold much better than brand new bedding sets and practically brand-new fishing boots. People bought up the cheap, ugly, cracked picture frames but no one wanted the stunning, well-made, multi-photo Crate&Barrel frames. I find this puzzling.
4. Our baby items didn't sell very well. Also puzzling, since I always thought that was one of the big-ticket yard sale items. I myself purchase baby items at yard sales.
5. You have to get up really freaking early to prepare each morning. Especially if you have to travel to the yard sale. Like, 5 in the morning early. Yuck.
6. It was a lot of freaking work. (Oh wait, did I say that?)
So the grand total for the event was $125.00 (for me, Bree and her mom each made roughly the same.) Now, this is great. But was it worth all that time and effort? Probably spent at least $20 of that on supplies, breakfasts, gas, etc. And now I need to make two more trips (to Goodwill and to the consignment shop) as well as storing the stuff I didn't sell that I may want to try and sell at a future yard sale.
I do feel it was worth it, despite the hassle. Had it not rained I think Friday would have been a lot more profitable. It was fun to hang out with my friend, and our kids got to play together a whole bunch. Most importantly, I got rid of "most" of my big, space-taking items like butt ugly lamps (which were snatched up right away), flower boxes, old stereos, a kid's archery set, etc etc.
And, next time we could always try my husband's idea of offering free beer with each purchase to increase sales. I tried to point out that yard sales generally start at the butt-crack of dawn (aka not prime drinking hours) but he seemed too proud of his suggestion to bother listening...
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
- (3) Clorox products--on sale for 2/$5 and I had a coupon for buy 2/get $1 off. So (3) Clorox products (which I use in every room of the house) for $6.50.
- (2) Huggies Wipes refills 184 ct--on sale for $5.99 and I had (2) $.50 off coupons. So the equivalent of 6 things of wipes for $11.
- (2) Dry Idea deodorant--on sale for $2.99, plus $2.00 in ECB earned per deodorant. So $.99 a piece and I got $4.00 back. Not bad.
- (1) bag of Chex Mix--on sale for $1 and I had a $1 off coupon...FREE!!
- (1) Revlon Nail polish--on sale for $3.99 and $3.00 in ECB earned. So, nail polish for $.99.
- (1) Malt-o-Meal Cereal--on sale for $1 and I had a $1 off coupon...FREE!!
- (1) Infants Motrin--had a coupon for $1 off, so total was $5.79.
I also purchased a bottle of water, a container of sidewalk chalk, and package of hair barrettes, none of which were on sale.
So, the tally...
Total spent: $51.63
Total saved: $19.56
Total ECB earned: $7.00
I still feel like I'm not doing this right. Granted, we've been spending "slightly" less at the grocery store. I'm not sure how I could do better, except maybe I could have...
1. Bought more of the deodorant since its the kind I use, and I was basically getting it for $.99. And then I'd have a ton of ECBs for next time.
2. Bought more Malt-o-Meal and Chex mix. I used Internet coupons for those, and I'm not sure if I could have printed out more than 1 of each. And to be honest--I generally don't eat sugary cereals.
Any other ideas??????????????
Friday, September 5, 2008
Yep, I know. Plug-in home fragrances that come in plastic boxes are probably not the greenest option. But they make my home smell amazing, and frankly, I think that's important. Considering I have a dog, a baby, and a husband, sometimes a little extra fragrance in the air is necessary.
They are a little pricey though, $12.50 for a two-pack of refills, or for the plug-in and 1 refill, so I try to buy them when there's a sale, which seems like every day at B&BW. But they last about a month and the smell stays strong the whole time. And, since I tend to buy food-related scents like Warm Apple and Pumpkin, my house smells like I've been baking delectable treats all day...but I haven't! Doesn't that make me thinner? :)
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, September 4, 2008
As you can see from the picture I have a Labrador retriever. I've honestly never thought of labs as being a breed that "needed" grooming, but over the recent years the amount of hair this guy leaves on my floors made me start to consider that professional help was needed. My dog was shedding enough hair to make a whole new dog. Like, every single day.
I would estimate an average Labrador grooming to be in the $50-$60 range--I'm sure depending on the location it could be much lower or much higher. They don't need a hair cut, just a good washing and drying with a tool called the blower. Of course, I've never bothered to take my dog to a groomer for several reasons. (1) I didn't want to pay $50 for him to have a professional blow-dry when I don't even do that for myself and (2) I'm perfectly capable of tying him to the deck and hosing him down, or even heaving his body into the tub and doing it that way. Yeah, its a mess and yes he tends to bolt right after the bath, leaving me with either a soaked hallway or a clean dog rolling in the mud. But hey, all that? Its free!
A friend turned me on to the Yuppie Puppy by stating that she was "amazed" at the reduction of hair on her floor after taking her 3 rottweilers (another heavy shedding breed) to the Yuppie Puppy. She intrigued me by proclaiming the "blower" to be the best tool on earth.
Since I worked in the animal field in my former, pre-mom life, I know groomers have big hoses that blow out hot air with heavy force, but I honestly always thought that the purpose was to quickly dry the dog. Which it does...but it also removes about half of the animal's body fur as well. And labs really need it. I mean really, look at this guy. Looks like a grizzly bear.
Anyhow, the best part of this entire experience is the cost. Like a car wash, you get 10 minutes for 5 dollars, and then (if you're like me) you speed-wash the dog in order to have maximum blowing time. So for $10 and in 20 minutes I had a brand new dog. And no mess in my house. I'm not saying he liked it, but he doesn't like bathing no matter where it happens.
I'm not sure how popular these self-serve dog washes are but if Mountain Top, PA has one, I'm pretty sure most areas have them somewhere. I think its my new favorite thing. Ten bucks, clean dog, less hair=less vacuuming for me! Or rather, less vacuuming for my Roomba. But that's another story for another day.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Ways That I Am Healthier
- I run. I don't run far but I do run. And I push a bad ass jogging stroller with a 21# troll riding shotgun.
- I eat healthy...during the week. Usually. My philosophy is everything in moderation. This includes healthy eating. I can subsist on cereal, salad, and a low-carb dinner (thanks to gluten-free hubby, we don't really have bread, pasta, or anything fried ever) as long as I know I can indulge in steak or french fries once a week...
- I get a massage once a month. I cannot stress this enough massage is soooo good for you!! It sounds so indulgent, right up there with getting your nails done or getting a blow-out, but its so worth it. Besides relieving pain, it also relieves tension, stress, promotes circulation...the list goes on and on. Not to mention an hour of gabbing with my massage girl is beneficial to my mental health. (And, in case your mind is in the gutter like my husband's, at a reputable massage place there is no happy ending.
Ways I Am Not Healthy
- See above mentioned factor of going hog wild on the weekend. Not only does this apply to the consumption of items such as cookies, french fries, and vodka, it also includes the occasional cigarette. I'm bowing my head in shame.
- I don't stretch before or after running. I know this is terrible for my muscles. I have no excuse except pure laziness. But hey, I'm running. Don't I get points for that?
Ways I Am Green
- I recycle. Sounds like a no-brainer, but move to my county where the lady at the municipal building (you know, the place you get the recycling bins?) doesn't know where you take them. Where no one recycles except people who have a curbside pick-up. Where attempts to contact officials about where to recycle lead to dead ends, phone numbers no longer in service, and returned emails. I'll stop now, but suffice it to say it took me a damn long time to figure out how to recycle here.
- My house is well-situated for solar energy. Mind you, we haven't taken that step yet. But we will. Its in the 10-year plan, promise.
- I hang 75% of my clothes out to dry. Is this why my friend Ray calls me a hippie? Whatever. I'm saving on an estimated 5 hours of dryer use a week.
- I wash clothes in cold water 99.9% of the time.
- I limit the use of heating elements (hairdryer, curling iron, regular iron) as much as possible. Ask me how many times I've ironed clothing in the past year and I can answer you with one hand!
- I have canvas shopping bags and I reuse the plastic ones for waste can liners, cat litter, and diapers.
- I use the special light bulbs. I don't know what they're called, but we have them.
- I've taken to burning paper. Just recently, I cleaned out our files and a year's worth of financial history became the kindling for a weekend fire. Sweet.
- We garden. Well, Gabe gardens.
- Ooo and I reuse my Ziploc bags:)
Ways I Am Not So Green
- We drive gas hogs. Attempts to turn one of them into a Subaru failed miserably due to the trade-in value of an '05 Jeep with a hemi being astronomically low. It just didn't make financial sense.
- We have a giant house.
- I don't necessarily look for recycled or organic products.
- We run our air conditioning at 68 a degrees. For a 4000 square foot house. In the interest of preserving harmony in my marriage, I am just going to have to let this one go. I will say, however, that I've stood my ground on turning it off during the day when just G3 and I are at home.
- My canvas shopping bags spend more time hanging empty in the laundry room than they do carrying groceries around...ooops.
Ways I Am Richer (Saving Money)
- I'm still learning, but I think that following money-saving-mom's principles I'm going to be able to gradually save us something a little more worthwhile than a couple bucks here and there.
- A lot of my green efforts also save money, especially limiting the use of electricity, trying to condense my driving by running all errands one day of the week, and heck--even the grocery store rewards me something like .2 cents for using the canvas shopping bags:)
- Ebay. I would say I've sold well over $1000 of "stuff" since first discovering the magic of Internet auctions. Most of this is stuff that I would have just eventually thrown out or it would have festered in our closets for years.
- Blogging. Okay, haven't made any money here yet...but I will!!
Ways I Am Not Richer (Not Saving Money)
- Gabe and I are definitely consumers. We see something we want and we can afford it, so...we just get it. Recent indulgences that were unnecessary in my opinion include numerous items from truckaddons.com and multiple clothing items at Old Navy. And I'm pretty sure there's a Nikon D80 in my near future. (But hey, at least that's in the interest of documenting our lives...)
- A lot of green habits are actually more expensive. Such as, investing in a more economical car or a hybrid. Or installing solar panels. Or purchasing a new, more efficient dishwasher. Oh well...
- Sometimes, playing this CVS game, I feel like I'm spending more to get the savings than I would if I was just going to the grocery store and buying my shampoo and tampons there.
So there you have it. My successes and failures.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
As mentioned, our dishwasher up and crapped out on us on Monday. My impulse-purchasing husband arrived home Monday night with a receipt from Lowe's and the news that a new dishwasher (picked out to match our relatively new refrigerator) would be arriving this week.
Monday, August 25, 2008
- (2) Red Zone Deodorant (CVS special, coupon)
- (1) Huggies 52ct package (CVS special, coupon)
- (1) 24ct Swiffer wet (CVS special)
- (1) 2 pack Optifree contact solution (CVS special, coupon, earned ECB)
- (2) 24ct Crayola crayon packs (buy one get one free!)
- (2) Colgate toothpastes (coupon, CVS buy one get one free!)
- (2) 24ct packs CVS brand batteries (buy one get one free!)
- (1) 18ct box Playtex tampons (CVS special, coupon, earned ECB)
- (1) Gillette body wash (coupon)
- (1) Mesh body puff
So--overall I spent $72.32 and I saved $34.15. I earned $6 in ECBs and my quarterly "rewards" (which I can will get after Oct 1st) is at $21. With the exception of the manly mesh body sponge (requested by my husband) I either had a coupon, got the item on sale, or earned ECB's. The best deal was definitely the diapers--I basically saved $5 on them. The Crayons will be great as stocking stuffers or a small gift for one of the 547 children I know, and everything else falls in the category of things-we-use-regularly. I think having a stockpile in the closets is going to be nice...
I should also point out that after CVSing I hit the grocery store...and only spent $42! I garuntee you that I will need to go again at some point this week for things like milk and bread, but from stocking up the last couple weeks I really only needed to get things for dinner and fresh foods. Not too shabby.
And, before anyone gets their panties in a wad, I am quite aware that a number of my CVS purchases are decidedly not green...particularly the diapers and the Swiffer cleaning cloths. I do try to reserve the use of the Swiffer to days I'm pinched for time, or for quick clean-ups that don't require mixing a whole bucket of mop water. As for the diapers...my friends Julie and Jenny braved the cloth diaper waters and there are now two less babies in the world contributing their shit into our landfills. Um, I'm living vicariously through them?
Until next time...
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Don't get me wrong, I'm still on the quest to be a size 4, living in a house with solar panels paid for by my oh-so-witty and endearing blog, which is full of fantastic photographs (of which we have none right now due to my recently purchased camera being sent back. Oh and did I mention my son is thisclose to taking his first steps and my camera--and only means of video--is still en route to Connecticut. Yeah.)
Anyhow, yesterday was my day to go to CVS, and since I have to go a little bit out of my realm to get there, I decided to go grocery shopping at the Giant grocery store that was in the same plaza. And while I was there I was going to hit the Dollar Tree because it was conveniently located in between CVS and Giant. That was my first mistake. Read below for more...
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Much of the reading and research I'm doing about blogging is teaching me that (a) it takes a long time to get up and running and get an established readership and (b) one of the best ways to do that is by reading other people's blogs and commenting in hopes that they will read yours and, if they like it enough, post it on their blog. Then their readers just might notice your catchy title and check out your blog...and become your reader. See how it all works??
In the interest of networking a little, as well as pushing some traffic in the direction of a few other bloggers, I thought I'd post a few links to some free stuff. Money Saving Mom has a post of links (each week? every now and then?) where people post links of free things they're giving away on their blogs. Check it out...
* CVS Giftcard: This blogger is giving away a $25 CVS giftcard. All you have to do is leave a comment or mention her giveaway on your blog (done and done!) http://newlyweds.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/25-cvs-giftcard-giveaway
* Another CVS Giftcard: Here is another blogger doing virtually the same thing!!
* Target Giftcard: This girl, Kim, asked for ideas of what to pack for a picnic lunch to the beach...and in return she's doing a giveaway of a Target giftcard of mystery value (somewhere between $1 and 25$)
* 1 Year Subscription to Sittercity.com: This is my favorite--a year's subscription to an online babysitting network. I sooo hope I win this one:) Our babysitter Katie was found through www.babysitters.com and she was awesome (but unfortunately only around for this summer, boo.) Anyhow, here is the link...
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Other goals met? I exercised 3 times (well, let's be ambitious and say 4 times in the event that I go running tomorrow.) I definitely did not drink 3 or even 2 liters of water everyday. I did hang most of the laundry out to dry, so I get bonus points for that (right?)
Moving on to my fifth week...I'm going to assign myself some type of money-saving goal, based on some ideas from Money Saving Mom. I've already started trying some of her techniques, but again, my busy week got in the way. It doesn't really compute if I shopped and saved a bunch on Monday, but then spent even more than what I saved on sushi and baby clothes, does it? I've also got some serious home organization needs, so perhaps a little side-goal? I'll let you know on Monday. Right now the track and field portion of the Olympics is on and it's oddly entertaining...