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.