Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Let's Talk About Being Wasteful

So my friend Ray--ever the supporter of all things green and frugal--gave me this book. It was published in the olden days (in this case, 1984) and is part of a series of books that were (I think) intended to help teach kids about important things. I think I had one called "Let's Talk About
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

A Very Successful CVS Week

Well, I knew it was going to pay off sooner or later, and finally a week came when there were some very good deals on things I would be buying whether CVS had them on sale or not. I don't have all the exact numbers due to accidentally throwing out my receipt, but here's the skinny based on what I remember:

* 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...Making Me Richer!

A while back I stumbled across a website called It's basically an online forum for freelance writing. Anything and everything you can possibly think of to write about--its there. The general idea being that someone (say, a magazine editor) is looking for an article about such and such and can come to this website, search, and come up with a bunch of articles. Part of the way the website works is peer rating--you are supposed to read others' articles and rate them. So lets say there are 55 articles on Helium about dangerous dog breeds. And the editor of "Dog Fancy" comes looking for an article on dangerous dog breeds. And instead of reading 55 articles, this editor just reads the top 5. And yours just happens to be in the top 5, and just happens to be the one the editor likes. Sweet! You've just sold an article.

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!

Go me:)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Failed Attempt at Getting Richer

Okay "attempt" is a bit of a strong word for this...

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 "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

Back in the Game

The CVS game that is. I suppose there are some people who find this game silly (after all, is it really worth the piddling I'm saving?) but I think it is worth it, and I'll tell you why in just a minute. First, the CVS loot of the week. I'll admit the last few weeks I haven't really "CVS'd", just stopping in to pick up 1 or 2 items I use normally that happened to be on special. But this week:

  • 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

Going Wipeless...

I'm about to make a serious change in our lifestyle that will hopefully eliminate both some waste and save us a few bucks.

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...