Browsing posts in: Saving Money

Mended Knees: A Lesson from the Kiddos

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Yesterday as our kids were getting dressed for preschool, one of my daughters picked out a pair of pants to put on that had a big hole in the knee.

My initial thought to myself was, “well, those pants now belong in the trash.”

I told my daughter the pants-with-the-hole weren’t going to work and that she needed to pick out different pants.

Her initial reaction (in stark contrast to mine) was to say, “That’s okay! Grandma knows how to sew and she can fix it!”

I was initially a little surprised – Grandma sews? How do you know?

And then my surprise turned to embarrassment. My own daughter doesn’t even know that know how to sew, too. Here I am, trying to teach these life-lessons over water bottles and I’m just going to throw away a pair of pants that still fit just fine when I could easily mend the knee with a couple quick stitches. I don’t own a sewing machine or anything fancy, but we sure do have some little sewing kits and mending a knee by hand is no-big-deal.

I sent my kid off to school with different pants, but that same evening I busted out the old needle-and-thread. It took all of 5 minutes to mend the knee until the hole was no-more.

How easy it is to forget and slip back into old habits. I was thankful for the gentle reminder from my 4-year-old to live frugally, try not to waste, and to take care of our things rather than simply discarding them.

In other news, we sure did run out of money before the month was over this month. Don’t you hate it when you end up with more month than money? lol ; )  We’re doing a no-spend week all week. I did semi-cheat a little because I had a Fry’s gift card (which is a local grocery store). I had to use it to get some gas (they have their own gas pumps) and some very basic necessities (lunch meat, bread, milk). But no money is coming out of our account for anything for the rest of the month. I know there are only 4 more days at this point, but we started 3 days ago so it will be a solid week in total. Fingers crossed there are no disasters and nothing crazy comes up! (knock on wood)

What are simple ways that you try to reduce waste at your house?


Valentine’s Day Kid’s Craft

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We have a long history of using homemade kid’s crafts as a way to give gifts to friends or family in an affordable way, while still having a personal, meaningful touch.

This year, we decided to make some homemade Valentines for the kids’ class. To be fair, we did still buy some Valentines because the twins are in the same preschool classroom so we didn’t want to be giving identical/duplicate homemade gifts. But doing one fully homemade (and the other store-bought), we still saved 50% of the money!

Better yet, our craft used all things that we already owned so we didn’t spend a single penny on any of these!

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For Halloween we had bought a giant Costco-sized package of mini playdoughs to give out for kids who needed/wanted a non-candy treat. They ended up not being very popular among our trick-or-treaters (go figure! lol) so we still have a pretty good sized pile leftover. I decided to use those instead of a candy for the basis of our Valentine’s Day “Card” to give to classmates (last year, one of our daughters came home and promptly threw up from the candy/sugar-overload, so I purposely emphasized non-candy treats this year).

I helped the girls to cut out the hearts. I wrote the message on the front and the girls signed their names on the back and decorated with heart-shaped stickers (every valentine was different and unique). Finally, I was able to fold over some tape to affix the playdough to the card. They’re little mini-sized ones, so the tape held just fine.

I think my hand-writing could have been neater and we could have decorated a little better if we’d spent more time. But for 4-year-old Valentines, it’s not half bad. ; )

If you want to check out last year’s home-made Valentine’s Card (+ a bonus homemade idea I “borrowed” from a classmate), check out this post.

Do you ever make homemade Valentine’s for your kids’ class exchanges? Have you seen any other good homemade Valentine’s card ideas? 


Buying & Selling Houses

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For someone who has had zero experience with real estate in the past, I’m sure getting pretty familiar with the buying and selling of homes now!

We have officially hired a realtor to sell my Dad’s Texas house (I orchestrated the sale of his Utah house over summer; it closed in mid-August). It needs some make-ready stuff so it’s not on the market yet, but should be within 2 weeks’ time. All the necessary work has been outsourced and is scheduled. Fingers crossed, we hope to net nearly $200,000 from the sale of this property.  I met with a financial advisor over Labor Day weekend while I was in Austin, but I wasn’t crazy about the person. He also does insurance and kept pressuring me to do an annuity and seemed a bit shady when I asked about fees, etc. Luckily, it was a free consultation so no money lost, I’m just out the time it took to meet with the guy (which was 2 freaking hours!!! and i literally had to get up and walk out because I had another meeting but the guy was STILL talking).

Any suggestions on ways to find trustworthy financial advisors? I had found this guy through Dave Ramsey’s site (he was listed as an ELP, even though the things he was telling me definitely do NOT align with Ramsey’s views).

Meanwhile, we’re also on the brink of buying our first home! Eeek! I’ve had quite a few suggestions to hold off for the time being (see this post) but I think we’re already too emotionally invested in it at this point. We found a house at the end of August and put in an offer over the Labor Day weekend. It took a couple weeks for negotiations (the “owner” is actually a company that does flips and – it seems – is not as eager as a physical occupant might be to sell the place. We went back-and-forth a few times, but it was at least 2-3 days to hear back after each offer/counter-offer). After negotiations our offer was accepted and now we wait for the inspection. My mom (a real estate broker) has warned me to stay guarded until we get a report back because, of course, it could be a game-changer. The house is 30 years old, so there’s that. If all goes well we could be moving in early October! Woohoo!!!   Oh – Also (!!!) – the monthly payment is actually going to be smaller than we’d originally planned. Even with the taxes included in escrow on a 15-year fixed mortgage it looks like the payment will save us probably $200/month off our current rental rate.  I’m trying to temper myself and not get too excited (since things could still fall through), but it’s tough!!! I’m already envisioning furniture placement, etc.

Aside from real estate stuff, this weekend is going to be jam-packed! We’ve got a playdate at the local (free!) splash pad on Saturday morning (probably our last hurrah of the summer), then “Parents’ Night Out” (a free kids’ care program offered by our preschool so parents can have a date night. They do 2 per year and its such a nice perk – and totally free!!!). Sunday I’ve got a long run planned in the morning (have I mentioned I registered for another half-marathon?  My third total, but second since I’ve been blogging here.) The half-marathon is in December but my training plan started a couple weeks ago and Sundays are my long run days. Then Sunday afternoon we’ve got a kids’ birthday party for the girls to attend. Lots of fun and mostly free events. Now I just can’t wait until it truly feels like fall weather here – it’s still hot as blazes in Tucson! Bring on the cooler temps!!!

Hope your weekends are hoppin’! : )

 


Cheap Lemonade

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We went over to a friend’s house to go swimming in their pool this past weekend. My girlfriend ran inside for a moment and emerged with the BEST lemonade ever! I asked her if it was store-bought or homemade because it was so dang good!

Imagine my surprise when she said it’s made with bottled lemon juice!!! But not just any old lemon juice – Costco does it again with some of the best organic lemon juice I’ve ever tasted! And because I’m lucky to have great friends (and I think it comes in two-packs at Costco), my friend gave me an entire bottle of lemon juice to take home for ourselves! I’ve been a lemonade-making machine since then! I even did one batch of raspberry lemonade (by muddling and then straining the raspberry seeds out). FREAKING DELISH!

I’ve used this simple recipe for homemade lemonade (though I use a little less sugar than recommended). The real star of the show, though, is Costco’s bottled lemon juice!

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I have to admit that I don’t know the exact cost given that the bottle of lemon juice was a gift, but I’d be willing to bet that on a price-per-pitcher of lemonade, it’s GOT to be cheaper to make homemade than to buy Simply Lemonade (which would typically be my go-to).

You guys have got to check this stuff out! Delicious!

What’s your favorite Costco find? How do you save money on beverages? I’m a big “beverage” person – I like tea, lemonade, fizzy waters, an occasional Diet Dr. Pepper, etc. But typically beverages are so pricey! Do you make your own or find ways to cut costs? I’ll also say as a side note that I’ve made homemade ginger ale using this recipe, and it’s also incredible!!!


Extended Warranty to the Rescue!!!

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Back when we bought our new-to-us (then only 1-year-old) car, we added all the warranties on top of the sales price and financed it all together.

Remember, this was back before any debt-reduction mission or such. After listening to Dave Ramsey, I’ve now learned that the majority of extended warranties are a total waste of money (disclaimer: I don’t blindly believe everything Ramsey says, but I do believe this one).

Even so, when we finally paid off the car this past January I never took any steps to cancel the extended warranty so I could be reimbursed for the pricey policy. I just paid it off and went on about my life.

Fast forward to this month. Out of nowhere, we’ve experienced some random electrical issues. Unfortunately, a lot of the car’s displays are electronic. At this point, the entire dash is out. That means I cannot control A/C, we have no radio, there’s no time display, no backup camera, and more. Though most of it is just an inconvenience, some of it actually poses health and safety hazards. For instance, I’ve been driving my girls around this week and they’re crying in the backseat that they’re all sweaty (here in Tucson we’re still over 100 degrees every day). The A/C was on when the dash electronics went out, but it was set to low. Without the electric display, I have no way to change the A/C to be higher or lower and the heat is so all-encompassing that it literally feels borderline-dangerous to be driving the kiddos around without proper air.

After calling a couple shops and discovering that this is most likely a dealership issue (= $$$), I remembered that we had bought an extended warranty that specifically covers the electrical components on the vehicle.

“There’s no way the warranty is still effective”, I thought. We’ve owned the car for just at 3 years now, but we’ve already hit over 100,000 miles. I was imagining the warranty was probably nullified right around the 3-year and 100,000 mile mark.

So, imagine my surprise (and joy!) when I called and discovered that the extended warranty actually covers up to 5 years or 125,000 miles!!! We’re still under warranty, baby!!!

The other issue is that when I was calling around to shops, I was not only stressed about the money, but also the logistics. From what I was told, vehicle electrical work can take quite awhile. So either I’m stuck at the mechanics shop all day, or they can bring me back to my house. But that means it has to be a day we have the babysitter (because they can’t transport me + 2 kids in carseats). However, I’ve already determined that it’s tough to work while the kids are at home. So…stuck at the mechanics shop, then?  I know this is total 1st world problems and not really a big deal, but these are the logistics I’m grappling with. HOWEVER, our extended warranty (purchased through CarMax) includes FREE LOANER CAR while they’re doing the repair work!!!

They’ve said they may need to send the car to the dealership (which sounds likely after speaking to several local mechanics shops), but either way CarMax still provides me with a loaner. PLUS, I’ve had 2 recall-related issues pop up within the past few months that I’ve been putting off forever. So I can actually get those issues handled as well. All for $0 out-of-pocket.

My appointment is scheduled for next Thursday so I still don’t know the full amount of time it will take or even the full scope of what the issue is and what needs to be done to repair it. I’m just happy that this dumb (and super $$$) extended warranty is coming in handy! And, I may be wrong, but I believe I could still cancel at any time and receive a partial reimbursement for whatever time is remaining in the warranty. So there’s a chance I may get this stuff taken care of, then cancel the warranty in a month or so, and still end up with money leftover! I don’t want to get my hopes up (because I don’t know for sure if they’ll do partial reimbursements), but it’s an exciting prospect.

Three cheers for an extended warranty that actually came in handy and hopefully saves us some money!

What are your thoughts on extended warranties? Do you buy them? Why or why not?


Money Saving Tips

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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a money-saving tip, but they’re still a big part of my life! When I first started blogging, I posted little things we did to save money all the time. Here are some examples (and for the record, I still do ALL of these things….with the exception of the homemade baby wipes since the kids have now outgrown diapers!!!):

Today I’ve got a different kind of tip. Instead of a DIY product or finding a way to make something myself, I’m sharing a way we stretch every last drop of a store-bought product.

You know when you get to the very end of your lotion and there’s simply no more that will come through the spout? That doesn’t actually mean the lotion is gone! No, no, no! On the contrary, there’s still a TON of lotion leftover inside the bottle! It’s just stuck to the side walls of the lotion container so it’s not being sucked up through the spout. But you can stretch your lotion another good week or so by cutting the bottle right in half and accessing the lotion that way!

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Look at all that lotion goop still stuck to the inside of the bottle! Pro tip: once you cut your bottle in half, the remaining lotion will dry out quickly! Extend the life of your lotion by putting a simple plastic baggie (or saran wrap) over the top to keep it fresh. Seriously – another week worth of lotion in there!

I know some of these tips seem a bit silly or extreme, and they definitely are! But all the little things really do add up! Even as we’ve started loosening our purse strings a bit this year (monthly date nights and plans to buy a house!!!), we’re still mindful to be frugal in other areas.

How do you like to save money around the house? Do you have any DIY or make-it-yourself money-saving tips to share?


April Savings Update – Hope

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My number one goal is to have a healthy savings account, not just for emergencies, but also in anticipation of moving again and needing to be ready for that. So this will be my monthly summary of my savings account:

MonthAmountBalance
April, 2016$100 - 4/18
$143 - 4/28
$243
May, 2016
June, 2016

This account is held at my primary bank, but I can only transfer money into it online, for any withdrawals, I have to visit the bank.  This works for me because it makes it harder for me to get to, well, hard enough that I don’t access it readily and without much thought.

 


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