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Buying & Selling Houses


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


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!


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!!!


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


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!


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


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:

April, 2016$100 - 4/18
$143 - 4/28
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.


More Online Savings


Between working 2 jobs, having a family, and basically another part-time job tending to my Dad’s matters, “spare time” has been basically non-existent lately. I feel like I’m lucky, too, because I have such a supportive spouse/partner. I seriously don’t know how single parents or parents with traveling spouses (or military/deployed spouses) do it! I seriously don’t. Props to any and all of you reading here!

Anyway, due to the extreme lack of time I’ve found myself turning more and more toward online shopping. I’ve already posted about my new favorite app where I’ve been scoring cute clothes for cheap (though, warning: it’s totally addictive! It’s been okay for now because I’d already intended/budgeted for buying some new clothes before Cruise 2016, but after the cruise I may need to delete the app for awhile! It’s just too easy to shop!).

Today I’ve got another favorite online tool that has been helping me save money:  Paribus (<refer-a-friend link. If you sign up from my link we both get an extra 5% savings).

If you’re unfamiliar, Paribus is a little widget thing you install on your computer. It tracks your internet shopping (by recording e-receipts you receive from merchants for online transactions) and if you happen to purchase something that goes on sale later, they will contact the company on your behalf in order to get you a refund of the overage.

Paribus doesn’t support all merchants world-wide (I believe they’re U.S.-only right now), but they do support several big ones. I’ve received refunds from Target and Amazon for purchases I’ve made for items that have later been reduced.

My favorite part is that, after the initial set-up, it requires absolutely nothing on my part. I literally forget it even exists until I get an email from them saying that I’m getting some money back! I experienced this recently when I bought a glass canister set from Target for $24.99 as a gift (Target is my favorite for gift purchases since shipping is free and I get 5% off using my Target card). The canister set went on sale and I ended up getting back $2.34 automatically to my Target card. They contact the retailer and get them to refund you the difference through whatever means you paid (it’s online shopping, so I’m assuming this is mostly debit or credit). Getting the email about it made me think that I needed to share it because it really does work!

So how does Paribus make money as a company? Simple. Paribus takes a 25% cut from whatever your savings are on any given item. So, yeah, they take it from the customer. If something were to go on sale at a store and you take it in directly, along with receipt, you could get the price adjusted and not have to essentially pay a “commission” to anyone. You’d get the full amount back. But, to me, a 25% commission is well worth it given that, otherwise, I would likely never take the item back to get a price adjustment done. I’m just speaking for myself. But I know I’m terrible with returns. I’m sure as heck not spending precious time scouring the internet for possible sales and then taking the item (along with receipt) to the store for a price adjustment. It just wouldn’t happen. First, I’d probably never even know about the sale. Second, I just simply lack the time over a couple bucks here and there. But if Paribus wants to come in and handle all the heavy lifting for me and just give me back 75% of the savings, then I’m happy with that! Feels like “free money” to me (I know it’s not really “free” but that’s how it feels).

There you’ve got it. I give Paribus 2 thumbs up. If you use it, tell me what you think! If you’re thinking about trying it, use my referral link so you and I each save an extra 5% on the “commission” fees (ps: “commission” is my term, not theres. They call it a “success” fee. 🙂 )


Saving Money on Electricity


Remember a couple months ago when we had an outrageous electric bill ($283 to be exact)? It was literally the highest it’s ever been. I was super worried, especially considering the bill was from a pretty temperate month. If it was that high in the Spring….what’s it going to look like in the blistering dessert heat of summer? *gulp*

If you remember, I took immediate action to try to lower our bill. Things like not running so many loads of laundry (taking effort to fill every load to the max so we weren’t running through half-loads of laundry), not flipping the AC on and off, and being more conscious, in general, about our electricity consumption.

On that original post, a couple of commenters suggested reaching out to my electric company to see if I could get a discount for using electricity during “off times” of the day. I did a little research and….no luck in my area. But I did find an awesome company that I wish we had where I live! I wanted to tell you about it in case anyone lives within the area.

The company is called OhmConnect. Get this – OhmConnect pays YOU for saving energy. Saving money & energy? It’s a win-win!

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Here’s how it works:  once a week you receive a text message that tells you to turn down your electricity consumption (during a time of high electricity usage in the area). If you are able to save electricity during that time, then OhmConnect will pay you money! It’s not a lot (an average of $100-$300/year), but every little bit helps, right!? And they have a really cool feature that allows you to donate your savings to local area schools if you prefer.

OhmConnect is not an actual utility-provider. It’s a third-party company. So you might be wondering how they make money if you don’t pay them (you pay your utility company), yet somehow they pay you. Skip this part if you aren’t into the logistics, but I think it’s pretty cool. The idea is that energy consumption data is projected based off of past usage. The goal is to have just enough power for the energy that everyone needs. But sometimes the projections are off and there’s not enough energy being generated by the existing power plants. At this point, smaller plants called “peaker plants” get booted on to make up the deficit. Turning on these satellite plants is expensive – it increases the wholesale cost of energy from $40-$1,000/mwh. Also, the peaker plants tend to be less energy-efficient, emitting 2-3 times the C02 emissions as the “normal” power plants (see here for more details).

It’s actually cheaper for utility companies to pay an outside company (like OhmConnect) to prevent the satellite power plants from turning on. It saves them money and using OhmConnect can save consumers money!

Here’s the bad news…OhmConnect is only available in California right now. But, due to recent legislation upholding a decision called “FERC Order 745”, it is likely that similar programs will expand out across the United States in the coming years. I’m just a hop, skip, and a jump from California so fingers crossed it bleeds across the border soon! I’d love to be able to save a few bucks just by saving energy (and helping the environment at the same time! Boom!)

Do you have similar energy-savings programs where you live?

California readers – let me know if you or someone you know uses OhmConnect! I’d love to hear about user experiences and real life savings!

This post was sponsored by OhmConnect. Even though I did receive a small compensation for sharing my thoughts about their company, all opinions are entirely my own. Thanks for the support!