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New Money Saving Trick

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Hi friends! Just wanted to poke in and say hello! I’m still in doctors’ appointments, so I’ve pre-scheduled this post for you guys. I’ll be back “live” on Thursday! Have a good week!

Hey, remember when I used to give random money saving tricks? Things I’d been doing to try to save a buck? It’s been a hot minute!

Here are some old ones:

  • Saving money on ziplock baggies and cleaning spray (still do this!)
  • Making my own baby wipes (fell off the wagon with this trick, though I did it for months and, to be fair, we’re 99% potty trained, so I rarely use wipes anymore)
  • Making my own fruit leather (still do this, and make lots of other homemade varieties of store-bought stuff, too. I’ve done homemade Cheese It’s, homemade granola bars, and homemade fruit leather to name a few)
  • Buying bulk and making flavored water (still do this. I’ve actually been trying to increase my water consumption lately – aiming for 10 cups per day, which isn’t too hard since its 100+ degrees already! Making flavored water really helps mix things up)
  • Homemade organic weed killer (ehhh, kinda fell off the wagon with this, too. It did work, but when Costco put weed killer on sale this Spring I bought one of their big jugs so that’s what I’ve been using recently)

Which brings us to today’s money saving trick….

Using a makeup brush to reach the very last of the concealer!

I’ve always been pretty low-key when it comes to makeup. I rarely step inside an Ulta or high-end makeup place. Never buy from department stores, etc. I’m a drug-store or grocery store makeup girl. So I’m already saving a lot simply by buying cheaper brands. But I HATE when the concealer is too low to use anymore, but you can still SEE so much left in the tube! Which got me thinking….why not just use a makeup brush to fish out the insides of the concealer tube???

And lo and behold, that’s what I’ve been doing

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Years ago I’d read a tip (I think in Cosmopolitan…maybe Seventeen. I was in high school at the time so we’re talking over a decade ago), that you can scoop out the leftovers of tubes like this (concealer, lipstick, etc.) and store in a pill box. I’d tried the tip out, but wasn’t thrilled with the results. I felt like the makeup got all dried out and crusty in the pill box. Not sure why; it’s not as though the regular makeup container is air-tight or anything so I don’t know why it stores better in the actual container (as opposed to a pill box container), but just a heads up that following that tip didn’t work out for me.

However, using the makeup brush has worked like an absolute champ! I used a brush I already had and never used. I put the tip of the brush directly inside the tube and then apply under my eyes (or wherever you need concealer). Easy peasy and saves me lots of money. I cannot believe how much makeup is still left in the tube when it’s too low to use in a conventional manner anymore. I mean, after this concealer was “gone” (meaning, when the old me would have thrown it away because it was too low to use anymore), I’ve still been using it for another 3 weeks. And there’s still a ton in there! I bet it will last me another 3 weeks, too!

Do you have any great moneysaving tips you’ve used lately?

Side note: Are you joining me with my summer book club?  This month we’re reading Dave Ramsey’s, The Complete Guide to Money. I’ll post my thoughts at the end of the month, so it’s not too late to join!


Weekly Debt Update #17- Time Off

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I hope everyone is having a wonderful Tuesday!

For those of you who haven’t read my previous post, or the comment section of the post before that, I’ve decided to take some time off in July from paying down my debt. As you know, I will be taking a physical vacation to Walt Disney World to spend some quality time with my whole family, new nephew included. I will also be using the money I would normally put towards debt to not only fund our vacation (GF and I anticipate spending between $600-$700) but use the money for things I’ve been putting off, as well. I know I want to buy some new clothes and get my car fixed (I’ve had some minor sensor issues for the past couple months) and July seems like the perfect time to get this all done. I want to go into August with renewed energy to finish off the remaining $50,000 in debt in 18 months. What ever money I don’t spend, I’m going to use to refund my EF. I don’t plan on missing any blogs posts during this time off, except for the week I will be in Florida.

On an other note- my fun fund has come in handy once again. Over this past weekend, a good friend of mine invited me and GF out them for dinner and drinks. GF couldn’t make it, as it was pretty spur of the moment, and I ended up spending nearly $50. I’m so grateful to those who convinced me to put money aside for fun every month. Only a couple months ago, I likely would have said no to the request, or worried so much about how much I was spending that I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself, anyways.

And an update on an item that came up last week- I handed in my 401k contribution form to increase my contributions from 4 to 10%. Me contributing to our company’s 401k was never about affordability, it was more so about how quickly I could pay off my debt- every penny was one closer to my original goal. Well, lately I’ve had an internal struggle over putting money towards savings. I think this increase in contributions will ease my mind in this regard. If it doesn’t work out, I can always decrease the contributions back down (the paperwork take roughly 1 minute to fill out), but I know I’m not going to get optimal savings years back.

Lastly, for those interested in how much I’ve paid off lately, here are my balances as of today. I didn’t post an update last week, so the “+/-since last week” is actually from 2 weeks ago.

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,896.61$3,940.63$0.00
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,750.50$3,449.52$0.00
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$6,577.48$3,772.70$707.05
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00$0.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$49,224.59$61.363.07$707.05

I hope everyone has a great week!


Cheap Mother-in-law Birthday Gift

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In keeping with the cheap gift ideas of late, here’s another one to add to the mix.

My mother-in-law’s birthday was last Thursday. She’s actually flying into town today for the long weekend (yay!), so we’ll be taking her out to dinner one night while she’s here. But we also wanted to do something on her actual birthday, so I had the girls make another super cheap craft that we mailed to her last week.

This was actually an idea I saw when I was in Michael’s craft store for something totally unrelated. This was right before Mother’s Day and they had a whole display of crafts for kids to do for/with their Moms. One of the crafts was a coffee mug/paint set. They were on sale 2 more $3, which seemed like an excellent deal (came with the mug and the ceramic paints). I bought two and had the girls make 1 for me to keep and 1 for my MIL’s birthday.

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We (heart) You!

If I were to do it again, I probably would have done the palms at the bottom, overlapping, and done fingers up (we had a hard time keeping the thumb tucked in, so the heart has some little “wings” hanging off the side). But the imperfection just makes it that much more special and precious. Maybe not worthy of any fine art awards, but definitely worthy of a grandma’s love! <3

 
Hope you all have a great weekend! A good long weekend to those in the states! Be safe and have fun and let’s remember what the holiday is really all about : )


Look on the Bottom Shelf

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It’s allergy time!!!

I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t always suffered from seasonal allergies. However, in recent years, I’ve found myself becoming more and more miserable during what are paradoxically the otherwise prettiest and nicest months of the year.

So as the itchy eyes set in and my sneezes grew in number (and force! Oof!), I decided to meander over to the nearby Walmart to find some meds to ease my pain.

I was not alone! Nope. There were about 4 of us red and itchy-eyed zombies standing in the allergy aisle reading labels on the backs of pill bottles and comparing prices. What a sight we must have been!

And you know what I discovered? Allergy medicine can be $$$$!

I’d finally found a box of generic medicine that looked good and had the same active ingredient, same mg strength, and same number of pills as a name brand medicine. I snagged it thinking it was worth the $10 (by comparison, the name brand was nearly $20!!).

But then one of my fellow allergy-sufferers stopped me.

The medicine I’d selected was positioned about eye-level on the shelf, sitting directly next to its name brand counterpart. But my allergy friend pointed out a box on the very bottom shelf that might interest me. I stooped down to do some investigation and discovered that this generic medicine also had the same active ingredient, same dosage, and same number of pills as the other two medicines I’d been looking at. The main difference is that this was a no-frills box of pills (not a bottle), and its position was literally on the very bottom shelf where you practically have to kneel down to see what’s down there.

But you know what a difference the position and packaging made in the price of this medicine? Instead of a $10 bottle of pills (or an $18 name brand bottle), this little box of pills cost only FOUR DOLLARS! Yes! You heard me correctly.

So let this be a reminder that often times the best deals are those that are hiding right under our noses….on the very bottom shelf.

Allergy friends, any tried and true solutions? What types of allergy meds to you use?


Free Family Fun

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When I first moved to Tucson I hated it. Like, really hated it.

It seemed so….boring!

I was originally from Austin, then lived in southern Florida (where all the cities really merge together), so I was used to the feel of a larger city. I was used to there being LOTS of community events, many that were city-sponsored (and therefore FREE), with tons of family-friendly options that were available.

There was none of that in Tucson. Or so I thought.

To be fair, there really aren’t a lot of city-sponsored free events. They do have some (paid admission) festivals, but they’re really not that frequent. A few per year is it.

So it felt like a whole new world when I moved out of the central/campus area and out to the ‘burbs. Now there are ALL KINDS of family-friendly and FREE events! Some of these events are sponsored by the town where I now live (I live outside Tucson city limits in a neighboring town), but some are sponsored by HOAs and are open (and free!) to the public. Why would an HOA host a free event that’s open to people outside of the HOA community? I have no idea (false:  its a newer neighborhood and they’re trying to sell houses). But I certainly took advantage of the free fun this weekend!

So I packed up the girls and headed to a big free Easter event this past Saturday. And we did it RIGHT this year! Last year we went right in time for the easter egg hunt (at 11:00am), then stayed around for the other activities, which inevitably put us in the area when lunchtime rolled around and we ended up buying overpriced food from a food truck for lunch (they always have food trucks at these events). This year, we got there early so we could enjoy all of the free fun BEFORE the easter egg hunt, then we left right after the hunt so we could be home in time for lunch. It was perfect timing because we didn’t have any lines for anything since we were early, and we saved money (and calories) by eating at home instead of at a greasy food truck.

Here are some pictures of what we did….

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Free ballon animals (the artist wouldn’t even accept tips, as he’d been compensated by the HOA).  Got a ladybug and a puppy dog!

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bounce house fun

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waiting to collect eggs (all children were given an egg carton to decorate for their eggs; they discouraged actual baskets because they wanted to make sure every child got some eggs – once the carton was full, the kids were done).

Other un-pictured events include meeting the Easter bunny, sitting inside a fire truck, and the several other bounce houses (girls ran from one to the next while there were still no lines). We had an absolute blast and received all kinds of goodies for 100% free (plus a killer nap that afternoon for the girls, which was an extra bonus) ; )

Right now (Spring) is PRIME TIME for all kinds of these free events. I encourage everyone to check out their community/city calendars to figure out what kind of free stuff they’ve got coming up. Maybe you’ll find something really cool to do, too!

Does your community host a lot of free events? If you’ve got a family, what types of (free/cheap) things do you do for fun?


Hair Solution

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I was debating what to do about my hair for my upcoming not-an-interview.

As you might recall, I went a full 9+ months without a single professional hair cut/color (I cut and colored my own hair at home during that time). The only reason I opted to finally go back to a professional hair salon was in preparation of my last interview. That was almost exactly 2 months ago and I’ve been really torn on what to do for my upcoming trip. I know I want to have a nice, polished look, but I don’t want to spend a lot of money and I feel like I just barely had my hair done!

Well, I think I came up with a good compromise/solution to the hair conundrum I found myself in (first world problems, right?) I went to an Aveda Institute salon (the “Institute” salons are the schools so they’re cheaper) and I paid for a cut and eyebrow wax, deciding to forego the color. I think my “old” highlights (said in quotes because they’re only 2 months old!) still look great. I don’t have a noticeable line of new growth and I think they’re holding up well. But my last salon visit I did more of a trim so, to have the polished freshly-cut look, I had the hair stylist cut a couple inches off the bottom and add in some new subtle layers.

The total cost for cut + eyebrow wax was a whopping $25. Add in the cost of tip ($7) and parking ($3) and the grand total was $35. Much, much cheaper than if I’d added in any color. Plus, I think the new ‘do provides a nice, polished look to it. Could just be a psychological thing, too, but hey – it’s important to feel confident at an interview, so I think it’s worth the price tag (plus I’d budgeted for this back in February, too).

Speaking of….

Surprise! I’m here now! (note:  I’ve purposely not mentioned where, specifically, I am….but I’m at the interview location, heh).

I flew in on Wednesday afternoon, picked up my shiny new rental car (brand new! so many fun/cool features!), and checked into my super fancy-pants hotel (with a full kitchen! full fridge! free hot breakfast! free evening social hour!!!) I’ll miss my kiddos but – man – can I stay an extra day? LoL! I feel like I’m in the lap of luxury right now!!

Meanwhile, I wrote this post on Wednesday night as TODAY is my interview not-an-interview! Wish me luck! They’ve got my itinerary pretty jam-packed in the morning (guest lecture from 9:30-10:45; then research presentation from 11:00-12:00), but then the rest of the day is more casual (lunch with faculty, individual faculty meetings, etc.). I wish it wasn’t back-to-back with my two presentations first thing in the morning, but at least that way I’ve got them out of the way and can just basically coast the rest of the day.

So – for a second time – please wish me luck! I know that there’s not officially a position open right now, but I’ve got to think that if this visit goes well that I’ll have made the short list for the next position that comes available (whenever that may be).

Also, thanks to those of you who have sent lists/links of interview questions for academic positions. I’ve definitely used them to brush up a bit before my campus visit.

Hope you all have a great Thursday! I’ll see you next week when I’m back in Tucson!


Never Going Back: Homemade Yogurt

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One thing that is consumed A LOT in our house is yogurt.

We can have yogurt just about any time of day….

For breakfast I’ll often serve it with fresh fruit and wheat toast for the girls/raw oats for me (don’t knock it ’till you try it. It actually tastes really good, and way healthier than super sugar-fied granola!)

I’ll sometimes serve it as an accompaniment to lunch. Particularly on days that the girls are in preschool I like to send yogurt since its a good source of protein. The girls’ preschool is meat-free, so I sometimes struggle with protein-based options (peanut butter gets OLD after awhile). Yogurt as a side is always a good option.

And yogurt is just about everyone’s favorite snack.

MMMmmmmmmm yogurt!

Until this point I generally spent a good $5-6 on yogurt per week. Maybe more (okay, probably more).

But no more, my friends!

I have discovered how incredibly EASY and DELICIOUS homemade yogurt can be! Who knew?!?

I used this recipe and followed it to a T, so I won’t rehash all the recipe deets, but I wanted to give some commentary on my experience making my own homemade yogurt for the first time.

The Basics

Okay, so read the recipe, but to give you the gist, you’re going to pour a gallon of milk into a crockpot, heat it up in your crockpot for nearly four hours, then cool down to a specific temperature (which can take another hour), add a yogurt “starter” (you need the live yogurt cultures…this could be store-bought or leftovers from your last homemade batch), then let it sit for up to 12 hours.

Whew! That’s a lot of time!

My Thoughts.

First, you’re going to have to plan ahead to make your own yogurt. I tried for 3 consecutive days to do it, but time got away from me and I ended up having to put it off until the next day (because making it in a crockpot takes HOURS to do). Sure, there are faster ways (like stove-top), but I liked the leave-it-and-forget-it method of the crockpot and I didn’t have a timeline for when I needed the yogurt, so I just pushed it back a couple days until the timing worked out. But just a heads up that it DOES take some pre-planning.

Second, Stephanie mentioned how the “tang” in homemade yogurt might surprise you. I’ve had plain yogurt before, so I wasn’t at all surprised. If anything, I thought my yogurt was less tangy than what I’d expected. As she mentioned, the longer it sits the tangier it gets. I’d left mine for about 10.5 hours, so it would have been tangier if I’d left it longer.

The Taste.

In my opinion (and the reason I’m Never Going Back <<the title of this post), the taste of homemade yogurt is WAY superior to store-bought! OMG, it tasted so decadent and delicious! I could close my eyes and almost have an out-of-body experience, pretending to be in some super swanky brunch spot enjoying a freshly prepared yogurt parfait. Dramatic? Yes. True? Yes!

Plus homemade yogurt costs PENNIES per portion, compared to store-bought yogurt that often costs up to $1+ per portion!

Storage.

You should note that homemade yogurt doesn’t last as long as store-bought yogurt. This makes sense since there are no preservatives (or other icky stuff for that matter). According to google, it can last for up to 2 weeks in your fridge, and 3 months in your freezer. Not too shabby if you consume as much yogurt as we do. Bonus – the frozen homemade yogurt can be thawed OR eaten frozen (duh! Like frozen yogurt!)

I store my yogurt in glass mason jars that I keep in the fridge. If you’re going to freeze it, however, you may want to put it in a plastic container (sure, glass freezes, but I’ve had more than my fair share of “oopsies” after accidentally breaking a frozen glass container)

Fruit Options.

There are a ton of ways to eat yogurt. I’ve used plain yogurt before as a substitute for sour cream in various baking recipes (healthier and cheaper). I also enjoy plain yogurt, but most people probably prefer to add in a little fruit.

I made a strawberry-banana yogurt that was TO DIE FOR (ahem, if I do say so myself *brushes shoulders off*)

All I did was take a very ripe banana and some strawberries and put in a large container. I used a potato smasher to “muddle” the berries and basically worked everything into a pulp. Then I stirred in the yogurt and mixed everything well. It’s important to note that once fruit is muddled like this, it immediately starts to break down (meaning:  decompose). So you cannot do this if you plan on putting it in your fridge for 2 weeks. But, its perfectly fine for a few hours. In fact, allowing the flavors to meld for a few hours is what makes it really taste like HEAVEN! I did this in the morning and then served it as an afternoon snack and it was the perfect amount of time.

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Fruit in the bowl before muddling

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All together now!

You could do this with any of your favorite fruit combinations, or you can always just serve the plain yogurt with whole or sliced fruit, too.

I honestly can’t decide what’s best:  the money I’ll be saving making homemade yogurt from now on, or how good I feel about healthify-ing one of our favorite foods!

Most people already think of yogurt as a pretty healthy food (it can be, though lots of the stuff sold in stores is loaded with sugars and additives), but it really doesn’t get any healthier than making it yourself! I used rBST-free 2% milk when I made mine (you can use any type you like), which I thought was perfect! I’d imagine that whole milk would provide an even richer taste, while skim milk will obviously save you some calories. Since my kiddos are some of the biggest consumers of yogurt, I like to buy 1% or 2% so they can get some of the healthy fats from the milk (and/or yogurt), but you can use whatever you prefer.

Let me know if you try your hand at making homemade yogurt and what you think!

Do you make any “fun” foods homemade? I’ve toyed around with the idea of doing homemade cheese but I’ve been scared of dealing with the rennet. I’ve also thought of doing homemade pasta one day, but it also seems so prep-intensive that I’ve been scared off for now. Maybe one day. : )