Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday: All for nothing, kind of

The force was strong today, Luke. By that, I mean the evil force of marketing strategies and sales advertisements. But I stayed strong, and got nearly all my shopping done for next-to-nothing prices.

I poured over ads last night, planning and listing; trying to keep most of my shopping within the stores for which I had gift cards or big coupons (like $10 off any purchase of $10 or more - hello freebies). I got up at 5, left the house at 6 - armed with snacks, coffee & plenty of water - and started shopping with Monsoon in tow. We hit 5 stores in 5 hours and stuck to the list. Mostly. I only made one splurge buy - which I will in fact return because Monsoon doesn't need it, we don't have room for it, and darn-it, those shops won't defeat me!

I am happy to say my Christmas shopping is 90% finished and we've spent less than $100 of actual money so far this year.

More details to follow on Monday with itemized inventory for week #3.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

She'll find your deals - and give you some Amazon

Mommy Snacks has the low-down on savings all year round. She shares secret codes, special coupons, and she can teach you how to get the most for your dollar.

I've been following along for about a month now, and have already saved plenty of cash. In fact, when my mom and I tried the Once a Month Mom cooking experience, I saved over $50 on my grocery bill with coupons that I found through her site.

Right now, she's giving away THREE $25 Amazon gift cards out of the kindness of her own big ole heart. These would be fantastic additions to anyone's Christmas list, or great to use if you are purchasing gifts online this year.

She's closing the giveaway on Saturday at 8pm (Ohio time). Head over and see how her "snacks" can save you money.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cash for stuff, Week #2

I had no idea, when we began this project, how much stuff we actually had that we weren't using. The more we let go, the lighter I feel. Also, it's less I have to clean every day... or month. Bah.

Sold: 1 exersaucer. $20

Sold: 1 softball bat. $150

Sold: 1 sofa/loveseat combo. $100

Sold: 1 washer/dryer combo. $160

Won: Borders $50 GC.

End of week Total Gain = $480.00

Cash spent during week #2 = $18.29

Previous week's end result = $288.54

END RESULT for week #2 (480.00 - 18.29 + 288.54) = $750.25 to the positive.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Will Monsoon mind if it's used?

Monsoon is 4. We spend time at libraries, consignment shops, used book stores, etc... He doesn't know the difference between the items at those places and the stuff at "new" stores - except some of the stuff is wrapped and you can't play with it right away.

I said I planned on sticking with new items while trying to have A FREE CHRISTMAS, and I have for the most part. But the frugal - and the environmentally friendly - part of me can't help noticing how the exact same toys are more than half price used, and they're certainly just as much fun. I own sanitizer. I don't mind cleaning them. For pete's sake, washing them up will still take less time than prying them out of steel-trap packaging that's all the rage nowadays.

Monsoon won't notice. I don't mind. So why not go used for some of his toys? ...and this concludes the "reduce/reuse" portion of our lecture today...

In fact, I bought him 3 pair of nice jeans, 3 picture books, and 1 floor puzzle (still in the shrink wrap) at the second-hand store for a total of $18.29. I feel good about it!

Budget Stats: $100 (minus) last week's $5.49 (minus) this week's $18.29 = $76.22 remaining.

Besides, even better than presents - new or not - is time spent with Mommy. He loves me, and I'll be playing with him on Christmas morning... no matter what gifts he recieves.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sweepstakes at Target

I was planning on using Mondays for listing all the gifts I had collected for "the people" all week, but I haven't purchased/won any specific gifts since last Monday (other than for Monsoon, but he's in his own separate category, which comes tomorrow).

SO. Instead, I'll leave you a link to a sweepstakes I found yesterday while browsing for deals online. Target is having a "Giftacular Sweepstakes" game online. Spin the wheel, pick a "gift" and see what you won (could be a gift card worth $25-$5,000). You can play once per day, and each time you play you are entered into a final drawing for the GRAND PRIZE (5 winners): $10,000 Target GC.

It started on 11/22 and runs through 11/26. I've only played once (and I didn't do the webcam thing - which is one option, but not necessary to play), and I won a free medium soda from the Target Cafe. Perfect for when I decide to splurge with my $7 GC from last week's return.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How will you save?

I have entered so many giveaways in the last 2 weeks, I don't think I can keep them straight.

Toys, jewelry, aprons, gift cards to my favorite stores... my fingers are cramping and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet. I have posted about a couple, and you can find buttons on my sidebar for sights that offer more giveaways.

For the time being, I am limiting myself to only entering giveaways for items that will make excellent Christmas gifts for the people on my list.

This is only one idea for trying to save money for the upcoming holiday season. I've mentioned a few other options in past posts, but I'm probably not even scratching the surface of possibilities.

How do you plan on saving money this year?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Need a gift for a child (or two or three...)?

You know I'm on the lookout for fabulous giveaways that would make great free Christmas gifts, so here's one for any of you who have children to buy for this year.

Two of a Kind is hosting a giveaway for a Step2 Grand Walk-In Kitchen, valued at $249.99. I think this would be a wonderful gift for any child - girl or boy - this Christmas.

If you're interested (of course you are!) click on over to Two of a Kind's giveaway post and enter.
Another fantastic giveaway for children is going on over at J. Leigh Designz for a PlanCity Airport (valued at $100) from Plan Toys, a company who focuses on environmentally friendly toys. They have tons of beautiful items to offer children.

Plus, if you both giveaways, you get an extra entry into the each of them just for entering the other. These giveaways are part of the Mistletoe Madness giveaway:

Good Luck!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Story of Stuff

This is one of the proverbial straws on the camel's back that led to this entire project. If you have a few minutes, I recommend watching at least part of it. I couldn't get it to upload to the blog, so just click here: "Story of Stuff" to view the YouTube video.

If you don't have time to check it out, the gist of it is this:

Most of the stuff we buy is only made to last a short while. When people say, "They sure don't make 'em like they used to," they're pretty much spot on. Companies make things cheaply, and purposely make them so they won't last - that way, you'll keep buying more stuff.

How much of the stuff we have do we actually need or even want, and how much of it did we get because we are bombarded with commercials and advertisements that goad us into thinking we suck if we don't have that one item?

We're being hit with instant gratification wants, but at lower and lower prices. Problem with lower prices? You end up paying loads more in the long run because the low priced item is only meant to last a short while before it breaks and you have to buy another one.

Imagine all the waste. Imagine the landfills piling up with two and three times more junk because it doesn't last and we throw it out to buy something new.

I took a good look around our home with this in mind, and I noticed a few things. Our main DVD player is 3 years old, and on it's last legs. Our bedroom DVD player is 1 year old and recently began sounding like a jet taking off every time we load a DVD (and we've maybe used it 5 times). Our washer and dryer are 2 years old and I keep waiting for them to explode with the squeaking and booming sounds they make every time they run. My laptop is just over a year old and it runs like absolute crap (and that started before it got knocked over). Our very expensive dining room table started peeling and chipping before it was even 5 years old - and now that it's almost ten, it looks like it's a hundred. We've been through 2 answering machines and 3 home phones in the last decade, and 3 microwaves before we stopped using them.

I could go on, but I'll just stop now. We are simplifying, not just to raise money for Christmas, but because I'm tired of being wasteful. There are extravagances I love (like having an extra laptop), and things we need (even if they are wearing out) that we'll keep. I won't go buy a new dining room table, I'll just live with the ugly one or fix it or cover it up. As for the stuff we don't really need (like a DVD player in our bedroom, which we don't use anyway), when it breaks, it breaks and we won't replace it. Some of the stuff we don't use is being sold. Some of it will go to our Free Christmas. Most of it will not be replaced.

Thursday, November 19, 2009 - more than deals!

If you are a Facebook person, I recommend fanning CYBERMONDAY.COM. Here's why:

They are giving away (large) gift cards to fabulous stores. Every day! All you have to do, once you are a fan, is comment on their giveaway updates. Easy peasy.

In fact, I was one of the lucky 3 winners to receive a $50 GC to Borders. I'll be in heaven shopping for Christmas gifts at my favorite bookstore this year... for FREE.

I love to read about great deals, too - which is the point of their website. They've already posted the leaked ads for ToysRUs, Best Buy and several others - and there's more to come.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cash for Stuff, Week #1

We stopped using our microwave two years ago, and it's been sitting in a closet ever since.

SOLD: 1 microwave = $20, cash

SOLD: 1 computer, built by husband out of spare parts = $20

SOLD: 1 gigantic bag of clothes and some toys to a local second hand store = $65

RETURNED: A "gift" still in-package that we didn't need = $171.18 ToysRUs GC (WOW!)

RETURNED: Dog harness from Target, purchased a few months ago and never worked properly = $7.89, Target GC

End of week Total Gain = $304.07

Cash spent during week #1 = $15.53

END RESULT for week #1 (304.07 - 15.53) = $288.54 to the positive

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Picture Book for Monsoon

I received a free photo book offer from Shutterfly (only because I was rejected - I really wanted to host a House Party).

Since I'm trying to be especially creative for Monsoon's gifts this year ($100 is a lot of money, but I'm not used to keeping a budget for his gifts at all and always go WAY overboard), I decided to use the free offer to make an actual picture book for him. It's a story that I wrote and one that he loves to listen to over and over again - even without pictures. So I changed the names of all the characters (he is the new main character, of course) to names of family members, and used pictures of him and said family members.

He snuck over while I was proof-reading it before I finished up, and he made me read it off the computer, where he could see all the pictures that went with it. His reaction was priceless! He doesn't know he's getting a hard copy, and I can't wait to see his face when he opens it.

Value/Price: aprox $21.49 w/ tax & shipping.

Actual Cost: $5.49

Budget allowance leftover for Monsoon: $100 - $5.49 = $94.51

Monday, November 16, 2009

Inventory, Week 1

Warning for my family, if you have happened over here - please stop reading NOW. (if you are still reading - shame on you! You might enjoy a nice surprise come Christmas, so LOOK AWAY!)

Here is what I have so far:

My mom - Longaberger Basket with cover and tray. Price: $99. Cost to me: $0 (giveaway)

Family Exchange - Cookbook. Price: aprox $10. Cost: $0 (local event prize)

Family Exchange - Recipe Easel & set of 50 matching Recipe Cards. Price: aprox $10. Cost: $0 (local event prize)

Grandmother - Shutterfly 8x8 soft-cover photobook. Price: aprox $26 w/ tax & ship. Cost: $10.04 (w/ discount & free code*)

MIL & FIL - Collage photo frame w/ pictures of grandchildren. Price: aprox $22. Cost: $0 (bought frame last year for a gift and didn't use it. Photos free from Shutterfly**)

Nephews - (2 brothers) - DVD player & Transformers DVD. Price: aprox $50. Cost: $0 (part of prize pack I won at a local event).

Our budget allows for $120 for the total people above. $120 - $10.04 =

A REAL savings of.... $109.96 (not to mention the $217 worth of stuff that cost us nothing)

*Shutterfly is running a 20% off promotion on all photo books, making the 8x8 soft-cover to 15.99. I also got an additional 10% off code that simply popped up when I logged into my Shutterfly account. I received a coupon code for $10 off any order, bringing the cost down to $4.39 + tax & ship.You can get your own $10 free code by registering at Parenting Magazine (plus, you can then vote for some cute kids in their baby/child model search - or enter your own child for a chance to win free Shutterfly goodies.

**When you sign up for Shutterfly as a new customer, you get 50 free prints.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The People List

These are the people (and ages of children) for whom we normally buy. Aside from the "Just Us" and "Exchange" categories, we typically limit our spending to $20-$25 per person or couple, which comes out to $420-$525 spent (WOW! I've never added it all up before). We don't budget for "Just Us" (yikes) and we always do a $10 family exchange with my aunt/uncle/cousins on one side.

This list is more for my own benefit, so I can check mark who gets what and keep track. I recommend making a list for yourself & keeping it with you if you are trying to stay on a budget - it really helps keep costs down when you shop and limits the "oh-why-not?" purchases.

Just Us:
  • Husband
  • Me
  • Monsoon
My Immediate Family:
  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Exchange (sister, brother OR BIL) - from me
  • Exchange (sister, brother OR BIL) - from husband
  • Nephew (12)
  • Niece (2)
  • Nephew (1)
The In Laws:
  • MIL & FIL (combined gift)
  • Nephew (1.5)
  • Nephew (7)
  • Nephew (9)
  • Grandmother
  • Grandmother
  • Grandfather
Extended Family:
  • Cousin (5)
  • Cousin (11)
  • Cousin (3)
  • Aunt & Uncle (usually a combined gift)
  • $10 limit, family - from me
  • $10 limit, family - from husband

I would like to stick with the $20 per person allowance, as far as worth, but I'm not sure how that's going to fly since some of the items will be purchased w/ money from the stuff we sell and some items will be literally free - because I won them.

As far as "Just Us" goes, we've agreed to stick with a $100 budget for Monsoon, and only purchasing gifts for each other if we have extra money after everyone else has a gift.

Grand Total: $540

I'll post tomorrow with the items I already have, who they are for, and where our monetary budget lands afterward.

This is really a lot of fun.

Doll Giveaway

Hoity Toity Baby is hosting a fabulous giveaway for anyone with a child to buy for this Christmas! is kindly offering one reader a free handmade doll. You can earn up to 7 total entries from Hoity Toity Baby and up your chances to win! These dolls are simply darling.
**Giveaway ends at midnight on 11/19.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Giveaway at The Apron Goddesses

Julia and Suzi at The Apron Goddesses are hosting a giveaway from Aprons By Julie. The lucky winner of this prize will get to choose her very own apron (or in my case, if I win - a lovely gift for someone this Christmas!).

Look around Aprons By Julie and pick which apron you love the most, then comment about that apron at TAG. You can also earn bonus entries by posting about the contest and even sending in a photo of yourself in an apron. You have until 11/17 to enter!

Enjoy the sight - TAG is one of my favorites.

The Apron Goddesses

Giveaways around the internet

Women's Health magazine holds a giveaway a day, every single day. Once you register with them, all you have to do to be entered in the drawing is vote in a poll. Each day you vote in the poll, you'll be entered to win that day's prize - the winner of which is announced the following day at noon. Don't forget to enter for the grand prize every month, too. November's grand prize is an HP laptop!

The SITS girls will be hosting "Merry SITSmas" on December 8th this year. It's a one day giveaway carnival - hundreds of bloggers will link up with giveaways they are hosting, plus SITS will be giving away prizes through-out the day. (During a similar event held by SITS, I won several items - all in a day).

I enjoy a few sights that specifically review products and/or showcase special deals regularly. Fantabulously Frugal & Mudpies and Maryjanes hold frequent giveaways. A Cheap Chick, Luv A Bargain, & offer special savings announcements and coupon codes. They do all the research, so all you have to do is take notes!

Some bloggers also host giveaways on a regular basis, such as The Apron Goddesses, who give away an apron a week.

These are just a few of the sights I have found that help me save money and/or host a lot of great giveaways. If you have any you'd like to share, please leave a name or link in the comment section.

Happy Saving!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Monsoon can have a box

We usually spend waytoo much on Monsoon by way of toys and books and what-not, and I'll admit to getting seriously carried away EVERY season with stuff for him.

Not this year.

The kid has been playing with a box I found in the garage for two weeks now. I can find free boxes at the grocery store. (kidding. partly)

I'm sure we'll be buying him some stuff, but seeing as how most of it goes unnoticed and unused, AND how he gets toys from all our family members, I don't think he'll mind.

He won't be deprived, he just won't have as much to neglect.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Can we make it through Christmas without spending a dime?

Goal: Cut out the entire cost of Christmas gift purchases, but still be able to give (new - not used) gifts to our regular people.

Reason: Um, we have no money. Come on, who's with us on that one?

How: Utilizing available resources, such as freebies, coupons, giveaways and most importantly: getting rid of stuff we don't use.

I know it would be (nearly) impossible to have an entirely free Christmas - unless, of course, there were no purchases whatsoever. But I don't want go that route. I like presents, what can I say? Mostly, I love giving presents.

I will log here the number of giveaways I enter (with link-ups, if I have time - and you can bet I'll be posting about them for extra entries); and coupons (and sharing codes, if I can - or linking with fabulous sites that share coupons).

I will also be collecting (and logging) all our stuff from the garage, shed, storage space, and even the way backs of our closets, and selling it off! Hey, if I haven't noticed it was missing for the past year or more, there's no need for it to take up space in my house.

I'm hoping the money we make on our old stuff will end up paying for our entire Christmas - making it a virtually FREE Christmas!

If you have any tips you'd like to share, please do!