Wednesday, August 31, 2011

If It Seems Easy, Then It Isn't

The College Application process has begun. Fun. We had an opportunity to apply online to Princess Penelope's first choice school and have the application fee waived. So, last night Princess went about the process of applying online. It seemed easy enough. The code was entered in the correct spot and we submitted. Then they asked for payment information. Don't know why... but they did. So I entered it in, and we hit submit again.

This morning, the email inbox had 2 "Thank You for applying" emails. Uh-oh. That's not good. I checked my account online, and sure enough.... the application fee had been charged. Crap. I've sent an email requesting assistance. We'll see how that one plays out.

The application fee is not ridiculous, but quite honestly, if it's supposed to be waived, I want it waived. So, I'll wait a bit to hear back. If the email doesn't work, then I'll start calling. Oh this is frustrating.

Easy Peasy? I don't think so!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Princess Penelope has been in the midst of cleaning out her closet and room. That's a very good thing because that place constantly looks like a tornado rolled through it.

We've got stacks of clothes, books and cds just ready to head out the door. Princess Penelope has gotten a bit smart though. She and one of her friends will be loading up her car this weekend and taking the clothes to a resale shop (which pays pretty pathetic prices, but some is better than none). They are also loading up the books and cds and taking them to another shop to see what they can for those there. And then whatever the shops don't take, she'll bring home, we'll itemize and then donate to the Salvation Army.

I'm pretty proud of her for taking the initiative to try and get some return on her (well, actually, MY) investment. Since she'll be doing all the work and the stuff is actually hers, she'll keep whatever money she gets. I'll just take the tax write off at the end! :-)

We'll see how it goes!

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Rough Day

Mondays, by their very nature, are not my favorite day of the week. However, this particular Monday was just not cool. It started out innocently enough.... I got to work and pulled up my computer and dove in to a mound of paperwork. Then WHAM! I got hit with two different phone calls from two different very grumpy people. Fun. So, after I get off those seemingly endless calls, I dove back into my paperwork. Then WHAM! Again. Department meeting in the boss's office.....with the door closed.

This CAN'T be good.

And it wasn't. Basically, our entire department's function is being suspended for anywhere from six months to one year. And this wasn't a management decision, but basically an effect of the temporary contract renewals. Right now, they are saying that we won't be laid off because they feel that this will be resolved in six months and the cost to train new hires to do our jobs in six months would be grossly prohibitive. That comes from our Big Dogs. However, the board has not met yet to render their decision. And I just have to wonder, how long are they going to be willing to pay us to do very little? We are all willing to do ANYTHING that we need to do, however, I'm just not sure there will BE much for us to do.

My first instinct is to start trying to find a new job now. However, I'm also on the fence because I LOVE my job and I LOVE the company I work for. The benefits are AMAZING, and the salary is more than I have ever made in my life. Its also flexible and my bosses straight up the line are terrific to work for.

I've worked in places where I had a stomache ache each day just getting up and knowing I was going to have to go to work. Up until now, I haven't had that problem. Now I imagine I will wake up each morning wondering if this is the day I become unemployed.

I see a lot of sleepless nights in my future.

Weekend Shopping

I tend to be a homebody on the weekends during the summer. That is, with so much to do around the house, I don't often get to the grocery store, but rather make my trips during the week. However, this weekend since I was in the desperate throes of a French Toast Craving I made an exception, and I also wanted to pick up those breakfast bars that they had been out of earlier in the week. So, here's what I got:

4 Golden Grahams Cereal Bars
2 Hormel Compleats
2 Powerades
2 Grands Biscuits
Angel Soft Toilet Paper

Spent: $19.73, Saved: 17.04 or 46%

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Breakfast For Dinner

This weekend, most of my facebook friends have been talking about where they've been grabbing breakfast or brunch. Waffle House, IHOP, Over Easy, Jackson's, Panera, Starbucks.... I was sorely tempted this morning to go out and grab brunch somewhere.... French Toast was calling my name!!!!! But did I need to spend $25+ on breakfast out? Just because I was in the mood? So, I restrained myself.... but the French Toast craving persisted...all day.....and then it occurred to me that I had my Aunt's French Toast Casserole Recipe..... so THIS is what we had for dinner (and excuse the fact that it is half gone, I couldn't find my camera!)....

This was SO easy to make:

5 cups bread cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/4 t. salt
1 T. margarine
2 t. cinnamon, divided

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 8x8 casserole dish with cooking spray. Place bread cubes in bottom of dish.
Combine eggs, milk, sugar (reserving 2 T), salt and 1 t. cinnamon until well blended. Pour over bread. Dot with margarine. Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over casserole. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Serve with syrup!

SO easy peasy. And SO good! To go along with it, we also had hasbrown casserole and fresh fruit. Best of all? My French Toast craving was fully satisfied for a fraction of the cost of going out for brunch.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rain, please!

It is late August and it is dry, dry, dry here.... unless of course you count the humidity! But for the ground.... just bone dry. My house has received exactly one rain shower since the beginning of August and that was last weekend. My plants are NOT happy! And the forecast for the next week shows no rain.

I got a rain barrel for my birthday, but I'm doing something wrong, because while its full of water, I can't seem to get the water to flow out of it. So this morning, before the heat starts approaching the 5th level of hades, I'm going to get outside and water my very thirsty plants and trees. Quite honestly, I'm less than thrilled about it, but I've got a fair amount of time, money and effort invested in my gardens and I can't just watch them wither into dust. They need some TLC.

I'm going to HATE seeing this reflected in my water bill next month. But, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

So, if you need me, I'll be in the garden.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Just a Wee Bit of Shopping This Week

This week's Publix deals were what I would call less than stellar. There wasn't much that we needed for a really great deal. I was hoping to get the Golden Graham's Breakfast Bars, but they were sold out. So I just grabbed some PowerAde and Ritz Bits Sandwiches instead.

On my way back into town, I stopped at Target. Target isn't located very close to our house, so I tend to only go there when there is something specific I need. Princess Penelope had scoped out some of the dorm room things she wanted or would need, so I stopped there to see if they were marked down yet. School supplies were being marked down (probably because most schools in this area have now been in session for over two weeks), but the dorm stuff wasn't yet so I didn't pick up any of that stuff. I did however find a set of Sony Earbuds marked 50% off on the clearance rack, (from $19.99 to $9.98), so I picked those up for Princess Penelope's stocking (she always gets as many sets of earbuds as I can for a great deal in her stocking, that girl is HARD on earbuds and we both get tired of paying full price, so I try to stock her up!). And since I used the Target Red Card debit, I saved an additional 5%!

So, here is how I did:

4 Powerade 32 oz.
2 Ritz Bitz Sandwiches

Spent: $5.61
Saved: $6.61 or 54%

At Target:
2 Velveeta Shells & Cheese
1 Sony Earbuds

Spent: $13.83
Saved: $11.77 or 46%

Not too bad, and that's another Christmas item bought in advance! Yea!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Part of my job involves traveling all over the state. Most times, its not so bad. And most of the time, my travel consists of day trips - I go there and come back in the same day. This is not the case this week. I went into the office yesterday, then worked for about 5 1/2 hours, then hit the road. I arrived at my destination 2 1/2 hours later --- but I changed time zones so according to the clock, it was 3 1/2 hours later.

My hotel isn't quite as nice as the ones I'm used to staying in. But it is clean, safe, and has a complimentary breakfast. My main issue is the bed. That has to be the most uncomfortable sleep I've ever had! I awoke this morning with a stiff neck and pain in my shoulders. So, here I am. Moving slow, a full day's work ahead of me, and a two and a half hour drive home to follow. And my neck and shoulders hurt!

Usually, I travel with kit full of all the basic necessities so I don't have to make unplanned and expensive stops at drugstores to get the basics. Unfortunately, the travel bottle of pain reliever (that I got FREE)  is EMPTY! When did that happen? I have no clue. So, I'll be making a stop at the local drugstore to get a full price bottle of pain reliever. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Starting That Christmas Shopping

It always seems odd to start shopping for Christmas when its 90+ degrees outside. This year, however, I am determined to be sure and get as much of my shopping as possible done early instead of waiting until the last minute and therefore  not having enough cash to go along with it.

So far, I have bought presents for Princess Penelope's brothers, a presents for her to give her Dad, StepMom and Granparents on her Dad's side, something for my niece and two small gifts for the Princess herself. The "Dad's Side" of the family is one where I tend to forget until the last minute (even though I buy them every single year), and therefore end up overspending. That will NOT be the case this year!

I've also got quite a bit in Amazon gift cards saved up thanks to Swagbucks! And if you aren't doing Swagbucks, you definitely should be! Internet searching for things you already look for can net you some extra cash for Christmas (or whatever else you may need!).

I'm also thinking hard about what I can make for Christmas for people. That's a harder one because I'm not the world's craftiest person! Let me know if you've got any fabulous, affordable ideas!!!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Bunch of Nothing

I had this whole post planned out. And then, a case of the Mondays hit.

1. New software at work which is supposed to make us more efficient.... no, we're just having to work it, and do our regular backups for it too..... 3x work. Efficient, I think not!
2. Spent 1 1/2 hour working on stuff for the side gig --- and the computer locked up. Had to do it ALL OVER AGAIN!
3. Thing 1 & Thing 2 got into the trash..... that was NOT fun to clean up.
4. I broke 3 nails.
5. No rain ---- my posies are muttering profanities.
6. Kevin on Design Star got sent home --- I hate it because he always made me laugh.
7. I completely forgot what my original topic for this blogpost was going to be --- and I have no clue where I put my notes.

So.... without further ado, I'm going to bed. Tuesday will be better. I hope.

'Night y'all!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Adventures in Air Drying... Continued

At the beginning of the summer, I started air-drying ALL of our laundry. I've had great results with it. My power bills have been lower than in previous summers (some of this is due to better management of the thermostat, but definitely not all because the heat has been brutal). Although not quite as convenient as just popping almost everything in the dryer, I've gotten into a rhythm with it, and its not as inconvenient as I thought it would be. It helps that there are only two people in this household. I'm not sure I'd be extolling the virtues quite so much if I had laundry for five to do!

Yesterday, I started with the first load. I have somewhat limited area to dry the clothes in so I tend to do it in shifts. Then I did the second --- as the second load was just starting to dry, it clouded up outside. Luckily, I noticed the clouds and pulled the trying rack on to the screened porch. It rained for a bit (yea! rain!), but then proceeded to stay cloudy the remainder of the day. It took for-ever for the second load to dry (as a matter of fact, not all of the items were completely dry this morning). However, I had already put the third load in to wash. And they sat in the washer overnight. And smelled just a wee bit sour. Dang it!

However, I had read that the dried outside clothes get a really fresh smell to them. So I hung them up to dry on the bright sunshiney deck. Lo and behold, they dried out nicely --- and smelled like sunshine! Woo hoo!
Score another one for the benefits of air drying! I think I'm actually going to miss this when winter rolls around!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Cost of Convenience

Convenience is a great thing. Sometimes its worth paying for, sometimes its not ---- we all have to make the choices as to whether or not the convenience is worth it.

My water/sewer bill for instance --- its very convenient to log on and pay the bill. However, the $2.50 charge for doing so is not worth it when I can write out a check, pop it in the envelope and attach a .44 cent stamp in about the same time. Spending $2.06 additional for about the same effort is not worth the "convenience". All of my regular bills I pay online, except this one. It is just not worth the cost.

The tag renewal for Princess Penelope's car is due. The fees and taxes must be paid in the county where I live. Problem is, due to corruption, greed, clueless officials and an illegal "occupational tax" funding the County for years, the county where I live is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. One of the "fallout" issues from this is that quite a few county offices have been closed and the only choice now is to go downtown and wait in a 5-6 hour line to renew the tag (and take the time off of work to do so).

There is also a mail in option and an online option. The mail in option costs an additonal $2.50, but that means having to rely on the USPS to get my money there, an overworked highly stressed county worker to process it timely and again for the USPS to get it mailed back to me. Too many variables on this one.

So, I chose the online option. I filled out the information, reading it carefully, and then I go to the "submit" page --- and there it is... a $5.95 "convenience fee". Lovely. I thought about cancelling the transaction, but then considered those 5-6 hour lines. I also considered the mail in again, but realized if the renewal doesn't get to me in time, I'd have no proof that I actually renewed the tag. So, I hit "submit" and then printed out the confirmation page. I attached it to the renewal card, made a copy of both, and put it in the glove compartment of Princess's car.

I figure that this way, if the renewal doesn't get here before the old tag expires, and she consequently gets pulled over for having an expired tag, she's got the proof that it has been renewed and paid for right there with her, and it becomes apparent that we are just waiting for it to arrive (traffic tickets for expired tags cost about $170).

In this case the $5.95 "convenience" fee was worth it. I didn't have to stand in line for hours, I've got proof that its been paid, and I didn't have to deal with overworked and over stressed employees at the county courthouse. Completely and awesomely worth it! Even if the $5.95 did make me go "yikes" for a second!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Super Simple Savings on Groceries

I love shopping at Publix on Wednesday's. Mainly because of the Penny Item Promotion. It's always fun to take home something for just 1 cent. This week's item was Publix Paper Towels. I cut back drastically on my paper towel usage this year by starting to use cloths for most jobs - this was for financial and environmental reasons. However, there are just some things that require paper towels ----- especially those jobs with a high ick factor. Thanks to the Publix Penny Item , I haven't paid more than 1 cent for a roll of paper since January 1 --- and I now have two rolls in my "stash" since I haven't even opened the one from last time they were on the penny promotion.

Anyway, I did some other shopping on Wednesday, and here is how I did (please note that we do not subsist on ramen noodles and gum --- I PROMISE!):

2 Betty Crocker Brownie Mix
1 Penne Pasta
1 Publix Paper Towels
1 V8 Splash
2 V8 Fusion
2 V8 Fusion Tea
3 Mentos Gum Big Packs
2 Dawn Dishwashing liquid
1 Fiber One Brownies (these will go in my drawer at work to stave off vending machine raids!)
4 CoffeeMate Creamers
5 Ramen Noodles

Spent: $23.91, Saved, $33.79 or 59%!

Working On That Bucket List

We all have those things that we want to do in our lifetime --- some are quite lofty, some are quite minor and some are just for fun and some are completely out of our reach. I won't go into great detail about the contents of mine except to say ---- I have an opportunity to scratch one of those things off my list in October! And I'm completely pumped about it!!!

Back in the mid-80's I was COMPLETE.LY into Duran Duran. My walls were plastered with posters. I had every album. Knew every song by heart. As the the song 1985 by Bowling for Soup goes, I was sure I'd "get my hand, on a member of Duran Duran." Problem was, they never came on tour here or even close for that matter. I did manage to catch part of them live in Atlanta when I was 15 when John Taylor and Andy Taylor were playing with The Power Station. Still, I always wanted to see the group itself and hear all of my favorites live!

And now, I have that opportunity!!!! Duran Duran will be playing Bayfest in Mobile in early October. I am so there!!!!! My 15 year old self is positively giddy! OMG!

The Princess will be going with me and another friend of mine is totally stoked about going too so we will be splitting the cost of gas, as well as the cost of the hotel! Once all is said and done, this trip will probably cost me about $250 - $300. I'm weighing the costs vs. the benefits especially with the not quite sure job scene, but it all boils down to this: I've waited 26 years for this chance, and therefore I'm taking it! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Keeping Track of Store Policies

In this day and age of "extreme couponing" I've noticed that a lot of stores have either changed their policies or clarified their existing policies in an effort to crack down on those that have worked the system (sometimes illegally) to take advantage of the deals out there.

Checkouts with coupons now take a LOT more time as the cashiers match up each and every item to each and every coupon. While it can be irritating, I understand. If a cashier is accepting coupons out of the range of the terms of the coupon, it can cost the store money. And it could cost the cashier their job. So I get it. I know that when I'm doing something that puts my job on the line, I dot those i's and cross those t's.

As you've probably guessed if you read this blog on a regular basis, my favorite grocery store to shop at is Publix. The BOGO deals combined with coupons can make for a greatly reduced grocery bill. One part of their policy is the Publix Promise -- which basically means if an item rings up for more than the price on the shelf, you get a full refund on that item --- and you keep the item.

Last Friday, while doing my shopping, I happened upon the clearance rack and saw a package of heavy duty pony tail holders (without the metal connectors) on clearance. The price marked was $1.37. Princess Penelope plays varsity basketball, so throughout the course of a season, she goes through A LOT of ponytail holders. I like the ones without the metal connectors, because if she carelessly leaves one on the side of the tub when hopping in the shower, the end result is not a rust mark on the edge. Not to mention, they really hold that super fine hair in place. Since they only had the one package, I grabbbed it, and checked out with the rest of my groceries.

When I got home and typed up my shopping trip for this blog, I noticed that I had been charged $2.74 for the ponytail holders. Dang it. At this point, I wasn't even sure if Publix still had the Publix Promise, or if it applied to clearance items. However, I was going back to the store on Sunday, so I carefully tucked the ponytail holders and the receipt into my coupon holder. When I got to the store on Sunday, I went to customer service, showed the item (with the orange clearance sticker on it) and my receipt and voila! I was handed back the item, my receipt and the full purchase price of the item -- plus tax! $3.04!

As a customer, I know that stores have to enforce their coupon policies to prevent losses and to be fair to all. But also as a customer, it is important to know all of your stores policies - because sometimes, with just a wee bit of effort, those policies are in the customer's favor. And that $3.04 is money that I'd rather have in my pocket!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Better Organizing and Planning Gets Better Results

Last Friday, I was very frustrated with my efforts (or rather, lack of effort) in trimiing my grocery bill with coupons. It was time to get bck to beng organized and really taking advantage of deals when I see them. So I cleaned out my coupon file, clipped three weeks worth of coupons (I often end up with two copies of each circular because my Dad passes on the ones he doesn't use -- he clips what he needs then gives me the remainder).

I also felt that since the gas card deal ($10 off of $50)was working out so well for us, I'd go ahead and get another one, for use next month (since I don't know if/when they will offer this deal again). That is going to pressure my budget a bit this month, but I'm hoping it will provide some much needed relief next month!
All told, I spent $93.57, but $40 of that was for $50 worth of gas! Here's how I did:

2 Bags Chicken enders
1 Barbers Stuffed Chicken Breast
3 Hunt's Pudding Snacks
1 Freschetta Frozen Pizza
2 Lysol All Purpose Cleaner
2 Cesar Dog Treats
2 Hot Pocket Snackers
1 Soft Scrub Cleaner
2 Pedigree Dog Treats
2 Bic Mechanical Pencils
3 Schick Shaving Gel (yes, it's men's but it does just fine on our legs!)
2 L'Oreal Skin Cleanser
1 Herbal Essences Shampoo
2 Publix Diet Lemon Lime Sodas
2 Kotex Tampons
6 Chef Boyardee Pastas
1 Kleenex Cottonelle TP
1 Always Pads (I had a free 18 ct. product coupon for this that I was trying to save for a ECB deal, however, I noticed that the package is now being downsized from 18 to 16 as both were on the shelf for the same price so I decided to go ahead and get it while I could still FIND the 18 ct)

Not including the gas card I spent $53.57, and saved $74.05.
That's a 58% savings! Much better than 40-something percents I've been cranking out lately!
Spending over $100 in one week is going to make the budget a bit tight the remainder of the month, however, I do think that I can pull this one out as I did pick up quite a few things for stock up purposes! Here's hoping!!!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Cost of Cheese, and Other Skyrocketing Groceries

Last Friday, as I was doing my Publix Grocery Shopping, I happened upon the dairy case. I noticed that they had big SALE signs for Kraft Shredded Cheese, 8 oz packages. They were on "sale" for $3.00 each. WHAT?!?!?!? Rarely, do I ever pay a fraction of a penny more than .25/oz and they were asking for .375/oz.?!?!?!?!? On sale? You've got to be kidding me! Usually, when I can't find a good deal at Publix, I just pick up cheese at Aldi, but even their prices have gone up lately from .18/oz to .254/oz. I was also almost out of coffee creamer and had no coupons, and alas, no sales this week, and those prices had gone up to $2.39 for 16 oz. Yikes!

So what's a penny pinching girl to do?

I was tickled when perusing the Walgreen's ad yesterday morning, I noticed a coupon for 8 oz. shredded cheese for $1.50 each. That comes in at .1875/oz. So, while out running my errands, I pulled into Walgreen's, took my little coupon with me and came home with 4 bags of cheese (the coupon was limit 4 per purchase). Cheese tends to have a nice shelf life in the fridge, so I will probably do it at least once more this week. That total was $6.60 with tax. --- At Publix, I would have gotten 2 bags for what I spent on 4 at Walgreen's -- and it was totally NOT out of my way!

I also made a run by Aldi and picked up:

3 boxes of Shells & Cheese - ($1.29 each -- Publix brand is $1.89 and $2.89 for Kraft)
1 Vanilla Coffee Creamer (32 oz for $2.19)
Spaghetti Sauce (no huge savings here because Pasta Sauce is BOGO at Publix this week, but Princess really loves this brand)
Dog Treats --- $1.29

Spent $9.31 with Tax.

I'm seeing that I may be needing to adjust my grocery budget --- but for now, I'm going to TRY and keep to it. We'll see how that goes!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Preparing for ????

Apparently this weekend, I all of a sudden decided I had money. After grocery shopping Friday, I decided I needed to do it again today. And go to Sam's. And to Walgreens. And to Aldi. And yesterday, I hit the Farmer's market!

That's all after working in 98 degree heat for the best part of the day yesterday trying to get my yard in order. Why oh why did I decide that the extended tree roots from the trees we took down last year needed to come up THIS WEEKEND? Did I mention the 98 degree part?

And the house is sparkly clean. And I cooked dinner Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. And the laundry is all done. And the pups are bathed.

And tomorrow is Monday, and I have not relaxed one little bit all weekend. What is UP with that?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Car Problems.... Again

Yesterday morning, Princess Penelope left for school. Not much later, I received a phone call from her. On the road to the school --- all of the lights on her dashboard had started flashing again --- and she barely made it into a parking place. Once she had turned it off, she tried to restart and there was no juice whatsoever. You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me. She said that one of her guy friends had offered to jump it after school to get her home, but since it started acting up, she thought it was an alternator issue because apparetly it wasn't charging the battery while she was driving it like its supposed to! I kind of laughed at this because she is now well very well versed in what parts of a car do what --- and she pretty much learned that the hard way!

I told her to focus on trying to get a ride home and that I'd see about getting the car back to the shop. On my way to work, I stopped at the shop where they had done all the repairs and spoke to the mechanic that did the work last week. He said as soon as more of his crew got in, he'd call me and meet me over at the school to get the car back to the shop. True to his word, he called me about an hour later and we met over there. We got the car started and he took it back to the shop.

The problem was the alternator it wasn't in there tight enough so wasn't doing its job properly --- although they hadn't put in the new alternator last week (we'd had that done while the car was still out of town), he felt he should have double checked that when he'd done the timing work, so he got the alternator back in. But my battery was now toast. So they put a new battery in there too. I got a phone call that the car was ready around 2:00 --- after work and school the Princess and I went to pick up the car. They handed me the key, and what I thought was going to be bill --- but no, it was a certificate for our next oil change on the house, for our inconvenience.

Quite honestly, they are already refunding me the cost of the alternator we had to have replaced and the labor for it from when the car broke down in Greenville. Technically, since they didn't do the new work or put the new alternator in and are refunding me that money (because it was under warranty), the alternator was no longer their issue. So, again, they went above and beyond what I expected. There's a reason they've kept my business for 14 years, and why I refer many of my friends to them. While sometimes an issue does arise, they always, always make it right. They stand behind their work and go above and beyond to be sure I walk out of there a satisfied customer.

In this day and age, how refreshing is that?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Groceries, School Supplies and Some Free Gas

I probably should not go to the grocery store when I am hot, hungry and stressed out --- because apparently in that condition I have no defense against Ben & Jerry's on BOGO. I was a bit frustrated with myself during this trip because I didn't get around to clipping my coupons this past week and I had to leave a few things on the shelf because I know I have the coupons for them. I also took advantage of the fact that Publix is once again offering $10 off a $50 gas card --- This worked well for us last month, and Princess Penelope actually still has some $ left on last month's card, so I decided to give it another shot!

Anyway, this is how I did:

1 Goody Hair Elastics (these will be going back for a price adjustment as they did not ring up correctly)
9 Ramen Noodles
1 Publix Greenwise Toilet Paper
2 Bertolli Pasta Sauces
1 L'Oreal 360 Skin Cleanser
4 Ben & Jerry's Pints (yum, but I apparently have no willpower)
2 Tombstone Frozen Pizzas
2 Publix Diet Lemon Lime Sodas
Index Cards
9 Packs Mentos Gum
3 Packs Tic Tacs
2 Spiral Notebooks

Spent: $51.62,
Saved $36.76 or 42% --- Not my best, but not my worst, either!

As for the Gas Card, Spent $40, saved $10 -- or 20%

Just Waiting

Back on July 1, we waited on pins and needles of the outcome of our contract re-bid at my job. We got the results we had hoped for and kept our contract award. Yea! That means I still had a job. Then yesterday, we found out that due to a flaw in the contract bidding process, we have to rebid the contract again. Only this time everyone else who is bidding knows what was involved in the winning bid. Now, we will go through the process again, which will take approximately 6 months.

So we are kind of in limbo for 6 months to find out if we get the contract and consequently still have jobs. Right now, I'm trying to figure out what to do. I love my job. The benefits are fabulous! The work environment is terrific. The pay is the best I've ever had in my life. This uncertainty, especially given the state of the economy and the fact that Princess is due to head to college in one year is difficult, at best.

So many decisions to be made.... do I polish my resume up and start looking for another job? One that might not pay as well, have as many benefits and that I might not like as much? Or do I ride this out and hope for the best and if the best occurs stay with the job I adore? Do I continue my plan to be gazelle intense with my debt load? Or do I stockpile cash and prepare for the worst?

So many decisions to be made and I have no clue at this time which will be the best course of action.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Raising a Frugal Teen

Teenagers and frugality don't exactly go hand in hand. Teenagers always seem to want the latest and the greatest regardless of cost. I have found that teenagers are much more expensive than younger children --- even though I had to pay the cost of daycare back then. However, you CAN get the thinking along the right lines --- it just takes some modeling of behavior and a willingness to say "no".

When Princess Penelope and I went back to school shopping for clothes, I told her what my budget was for what we were shopping for. Knowing that there was a limited amount to spend, she went straight to the clearance racks and started diving in. It was interesting to watch her pull something off the rack, admire it, look at the price tag, do the extra percentage math in her head, and put it back on the rack if that item was going to eat up too much of her clothing budget or toss it over her arm if she wanted to try it on. I asked her why she put something back and she said "That will eat up half my budget, I don't want to try it on, love it and then be completely limited on what else I can get." Is it weird that I was proud?

Tuesday, she needed to go to Target to get new headphones for her iPod, she wanted to go there specifically because she had a gift card from her birthday. I had also wanted to go to check out the back to school deals, but time hadn't allowed. Before she headed out, I flipped through the Target ad, but wasn't overly impressed.
I then made a quick list of things she needed to check the prices on for me and handed her a Target gift card with about $15 on it to pick up those items if they were a really good deal (because I didn't see them advertised). She called me when she got there and filler paper was a better deal there than the advertised price at Walgreen's --- so I had her pick up 6 packs. She called again to ask if she could pick up the same type binders she had gotten last year because they were on sale for much less than we paid last year, I gave her the go ahead because those had actually lasted the entire school year. She picked up the items we discussed and came home with $1.21 left on my gift card.

Last she went to the back to school/dorm area and took pictures of things she wanted for when she goes off to school next year. Her idea was for us to go back in a few weeks when some of that stuff is marked down and get some of that in advance. Not a bad idea. Especially when I know these are things that will be needed!

It can be tempting to give your child everything they want when they want it. But if they know how you shop and what you are willing to pay, it can make things a lot easier. Letting them sometimes make the choice about whether or not something is worth the cost WILL pay off in the future as they start to understand the relationship between money and what it takes to get it and what it buys.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Beginning of The End

School starts today. But its not just any first day of school. It is the first day of Princess Penelope's Senior Year in High School. I'm sitting here, drinking my coffee wondering where the time went.

Wasn't it just last week that I took her to school on her first day of kindergarten? I can still remember how nervous, excited and just a little bit scared she was. She had this teddy bear that she carried everywhere with her and she was so brave that morning as we got out of the car and she put him in her booster car seat and buckled him in and told him that he couldn't go with her, but that she'd see him that afternoon. After taking her in to the school and walking her to class and getting her situated, I went back to my car. I took the bear out of the carseat and put him in my lap, and boo-hooed all the way to work. The teddy bear hung out at my desk with me that whole day. It doesn't seem like that was 12 years ago. It seems like last week.

So now we start on the first day of her senior year. Yesterday evening was filled with picking out just the right outfit for the first day. How does this look? How does THIS look? What do you think of these earrings with this outfit? Should I wear these shoes or those? Do I have the right school supplies? Can we go shopping once we get the offical lists? What about my hair, should I do it like this....or like this?

I wonder if I should impart words of wisdom about this year.... not just the school stuff about how this year is the foundation upon which she can build the rest of her life. But about how she will only walk this way once. She will only get one senior year of high school. About how she should treasure these friends she surrounds herself with now because she WILL lose touch with some of them. Different college choices, different life choices, and different opportunities will take her and her friends on different paths. About how life will change after this year, and it will never be quite the same, so she needs to enjoy it. And savor it. And not wish it away. I know that's what I'll be doing.

Right now, I'm hearing Paramore blasting from her room and all of the other noises associated with getting off to school. Hairdryer running, drawers opening and shutting, the clack of hangers as they are tossed on the floor. And still I see that sweet little girl, fastening the teddy bear's seat belt as she prepares to face the first day of real school. I think I may be boo-hooing all the way to work again today.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tanking ---

Yesterday was absolutely brutal. In terms of investments at least. I'm sure I'm not the only one that just cringed as I watched the stock market events unfold. As those tickers kept plunging, I finally just quit watching for a while. I couldn't do anything about it, so I took the bury my head in the sand for a while approach.

Of course, by now, curiosity got the best of me, so I went online and checked my investment accounts. It ain't pretty. Princess Penelope's college fund --- down 11% (In the past week it lost every penny I've put into it this year). My IRA -- down approximately 25% --- this doesn't have a lot in it so it is a more aggressive portfolio --- I think I'm just going to not look at that one for a while. My 401(k) --- down 15%.

The numbers are ugly --- and extremely disheartening! All projections also seem to be that credit card rates are going to jump, as will mortgage interest rates. It has become important, now, more than ever to eliminate that credit card debt! I HAVE to be out from under that before Princess Penelope starts college as I can see that my savings for it won't be what I'd hoped they would be.

Home ownership may be completely out of the question for a while. I can be okay with that! I just don't want extra debt for college.

Time to get Gazelle intense!!!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday, Monday

This weekend seemed to FLY by ---- even with the bonus of being off of work this past Friday. I got a lot done over the weekend, but there's still so much left undone. Things I wanted completed before school started back.

My office/craft room is a complete disaster. Things are just piled in there waiting to be dealt with. Part of the problem is that for some reason, it is the hottest room in the house. It is easily 5 degrees warmer in there -- and when the rest of the house is at 80, those extra 5 degrees mean it is MISERABLE in there! I really want to get it organized and workable, but until it cools off a bit I don't see that happening.

The rest of the house is in good shape so that at least is a load off. I was planning to get up this morning and water my very stressed out plants outside, but a late night rain made that unneccessary! Woo hoo!

I made an attempt to stay in touch with what was going on in the world outside my household, and quite frankly, I found it to be depressing.
The economic outlook is terrible. With the downgrading of the U.S. credit, every thing I've read indicates that one of the effects will be increased interest rates. That makes paying off my credit card more important than ever before. It also makes the whole home ownership a much more loft goal. I also made the mistake at looking at what was going on with Princess Penelope's 529 --- that just made me sick.

So, all in all, I'm in a bit of a funk over the outlook for this Monday. I wish I'd just stayed in bed!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Entertaining on the Cheap

Entertaining, even casual entertaining, can add up to big bucks quickly if you go out and buy everything to make that perfect meal. Sometimes though, the meal is just the excuse to get together instead of the whole focus --- and that can be done easily and cheaply and without having to spend a ton of time in the kitchen and a lot of money.

Last night my Mom came over for dinner. We didn't want to make a big deal (meaning we didn't want to spend the whole time in the kitchen), but rather we wanted to visit and catch up. So, before Mom got there, I whipped up some homemade salsa using the tomatoes, onions, jalepenos, garlic, limes & cilantro I bought earlier this week. (I made it in the Pampered Chef Manual Food Processor and it took about five minutes total and made the perfect amount for us to have as a munchie before dinner). For the main deal, I had picked up a take & bake cheese pizza, to which I added my own veggies to half -- the Princess does not care for anything on her pizza except cheese (and more cheese). There was more than enough for the three of us -- with leftovers too!

After dinner, I whipped up an easy peasy Rocky Road Brownie Dessert in my Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker --- I altered the official recipe a bit using a store bought brownie mix (which was free with coupons a few weeks back) instead of doing the whole thing from scratch  since I had the mix on hand-- I meant to take a picture of it because it was scrumdillyumptious, but forgot in the midst of all that marshmallowey goodness! After throwing that together, I popped it in the microwave for 7 minutes.

We took a walk around my yard and gardens while dessert baked in the microwave and pondered the things we (I) need to do as improvements. After dessert we visited a bit more before Mom headed home and I headed to bed.

Total cost out of pocket for the evening - $6.35 for the pizza. Everything else, wine, salsa stuff, chips, veggies, and dessert ingredients, I already had on hand.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Back To School Shopping and Tax Free Weekends

I took the day off yesterday. It was a great day to get lots of things done in and around the house! I spent the morning cleaning the main "visitor accessible" areas. So nice and sparkly! (Amazing how trashed it can get when one is rushing around like a mad woman day in and day out! -- of course it is amazing how much can get done when you have unexpected visitors arriving too!).

After all of that, I took Princess Penelope back to school clothes shopping. I kept my budget at $100 for clothes and we actually didn't do too badly ---- although we exceeded the budget by$10, but I can live with that. We picked up jeans, shirts and foundation garments. I sat there and and argued with myself over a dress I had had my eye on all season since it was 75% off --- and no sales tax --- then I tried it on and wasn't impressed. Even marked way, way down, it wasn't worth it. It was clinging in all the wrong places and I don't think a full body spanx would have helped it. Darn shame, because it was perfect on the hanger!

Next stop will be school supplies! I've really got to sit down and look over the various store offerings thoroughly! I won't have the time to make trips to a jillion stores, but I will look over the ads and see where I can get the most for my my money in one fell swoop.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Cleaning Fit

This has kind of been a lost week around here --- I didn't get half of the stuff accomplished over the weekend that I had planned due to car issues. Then this week I spent Monday evening getting ready for working my side gig Tuesday evening. Worked the side gig Tuesday evening. Wednesday I made dinner, cleaned the kitchen and relaxed for a while. Tonight, I went out for dinner and drinks with some coworkers as a farewell for one and to celebrate the promotion of another.

So, I got home and found out that I am having visitors at 11 a.m. tomorrow. And my house Looks. Like. Crap. I was planning on taking tomorrow off anyway, to get some stuff done. Now, I know I will be rolling out of bed at 5:30, inhaling some coffee and then giving the entire house the once over. Jeez, nothing like getting hit with an OMG moment at almost the last minute!

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lest Y'all Think We Only Eat Junk....

It was pointed out to me, (rather kindly, I might add) that my grocery posts have been kind of light on the fruit and veggie end of things. On the same day (but different time of day) that I did my Publix shopping this week, I also made a quick trip to Aldi and picked up some fruits and veggies. I was in such a rush to get back to work that I basically dropped them off at the house, told the Princess to please put them up and scurried back to work. So, I have pulled them out of the fridge (minus the cherries because I forgot to pull out the container they are in) and snapped a quick picture.

I bought:

Roma Tomatoes
Fresh Garlic
Red Onions

Spent: $15.46

Also, we currently have a gallon of blueberries and 2 quarts of cored and sliced strawberries in the freezer (a friend went a little overboard at a pick them yourself place and didn't want to deal with them!) and 4 quart bags of shredded zucchini and summer squash! I'm hoping to pick up some Chilton County Peaches at the Farmer's Market this weekend because.... YUM.

So, I'm not totally a junk food mom! ;-)

Post July Grocery Shopping

With MUCH car drama over the weekend, I almost forgot to go back to the store to to pick up a few of the deals that I missed when I was trying so hard to stay under my July grocery budget. Yes, I know this isn't the healthiest shopping trip of all time, (and jeez how much cheesy stuff can one household eat?), but it was an on the fly trip and everything I picked up was half price! I used zero coupons. And this is how I did ---

2 Ragu Pasta Sauces
4 Kraft/Velveeta Mac & Cheese
1 Diana's Babies Frozen Chocolate Covered Bananas
1 Mueller's Pasta
1 Kellogg's Pop Tarts

Spent $12.54
Saved $11.44 --- this would have been straight 50% savings/spending trip except that Alabama charges sales tax on everything! Sigh.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Better Than I Expected!

So, Princess Penelope's car is all fixed. Yes! It was a problem with the timing belt -- which was covered under the warranty. As was the labor! AND the shop is reimbursing me for the alternator and labor I paid last summer since we replaced the alternator in Greenville (and it was also under warranty --- and I brought the bad one back to them). AND they are also reimbursing me for the $455 towing charge to get it from Greenville to Birmingham!

I simply ADORE places that go above and beyond in standing behind their work. I've used this particular shop for 14 years and they've never done me wrong. They've taken great care of me and my cars over the years -- and with this being the first time I've ever had a problem after they've done work for me, I can honestly say, I don't think I will ever take our cars anywhere else. They stand behind their work and their word.

(and can I just say.. Phew!!?!?!?!?)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fingers Crossed.

I had Princess Penelope's car towed from Greenville to Birmingham today. My Dad stopped off in Greenville today to "visit" the car on his way down to the beach. He talked to the manager of the shop where it was hanging out, and they determined that all signs pointed to the car jumping time. And in that case, it would be best to have it towed back to Birmingham and let the guys that did the work last summer handle it. 

So, $455 later, the car is now sitting in the shop where the timing belt was originally replaced. After school registration (which, by the way, I shelled out $250 for), I stopped by the shop and talked to the manager. He is a really great guy and has cut me huge breaks over the years and I've never had a problem with the work done there before. He told me that if the problem was  with any of the systems replaced last summer, it would be okay. He also told me that if for some reason the towing company got behind and wasn't going to get the car here until after hours to just let him know because he would stay late to be sure it was inside the shop and not sitting out in the parking lot. (He's really great).

After the car arrived and they started looking at it, they are fairly certain it jumped time, and now they just need to find out why. It looks like it will be covered under the warranty.

Fingers crossed.

School Registration


We are up all bright and early this morning for school registration. I absolutely cannot believe it is that time again! I fully expect to lay down $200 after all is said and done today. I've budgeted for this expense, I've planned for it, but since I'm still reeling from the issue with Princess Penelope's car, I'm not wanting to let go of that money!

There's lab fees, PTO dues, fees for electives, yearbook, lunches (Princess Penelope does a combo of brown bagging it some days and buying lunch on others), locker fees -- all the costs of a "free" public education.

Princess Penelope's BFF is picking her up in a bit to go get in line and get a registration number (they want to have lockers side by side), BFF's mom and I are following a bit later in order to avoid standing in the line any longer than we have to! (Let the girls do it for us!).

Still, I am just not ready for school to start this year. It seems the summer has just flown by and the things I wanted to get accomplished just haven't happened. But, enough of that Debbie Downer stuff. I need to look at it as a new beginning! Okay, yea! School registration! School will start in 10 days! Woo hoo!

Did I sound convincing?