Saturday, March 31, 2012

College Visit

Princess Penelope's college choice is having a big hoopty-doo this weekend for prospective students. This event will consist of campus tours, financial aid information, student activities booths, a parade, a spring football game and a baseball game.

At first glance, I thought we were going to have to get a hotel room, board Thing 1 & Thing 2, spend a ton of money on food and spend early Sunday traveling too. However, after the Princess and I discussed it more, we decided to bypass certain activities and are making a day trip of it. We will get on the road shortly, make the 2.5 hour drive to the campus, participate in the activities and information we've selected and then we will make the drive back home. I let her choose what she wanted to do so that I wouldn't be skimping on what is really a big deal to her to save a few bucks.

We are packing some snacks and stuff for the road, but I imagine we will still incur some food expense along the way either there or back. However, I won't be incurring the costs of boarding the pups, the hotel or several other on the road meals, so basically gas will be the largest expense for this road trip. Isn't it always these days?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Publix Shopping - The Easter Bunny Edition

Back when I was cleaning out Princess Penelope’s room, I opened a desk drawer and found a quite a bit of uneaten and unopened Easter candy. From LAST year. Apparently, she only ate her favorite stuff, and then the rest just icked up in the drawer. This year, I’m taking a different approach and her Easter basket will ONLY contain the stuff that I know are her favorites! There will be no filler this year! Toward that end, this week’s sale at Publix helped me out a LOT! Here is what I got doing a quick shopping today:
2 International Delight Coffee Creamer
3 Ragu Pasta Sauce
2 Quaker Instant Oatmeal
4 Kraft Deluxe Mac & Cheese
1 Ronzoni Pasta
2 Dove Promises Chocolates (Easter Bunny Swag)
2 Starburst Jellybeans (Again, Easter Bunny Swag)
9 50 ct. Mentos Gum (Easter Bunny Swag, plus it has been a while since there was a really good sale on gum)

Spent:  $39.03
Saved: $40.84 or 52%

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ever Had One of Those Days?

Ever had one of those days that you wish you'd never gotten out of bed?

When you knew when you were putting your makeup on and the eyeliner broke that it was NOT good foreshadowing for the day?

When you realized you'd left the 50 lb bag of dogfood in the car and the pups were not happy?

When you realized as you were making your lunch that you'd let Sunday night's leftovers go to waste?

When you realized you'd done a full hour of work -- completely wrong and had to redo it?

When you realized you'd trusted the wrong information and had to redo another full hour's worth of work?

When you wish you could take back almost each and every word that came out of your mouth because they weren't understood as intended?

When you realized those words changed things in your life in a way you never wanted?

That was my day today.

I can't wait for bedtime.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We Are Now A Two Income Family

Princess Penelope has gotten herself a JOB!

Last week while the Princess was at the beach, I passed by a building that had been under renovations for a while, and noticed that an actual restaurant was going in the building and they had a  NOW HIRING sign up. I got to work and googled the name of the restaurant, and realized that this might be a good fit for the Princess. The building is roughly 4 blocks from home, so burning up her gas going to and from would NOT be an issue. Being a sit down restaurant, they were bound to have hostess positions (the Princess is too young to waitress in a place that serves alcholic beverages). So, on Monday, the Princess went and applied.

From what she said, she was able to speak with the manager from the get-go, and while he was a bit hesitant because she wasn't 18 yet, due to some restrictions on working hours during the week, he didn't write her off immediately and asked her why she wanted a job. She explained that she would be going to college in the fall, that she comes from a single parent household, and would like to be able to ease some of my financial burden for that. Apparently that was a really good answer because he asked her to come back on Tuesday at 4:30 for an interview.

So, Monday night we discussed how to handle yourself in a job interview. Of course my number one thing was "Don't be late!" At a little after 5 yesterday afternoon, the Princess called to tell me she'd gotten her first job! She'll report for training today and tomorrow at 4 o'clock and will begin her life as an employee. I'm very excited for her!

She knows I expect her to put some of the money into savings for school. We haven't decided yet on a percentage. I want it to be enough that she can see some significant savings for college, but not so much that she can't actually enjoy having earning and having her own money for the first time. Plus I want her to be able to learn to manage it properly.

Anyone have any thoughts or ideas for a first time wage earner?

Monday, March 26, 2012

I Think She's Getting It

So today I was out at a local hotel for a work conference. The conference will last three days and its a nice break from the normal grind of the office. However, the sessions can sometimes get dull, especially when they run over!

Anyway, I'm sitting in one of the sessions and I get a text from the Princess. She needs a book for school. Tomorrow. Technically its not due in class until Thursday, but if she brings it in tomorrow, she gets bonus points. I'm all for bonus points! So, I say okay, we can get it tonight.

Then, she absolutely blows me away by reminding me there is a secondhand book store across from the hotel where I am, and would I mind stopping there on the way home to see if they have it before we go to a full price book store? I'm a little embarrassed that I forgot that secondhand store was there, but of COURSE I'm happy to stop. So, on my way home, I stop there, ask the guy at the desk if they've got the book, he tells me where to find it, I locate it, pay for it, and head home. The price at the secondhand store? $5 The publisher price? $14. SCORE!

Best of all? The Princess is thinking ahead. Bonus points AND a $9 savings on required reading? I think she's actually getting it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gotta Stretch It Out

I paid bills this morning. It was not fun. After all is said and done (and automatic debits and such come out), I've got roughly $450 to stretch through until next payday. Which is April 5. Yikes.

My budget is completely blown for the month and there are many contributing factors, but the most glaring are the prom dress, and gasoline. We usually do pretty well on keeping to our gas budget, even with the ridiculously rising prices. However, this month, we've got some stuff that I just didn't plan for.

Today, we will head to Cullman, AL (roughly 45 minutes away) for the funeral of my BFF's father. Obviously this was not factored in to my original budget, but this is a no brainer and non-negotiable. We have to go. I'd never forgive myself if I didn't. Next up, we have a visit to the Princess's college choice. They are doing a big hoopty-doo on March 31 for incoming students.  The school is 2.5 hours away, so that's going to require over a tank of gas for the "there" and "back" trip. This will also require a hotel room.

On the "better news" front, my power bill was down below budget this month. So, combining that with my gas bill and I'm $10 BELOW my utilities budget for the month. Woo hoo! Although we have had unseasonably warm weather the past 2 weeks, I've managed to keep the AC off the whole time, so I'm expecting this coming month's power bill to be even lower! Well, I hope so anyway!!!!! (But I still don't think that's going to cover my gasoline deficit for the month. Sigh.)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Saving on Groceries At Publix

I haven't posted a grocery shopping trip in a couple of weeks because other than fruit, we really haven't needed much around here. I almost bypassed shopping on Wednesday, but I was out of coffee, and for me THAT is a necessity!

So, while the coupon deals haven't been staggeringly good lately, I did take advantage of a couple of them -- mainly convenience stuff.

Here is what I bought:

1 Pack Fig Newtons (I LOVE these and they never seem to be on sale, but this time, they were BOGO! Woo hoo!)
4 Betty Crocker Mashed Potatoes
2 Totino's Pizza Stuffers
3 Hormel Compleats Ravioli
1 Publix Sandwich Cookies (Penny Item!)
1 Peter Pan Peanut Butter
2 New England Coffee (not my regular brand, but pretty good)
1 Kraft Salad Dressing
1 Kraft Barbeque Sauce
2 Green Giant Frozen Vegetables
1 12pk Angel Soft

Spent: $30.54
Saved: $32.48 or 51%

Is it just me, or is it absolutely crazy that this small amount of groceries would have been over $63 if I hadn't shopped the sales and used coupons?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Sampling of the Empty Nest

I'm used to Princess Penelope traveling --- her father lives 4 hours away, so several times a year she is gone to visit him, whether it be for a few days or a couple of weeks. The quiet house is really nothing new to me. But today, it is just a little bit different.

Ten minutes ago, I stood at the curb and waved as she left for Spring Break. At 5:15 in the morning. With a car full of girlfriends. Heading to Florida for a few days of sun, sand and surf. There will be a chaperone for the trip. I trust the Princess and the other girls not to do anything completely stupid, so while I'm probably going to worry the entire time, I won't be obsessing about it (much). The Princess has earned the trust that allowed me to stand on the curb and wave as they drove off to pick up Spring Breaker #4.

But then I walked back in the house. Thing 1 & Thing 2 gave me a look that clearly said "You let her go? WTH?". The house seems just a little quieter than it normally does after she leaves for a trip. The pups keep going to the window to see if she's back yet. Maybe its the early morning quiet, or maybe its because I'm letting the little bird fly a bit on her own. Whichever it is, this nest is awfully quiet. And I'm not sure I like it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend Recovery

I'm still in recovery mode from the weekend. The whole thing is a blur of rainbow colors, ringing casg register bells, hazy air and sunburn. Quite a combination, huh?

Let's start with Saturday.... because that is the day Princess Penelope and I went Prom Dress Shopping. We had a budget in mind and hit the road. We hit consignment boutiques, department stores and specialty shops. We tried, tried, tried to stay in budget but that did NOT happen. The Princess tried on dress after dress, after dress. We thought we had one that was pretty close to budget, but after a quick consultation on the cost of the alterations, the dress would have been double the price (all that dang detail work!), and I just didn't want to spend that on something we weren't sure was going to be stunning after the alterations. I promise, I think she tried on over 40 dresses throughout the course of the day.

Finally, at our last place, 2 hours into the try on process, we found THE DRESS. She tried on a couple more just to be sure, but it was THE ONE. No alterations needed. But the price tag -- yikes. After sales tax, it was $371. After a mild panic attack, I forked over the money trying not to hyperventilate. And sigh, we still have shoes, jewelery, purse, and proper foundation garments to get!

We had thought we'd do a girls lunch during the process, but since it was late in the afternoon and we still hadn't eaten, and the dress was so expensive, we skipped that part of our outing.

Sunday was a gorgeous day --- albeit HOT. 86 degrees in mid March. Ridiculous amounts of pollen in the air. So of course, I spent the day in the yard. Cutting grass, weeding flower beds. Forgetting to put sunscreen on (wore a tank top so my shoulders and back are a bit burnt).

After that, I cleaned house, finished up laundry and cooked dinner. I'm glad to go to work today. I need a break from my weekend!!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wanting to Get Back to Air Drying

Last Summer, I started my great air drying experiment to try and cut down on my power bills. It worked great! I loved the smell of air dried sheets and pretty much everything was air dried. During the winter, I had to put that on hold for the most part and go back to using the dryer. There just isn't enough indoor space.

Now we've got 85 degree temps in MARCH and I'd love to hang stuff outside to dry. But I can't. Why? Pollen. Anything that stays outside for more than 20 minutes ends up with a fine coating of the yellow stuff. We need a good rain to knock stuff out of the trees and was the pollen off. But, I don't see that happening anytime soon. Wednesday at the earliest. And knowing my luck --- a week from Wednesday!

So, for now, I'm still using the dryer, because I just don't think its conducive to a good night's sleep to lay down on sheets that are coated with the icky yellow stuff. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Diamond Dolls

This year Princess Penelope signed up to be a Diamond Doll. What is that, you may ask? Well basically it is a group of girls that volunteer to work the gate and concession stands for the school's baseball home games. Also, they each "adopt" two players, one Varsity and Junior Varsity to bring a basket of treats and such to on certaiIn dates throughout the season. Of course, it can't be simple and have the treats for Varsity and Junior Varsity on the same dates! Sigh.

So, this weekend, I found myself at the dollar store, picking out "cute" containers and stuff to put in them for baseball players I have never met. The Princess had looked at Target, but had kind of crashed and burned there. I found cute baseball "easter baskets" and blue buckets (the school colors are red and blue). I also picked up packs of Big League Chew, Airheads, Sunflower Seeds, Charms Blow Pops and Pop Rocks. All told, I walked out of there having spent $26! OUCH!!!!

Then we had to do the homemade treats too. I sent the Princess a text right before my Zumba class, reminding her to go ahead and make the brownies. She got busy working on some other stuff, and when I got home, no brownies. She finally started them around 8:30. Which meant they didn't have enough time to cool before she (or I) went to bed. So at 6:00 this morning, guess who was individually wrapping up the brownies?????

Next go round, we (she) will have to be more organized. Bagging up brownies before I've had a full cup of coffee does not make for an easy morning!!!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Adjusting to the Time Change

I generally LOVE it when Daylight Savings Time kicks in. During the winter, when it is either dark when I leave work or soon after I get home, I start winding down fast and get very little accomplished in the evenings. Honestly, I'm lucky to get dinner fixed and the dishes handled before I am completely worthless. Apparently, sunshine motivates me.

The flip side to that is that right now it is still very dark when I wake up. I mean very dark. This morning, I hit the snooze button 4 times, even though I went to bed last night at the normal time. It was just too dark! I wanted to stay under the covers! I still have enough time to get ready for work without going too crazy, but I'm definitely missing some of my "just sip coffee and wake up" time. Also, I'm going to have to adjust my morning walks with Thing 2 ---- I just don't like walking when its dark outside. Will have to see this morning how I can adjust that temporarily.

Anyway, its looking to be a LONG Monday!!!! Gotta get moving!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Making the Tough Choices

Last night, I had to make a choice. Every year, I attend a local benefit for Weimaraner Rescue. Its a fabulous event, for a great cause. The event tickets themselves are affordable --- $25 and that covers food and wine. I go to this event every single year with my sister and Brave Friend. We always have an absolute ball. I'd have to say, hands down, this is my favorite event of the year.

There is just one problem with the event ---- I have zero self control at it! They always have fabulous silent auction and live auction items. And I never walk out of there having spent less than $400. I've gotten some great deals on some great things over the past few years. Some incredible original artwork. Prints for a steal. Excellent prices for pup "stuff". A couple of years ago, my sister bought brunch for 12 at a wonderful local restaurant for $50 --- which she then used to give me a fabulous 40th birthday brunch with some of my closest friends.

So this year, like every other year, we planned to go. It was IN INK on the calendar. And then, something happened. A conflict came up for Sis. I had bought the tickets in advance, or so I thought, but they never arrived in the mail. A quick check of my account, and they'd never been debited. I called the number on the event, and they didn't have record of the purchase. So no advance purchase tickets --- buying the day of meant they were $10 more.

This year, I also owe on my taxes --- no anticipated refund to cover if I "get out of control". This year the Princess is going off to college and I don't have enough saved. So, I called Sis and told her she was off the hook. Then I called brave friend and we talked about it. She's had "self control" issues at the event before too! So, we decided not to go. Instead, we went to a local restaurant and spent less than we would have just on the tickets.

Sometimes, all the signs tell you not to do something you want to do. Sometimes, you just have to pay attention to those signs and make those tough choices.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Publix Savings 62%

This week, I had my best savings percentage in ages at Publix --- 62% --- the thing that truly amazes me though, is this is NOT a large amount of groceries, and had I paid full price for it all, I would have spent $78.91. Grocery prices are truly skyrocketing. And yes, that is three 12 packs of soft drinks you see there --- I had a coupon for a free 12 pack of Coke from redeeming My Coke Rewards points on on one of their Wednesday deals, and I held on to it waiting for a deal. My deal came in the way of a Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale at Publix -- so I paid $4.99 for all 3. One of them will be saved to send with the Princess on Spring Break.

Anyway, this is what I bought:

3 12 Packs Coke Products
1 Stouffers Family Size Entree
1 TGIFridays Entree
6 Hamburger Helper
2 Philadelphia Cooking Creme
6 Pillsbury Crescent Roll 4 packs
3 Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll 4 packs
1 Bumble Bee Tuna 4 pack
1 Coffee Creamer
4 Hormel Compleats

Spent: $30.07
Saved $48.84 --- that's 62%!!!!!!

Always Saving at Aldi

Aldi is my go to place for the basics when stuff isn't on a super sale at Publix. This week, I had a very small trip, but I took advantage of their super prices on cheese. They had it on special this week marked down from their normal really good price. So, I made a quick 10 minute trip and got the following:

2 Wheat Crackers
1 Frozen Wonton
2 Pasta Sauce
2 Shells & Cheese
2 16 oz Shredded Cheese
2 12 oz Shredded Cheese
1 Block Cheese

Spent: $27.06

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring Break

With the start of March during a high schooler's senior year comes the inevitable longing for the requisite beach trip during the Spring Break. Princess Penelope is no different. I, however, cannot afford a trip to the beach at this time. The Princess is smart though, and has a way around that. She is planning to go with some friends. One of her friend's parents has a beach place so the cost of a place to stay is covered.

There is a chaperon going, so I'm not horribly concerned (other than the normal basic parental freakout) that it will be a week filled with debauchery and such. The Princess has also proven herself to be smart, capable and responsible in terms of behavior --- and I know that in roughly 6 months when I send her off to school, I will have little control over her choices other than the purse strings and having faith that I've taught her right from wrong. So, having faith in her isn't the hard thing. (There's also the fact that the tweets and facebook postings from the girls that are going have focused more on sun, sand and tans than the "PAR-TAY" aspect of a Spring Break trip, so that makes me feel a bit better).

However, even with the free place to stay, the trip will cost $100 (gas, groceries) plus spending money. Since the Princess spent pretty much every penny she had at Disney World (this trip wasn't planned at the time), she's basically broke or I would have her assume some of the cost. With Spring Break only 2 weeks away, there isn't much time for her to save, so it looks like the money will need to come from the Bank of Mom. I've already told her that she's going to have to pick up some extra chores around here to offset some of the cost. If I'm going to have to stress over that extra $100 hit to my budget, she's going to help ease my stress around the house more than normal.

So, the time is just about here. Time to give her the trust that she has, in fact, earned. And time to figure out where that extra $100 is going to come from! Yikes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Glad That's Over!

Today begins a fresh new week --- and I must say, I'm seriously glad last week is over! The week itself started of horribly. The Princess got the worst migraine she's ever had on Monday, which was incidentally, her first day back to to school after going to Disney World. Terrible timing, and the headache was worse than the timing. That resulted in new meds, missed work for me, and a flurry of makeup work because the end of the grading period was Friday.

On that same day, I received the bad news that I owe a ton of money in federal taxes. The loss of a couple of credits made that possible. Joy. Along the same line, filing the FAFSA, I realized that the Princess is not going to qualify for as much aid as I had hoped. Sigh.

To add to the woes, I met a friend out for dinner Tuesday night, which SO would not have happened if she wasn't a way out of town friend, and my bill was much higher than expected (yes, I read the menu wrong, totally my fault), and the food was not good (which was really surprising because I've enjoyed this particular restaurant many times in the past). I just despise paying more than expected for food that is just "meh".

And then we have Friday, due to an impending weather event (tornadoes and severe thunderstorms), the morning was busy, busy, busy and tense, tense, tense. I left work when the schools released the students. The whole day was tension filleld, but fortunately, it was basically a non-event in our area. (Other areas were sadly not so fortunate).

So now we are at Monday. A new week, and its just got to be better than last week! I'm counting on it!!!!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Too Far Frugal?

Sometimes you just have to wonder. So, today, I was cleaning up the kitchen and went to throw something in the garbage. I opened the can, and at the very top saw a cardboard box stuffed in. Sigh. Our curbside recycling takes cardboard. This isn't the first time I've seen cardboard and recyclables in the trash. Usually by the time I see them, they have icky stuff all over them so "rescue" isn't possible.

So I took the cardboard out and walked into the Princess's room and said "Let's have another little chat about recycling." She kind of rolled her eyes. I explained why recycling was important, save the earth, save the trees, leave a better place for your own children.....blah, blah, blah.

And then I veered off....and started talking about how recycling had reduced our household trash by 1 back per week -- which in an average week is about 50%. And then I started talking about how each trash bag costs almost .15 cents each if I get them on sale and don't have a coupon (yes I've tried cheaper ones, but they don't seem to hold up). And that .15 per week savings translated to $7.80 per YEAR!

And that's when I lost her...... I was sitting there babbling about saving the $7.80 cents per year and it took me 10 minutes to stop going on and on. I know the little things add up, but really, yammering on for 10 minutes about $7.80? Yikes. I've lost my mind.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Buckle Up, It's Going To Be A Bumpy Night

This has been the weirdest winter. Overall, the temperatures have been super mild. While that has been fabulous for my gas bill this winter, it doesn't bode well for the power bill come summer. With this mild winter comes out of the ordinary severe weather.

Quite honestly, after April 27th's devastating tornadoes last spring, and then another round of tornadoes in January, I'm not as excited about Spring as I normally am! And here we are, on March 2, looking at another possible round of very severe weather today.

It isn't even 6 in the morning yet, and I'm sitting on my screened porch typing this, and it is 70 degrees outside. A cold front is supposed to push through interacting with this heat and is expected to fire up possible super cell storms. The original thought was that they wouldn't start up until 6 or so this evening, but even that idea has been scrapped somewhat as they think if the cloud cover burns off this morning, they could fire up as early as midday.

We've had some potential for bad weather in recent weeks that hasn't really materialized, so I wonder if people are getting complacent again. All I have to do though is look at You Tube and find video of the April 27 tornadoes and there is no way I will be complacent ever again.

If you're in the Southeast, watch the weather today! Know your place of safety. Don't get caught unaware. I pray this will be nothing like what we've seen in the past year, but don't assume that will be the case. We can't prevent the loss of property like we saw on April 27, but we CAN try and prevent the loss of life! Stay safe today, my friends!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Freezer Cooking With A Fail

Freezer Cooking for me is the sanity saver that gets me through the work week. I can have a good portion of dinner already prepared when I get home from work. It means that I'm only getting out (and cleaning) certain dishes once instead of every time I fix a meal. This month I branched out a little and added some easy lunches to the repertoire for those days I don't have leftovers to eat for lunch. I also expanded my attempts to sneak extra veggies into meals by not only adding my normal zuchini and onions to the meat, but I did up some "Italian Meat" and added pureed tomatoes to the mix.

One of the lunches I tried out was basically a complete and utter "fail":

My attempt at homemade "Hot Pockets" did NOT go well, and they kind of exploded everywhere. Not being one to waste food, I still froze them up, and will eat them for lunch in the weeks to come, but obviously they didn't work out as well as I'd hoped and I will definitely need to tweak this one if I try it again.

In the end though I had lots of stuff to put in the freezer to help in the coming month:

4 Meals Ground Seasoned Ground Beef
4 Meals Italian Ground Beef
4 Meals Mexican Seasoned Ground Beef
8 Hot Pockets
5 Veggie Burritos
A Massive Amount of Chopped Veggies for that night's veggie tray (which I'm still eating the leftovers)
8 (not pictured) Peanut Butter, Honey and Banana "Uncrustable" Sandwiches -- these were a late afternoon brainstorm and turned out great!

Have you done any freezer cooking lately?