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Archive for the ‘Cutting Expenses’ Category

So there is good news, there is bad news,  and there is a good deal on a movie and frozen food, in that order!

  • Deposits:

I am depositing $119.50 into the e-fund! Woohoo!
$1 found on the ground at Costco
$3 rebate from Rite Aid$115.50 from mystery shop payments

My current savings total is $946.14. Does anyone know of a bank that I can deposit straight from Paypal?

  • Deductions:

I had to replace my car’s tires and that knocked out  $340.00. Ouch! I shopped around and found that Costco had the best price, but I still had a bit of sticker shock . I’m glad that I had the cash available so I didn’t have to drive on unsafe tires or take on debt to get them replaced, and I’m pretty sure the emergency fund is there to cover just this type of unexpected expense, but it stung a little using it.

  • Deals

This is not normally a deals blog, but occasionally find a money making deal that is worth sharing. Starting today, there is a money making deal at Safeway that I’m taking advantage of and wanted to share.

a. Get the DVD of The Princess and The Frog for $.99, or the BluRay/DVD combo for $6.99 with the deal outlined here.

b. At Safeway, you get $10 in Kohl’s Rewards for every $50 you spend. The Kohl’s Rewards are an awesome reason to spend a little extra on pantry staples that don’t frequently go on loss-leader sales, such as spices. *Edited – the movie deal didn’t work at my Safeway.

c. Combine the  Kohl’s deal with the frozen foods deal running all month and spend $25 on frozen foods. (Stock up on frozen veggies!) You’ll get a $10 catalina coupon toward your next purchase.

Edited to add:

I combined deals to get 70% off of my grocery trip today, stocking up on spices, vinegar, oil, frozen veggies and fish, and items for my Scratch vs. Store Bought posts. I also have $40 for Kohl’s and $20 for frozen foods. Yippee!

I went to Target for the BluRay/DVD combo, and it’s going into Sweet Pea’s Christmas gift. I also got Toy Story Legos for $15 for Peanut’s Christmas gift using a $5 off coupon at Target, more Hanes underwear for Peanut (in yesterday’s comments) and 2 boxes of character Band-Aids for $.32 each with coupons. (I needed the Band-Aids for the movie rebate, and they’ll make a nice stocking stuffer. What is it with kids and Band-Aids? Mine love them! And since we don’t get a whole lot of character stuff, they’re a novelty.)

*****

So that’s the update! Plenty of saving and some unexpected spending which reminds me why I’m saving in the first place.

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My kids are well dressed, nearly for free. I have tried a variety of methods  and seem to have stumbled upon one that works well for me. Here’s how I do it.

1. Plan ahead. Shop ahead.

I make a list of what each kid will need in each of the next few sizes and keep that list in my purse. Sweet Pea is currently in size 18 months, but I have nearly a full 2T wardrobe ready in the wings, which saves me from having to buy clothes at full price and gives me time to be picky about getting cute stuff on the cheap. As I shop, I note what I got, so I can see at a glance where there are gaps. I also plan each kid’s wardrobe around a few colors and try to shop for pieces that will mix and match.

Here’s the table I use to determine how much of each type of garment to buy. I got the amounts from a website for what foster kids need, and added to give a well rounded wardrobe consistent with our climate (California, no snow) and once-a-week laundering. Peanut is 4 years old, wearing 4 T currently, so I’m working on  5T and 6T acquisition. The one I keep in my purse has space in the notes to write out the color/pattern/image on shirts so I remember what’s in the closet.

Here’s his list:

BOY – 5 T Needed Purchased Notes
Underpants 10
Undershirts 10

Socks 10
Pajamas – light 3
Pajamas – heavy 3
Dressy outfits 2
Everyday shirts – short sleeve 10
Everyday shirts – long sleeve 10
Shorts 10
Pants 10
Sweaters/Sweatshirts 5
Light jacket 1
Heavy jacket 1
Swim suit 1
Winter hat 1
Summer hat 1
Rain coat 1
Dressy shoes 1
Sneakers 1
Sandals 1
Slippers 1

Sweet Pea has a nearly complete 2T wardrobe, so I shouldn’t need much for her right away.  I always put bike shorts or leggings under everyday dresses and skirts, so I list them together. Here’s her list:

Girl – 2T Needed Purchased Notes
Underpants 10
Socks 10
Pajamas – light 3
Pajamas – heavy 3
Dressy outfits 2
Everyday shirts – short sleeve 6
Everyday shirts – long sleeve 6
Shorts 4
Skirts & bike shorts 2
Pants/Jeans 6
Dresses & leggings – summer 4
Dresses & leggings – winter 4
Sweaters 5
Light jacket 1
Heavy jacket 1
Swim suit 1
Winter hat 1
Summer hat 1
Rain coat 1
Dressy shoes 1
Sneakers 1
Sandals 1
Slippers 1

My kids have been consistent in sizing, so it’s easy for me to determine what size they’ll need. I have a hard time gauging shoe sizes ahead, though, so I tend to stick with closed-toe shoes that can go year round. Sweet Pea is a lover of “cute” clothes and already a shoe-loving girl (she doesn’t get that from me) so I anticipate that we’ll have more need for shoe columns as she has more of a say in things!

Generally my list gives about a week’s wardrobe plus a few spares for spills or accidents. Also, I hang clothes in outfits rather than folding individually, so while we could get away with fewer pants than shirts, it is just easier for me to have equal numbers. I buy 10 pairs of the same socks per kid as well, so every sock matches every other sock. No more sock hunts! (I do this for Mr. Penny and myself as well; we actually share everyday short socks.)

This picture is from last year, when I instituted the one-hanger-per-outfit rule. A top, bottom, and underwear for Peanut are all on the same hanger, so he can pick out his own outfit and it matches every time. I’ve since removed the hanging shelf and those clothes hung up or in the dresser, but I’ll maintain the single hanger option as long as they’ll let me. Putting clothes away is so easy!

2. Second hand and know my brands
I don’t buy kids clothes often, but when I do, I buy lots. Craigslist lots to be specific. I’ll buy a lot, or group, of clothes for about $1 per piece, often cheaper, and have a nearly complete wardrobe very inexpensively. I haven’t had great luck finding good quality cheap clothes at local thrift stores and garage sales; they’re frequently no less expensive than clearance at regular stores, and I have a hard time finding things in really good condition that I can later resell.

I look for ads with pictures that state damage free (no holes, no stains), brand name clothes in excellent or very good used condition, from non-smoking households. I am not a brand name shopper for myself, but I have found that some brands hold up better to being worn by multiple kids than others. No-name brands fall apart quickly, while better quality brands can go through multiple kids and washes without falling apart.

This trick seems to work best for small kids. After age 3-4, kids wear out clothes faster than they outgrow them, so fewer lots in great condition seem to be available. As Peanut is moving into big-kid sizes, I’m having a harder time finding used clothes in good condition for $1!

3. Stock up at Gymboree (really!) and other clearance sales

Now Gymboree isn’t known for it’s cheap kids clothes, but they have really good sales and it is worth learning how to take advantage of them! I use the method outlined at Never Pay Retail Again and routinely save 60-75% off retail price. I try to get a variety of pieces in the same series so I can easily mix and match for a variety of outfits at the least expense.

Starting Thursday, 3/18, they’re offering a Fill-A-Bag sale – 30% off your entire purchase – PLUS you can stack a 20% coupon and earn Gymbucks toward a future order! Check out the details over at Never Pay Retail Again.

Clearance sales in general are fantastic to keep an eye on, but have a bottom line, a dollar amount you won’t exceed per item, to make it most cost effective. I will not spend more than $5 per piece for anything other than jeans ($10) or jackets ($20). I have had great luck with finding quality pieces with this limit in mind.

Target often marks down 30%, then 50%, and occasionally more. Carter’s Outlet will mark down to 90% off, and frequently offer coupons, but they’re in-store only. Old Navy has crazy end-of-season sales smack dab in the middle of the season, and they occasionally have 50% off of already clearanced items. I’ve been able to stock up on new things for the kids for under $1 in the store. I could save even more next time by buying gift cards online for less.

4. Resell it!

These are all tricks to buying clothes inexpensively, but inexpensive is not practically free, so I’ll let you in on part 2 of my kids clothes plan: I do my best to keep clothes looking good and then resell them when they’re outgrown. (I buy stain remover in bulk!)

For lots that I purchase on Craigslist, I pull out the clothes I like and then rebundle what is left to sell. I resell good brands in lots on Ebay, where I can get a few dollars per piece. Less great brands or basics sell at garage sales for $1 per piece. Recently, I bought a lot of 80 pieces for $30, including 7 Gymboree outfits that will be resold to recoup the entire $30; what’s left is free!

When I buy clothes, I leave the tags on until the kid is ready to wear the outfit, because occasionally a piece never gets worn and the resale value is higher with tags.

And there you have it, my method for clothing kids close to free: plan and shop ahead, buy good brands used and on clearance, and resell to recoup your money.

Do you have tips for buying kids clothes that I missed? Leave them in the comments!

*****

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

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A friend recently sent me a link to Graveyard Mall‘s amazing deal on printer ink refills – 24 refills (12 black, 4 each cyan, magenta, and yellow) for $19.99! I decided to give it a try and ordered it, plus an overhead light for the dining room on the daily deal for just $24.00.

They arrived a week later and I am happy to report that the ink refills work perfectly in my Brother printer! I followed the instructions and refilled all four colors in about 30 minutes, including the learning curve with the first set.  With a single ink cartridge for my printer regularly costing at least $9.99, I would have to spend $239.76 to get an equivalent amount of ink refills, plus much more garbage would be created.  More than 90% savings works for me!

Our dining room is also improved by an overhead light that actually works! A similar light at Home Depot costs $246.00 plus tax. I’d put off replacing the lighting fixture because it was unaffordable, but again, that 90% off puts it into the affordable category.

Now I need to touch up the paint on the ceiling that was covered by the previous fixture.

Not everything at Graveyard Mall is marked down so steeply, and because it’s an outlet, you can’t be guaranteed that the same thing will be there when you go shopping. I don’t know if everything on the site is quite as good a deal, either, but I’m glad I checked it out!

(I am not affiliated with Graveyard Mall and do not get any financial incentive for this review. I was just pleased with the deals I found and wanted to pass them along!)

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I haven’t been depositing much into the emergency fund lately, but I’ve got projects in progress which will help to boost the fund within the next few months as payments come in.

  • I am doing a short project distributing signs for the 2010 Census to 32 convenience stores (average 15 minutes each, or one very full day), and I’ll be paid $256.
  • I’m babysitting one evening later this month, for another $40.
  • I’ve continued to do mystery shops and expect to make at least $200 in mystery shopping income for the month of March.
  • This month, I opened a savings account at my bank, and after 3 months they’ll give me $25.
  • We’re planning a garage sale in April, so I’m boxing up everything I can find to sell.  Lots of our dining room stuff is packed up and ready to go, and I’m working my way through the wall of cabinets in the living room and the outgrown kid stuff this month. Also, Mr. Penny is going to clear out the garage-turned-office in the next month, and we’ll have plenty of “guy stuff” – tools and electronics – to sell. Last year, we had two garage sales and made over $500.
  • I’ve done some rebate-coupon-sale combining this month at Rite Aid and will be getting $20 in rebates at the end of the month. I’m also starting to stock up for Christmas. For example, this week, Rite Aid has a deal where if you buy Gillette razor refill cartridges, you get a free shaving gel. There is a coupon in Sunday’s paper for a free razor when you buy the refills, and online I found a printable coupon for $5 off any $25 purchase. Rite Aid is also offering a $10 rebate when you spend $30 on P&G brand products this week. The three products are $29.97 before coupons and discounts, but I got all three for free after coupons and rebates. (I had to add toothpaste to get to the $30.00 rebate level, but it, too, had a coupon and a rebate on it, so I spent just an additional $.50 for that.) They’ll go in the Christmas gift box for my brother.  Gillette routinely has coupon-rebate combos, so by the end of the year he’ll get a full basket of personal care products that I acquired for next to nothing.

Online Money Makers

  • I have done a few online surveys at SurveyHead, but haven’t signed up for any others yet. I hear good things about Pinecone Research, but they weren’t accepting new applications.
  • I discovered ChaCha and kgb.com, websites that does something like online directory assistance and answering questions for people on their cell phones, but I haven’t become a guide/agent yet. I’ll let you know how that works out. Has anyone tried it? Any suggestions for a newbie?
  • Another recent discovery is online tutoring through Idapted, particularly in English for non-native speakers. I am signing up and will let you know how that works, too.
  • I’m up to 4,500 points on MyPoints, more than half way to a $50 gift certificate, most from pay-per-click e-mails. I also use them instead of coupons.com to print coupons for grocery shopping, and I get points in addition to the coupon value. Additionally, I’m expecting 5,000 points for using their NetQuote feature on auto insurance and switching to a considerably cheaper insurance carrier. That will be another post! If you’re interested in signing up for MyPoints, e-mail me at thesavedquarter (at) gmail (dot) com for a referral and we’ll both benefit.
  • I continue to earn through Swagbucks, and with a few referrals (thanks, guys!) and their birthday bonanza, I’ve cashed out $25 in amazon.com gift certificates. I’m holding on to them to use for Christmas shopping. I anticipate that I’ll be able to do most of my Christmas shopping with Swagbucks this year, just by searching the internet!
  • I’m expecting about $4 from Ebates for my Old Navy purchase earlier this month.

I continue to be open to legal and legitimate online sources of income, so please leave me a comment if you know of something I haven’t found yet!

And finally, I wanted to share another money saver that I found this week: the Orowheat Outlet store!   I stumbled across this blog post by Fancy Frugalista, where a link is given to the Orowheat outlet, and we made a trip down to find some great deals – I bought 10 items, all whole wheat and HFCS free (Orowheat bread, Thomas’s bagels and English muffins, and Bob’s Red Mill grains) for just $14.31. That would easily be $40 at the regular grocery store!  I love a great find like that!

What are you doing to make or save a little extra money these days?

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I need some new clothes. I’m down to just a few shirts, and most are showing their age and proximity to small children – stained, wholly, pilly, or generally stretched out from a baby who pulls at my shirts for nursing access.

I budgeted $100 for clothes this month, the first time I’ve bought any new clothes in at least 3 months, and of course I want to make it stretch as far as possible! I picked out a few pieces at Old Navy, and you know I’m not paying full price.

First, I stopped over to Plastic Jungle to see if I could buy a gift card at less than the face value.  Success! I bought two $50 gift cards for $88, a 12% savings. Already my $100 is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g! Haven’t checked out Plastic Jungle yet? It’s a site where you can buy and sell unwanted gift cards for less than their face value. Some gift cards are as much as 30% off their face value!

Next up, I logged into Ebates, where I will get 4% back for my purchase. They also have a coupon code, ONSAVE20 (exp. 2/18), which will give me $20 off a $100 adult clothes purchase. Frequently, Ebates has coupon codes in addition to their regular percent-back deal.

By making a quick detour at these two sites, I’m already saving 38% before even clicking over to the Old Navy website! And you know I hit up the sale section first. I spent $99.97 on the Old Navy site (using a gift card that I purchased for $88), including shipping, on 7 tops and 2 pairs of pants – originally priced at $165.00! I’ll be getting $4 back from Ebates, too. In our area, I would be hard pressed to find that much stuff for $84.00 at the thrift store.

Doing a little extra online legwork to stretch my dollar as far as possible works for me. To see what works for other families, check out We Are That Family.

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Have you entered my giveaway yet? If not, go enter now! The winner will be chosen on Tuesday, February 16.

10. I may never find a chartreuse bolero jacket again, and I’ll kick myself for not buying it when I had the chance. Sure, it’s a little small, but it will be perfect when I lose a few pounds.

9. I have a coupon and it’s on sale! I’m sure I’ll find  somewhere to wear a  chartreuse bolero jacket.

8. It matches the chartreuse bolero jacket hanging in my closet. You know, I haven’t used it because I didn’t have anything that matched it.

7. I can only get store credit for the thing that didn’t match the chartreuse bolero jacket, so I had to pick something else out. Store credit feels kind of like free money!

6. I’m happy, frustrated, sad, fill in the feeling, and need a little “retail therapy.”

5. The one I have is perfectly good, but I like this one better, or I don’t have one in this color/shape/size and my collection will not be complete without it.

4. Buying this will help me get organized and clutter free. (Hint: I can’t BUY my way to less clutter!)

3. A neighbor kid is selling it for a school/scout/underwater basket weaving field trip fundraiser. I don’t even want it, but I don’t want to say “no” to the budding entrepreneur.

2. Everyone else has one, and I deserve a treat.

and

1. It will make me happier, prettier, thinner, smarter, and a better person. If they say so on TV, it must be true!

Excuses seem so silly when I’m sitting at home, cash comfortably contained in my budget envelopes, but somehow it’s all too easy to give myself license to overspend when I’m in the store. I don’t have a chartreuse bolero jacket, but have spent ridiculously on plenty of other things I didn’t need, and it’s not an easy behavior to change!

What’s working for me? Not shopping. It’s drastic, but I’m not even going to the stores without a specific item in mind, and then I’m making a blind bee-line to the thing I need and a blind bee-line out.

What are your excuses, and how do you counter them to avoid overspending?

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First, a word about our utility costs: We live on-site for my husband’s business, paying a flat rate for rent and utilities out of our personal account. The amount was determined with our tax accountant, and at $1,000 represents 2/3 of our monthly income. Thus, any savings won’t show up directly in my goals and progress page.

Although we aren’t directly paying the utilities, it is to our advantage to cut the costs. We took a personal pay cut last year so the business could hire an employee (done!) and pay off its debt (in progress.) Once the debt is repaid, we will get a raise, so any money saved on utilities speeds that up!

***

This week, I called our phone/internet/satellite TV provider to negotiate our service. I did this last July and shaved 25% off of our bill without any drop in services, and got 3 free months of HBO/Showtime. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to save any money with my call today, since I’d renegotiated within 6 months and still had the lowest rates for our phone, internet, and TV service, including promotional pricing that are in place until this coming July. I’ll be dialing for dollars with our provider again when our promotional pricing ends!

When I called, I used the ideas found in this article. If you’re calling to negotiate your bill, read it first! I told the representative that I couldn’t afford our current bill and asked if he could help me. I was transferred to the retention department, and in 30 minutes saved almost $40 a month.

Once the contract is up, I’ll be canceling the satellite TV, cutting our bill almost in half from its original rate. Since the cancellation fee is almost as much as we’re paying for the service, we’ll keep it until then.

Next week, I’ll be calling to negotiate our cell phone bill, which hasn’t been negotiated within the past year, and I hope to have as much luck as I had with the phone/internet/TV service provider.

I want you to call your service provider and report back how it goes! Are you able to cut your bills by cutting unused services (we canceled a voice mail box we don’t use to save  $5/month) or asking for promotional discounts (DSL for $20.00 a month, instead of the $40.00 we’d been paying)? Let me know!

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