Green my Routine: Rechargeable Batteries

A few weeks ago I was going through all of our random electronics (refer to this post) and I realized that we haven’t been using our rechargeable batteries. We don’t go through a ton of batteries on a regular basis, but having S. has seemed to add to our battery usage even though I try to limit the number of battery operated toys that she has. I don’t know why I haven’t been using rechargeable batteries recently, it is just something I haven’t thought of in a while.

We already have some rechargeable AA batteries and a charger for them, but we don’t have an AAA batteries or an AAA battery charger so I went ahead and ordered a new charger that could charge both AA and AAA batteries and I also ordered a pack of 8 AAA batteries. It seems that a lot of the toddler toys use AAA batteries. There were a few cheaper options available, but I read quite a few reviews and decided to go with this charger:

And these AAA batteries:

The charger came with four AA batteries and cost $13.97 and the eight AAA batteries cost $17.99. While this is an initial investment of $31.96, hopefully in the long run it will save us money on batteries and just as important, it will keep other batteries out of the landfill. This brings my “Green My Routine” fund down to $249.05 (if you don’t know what I am talking about please refer to this post).

A Year to Clear (Week 8 of 52)

Week 8 – Shirts and Sweaters

I am almost done cleaning out my closet. I should have taken before and after pictures, but I didn’t think about that ahead of time. Let’s just say my once overflowing shelf of folded shirts and sweaters with haphazard heaps of clothes is now neat and organized with a gaping hole showing the bare shelf where the piles of shirts used to be. I didn’t count the number of shirts I got rid of, but it added up to nine pounds. Ironically (because Matt usually wants to get rid of everything), there was one shirt that I put in the give away pile that Matt made me keep… an old paint covered shirt from high school that he didn’t want me to part with. Other than a few shirts like the one Matt had me keep, many of the shirts were still wearable and were donated to Goodwill. Shirts that weren’t in great condition also went to Goodwill since our local Goodwill recycles textiles. I think I have about one more week cleaning out my closet and then I will have to move on to some place else in the house to find stuff to get rid of.

National Parks Bucket List

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Before S. was even born Matt and I started talking about how fun it would be to take her to all of the National Parks. We have always loved visiting National Parks (the photos above are of us at Sequoia National Park (left) and Great Basin National Park (right)) and we really want S. to share our love of nature and the National Parks. When we started talking about taking S. to all the National Parks we pulled up the National Park list and, well, there are a lot. Not only are there a lot, there are some that are pretty remote and hard (or should I say expensive) to get to. Our goal hasn’t changed though; we want to take S. to every National Park in the United States. We would love to do this before she turns 18; however we know that probably isn’t realistic so hopefully she loves family trips and will want to go with us even as an adult. We call this our National Parks Bucket List and we hope to start the adventure this summer. I have included a list of all the National Parks below, as we visit them with S. I will cross them off the list and include a blog post about our vacation. If I can keep this blog alive for years to come then you will be able to follow us on our journey!

National Parks (listed alphabetically by state)

  1. Denali National Park, Alaska
  2. Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska
  3. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
  4. Katmai National Park, Alaska
  5. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
  6. Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska
  7. Lake Clark National Park, Alaska
  8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska
  9. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  10. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
  11. Saguaro National Park, Arizona
  12. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
  13. Channel Islands National Park, California
  14. Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
  15. Joshua Tree National Park, California
  16. Kings Canyon National Park, California
  17. Lassen Volcanic Park, California
  18. Redwood National Park, California
  19. Sequoia National Park, California
  20. Yosemite National Park, California
  21. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
  22. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
  23. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  24. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  25. Biscayne National Park, Florida
  26. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
  27. Everglades National Park, Florida
  28. Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
  29. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
  30. Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana
  31. Mammoth Cave Park, Kentucky
  32. Acadia National Park, Maine
  33. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  34. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
  35. Glacier National Park, Montana
  36. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
  37. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  38. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
  39. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
  40. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
  41. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  42. Congaree National Park, South Carolina
  43. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
  44. Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
  45. Big Bend National Park, Texas
  46. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
  47. Arches National Park, Utah
  48. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  49. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
  50. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
  51. Zion National Park, Utah
  52. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
  53. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
  54. North Cascades National Park, Washington
  55. Olympic National Park, Washington
  56. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  57. American Samoa National Park, American Samoa Territory
  58. Virgin Islands National Park, US Virgin Islands

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 8 of 52)

Week 8 – Use TurboTax and get an Amazon Gift Card

Taxes

We filed our taxes a little over a week ago using TurboTax. At the end they ask you if you want to get any of your return as an Amazon gift card. Of course I said “YES” because I shop on Amazon so much. The great part (and the reason I said “YES”) is that they give you an extra 10% back on the Amazon gift card. To me that is free money since I will be shopping on Amazon anyway.

Here is the fine print. The free file version doesn’t qualify. If you use the online program to file your taxes you only get 5% back. If you buy the CD or download the software you can get 10%; HOWEVER (and I found this out the hard way), you have to buy/download the TurboTax software from TurboTax or Amazon. I originally purchased a CD from Costco since it was cheaper, but I returned it because there was no option for an Amazon gift card. Also, if you live it Texas or another state that doesn’t have state taxes, make sure to look for the version that doesn’t include state filing, it will save you about $10.

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 7 of 52)

Week 7 – Meeting with a Financial Planner

I almost didn’t include this since it was pretty much a waste of my time and I’m not sure it will end up saving us much money, but I think the idea was a good one. Matt and I went and met with a financial planner at our local credit union. Before I complain too much, I should mention that we had S. with us during the meeting. She is a happy little person for the most part and during the meeting she happily snacked and played with toys; however, she is far from quiet, wants to be part of everything, and I learned that when she is standing next to me telling me she needs a diaper change I really need to listen. OK, I already knew that, but I tried to tell her I would change her later. She persisted and I realized her pants were wet. All that to say, we probably weren’t the best clients for the financial planner, but then again he did say he had a 3 kids so I don’t think having S. with us was a problem.

Basically, we wanted someone to help us decide how to invest our money, but I think I could have learned more from an hour with Google. While the meeting was pretty much a bust, it did inspire me to start doing more research about where we should be putting money we save beyond our retirement funds. I think a good financial planner could really help out, but the one we saw just didn’t inspire much confidence, plus he was vague about fees and commissions that he charges which to me is not a good sign. I think we will be doing more research, coming up with our own plan, and then maybe finding another financial planner/adviser if we still feel we need more guidance. I also won’t pay commissions so I am pretty sure this wasn’t the guy for us (although I’m still not quite sure exactly what he charges because he was so vague).

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A Year to Clear (Week 7 of 52)

Week 7 – Pants and Shorts

I decided I should just slowly finish off going through my closet instead of randomly going through the house finding things to get rid of. It is a bit too much for me to tackle my whole closet at once especially since I have a little helper that can only handle so much closet organizing time in one day, so I am just doing one section of my closet at a time. This week it was pants and shorts. Unfortunately choosing pants I no longer want is tough right now. It would be easy if all my pants looked like this:

Because then I could just get rid of them all (I am not a fan of pink pants), but they don’t. I have pants that were great when I was working, but right now they are gathering dust and probably will be for a while. I also have fluctuated in weight since S. was born. The only time I was completely back to my pre-pregnancy weight was when my “thyroid was out of whack” (as the doctor’s office so nicely told me when they called with my blood work results), so I have a lot of pants that are too small right now and I wonder if they will ever fit again. After staring at my closet for a while I decided to create a drawer for pants that might fit/be useful someday and put some pants in it; however, I still found quite a few pairs that I don’t need any more. All total, I got rid of 11 pairs (6.5 pounds) of paints and shorts.

A Year to Clear (Week 6 of 52)

Week 6 – Hats, Mittens, and Gloves

Not a very exciting week in the clearing department: I got rid of three pounds of hats (both winter hats and baseball caps), old mittens and gloves, and a few scarves. Most were in good condition so they will be donated, I just have way too many especially when it comes to warm hats and mittens in Texas. I also still have a stash of winter clothes in Maine at my parents’ house so I figured it was time to get of some that I have in Texas and never wear.

52 Weeks of Savings (Week 6 of 52)

Week 6 – Online Shopping Rewards: Swagbucks and Ebates

Recently I have been trying to remember to use reward/cash back sites when purchasing items online. In the past I wasn’t aware of how much the pennies could add up, then even when I knew I would always forget to use the sites. Now I am making more of an effort and whenever I make an online purchase I always try to check and see if I can get any reward points/cash back. There are quite a few different sites out there that offer reward points or cash back, but the two that I use the most are Swagbucks and Ebates. I found that if I used more than two sites the rewards didn’t add up fast enough. Swagbucks I have used off and on for years. Sometimes when I have a few minutes I go and poke around on their website to try to find a way to earn a few extra Swagbucks (i.e. reward points), but when it comes to online shopping I used them a lot before Christmas this past year because they had some good offers for Amazon purchases. I always cash my Swagbucks out for $5 Amazon gift cards because that seems to be the best deal for me. With very casual use over the past few years I have earned enough Swagbucks for approximately $165 in Amazon gift cards.

I signed up for Ebates quite a while ago, but didn’t start using it until about two and a half months ago. So far I have earned almost $30 in cash back rewards which they mail out as a check every month I believe (although it might be less frequent). Basically the premise behind both Swagbucks and Ebates is that you log into other sites (like Amazon, Old Navy, Groupon, etc.) through the reward site and when you make a purchase they reward you for using their website. It is pretty simple to do as long as you remember. To make it easier for me to remember I have added Google Chrome extensions on my laptop so whenever I go to a site that has a cash back/reward offer a notification pops up on the top of my screen and lets me know. I always just choose whichever site offers the biggest reward and usually default to Swagbucks when they are both the same.

I find these sites a simple way to earn a few extra dollars on purchases that I am already making and, as you may have realized by now, my view is that every little bit helps when it comes to earning or saving money. Remember the shoes I discussed last week in this post? That purchase earned my $2.25 in cash back rewards from Ebates.

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