52 Weeks of Saving (Week 21of 52)

Week 21 – Buy Groceries Instead of Eating out While on Vacation

We have had some long weekend trips/vacations this year and are getting ready for another one to the beach (Yay!). It used to be that when Matt and I went on vacation we would pack a few snacks for the road (unless we were camping, then we would be a bit more prepared) and just eat out when we reached our vacation spot. Having S. has forced us to reconsider eating out as much and it actually saves us money. S. actually does pretty well at restaurants with a little entertainment/preparation; however, she doesn’t really eat. Combine that with naps and an early bed time and eating out just isn’t really easy. Instead, we plan our meals ahead of time and bring groceries with us (or go to the grocery store when we get there). It is especially easy when we have a hotel or rental place with a fully equipped kitchen, but we have managed with just the hotel room microwave as well. We will still eat out once or twice or get take out for ourselves, but we find it much easier to feed S. food she likes and is accustomed to. As an added bonus, we save money by planning ahead and bringing our own food. We also make sure to pack enough snacks for the entire trip, it keeps S. happy and eliminates us trying to find something at a convenience store along the way that is both healthy and that S. will eat.

A Year to Clear (Week 21 of 52)

Week 21 – Kitchen Round Two (Lower Cabinets)

This week I finished going through all the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen. I found some unused appliances, utensils, containers, glass cutting boards (a bad idea, we tried using them and they are actually dangerous), and some other random things. It added up to 37.5 pounds total! I was pretty surprised how much unnecessary stuff we had in the kitchen. I might try selling a few things, but most stuff went to Goodwill. It feels great to have well organized cabinets in the kitchen without lots of things crammed in. It is also nice to actually know what we have and know that there aren’t too many random things lurking in the backs of the drawers and cabinets. Not very exciting to write about, but I feel like this was a pretty successful week as far as my “A Year to Clear” project goes.

A Year to Clear (Week 20 of 52)

Week 20 – Kitchen Round One (Upper Cabinets)

This week I went through the kitchen cabinets, but I only made it through the ones above the counter tops. Next week will be round two; everything below the counter tops. It is amazing how many little cups and gadgets we had tucked away in cabinets that I had forgotten about. I tried to follow the theory “if I didn’t know we had it then we must not need it”, but there were a few items that I kept because I was like “wow, I might actually use this now that I know we have it”. There were also a few items that I repurposed, like some stainless steel cocktail shakers. We don’t have much use for cocktail shakers in our house these days, but I realized the cup part of the shakers would make great little drinking cups for S. I have actually been looking at purchasing a set of stainless steel drinking cups and they are pretty expensive, so this was a great “find”. There was quite a bit of stuff I did get rid of though, 10.5 pounds in all. A few things went straight to the recycling bin, but most of the items will be donated to Goodwill.

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 20 of 52)

Week 20 – Pay in Full, Pay Ahead

It is always tempting when payinGymnasticsg for a service or even large purchases to just pay the minimum amount and then worry about the remaining balance when it is due, but I have found if you pay in full and pay ahead you can often save quite a bit of money. I just signed S. up for the 2015-2016 season at her little gymnastics class. That’s right, I paid for a class she isn’t going to start until August and isn’t going to finish until next June; more than a year away. By paying in full instead of making monthly or semi-annual payments I saved $100. By paying early instead of waiting until the season starts I saved another $50. That is a total savings of $150. Yes, I could save even more by not enrolling S. in gym class, but she really enjoys it and I like that she gets to work on her coordination as well as learn how to follow instructions. I also made sure that my payment is fully refundable in case S. decides at any point that she doesn’t like gymnastics, after all, she is a two-year old and it seems she is already a pro at changing her mind.

Paying in full and paying ahead applies to other services as well and even to purchases and credit cards payments. I never enter into payment plans if I can avoid them (and usually I can) and I always pay our credit cards in full every month. I understand that things happen and sometimes you just don’t have the money to pay for things, but once you get ahead and make smart decisions about what you buy, it really isn’t that hard to stay ahead. It is worth it to, because as you can see from my example, it really can save you some money.

A Year to Clear (Week 19 of 52)

Week 19 – Fabric

I have quite a bit of fabric. Most of it is good fabric that I want to keep for future projects, but mixed in with all the good fabric there were a lot of scraps and random pieces of fabric that I decided really weren’t worth saving. There were also some fabric items that I had saved (like old car seat covers) that I thought maybe someday I would cut up and sew into something else, but let’s face it, I probably won’t. So today I cleaned out and organized all my fabric. Here is what it looked like before I started:

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A random fabric bin and a shelf in the closet where I always thought I had a neatly folded stack of fabric, but obviously that isn’t what was there. However, that is no longer the case. Here is what my fabric collection looks like now:Fabric3

The bag in the photo above contains 7.5 pounds of random fabric pieces and scraps that I will take to an American Textile Recycling Service collection bin to be repurposed/recycled. If you are wondering why I have so many different pieces of fabric, then you should check out this post about how I documented S.’s first year of life.

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 19 of 52)

Week 19 – Digital Coupons and Cash Back Offers

In theory I think coupons are a great idea for saving money, but all the printing, clipping, saving, organizing… it just isn’t worth it for me. The other problem I have with most coupons is that they are for items I don’t buy. While I don’t use many paper coupons, I have found a good alternative that still saves me a little money on grocery shopping: digital coupons and cash back offers.

I know there are other cash back programs/apps out there, but my two favorite are Checkout 51 and Ibotta.

Checkout 51 has a list of items that changes every Thursday. If you buy any of the items on their list (from any store) you simply take photos of your receipt using the Checkout 51 app and then submit them to get your cash back credit. It is pretty simple. I find that every week they have at least one fresh produce item worth $0.25, sometimes more. For me the fresh produce is a big deal since we try not to buy a lot of processed food. Once your total cash back amount reaches $20 you can request a check.

Ibotta is similar to Checkout 51; however, the items they list vary by store and don’t seem to change on a set schedule. Lately I have found that Ibotta has had quite a few offers for produce and things like “bread” or “yogurt” that aren’t tied to one specific brand. For me this helps out a lot since we are pretty picky about the brands we buy. The one thing about Ibotta is you have to “unlock” the rebates by watching short videos or answering a question. It isn’t hard, but it is slightly more time consuming than Checkout 51. Additionally, you have to scan the items you buy before you submit your receipt, again, not hard but more time consuming. With Ibotta you can get your money back after you have earned a minimum of $10 cash back. You can request to receive your money via PayPal or in the form of a gift card from various retailers.

This week I started using a third app with digital coupons that I think I am really going to like. Our local grocery store, HEB, is a large grocery store chain in Texas. They have never had a loyalty card, but they recently launched an app with digital coupons. I like that all you have to do is select the coupons you want ahead of time and then put in your phone number when you check out.The coupons are then subtracted from your total bill at the time of purchase. It is much simpler than Checkout 51 and Ibotta since there are no receipts to submit or earnings to request. The drawback is that it is store specific; however, I would imagine a lot of grocery stores are starting to move toward digital coupons.

Overall, digital coupons and cash back offers probably only save me a dollar or two a week (although maybe more now with the new HEB app), but as I always say, every little bit counts. It does require a small amount of work (like maybe 10 minutes total), but I think it is worth it.

A Year to Clear (Week 18 of 52)

Week 18 –Old School and Work Papers

I have started the process of going through (and getting rid of) old school and work papers. It is going to be a long process because I save a lot of stuff, but at least I am starting. My motivation (in addition to wanting to have less stuff in general) is because I want to switch S. into the room we currently use as an office, which also means I have to switch her closet and my storage closet. Matt doesn’t think all my stuff will fit in her current closet so I guess I need to get rid of a lot of stuff before we can move S.’s room.

To start the process of clearing out old school and work papers, this week I went through some old manuals and handbooks that were in three-ring binders. I decided to scan them and store them digitally instead of just getting rid of them, I think this will be a solution that I use for a lot of the paperwork. Scanning and storing digitally seems like a good compromise for me because I get to keep my “stuff” without it taking up physical space. This week I got rid of nine pounds of manuals and handbooks. As I clear out more and more paperwork I will have to update this blog entry to accurately reflect the number of pounds I’ve gotten rid of.

Update: June 2nd I put 5 more pounds of miscellaneous papers into the recycling bin.

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 18 of 52)

Week 18 – Drying Herbs

Parsley1I have some nice perennial herbs that I use in the kitchen sometimes (rosemary does amazingly well here), but I also have some great parsley plants in my garden right now. They were planted last fall and are trying to go to seed now that it is warm out. Instead of just letting them go by, I cut a bunch of the parsley stems and have them hanging up to dry. I hung them in the sun during the day and then have been bringing them in at night along with some thyme I cut from the garden this weekend. I have some basil growing in the garden right now and my plan is to make an Italian herb mix to use in sauces and salad dressings, saving us a few dollars.

 

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And no shame here, the herbs are hanging on the clothes line right next to S.’s diapers:

Parsley3

For anyone who has a clothesline and leaves their clothes pins outside, we have found that clipping them onto a chain is much easier than using a basket or a bag, which is why you see a chain hanging from the clothesline in the picture above.

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