A Year to Clear (Week 15 of 52)

Week 15 –The Filing Cabinet

I didn’t actually get rid of the filing cabinet (though it is about to fall apart so it probably will need to be replaced soon), but I got rid of a lot of the paper inside, 16.5 pounds of paper to be precise. I am so bad at getting rid of documents, bank statements, receipts for repairs on cars, etc., etc., but I was amazed how much I was willing to part with. I decided we didn’t need paperwork for cars we don’t own anymore or pay stubs from jobs I haven’t held for over ten years; however, I did keep a lot of things related to bank accounts, taxes, etc. It is such a hard call as to what is important and what isn’t, but I think I did an OK job. Now I just need to find a way to get it all shredded for free before I put it in the recycle bin.

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 15 of 52)

Week 14 – Cell Phone Plans

I will start with saying that I am pretty cheap when it comes to paying for cell phones and cell phone plans. I dumped AT&T and all contract plans a few years ago and switch to a non-contract plan with Straight Talk Wireless. At the time they had an offer for a free flip phone so that is what I was using until last September. Then I heard about Republic Wireless. With Straight Talk I was paying $30 a month plus taxes, but when I looked at the Republic Wireless options they had a $10 a month plan that I just couldn’t resist. The only catch was that I had to buy my own phone which cost $150. I did the math and realized that if I paid the $150 upfront for the phone, in only 7.5 months I would be saving $20 a month compared to the Straight Talk plan. Well, that was just about 7.5 months ago which means from here on out I will be saving $20 a month. As an added bonus, I have a smart phone instead of one of those “archaic” flip phones.

The $10 a month plan from Republic Wireless probably isn’t for everyone since it doesn’t come with wireless data; however, if I am anywhere that I can connect to WiFi then I have free data. Additionally, the phone uses WiFi to make calls whenever possible, that is how they keep their cost down. Of course, for a higher price you can get wireless data as well, but I really don’t find it necessary at this time so I am happy with my $10 a month ($12 with taxes) cell phone bill.

A Year to Clear and 52 Weeks of Saving (Week 14 of 52)

Week 14 –Selling Unused Items on Craigslist

I am always a little hesitant to use Craigslist due to all the scams and the hassle of trying to safely meet a buyer. However, for higher price items it does make sense and Matt is a fearless Craigslist user. A few weeks ago Matt finally decided to sell his electric bike on Craigslist. This is a bike that Matt excitedly purchased a few years ago with high hopes of it becoming his commuting “vehicle” to and from work every day. Unfortunately where we live has been plagued with construction making riding a bike unsafe. Add to that dark winter mornings, no bike lanes or shoulders on parts of the road, and summer temperatures over 100 degrees (meaning showing up to work sweaty), and Matt realized that despite Austin claiming to be a bike friendly city, it definitely isn’t where we live. So Matt decided it would be best to sell the bike.

A guy named Joe contacted Matt through Craigslist and had been trying to purchase the bike for the past week and half, but he was supposedly waiting for a paycheck or some of his art to sell. Well last night, Joe finally had the money. He didn’t want to wait for Matt to deliver the bike to him after S. went to bed so he was reportedly lost in the bus system for hours with a dead phone battery and only the money for the bike, not a penny more. At 8:00 last night Matt found him; he’d given up on the bus and run through creeks to get to an art show (we still don’t quite understand the progression there) that he insisted Matt attend with him when Matt went to drop off the bike. While they walked around in the art show, Joe explained to Matt how Star Trek and time travel are reality rather than fiction and how governmental conspiracies hide these truths. Finally, Joe gave Matt the money (minus the bus fare) and excitedly took the bike; however, Matt realized the poor guy didn’t have any more money to his name and he hadn’t eaten dinner so Matt gave him back some money so that he could go buy some food.

Luckily Matt made it home safely, without the bike and with money in hand. If you see a crazy “gentle giant” riding around Austin on an electric bike, that is 52 pounds of bike that left our garage yesterday and $391 of money that entered back into our lives. That is also why I am a hesitant Craigslist user because I am a little cautious when it comes to transactions with people like Joe, the crazy gentle giant.

A Year to Clear (Week 13 of 52)

Week 13 –Old Cosmetics, Medicines, and Personal Care Items

Bathroom_cleanoutI went through the bathroom cabinet this morning and found 8.5 pounds of miscellaneous items that have either a) expired or b) I know we will never use. S. was thrilled as she helped me sort through bins of items. I was very impressed because she was really good about not touching things I told her were dangerous and she was very inquisitive about what everything was. In the end she walked out of the bathroom with an anklet covered in bells, a felt bead necklace, and a beaded belly chain (that last one was definitely from high school). She claimed those were her favorites and she tried them on herself as well as her stuffed tiger.

Now here is my full disclosure: I don’t think all 8.5 pounds of stuff will actually leave the house this week. My problem is that I hate to throw things like cosmetics in the garbage and they aren’t considered hazardous wastes so I don’t quite know what to do with it.

Here are the main things I am trying to figure out how to get rid of:

  • Expired sunscreen - no idea what to do with it besides throw it in the garbage can. Any suggestions?
  • Old shampoo and conditioner that I know I won’t use - I have read that shampoo can be used as a cleaner for bathroom sinks, tubs, etc. so I might try that. I also read to use it for hand soap, but some of the stuff I am getting rid of doesn’t meet my “natural” criteria so I don’t think I want to use it that way. Something else I read said that conditioner makes a good shaving lotion so I might try that out; I have one bottle that is a pretty natural brand, but it just doesn’t work on my hair. Matter of fact, I have realized that the best thing for my hair is to not use any conditioner. 
  • Travel size tubes of toothpaste (I am going to have to start saying “no thank you” when the dentist gives it to me) - I originally thought that I could donate it to a homeless shelter and then I realized most of it has already expired. Some Google research indicates that it makes a good abrasive cleaner for things like bathroom tubs and sinks so maybe I could use it for that?
  • A few over the counter medications and expired vitamins – these will go back to the drugstore since I believe they will take over the counter medicine as well as prescription medications.
  • Old deodorant that I didn’t like – not sure what to do with this one either.
  • Old lotions - another one that I don’t know what to do with. I’m not a big lotion fan so these seem to accumulate at our house.
  • Travel size soap bars - I will combine these with my “soap scraps” and make them into liquid hand soap. I will have to write a post about that soon.
  • A handful of hair scrunchies – These will go in with my scrap fabric; I don’t think I have worn scrunchies in over 15 years.

There are a few other miscellaneous odds and ends I found (old mouth guards, hair brushes, razors, etc), but I think that list covers the majority of the items I cleaned out of the bathroom cabinets today. Any bottles that are close to empty I will just rinse and recycle. S. has a little travel size shampoo bottle that she loves (she can’t open it) so I might give her another one or two; she uses the one she has to “clean” things, including her stuffed animals, in her little play kitchen. Unfortunately there will be some things that just have to go in the garbage, but I am trying my best to use what I have and limit what I bring into the house in the future.

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 13 of 52)

Week 13 – camelcamelcamel

If you shop on Amazon frequently, have you found camelcamelcamel yet? It is a website that watches Amazon prices for you and notifies you when an item you want has dropped in price. You can customize the notifications based on the amount you want the price to drop before you are notified. To set up your notifications you can either add items one at a time or you can import your Amazon Wish List. Because it is quicker and easier I have imported my Wish List. The only problems I have are that you have to make your Amazon Wish List public in order to import it into camelcamelcamel and for some reason it doesn’t automatically delete items when you remove them from your Wish List (it does automatically add items though).

Another feature that I really like on camelcamelcamel is that it shows you the price history of items on Amazon. It will tell you if something is a good deal or if it is at its best recorded price. I find this very helpful when I go to purchase an item and want to make sure I’m not paying too much for it since prices on Amazon fluctuate so much. Today I purchased some Hot Wheels cars for S.’s Easter Eggs. They weren’t at a “good deal” or “best price” but they dropped about $3.00 so I figured it was time to purchase them (that and the fact Easter is this weekend).

Before I found camelcamelcamel I was regularly scrolling through my Amazon Wish List looking for big price drops. Now I just have to wait for emails from camelcamelcamel. It is a great tool/website if you are regular Amazon shopper like me.

A Year to Clear (Week 12 of 52)

Week 12 –More Baby Clothes

This week I took some of S.’s old clothes to a local consignment store. They are pretty picky about the clothing they take and the price they give you for what they do take is pretty low, but I figure something is better than nothing. Since I started taking S.’s clothes about a year and a half ago I have probably gotten about $75 total for miscellaneous clothing items. I don’t take clothes that I think S.’s younger cousin might wear and I don’t take her outgrown organic clothes since I think they are worth more than $0.50; if I don’t sell them I would prefer they go to someone who I know will appreciate them. This week the consignment store took 3.5 pounds of clothes (I didn’t count the number of garments) and paid me around $13.00 for them.

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 12 of 52)

Week 12 – No More Mortgage Payments

photo credit: Mortgage via photopin (license)

photo credit: Mortgage via photopin (license)

This is a big one; we are completely debt free! This week we are officially mailing in our last mortgage payment. We will be the sole owners of our house, no more bank ownership, and we will no longer be paying interest every month… that should save us A LOT of money. I tried to find how much we have paid in interest over the past five years, but I couldn’t find the total on any of our paper work. Based on a loan calculator, if we had been making only minimal payments we would have already paid almost $20,000 in interest. However, we have been paying more than our minimum payments so our total interest paid is probably closer to $10,000 to $15,000. If were to pay only minimum payments for the full term of the loan (30 years), we would end up paying approximately $72,500 in interest. That means we are saving somewhere around $60,000 by paying off our mortgage early. On top of that, we had a 7/1 ARM so after seven years our interest rate might have gone up.

As you can probably imagine, Matt and I are pretty excited to be paying off our mortgage; however, I was hesitant to post about it here because I don’t want it to sound like I’m bragging. Matt and I have worked hard to pay off our mortgage and I want this to serve as an inspirational post, not a “look at me” post. So, here is the back story: Matt and I bought our first home in 2005 with a loan from my parents as the down payment. At the time we had both just started our “professional” careers and combined we were making around $50,000 a year. Our salaries slowly increased over the next four years until combined we were bringing home close to $80,000 a year. We put extra money into our mortgage every month and when we sold our house in 2009 we walked away with enough money to pay my parents back as well as enough for a 20% down payment on our next house.

With that 20% down payment we purchased our current home in 2010 when we moved to Texas. Since then we have put almost every extra penny possible into our mortgage payments, including some gift/inheritance money we have received. Even without the gift/inheritance money we have managed to pay off over $90,000 in less than five years. When we moved to Texas I quit my job and went back to school. That meant we faced a significant decrease in our combined income since Matt’s starting salary at his new job was $50,000. With pay raises and bonuses, Matt’s income is back up to around what we were making when we were both working, but we continue to live off a single income since I am taking this time to be with S.

All that to say, we aren’t really an abnormal family making some extraordinary amount of money compared to many other American families. We live well, but we also live well within our means which is why we are now 100% debt free! I also want to mention that we have been able to maintain a pretty decent size emergency fund for things like the new-to-us truck we are unexpectedly in the process of purchasing this week. We wouldn’t have paid off the mortgage without knowing that we had savings to fall back on for all of the unknowns that life throws at you.

A Year to Clear (Week 11 of 52)

Week 11 –Baby Clothes

I have slowly been getting rid of S.’s clothes as she outgrows them, but it seems like I always still have a box full of things that don’t fit her anymore. I have given some clothes away to a clothing swap for new/expecting moms, some items have gone to a women’s shelter, and some have gone to a resale shop. This week I pulled out a bunch of clothes that I know won’t be accepted by the resale shop as well as clothes that have stains and rips in them. I took these clothes, nine pounds total, to the textile recycling drop box run by American Textile Recycling Services. I feel good about donating clothes to them since not only do they recycle clothes that aren’t in reusable condition, they also give some of the proceeds to the Children’s Miracle Network Dell Hospital. Oh and as a side note, S. kept trying to put on the clothes I was sorting. She would put pants on halfway and say “it fits”. One outfit she really wanted to wear, I didn’t even think I could get her into it, but she fussed about it quite a bit so I went ahead and helped her squeeze in. “Uh huh it fits!”. Should I tell her it isn’t supposed to be shorts?SSmallclothes

Older posts «