Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Popular Items at Yard Sales

I’m always amazed when I find last holiday season’s “Itsoawesomegottohaveit” items at my local yard sales.

A few years back, it was those water-filled baby dolls dressed as Winnie the Pooh characters. Oldest child, Anna, wanted one and practically begged when they were in the store. We didn’t succumb to the madness and were surprised to find one with all of the parts for 50 cents at a yard sale. Conveniently it was the Tigger one which Anna had so desired. We ended up getting the Eeyore one for $2 at Goodwill. Anna had 2 of the most sought after dolls for little money.

Last year it was those furry pets that you feed with a bottle and it purrs. Youngest child, Celeste, really wanted the cat. We heard the pleading cries for months. We found one for $1 at a yard sale.

We have tried to train the kidlets in the right way. Especially since they are with us only part time and their mom likes to shop and spent a lot of money on frivolous things. One way that we show them is by taking them to yard sales. We show them what the name brand items that they are longing for will sell for. We also take them to the mall for a bit of “Sticker Shock”. After looking around in one of the large chain stores in the mall, the kids are more than willing to wear Gap and Ambercrombe and Old Navy items from a yard sale. $1 or less for a pair of jeans is better than the $50 and up that the same brand goes for at the mall. We give them each a set amount of money before we leave. They can spend it at yard sales or at the mall. The choice is up to them. Though to be honest, I cannot remember the last time the kids bought something from a “mall store” while with us.

The same, however, goes for the adults in my family. Hubby & I find great things at yard sales. This weekend, we found paper boxes for cheap. I got 2 large round, 2 medium round, 1 small heart, and 1 small hexagon for $1. The large round one is $2 at the store. I paint these as gifts for friends & family.

Hubby wanted to start working out. We found a TotalGym system for $20. It was in new condition and just needed one small pin. We got a new in box Chinese wok for 25 cents and it included all of the bonus equipment. These are just a few of the great deals that we get on a regular basis. Our house is full of nice treasures that we’ve purchased in such a matter. One day soon, I should take pictures!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Thrifty Thrills

Does anyone else get a thrill from knowing that they are dressed in nice, fashionable clothing, comparable to what their peers are wearing, and that they spent very little on their outfit? Today’s clothing (outer clothes only – not underthings) cost me under $5. I love knowing that I can wear things that are nice and appropriate and not break the bank.

I pretty much have my outfits laid out for the week. Everything I will wear this week came from either yard sales, thrift stores, or freebies (from friends, family, etc). It’s pretty inspiring for me. I can add in my handmade or re-made jewelry and have complete outfits!

I guess perhaps I could be off my rocker!

OdoBan - A Great Product

Have you ever heard of the product OdoBan?

It is amazing stuff. Hubby & I got a bottle of the ready-to-use spray and a gallon of concentrate at Sam’s for under $9.00. We had purchased the spray bottle alone at Wal-Mart for nearly $3 a few months back and were thrilled with the eucalyptus scent and the way that it cleaned the countertops. Hubby sprayed it on the carpets to pre-treat a few areas. He was thrilled when he actually saw the stain lift away! I tried it on an ink spot on my shirt. It lifted right away with minimal rubbing. This product has eliminated the ‘cat smell’ from the litter box area and has really refreshed our house. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sam's Club

It has been one of those weeks. I’ve not thought much about frugality. However, it seems that it is, in a sense, embedded into me. I am forever calculating the savings on one item or another.

Hubby and I went to Sam’s club on Sunday. My parents have a membership and they offered to give me the secondary card. I was grateful, said thank you, and headed off to get my picture taken! This allows us to use the membership without the associated fees. Of course, I will be sure to pay for next year’s membership!

Anyway, while there we did some figuring on quite a few items, determining which items were a savings over their generic or smaller counterparts at the grocery store, Wal-Mart, or Big Lots. The main things we purchased were great deals however, by buying them in bulk we will be over budget this month and under budget in the following months.

Hubby quit smoking last fall and as a result has a new habit: chewing gum. I won’t complain because (A) gum is better for him and (B) it is cheaper on the budget. He usually gets Big Red brand gum for 25 cents per pack of 5 pieces at Wal-Mart. This actually comes out to the same price as the larger pack and is more convenient for him. He often forgets to get gum at Wal-Mart and will pick some up at the convenience store for 30 cents per 5 pack. Sam’s carries the store packs which contain 40 of the small packages of Big Red for $5.46 which breaks down to 14 cents per pack.

While yes, it could be argued that one could save even more money by simply not chewing gum that is not an option for him. Therefore, a savings of 11 cents per pack is a big thing for us.

Another good buy for us was on vitamins. The Members Mark brand was $9.25 for 450. That is a seven and a half month supply for the two of us. It is quite a large savings over the comparable generic brand at Wal-Mart.

Next I plan to compare their prescription prices to Walgreens. Our insurance covers a percentage of the price, based on generic, formulary, etc. Check back soon to read about my findings.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Shopping Update

On Wednesday afternoon, I went shopping. As promised, I'm updating on my purchases. Everything was 1/2 off at the store and so the prices reflected are the lower prices.

For $7.60 (which includes sales tax), I got:

  • A red Talbots tee in brand new condition - $1.49

  • A pale yellow White Stag tee in brand new condition - $1.49

  • A white ribbed Cherokee knit shirt in brand new condition - $1.49

  • A pair of cargo type khakis by Rue 21 in great condition - $2.49

I think I did great and plan to go again soon. Hopefully, I will be able to go each Wednesday until I get a "new" summer wardrobe!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


I am in need of a few spring/summer weight shirts. I know that I could run to the mall and get something or even run to the neighborhood Wal-Mart store and get a few shirts. The minimum I would spend would be around $8 to $10 per shirt. Instead I will stop at Salvation Army on my way home from work. I can routinely get shirts there for $3 each. This means that I can get mall quality shirts for about 45% of the retail price of a Wal-Mart shirt. I know that today is Half Price Day at my local store so I will be sure to stop today. The already low price will be lower.

Currently I have almost no cash. Our bi-weekly allotment is pretty much spent. I have in possession $9. Shall we see what sort of things I can get for that amount?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Everyday Frugal

There are certain things that I do that are frugal and I no longer think about. It is just the way we do business. One of the things that comes to mind is haircuts.

Hubby & I are pretty plain when it comes to our hair. I keep mine long and straight (it hangs below my tailbone) and he likes to keep his pretty short.

For years now I've been giving him regular 'buzz-cuts' with our handy dandy set of clippers. We clean and oil them after each use so that they will have a long life.

Hubby trims my hair willingly as well. I have had my share of hairdressers who just want to chop all of my hair off. Hubby would rather do the minor trim for me rather than have to see me with short hair!

Yesterday evening, I pulled out the clippers and we took his hair down to "summer legnth" (read: nearly bald). He loves it and I'm thrilled that we saved, at the very least, $12 plus tip.

I figure we have saved over $100 per year on haircuts by doing this.

What are some of the frugal things you do without thinking about it?

Budgeting with the envelope system

The first two weeks on the envelope system have gone quite well. My hubby & I managed to stick to it and not use the checking account for any purchases. We are down to our last $15 right now but payday is this Friday and we rarely buy things on weekdays anyway.

I did find that we need to keep ‘overages’ in the envelopes for a while though. Because we purchase dog food only one time every 5-6 weeks and that money needs to be available, we need to save the extra $5 or so from the previous weeks to make up for that.

We have also stopped our two or three times weekly trips to grab little things. Even though the store is less than 5 miles round trip, the gas adds up. Add to that the impulse purchases and you see where that leaves us. Yep, you guessed it – struggling at the end of the week.

I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. In our case, we currently live off of the envelope budget. I would like to have at least $10 extra per envelope left over for minor emergencies. That would keep the money in the account for longer term saving or BIG emergencies.

I will say that the envelope system is a success so far. I will keep posting about it and we will see if it really works for my family.

Store Re-Discovery

I re-discovered a store this weekend and was pleasantly surprised with my findings. My beloved and I ran to Big Lots on Sunday afternoon with the hopes of getting some fertilizer. We didn’t really want to brave Wal-Mart or Lowe’s and in our small town, Big Lots is about the only other choice.

While in there, I found several good deals. We got Annie’s Organic shells & cheese for $1 and another Annie’s Organic product for $0.80. We bought a jar of pasta sauce to try and if we like it, I will go get a few more before they sell out.

I was impressed with the selections of food in the store. Everything that I checked was in date and seemed to be good products. I know Big Lots buys odd or damaged lots of goods and is able to then pass the savings on. I’m not complaining!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Frugal Lists

Daily I strive to find thrifty or frugal things to make me happy. I try to keep a list in my day planner so that I have something to look back upon. Here are a few of the recent entries:

1. I was given a bag full of body wash and lotion. Almost all of these were brand new. They will save me at least $15 and will last for a year or more. I cannot stress enough how great Freecycle has been for me. I’ve given and gotten some nice things.

2. I was given a free snack at work today. I know it is not much, but each little bit helps and who can resist a brownie and chocolate milk?

3. My husband and I have stayed within budget so far this pay period. We have gone back to the envelope method and I think that is working. One thing we do that is different, is that we put $150 per pay period on a Wal-Mart card. We purchase gasoline at Wal-Mart since they have the lowest price in our town after you account for the 3 cent discount from using a Wal-Mart card. Rather than go into the store each time we need gas and get money added to the card, we put the allotted gasoline money on the card as soon as we get the cash from the bank. If we do not spend the total amount, we save the balance for something special from Wal-Mart. **I know that a lot of people dislike Wal-Mart and their practices, however, in my town, this is my only option unless I want to drive 25 miles into the city.** I know that $150 for two weeks sounds like a lot of money for gas. It really is, especially since my food budget is only $100! However, with gasoline hovering at $3.00 or more per gallon, it takes $45 to fill up my tank. If I only use my car to commute back and forth to work, I use an entire tank of gas per week. I commute 20 miles each way into the city to work. We are combining trips for other things and trying to stay close to home on the weekends. Hopefully the gas prices will taper off soon!

4. A person with whom my husband works had a tragedy in her family this week. We wanted to do something to help her and decided that the best thing to do was cook a meal for her family. I was able to make up a big pot of pasta and meat sauce by using items in my cabinets. Coupled with a loaf of sale priced French bread, we took the family a meal (fed 10 or so) for less than $10. We had leftover pasta sauce to freeze as well. I love being able to help without breaking out the emergency funds!

5. I was given a $3 discount on my manicure yesterday. I have budgeted for my manicure because it makes me feel so much better about myself. Plus I have very sharp natural nails that tend to draw blood! I’m going to do a pedicure at home today so that I can have pretty feet without the $25 price tag attached!

6. My husband and I have been finding the joy in small things: watering the garden, feeding the birds and squirrel, etc. I love that we are loving the simple things.

What are some of your frugal finds this week?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Grocery Shopping

I recently read about a woman who spent $275 on food for one week worth of dinners and two weeks worth of lunches for her family of four (mom and 3 kids under 10). Her list of groceries included almost all prepackaged junk foods and processed sugary snacks.

This seems so foreign to me. My haul for two weeks, feeding hubby and myself and the occasional guest, cost $70 with tax which is 9.75% in these parts. For $70, I got tons of food, some of which will last much longer than two weeks such as dried beans, canned tomatoes, etc. We did have some pretzels and pop in the buggy as well as a 5 pound bag of sugar, however, we did not have anything else that would be considered ‘junk food’.

I budget $200 per month for my family. When the children visit, I add an additional $10 per week for them. We rarely use that amount entirely and so I buy items to stock my pantry and freezers with the remaining funds. We have been fortunate enough to have food available to help out our neighbors when the need arises.

How much do you budget for food? What sort of foods do you buy?

Wasted Food

Recently I had a conversation with my sister. At her place of employment, they routinely host business meetings and luncheons. After these meetings, Sister is required to clean up the banquet room. Leftover food is always available and the employees take advantage of the free lunch.

On Friday, Sister gathered the food up after everyone had eaten lunch. She tried to send some of the food home with the other employees but they refused. Rather than toss this good food (chicken wraps and nice croissant sandwiches), she packaged it up to take home. The other employees look at her funny. One even made fun of her for taking home the food. She was confused by this and brought the conversation to my attention this morning.

Why is it that people would throw away perfectly good fancy sandwiches and fruit but would hastily pick up a dollar left on the sidewalk? Sister had enough sandwiches for 3 to 4 meals plus some nice fresh fruit.

It was just natural for Sister to pick up the food, wrap it up, and bring it home. It was just as natural for the other employees to toss the food. This leads me to believe that we are raising our children to be wasteful creatures. How can we conserve if we teach our children to toss away perfectly good food?

Needless to say, this puzzles me!