Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The 411 for 444

Today I broke one of my personal rules. It just worked out that way and I had to do it. My youngest daughter and son are coming to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. I usually work and don't bother to cook. I've worked most of the time leading up to now and I simply had to venture out for groceries. After all, I had to get that turkey today and my husband needed the car for work tonight.

Usually I avoid shopping during busy times. I do not shop during Thanksgiving week and I avoid large department stores completely November through January. There are people that come out for holiday shopping that you just don't see at other times of the year. Some are quite scary. I hate the crowds and the attitudes, so I simply stock up on anything I may need and avoid shopping altogether.

A few weeks ago a reader asked me about coupons in their comment. The details of my shopping trip are for you 444express. I hope this helps you with your decision. I clip coupons that I may use if the price is right and save the coupons in envelopes until I need them. People use many different systems but this is what works for me. I never buy a product I will not use, even if it ends up being free. If an item will keep and I can use them before they expire I buy several.

A note about coupons, it's true most of them are for processed foods. I don't bother to clip the ones for frozen pizzas, or canned soups for instance, because I make my own. I do clip the ones for crackers, cereal, sugar, tuna, shampoo, toothbrushes, butter, coffee, spices, etc. When I need to go shopping I read the sales fliers from my local grocery stores. I know what the prices usually are and I look for the lowest price when I start to run out of something.

Today's shopping trip would have cost me $139.65 if I bought everything when it wasn't on sale. The sale prices saved me $51.79, and my coupons saved me an additional $13.10. I bought everything for $74.76, a big shopping trip for me. Part of my spending was $37.48 for everything I would need for Thursdays meal and the other $37.28 was just random pantry items that were on sale plus I had matching coupons.

I need lots of butter for my upcoming baking extravaganza. This year I am planning a baking day with my brother so we can whip up several batches of a wide assortment of cookies. I can't wait, I love baking. Anyway, store brand butter was $3.39 and Land of Lakes butter was on sale two for five or $2.50 each. I had coupons for $1.00 off of two so that made the big brand $2.00 each. I bought four of those for the massive baking day.

The last time I shopped there was a sale on tuna. The five ounce pouches normally $1.49 each were BOGO (buy one get one free) but the shelf was empty. I had 5 coupons for 55 cents off so I asked for a raincheck for six pouches. I picked those up today and the raincheck with my coupons made them 29 cents each. They keep and they'll come in real handy for a last minute lunch when I'm out of time and on the run.

Just because you have a coupon doesn't always mean it will be a good deal. I had a coupon for $4.00 off a butterball turkey. The store brand was cheaper but I thought the coupon would even them out or make the bigger brand a better deal. I picked two turkeys of the same size and compared them. The Butterball was $15.00 and the store brand was $6.00. I picked out a store brand and gave my coupon to the customer beside me who was choosing a Butterball.

I work in retail so it's pretty easy for me to remember what the usual price is for an item. Some people prefer to carry a price book to help them keep track of the prices. It seems like too much work for me and I'm not that organized. Find a system that works for you but doesn't stress you out. Some people are just driven crazy by coupons, so if they don't work for you don't stress over it.

Luckily for me the grocery stores in my area do not double the regular price of an item the week it goes on sale for BOGO. I can't say the same for the drug stores here. I ran into the store late one night for a gallon of milk and noticed a display of Russell Stover chocolates for $4.59. The next day the new sale started and I saw the same item on sale BOGO and the regular price was listed as $8.99. I found another store that did the same dirty trick. They had make-up on sale BOGO. The night before the sale they removed all the regular price labels from the shelf so they could double the price. I didn't fall for it, shame on you dirty companies.

Grocery and household shopping is an easy part of your budget to trim. Coupons help but there are other hints to consider. The first step is to be aware of the regular price and always try to find the lowest price. I don't drive around all day bargain hunting, and I don't stockpile freebies in my garage. I buy what I need and will use at the best price I can find. I shop the sales and make a list. I read the paper and after it's in the recycle bin I clip coupons throughout the week while I watch TV. Don't make it a dreaded chore, or it won't help at all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Hurrah

I've never been a traditionalist. There are a millions of winter holiday traditions from many countries, regions, faiths, and families. I've read and heard so many different stories about how families expect their holidays to be. Many have very high expectations. If they don't have the right color candles, and the right brand of mincemeat, and the perfect weather they complain. At work, if we run out of the brand of stuffing they always use they will slap the counter with their fist and yell, "Now what am I supposed to do?"

Long ago, even when the kids were little I decided not to join the madness. I still bought toys for them each year. I never shopped on Black Friday, and never bought into the hype surrounding the newest toys which ended up being available the following season for half the price.

Working retail for two decades can suck the holiday spirit out of you. I've worked a department store on Black Friday and witnessed people fighting over junk and hitting one another with shopping carts, and screaming at clerks. I've worked in mall stores during the holidays that weren't quite as bad, but gave me a ringside seat to the "merriment" at the larger stores with the big four hour only specials and at the toy stores which thank goodness I never had the misfortune to work at. Crazed parents actually hid out behind the trash bins in the alley behind the toy store at three in the morning. They thought that by waiting there they could be first somehow to get a Furby when the shipment arrived. If I opened my back door to find a mob of Furby crazed parents limping out from behind the dumpsters like zombies in a horror movie I'd be scared, I'd turn the fire hose on them.

If you're trying to lead a frugal life and the holidays are stressing you out, opt out of the big to do. If the environmentalist in you cringes at the thought of all that tinsel and wrapping paper ending up in the landfill, opt out of the fancy expectations. If you hate cooking and cleaning and would rather sleep in a box full of spiders than spend another holiday with Uncle Frank and Aunt Edna, opt out and go on a mini-vacation instead (or at least pretend to.)

I used to stress over being poor during the holidays. I wanted the children to be happy and have a magical season. I wanted the meal to be perfect and the gifts to be packaged beautifully and well received. I also worked full time hours through the holiday season. I worked open to close often on holidays themselves, so often we would just have it on a different day. One year, when the kids were of middle school age I decided the wrapping paper is thrown away anyway, why am I spending this money on something that goes straight to the garbage? The recycle bins always say that wrapping paper is non-recyclable too. The kids were upset for a few moments when they saw a black plastic garbage bag with their name on it in the morning but after they opened it they quickly forgot their resentment.

Do you need six different types of pie, or a turkey as big as Manhattan? Do you have to make the cranberry souffle you make every year just because you always have it? Do you have to risk life and limb to hang a bunch of lights on your house? Save yourself the frostbite and the high electric bills, opt out.

Take what traditions you want, and drop the rest. Have a wonderful holiday season, whichever holiday you follow if any. Just remember not to stress yourself trying to keep up with the Jones', or worse the Kringle's.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It Still Smells Here

I'm still completely exhausted. I was off today and after reading the paper and taking care of the dog I used most of the rest of my time for sleeping.

Chloe seems to be doing a little better but progress is very slow for her. Yesterday I moved all the furniture and mopped the floors in the kitchen and back room. First she decided she had waited long enough and laid down on the wet floor. Shortly after that she peed and made a giant puddle on the clean floor. When I'm not at work I am the dogs servant, opening the door for her every twenty minutes so she can pee again. She does seem to be peeing less, and has a bit more energy, and she is eating a little more. It's just going so slow I am still worried.

UPDATE: When I turned on the computer my husband had just come back from walking the dog. While I was writing this she went into the living room (the carpeted living room) and peed. Aaargh!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Still Standing

I was doing so good with this blogging thing, and then I had a bad week, or um week and a half actually. I was called in last week for one of my days off and stayed late for a few others. After giving most of my energy to the job, the housework is piling up. I'm just too deeply exhausted at the end of the day to come up with anything interesting or positive to write about. I haven't even logged on at all most days. Hope everyone is still out there.

I did pop in to read my e-mails this week-end and found that Connie had picked my blog to receive a (giggle) Stylish Award. Now in addition to all my catch up posts I have to write a post about this and find (narrow down to) fifteen other blogs to pass this on to. Gee thanks for the extra work, Connie. Just kidding, I am truly honored. Just forgive me if I officially accept in a few more days.

Mother Connie Sez

I helped my son purchase a car so he could receive his promotion. He is now third key in the pet food store where he has been working. They held the position for him until he had a car because they didn't want him riding to the bank at night with deposits on his bicycle. I didn't want him doing that either. He's catching up financially, and I think he'll do much better.

A few days ago I picked up insulin for Chloe. We do this every week and a half. The very next day she stared refusing to eat, and she started drinking a lot, and peeing uncontrollably all over...everywhere. Today we took her to the vet. Every time she gets sick like this I cry and worry and bring her in thinking it might be the last visit, then the vet does something miraculous and she comes home. She had an x-ray and a shot. She has so much going wrong, but she is very tough and still finds joy in her life. I don't think it's time yet.

The doctor needed pee to check while were there. He asked if we could collect it for him. I thought since my home now smells like a public urinal in a busy city bus station it would be easy to get but of course my husband had just walked her. We gave her a bowl of water and then took her out. The theory was we were supposed to walk her and when she squatted to pee one of us had to hold a clear plastic tray under her to catch the drippings. Guess who got to hold the pee tray? So my husband walked her and I followed behind with my little tray poised and ready. She would start to squat and then change her mind, or worse she would start to squat and the my husband would say "Nope it's poop!" and I would jump back and try to hold the pee tray steady so I didn't spill what little I had collected so far on myself. Well I can add that experience onto the list of things I never imagined myself doing. I can put a check next to followed blind dog in busy parking lot with pee tray.

She is on medications to fight several infections, and we have to give her more insulin now. She was used to the shots but now she seems to be frustrated with the whole ordeal and wiggles and complains every morning and night when it is time for a shot.

When my husbands income dropped to one third we made the difficult decision not to have cancer surgery for her. She has breast cancer and cancer polyps in her ears. My son told me several of his customers had elderly dogs with the same health issues and they died within months of the trauma of surgery so I feel a bit better about that decision. The doctor today said at her age it is an understandable decision and that could very well be the case if we did opt for surgery. It was good to hear because I was feeling all sorts of guilt for not having surgery. She had surgery for cancer on her arm several years ago so it is probably incurable with surgery anyway. If she makes it to February she will be thirteen. I hope she does well, I just don't want her to suffer.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Winner is Declared

Short post tonight. Just wanted to say my husband drew a name out of the hat. Congratulations Natalia, email me with your address and your books will go out on Tuesday.

Thanks to everyone that entered and spread the word for my first contest.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Doing the One Step Forward Two Steps Back Dance

My son interviewed for a management position at work and received the new position immediately. He just has to get a car in the next few weeks. He's been riding a bicycle to work but since this is a third key position he will have to drive deposits to the bank at night. You can't really ride up to the deposit drop with a bag of money on a bicycle.

Of course it can't be roses all the time. My youngest daughters hours were cut down to thirteen. She only has two days this week. If this continues I won't have my empty nest anymore, and I really like my empty nest!

My eldest daughter is still waiting to see if she can find a job where she's at before she decides to come to Florida. Things aren't going well for her but she dreads paring everything down to just a few boxes to ship down. A bus or train ride with a baby will be quite an experience too. It's a big decision either way, I just hope she finds a peaceful solution.

As long as the children are settled and self sufficient my husband and I do have some plans in the works. March is our target month. We want everything pared down, new jobs, and a new state. I'm not sure where we are going yet. I research different areas, get rid of clutter, and save like mad. Daily. I can't wait until we can make some changes!

I had a chance encounter the other day with a business owner who was having problems with an employee. She vented, and I asked what she did. She mentioned she may be hiring in March. Our month for a change. March. I expressed an interest. She asked for my number. I will tell no more in fear of jinxing it. I just really hope I hear back from her soon because it sounds like it would be an absolute dream job for my husband and I. Did I mention she sometimes hires couples? Sigh, I just hope I didn't jinx it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Organics Out of Reach

I've known all along that organic foods cost more. I've seen the prices where I work. You can buy cucumbers on sale two for one dollar or you can buy one organic cucumber for two or three dollars. Some people choose to purchase some organic products for those items which contain the most pesticides. Many others cannot afford the extra cost. Gardening is one option for those with the skill, space, and time.

I just found an advertisement for a local produce stand that has an organics club. You pay a fee, and order a large or small package each week. It's a good idea but it is on the other side of the county and the cost is very high. When you are at the bottom of the pay scale it is hard to pay the extra cost for safer food.

The price of meat is even higher. Turkeys will soon be going on sale. Last year they were around .99 cants a pound. I saw an organic turkey advertised today for $4.99 a pound. I can't imagine paying $150.00 for a thirty pound turkey.

Being poor, you have to be careful with every penny. Careful grocery spending is the easiest way to trim the budget. It is too bad that organic produce is out of reach for so many.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Welcome MSN Money Smart Spending Readers

If you've followed a link from the MSN Money Smart Spending blog to read more, thank you for stopping by. If you'll be coming back please feel free to subscribe to posts via RSS feed (link at bottom of page.) While you are here take a chance and enter my giveaway.

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