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Archive for December, 2005

GOOD grocery savings with SUPER SAVE on GE 5 year light bulbs!

December 28th, 2005 at 09:43 pm

MD did NOT want to stop by Giant on the way home from the doctor's. MD: we do not need to shop or waste time shopping or money shopping or BOO to anything spending money. There were a few good sales in the ads, though, and we needed eggs...

GE 5 year bulbs were on sale for $1 (loss leader), rather than $5 (current regular price, they were $7 in October!), and MD was ecstatic to SPEND WISELY! He bought 4 for the garage and 4 for the basement. $8 for $40 priced bulbs. Even better, a regular GE bulb is rated for 1000 hours, these are 8000 hours, plus they are "energy saving" rated. I'm not quite sure what the overall savings will be over the long run. But they are going in the locations we have to use a ladder to access, and we use the basement lights daily, so having to change them 8 times less often is a savings to me!

Overall we did well with coupons and sales. The most expensive items were dog chews (still cheaper than replacing the dining room furniture) and a favorite frozen fruit bar that we HAVE to keep on hand. Still, overall not bad:

Total before "savings" came to $213.76
Total after sales/coupons/etc. came to $86.57


I'm happy with that! I don't like going over $50 for the week, but basics like lightbulbs are in a separate category from weekly purchases. MD pointed out it is not 2/3s savings, which is always the goal, but he has been wanting these light bulbs, and was very happy to stock up!

the mortgage equity game - to pay or play?

December 27th, 2005 at 11:36 pm

Brother (DR55) has just explained more of his financial woes. I understand the problem he is in, but it is really hard to advise him. I've never been in his situation, although I've heard the debate. Do you pay off your house, or put the money where it will earn more, even at risk?

MD and I approach our mortgage by PAYING IT OFF. We have a good, not great, rate, renegotiated the ARM at a lower rate after the PMI limit was reached, and then PAID IT DOWN. Top priority.

Brother, 55, has no savings and 4 kids with an expensive divorce settlement. So, he bought a fixer upper house, after 5 years the appraisal was twice what he paid, so he took out a second mortage against the new value and put the cash into commodoties. But he has two full time jobs, and doesn't have time to do the day/minute trading required, and has LOST the money. Worse, he still sees the value of the house as equity he can retire on, and is having difficulty seeing that he has no equity if he has already taken out and spent the money. If he sells the house now, he will BREAK EVEN, not double his investment. No retirement, no savings, he was hoping for a magic bullet, and he took one instead.

I DO understand the thought process of using equity to invest the money in a higher yield plan, but higher yields are usually higher risk. I'm a strong believer in truly evaluating the risk you CAN ABSORB, not just that you need to be able to absorb.

So, now, he wants to keep trading, $20K down again, to regain his money. To me, he's gambling straight up, as he CANNOT afford the risk, no matter how great his need.

MD is flat out horrified. He doesn't want to bail DR55 out just to watch him sink again. DR55 is POSITIVE he can and should reinvest, and to pick himself out of the dumps he bought a new Bowflex and some power tools on credit. ACK!

I'm staying out for now, but he needs some supportive words, and I'm all out. He's jealous of my retirement, yet I'm the one looking for the $10 rebate on my new mixer! Do people actually win the equity game?

things to do after the holidays

December 27th, 2005 at 09:11 pm

It's been a full week already!

Now it's time to prepare for next year's holidays. Not just stocking up on sales. Things to do:

Organize/file receipts from stores, note where favorite gifts were located. I may need to find the store for parts and warranties, but I also may want to come back next year to get accessories, upgrades, or find other neat things. Generally if a product was loved and I got a great deal, I want to remember to check back.

Check and list where favorite "treats" were purchased AND manufactured or sent from. The "Smore's" MD always gets from Williams and Sonoma actually come from Charlottes confections in California, and if I buy directly from them I can usually get a better deal. The virginia peanuts from Williamsburg are sold in SO many holiday catalogs, but when MD wants them in August, no where to be found. They originate from www.thepeanutshop.com, The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg, and are actually $5-10 cheaper to order directly. Also, a better selection and more choices. Besides, next year the site I got them from may not carry them. Bauers candies has a favorite caramel/marshmellow that is expensive from WS, but again, cheaper and fresher direct.

Also checking back at the catalog sites, which will be dumping the holiday food items, since they don't keep them in stock through the year. Great prices, but they go fast, and need to be freezer-friendly or otherwise keep until we want them.

Making notes of the favorite shoes/clothes/socks, where they were purchased, what the size was, who had ones that were long enough for MD. He LOVES Teva sandals, loves LLBean tall winter pants, was thrilled with EVERYTHING from REI.

Also time to download rebates for the new mixer and blow dryer MD gave me, along with so many clothes to try on. Sensitive subject, since I've gained 20 pounds from meds since the assault, and keep slowly upping the sizes. I refuse to WASTE MONEY on another size, but after so many grumps, he flooded me with 5 pair of jeans one size up. Don't know whether to love him or hide in shame, but given the lingerie he also gave me, I think I'll stick with loving him.

ALSO, the week to finish up the year, give the old items to charity before the end of the year, finalize the medicare prescription plans for everyone, clean out the closets and review finances for year end close.

Good thing the pup is housebroken already!

Met the challenge for the week!

December 24th, 2005 at 08:13 pm

Okay, yes, I did not give myself a budget when it came to MD, and I spent quite a bit, although MUCH less than usual. No "stunning" gift this year. And I did really try to shop the discount sources and find the coupons and use rebates and such.

I still have the problem with giving gifts early. I buy MD something I know he wants or needs, and when it comes I tend to just give it to him. Then have to find MORE gifts, which is another excuse for overshopping the last week when all these BARGAINs hit my email. I know, they aren't bargains if I wouldn't have bought them without the grand announcement.

But, I did NOT buy any more gifts this week, a first EVER for me. Hubby, on the other hand, bought everything last minute, and has spent the last 6.5 hours behind closed doors wrapping away.

We are going a bit cheap for the Christmas Eve and Day dinners. Usually I bake for two weeks and we have a crowd and loads of appetizers and a loaded table for the Day. This year, two big spinach salads, a spinach dip and a Harlequin dip and some crackers, using almost all stuff I already had in the pantry. For dinner, a nice ham, but just a free box of mashed potatoes, no yams and mashed potato casserole loaded with butter and sour cream, no refrigerator full of leftovers that will go to waste. Seems nice, actually.

Today, I mixed up a few last minute items, got the salads ready, vacuumed and checked under the couches again (pup got stuck again last night!). Checked the mail, received some unexpected refunds for my medical expenses and some really nice cards. Ready for a nice quiet weekend.

Niece wrote that her husband loves the Hanukkah platter, and they are having quite a celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, and birthdays. I'm glad we decided to send gifts for both holidays separately this year. It's their first year in their new house, and they are starting their own traditions in both religions. Nice to be a part of that.

Having a nice wait for MD, catching up, reading some journals, thinking about financial goals for next year. We did all the "easy" financial cuts over the last few months, now it's time to get down to business.

But for now, a hot bath, a good book, and wishes to everyone for the happiest of holidays.

Frugal moments in marriage.

December 23rd, 2005 at 09:05 pm

MD just called. Took 45 minutes to drive 5 miles from one store to the next. Now he is trying to find parking at the grocery, but says if he parks he's not going to get back out! Sounds pretty crazy out there. I told him to forget the butter, I can deal without it, but he is STUBBORN. And, he LOVES butter. Our first realization of what DIFFERENT backgrounds we came from was when I asked him to run to the store for "butter" thinking of course the 20 cent store brand of margarine. He returned with 5 pounds of Land of Lakes butter! Never occurred to me that people would purchase butter unless it was a holiday or they were entertaining. Never occurred to MD that someone would actually buy 20 cent margarine!

Maybe that's part of the blending in a marriage. I learned that he expected to eat butter, mayo, sour cream, and steak, and he learned that I expected the cost of groceries to be negligible in the budget. [I think what I actually said was something like "you mean you PAID for that?".] The first time I made BLTs, I expected we would each use one slice of bacon per sandwich, as my frugal family does, but while I was setting the table he scarfed down the two pounds straight!

Over the years, we've learned to compromise,. We each save judiciously, but we each have our own style and priorities. MD would never buy clothes on his own, he stitched his Nike's back together once; I would never buy $20/pound steak. But he LOVES and APPRECIATES clothes for Christmas, and I've got to admit, he grills up a mean steak.

Enfamil and other events for the day

December 23rd, 2005 at 08:59 pm

Well, this morning I poked MD awake and asked HIM to take Max out. I did get up, just wanted help with the a.m. crunch. Pup is doing pretty well, he hasn't had an accident in the house in days, and last night he was rolling around on his back when he suddenly stood at attention and ran to the back door! Progress! Lots of treats and pets for his success!

MD is out doing last minute shopping. I'm sticking to the no more buying. I think I'm going to make my challenge of not buying for that last minute festive fix. He is even picking up the butter and milk. Last minute change, the store was out of sweet potatoes, so need milk for mashed potatoes.

I cleaned out the freezer, found lots of leftover ground turkey from Thanksgiving I had made up for the dog. I just threw it out. There wasn't really enough to make manicotti or anything with, and Max is too young for it, but mainly I just didn't want to deal with it. I've got too many emotions around that aren't festive, and I need festive! And everyone around me needs a bit of festive, too!

Christmas has been difficult here the last few years. I miscarried at Christmas, which led to the dog we just lost; MD and my sister's cancer over a recent Christmas; my assault the following Christmas, spending four months in the hospital; now losing the dog two weeks before Christmas. What a mix of feelings!

To top it off, today I received a Christmas package from Enfamil of two large cans and lots of vouchers and gifts. I'm a bit embarrassed, but when the dog was in ICU, they said we would need to feed her Enfamil and baby food when she came home. So in my great HOPE that all would be well, I immediately emailed all the baby sites and explained. I didn't follow up after she died. Now I'm not sure what to do! I know it's expensive and I don't want to dump it, but our need for it passed on with the dog. I may bring it to a woman's shelter. Even in my grief I don't want to waste it.

BUSY day, but cheap!

December 22nd, 2005 at 08:56 pm

Okay, I will admit it. I'm exhausted.

Got quite a bit accomplished today. Got up, peed, fed, medicated, played, and pooped the new pup. Checked email, and REI sent an email this morning that my express had been shipped. It's supposed to be HERE today.

Mixed up the cinnamon rolls, forgot to half the batch, but 3 dozen isn't too many. Made up a batch of pecan bars, two of brownies, and one of magic bars. Nothing special, but will go nicely with the cookies I froze before, and used up some free mixes and things from the pantry. After that, made 3 dozen scones, I do NOT think prepared pantry gave good directions, but they are what they are, and no one else knows what they were *supposed* to look like! Then, 12 dozen giant muffins. Really just 3 batches. Used up two boxes of stale cereal, some old oatmeal, the egg nog and eggs that had aged a bit, cans of pumpkin and much stuff from the pantry that I really needed to clean out. So, no actual expenses for the week.

MD was right, 2 pounds of butter were NOT enough. We will have to shop tomorrow (yikes!) for more eggs, butter, and SOMETHING that I just cannot remember. Every year I either buy too much butter, or not enough. One year we USED 12 pounds, but we entertained quite a bit and had the family here. The scones and cinnamon rolls took more than I realized, though, and we will need some for dinner and I still have spiced nuts and some dips to make. Just didn't get it all done.

Pup was pretty cute, first wedged himself between me and the garbage can while I was mixing up, then laid down between my feet. Keeping every thing picked up and out of his mouth was quite interesting. Every time I take him out, though, he wants to eat rocks. Truly a chow hound.

Did 7 loads of laundry, whic is pretty funny since MD said he had just done it all on Saturday. "All" turning out to be relative to what he needed that day, underwear. Yesterday he said he was out of jeans, ALL were in the laundry, and 7 pair were! So, today I fit laundry into everything else.

Ah, MD is arguing with the pup. I think the pup is winning! Better go check.

sticking to the week's challenge - sort of!

December 21st, 2005 at 10:51 pm

Well, I didn't EXACTLY buy another gift, but when I went to wrap up a set of gifts I had gotten MD, I found all the "accessories" and not the main gift! Checked the order, it wasn't on the invoice, went back through all the emails, and nope, I FOUND what I wanted, and managed to order the car light adapter and charger and case, but didn't actually buy the gadget! Now, a charger that doesn't charge anything does NOT make a great gift, so I zoomed my little fingers to the REI.com site and ordered it, on express. Sigh. Boo. It had been on a nice sale, with a bunch of other outlet and sale and coupon/offer stuff, so shipping was nothing. NOW, of course, it's full price and shipping is OUCH. Guess my mind wasn't that focused last week!

The weight bench did come, and I'm thrilled. A $700 professional quality bench, was $450 at one of the web sites, on sale for $350, and then a coupon and I accidentally ran into a "cyber day" sale of an extra 20% and it was free shipping. Invoice came to around $250, which is ALOT of money, but still less than MD paid for the bench that is now falling apart. And he is putting it together (weighs 125 pounds, I managed to get it into the house, but I am NOT wrapping it!) and it is excellent. HAPPY. Feels a little more like the holidays.

Received a check for a survey I took, a nice holiday card from another forum member, and managed to get the dog outside every time today! Accidentally fed him breakfast twice, but we are all still a bit tired from recent events.

The only other savings I can think of today was we dropped by Gloria Jeans and picked up MD's favorite coffee. Had a coupon for a free 1/4 pound, and had reached the level for a $10 discount, so not bad. Other coffee's are MUCH cheaper, we usually get Trader Joe's or store brands, but it's a nice treat.

Now, I HAVE to remember to go cook dinner, as we are running low of emergency back-up plan meals, and I want to get some protein back to my hair!

Fitness and Home Gym equipment on discount

December 20th, 2005 at 07:45 pm

Happy! MD's gifts have arrived. I'm upgrading our home gym equipment, and replacing some worn out parts. It has been a BEAR finding quality products at descent prices. There is no way MD will go to an outside gym with his scars and physical issues. But he has far exceded the capabilities of our basic equipment from Dick's and Sports Authority.

So, best sites I've found:

www.ironcompany.com Good site, no catalog, good prices, free shipping. Also incredibly great service. I was trying to find replacement foam pads that wrap around the leg lifts and arm cushions, and NO ONE has them. I sent emails everywhere, most sites were rude or didn't respond, but Scott at this site told me that they didn't have them, but he sent the address for a site that did (http://www.kamway.com/catalog_c114002.html) I ended up buying several cool items there for 20% of what I saw at local stores.

http://www.fitnessfactory.com
Good prices, hit a great sale, good selection. Shipped very fast, great service.

http://www.power-systems.com/
Good prices, site was difficult to nagivate because they have SO much stuff, but they sent a catalog, and I found everything from bar wrap pads, to ab crunch weights, to well, I can't tell ALL of MD's gifts! But prices were excellent, and they don't bill until they ship, and they ship within 2 hours of receiving the order. Loved that.

A directory for finding different web sites for equipment vendors is:
http://dmoz.org/Business/Consumer_Goods_and_Services/Sporting_Goods/Fitness_Equipment/

I did spend more than I planned, but I saved more than 75% on everything I purchased, so I will need to calculate the break even point. I know it's all stuff he will LOVE, though, so HAPPY.

Even found a lat pulldown bar designed for extra tall men to target that area he claims he can never get to with our current equipment. Yeah!

Groceries, coupons, savings, and LIFE

December 20th, 2005 at 07:28 pm

Finally made it to the grocery store. I did try the www.thegrocerygame.com, which did have a few buys I wasn't aware of, and had a great reminder system by color coding what is "buy this only if you are out" sale and a "buy this now and stock up" sale.

Didn't do too badly. Checkout price before savings was $203.92, and after savings was $89.62.

It would have been better, but I did need some spices, which are EXPENSIVE at a standard grocery story, and MD bought a chimney-cleaning log, $7. I told him he was RUINING my % savings, but he pointed out that hiring the chimney sweep every year was $100, and we aren't using the fireplace much this year. The fireplace DOES increase our heating bill as well as cause allergies, despite the forum arguments about what the air does or doesn't do. Hubbie has 3 PhDs, and one is in physics, so I keep my mouth shut about air flow and such.

The bad news, PetSmart. Had a $5 coupon, but by the time we bought a crate and a pad and some treats and a gate, it was $200. OUCH. And, I think Max will outsmart us on the gate in about two tries.

Didn't BUY ANY MORE GIFTS, so am keeping up my goal for the week. Need to wrap a few, I think that's my festive fix. NOT as fun, but we DO have costs to cut. The vet bills came to over $2000, the pet insurance was worthless. Never seen SO many loopholes. So, we continue to rebudget and dig for more ways to save.

I'm considering starting up a coupon train. I've got an envelope a week that is overflowing with ones I won't use. Anyone interested? Might ask another CERTAIN MEMBER to head it up if she wants. But, to be cost-effective, i.e., the costs of mailing has to be insignificant to the savings from the coupons received, there would need to be a committment of a turnaround time by each member of around 3 days. Is that reasonable? Anyone have any experience with this?

another day without buying gifts!

December 19th, 2005 at 10:01 pm

Okay, I'm STILL not feeling the great festivities and joy I get buying lots of last minute gifts. But, I didn't buy any gifts today. The big expense was running down to Costco to pick up a Rx, and picked up a few emergency food items. MD noted we are running out of my stockpile of muffins, soup, frozen meals, etc.

I did manage to dig out my pile of newspaper inserts and received coupons and cut them out and pile them up. MD hasn't filed the coupons yet, which he defends as HIS job in helping out in shopping. So, we will do the grocery shopping tomorrow. Mostly basics, a few items on sale for the holidays, like Gold Medal flour is 99 cents and I have a 25 cent coupon that will double to 50, and Philadelphia cream cheese on sale and a coupon for the frosting on the cinnamon rolls or stolen.

We need more chewy but not edible treats for the pup. He chews on EVERYTHING. The greenies went RIGHT through him. The rawhide chews he likes but gets bored pretty fast. He loves chewing the corners of the Christmas packages. I put a Neat Sheet over them, and MD held it down with an ottoman and weights, but the little one STILL managed to pull the Sheet off in about 60 seconds and was back in the gifts. Good thing he is SO cute.

It's been a hard day. A week since we put Mieske down. Spent an hour talking to JB about flying home to see my dad that is not my father. What a year! Anyhoo, the family has sent us $2000 to fly out and stay in a hotel. But, accepting money from the family means obligation and control and having to listen to their opinions, and staying "long enough" to have made their money worth while. There are issues with how long to stay and when, still trying to determine what is prognosis really is, 3 weeks or 3 months or 3 years.

There is debate about the inheritance, and if Mom will change the will when Dad is gone, lots of family politics about money that I want to stay clear of. It's amazing how families who are so loving can change so much over money.

Other than that, MD and I are just exhausted. So, we will be getting back to saving, and I will get back to writing up my savings challenges and successes and failures soon. Tomorrow, probably. For tonight, we crash.

Okay, maybe after I post a few freebies. Got to do SOMETHING useful today!

guilt for NOT couponing?

December 19th, 2005 at 09:44 pm

I was a bit sad today, reading the forums on buying generic versus couponing. It really seemed like one member felt they had to defend themselves for not taking the time or needing to coupon.

Couponing, shopping sales, looking for "deals" takes a great deal of time, and it's not necessary for everyone. It's not a help to everyone.

For me, I've gone in stages. Grew up with coupons and sales and hunting down bargains at several different stores each week. After I married and went on to grad school, one, I had no TIME for couponing or looking at ads or even planning ahead, and no storage space. We lived on $500 a month, and graciously accepted piles of groceries each month from MIL, whom I adore. We worked round the clock, and rarely cooked fancy meals. Clothing consisted of a pair of jeans, and scrubs and a lab coat provided by the university, cast off furniture from our families, and lots of group pizza. Still, we managed to save!

Post-doc paid a bit more, and the professorship more. Still, we were busy, and shopping usually meant a run down to Pac n Save or PriceClub.

Getting into the "real world", having to buy the first sets of business clothes and entertain, etc., was a different ball game. I did start to coupon and check the ads, MD built a huge pantry in the garage. Still, I traveled 50%, and the rules were a bit different. I remember arriving home from a rush tour of PacRim, dropping by work in a dirty Australia tshirt and jeans straight off the plane, and meeting with the president of N-Cubed. California, different standards. But we were spending more, shirts and ties, "start up costs" for our new jobs, and we did become more and more conscious of making the deals. At one point we were a bi-coastal couple, and when MD flew home from the east coast for weekends, I had the list and coupons all set out, and we'd shop/save as our destress together.

Moving East and becoming VPs for a Fortune 500 company, our salaries rose, our expenses rose, and we worked 20 hour days. Shopping was a grab it and go, but we stuck with what we needed for the week and not staples that would expire before I actually had time to cook.

All along the way, we found ways to SAVE. That is what all of these different methods come down to. The details of what works, or when, depends on everyone's circumstances. Once we retired, I didn't immediately start shopping ads or couponing, until this October when we hit a snag and we needed to cut finances for a few months. But I have the time, and I enjoy saving money, in whatever form it takes! I HATE shopping, but I love saving money.

I hope no one feels pressed to conform to something that just stresses them out, when they can accomplish their goals in other ways. I do whatever works for ME at the TIME, and try to just let the rest go.

today's savings

December 18th, 2005 at 10:05 pm

Well, I HAVE managed to go a whole day without spending, even on S&H for freebies. Possibly because I have a cold, and slept all morning despite the Airborne. I think I got fairly run down over the last two weeks. At this rate, I will have the Airborne rebate faster than anticipated.

I saw on another coupon board that Giant is having another crazy 8 sale, so I will check that out, and try to start planning holiday dinners. We usually do appetizers, munchies (zakuska) on Christmas Eve, then snack on them over lunch the next day while dinner cooks. It's just so much easier. We aren't having anyone over this year, though, and no one is coming here. Last year we had the family over. Sister from Monterey came over, and we had to buy gloves, scarf, coat, boots, robe, etc. Now, it's not bad out here, and she wrote to ask me to ship her warm things to her in Monterey because she's freezing! It is always something.

Did clean out a few pages from the household/gardening freebies. At least it's a small section. The health section, AGH. Wonder if we should have a separate section for Rx versus OTC and other health freebies.

Katwoman, thanks for showing me the other coupon links. Love it! As soon as I figure out the print thing.

So, dinner tonight, probably my cheapest dinner. Take a 10 cent package of Raman soup mix, make it using an extra cup of water, a boullion cube, a touch of soy sauce or ginger, and a bunch of frozen veggies or leftovers, like broccoli. Excellent soup, costs NOTHING. And the veggies make it a bit healthier.

Cutting costs at Christmas

December 18th, 2005 at 07:32 pm

Trying to catch up with the doggie costs all around, and having our usual holiday cheer without spending more money.

I'm reminded of growing up in poverty, when my mother's business was first starting up. She has got to be the most frugal person I know, and we always had a storybook Christmas, even though we had no money. I mean, we didn't save money at Christmas, because we had none to save or spend. And yet, we had it all. Here are a few things she did:

Christmas tree: Free from neighborhood school after they have let out for the holidays. Usually came with decorations, as schools don't store them. In pre-teens, she picked up a used artificial tree from our music teacher, who was buying a "better one", so ours was free.

Christmas tree skirt: old sheet.

Wrapping paper: Purchased after the previous Christmas, if at all. Reused every year. If you bring the two edges together over the package and fold tightly, it forms a tight seam, tape not required except a tiny bit on each end. Unwrap carefully, fold, reuse. Smaller pieces save for smaller gifts. White Butcher paper or kraft paper, used for lining baking tins, etc., was also a fairly cheap cover; newspaper a stand-by.

Gift tags: Fronts of old Christmas cards; scraps of the wrapping paper, folded over and cut into "matching gift cards", write the name all over the blank craft paper to make a design of the name.

Breakfast: She baked stolen, tea rings, etc., for everyone sale, and kept the "imperfect" one or two for us and her relatives.

Cookies and candy: baked hundreds of dozens of cookies, made divinity, fudge, you name it, for sale and put aside a few each time for the family. Kept them frozen until Christmas Eve, so they were fresh.

Decor: Well, the house was loaded with gingerbread houses, cookies, christmas shaped lollipops, and it looked like something out of a magazine. It wasn't for us to eat, but it was still festive to be around.

Other tree decor: Popcorn balls wrapped in plastic and tied on with scrap ribbon; sugar cookies covered with royal icing then hand-painted, wrapped and tied onto the tree. Unfortunately they often were sold to people dropping by to pick up their other purchases, but there were always a few left.

Ham, Sweet Potatoes: Always bartered cinnamon rolls or tea ring or stolen or hand dipped chocolates, a pound of candy for 5 pounds of sweet potatoes, etc.

Gifts: Always the cereal box top, UPC, Kool-Aid, other offers for whatever toys we had. All of our clothing was hand-made, and scraps became doll clothes and quilts, a plastic tomato container became a dolls bed; she traded stitched doll clothes for crocheted doll clothes to round things out; even Halloween candy (received, not given out!) got wrapped with Christmas foil to become stocking stuffers.

Yule log: Since uncles were almond growers, there were always dead trees to cut down after storms, and Dad and I would set aside the best yule log to dry two years ahead.

Potpourri: who needed it? The house always smelled of fresh baked good and vanilla.

I received an email yesterday from a friend who was missing the smell of my home at Christmas, and thinking how very lucky we were to be so rich and have such a magical place during the holidays. She has no idea her family was the family my mother envied for THEIR incomes.

Cost of Christmas: Zero $
Cost of Memories: Priceless!

Using free with purchases

December 17th, 2005 at 10:32 pm

Yesterday my hair stylist informed/agree with me that my hair is falling out. It's always been really thick and fine, and now it's just fine. She told me about a GNC product that works well, I looked it up on a few sites and it's gotten 5 stars across the board.

So, went through eBates (5% cash back), to drugstore.com, which is having a $25 off $100 on GNC products. That's quite a bit of GNC! My GNC Gold Card expired last week, so I renewed it, getting a discount of 20% on everything, found the protein drinks and bars MD eats on sale, 25% off, so 20% off of that, then the 5% eBates and the 5% from using a dividend cashback mastercard, which gives 5% on drugstore. Plus got a few free with purchases and some other items we needed, as long as I was getting free shipping anyway.

Free gifts with purchase, well, there is always a use for them. drugstore.com always has Philosophy freebies, usually a bath gel, and they make nice gift baskets, or I use them myself. Last year there were freebies on Apple Cider and Gingerbread bath gel, which smelled nice but not exactly to soak in. So I diluted a bottle to make 10 bottles of hand soap, which replaced potpourri and candles in already crowded bathrooms, and smelled wonderful every time you washed! I had leftover concentrate, which I saved for this year. Guess I'd better get on that!

Yves Rocher is also having quite a few freebies, I did order a hand cream kit since washing my hands constantly from the sick dog has pretty much stripped them. Received the crystal earrings watch set, a large bottle of perfumed lotion, a 15 piece trial size set, free shipping, a purse, a free "most expensive item on your list", etc. Plus 15% back from Ebates. So, I'm starting gifts to collect for next year.

I am careful about not getting suckered into the loss leaders, just buying things I have no use for to get the freebies that I have no use for. And I'm careful about getting a decent freebie, not just a trial size something. Drugstore.com, beauty.com, always have nice size freebies. Some of the other sites, it's like "why?".

So, trying to get back into the wise and wiser shopping mode. I did NOT appreciate that drugstore.com, which always has free UPGRADE shipping to 3 day, now wanted $4 to upgrade, and automatically put it in. I caught it and took it out, but how irritating!

Must be getting back to my cheap little self.

Zoe's samples and other savings of the week.

December 17th, 2005 at 06:30 pm

Okay, DESPITE spending a fortune on two dogs in the last ten days...the rest of the week we saved quite a bit.

First, well, neither of us shopped for groceries, gas, anything we normally would have. We lived out of the pantry and staples of soup and bread and frozen Healthy Choice free dinners from previous super savings.

Second, we received two rebate checks from Zyrtec Rewards, the Gillette rebate, a check from a survey, and some great coupons and freebies.

I received my offer from Zoe's Granola/Bars to "Break the Donut Rut" in the office, I was really surprised. The offer does require an office address and email, and I did email them that I was retired, but still went into some morning meetings as a consultant, sent my home address and email. I didn't expect them to send anything, and if they did, I was certain it would be a few tiny trial size bites, like the Luna bar samples are. BUT Zoe's sent a full box (12) of full-size granola bars, 12 packages of granola, each with a 50cent coupon on them, 5 coupons, 3 large post a note pads, and some other stuff. The granola is QUITE tasty. My husband doesn't like granola, and he eats protein bars only, but he enjoyed both.

Lots of offers in the email that actually did make some good buys. Things I would not have otherwise purchased, but that were such great ideas and buys....well, you see my problem.

the festivity of spending! - this week's challenge

December 17th, 2005 at 06:18 pm

Oops. Well, yes, we've been going through a bit. But no matter what, it seems that the last week or two before the holidays, I really get caught up in the sales and gifts. I start second guessing what I've already purchased, or find something better, or sometimes just swamp people with quantity instead of quality. Technically my shopping was done at Thanksgiving, and yet I've just found the neatest deals and gifts for hubbie, and of course the new pup needed things...

It happens every year, just like baking Christmas cookies or tea rings or drinking egg nog. It's just not festive without that last minute shopping, spending, wrapping. It's a tradition. Spending is a holiday tradition. That's a sad statement, but it's true. It doesn't "feel" like the holidays when all the gifts are purchased in sales during the year and shoping is done by Labor Day.

So, this will be my challenge this week. No more shopping! No more last minute super neat gotta have it rush it to me at all costs gadgets.

For MD, well, he hasn't STARTED his shopping yet, so he had better NOT make this HIS challenge! ;-)

I'm back!

December 17th, 2005 at 06:11 pm

Well, haven't really felt like logging on, or perhaps I just haven't wanted to deal with my spending! Shopping can't fill the void, but it does help fill in the cracks!

The new pup is doing well. He may be too smart for us. He came home Monday night, we had freezing rain/sleet/drizzle/snow for two days, yet he's already got the housebreaking down pretty well. 5 out of 5 poops outside yesterday, had to leave him in the crate while we both got hair cuts and NO messes, and I don't think he's peeded in the house in days, except this morning when he was begging for more treats, and I started ignoring his "needs" and he went over to the one training pad we have out and peed right on it. So, considering we weren't exactly TENACIOUS with him when we were all freezing in single digit weather, he's doing okay.

Still missing my sweetheart, but am realizing more and more how much pain she was in. Furious with the vet for misdiagnosing things. But I still have a hubby and my own tumor and my Dad's CHF to deal with, and I go on.

Have ALOT of Cosequin. Stocked up on sale before she got so ill. Anyone with a cat or small dog need it? Other stuff, the new orthopedic beds and toys, just trying to put everything away. Well, actually, the bed pads we've used to block off the backs of the couches. Couldn't find little Max, and he had climbed through the back of our Lazyboy couch and was under the seat! Spent two days puppy-proofing electric cords, etc. Only a 4 pound pup, yet he pulled a wrapped and ribboned 5 pound add-on weight plate 3 feet before he started to eat the paper off.

So, we are finding our way back to the world of our daily lives. I'd better get back to finding coupons and freebies and SAVING that retirement instead of spending it on pain. Much better to spend on FUN.

Thank you again to all.

thank you all

December 14th, 2005 at 08:37 pm

Thank you all so much for your kind words.

The bills for ER and euthenasia came today. They don't waste any time on that end! Still quite a shock, taking having her given a clean bill of health FINALLY, then to send her off for a refill and never see her again. I do miss her!

She was an "oops" purchase following a miscarriage 14 years ago, when we learned I couldn't have children. We ended up playing with some pups to cheer ourselves, and one curled up in my lap and came home with us. She's been my baby ever since.

Now I have a new little man curled up in my lap. And PetSmart costs, doggie pads and rug cleaning solution and TOYS AND TOYS AND TOYS. I've never had a corgi, but he certainly is a bundle of love and energy. Now different vet bills and expenses, and learning experiences.

The Puppy Kit they gave us came with a tiny greenie, and of course I thought it was a chew toy, GREATLY needed, not an edible toy......green poops on my white carpet. Running out to get ANOTHER bottle of pet stain remover. Last pup was housebroken in three days. Sigh. Feel free to post helpful suggestions on this one!

Not quite sure how I will handle the "gifts" the dog bought her Dad...silly little things, like a remote meat thermometer and skid-proof shoes for walking her on the ice. I've had to put away all her gifts, the new coat and treats that are much too big and not quite right for the digestive track of a pup.

At least MD hasn't fed him a burrito. THAT happened when we brought our first dog home, and I was at work. Got a call asking what I used to clean the rug...

Still waiting to hear how long my father has. Been a rough Christmas. But, again, it's a time to rejoice at the GOOD things and wonderful times. And I rejoice in the wonderful comments I received from each of you.

Now to hit the freebies and coupons and find PUPPY gifts!

Thank you so much.

grieving for my pup

December 13th, 2005 at 08:27 pm

Well, yesterday was horrible. The pup was too ill to even have a biopsy, she had cancer everywhere and our vet just hadn't caught it when we noticed various symptoms. It was SUCH a hard decision, and I miss her. But I had to do what was best for her, and she was just so sick.

So, hubbie brought home a puppy. Spent today scrubbing down the house and puppy-proofing all the little chewy look-what-I-found things. Put our other dogs things away for now. Savings, well, none that I would count. Grace, perhaps, survival. Distraction definitely keeping up with a 8 week old. Nothing like our old pup, except in the eyes.

So, no posting on savings and ideas today. Thank you for the well wishes.

Medicare and SSI

December 12th, 2005 at 11:58 am

I posted this in the discussion forum, but realized that's really just a debate going on between two members. So, I'll stick to keeping my thoughts in my journal!

I am retired at 40 and living the life on no retirement (until we reach that age), and caring for two elderly parents on SSI/Medicare.

Self-coverage of medical insurance without government assistance is expensive, right now hubbie and I each pay $500 a month WITHOUT prescription coverage.

SSI, whether or not it is there in 10, 20, or 50 years is not as much of an issue as the medical coverage under SSI.

Right NOW, many people on SSI can barely stretch their monthly check to cover their medical insurance. Under SSDI or SSI, yes, they receive Medicare. Medicare plan A covers hospitalization ONLY, and if you are "fortunate" to qualify for part B, they cover HALF of your medical, just doctors and tests, no meds or eyes or dental. To make up the difference, you must buy a Medigap plan, which is Aetna or BlueCross, etc., and covers the other HALF of what Medicare ALLOWS (i.e., no scripts, dental, eye). MEDICAP ONLY CONTRIBUTES TO WHAT MEDICARE ALREADY ALLOWS. A Medigap insurance plan is around $250 a month, although if you want to go the HMO route, there are a few lower, and some are up around $500 A MONTH.

Now, add in the Rx. Medicare Part D covers a small amount, then nothing until you reach "catastrophic" coverage needs. So, you can pay a premium to cover a small amount of meds on the chance that you MIGHT need meds later, or you can try to find a plan that will cover your meds if you are ALREADY at catastrophic leves (i.e., you already know you will zip past the donut hole and into full coverage). Insurance companies don't want to cover a known loss.

So, if you are LUCKY enough to have SSI and Medicare, you will need ALL the SSI check to cover the Medicare/Medigap/PlanD, plus some.

One more thing, it is easy to plan for living on your own invested retirement. It is quite another to actually have to start withdrawing money to pay expenses once you've retired. We never had a GOAL to retire at 40, but it happened. It's good, but not as easy as it sounds.

day and new savings

December 11th, 2005 at 09:55 pm

We spent 3 hours with the pup in ICU today. Really she seems to be doing pretty well. Fed her a can of Mighty Dog by hand (or fingers) and some water, got her calmed down a bit. Hubby and I are in a bit of a disagreement about what will happen after the biopsies tomorrow. So, we will wait.

Dad, well, can't get a straight answer out of anyone, but don't know that they have one.

I did find a new savings that should add up quite nicely.

When I had the mammogram, I spent a good bit of time SCRAPING the Secret off of my underarms. The mammowipes just weren't cutting it, and they were picky about getting all traces off. I had a small trial of Dove in my purse, so used it afterwards, and WOW. Silky, smooth, gentle smell, and NO GUNK.

So I dug out my sample of Dove shampoo and conditioner. My stylist would have a heart attack, he makes sure I buy Biolage and MAtrix and KMS and Keratase, none of which particularly work well for my hair, or my allergies, or my budget. So I have maybe 30 large bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Quite a few different deodorants, too. LOADS of pomenades and mousses and gels and anti-friz and extra curl and stuff that makes my hands peel! HUNDREDS of dollars, and I don't like any of it.

Well, the Dove worked beautifully! Hair is soft, silky, shiny, which is surprising because I have fine thick wavy uncontrolable hair that only my hairdresser can seem to work with. I picked up a bottle, and it is maybe $3, when Keratase is $40 or more. So, I'm switching and seeing what happens, and hopefully the savings will add up quickly!

the day

December 11th, 2005 at 03:18 pm

Well, MD and I are getting ready to visit the dog in ICU. Hoping I can stay upbeat for her. She is so sensitive.

I can't believe how many areas of my life she touches. Trying to select gifts and wrap them, I always buy her gifts, toys, treats. This year she was getting gift cards for Boston Market (she loves chicken!). Her new beds are here, ready for her to use. Piles of dog freebies for her to try. Coupons.

Just planning our Christmas Eve and day, we always add something to the menu that SHE will like, piroski or CHICKEN something. Trying to come up with the menu, choose gifts, go through catalogs, even just cleaning the house and her hair and little wet paw prints, it's just in my face that she might not be coming home.

So, today will probably not be the routine cleaning and workout and getting ready for the holidays. I may just come back and lose myself in moderating the freebie/coupon section and searching down NON-puppy freebies.

Every Christmas is a crisis. MD's cancer and emergency surgery, my sisters cancer and emergency chemo/surgery/radiation, etc., my father's CHP, my own assault, seems like there is a crisis every year that just wants to drag me away. But the season is for REJOICING, and giving, and sharing. So, I choose to REJOICE for the good times we've all had, REJOICE that MD had a 1% survival rate and is still here, REJOICE that I am still here and able to help everyone else through these times. GIVE the dog food and treats to the local shelter, GIVE my husband anything he wants for the holidays, be it baking or gifts, or just time. GIVE my fahter my love, phone calls, love.

It's not easy, but this is my goal for the day, for the week. Not exactly a SAVINGS challenge, but it's still a challenge.

Signed DAd up for Toprol XL rebates and coupons

December 11th, 2005 at 03:08 pm

Well, Dad is doing a bit better with his CHP. Still trying to work out his medicare and new meds. I was happy to find that Toprol XL not only has offers on their website, but excellent information on his condition that I forwarded to my family. Everyone is struggling to understand what is going on, and what the prognosis is. This all just came up out of the blue. Still on stand-by to rush out there. But at least I can do these little things out here to try to help, even though I can't fly out there right now.

Just little things, but it helps to do SOMETHING.

Another Zelnorm rebate coupon and Zyrtec rebate coupon!

December 11th, 2005 at 03:05 pm

I should look through my email alittle better.

I signed up for the Zelnorm and Zyrtec rebates and received coupons by mail. I used them. Zyrtec automatically sent another, but nothing from Zelnorm. So many of these deals are one time only. I had an email from their newsletter, but it didn't SAY Zelnorm, so I didn't open it until now. Clicked the link to their site, answered three questions (do you, did you, will you continue to) and received a message that they will automatically mail me my next savings voucher rebate coupon. No forms to fill out again, etc. NICE.

So, guess I should actually pay more attention to the newsletters I sign up for. I do try to screen them for offers that others might be interested in, especially for my family, but for me, I rarely take the time.

dog food coupons and freebies

December 10th, 2005 at 09:37 pm

Well, MD went to visit the pup and sit down with the vet. Not looking great for the pup.

We agreed before hand that only one of us would go, so I stayed here and looked into finding new food, since her diet will change if she makes it. Also coupons, everyone needs coupons right now. Found some pretty good ones, Purina, Beneful, Iams, Eukanuba, Science Diet, large and small dog, Pedigree, Mighty Dog, some new brands and freebies I haven't heard of before. It's all posted in the Freebies and Coupons sections of the site.

Hoping that this helps us all get through this month.

Just found a helpful coupon site!

December 10th, 2005 at 05:34 pm

Wandering through Sunday's Valassis coupons, their packet recommended a site which lists all their coupons, value, expiration dates, etc. I checked it out, and SUCH a neat feature, they have local ads, like Giant Foods, cross referenced with coupons, to actually give a spreadsheet of sale price, coupon, other specials, final price, and % savings. I LOVE IT.

couponmom

There are lots of other features, some questionable things, lots of the same offers found elsewhere, like Eversave and Cool Savings. But the coupon summary/organizer/finder etc. may turn into a favorite place for me.

Sunday's coupons today

December 10th, 2005 at 04:39 pm

I do appreciate that our paper delivers Sundays coupon inserts on Saturday. This week just SmartSource and Valassis. Not nearly as great as last weeks, but Pillsbury, Green Giant, Bisquick. The Milton Bradley board game rebate form AGAIN, I guess some people missed it the first time around. FINALLY a Berio olive oil coupon.

I usually check the web sites against the coupons -- when they put out a coupon, they often update and have other offers on their web sites. I'll post if I find anything interesting.

I definitely need to get back to adding up the holiday spending/savings and see where we are on the budget. It's hard when I find great deals, the budget seems to fade away. I really tend to get caught up in the festive BUYING in the season, too. It's not nearly as much fun shopping and saving in September as it is SPENDING in December. Tis the season!

pups in ICU

December 10th, 2005 at 03:46 pm

The dog is now in ICU, waiting for surgery on Monday. We can go visit her, but I don't know that she would understand why I am leaving her there. When we kennel her, the next we see her we take her home and give her treats!

The Nolvadent finally came. Still can't believe it was $11 at www.healthypets.com, and $40 at 1800PETMEDS. Also picked up the C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Kit for Dogs for $8, whereas my vet has been charging MUCH more.

www.NationalPetPharmacy.com had the Cosequin, 180 caps for $50, and some of the C.E.T. toothpaste and toothbrush items. The dual ended toothbrush is around 12 inches long, so she can bite it instead of hubbie. I still like Katwoman's idea for the swab, though. The vet and other sites online were charging over $50 for 90 caps of regular Cosequin, most more. www.healthypets.com is actually a bit cheaper, $40 for 180, but I didn't find it before I had already ordered. Both sites gave good service and fast delivery.

The vet keeps changing the pain/arthritis meds. Rimadyl, Tramadol (Ultram), Metacam. And the antibiotics, Clavamox and clindimycin. Nothing we can send out for cheaper scripts yet. Hopefully things will settle once she gets through this surgery.

I did break down in my sadness and bought her two new orthopedic bed/pads. Emotions and savings just don't always mix.

Not exactly a savings day

December 9th, 2005 at 09:56 pm

Well, the dog spent the night in the doggie ER, MD didn't get home until 10, and he started at the vet at 1. Now they have called and are holding her over the weekend with catheters, etc. and will do a biopsy and maybe surgery on Monday. More tests, x-rays, COSTS. She is worth every bit to me, she was my replacement baby after a miscarriage, but that doesn't mean we don't feel the costs.

I've been looking for a microfleece thick plush robe, men's extra tall and full floor length, double thick. Hah! I'm pretty good at finding my around the internet, but this is just too specific! It's not like MD has actually SEEN the item, but what he would like.

Did find a super site for gym equipment. We are upgrading and improving our home gym, but Dick's Sporting Good or Sports Authority don't carry the full range of choices and parts. So, from the super site, I found three sites I'm happy with, good prices, quality products. I did a test order from each site, and the delivery time and quality was good. I accidentally got in on a one day 20% off sale on a weight bench that had already been reduced from $500 to $200, with free shipping (at 150 pounds for the bench, that's not insignificant shipping costs) and it arrived within a week. So I placed orders for a few more things.

I am losing track of what I've bought or wanted to buy. Just too much going on between my health and my Dad's, trying to get his meds sorted out and still on standby if he turns for the worse again. And the dog.

Well, when in doubt, save.

I was pleased to hear that a package of coupons arrived safely, and hopefully will help someone else. Forgot to tell her that there were two packages, since hubby forgot a pile on the counter, so one priority mail envelope and one regular letter envelope. It's just been that kind of a week.


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