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Yard/Garage/Moving Sale DONE!

July 22nd, 2012 at 09:07 am

I had posted an ad on Craig's list for the sale, but that's it. I noticed several other listings for sales in our area, and then checked and saw that those people had also placed ads in the newspaper. Good enough for me. A Swimbaby made some signs and we sent her to post them at intersections near the other sales. I just listed our street name in the posting because I didn't want "early shoppers." Several years ago we had a sale and had people prowling around our back yard in the middle of the night before.

Interesting. We said the hours were 7am-1pm. True to the garage sale culture, there were people here at 6am, which I always find irritating. Then a couple of them said, "You don't have much stuff," to which I replied, "We will have a lot at 7am." Grrr! And we did have a lot by 7am. We were hauling it all out of the house as fast as we could. It was a very hot day, and most of the shoppers came before 9:30 am.

I let the Swimbabies and The Husband handle the sale for the most part. I gave prices for a few big items, and then went inside and cleaned house and did laundry. I don't usually like being out there because I usually see children from work, and I just don't like to.

The great news is that lots of stuff is gone, and we will have much less to move. It was just amazing. I looked at some of the stuff and had no idea where it had come from or how long we'd had it. People just give us stuff all the time, thinking we'll like it/need it, and we had just been saving it in case we did need it.

The Husband wanted to get rid of stuff more than he wanted to make money. And probably because he works all the time and doesn't buy much, he's pretty unaware of prices. Some things he tried to sell for too much money, but mostly he was practically giving things away! He sold our lawn mower for $15. I started to throw a mini-tantrum, but he reminded me that it had been sitting outside for 4 years, he didn't know the condition for sure (it hasn't been covered or maintained), and we haven't used it in all that time because someone else mows our lawns. So it's not like he was selling something we'll need to replace. Heck, I think my dad handed down that lawn mower to us in the first place. Years ago. Whatever. It's gone, and we no longer have to deal with it. I've got to say that he was probably right. We don't want to have to move things that we won't use/don't need.

One really, really sweet family from France came by at the very end, right before we were about to clean up. They had a darling little child with them, and we had fun picking out things for her. We sent them off with snow boots, mittens, some books, some bath toys and a tutu. We chatted a little (in French! Fun to practice!) and learned that they are graduate students, so we gave them everything for free. It was the highlight of the day.

My best friend is having a yard sale in two weeks, so I think I'll load everything that's left and take it to her house. It will help her to have more stuff, and we might make a few more dollars. After that, it all gets donated. I'll be putting a few things on Craig's list this week and I have a pile for eBay, too.

We did make a decent amount of money. Other than a few $15-25 items, it was a lot of 50 cent or one dollar books, items of clothing or toys. It all added up fast. And it's over. Smile

A Little of This, A Little of That

July 20th, 2012 at 09:52 am

On the rental topic, I had forgotten our savings in terms of property taxes. Yes, we'll be missing out on another tax deduction, but our property taxes are currently just over $8,000 a year. I won't miss that.

Our power is off today due to some construction in the area or something. But our internet router has a battery back-up, so we've got internet, at least. I'm hoping that the power won't be off too long. For one thing, it's supposed to be very hot today-- in the 90s. I knew about this ahead of time, but I'd forgotten about the possibility of food going bad. Hope that doesn't happen.

I always forget all the ways we "need" the power. Our drinking water comes from the fridge dispenser. I can't do laundry or cook or vacuum... I think we'll be heading out to the library soon. It will be cool and entertaining there.

I saw a friend yesterday and she reminded me about Ross Dress for Less. I like shopping there when I can stop by on a fairly regular basis. I used to work near one, and I'd stop by every week or so to look at dresses. Often I found nothing, but other times I found great stuff. I think the key is definitely checking back often. I never paid more than $15 for a dress for work, and they were very nice dresses. The friend I saw yesterday always has adorable dresses on, and that is her method, too. I'm hoping to find a Ross in the new area.

Dinner might be take out of some kind. We had some work to do tonight, because tomorrow's the moving sale! Can't wait to have all this stuff out of my house.

Happy Weekend, Friends!


July 18th, 2012 at 07:55 am

So it looks like we will be moving to an area that's even more expensive that the one we're in. Blerg. But it will be much, much more convenient for The Husband. He will get to reduce his commuting time to about 1/5 of what it is now. And that will save money, too. I'm a little consumed with arranging lessons/activities for the Swimbabies in the new area. Tons of work. I'll actually be closer to my job, too, which is great.

And mainly what is more expensive in the new area is housing. Gas might be slightly more there, but not much. Food will likely be the same. We currently pay a fortune for our water/sewer/garbage, and since I've never talked to anyone who pays more than we do, I'm assuming it will be less.

After tons of calculating, web-searching, and late-night discussing, we have decided to find a place to rent in the new area. Not buy. I'm not gonna lie. I think it will stink, at least part of the time. The really nice places to rent are CRAZYEXPENSIVE, and we're just too cheap for that! Big Grin So we are searching for "clean and safe in the right neighborhood." The advantage will be that we can save a significant amount of money and once we know the area better, buy whatever we want (almost Smile). The disadvantages will include little (or no) yard, much less space, and no mortgage write off. There are more things in the advantages/disadvantages columns, but those are the big ones. Help. What are some pluses/minuses that we might be forgetting?

We're trying to think of it as an adventure.

In money news, I got a few checks in the mail (birthday gifts and Pinecone), which I will send off today. I'm waiting for still more checks from second spin, which will probably arrive as soon as I deposit the others. Wink

I'm planning to make Mexican food for dinner... rice, beans, tortillas, salsa, guacamole, corn, lettuce. Everyone makes their own burrito/tostada/tacos and we are all happy. It's quick, cheap, and easy.

Out to Lunch

July 17th, 2012 at 07:02 am

I'm not a meat lover. And for three dinners in the last week, I've eaten a toasted English muffin with sliced tomatoes and avocado. It's the perfect dinner as far as I'm concerned. The tomatoes have come from our garden, and it's been easy to find cheap avocados lately. Win-win. The Husband has been making up turkey burgers (his special mix) for the carnivores, so they are happy, too.

I went out for lunch yesterday with The Husband. It was more than we would normally pay, but it was a fancy place and we lingered and completely enjoyed the food, the atmosphere and the entire experience. We were celebrating a few things, and we were without children, which was a treat. (You know I love my kids, but we rarely get out alone!) Our table was on the sidewalk on an active (but not too noisy) street. It was a great meal, and it felt like a short vacation!

Anyway, I ordered soup and salad. The soup was OMG! Amazing! It was a roasted sweet corn bisque, and for sure I will be trying to make something similar at home. My salad had ripe teeny tomatoes and blue cheese and was delicious, too. The Husband ordered a sweet corn risotto, and it was loaded with mushrooms and leeks.

I went to the gym this morning to run on the treadmill. I'm nursing an injury, so I haven't been running as much as I'd like to be. Today I'll be running some errands. Post office. Cleaners. Credit Union. Bleh.

It's T minus 4 days until the gigantic yard sale. I'll be so glad to have all this stuff out of the house. I need to get my Craig's list ad done, and call a charity to pick up all the leftovers on Monday.

Happy Tuesday, Friends!

LOVE My SA Friends!

July 13th, 2012 at 07:10 pm

What a fun day! Monkey Mama (and Big Monkey), Thrify Ray (and daughter!) and Laura (Keeping It Frugal) are probably still together. I had to leave early, but it was great to meet everyone, including Looking Forward, who also had to leave early.

We met at a bakery this morning... it was a little like a blind date! I didn't really know who I was looking for, but saw a group of women and it was them! I had a really, really delicious English muffin and a latte, and we all sat and chatted. TOTALLY GREAT! I had missed some emails so didn't know the whole plan and needed to drive to the next destination (the others had an adventure!) Still, I was thrilled to meet up for lunch and a nice walk along the foggy bay.

I cannot even express how fun it was to see everyone. I just loved it! What a nice, nice group of people. I wish we could meet regularly for coffee or whatever. Hope we can do it again!

SA Friends and the Color Run and Buffalo Salads

July 12th, 2012 at 07:31 pm

I'm excited to meet a few SA friends tomorrow!

And on Saturday, our family is going to do the Color Run in San Francisco. I'll have more to report on afterward, but basically it's a 5K, and participants are sprayed with color throughout the race. A couple of the Swimbabies got really excited when they heard of it, so we all signed up. It wasn't really a frugal purchase... but the point of being frugal to start with is to be able to spend money on whatever we want to at times. I figured it would be an EXPERIENCE. I think it was $30 each, so a more than a movie, but less than an amusement park (which we don't love, anyway).

Last night we had delicious Buffalo Salads for dinner. The carnivores ate chicken and I had Boca chicken, and we tossed both with spicy buffalo wing sauce. We piled up the lettuce, sliced carrots, green onions, fresh tomatoes, fresh corn (cut off the cob), and sliced celery, and then topped it off with chicken and a drizzle of ranch dressing.


And for dessert, I made these trail mix cookies. Wow.


See you in the morning, ladies! Smile

Money Doings

July 9th, 2012 at 06:28 pm

It was the usual Costco trip today. The total is always right around $100, and today was no exception. $97.45. I had a Swimbaby with me, and was persuaded to buy a book and some junk food that I wouldn't normally get. We are still stocked on some other things, though, hence the total.

I finished my experiment on dry cleaners and found the one that is the best combination of cheap and fast and quality. I had taken 2 of The Husband's shirts to each of 5 dry cleaners, since our favorite place just closed. It was interesting to observe the customer service, in addition to price and quality. It was well worth the time. I was surprised by the clear winner.

Still cleaning out. Today I went through childrens' books and some craft supplies. Twelve days until the garage sale!

Two checks came in the mail from Second Spin, and I paid some monthly dues for Swimbabies' activities. That's about it on the money front for now.

More Cleaning

July 9th, 2012 at 01:06 am

Oh. My.

The house is a disaster due to big, gigantic piles of garage sale things everywhere. Today we tackled some of the garage, before it got too hot. There were lots of boxes out there that I've had neatly labeled and sorted for years. Unfortunately, some of them haven't been gone through in years. I cleaned out many of the kids' costumes from past Halloweens and plan to sell those. I'm not sure why I've saved them, except that most of them I made and many are quite elaborate. I saved a couple per Swimbaby, but probably put 12 costumes in the pile. I also opened the "Sports" storage box and found 6 pairs of soccer cleats in various sizes. I had 7 boxes of Christmas things (ornaments, lights, books, etc) and reduced it to 4 boxes.

It was interesting because a large number of things in the pile were given to me by a good friend. She is one of those "I found this and it was only a dollar, so I bought three for each of us" types. She is very thoughtful toward others, and I do appreciate her. But many of the "I don't know why this is here because I don't like it/won't use it" items were things she had picked up for me. She won't be invited to our sale!Wink

I've also been organizing my recipes. I want to get rid of the recipe box and get everything into digital form. I'm making progress there, too.

1. Post office to mail secondspin.com items
2. Familiarize myself with selling on Craigslist and decide if it's something I can do or not (antique furniture)
3. Organize ebay items into a couple of boxes. I plan to sell some things (I've used ebay a lot), but don't have time to deal with them right now. So I gathered a couple of boxes that can be easily stashed out of the way. Then when I have time, I can list an item or two from the box.

Can't wait until the sale to get everything out!

Looking forward to meeting SA friends on Friday!

Friends Spending, Day Trips, and the Tube

July 8th, 2012 at 01:09 am

I commented on Monkey Mama's blog last week about a friend. She and her family just moved (needed a cheaper place) and then bought themselves a new couch, washer and dryer, microwave, and no doubt lots of other things they didn't really need. It's frustrating to hear complaints of money woes and then watch them spend. I suggested at one point that perhaps they could keep the old microwave or go without for even a few months, but those ideas were tossed aside. Today, said friend posted on Facebook that they had gotten a new fountain. I'm certain it wasn't free, but they love it because "it's so soothing!" Doh!

We've been taking some nice family day trips. Some have been well planned, others have had some surprises. As a result, we've spent more than usual on gas. And when, two hours from home, all the swimbabies started quarreling with each other, we stopped and fed them. Not planned, and I'd have rather saved that money... but there was some cushion in the budget, so it was okay. Just means we'll be spending a little less on groceries for the next few weeks.

And the tube... my face moisturizer comes in a tube. It's been difficult to get any of the lotion out of the tube for the last week. Today, I couldn't get anything to squeeze out. So I grabbed a pair of scissors and just cut right across the tube. I peeked inside, and there is at least enough moisturizer to last another week. I got what I needed today and put both ends of the tube in a zip lock bag to keep it from drying out. It always makes me happy to do that. Most people who throw out the tube, and not even think of cutting it open. I got an extra week for free!

Amazon Gift Cards Spent!

July 3rd, 2012 at 01:12 pm

I had $20 worth of Amazon cards from Swagbucks. I'd been saving them for whenever I might need them.

I placed an order yesterday for vacuum cleaner bags (we can't buy ours locally, so I would have had to drive 25 miles to get them) and a textbook for a Swimbaby's summer school class. Yahoo! It made the amount I had to pay about half of what it would have been! $20 for very little effort! Like!

More Cleaning Out

July 2nd, 2012 at 09:44 am

This cleaning process is going to be going on for a while. So much to do!

So far:
* I completely cleaned out our CD collection. The Husband made sure that everything is loaded onto iTunes, and I set up the Secondspin.com orders. Anything that SecondSpin wouldn't buy for $1 or more went into the yard sale pile. I may check one local place that buys CDs if I have time before the yard sale. Wow. We had a lot of CDs.

*With no CDs, we no longer have need of a CD player, not to mention the cassette player and receiver. So all that went into the pile. I will investigate the best (most profitable) way to get rid of that stuff. I don't think the entire world has gone digital, since we still have a record store in town!

*I cleaned out the very large collection of table linens, and reorganized what we're keeping.

*I went through a cabinet that was full of dishes, picture frames, candles... made a big dent there.

*And we hit the DVDs, too. For several years, we bought lots of DVDs. Well, maybe 2-3 a month. The prices were so cheap, we could get them for less than is cost to rent them, and since the kids had their favorites that they watched over and over, it made sense. Well, a ton of those went to SecondSpin, too.

Still need to work on:
*I need to get with it on Craig's List and ebay. There are a few items that we no longer need that are higher value.

*Make a list of everything that's going. I can start this today. The Husband and I were looking at the garage/yard last night. We own a lawn mower. In the past, we used it. But since The Husband has been in his current position, which has longer hours and better pay, we've paid someone to mow the lawns. Yep. It's going on Craig's List. Ditto some extra furniture that's been in the garage for two years.

*We have lots of holiday decorations for Christmas, Halloween, Easter and Valentine's Day, and I want to go through those boxes and get rid of some things. Each time I'm packing/unpacking for the specific holidays, I'm always saying, "I need to go through this stuff!" So I want it to happen this week.

*We have a gigantic filing cabinet. Someone gave it to us, and of course we like free, so we've been using it. But the thing is enormous. I think it's wide enough for legal sized papers and it's 4 drawers tall. I'm starting a search for cheap two-drawer filing cabinets.

So we have piles of stuff in our family room, and we've gathered the extra furniture there. It will be crazy for a couple of weeks, and then it will be gone!

Cleaning Out

June 30th, 2012 at 04:16 pm

Well, there could be a move in our near future. While I'm not sure of the details, yet, I'm using it as an excuse to clean out BIG TIME!

We have lots of books, for adults and for our Swimbabies, but we really don't need them. Into the pile they go! Not all of them, but I'm shooting for half. As I empty bookcases, I've been able to cut down on the number of those... so into the pile they go, too. We had quite a few DVDs, mostly given to us, but now that we can watch pretty much everything online, I don't see a reason to keep those, either.

And while I'm going through things, why not hit the closets again? I added some of my clothes and shoes to the pile... things I haven't worn in a long time or that I have never felt that comfortable wearing.

I imagine we will have a yard sale in a few weeks. The last time we had a yard sale, I swore I would never do it again. But because we have so much stuff (several pieces of furniture), it will at least mean less to haul to the thrift store. And of course, if we make a little money, I'll send it to my secret savings, and y'all know that will make me happy!

I'm motivated by the idea of traveling lighter. We just don't need all the STUFF. And I certainly don't have time to clean it all/dust it all/read it all/wear it all. I've enlisted the help of The Husband, and we're going through the garage, too. If we don't love it or use it all the time, out it goes!

I just keep thinking of how much easier it will be when we move. And if not in the near future, certainly in the next three years The Husband will be transferred.

I love watching the pile grow.


June 28th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Just got $10 in Amazon cards. I don't spend any time on Swagbucks... really I just get on first thing in the morning, do a quick search or two, snag my bucks and move on with the day... to check email and bank balances. I doubt I spend 30 seconds a day, but maybe that much. It pays off with $5 a month in Amazon cards... for maybe 15 minutes work? Tax free.

I know people use it more and earn more, but I'm okay with this for now.

Any great Swag tips? I'll consider doing more if it's really profitable!

Today: Computer and Yesterday: Groceries

June 27th, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Today I spent the day working at my computer on a project. It's more like a side job, related to some consulting I do ... anyway, I did lots of graphics work, set up a blog and an actual "dot com," and created Twitter and Facebook accounts. The last connected piece I want to get done is a Pinterest account, so I can get everything linked. Am I leaving anything out? It took a long time to get it all done. I've been needing/wanting to get this done for a few months, so I'm glad I can cross the set-up off the list.

Yesterday I went to the regular grocery store and to Costco. I've mentioned before that I ALWAYS spend right about $100 at Costco. It's crazy. Even if I buy something extra, I need less of something else and it just works out. This was no exception. I spent $106. I bought 25 pounds of flour, chicken, Tillamook cheese, 5 lbs. carrots, Laughing Cow cheese(4 pack), ground turkey(4 pk), a pineapple, wheat bread, sourdough bread, flour and corn tortillas, lunchmeat, and a twin pack of Sabra hummus, which is our favorite. I often make my own bread and hummus, but with all the kids home for the summer, we are going through everything faster than usual. It did seem like I got a decent amount of food for the price this time, which is always good!

Summer Movie Express

June 25th, 2012 at 09:34 pm

Regal Theaters have a summer movie program called Summer Movie Express. They show older (like on DVD, but not as old as black and white!) movies every Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for $1. They show two different movies each week.

My kids like to go. It's festive and fun, and I can deal with the $!, since it would cost money to rent the DVD, too. It makes it easy to take the kids' friends with us, too, if they want to go.

Tomorrow the kids are seeing Yogi Bear, and next week they are showing Hugo, which is a movie based on the book Hugo Cabret. They're even showing the movies next week on Wednesday (the Fourth of July), so we will take the entire family since The Husband will be off work.

You can just search for "Summer Movie Express" to find theaters and times.

I know they hope to make a mint on candy and popcorn, but we don't do that. Smile

Replacement Burger and Fries

June 25th, 2012 at 01:27 pm

We don't normally eat out much, and we are generally not fans of fast food. But a couple of weeks ago, we were on the road, driving a long distance. We stopped and got burgers, because it was fast, we were hungry, and we wanted to drive through and get home. (Just two of us in the car.)

Normally the food at this particular place is especially yummy. But this time, things were assembled sloppily and there was sauce and drippy things all over. And the worst problem... the fries! They were cold, limp, and unsalted. And there wasn't any salt in the bag!

Because we always cook at home, I'd actually looked forward to this meal. And I was really disappointed. The quality just wasn't there like it usually is. So, I sent an email to the company.

In today's mail was a letter from the company. Inside the envelope was a letter of apology and enough coupons to feed all six of us dinner. I should probably save it for another time when we're on the road, but I am feeling a bit lazy today, and we're going to cash them in tonight!

The Swimboy says, "Love free food!" But really, in this case, I paid for food that we didn't eat. So they owed us. Wink It just makes me feel good, though, when businesses are willing to acknowledge their mistakes and try to make amends.

Professional Dues and Job Applications

June 22nd, 2012 at 11:30 am

I need to spend some money for annual dues to my professional organizations. I've been putting it off a little bit. I need to pay two organizations... one is $39 and the other is $49, if I opt for the cheapest option of both, which I think I will do this year. I just need to decide that I'm ready to part with the cash! Smile Of course I will write those expenses off at tax time. Perhaps I'll submit those today. How much do you have to pay for membership in professional organizations?

Wouldn't you know it? Just when I posted about having my resume all ready to go, I got leads on four jobs I would LOVE that are slightly different from what I've been applying for. I will need to create another version of my resume... working on that today. I submitted seven applications yesterday! But with the job market the way it is, I'm trying hard not to get my hopes up about anything! I am not without work, so I'm trying to be thankful for that. I'd just like something different... better paying and more interesting are my goals!Wink


June 21st, 2012 at 08:20 am

I'm feeling thankful about a few things on this sunny, breezy, cool morning:

* I won't have to turn on the air conditioner today. I have a no-cook meal planned, and it's supposed to be 15 degrees cooler than yesterday... money in the bank!Smile

* That espresso machine is still going strong. I made a delicious vanilla latte, and I've been enjoying it while sitting on the couch. Peaceful.

* I am applying for new jobs for a variety of reasons. But I'm thankful to have my resume completely and ready to go. It makes it easy to apply. Fingers crossed!

* Tomorrow is pay day, but it doesn't really matter. There is plenty of food in the house, the cars are full of gas, the bills are paid, I'll pay a couple of things tomorrow, and no one really needs anything. Not that it won't get spent... but it's nothing urgent. Other paychecks come in next week and the week after.

* Three of the Swimbabies have jobs of some kind. They are hard workers, and are valued by their employers. I'm proud of their efforts and reliability.

* It's summer!

June 19

June 19th, 2012 at 11:29 am

My check from secondspin.com arrived. $21.94! Not really a lottery win, but that was the first time I'd used secondspin, and I was trying it out to see how it all worked. It was easy, and fast, and I will do it again! We have tons of CDs, but all our music is on our iTunes now, so there's no reason to store all those CDs. I already have plans for the armoire where they are kept!

The Swimbabies just cannot get enough homemade pizza! I think I could cook it three times a week for dinner and no one would complain... and that's fine with me! If it's not too hot, that is. It's so inexpensive to make, and everyone is happy. Last night we had a variety of toppings in different combinations. One Swimbaby only likes plain cheese. But other pizzas had mushrooms, olives, red onions, pepperoni, feta, fresh basil leaves from the garden, and sun-dried tomatoes. Easy. Cheap. Love.

I changed my investments in my IRA. I didn't realize that I'd had them set pretty conservatively. I understand the risks/benefits of changing. I know I could lose tons of money, but I have 20 years until I retire, more or less. So I went for it. In the first day after changing the investments, my account went up $100. Not a life-changing amount, I know, but I love to see balances go up! If it starts to go down at a rate I'm not comfortable with, I can always change it back.

The cash reward for our new, tiny car load hit our checking account. It was such a sweet deal to get $200, when we won't pay that much interest over the life of the loan, assuming things go as planned and we pay it off in December. And I have no reason to think that everything won't go as planned. Smile

Ideas for the heat?

June 16th, 2012 at 02:25 pm

It is crazy hot here. CRAZY. It was over 90 degrees at 10:00 this morning! And it's over 100 now. I'm pretty stingy when it comes to the air conditioner, but we turned it on at about 10:30. Crazy hot!

I just don't want to deal with it, so it's been an inside day for us. We've been reading and watching movies and working on a few projects around the house. I may go to the gym in a while, but I dread walking from the house to the car!

Tonight's dinner was supposed to be home made pizza, but it's way, way too hot for that. I'm not sure what we'll do instead, but it might be nachos, which are still a little "festive" (we tend to cook something fun on Saturday nights), but won't require the oven.

What delicious meals do you make when it's hot out? Any creative ideas for activities? It's really too hot to go to the pool, even. Searing.

My book club met yesterday and the food was great! We always do a potluck and it's interesting to see what people bring. Someone brought deviled eggs last night. I always forget about those, but they are cheap and tasty and would be a great addition on the nights we eat salad for dinner. Someone else brought lots of expensive, gourmet cheese, which I loved!

Someone told me about cash4books.com, so I decided to try it out. I entered UPCs for about 8 books, but only one was on their "buy" list, and the price they were offering was 47 cents. Ridiculous! I have lots of books that I no longer want, but I will likely try half.com again or just give them away to people I know or donate to the local library.

May Budget Review--- Fun!

June 15th, 2012 at 10:10 am

I just did the review of everything we spent in May. I made some changes to our car insurance, so it was less than usual, as were the gas/electric, water, home/cell phones, and transportation. I was pretty darn careful all month, and it paid off! Also, we barely touched the amount I allot each month for clothing, which was nice. Sent the surplus to savings.

On the other hand, it was a Swimbaby's birthday, and said kid really needed a new bike. She's had nothing but hand-me-downs in that department for her whole life... and while that's not bad, she's never gotten to pick out her own bike or even choose a color. Well, we are out of hand-me-down bikes, so we let her get a brand new bike. She's a kid who is responsible beyond her years with everything, so I know the bike will be locked and cared for. She contributed some of the money she got from relatives, and we paid $120 toward a very nice bike.

It is a constant struggle to get the food/household bill lower. Maybe I just have unreasonable expectations! Smile I budget $650 a month for food/paper products/personal care/pet food/shampoo/laundry soap... all that kind of thing... for six of us plus two cats and one small dog. More often than not, we go over, but almost always by $50 or less. I know I could raise the amount, but my goal is to keep those expenses as low as possible. Going over isn't really a problem, because I have a couple categories in the budget that are very flexible. We don't eat tons of meat, but I do buy tons of milk and organic produce.

Last month we spent too much on cleaning, as in "Taking The Husband's clothes to the cleaners." Our favorite cleaners suddenly closed, and we quickly just went to another one we knew of. Their prices were double! I need to find a new cleaners. This week.

We did well in the transportation category, which for us includes bridge tolls, Amtrak tickets, gas, and BART tickets. We have three cars and three drivers. We even had three day trips to the beach (with the crazy gas prices we've had!), and still did okay. I'm hoping transportation costs will go down even more in July. Probably not for June, due to a couple of planned trips, but July looks good.

I'm not expecting the June electric bill to be great, either. It's been hot, and I've run the air conditioning at least a little every day this week.

Ooooh! Did I tell you?! I love data!

Bits: Homemade Coffee and the Garden and Second Spin

June 14th, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I love a good mocha or vanilla latte.

Several years ago, The Husband invested in an espresso machine. It's a Gaggia, and it was not cheap. I don't remember how much it was, maybe $300?

I wasn't on board at all. But that was 8 years ago... It turns out that it was a great purchase. Most days, we make our morning coffee drinks at home. The days when we don't, it's usually because the Big Boy Swimbaby has gotten up in the middle of the night and consumed the last of the milk and there's not enough time to run to the store before starting the commute!

We make our own vanilla and chocolate syrups, and our homemade drinks are better than Starbucks. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't turn down a coffee drink from Starbucks, but it's nice to make them at home.

On the weekends, and on holidays when we have lots of family around, The Husband can make a bunch of custom drinks for everyone. Half-caff, nonfat, whole milk, no-foam, etc. The milk steamer part of our espresso machine is a favorite of the Swimbabies. He makes foamy hot chocolates for them, and they love it.

I just made myself an iced vanilla latte and it is yummy! Wish you were here!

The garden is growing well. We have lots and lots of green tomatoes on our many plants, but none are changing color yet. We've got lots of basil growing, and I'm hoping to make many cups of pesto to freeze. We're having a few very hot days (supposed to be over 100 tomorrow), and that usually helps get everything growing and ripening.

Not a fortune, but I did just get notice that my $22 check is on the way from SecondSpin.com. I mailed a handful of CDs that I no longer have need for, and I plan to send lots more. All those CDs are already in our iTunes, and I would rather have the space! I'm really in a cleaning out mood!

Paid Some Bills, Ebates, Car Refinance Rewards and Hot!

June 13th, 2012 at 03:00 pm

Not much happening... I paid some utility bills and the car insurance bill online. Whenever I do this, I'm always thankful that I have the cash to pay it. Always.

I noticed that some gifts that I'd purchased through Ebates were not credited to that account, so I emailed them. It's "just" a few dollars, but we all know how those add up. I thought to check because I was purchasing some *unmentionables* for a Swimbaby, and thankfully remembered to go through Ebates... so I should get a few more dollars back there, too.

The only debt we have is the mortgage and the recently-purchased-new-to-us car loan. I've mentioned before that we don't have/use any credit cards, so were a little concerned about lack of activity. We financed a very small portion of the car purchase, just to put some positive activity on the credit rating. I know there are mixed opinions on this, but we decided that it would work for us. So after we paid the first payment, we refinanced to The Husband's work credit union. They gave us an interest rate 3 full points below the other bank, gave us $100 for refinancing with them, and gave us another $100 for opting for payroll deduction. There is not a chance that we'll have paid $200 worth of interest before the loan is paid off. So we will have that activity we wanted (and were even willing to pay a little for, if need be) PLUS cash. Car loan will be paid off in December or sooner if I feel like it. I want to let it go six months. Win-win-win.

As I was writing this, I got the email from Ebates that they already credited the cash. Nice!

It's very hot here. I'll be making wraps for dinner tonight... hummus, spinach, couscous, avocado, shredded carrots, tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette. It's one of our favorite summer dinners, and I'm looking forward to it.

Donuts, Parties, and Costco thoughts

June 10th, 2012 at 11:33 am

I made baked mini donuts for breakfast... with two glazes. Pink, because the Swimgirls like pink, and chocolate, well, because it's the best. Wonderful vegan recipe with very little fat. They were a huge hit!

Today we have graduation parties to go to, and I need to get ready for just a couple more days of school. That will entail catching up on laundry, making some bread/rolls for lunches, and making a menu and grocery list.

We have had a Costco membership for years. It's worked well for us with so many kids. But now, we're eating much less meat (even chicken, which is about all we buy there), and much less everything, really, and I'm not sure that it's worth it. They raised the prices, so I don't think I will renew next year.

Red Light Ticket... Unbelievable!

June 9th, 2012 at 09:27 pm

I'm still shocked that The Husband convinced the powers of the court to dismiss the red light camera ticket... even more amazing is that the refund, which they said would take 6-8 weeks, arrived today! $500 and it will go straight to savings!

I spend $8.00 to go see a movie with friends today. It was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I loved it. Beautiful scenery in India, and a charming story. Nice afternoon.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

June 8th, 2012 at 08:25 am

Busy! All capitals! Busy!

We've just had too much to do around our house for a few weeks. I've been paying the bills, tucking what I can into extra savings, dropping off and picking up kids, working, cooking, and living. Next week things will slow a bit when everyone is done with school.

The Husband fought that red light ticket AND WON! We were stunned! Thrilled that we'll be getting a refund of that ridiculous $500 fine. The letter he got in the mail said it will take 6-8 weeks for the refund. A little annoying, since the check cleared within 48 hours when he paid! But it's coming back, at least.

Yesterday, I got $20 cash in survey rewards in the mail. I popped that check into an envelope and it's on it's way to my semi-secret-I-never-touch-it savings account. Small amount, but it feels good.

Also yesterday, there was a big package that was delivered for me. I was confused, because I hadn't ordered anything recently. Turns out it was from Pinecone Surveys... two frozen pizzas that they wanted me to try. The timing was perfect. I was exhausted from a hectic day at work, and the kids wanted pizza. We cooked it and ate it, and I'll report on it in a couple of days. Sweet!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Delicious Frugal Recipe

May 29th, 2012 at 09:25 pm

I love this sauce. It's a light tomato sauce with great tomato flavor. The only changes I make are to add extra garlic and to chiffonade the basil instead of putting it in the blender. I cooked some whole wheat spaghetti and we served it with parmesan cheese. Super fast. Cheap ingredients.

I have tons of basil growing in my garden, if you need some!


Garden and Veggie Burgers

May 26th, 2012 at 02:11 pm

I'm so pleased that we've got the garden in! We did it about a month ago and everything is growing well... except for the lemon cucumbers. The plants were eaten by snails as soon as they sprouted.

The tomatoes are doing great, and many plants already have fruit on them. We have 12 tomato plants this year. Our blackberry bushes are loaded, as are the grape vines. I planted tons of herbs, and they are all doing well. In fact, we have so much basil that I'm thinning it out and transplanting all over the yard. I can't wait to make lots of pesto to freeze!

I'm even considering planting some cucumbers and pumpkins in a strip of the front yard that gets good sun.

We will be having veggie burgers with homemade rolls for dinner. The burgers are loaded with garbanzo beans and Indian spices. I need to go to the store to get some fresh cilantro and a potato, but that's it. We will eat them with sweet potato fries from the freezer. I love a good veggie burger!

The Husband's Little Patent

May 25th, 2012 at 07:48 pm

The Husband wrote (created? designed?) a patent for work. Apparently it's a law that companies pay employees who create patents that eventually end up being the property of the company.

In the past when he's done this, the company generally pays $1. Yep, $1. That way they're following the law. This time, though, he's getting $500. Of course it will be tons less when the taxes are taken out, but his current company is a little more fair than former employers. Of course, the company could make millions on it, but oh well. I'll take anything over $1!

Gas prices are up, up, UP!
My personal energy level is down, down, DOWN!

So glad it's a three day weekend for everyone in the house (except a swimbaby who works at a healthy fast food place). Tomorrow I plan to sleep in, go to the gym, get a pedicure and go to lunch with friends. The pedicure won't cost a thing because I'll be using a gift certificate. Not sure about the cost of lunch.

Happy Weekend, Everyone!

Toner Cartridge

May 17th, 2012 at 08:04 pm

The name-brand cartridge for our laser printer runs about $80 at Staples, Office Depot, etc. The printer was $10 with rebate from Fry's a year ago, and we figured we would somehow find a deal when we needed one. We ordered a "compatible" one from Amazon and it was $15... and actually it was free because I bought it with Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks.

And the best news... it works great!

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