Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It PAYS To Ask!

When we received our tax assessment for the year we did not agree with what they valued our home at and decided to pursue an appeal with the assessor's board of review. We weren't all that optimistic since we knew from the news that they would not be considering any foreclosures in the comparable sales to help determine the property value, but it wasn't all that time consuming to write the appeal and gather the information.

Much to our surprise, we got the determination back yesterday and they lowered the taxable value of our home by $8500 and the overall value of our home by $17,000. Not as much as it could have been, but we were pleased none the less.

This morning I called our lender and let them know that our taxes will be adjusted based on this new assessment and asked if they would recalculate for our escrow account. They had me fax the letter over and we should have a new number for our June 1 housepayment. Our housepayment had gone up $200 based on the assessment earlier this year, this should help nudge that down a tiny bit.

All the money we get "back" from this can be rolled into our snowball again as our snowball went away with the increase in house payment.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Big Balls, Snow balls That Is!

So I decided that since money is so tight with Matt not working a full 40hrs/week right now that I needed to buckle down and get something going to move our snowball forward.

This month so far I've managed to pull together:

$50 in eBay money
$30 in a baby gear sale to a co-worker
$75 in cloth diaper resale

I also have some mystery shopping money that should be coming around the 20th for about $30 and I know that around the 30th of the month I get paid for a few other mystery shopping jobs, and that will be about $30 too.

All told that's $215 in money that I am putting right into our snowball!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday Shopping!

Tuesday is typically the day I spend my lunch hour doing some shopping since that's when the coupons are all posted and finalized on Savings Angel. I made a quick run to Walgreens and then to Meijer. I'll be making a few more trips into Meijer since they have a couple of deals I want to take full advantage of with a few more trips.

4 packs of Mentos gum, 1 bag of Chex mix, package of hair rubber bands, 2 Lysol toilet cleaners, 2 Lysol wipes.

Total spent: $5.77
Total saved: $20.33
Even better, I am getting a $3 rebate back from Lysol, and I got a $2 coupon to use on my next trip to Walgreens, so I actually ended up spending 77cents!

Silk Soy yogurt (large bulk container), 2lbs of organic baby carrots, 1 loaf of bread, 4 boxes of Kelloggs cereal, 6pk of Danimals yogurt

Total spent: $7.68
Total saved: $17.16
The soy yogurt for Nick was $2.99, which was almost 50% of what I ended up spending.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Frugal Easter Breakdown

So how did we manage to pull off a very frugal Easter this year for the kids? Well a huge "shout out" to the Target dollar spot to start with. I have been visiting on my lunch hour and picking up things here and there for the kids. I found a couple of activity books for Nathan there and some markers and Elmo books for Nick...and Lauren, well she's 1, let's just say that she's not old enough to know that I filled all her eggs with Kix from the cereal cupboard!

I also hit up a lot of the Walgreens sales for things when they were 39cents each, and that pretty well rounded out everything I shoved into the baskets (which were bought at Target last year for 75% off!). We certainly don't go overboard, and I would love to keep it that way.

Saturday morning we went to town and did the Kiwanis Easter egg hunt in the city park. It was bright and sunny out, so it was absolutely packed. They basically let the kids pick up as many eggs as they want and then they cash in their eggs for a goody bag at the end, which is fine by me. Kids can get brutal at these things, so I would rather just let them pick up a couple eggs and still end up with their "prize" and not have to fight for it. Nick ended up winning a special sand box kit too, which was nice considering how much sand we have in our yard and how much time we spend near water and sand during the summer.

Later on Saturday afternoon we went to church for EasterFest, along with about 500-600 of our closest friends (LOL right?). They literally had 10,000 eggs out in the field in front of church for the kids to grab, and it's always a mad dash (exactly what the park egg hunt is not). In any case, they do a ton of stuff with the kids like crafts, games, a hot dog cook out, a cake walk, face painting, and just an overall fun time to spend the afternoon.

Easter Sunday we went to church and made dinner for ourselves, my mother in law (and her husband), and our next door neighbor. It was a great time for all of us to sit around and talk and just fellowship with each other. Nobody ran right out the door after dinner, but nobody lingered for hours on end either, so once our guests left and we had things reasonably in order, we put the kids in the stroller and walked over to the park to play. It's not the biggest park in the world, in fact I've seen bigger play areas at preschools, but it's nice to have close by and it's never busy, so we go there quite a bit with the kids to play.

One thing we are really trying to instill into our children is that our Earth is precious and it's our gift from God to maintain and take care of, so when we go for walks, we always try to bring a bag to collect litter and trash in. Well we forgot this time, but while I was walking with Lauren at the park, I found a piece of litter that happened to be a plastic grocery bag, so as I walking around the park with her, I stopped to pick up random bits of litter here and there, and we had the bag pretty much full by the time we got home.

Spring Cleaning in a Frugal World

It's finally starting to get nice outside, and I have been motivated to de-clutter our house and get things going towards a yard sale. Not only will that reduce the amount of crap we have piled up everywhere, it will also bring a little bit of cash to the snowball.

Yesterday I attacked the mountain of toys in our house and rounded up all the pieces to things that would complete the sets and put those aside for the impending yard sale. I also attacked the pile of kids books. We have so many books piled up that it's just unreal. I emptied out the kid's bookshelf, grabbed all the books off of Nathan's dresser, and all of the books from Lauren's closet. I literally had a mountain of books around me!

I sorted out all of Nathan's older kid books for him and put those in the bookshelf that we keep in his closet (to protect them from the little kids) and he has so many books that I've picked up at yard sales, book fairs, and book orders that I was stunned at just how many there were once I got them all in one place. He was stunned too, and it was like seeing them for the first time all over again. I was thrilled when he started pawing through them and grabbing ones to read.

Then to attack the baby books. I made a tub of board and soft books that Nick and Lauren can play with and put those in the living room. Again, where did all of these come from??? I know I donated a huge pile to our church last year, so it's like they were breeding in the closet or something!

Finally it was time to sort out the books that are too babyish for Nathan, but not quite able to be handled by a toddler. I kept quite a few that I know that the kids will enjoy reading, but still ended up with 2 large grocery bags of books that I doubt we'll ever open and duplicates. I emailed Nathan's teacher from last year and told her that they were hers for the taking and anything she didn't want she could dump in the teacher's lounge at work since I have yet to meet a teacher who could pass up books for their classroom library.

Believe it or not, the sorting of the books and toys took me nearly 2 hours! At least I feel like I am making progress, one baby step at a time!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kitchen Science

Last night I was the mad scientist in my kitchen as I mixed and brewed my first batch of homemade laundry soap. My house smelled like the 50's with me standing there hand shredding my bar of Fels Naptha. It's currently sitting in my laundry area in a covered bucket until this evening when I need to stir it up and see how it worked.

This is the recipe I used:
1/3 of a bar of Fels Naptha shredded
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax

I used a small cheese grater and shredded a 1/3 of the bar of Fels Naptha into pot with 6 cups of boiling water. Stir until all the soap is melted, so it really helps to shred it as fine as you can and avoid big clumps. Add the washing soda and Borax and keep stirring until it's all melted and a thick liquid. Pour into your bucket with 4 cups of hot tap water and keep stirring. Add another 6 cups of water, and finally add a gallon of water.

I am supposed to let it sit overnight and use about 1/2 cup per load.

I didn't add any "scent" to it, but I've read that you can add a few drops of essential oils.

I spent less than $10 on all the ingredients to make this, and I'll see how many loads I get out of it and figure out if it's cheaper than buy my favorite liquid from Sam's Club (All Free and Clear).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Time to Stock Up Again

One thing that I have to do as a working mom of 2 kids in diapers, is be on my game to make sure that I #1 have diapers in 2 different sizes for the kids, and #2 am not breaking the bank doing so.

So I was thrilled to see some of the diaper deals this week that are to be had, especially since Lauren just moved up from size 3 to 4's and I was down to the last few in the pack and Nick can only fit in Huggies size 6 (since he's so big!).

Walgreens has their brand diapers on sale for $4.50 per pack, which is fine for Lauren since she can wear pretty much any diaper. Plus they have some register rewards out there that end up netting you free products (Colgate toothpaste and Edge shaving gel), and factor in a $2 per pack coupon! Do the math and you'll see that I am at about $2 per package of diapers, or about 6cents per diaper. Prior to being a coupon gazelle I was buying diapers by the case at Sam's Club for 18cents each (Members Mark brand) and thought I was doing pretty good.

CVS has Huggies diapers on sale for $10 per pack and $5 wipe refills, and if you spend $25 you get $10 off your next purchase. This was my big score since I can definitely use more diapers for Nick right now, and if by some act of God he potty trains, I'll just hold onto them know that Lauren will be in them eventually. I had some leftover printable Huggies coupons that are expiring in the next day or so, so I had to hop on this one FAST. I picked up 2 packs of diapers and a pack of wipe refills for $25, minus the $8.75 in coupons, which gave me an out of pocket on the purchase for $16.25 and have my $10 off my next purchase to use later on today to roll into my next round of diapers. Even if I lose the $10, the $5.40 each that I paid out of pocket for the diapers and wipes is better than store brand prices, so the $10 I'll be rolling only sweetens the deal.

I was talking to Matt last night about couponing and how it's work. It's a LOT of work, but if I figure out the time invested vs the money saved, I am confident that I am coming out ahead. The money saved is what is helping us get through the winter months when Matt is not working full time and we take a pretty significant hit in our income.

We're also starting to see some little improvements in our budget from changes we've made. I made changes to our cell phone plan that took us from $91/month down to $60, and we've dropped our car payment from $317/month to $100 and I am confident that the tiny loan we took on our van will be paid off very soon. Matt's hours are picking up in the next month, so we'll just maintain our spending and expenses and throw all that extra money coming in towards our SNOWBALL!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Search & Win

So a bunch of message boards I belong to are hopping on the Swagbucks wagon. I figured I would sign up and see. I have racked up about 25 bucks in the past few days and I'll see if it's worth it as far as what I can cash them in for. I used to do a similar thing with Blingo, but never seemed to "win" with it, so I gave that up ages ago. This way it looks like I'll be able to "redeem" vs win.

I posted my referral link if anyone is interested in trying it. Like I said, I see people on a few sites really racking up the "bucks" and cashing in, so why not right?