Archive for July, 2011
On Thursday I mentioned my plans to stock the pantry in preparation of the arrival of my little-one-to-be and my impending job loss. A few readers provided great ideas on preparing and freezing meals in advance as well as creating weekly menu ideas. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of both creating a menu and preparing make-ahead meals.
Yesterday I wrote about my impending layoff and my desire to plan and prepare so we can keep a nice little nest egg in the bank while I transition from full time employee to temporary stay-at-home mom. One thing I failed to mention was my desire to fully fund my 401(k). Given the fact that I have no idea how long I’ll be out of work, it certainly doesn’t make a lot of sense to put money away for retirement. After all, I’m pinching pennies all over the place to make certain we have accessible money to spare.
As the weeks until my inevitable layoff dwindle I’ve begun hard core preparations for my soon-to-be life without a job. I’m a planner by nature so it certainly helped for me to put a plan in place and start checking off the list of things to do.
First, I logged on to all of our bank accounts to see how our finances stack up. While I took a look at our overall retirement accounts, my main focus was on our checking and brokerage accounts. My husband keeps amazing track of our finances, so I also looked through the history of our bills to determine what big expenses might pop up in the next six to nine months. This included items like insurance, (our mortgage and auto insurance is always due in August), as well as property taxes on our homes in Maryland and North Carolina. I subtracted these expenses from our current totals to get a ball park idea of our liquid bottom line. Through gnucash, (our financial tracking tool), I was also able to forward project my remaining wages and estimate monthly bills like utilities and credit cards. This gave me a pretty clear picture of what number we’ll be staring at when the big day finally arrives.
Next, I reviewed the HR policies associated with leaving my company and realized that I would be paid for any unused vacation accrued throughout the year. I originally planned to take two weeks off this summer, but after reviewing the policy in detail I decided it’s more prudent to take less time off this year. After all, I’m about to receive a large chunk of time off in the form of unemployment. So rather than spending a week doing nothing, I’ll work that week and bring home an extra week’s worth of wages in my final paycheck.
Since the baby is due to arrive around the time my job ends I figured it would also be a good time to stock up on good bargains. Each Sunday for the past three weeks I shopped for deals at CVS and Rite Aid. Our minuscule hall closet now has enough razors, shaving cream, shampoo and other personal hygiene products to last us throughout the summer and the first few months of after the little one’s arrival. Since we own two homes, some of these products will make their way to the beach, so we have stock on hand there too.
My husband owns a small business, so I also picked up a few bargains at Staples the past two weekends. We now have a small stack of printer paper and various items I received free after rebate like highlighters, envelopes and pens. The goal with these purchases was as much about saving money as it was preparing to have items on hand so we aren’t forced with rushing out to the store with a little one in tow.
My husband also suggested stocking up the pantry when items go on sale. I’m all about being prepared, so for the first time in my life I might actually try to come up with a meal plan that will help us decide which meals to prepare. If anyone has ideas on the best way to create a meal plan please let me know. I have a feeling those first few weeks after birth will be a bit chaotic and I’d prefer to cook at home and avoid the dreaded take-out routine as much as possible.
Lastly, as I mentioned before, I called a bunch of companies that we subscribe to and asked for discounted rates. I also scrounged up some money by returning a bunch of unused items and selling a few other things on eBay.
Overall I’m feeling unbelievably good about the state of our financial affairs and the preparations for my first few months after unemployment. It’s pretty crazy to think that three months from now I’ll be without work for the first time in 20 years and having a baby. Completing all of the steps above has certainly made me feel more confident about our future!
I drove over to Babies-R-Us today in the hopes of scoring a few packs of Huggies diapers for only $1 each. The store held a $5 sale on Huggies Pure and Natural diapers, permitted the use of coupons and provided a $5 gift card for every two packs purchased. I had a couple of coupons in my binder, so I figured I’d make the trip and pick up a few packs for next to nothing.
When I arrived the diaper aisle looked like the milk department just before a big snowstorm. The shelves were completely bare. I was curious when the store ran out of diapers, (since I knew the sale started yesterday), so I asked a very kind salesman who told me the shelves were stripped clean within the first few minutes of the store’s opening. It seems two or three women came in with binders full of coupons. They were each guiding a number of carts and simply threw every diaper into their carts, (regardless of size), and rushed to the register.
There wasn’t a limit on the number of diapers one individual could buy, so there was no policy against the shoppers filling multiple carts and cleaning out the store. Within minutes the shelves were empty.
While I don’t fault these women for bargain shopping, I wonder if they really needed to purchase every pack of diapers they could get their hands on. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel. While I think it’s great that these women will save themselves hundreds of dollars on diapers I can’t help but wonder if it’s fair to all of the other women out there who were looking to save a little too. Over at Bargain Life, they’ve raised this and other important questions that need to be asked – how is a family affected?
What do you think? Are you an extreme shopper and do you strip the shelves of products when you head to the store in search of bargains? Do you think stores should put limitations on the number of products a person can buy with coupons and discounts to ensure more people can take advantage of the bargains or do you commend these women for filling their carts for next to nothing?
If you are a long time reader of One Frugal Girl you know that I am a bit of a neat fanatic and extremely opposed to clutter. I try to limit the number of things in our house and purge unwanted items on a regular basis to ensure things stay neat and orderly.
Now that the nesting instinct is beginning to kick in I find myself itching to clean out each and every nook and cranny in our home. While reorganizing today I came across a truly unexpected gem.
When I shop for food and groceries I typically carry reusable bags with me, but when I go shopping for clothes I never seem to remember to bring bags along for the ride. If a store provides me with a solid shopping bag, (you know the solid paper ones with handles from places like Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s), I typically store them in a drawer to use for future occasions.
What future occasions you ask? Well I often use these bags when I donate unwanted items to the local shelters. They can hold a lot, have flat bottoms that allow them to stand up straight and typically have handles that make them easier to carry. I don’t like to throw all of my unwanted belongings in a plastic garbage bag. Instead I typically fold my shirts, pants and sweaters and stack them on top of one another and place them neatly inside the bags. I also find that the size and handles make them more manageable.
I also use them at Christmas time to carry presents up to my parents and in-laws homes and to carry home whatever gifts we may have received along the way. I guess it’s odd to keep a small stack of bags in the house, but I only have a handful and they are piled in one neat and tidy drawer.
This afternoon I reached into the drawer to find a bag that I could use to ferry unwanted books to our local library. When I opened the bag I was surprised to find a couple of receipts laying in the bottom. I typically deposit receipts in a binder after I get home from the store, (it helps me keep track of them in case I need to return an item), so I was surprised to find them there.
I was even more surprised to find a brand new pair of earrings laying underneath the receipts. What’s even more shocking is how long this particular bag and it’s contents had been laying around my house. The receipt was dated October 2009!
I remember purchasing the earrings. I bought them during one of those Buy-One-Get-One free sales at New York and Company. I didn’t intend to purchase two pairs of earrings that day, but since one pair was free I couldn’t resist the bargain. Maybe I didn’t notice they were missing when I came home, because I hadn’t explicitly gone to the store to purchase them. Honestly, I’m not too sure of the reason, but I can’t believe they had been sitting in a bag, that had been sitting in a drawer for nearly two years!
I’m thrilled that I found them and find it funny that I didn’t even realize they were missing! It just goes to show that even when you clean and organize on a regular basis it’s hard to keep track of all of the items in your home. I wonder if I’ll find anything else while I’m nesting.
I received an email this afternoon asking me how long I intend to stay home after the baby is born. The honest answer is that I’m not quite sure. My employer will provide me with a severance package that is set to begin right around the time the baby is born. (That’s one nice thing about having my termination date and due date being so close together.)
I realize that I’ve been writing a lot about baby stuff these days, but what can I say with our first little one on the way it’s hard to think about much else! I was wondering if anyone had thoughts on the value of baby care and/or birthing classes.