Archive for September, 2011

Thoughts on Purchasing Discounted Gift Cards

A few weeks ago I purchased a couple of discounted gift cards from various daily deal sites. My goal was to save money at stores where I plan to shop for necessary baby items.

I’m pretty particular about buying gift cards. For the most part I look to save at least 10%. I don’t want to go through the hassle of auction sites just to save a dollar or two. I’ve been burned a couple of times by sellers who never shipped cards or who claimed they’d been lost in the mail. So if the deal isn’t worth my time and hassle I’ll walk away from it.

I found an auction a few days ago on Target gift cards. I bought one through the Buy It Now option and the seller emailed me to let me know he had a few others. After a few back and forth emails I bought four $20 cards for less than $18 total! I received the cards two days later with no problem.

A long time reader of One Frugal Girl suggested buying discounted gift cards for local restaurants so my husband and I can save money if we’re too tired to cook and need to order takeout after the little one arrives. I thought this was an outstanding idea and started searching for restaurant related gift cards on various discount sites and eBay. Unfortunately, a lot of other people must have the same idea, because the majority of cards sell for pretty close to their retail value.

I was wondering if anyone else out there purchases discounted gift cards on a regular basis and if so where do you find the best bargains? Are auction sites the best places to look or do you have better success with specialized gift card websites? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

September 30, 2011 at 3:30 AM 4 comments

Refinance Update

It seems as though my husband and I won’t be refinancing after all. I considered shrinking our mortgage from 15 to 10 years, but decided that the cash flow issues were not worth the additional interest savings.


At the end of the day I simply couldn’t convince myself to take on more monthly payments when I’m really not sure how long I want to remain out of the workforce. I ran the numbers on a 15 year mortgage and found that we’d save $10,000 or so after closing costs. We have approximately 13 years remaining on our current mortgage and the idea of extending our debt payments was not appealing, although the idea of freeing up cash flow forced me to consider the option a couple of times.

Refinancing can be a real pain in the you-know-what, so I really didn’t want to go through the hassle and paperwork unless it would save us a significant amount of money. Add to that the fact that I will be losing my job in a matter of weeks and the window to refinance while I can still produce a bi-weekly paycheck is quickly diminishing.

Simply put we decided not to refinance the mortgage. Instead I am going to call our lender to find out if we can switch to a bi-weekly payment schedule which will trim the overall timeline to being debt free! I’ve also decided to add additional principal to each payment if and when it’s possible. Little by little I hope to chip away at at the debt and trim our overall payments by three years. The move to bi-weekly payments is a good step in this direction. The additional principal should definitely help us meet our goal.

We won’t save as much interest as we would have by moving to a 10 year mortgage, but given my current circumstances and the fact that I have no idea when I’ll want to return to the working world I think it’s the best decision we can make for now!

September 29, 2011 at 3:05 AM Leave a comment

A Little Advice… Clothes for the Hospital

I was wondering if any of the moms out there could help me decide what to pack for the hospital. The little one is due in just under five weeks and I’m not sure if I should buy a nursing night gown or simply bring along a top and shorts.

I think a nursing nightgown might be a little easier, because a couple of people told me it’s rather difficult to bend down to pull your pants up and down after delivery. Of course I don’t currently own a nursing nightgown, so if I need one then I need to head online or out to the store to purchase one.

To be honest I haven’t worn pants of any type much since a few weeks after I found out that I was pregnant. I was very bloated early on and found all of my old pants uncomfortable. I bought a bunch of soft cotton dresses, pulled a few more out of the closet and have been living in them for months! I’ve been really comfortable with this approach, which is why I’m leaning towards a nursing nightgown over the alternatives.

On the other hand at home I tend to sleep without clothes, so I hate the idea of buying something I only plan to wear for a day or two. If any of you have suggestions on what you wore or maybe more importantly what you wished you wore I’d love to hear from you!

September 25, 2011 at 2:30 AM 12 comments

Stretching Those Baby Shower Dollars

I really wish I knew how to knit or sew. When I was in high school I bought a bunch of patterns and made cotton, summer dresses for myself. I did a decent job with the clothes that didn’t require buttons or zippers, but the second something more complicated came along in the design my confidence went right out the window.

I received a bunch of adorable knit items for my baby shower including the most adorable hat you could EVER imagine. I’m so happy the little one is due to arrive in late October, because he or she will be wearing that cap the second the weather turns cold.

I’m heading to a baby shower for a friend this weekend and I really wanted to bring something semi-homemade. Since I don’t knit or sew I decided to create a do-it-yourself diaper cake. When my husband saw me bundling up tiny little diapers he thought I was a little bit crazy, but I have to say I think the cake turned out pretty adorable.

I added little trinkets like pacifiers, bath soap, shampoo and baby lotion all throughout the cake and topped it off with the most adorable little stuffed dog that barks when you squeeze him. Who can resist that blue gingham bow?

I bought a few other small gifts for the shower as well, but I like how this gift turned an otherwise basic box of diapers into something shower-worthy. If you’re able to purchase diapers at bargain prices you can really stretch your dollars. A package of diapers this size typically costs around $15, but if you play the drugstore game I bet you could buy a pack for less than $5.

If you’re able to buy other baby supplies at bargain prices you can add them to the cake. If not you can always find relatively inexpensive items like toys, bibs and baby socks at places like TJ Maxx and Marshalls. I found a couple of adorable socks and rattles for just a few dollars.

While you’re at it don’t forget to use your rewards credit card to accumulate extra cash or miles. My husband and I use the Chase Freedom card, but good friends who travel extensively recommend the American express air miles card.

I made a diaper cake for a friend’s shower years ago, but I refreshed my memory by watching an Internet video on the subject. It’s unbelievably inexpensive and easy to do!

September 23, 2011 at 3:00 AM 5 comments

Baby Related Expenses… Am I Done Yet?

I dropped a wad of dough on a few more baby related items tonight. In essence I purchased a few last minute essentials I thought we needed to gather before the baby arrives.

If all goes well I plan to put the baby to sleep in a co-sleeper that will attach to the side of my bed. Some people have said it’s impossible to sleep with the baby so close, others have told me it’s so much easier to breast feed if the little one is laying right beside you. I’ve decided to keep the baby in the same room and will only move to the crib if necessary.

I received a co-sleeper at my baby shower, but I wanted to buy organic sheets and an organic mattress for it. Arms Reach, (the company that makes the co-sleeper), really twist the arms of their buyers, by charging an arm and a leg for everything associated with this little bed.

I had to buy leg extensions, because the co-sleeper wasn’t the right height for our queen sized bed. I had to buy sheets, because it only came with one. Of course, I splurged and purchased organic ones and then decided to throw in an organic mattress, because the one that comes with the bassinet doesn’t look particularly comfy. All of this cost me more than double the price of the actual co-sleeper itself!

Once the shopping bug started I couldn’t seem to stop myself. I also purchased organic sheets and mattress pads for the crib, (where I hope the baby will take naps), glass baby bottles, bottle racks, an organic changing pad, organic changing pad covers and an extra breastfeeding pillow so I can keep a feeding station both upstairs and downstairs.

Add in the cost of the breast pump and you are looking at hundreds of dollars worth of baby supplies. I purchased the majority of items from Babies-R-Us and Amazon. I intended to buy everything at Amazon, but thanks to yesterday’s Cyber Sale at Babies-R-Us some items were cheaper there. Luckily I was able to cash out our credit card reward points for gift cards to both stores and only paid $250 or so out of pocket. My FSA account will cover the breast pump costs with pretax dollars, which will definitely help.

The good news is that I now feel like I have just about everything I need for this little one to come into the world. I’m sure there will be tons of things I’ll realize I forgot or need along the way, but for now our base camp feels fully stocked!

September 21, 2011 at 3:05 AM 3 comments

Am I Crazy to Consider Refinancing Again?

I took a gander at mortgage rates today and realized that the rate on a 10 year mortgage is only 3.25% at our local credit union. My husband and I currently hold a 15 year mortgage at 4.5% and I am unbelievably tempted to refinance our property. If I decide to move forward with this decision it will be the fourth time we’ve refinanced in ten years!

We last refinanced two years ago, so we have roughly 13 years remaining on our current mortgage. I refuse to refinance for another 15 years, because I don’t want to push our payoff date back any longer. In essence, we shrink this mortgage down to 10 years or we simply keep it just the way it is.

There are pros and cons to refinancing again. On the plus side, refinancing would save us $60,000 in interest over the next 10 years. We’d also pay off the mortgage three years faster, which means we’d be mortgage free on our primary home by the time I turn 45.

On the negative side we’d have to go through the hassle of refinancing our property yet again. The paperwork alone can make this a total nightmare. We’d also have to pay upfront closing costs, which totaled over $6,000 last time.

Lastly and most importantly our mortgage payment would increase by nearly $500 a month, which is a big chunk of change considering I’m not sure how soon I want to go back to work after the baby is born. I worry about adding an even bigger mortgage payment to our budget when I’m not sure if I’ll bring in any income.

Rather than refinancing we could include additional principal in our monthly mortgage payment. This would save us $20,000 or so over the life of the loan, rather than $60,000. However, it would provide more flexibility if I decide not to return to work for awhile. If we have money to throw at the mortgage we could do that. If time passes and we don’t have the money available we don’t have to worry about not meeting our financial obligation.

A third alternative could be to refinance the loan while simultaneously paying off a chunk of principal using a portion of my severance payment. Shrinking the total loan amount would decrease our monthly payments. The goal would be to add only $100 or $200 a month to our payments rather than a whopping $500.

Of course, the downside to this approach is that we’ll have less money in our bank account to fall back on if I decide to stay out of the workforce longer than expected. We’ll also lose out on any interest or growth this money could have earned.

At the end of the day I’m not certain how to proceed. After weighing the pros and cons it seems the safest approach is to stick with the mortgage we currently possess. On the other hand with mortgage rates this low it’s hard to pass up $60,000 in interest savings!

September 18, 2011 at 3:59 AM 9 comments

Woolite Giveaway

As strange as it sounds I like to wash the laundry. Well I’m not sure I like the act of dragging clothes into the basement, running them through the washer, hanging them to dry, fluffing them two days later and dragging them back up to our bedroom and linen closets, but I do like when all of the laundry is cleaned, folded and put away.


When Woolite reached out to me to host a giveaway I couldn’t resist. After all, who doesn’t love a giveaway for a product you’d otherwise have to purchase yourself?

Woolite is hosting a Facebook contest where you can enter to win $20,000. The Woolite Washing Savior contest is on a mission to find a savior, a hero, who can fight back with Woolite and help protect everyday clothing from the torture of other detergents. To learn more about the contest and enter go to www.facebook.com/WooliteUS.

You can also try to win a $100 American Express Gift Card by voting for your favorite superhero. There will be ten (10) $100 Winners. Vote using this link: www.facebook.com/WooliteUS, You may have to ‘like’ them before you can gain access to the contest.

Now for the fun part… I have a giveaway of my own. If you leave a comment on this post you can enter to win the ‘Wear it Well” Woolite prize pack, which includes the following:

  • The Full Woolite Product Suite (Woolite Extra Delicates Care, Woolite Complete, and Woolite Extra Dark Care)
  • Lingerie Bag
  • Cute, But Heavy Duty Laundry Tote
  • Hanging Drying Rack (for your intimates)
  • Handheld Clothing Steamer
Ready to try your luck. Simply add a comment letting me know the best or worst thing you ever spent money on. You can earn an extra entry by following me on twitter and leaving a comment to let me know you’ve done so. I will pick three random winners from all comments received.
Due to the small number of entries I am keeping this contest open until October 3rd.

This contest is now closed. Winners have been notified.

September 16, 2011 at 4:40 AM 30 comments

$10 for a $20 Voucher at Whole Foods!

Living Social is running a great deal today! Spend $10 for a $20 voucher to be used at Whole Foods Market. The deal expires on Thursday morning, but it could sell out at any time. If you shop at Whole Foods this is a great buy!

If you’re new to Living Social you can sign up via this link.

By the way I think the site is getting slammed so give the page a few seconds to render.

September 13, 2011 at 12:45 PM Leave a comment

Cheap Gifts… Am I Being Ungrateful?

The most amazing women in my life hosted a baby shower for me this weekend. I am rich in friends and family and all of my favorite people showed up to celebrate this special occasion. Words cannot express how much love I feel for these folks. If I were stranded on a deserted island many of these women are the ones I would want standing beside me.

I never imagined the amazing turn out or the number of gifts I would receive from this event. They filled the trunk of one car and the bed of a pick-up truck. Most of my guests selected items from my registry, but a handful found wonderful and useful gifts that I never would have considered.

I don’t expect everyone to spend the same amount on gifts, so I tried my best to find things for every price point. Funny enough one of my favorite gifts was an inexpensive package of baby hangers. When I got home from the shower I had just enough to hang all of the new baby clothes I received.

Every gift was as amazing as the giver with the exception of one. One guest, who was unable to attend the event, sent a box of dollar store items and what I believe may be a second-hand blanket.

The blanket smelled of must and mildew. It didn’t have tags on it so I can probably assume it’s not new. The gift came from a friend of my mom’s who is famous for passing off yard sale finds as gifts for special occasions.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve given used books as birthday gifts, but I always let the recipient know that the items are used.

Should it matter that the gift was picked up at a yard sale or plucked from the basement of someone’s home? Shouldn’t I just feel happy that someone thought enough to give something to me?

I’m sure that I should be grateful and just leave it at that, but I feel bad about the situation. I wish the woman would have just sent a card rather than a stinky blanket. In fact, since she didn’t attend the event she didn’t need to send me anything at all.

If she didn’t have the money to buy a more expensive present I wish she would have saved the money for herself. If she had the money, but didn’t really want to spend it on me, then again she should have saved her money. A card or simple congratulations would have meant a lot more than the items I received.

Something tells me I’m not viewing this situation in the best light. I suppose it’s the thought that counts, but based on what I received I can’t tell if there was much thought put into this gift at all. Of course no matter what I think, I’ll still send a thank you note. Perhaps I’m wrong about the gift giver’s sentiment. Maybe she thought these were very special gifts.

September 13, 2011 at 4:15 AM 11 comments

My Last Inexpensive Pedicure for Awhile

I love, love, love, love, love to paint my nails. It’s something I do whenever I’m upset, in a bad mood or need to relax. I probably started painting my nails when I was in middle or high school, but it took on new meaning when I got sick a few years ago.

Shortly after my surgery I quickly got bored of lying around but realized there wasn’t a whole lot I could do from bed. One day, as a simple diversion, I decided to paint my nails. It was something I could do from bed and since I spent a lot of time laying down this simple act provided me with the added benefit of looking down at brightly colored toes. Painting my nails made me feel pretty in a time when I could barely muster up the energy to get clean or shower.

My husband began to realize how the act of painting my nails changed my mood. After awhile he would actually suggest I paint my nails if I was in a particularly glum mood.

Since I became pregnant I’ve been very careful about the types of products I put in and on my body. When a friend suggested I avoid typical nail polish I searched for vegan alternatives. I even asked for a bottle or two for my birthday, since they tend to be much more expensive than the cheap, chemical filled alternatives I used to buy at the drugstore.

I decided to paint my toenails a beautiful hot pink color this evening and quickly realized this might be my last inexpensive pedicure for awhile. It seems my eight month pregnant belly doesn’t make it so easy to bend over to paint my nails.

I tried a bunch of different positions and believe I can finish the job, but truth be told it won’t be easy. If I want another pedicure I might just have to pay a professional to do the work for me. Of course, the cheapest solution is simply to forgo a pedicure all together, but since I find myself elevating my legs in the later stages of pregnancy I sure would like to look down at brightly painted toes.

September 10, 2011 at 3:55 AM 4 comments

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