Posts filed under ‘spending money’

Avoiding the Urge to Spend Money By Counting My Blessings

sale

So far I’ve managed to avoid the plethora of store emails streaming into my inbox. I’m deleting the majority of unread feeds in my reader too. Fifty percent off, free shipping, buy-one-get-one and every other type of sale tactic in between flashes on my screen, but so far I haven’t pulled out my credit card to purchase anything unexpected.

I did purchase snow boots for my son and underwear for myself. I held out on buying these for the last month or so in the hopes that Black Friday sales would include cheaper prices and free shipping. I was right on both counts.

It’s a good thing my crazy nesting urge started a few weeks ago. Digging through those plastic tubs in the basement allowed me to see just how much excess stuff we already own.

After my son was born I was blessed with box after box of hand-me-down toys. I can easily fill two large plastic tubs with toys ranging from zero to twenty-four months. And although I gave a few things away to friends with children, I still own the majority of big ticket items like swings and car seats that we’ll need. I am tempted to buy a few more onesies and sleepers in the 0 to 6 months range, but so far I’m keeping that urge at bay.

To be perfectly honest I haven’t shopped Black Friday sales for the last ten years. Rather than shopping on the days leading up to and after Thanksgiving I maintain the tradition of removing clutter and finding homes for those things we no longer need. My son and I have loaded so many bags into the car in the last three weeks that we’ve written a short song about donating to those in need.

Since this is a season for giving I decided to donate many of the toys in my gift box to toys-for-tots. I will admit that this was more of a struggle than I wanted it to be. I bought all of the items on sale at some point or another in the last few years with the intention of providing them as gifts for my son’s friends or niece and nephews. But as I cleaned out the house I could not help but feel those toys needed a new home right now, not months or possibly even years from now, so I boxed up a few of them and intend to gather up even more for the charity box at my son’s preschool.

This morning my husband took my son on a few adventures and I traveled to town alone singing and counting my blessings. As I drove across a busy intersection I was almost hit by a young woman who ran a red light at over fifty miles per hour. Seconds before that incident I decided to drive just a little bit slower. My light had been green for quite some time, but I wasn’t in a hurry and took my foot ever so slightly off the gas as I approached the intersection. Had I been traveling one to two seconds faster I am almost certain she would have struck my driver’s side door head on. Luckily I saw the car out of the corner of my eye and hit the brakes just in time to avoid her.

Despite a few medical ups and downs, my life has been filled with nothing but blessings. I am so grateful for each and every one of them.

Photo Credit

November 27, 2014 at 5:38 PM 1 comment

SUV or Minivan?

junkyard

We haven’t purchased a new vehicle since our 1999 Toyota bit the dust a few weeks back. My husband and I drove to the car dealership last week to check out new cars. I was all settled on walking off the car lot with a brand new SUV when the car salesman showed us a deeply discounted 2014 minivan. I really, really, really don’t want to own or drive a minivan. On a day to day basis I don’t need the extra transport room it provides, the gas mileage is terrible and let’s face it no one wants to drive a minivan.

The main perks seem to be very comfortable seating, lots of leg room for my son who is and will continue to be tremendously tall, an extra row of seats large enough to fit adults and sliding doors that make getting children into and out of car seats much easier.

My husband and I tend to hold onto cars until they fall apart, which means this car could very well be around by the time my son starts driving thirteen years from now. I’ll be honest I hate the idea of driving a minivan for fifteen years and while I think the sliding doors would make loading and unloading kids from car seats so much easier, I certainly don’t need to worry about leg room or bringing along my son’s friends in the third row any time soon.

On the other hand since I keep cars forever I can certainly see the need for such things at some point in the future.

So what do you think: minivan or SUV? If you own a minivan what do you think about it?

Photo Credit

November 2, 2014 at 5:53 PM 15 comments

Inundated by Unexpected Expenses

Every year it seems we have some ridiculous expense and more often than not when one major event comes our way it is quickly followed by at least one or two others. Last year we plunked $36,000 into a new vehicle. We bought the car below invoice, but that was definitely a hit to our wallets. In 2013 we also remodeled three of the four bathrooms in our house. In 2012 we paid over $20,000 in just over a month to repair damaged pipes, a car, air conditioner and closing costs on two mortgages. In 2011 we paid a hefty chunk of change for professional painters to coat every wall in our house and in 2010 we spent over $30,000 to replace all of the windows and doors in our home.

It seems this year will be no less pricey. From January to March I spent thousands of dollars on unexpected medical care followed by a big wad of cash for out of town medical charges that were three times larger than the originally quoted price.

Yesterday as my husband was driving our 1999 Toyota to work the engine crapped out. The vehicle was towed to our local mechanic who declared it wasn’t worth repairing. The repairs amounted to more than the car was worth, which according to Edmunds is just over $1,500. My husband was hoping to continue commuting with that vehicle for at least another two years, but is seems it isn’t meant to be. The cost of a new car: $20,000 to $30,000 depending on what we choose to buy.

As if that weren’t enough this morning we found out that our furnace needs to be replaced. The unit is probably as old as our house and has finally stopped working. We were able to make a few minor repairs over the last two years, but this morning the technician assured me it is time to call it quits. His recommendation a brand new, sparkly $7600 unit.

Just once I would like to go an entire year without a major expense!

October 1, 2014 at 9:08 AM 7 comments

Preschool Drop Off Was Harder Than I Expected

carts

I knew it wouldn’t be easy to drop my little guy off at preschool. I expected a bit of separation anxiety and perhaps a few tears. After three straight years together I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would be hard to place my son in the arms of his teacher and walk away. I thought a lot about what my son might experience, but I didn’t realize how powerful my own emotions would be.

The first few days of drop off my son walked into the classroom with a smile, but I left the school in tears. For the record my husband found it pretty difficult to walk away too. The hardest part was leaving him behind when I knew he really didn’t NEED to go.

Unlike moms who drop their children off at daycare, my son doesn’t need to go to school twice a week for a few hours a day. While it certainly helps me complete invoices for my husband’s billing, prepare dinner, grocery shop in a third of the time and clean the house without little hands placing toys in front of the vacuum cleaner or broom, I could accomplish those tasks with him around. I didn’t enroll him for any of those reasons. I sent him because we couldn’t consistently schedule play dates with other kids and our neighborhood playground is void of children.

I don’t believe that three year olds require socialization, but I did think he would have a lot of fun exploring the world with other children beside him. After a ridiculous amount of contemplation, including investigating    various school philosophies and costs I chose a preschool that offered the best experiences and opportunities for my son. Each week he sings along with a professional music teacher, cooks with the teachers and participates in tons of play based activities alongside eight other children with temperaments similar to his own.

He cried at two of the first five days of school, but the teacher assures me he is fine a few minutes after drop off. (Interestingly those tears did not come on the first two days of school.) Every school night he lays in bed and tells me all about the days adventures; what children he played with, what toys he discovered, what books he read, what songs he sang and which playground he explored.

Despite all of this I must admit that I still find it hard to drop him off. It’s only two days a week, but each morning I get a little sad at the thought of taking him to school.

The first few days I went shopping after leaving the school grounds and decided I really shouldn’t do that anymore. I quickly found myself adding toys and games to the cart that I never intended to buy. I wanted to provide something special for my son to look forward to after pick up. This started out as simple things like baking sugar cookies and taking him to the playground, but I quickly found myself purchasing unnecessary items from the clearance sections of Target. I didn’t buy anything that cost more than two or three dollars, but I believe guilt was factoring into my purchases more than anything else.

Tomorrow is another school day. I will head home after drop off and do not plan to perform any shopping other than buying groceries for at least the next month.

Photo Credit

September 17, 2014 at 10:02 PM 4 comments

A Few Things I Enjoy Spending Money On

Peaches

I don’t like spending money. Really, I drag my feet whenever I’m required to purchase a big ticket item and I’ve been known to stand in a store aisle for two to three minutes trying to figure out which peanut butter is cheaper, the one on sale, the store brand or the full price brand if I use a coupon.

Although I am never a fan of pulling out my wallet I do find that some transactions are a little easier to bare than others. Here are just a few of my favorites:

  • A deep tissue massage – I found an incredible massage therapist that works less than a mile from my home. She provides an 80 minute massage for $80. I used to feel quite guilty about spending money on my appointments, but have learned over time that my body is just not as functional without them.
  • Organic, delicious, in-season fruit – I’ll choose a juicy peach plucked at peak season over a cookie or brownie any day. I hate the winter months when my fresh fruit pile dwindles down to apples and pears.
  • Date nights out with my husband – These occur so infrequently that I think we’ve only had four in the last two years. It is nice to spend a little time together without the little man beside us. In fact, I need to do a better job of scheduling this on our calendar.
  • Activities that involve both my husband and son – Free activities are great, but I didn’t mind shelling out money this winter so the three of us could tour the zoo or paying twenty-five bucks to see the lighted displays at a botanical garden.
  • Mommy-and-Me classes – Before I had a kid these sounded so lame, but now that my son is here I love spending time painting, dancing and singing with him in group settings. (Of course, I love just enjoying time with him at home too.) I won’t pay $250 for the experience, but I really do enjoy spending time with my son and getting a little adult conversation from other mothers.
  • Gifts for other people – Nothing makes me happier than giving someone else a gift from the heart. A good friend stopped by yesterday to pick up a bundle of gifts for a baby due in May. I’m also sending a bunch to a former coworker whose wife just happens to be expecting on the very same day.

How about you? Do you have specific activities or objects that you enjoy spending money on?

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January 18, 2014 at 9:43 PM 2 comments

An Absolute, Complete and Utter Frugal Fail

On Friday I loaded a bunch of unwanted presents into the car and started what would become a three hour journey to return them. My son sat happily in the back seat with a container of newly washed grapes, a cup of water and a smile. I’m not certain, but I think he was still delirious from spending three straight days playing with new toys. It was a beautiful day and I was happy to unload the unwanted gifts before the new year.

I didn’t have gift slips for any of the presents my family received, but I recognized the brands and read up on store policies before attempting to return them. The process started out pretty rocky.  In Kohl’s I was offered $2 for two of my items. “No thanks,” I told the cashier, “for $2 I’ll donate them.”

I should have walked right out of the store, but instead wandered by the 70% off rack and ended up buying $35 worth of new clothing for my son for next year. Not only did I fail to return anything, but I walked out with stuff I didn’t even intend to buy.

In Babies-R-Us I was able to perform an even exchange. Not exactly a failure. I returned one $3 item that was too small for another in his size. I didn’t like the color or pattern, but at least the new shirt will fit him.

My son was smiling at all of the cashiers and wishing them a Happy New Year, so I decided to press on. A quick stop in the pet store just to look at the pretty parakeets and fish and we were on to TJ Maxx.

I save all of my receipts in a handy-dandy plastic binder, but for some reason the receipt I needed couldn’t be found anywhere. It took ten minutes for the cashier to enter all of the information required for a return without receipt. I have no one to blame but myself and I’m thankful they accept returns, but ugh that was a lot of time wasted in line and at the register.

Old Navy’s line was incredibly long. Two registers open and ten people in each line. I completely lucked out when a cashier finally opened a new register and waved me over. (For the record I told her other people had been in line before me, but she quickly exchanged my item anyway.) It was another $3 item.

Honestly, if I had known the first two shirts cost $2 and the third and fourth one were only valued at $3 I probably would’ve stayed home.

I hit IKEA on the way down the road and then considered calling it a day when I noticed my son was still wide awake and happy. I decided to make one last stop. This time to Costco. When I walked in the door there were already ten people waiting in line at customer service, but the line moved quickly and I completed my returns without any problem.

A smart girl would have taken her cash and walked right out the door, but I decided to wander around the aisles for just a minute and somehow walked out with a $500 Vitamix.

Blender

That’s right. I failed to return two $2 items. I successfully exchanged two $3 items and then spent $500 on a device.

My husband came home to find a very large box sitting on the counter and was shocked to find out I spent $500 on a blender. It is completely out of character for me. I almost never buy anything for myself and certainly nothing that ever costs more than $100.

Did I buy it because I was tired and frustrated from a long day of returns? Possibly, but I don’t think so. For some reason I’ve dreamed of buying a Vitamix for quite awhile now. I asked for very practical gifts this Christmas and this was a luxury I really wanted for myself.

Now the real question is will I keep it or decide that $500 is simply too much to spend. Only time will tell.

December 28, 2013 at 1:51 PM 6 comments

This Seems a Little Crazy

Yesterday morning I left my son in the care of my husband and walked off to take a shower. When I emerged from the bathroom the kitchen floor was covered in pots, pans and bowls of varying sizes. I really wish I’d taken a picture of that mess.

“I want to get rid of all of this,” my husband said. There was nothing wrong with the stuff we owned. It was all perfectly functional, but none of the items were stackable. That meant everything was a little topsy turvy in the cabinet and more often than not when you went to grab one thing out of the cupboard you had to move three or four other things out of the way to get to it.

The frugal part of me did not want to donate perfectly good dishes and bowls, but as I looked at my husband’s face I knew I was going to lose this battle. I’ll be honest it seemed crazy to discard all of this stuff in favor of items that could be organized more easily, but before I could blink he had gathered everything up off the floor and bundled it into large, brown paper bags. A few minutes later I loaded everything into our trunk and looked back at a very empty set of cabinets.

Thirty minutes after that we were standing in TJ Maxx attempting to find stackable replacements for everything we’d donated. The entire time I was shaking my head at the thought of needlessly spending money.

I think we scoured the store for about an hour, but we did find matching circular and rectangular pyrex storage containers and stackable ceramic serving dishes with lids. I’m a sucker for pretty containers that can also be used for storage.

With half a cart full of supplies we headed to the checkout and watched the numbers blink until a grand total of $118 flashed on the register screen. (I actually thought the price was quite reasonable for all that we purchased.) As luck would have it I just cashed out a bunch of reward points for completing surveys and used two TJ Maxx gift cards to pay for the majority of our purchase. I only charged $6.18 on my credit card.

Although I didn’t want to spend the money on this stuff I must admit that my cabinets are now filled with beautiful, stackable dishes, bowls and storage containers all neatly arranged.

Bowls

I actually feel really good opening the cabinet doors and reaching in the cupboard for whatever I need. I’m so glad my husband convinced me to donate the old stuff in favor of new items that help keep things organized. Actually as soon as I washed all the new dishes and placed them in the cabinet I wondered why we didn’t do this years ago.

New Bowls

I think it’s a little crazy to donate perfectly functional items, but I must admit that I LOVE how clean and organized things are now.

Have you ever discarded perfectly functional things in favor of ones that could be organized more easily?

November 3, 2013 at 9:46 AM 7 comments

What Did I Buy?

It started innocently enough. My mom pulled a wooden Playskool puzzle out of storage and presented it to my son. He was 16 months old at the time and the text on the front clearly read for ages “3 to 6.” The first few times he attempted to complete it he needed some help. My mom and I initially showed him how the puzzle fit together, but within a day or two he could place most of the pieces in the correct locations.

Farm

From that point on the early Melissa and Doug puzzles were too easy for him. Matching the shapes, animals, letters and numbers wasn’t a challenge. He still enjoys putting his old puzzles together, but he prefers puzzles with lots of pieces or a variety of puzzles in one box like Who Am I.

He attempted this 28 piece jigsaw puzzle a few months ago, but it was too difficult for him to complete. Actually I should drag it out of storage and let him to try again. Maybe enough time has passed for him to put it together. He can complete similar puzzles on my iPad.

Unlike a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces look relatively similar in shape and size the shape of each Playskool puzzle is very unique. It’s much easier to figure out how to rotate the pieces to fit on the board.

I’ve fallen in love with these old puzzles from the 1970s. In fact, I scoured the Internet in search of a few that my son might like. Search for vintage Playskool puzzle and you’ll find pages of results.

I decided to buy my son a couple. Yes, I know I just posted about buying only one gift for my son’s birthday. I thought about asking the relatives to buy some for his birthday, but I had a feeling they would have trouble finding ones that met my requirements. I searched for vintage wooden puzzles containing at least 10 pieces with cute and colorful designs. You have to look carefully at these types of auctions as some of the puzzles are really beat up after 30+ years. Since these are second hand I also didn’t want to spend a fortune on them.

After watching a number of different auctions I realized I could get more bang for my buck if I bought a bunch of puzzles all at once. The puzzles are heavy and shipping can cost quite a bit on an item like this. I ultimately won eight puzzles in one auction and purchased three others as buy-it-now options. The three individual puzzles were all ordered from the same seller and I asked for combined shipping.

Honestly I overpaid for the three separate puzzles. I purchased the three puzzles one night and then won an auction two night’s later for the other eight. If I had known I’d win the second auction I certainly wouldn’t have purchased the first three. Eh, live and learn. In total I paid roughly $45 for all eleven, which included the cost of shipping.

All told that amounts to just over $4 per puzzle, which beats almost any price I could find in store or online. $45 seems like a ton of money to spend on used puzzles, but hopefully my son will get a lot of use for them and when he’s finished I can always try reselling them on eBay.

I don’t regret the decision to buy them, but when I completed the PayPal checkout I was shocked by the final tally. $4 per puzzle seems like a great price, but $45 for used puzzles seems like a lot of money.

October 21, 2013 at 10:00 AM 3 comments

This Week in Review: Money and Spending

A brief run through of this week’s highs and lows.

  1. After checking out of Target and walking all the way to my car this morning I noticed a toy the cashier forgot to ring up. I contemplated throwing it in the back of my trunk, but instead made the long trip back to the checkout counter with a young, fairly tired and sick of shopping son on my hip. It would have been so much easier to drop the toy in the car and my son in his car seat but I didn’t feel right about walking away without paying for it.
  2. I made a horrific dinner last night. I attempted to make wedding soup, but the meatballs tasted just terrible. As luck would have it I picked up a loaf of bread earlier that day. I managed to swallow it down, but my husband opted for a grilled cheese sandwich instead. I pulled out the meatballs and salvaged the rest of the soup. Essentially it now tastes like chicken noodle soup with orzo pasta. Dinner was so bad last night that I’ve decided to stay out of the kitchen today. Luckily I’m paying with a coupon and a nearly abandoned gift card.
  3. My husband went to a party store to buy decorations and favors for my son’s birthday. Unleashed and alone he spent $183. I returned the majority of stuff, (a bit of miscommunication on exactly what we needed), and recouped $130. My husband was trying to take the weight of shopping off of my shoulders, so I couldn’t get too mad about the big bill.
  4. We received the flu shot at my son’s annual visit to the pediatrician. I think we can receive this for free, but it involves waiting around in doctor’s offices and sometimes time is more valuable than money. It cost $60 for my husband and I. The little guy’s was free.
  5. I’m picking up a half share at the CSA today. My sister-in-law is out of town for one more week and I’m happy to pick up and eat the veggies while she’s away.

October 17, 2013 at 4:46 PM 2 comments

What Would You Do With $100?

Blocks

Not so long ago I won a $100 Visa gift card giveaway. I could have used the money to buy groceries or gasoline or any of the regular items I buy on a weekly basis, but that seemed rather boring.

So here is what I purchased instead:

  1. $75 for a membership to the national zoo. My son and I actually haven’t returned to the zoo since I bought the membership, but the weather this week is supposed to be gorgeous, so I plan to return before Friday.
  2. $12.50 for a box from Citrus Lane – I wanted to try this company out before ordering a subscription for my sister-in-law’s new baby. I paid $12.50, which is half of the regular price. (Use coupon code TAKEHALF if you are interested in trying it out for yourself.) The box contained a set of blocks, a board book, a toddler snack, baby wash and nail polish. Sold separately the items would’ve cost over $30, so $12.50 was definitely a good deal. I still think this would make a good gift for a new mom, but we definitely don’t need more toys and books at this stage of the game.
  3. $2.95 for one set of Bamboobies. The link will take you to Amazon, but the deal I found was actually listed directly on the Bamboobies website and has now ended. These are the absolute BEST, reusable nursing pads and they typically cost $16.99 for two pairs, so $2.95 is an amazing price. I plan to give these to my sister-in-law.
  4. $5.95 for the Honest Company Trial Bundle. I’ve been working really hard to use organic, environmentally friendly products and I’ve heard great things about the Honest Company. I haven’t received this order yet so I can’t provide any information on it.

If another $100 gift card falls into my lap I’d probably use it in a similar way. I’d spend the majority on an experience. This time it was a zoo membership. Next time it might be a trip to the spa or a romantic dinner with my husband. Then I’d use the rest for something I don’t typically buy myself like a decadent dessert from an upscale grocery store.

If you won $100 what would you do with it?

September 30, 2013 at 4:06 PM 4 comments

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