Posts filed under ‘spending money’

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 2 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?

Photo Credit

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

You Spent Money on What?

Art

Photo Credit: coolkidsites.net

Before I had a child I could not understand why parents would sign their babies up for infant and toddler classes. “Can’t you entertain your child at home,” I thought. “Isn’t there a better use for your money than singing nursery rhymes next to other kids?”

I signed my son up for an infant swim class when he was small, but the reason for that was simple, the swim class provided us free access to the pool. Without it we would need to spend significantly more for a membership.  Every Saturday since my son was about 6 months old my husband and I have diligently taken him swimming.

I recently signed my son up for a toddler art class. During my child-free days I saw this as a complete waste of money. As a stay-at-home parent I now see it’s value. The truth is that the value is not exactly for my son. My son loved painting and getting to see other children’s faces but the class is actually more for me. It’s a way to get out of the house one morning a week. It’s also a way to meet other moms who stay home with their kids and it’s a place for my son to make a complete and utter mess with paints, glue and other art supplies that I don’t have to clean up.

The class is held at a community center not too far from home and it costs just a few dollars per session.

I still think it’s odd to see very young children enrolled in these classes. The children sitting across from us were so young that they were still crawling. I’m sure the moms wanted to get out and meet some new people, but it was funny to watch them trying to participate in organized arts and crafts with their small babies.

It’s easy to judge and reflect on other people’s choices when you are not familiar with them. I clearly remember laughing at the notion of signing up toddlers for art classes. Two years later I see the value in them. Go figure.

September 25, 2013 at 4:17 PM 4 comments

The Excitement of a New Baby – A $700 Clothing Bill!

Gymboree

I am a sucker for children’s hats. I typically buy at least two or three for each season. That enables me to keep one in the car, one in the house and sometimes one in my diaper bag.

When my son’s favorite sun hat was stolen a few weeks ago I went shopping for end of summer hat sales and found a few for less than $5 at Gymboree. I wasn’t exactly sure what size my son would wear so I bought a couple in varying sizes and planned to return the ones that didn’t fit as soon as I returned from the beach.

I went to a Gymboree store in a very run down mall not too far from where my parent’s live. Most of the stores in the mall have closed, but the Gymboree store still appears quite profitable.

Every time I go there I end up behind someone who appears to be buying every available outfit in the store. Yesterday I stood behind a woman who was eight months pregnant with twin girls. She was buying matching outfits in every shade of pink and purple you could imagine. As the cashier rang up her purchase the woman kept asking the price of each item, but no matter what number the cashier said she answered “yes I’ll take that one too.”

In total she purchased over $700 worth of items and walked out with three large bags and an online order for all of the items that were not available in store.

The clothes ranged in size from 0 to 3 months, which means in a very short period of time those tiny babies will outgrow $700 worth of clothes! She paid for the bill using two credit cards and asked the cashier to split the total, which is probably not the sign of a healthy financial situation.

After the woman left I got into a conversation with the cashier. She mentioned that it was not unusual for a new mother or father to pay $500 or more on outfits for a newborn. In fact, she said that particular woman had been in the store with her husband a few days before.

During certain times of the year Gymboree offers Gymbucks to consumers when their spending threshold reaches $50. Spend $50 and you’ll receive $25 in Gymbucks. Spend $100 and you’ll receive $50, etc.  She said parents get hooked on the game of getting these coupons to spend on later purchases. Of course, the store wins, because they buy a ton of merchandise upfront and then return a month or so later to purchase more.

I tried to think back on the initial purchases for my son. We didn’t know his gender in advance so in that first month a lot of his clothes were green and yellow. We did need to buy some newborn clothes, because I thought for sure he would fit directly into size 0-3, but initially I only bought three or four tiny outfits.

I’m not sure how much I spent on those first few sizes, (newborn, 0-3), but it wasn’t close to $700. In fact, I bet I didn’t spend $700 for the entire first and second year!

I certainly understand the excitement of your first child, or children as the case may be, but I wanted to tell this particular customer that children grow so quickly. That my son wore size 0-3 for such a short period of time and that $700 is a ridiculous amount of money.

Of course it’s not my place to say anything. So instead I congratulated her on her pregnancy and told her she was in for the most amazing ride of her life.

Do you remember how much you spent on your children’s clothes before they were born?

September 21, 2013 at 2:55 PM 8 comments

The Biggest Grocery Bill of My Life

Grilling

We’re on vacation this week and trying something a little different. Rather than preparing grilled chicken and burgers almost every night for dinner I’ve picked out a bunch of favorite recipes. By the end of the night we all want to hang out, drink beer and relax, so rather than standing around grilling we’ve decided to take a casserole based approach. We’ll try to make a few meals in advance and throw them in the oven just before dinner time.

The goal is to to enjoy our time together as a family and to keep our toddler happy. Standing around while daddy’s grilling isn’t usually high on the list of activities our son enjoys. We tried something similar back in July and enjoyed a bunch of delicious meals.

I expected our grocery bill to be higher than normal. It’s inevitable to pay more when you’re feeding eight people rather than two and a toddler. Our bills at the beach are always the highest of the year, but as we filled the cart with fruits, vegetables and lots of staples we didn’t already have on hand like chicken stock, butter and cheese I knew we would top the scales.

When we literally ran out of room in the cart I knew we were in for a big bill. At home I stock up on staples like poultry, ground beef, butter, sour cream, chicken stock and spices when they go on sale, so a typical trip to the grocery store consists primarily of picking up dairy and vegetables.

Of course since we don’t have any of those staples on hand we needed to buy each and every ingredient needed for our recipes. And of course that meant that most of the ingredients on our list were not on sale.

If I had a little more foresight I could have foraged our pantry for a bunch of these ingredients before I ever left home. There are so many tricks for saving money on food while on vacation and somehow or another I ignored all of my own best advice.

We purchase more expensive ingredients these days as I tend to buy organic whenever possible. In the standard grocery store these products can cost double to triple the price of the non-organic version. The issue of buying organic used to be a big question for me, but it’s now my standard operating procedure to buy it. Especially if it’s food my son will consume.

As I listened to the register beep and the food move down the line I didn’t look at the monitor. My husband guessed that a $400 bill was in our future. We had almost no coupons for the food we purchased and almost nothing we bought was on sale.

By the time all was said and done we filled two carts and paid over $430. I shouted ‘holy mackral’ when the total flashed on the monitor. The kind cashier pointed out that $400 would typically pay for only one or two dinners at a restaurant for the same number of people, which did make me feel slightly better.

We bought enough food to prepare about a week’s worth of meals and to feed eight people and a toddler. Here’s to hoping this is some tasty grub!

August 27, 2013 at 8:57 AM 4 comments

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