Posts filed under ‘spending money’
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
A brief run through of this week’s highs and lows.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- $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.
- $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.
- $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.
- $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?
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.
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?
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!
In the middle of July during a particular hot week, (the temperature peaked at a toasty 97 degrees), the pool in our area began offering a reduced membership for the month of August.
Originally the price was listed as $185 per family plus an $85 maintenance fee. Divided over thirty-one days the pool would cost $8.70 per day if we used it each and every day of August. That was much more than I was willing to spend so I shelved the idea completely.
About a week later when temperatures were still in the upper 90s the price dropped to $99, which resulted in a daily price of $3.19. That seemed like a really good deal. 80 and 90 degree days are commonplace in DC during the month of August so I chatted with my husband about the cost and then handed over my credit card info.
On the first few visits my son had a great time jumping in the kiddie pool. On more than one occasion we were the only people there so he had free reign to splash around, but as he became more familiar with the area he grew tired of the kiddie pool and asked to venture into the regular pool which ranges from three to nine feet deep.
Unfortunately for me he isn’t really interested in swimming as much as he is running back and forth along the pool deck, which is, of course, an activity that is strictly forbidden. He likes to step onto the ladder on one end of the pool, dip his toes in, climb back up the ladder, run along the side of the pool and then climb down the ladder where the water is even deeper. Of course he’s not old enough to swim, which means I have to climb out of the pool to chase him down and make certain that he doesn’t actually jump in after he climbs down the second ladder.
Some days he listens better than others, but on the days when he isn’t listening it is no fun to be at the pool. I spend my entire time there jumping in and out of the water making sure that he doesn’t accidentally slip into it.
It’s also been remarkably nice weather for August, which means most days I’m content to take my son to the park or playground. The water at the pool is exceptionally cold so if the weather is not really hot it’s just not that enjoyable to swim there.
All of this has resulted in us visiting the pool just a handful of times in the last three weeks.
Unfortunately we won’t get a whole lot of use out of the next few weeks either. Being new to the pool I didn’t realize that hours change after school starts in our area. Starting Monday, opening hours will move from 10:30 am until 3:00 pm.
I typically take my son early in the morning, because his afternoon nap ends very close to the time I need to start cooking dinner. That means I’ll need to prepare meals ahead of time if I want to go to the pool after his nap rather than before it. Odds are that it will be enough of a bother that I be less inclined to drive over there in the early evening. At the very least it will involve much more planning.
Needless to say our $99 pool membership did not turn out to be a good deal after all. We’ll be lucky if we make it to the pool ten times in the entire month of August. If we hit that magic number, which I’m not so sure of, the daily cost of visiting will be roughly $9 a day.
It turns out as alumni members we could have attended the university pool for only $7 a day and I wouldn’t feel pressured to go just because we already paid for a membership.
So live and learn. Who knows what next year will be like, he’ll be older and perhaps more interested in swimming. I think the lesson is to try out things on a day to day basis rather than signing up for a monthly or seasonal membership. In this case we would have been better off paying for daily admission.
How about you? Do you belong to a pool? If so, how often do you visit it?
Since I stay at home with my son I like to take him out on a number of different adventures each week. On Monday we typically hit the library for story time. This event is free and it’s actually one of my favorites. The library is just a few minutes from our house and there are two sessions with a small fifteen minute break in between. The librarians do a great job of reading and getting the kids to move around.
Most days we walk down to the school in our neighborhood or the nearby church so my son can run around the playground and release pent up energy. If I’m not in the mood for a walk we simply play out in the backyard with a bunch of hand-me-down toys including his favorite toy lawn mower, a plastic jeep, a play house and a koala climber.
Other days we head out in search of new adventures. A local coffee shop features musical performances for children once a week. While the show is technically free a $5 donation is suggested. The performers don’t get paid without donations, so it’s hard to listen to the music and not drop money in the basket.
Over the past three weeks we’ve visited a garden center featuring hundreds of butterflies for $6, a miniature train park with $1.75 rides, an aviation museum with a $4 entrance fee and the national zoo where it cost $22 to park for three hours. I also bought a $99 membership to a local pool for the month of August.
I typically pack a lunch before heading out on one of our little excursions so we don’t pay for food and drinks, but the cost of activities and gas will certainly add up over time. I don’t mind paying for these types of activities as my son really enjoys them and I look forward to taking him new places and quite frankly just getting out of the house for awhile.
Many of these activities are only available in the summertime, so I figure we should take advantage of as many of them as we can. Luckily we live very close to Washington, DC so once the warmer outdoor activities end I can also take my son to the Smithsonian museums, which all have free admission. It’s not always easy to find parking and the metro can be quite expensive, but it’s always fun to go into the city.
Of course, we also try to invite a playmate over once a week. This is a great way to introduce my son to other children without spending any money.
The little guy won’t start preschool for another year. He has an October birthday and won’t be eligible for any of the schools in our area until he turns three. At that point he’ll have to start in the two year old class, which I’m not entirely happy about, but I suppose it will be my first glimpse of what it’s like to be one of the oldest children. He’ll be one month shy of three by that time. The preschool I’m most interested in costs $180 for two, one and a half hour classes a week. If I haven’t returned to work by then I would like to continue our weekly excursions. A few dollars here and there are completely worth the joy and excitement I see on my son’s face when a butterfly lands on his finger or he gets to climb inside a real airplane.
My son’s favorite animal (Credit: Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian’s National Zoo)
A few months ago I took my son on his first trip to the zoo. The National Zoo in Washington, DC doesn’t charge admission, but it does charge parking fees ranging between $16 and $22 depending on how long you visit the animals.
You can avoid the fees if you park on the street, but most street parking is limited to two hours and as with all parking in DC it’s often difficult to find a space large enough to fit a mid-sized car. To be honest it’s also not nearly as convenient as paying to park at the zoo. You typically have to park a fair distance from the zoo and then make certain that you don’t stay longer than two hours. Of course, that time includes your walk to and from the car.
The zoo is accessible by metro, but to be honest that approach wouldn’t save me much money. I’d pay $10 to ride the metro both ways and park at the metro station. Trains don’t always run on time and even if everything runs perfectly smoothly it would still cost me an extra 25 minutes in travel time. If my time at the zoo coincides with rush hour my trip would cost even more.
This morning I took my son on his second adventure to the zoo. At 21 months he is now old enough to help me push the stroller, (he didn’t want to ride it much), and run around to all of the exhibits so that he can point at the animals he sees. He didn’t seem particularly interested in the big animals, but he loved the small mammal house and ran from cage to cage giggling, pointing and saying “more, more.” I taught him the sounds a monkey makes and he was looking up at the animals, pointing and saying ‘oh, oh, ah, ah, e, e, ah, ah” every time he saw one.
We arrived at the zoo just before 10 o’clock and didn’t leave until roughly 1:30. I was charged the maximum amount for parking: $22. That seemed like a significant amount of money to spend for a three and a half our trip to the zoo. Granted we didn’t have to pay for admission, so it wasn’t so awful, but it certainly wasn’t a cheap three hour tour.
While we were visiting the zoo I noticed signs for free parking if you signed up for a one year zoo membership. It didn’t seem worthwhile at the time, (for some reason I thought parking was only $12), but looking at the $22 bill I paid as I exited the parking lot I was willing to take a look at the alternatives.
The price of a one year membership is $80. If you agree to automatic renewals the rate is $75. The membership includes free parking during regular daytime hours, two carousel ride coupons, two free fountain drink coupons and two 10% discount coupons for food purchases. We always bring our own food to the park so the 10% discount won’t help me, but everything else will come in handy. If I sign up for a membership I’ll see savings by my third visit.
Membership also includes a reciprocal program that includes more than one hundred zoos and aquariums nationwide. Luckily the Aquarium on Roanoke Island is included in that list. I haven’t taken my son there yet, but every time we head to the beach I consider driving south to see it. With this membership I’ll save $16, (normally $8 per adult), on the cost of admission for my husband and I.
Oh and I forgot to mention that the cost of membership to the national zoo is completely tax deductible.
It’s unfortunate that I didn’t take this approach sooner. If I was a bit smarter I would have purchased a membership on my very first trip a few months ago. I’ve already shelled out $41, which included parking for two visits as well as $3 for my son’s very first ride on the merry-go-round.
Oh well, live and learn. The question of whether or not a zoo membership is worthwhile will rest on the number of times I return in the next year. If I visit at least three times I break even.
If today was any indication we will definitely return quite a bit in the next year. The zoo is located about 25 minutes away from my home. It’s a great outdoor activity and my son was thrilled to see all of the animals.
I’ll try to provide an update to this post a year from now. Hopefully we’ll visit the zoo quite a bit, but if we don’t I feel good spending the money this way. The national zoo is a lot of fun to visit and I feel very good supporting this cause.