Sunday, January 30, 2011

Month End Money Recap

As it always seems to do time marches on and we are now at the end of January which is the first chance I get this year to analyze my New Year's Resolutions. How are you doing? Given up already or going strong? I guess I fall somewhere in the middle since I missed a few weeks of organization.

Here's how I'm doing so far:

1. Organization. Pretty good though I did miss a few weeks - oops. May miss this week too due to company but here out I have high hopes for getting some things done. I'm certainly happy with what I've accomplished thus far.

2. Decorating. I did not get to this at all this month. I'm hoping we can at least re-do a bathroom in February.

3. Spending less and saving more. Um, not sure on this one. Hoping we did but I'm not totally sure. The way our budget is working February will be a better budgeted month.

4. Do a little more deal hunting. This I did. I picked up a few deals through Swagbucks like a $20 Amazon gift card for $10 and quite a few more gift cards through Swagbucks which will allow me to get some free stuff in the weeks to come - huge budget help!

5. Monthly meal planning. Did it for January and am working on February now.

Like I said, I did okay but I'm very much hoping to do better in the months to come.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Miracle of Mercy Land Book Review

I have been so excited to be involved in Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program. I love blogging and I love books and as a Tightwad I certainly love getting books for free so this program is literally MADE for me!

I recently received my second book to review. The book is "The Miracle of Mercy Land" by River Jordan. The book was received as a gift but the opinions are all mine.

Here are my thoughts on my most recent book:

I wanted to read this book because the premise seemed fascinating. The writing in the book was excellent. The description was great and feeling like you were right there with the main character, Mercy was very well done.

That being said I thought the book started slowly and it was very hard to get into. While the character was great and her situation was believable the action was slow to begin. The "book" that came to Doc Philips happened early in the book but then just sort of sat there. I had expected more interaction or more story of what happened while they were “in the book”. The foreshadowing was excellent, the wondering what was going on kept me reading the book.

Once the character, John Quincy was introduced, the book took on a new level of wondering who he was and what would happen. I very much enjoyed the building up of this character and the relationship between John and Mercy. All of the characters questioned if the book they had could change the past and how their choices affected one another.

Since I often like suspense novels I enjoyed the overarching sense of something evil or that something bad was going to happen. The author is very good at portraying that eerie feeling that something isn’t right, that something awful has happened or will happen. However, the “evil” didn’t seem fully realized. The premise was so good but not fully drawn out. I kept waiting for something awful to happen based on what I had been presented with but nothing really did.

Having completed the book I still have questions. There are things I still don’t understand and would have liked to. I believe the book is very character driven which is good but leaves the plot wanting. It is written well meaning it has “pretty prose” and a great Southern charm but my overall impression of the book was confusion.

If you enjoy character-driven books you will like this book because you will love Mercy and her relationship with Doc and her Aunt Ida but if you prefer plot-driven action this wouldn’t be the book you would enjoy. Because of that I have to give this book just 3 stars.

Book (and above image) can be found at Amazon.com

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Menu Planning Monday: The End of January


I know this is a broken record but really is January about over? Seems like another year will be over and it hasn't even started! Of course my girls are already counting down to their 5th birthday which is 10 months away - I guess they have already figured out that time does fly.

So to end our month this is what we will eat :)

Sunday: Chicken and Broccoli Fettucine

Monday: White Bean Chicken Chili

Tuesday: Chicken Quesadillas

Wednesday: Chicken 'N Peppers Pasta Skillet

Thursday: Taco Bake

Friday: Leftovers/eating out/spaghetti - not sure because we're expecting family for a week and they may be in town or they may not so it makes it hard to plan so I'd rather avoid cooking if I can :)

Saturday: Mini Meatloaves

Sunday: Alea's One Pot Chicken Dinner

Monday: Layered Enchilada Bake - this is actually a repeat from earlier this month but because we are feeding company again, it's a family favorite and I already have the meat for it for this month I'm going with it again :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Organizing 2011: Week Two (er, Three)

I know I'm behind. Not only did I miss posting organizational pictures last week but I am also late on getting them up this week! What can I say? Fridays are usually hectic around here - read: date night or family night so blogging gets pushed aside. Maybe it counts that I did double organizing the first week :)

This week's project: The Hall Closet (yes, I had hoped for the dining room but right now I'll take what I can get)

I'd say it needed it!



The hall closet has been our place to throw shoes and obviously coats but then eventually stuff gets lost in there and we just end up jamming it in.

Now I'd say it looks better:



Time spent: maybe 45 minutes - really it was quite quick - I did it pretty fast this evening - what in the world was I waiting for?!

Cost: Zero though eventually a few dollars for a shoe rack at the bottom of the closet - for now I have to deal with stacking them...

Made: Right now zero but I did find a few things for an upcoming consignment sale - I also found my CVS "green tag" that has been missing for quite a while so that will earn me $1.00 for every 4 visits so that's something! I've hated shopping without out (now I just have to remember to bring it and the bag it's attached to with me!)

Cleaning out the closet meant about 6 jackets to donate (plus another 3 to give to a friend) plus at least 10 pairs of shoes to donate - also found the "mate" to some shoes that I had been missing so I guess that saves me the cost of buying more shoes. All kinds of good from organizing!

Again, I'm not fully participating in Org Junkie's 52 Weeks of Organizing but I still recommend you check out her site - I have ordered her book "Clutter Rehab" for my Nook and am enjoying that plus she has a great giveaway going on right now for a Monthly Menu Planning Board - awesome!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Today Only Amazon Deal

There is an awesome deal going on at Living Social for today only. You can order a $20 gift card for just $10!! That's $10 of free money and who doesn't need free money??

In case you don't already know you can order just about anything from Amazon and whenver you spend $25 you get free shipping - so combine this gift card with a $5 free one you earned from Swagbucks and you're talking a lot of FREE.

You are on Swagbucks right?

If not, follow the link below and once you sign up be sure and set Swagbucks as your home page so you can earn Swagbucks every day when you search. Once you reach 450 Swagbucks you can "buy" a $5.00 Amazon gift card. Essentially this means you are earning just slightly more than a penny for every swagbuck you get. Most of the time when I search I earn 9, 10 or more Swagbucks so just for typing in "Gymboree" in the search line rather than my tool bar I'm winning "money".

Search & Win

If you love Swagbucks be sure and tell your friends. When you get referrals you earn every time they earn from searching. This means your Swagbucks can add up incredibly fast.

I think this year I may just start my Christmas shopping this month - see what I can get for free :) Of course, I have to get through Valentine's Day first...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rite Aid Videos


I feel very behind this week, this month, heck, it's January this year! Yikes, not a promising way to start. I have my spots to organize but last week had way too many late nights to get things finished and posted and this week has started off with snow days meaning the kids have been home from school. I'm hoping tomorrow gets me off to a better start!

However, I haven't missed watching videos at Rite Aid . Talk about a money maker! Watching the videos means earning money to spend at Rite Aid. Coupons sure but also $4 off of $20 and a few $1.00 off any product coupons. Along with some +Up Rewards that's a long way to free products at Rite Aid!

The best way to use these coupons is to purchase items at Rite Aid that earn you more +Up Rewards as well as on offers that you can combine with Manufacturers coupons. If you haven't started shopping at Rite Aid I highly recommend it! It's a great way to stretch your dollar - even on food.

I'm slowly getting back on track and part of that is to make sure you all are heading to Rite Aid for come coupons :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday


Being flexible this week! I have my whole months menus printed out and taped to my calendar, however, from one day to the next I change my mind about what sounds good so I make changes. But that's just another thing I love about monthly planning - it sounds like you have no flexibility but the reality you have lots. Not in the mood for spaghetti tonight? Try making Mexican, after all you already have all the ingredients for that meal too.

This is another month we expected company for a week and once again we had to make changes and push off the visit so I had planned for a large number of *big* meals so instead of having a ton to eat next week and lots of leftovers I'm moving some bigger meals around the calendar and inviting friends and family over for different meals :)

Our menu this week:

Sunday: Ravioli Lasagne

Monday: Quick Chicken and Dumplings

Tuesday: Mac Chicken Caccitore (left over from last week - didn't get to it)

Wednesday: Burgers 'N Fries Pot Pie

Thursday: Layered Enchilada Bake with rice(shared with company)

Friday: Broccoli Chicken Casserole Recipe

Saturday: Pizza Sloppy Joes (shared with LOTS of company because these feed a crowd)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Organization 2011: Week One

I'm finally getting serious about organizing my house. I know I say it often that it needs to be done but usually life gets so busy I put it to the wayside. But not this year. Using the blog kept me honest about my grocery spending - I plan to do the same with my organizing.

My goal is to concentrate on a room a month but this week I did a few small projects just to help me feel better and get started!

One was my bedroom - got it all cleaned up and with new bed sheets (soo luxurious) and a new bed set - it's a room I now look forward to going into. GREAT place to start a home makeover! Though this isn't my decorating for the month :) Look at those three cuties - I think they like it too.





My real accomplishment for the week: my tupperware cupboard. Darn thing has been a mess forever.

Before:


During:


And after:


So much nicer :) Of course, my oldest is complaining that it's harder for her to put the clean tupperware away now because she can't just throw it in!

Time spent: less than 2 hours (hard to tell because I had a lot of interuptions)

Cost: Zero

Made: Zero

Unmatchables and just old stuff went in the trash - anything salvageable but unwanted went to donation.

I didn't really intend for this to go along with Organizing Junkie's 52-weeks of Organizing - I had made this goal before she posted it but hey, since it's there I'll play along :)

Next week: the dining room buffet/dining room even though the room I have to actually work on this month is the guest room in the basement but I'll leave that under my decorating goal instead of my organizing ones.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Harris Teeter: Dollar Doubler Time Again!

I don't plan to post grocery pictures quite as much this year but whenever the deals are this good I just have to share :)

Harris Teeter is once again doubling dollar coupons - this means that they will double $1.00 to $1.98 coupons - meaning your $1.00 coupon will be $2.00 off - your $1.50 coupon will be $3.00 off! HT's same restrictions apply - you can only double 20 coupons per VIC card per day.

In two trips here's what I picked up:



My total spent: $24.45
Total saved: $91.51

I know it's not "Extreme Coupon" worthy but I thought I did pretty well and picked up a number of good deals and I'm happy about the variety.

My best deals (match-ups are from Southern Savers)

Finish Dish Detergent
- regular price: $5.49
- sale price: buy 1 get 1 free
- used 5 $2.25/1 coupons from S 1/2
- final price: $0.50 each (these are NOT free despite what it states on Southern Savers - her math was a little off)
- total for all 5: $2.50 which is 100 Tabs - to put this in contrast BJ's sells an 80 count of Finish for $11.99! When I was there the other day I had a coupon for buy 1 get 1 free so I got 160 tabs for $11.99 which is obviously better but still not as good as $2.50 for 100. However, I will note that BJ's does allow manufacturer coupons on top of their store coupons.

Kellogg's Special K Cereal Bars
- regular price: $3.49
- sale price: 2/$5.00 plus when you buy 4 you get 1 free
- used 2 $1.00/2 coupon from RP 1/2 which doubled
- final price for 5: $6.00 (or $1.20 each pack of 6)
- to put this in perspective I picked up a 36 pack of the same cereal bars from BJ's last week for $7.49 after using a $3.00 off coupon from BJ's which is pretty close in price per bar.

For the Tabs it's clearly more cost effective to purchase from Harris Teeter because it was a high dollar coupon with a good sale, however, the Kellogg's bars were pretty close and I was only able to get a deal this good because it's dollar doubler week. So I can get a better price at Harris Teeter most of the time but it will require more work and patience than picking it up at BJ's.

Other good deals:

Ziploc Containers
- regular price: $3.55/each
- sale price: buy 1 get 1 free
- used 2 $1.50/2 coupon which doubled to $3.00
- final price: $0.55 for 2 or $0.27/each

My free items were 2000 Flushes Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner and the Yo Crunch Yogurt using printable coupons - links can be found at Southern Savers.

On a side note - I also used Mueller printable coupons which are $1.00 off of 1 which doubles. The only thing is that the pasta itself was $1.00 and my Harris Teeter does not allow overage so in order not to waste my coupon I purchased the larger box for $0.50. If anyone else's store works differently I'd love to know!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: First One This Year


For quite a while I've been unofficially playing along with Laura's Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie and I've certainly found the more I plan the better my week/month goes.

If you, like me, have the goal to get more organized in 2011 then Menu Planning is certainly the place to start. Since I plan a month ahead I find it easier to just plan to eat what I want rather than what's on sale each week. I may spend a few more dollars but to know in advance what we're having and to actually want to eat it - that makes up for the money spent :)

For the first week of the year this is what we're eating:

Saturday (1/1): Ravioli Skillet

Sunday (1/2): Cheesy Chicken & Salsa Skillet

Monday (1/3): Tater-Topped Casserole

Tuesday (1/4): Ground Beef and Twice Baked Potato Pie

Wednesday (1/5): Angel Chicken

Thursday (1/6): Monthly Moms of Multiples Meeting

Friday (1/7): Weeknight Lasagna Toss

Saturday (1/8): Mac Chicken Caccitore

I don't have a theme this month just picking out foods that I think we'll enjoy. Of course the fact that the triplets don't actually ever eat dinner means there is a low chance of all of us enjoying it but it's worth a try and at least I will be enjoying it!

Do you have any menu planning tips?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Few Freebies

If you are out and about the next few days you may want to consider picking up a few Freebies (plus overage):

Walgreens:

Electrasol Finish Tabs:

Sale Price: $3.49
Register Reward: $1.50
Coupon in today's Smartsource: $2.25 off 1
Final price: FREE plus overage

- I don't know if this is every Walgreens but my Walgreens does NOT allow coupon stacking so I will use my RR immediately because they're not worth holding on to. However, they do allow you to use 2 coupons when you are buying 2 products so I could purchase 2 bottles of Pantene:

Sale Price: 2/$7.00
I can use $3/2 coupon from PG 12/26 AND my RR for $1.50 off (2 coupons on 2 products)
Register Reward: $2.00 (earned after purchase)
Final price: $0.50 for 2 or $0.25 each

Another Freebie is at Safeway!

Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks

Regular Club Price: $1.99
Sale Price: $0.99 if you buy 4 or more
Earn: Catalina of $2.00 if you buy 4; $3.00 if you buy 5
Use: 2 coupons for $0.50/2 - I highly recommend printing them from Swagbucks so in 8 to 12 weeks you can earn another 10 Swagbucks just for redeeming your coupon - follow the link below to sign up and then click on "Coupons" on the left hand side:

Search & Win

Purchase 5, use 2 coupons - you will owe $3.00 and you will get back $3.00 in a Catalina (printed at the register) good for your next shopping trip.

Final price for 5: FREE

Since Safeway is also having a sale on yogurt I used my Catalina to purchase yogurt at a greatly reduced price - by pairing my Catalina with another printed coupon (use link above) for $0.75/2 I was able to get yogurt almost free as well. Plus I will earn Swagbucks for using my coupons plus all GM products have Box Tops on them so that's another $0.10 each product for the school.

Sounds like a reason to go shopping to me!

Thanks to Southern Savers for the Walgreens match-up!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011: Resolution Time Again!


Another year has come and gone. Heck, another decade has come and gone.

And now it's resolution time again.

I know some people hate them but I like them. I don't think of them as hard and fast rules and don't hate myself when I fail but it's something to aspire to and gives me something to focus on throughout the year. And since I come back just about every month to see where I am it does keep me on track :)

For the most part I kept last year's resolutions. Some of the money stuff fell apart in December around Christmas but truly so much better than in years past. It was like losing 50 pounds and gaining back 5 - overall you feel great but know you can do even better!

As for spending $100 a week for the most part I did. As I take the whole year and divide it comes out to right about $100/week. Every month I went over $400 but that makes sense for the full year.

This year I'm making a few changes - I'm less worried about my grocery bill - I think I'm good with couponing (though if you saw TLC's show Extreme Couponing I have a long way to go - although to be honest I have NO desire to be like that - I love my family too much and apparantly no one heard that time is money also) - anyway, off my soap box - for myself I am content with how I'm doing - I pay try to do a little better this year but I'm not hugely worried about it and have increased my budget to $450 a month to give myself a little wiggle room.

I've also renewed my membership to BJ's - mostly just to be more convenient. My plan is to go there the beginning of each month to get what I need in bulk for the month and the money I have leftover in my budget I'll use to pick up milk, produce and all the best deals for the month. My plans are always changing so we'll see how it works.

As for this year's resolutions:

1. Organization. This is topping my goals this year - I really want all the toys gone or organized. I started in 2010 but rather than focus on couponing I'll be focusing on organizing.

2. Decorating. There are parts of my house that I truly want to look better and this year I want to actually get it done - on a budget of course. My goal is $100 per room (probably per month) and a little bit of work to make some much needed updates. Again this is a priority over couponing.

3. Spending less and saving more. This is always a goal and after re-doing my budget for 2011 I'm excited to be doing both. Still paying down debt and not accruing new debt - still budgeting!

4. Do a little more deal hunting. I still want to coupon but I plan to look for even better deals rather than stock up on everything - so pretty much just stocking up on the free or almost free items each week and buying the rest at BJ's or my one big Harris Teeter run each month. But adding to groceries is deal hunting at the store and stocking up on clearance items hoping to donate to the school or whomever needs it. I started yesterday at the Christian Bookstore for clearance Christmas items - got some REALLY good deals!!

5. Monthly meal planning. I'm loving this and plan to continue.

For now those are my thoughts for the new year. The fun part is changing things as I go along and each time seeing how I can do better.

I hope you'll stay and see how I make changes to my house, my budget and my life. The Lord gives us each and every day that we have to enjoy and to live for Him. Being a good steward of my finances and my belongings are the best way I can show Christ to my family and those around me.

May your 2011 be blessed!