Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Saving Up For Christmas

It doesn't seem possible but Christmas is right around the corner. In just two months we will be celebrating my favorite holiday once again! But before we can celebrate we have a lot of shopping to do.

The big question? Where does all the money come from? The majority for us comes from our regular budget that we set aside for Christmas.

A few places I earn a few extra dollars:

1. I don't shop online too incredibly often and a few of the stores I do shop at (such as Gymboree) are not linked to cash back sites like ebates but when I do shop on line I make sure I first go through ebates or shopathome. I am saving the money I earn through my cash back for some Christmas gifts. So far I have earned enough to at least off set one family members whole Christmas. Yeah!!

These are my referral links to these sites - if you care to link through them, great, if not just go to the website yourself - thanks!



2. Swagbucks. I know, I know, I mention this one often but thanks to Swagbucks I have saved up over $90 in Amazon gift cards towards Christmas already and earning towards more every day. Since gift cards post to my account within a few days of my redeeming my Swagbucks I'm sure to earn quite a few more before Christmas (also my referral link).

3. Saving Star - it isn't much but every few dollarrs helps! Since I can redeem the money in my account for Amazon gift cards it's money I can add to my gift cards that I already have from Swagbucks.

4. Credit card rewards. I've been saving up from my rewards for a few months and holding on to cash in at Christmas. My card links to Amazon so more money for me at Amazon. Looks like my kids Christmas will be coming from Amazon! Thankfully they have everything and free shipping on most items.

5. Selling unused items on Craigslist, at consignment sales or eBay. Of course, this is all provided you aren't like me and spend the money you make at the consignment sale :) But I do have some larger items laying around that if I sell them I would make enough to offset a few more people on my list.

I love stretching my budget as far as it can go. Since Christmas isn't all about gifts (truly it's about celebrating the birth of my Savior), I don't want to make it all about spending money either. Finding ways to get people a little something they want without putting myself in the hole is just one way I can ensure that I will be able to enjoy Christmas and not dread it!

What about you? How are you saving up for Christmas? Any ideas that I missed?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Consignment Sale Success

Last week was a very crazy and very busy week for me. I worked long hours at the consignment sale, shopped a lot and sold a lot.

This week I've been trying to recover :)

So, I know you've been dying to know what I picked up! Here is a portion of my "loot":

The kids were given their "gifts" before I got a chance to take a picture - which includes a bike for Caleb that I picked up for just $20.

My total spent for the week was right around $463. Which, I have to admit was more than I wanted to spend. However, between what I made selling and what I earned working I can subtract $300 from my total bringing my out-of-pocket down to just $163 and since a large number of my purchases were made for my son's birthday next month I used money from his birthday fund to buy them. So, I can subtract another $90 off of my total since that was a previously budgeted amount and that brings me down to $73 - $10 of my purchases were for the school; a little under another $10 were for my church and now I'm down to just over $50 for everything I brought home.

Again, I would have preferred to have spent less than I made but I got a lot of things that I needed including most of Kaitlyn and Caleb's winter wardrobe.

I know in a previous post I had tips about shopping at a consignment sale. I wanted to add a few for shoppers from a worker's point of view.

1. Bring your patience! There may be long lines but I PROMISE you we can see them and we are working as hard and as fast as we can to get you out of there. I highly suggest you plan your day around shopping if you come at a busy time. The other option is to come at a slower time such as the end of the day.

2. Along with bringing your patience, bring your happiest face. While I do love volunteering at the consignment sale it's not the only thing going on in my life either. I will be as pleasant to you as you are to me. If you need help, I will go out of my way to help you no matter how you are to me, however, I would be a lot happier as a worker if you are pleasant to me.

3. Follow directions. To the best of your ability anyway. Know in advance the kind of payments a given sale takes. For example, Classy Kids takes cash, Visa and Mastercard but only with an ID. Knowing these things will speed the check out process for everyone. Want to speed it up even more? Bring cash - there's no waiting for the credit card machine to run! If you need to remove your hangers, do so. If children aren't supposed to be playing with toys or aren't supposed to be present, keep them with you or leave them at home. You get the idea :)

4. If you take it out, put it back - if you don't know where it goes, ask. If you don't want an item, not a problem but please don't drop it anywhere, let someone know so it can be easily put back. Unlike a store that is open all the time, consignors have a limited amount of time for their items to be sold and if it's not where it's supposed to be they could potentially lose a sale.

Just some thoughts I figured I'd share after a long week of working behind the counter ringing up sales :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Menu Planning: Light Fare

With me working every night this week it's up to Kirk to take care of the kids and the food. On weeks like these I find the best thing to do is to make a menu plan full of very easy meals

Monday: Banana Pancakes

Tuesday: Spaghetti

Wednesday: Chicken Alfredo (this is actually Chicken Helper - I'm going to cook chicken in the crock pot all day on Tuesday leaving Kirk with meat for the rest of the week)

Thursday: Chicken Nugget Casserole

Friday: Chicken Soft Tacos w/ rice

Saturday: Spaghetti Pie

Sunday: Raviolis - yes, it's a lot of pasta this week but it's the end of my month so I'm using what I have to feed us!

At least it looks like an easy meal week this week. That will be one easy thing :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fall Consignment Sales: Shopping Tips

It's that time of year again, consignment sale time! Last month my multiples club held their sale and I was able to get rid of a number of items that I no longer needed as well as pick up a few that I did.

Next week I'm working almost every night at the area's biggest consignment sale. It's a week I look forward to because I usually have a pretty good list of items that I need and can always find it there. This year/season especially I have a list.

The best way to get everything on my list? Shop as early as possible! And that's why I volunteer. I don't want to see what's left behind, I want to be first :)

Other tips for shopping at consignment sales? I've compiled a few links with some great tips for shopping sales.

How to Prepare to Shop At Classy Kids Consignment Sale

10 Consignment Sale Tips (and from a mom of triplets too!)

7 Tips for Shopping Consignment Sales

To be honest, I naturally do most of these (like volunteer to shop early) but other things I just don't get to and I still do fine.

I don't make a specific list. Mostly because I like to search for stuff I love - if I don't love it, I don't buy it unless it's really, really cheap or it's a basic that I know I need.

I don't limit myself to 10 outfits or whatever - the fun for me is wondering what I'll find so I leave the lists at home. That's just me but the consignment sale is the ONE place that I get to go and shop for fun. At the grocery store I have lists and coupons, same with any regularly priced store but at the sale I like to have fun. I shop for fun and I like to keep my eye out for clothes and toys that I want.

Does this mean I'll go over budget? Sometimes. I do keep somewhat of a limit in my head but I'm just fine if I go over budget. Why? This sale only comes around 3 times a year so there's no going back to grab the beautiful dress/outfit that I left behind.

The one new piece of advice I liked from all these lists was to have my smart phone (in my case, Galaxy Tab) with me to check prices of items online while shopping. I did this a few times at the last sale to see if what I was getting was worth it. Really comes in handy and I'll be doing it again this time!

Check back next week to see what items I picked up and how much I spent. You can see if my strategies even work :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Menu Planning: Week Two With Kristy

Week One went pretty well. I had to make a few adjustments and move some things around on her menu both for last week and this week in order to cover the meals as well as keep me from overspending and/or traveling to the story every day of the week!

So, here is her plan for the week:

Monday: out to eat

Tuesday: white chicken chili (6 ingredient simple version)

Wednesday: pancakes and fruit

Thursday: spaghetti (or maybe sloppy joes)

Friday: potato-cheese soup and bread

Saturday: at a wedding

(She didn't give me Sunday but she did give me enough to work with)

How I translate her plan to mine:

Monday: Angel Chicken with broccoli - Monday's are her husband's day off so they often go out whereas we more often stay in!

Tuesday: Kristy's chili - both Tuesday and Wednesday this week I will be using Kristy's recipes from last week - I was able to grab the sausage but the rest of the ingredients were not in my budget last week so I will make these this week instead. Last week I substituted Burgers and Fries Pot Pie for the chili since I already had all those ingredients - we served it with extra fries and ketchup - just like burgers and french fries for dinner :)

Wednesday: Kristy's breakfast casserole that I didn't make last week - instead I substituted Mac 'N Cheese Pie

Thursday: Spaghetti Casserole - this was shared with me and I have really been wanting to try it out so we'll have this instead of just "plain" spaghetti

Friday: Potato-Cheese Soup w/ Bread - I don't have Kristy's recipe so I decided to make Cheddar Ham soup which is probably very similar - also calls for potatoes and cheese and sounds really yummy right now in this cooler weather!

Saturday: I'm not going to the wedding so I'll be making Taco Bake instead

Sunday: now we'll have Kristy's White Chicken Chili - I just wanted to spread out my chicken recipes a bit - and my chili recipes :)

Next week is consignment sale week and I am working just about every night so I won't be meal planning next week except to leave Kirk with some really simple recipes like spaghetti and tacos but I've had a lot of fun using someone else's meal plan and making it my own. I hope you can do the same with what I post or any other meal plan you find. Looking at what someone else does gets my juices going as to what I have and what I can make. Also means it's a little easier to plan since I don't have to with what I'm in the mood for!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blogging for Books: Shadows on the Sand Book Review

Slow Start, Okay Ending

It took a while but I finally finished Gayle Roper's Shadows on the Sand. I must say before I write my review that I have read books by Gayle Roper before and have enjoyed them so I was really looking forward to her newest mystery.

However, the start to this book was quite slow and confusing. Rather than start with any action we start with our main character, Carrie, working in her cafe talking with her employees and regulars including her "favorite" regular, Greg Barnes. During this time we learn a LOT about everybody including Carrie. A few chapters in we learn that Carrie's dishwasher (as in the employee, not the appliance) is missing. At this point I would assume the action of the book would go into high gear but the fact that her employee is missing seems like just more back story. Something else going on in Carrie's busy life.

The main story line seems to be Carrie's "love" for Greg. She does a "snoopy dance" every time she sees him but he has a traumatic past, having lost his wife and children to a bomb, and doesn't seem to notice Carrie. Since this is a romance, we know that he has noticed Carrie from the second the author switches to Greg's point of view. Their romance seemed to be the most realistic part of the book and the only part I liked. There is less romantic angst of typical books making the characters seem real and I enjoyed that.

The characters seemed realistic and well-rounded it was the plot that was lacking and the mystery part of the book that I didn't like. For one, the mystery seemed to have very little to do with the main character so it felt odd. The author adds a few chapters from the killer's point of view which I'm assuming were meant to frighten but only served to confuse me. It seemed our bad guy was a serial killer but then the bad guy seemed to come from a cult or own a cult. When the dishwasher's body is discovered it seems like a story footnote. "Oh yeah, there's that body/kid we were looking for." The main character ended up in the action at the end but for most of the book she had very little to do with it.

I'm giving the book 3 out of 5 stars because the author did a good job of wrapping everything up at the end and I enjoyed the romance. I can't give more than that because most of the book felt like backstory and kind of all over the place making it hard to keep my interest and want to know what happens.

If you want a light-hearted romance/mystery you would enjoy this book but if you enjoy real suspense as I do this won't be one of your favorites.

The book was provided for me by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group's Blogging for Books program. All opinions are my own.