Saturday, December 30, 2006

Reflections on a Frugal Christmas

Another Christmas giving season has come and gone, and it is time to reflect on what worked and what did not so that I will be prepared for next year. In total, I spent less than $185 on gifts for ~22 people. My budgeted amount was $200. Overall, I am very pleased with the amount of money that I spent and how I spent it. There are a few things that I hope to change for next year.
1) I'd like to do more homemade/creative gifts, but ONLY if it is something that the recipient would truly enjoy. No crocheted-doll-pajama-holders here!
2) I would like to rush less in gift selection. I started heavy duty shopping in July, and was finished up by September. This meant that some gifts were not as thoughtful as I would have liked for them to be. I am starting shopping now for next year, so hopefully that will allow enough time for creative selection.
3) I would like to do more food gifts, but not just sweets. For next year, I decided that I am going to do a couple of "Meal in a Basket" gifts for some of my friends. I would also like to bake some breads and pies for gifts, but no more cookies!
4) I would like to find more luxury items at rock bottom prices to give as gifts. We'll see how successful I will be at this. ;)
5) I would like to find more unique items tailored to the person. I generally know what my friends and family like, so I just need to keep that in mind as I shop.
6) I would like to attend more Christmas plays, concerts, and the like. This really gets me in the mood, and I need to remember to budget some money for this.

Things that worked well:
1) I stuck by my guns and did not get my "school" friends any additional gifts even though I worried that what I got them seemed paltry. They all really seemed to enjoy their stockings and scarves.
2) Shopping far in advance. This allowed me to be very relaxed about the whole season and allowed me to keep my focus on where it should be (Jesus) rather than on consumption.
3) Giving a couple of gifts to each family member. Even though I prefer doing gift baskets, I think it is more fun for people to have individual gifts to open at Christmas time. Maybe it's just me.
4) Sticking to my budget. I will be sticking with the $200 limit next year as well.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Randomness

*Did you know that some dollar stores have 50% off after-Christmas clearance? Oh, yes, my friend. They do. I may or may not have purchased more ribbon. Ahem. I DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM.

*I have had a 13 inch television for more than ten years. My sweet mama got me a 20 inch television for Christmas. It looks HUGE in comparision, and the picture is so bright and clear that it hurts my eyes a little bit. :D

*One of the .16 books I bought yesterday at the thrift was one of those Lurlene McDaniel books. Did anybody else read them when they were kids? I sat this morning and read most of it. I felt very nostalgic. :P I realized that I liked them as a kid because of the medical aspects. I guess I knew I wanted to work in a medical setting even then.

*I have this whole week off from school AND the medical clinic. Even though I have stuff I could be doing, I am instead sitting around and doing some fun stuff. It feels soooooooo nice.

*I have several ideas for real posts in mind, but I am feeling incredibly lazy. Until then, you will get the disjointed stuff that I am writing now.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

After Christmas Shopping!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I had a great time with my family. Today my mom and I ventured out to do a little post-Christmas shopping (A tangential thought: I was very disappointed when as a young lass I found out that the Canadian 'Boxing Day' does not, in fact, involve boxing.). This was the first time that I have looked forward to shopping in a while. *gasp*! We went to two thrift stores, Hobby Lobby, JoAnn, and Wal-Mart and actually had a lot of fun. My main goal was to replenish my very much depleted stock of Christmas wrap and bags. Here's what I got:

* At Hobby Lobby: Two tiny Christmas tins (.50 each), 20 small paper Christmas sacks (.10 each), three spools of ribbon (non-Christmas- .25, .25, and $1.50 respectively), and a large roll of silver striped foil wrapping paper ($3). A note for you ribbon fanatics: Hobby Lobby's Robert Stanley Collection spools of thin ribbon are normally 2/$1. Right now they are 50% off, making them .25 per spool. That is the lowest price that I know of for this size of ribbon. Unless, like me, you hit the mother lode at a neighborhood yard sale and get a huge bag of ribbon for $1. ;) The wrapping paper would also do for wedding and anniversary gifts and was $3 for 60 yards. Make sure that you get a decent amount of paper for your money!

* At JoAnn: four spools of ribbon (Christmas- in blue and silver to match the wrapping paper, .59 each), a package of Wilton cellophane bags in blue and silver patterns (.59), and a set of five clear ball ornaments to practice craftiness on ($1.19).

* At WalMart: eight plain red cloth napkins ($4 for all and I will use all year), silver glitter tree topper ($1.12), spool of Christmas ribbon (see a pattern here??? .50).

* Thrift stores: three paperback books (.16 each), wooden bangle bracelet ($3.53), four cloth napkins that look really retro ($1.59), and a brand new basket with light green gingham liner to use as the container for one of those upcoming baby presents ($2 and still had $6 party store tag attached).

Finally, I've been stalking this J. Crew coat for ages. I need a brown wool coat, and I love the fit of J. Crew coats. Also, do you know how difficult it is to find a cute chocolate brown coat??? Apparently very difficult. I look like death in every brown except for chocolate, so that is the color that I decided I needed to get. This coat was on sale for ~$200, but I was waiting for a 25% off of clearance sale. I checked this morning- no additional sale. When I get back home, there is 25% off of clearance AND the coat is sold out in the Tall size that I need. So I ordered it in regular length with Thinsulate. I also had a $20 off coupon, so that pretty much took care of shipping and tax. The damage is $158 down from $318. Still pricy, but I know it will last me for years and I will really love it. If it fits. Did anyone else do some shopping???

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Works for Me Wednesday: Creative Reusing



Now, this should be common sense to the frugal-minded.

However, this is something that is difficult for me to do as I am not very creative. It's not always the easiest for me to "think outside the box" because I tend to be very concrete in my thinking style. Making do with the things you have is the easiest way to save money. Containers for salsa, margarine, sour cream, and so forth can be used for food or other storage. Clorox or Lysol wipes cannisters and coffee creamer cannisters can be used as yarn dispensers rather than buying the expensive store-bought version. An eye-makeup remover jar can be used to store elastic bands. I recently did a mailing for my dissertation and received well over 60 manilla return envelopes. Rather than throwing them away, I cut them open, turn them inside out, and use to wrap books that need to be mailed. Try to look at things in a different way to see how what you already possess can make your life easier. Works for me! Go check out the other great ideas at Shannon's.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Weekend Review

This weekend, my friend H. and I took a road trip to Branson, Missouri. I had budgeted $200 for the trip and came home with money to spare, which is always a nice thing. ;) Here's the financial break down:

* Hotel stay $45
* Silver Dollar City $48
* Dinner at Applebee's $10
* Breakfast at hotel restaurant FREE (and delicious)
* Mystery of the Nile at the IMAX $10
* Bottle of water $2
* Coldstone Creamery (I had coupons but I forgot them. Grr!) $5
* Dunkin Donuts eclairs $5
* Shopping (I only purchased a green croc print headband!) $4
* Gas money $20

Everything was well worth the money except for the Coldstone. I maintain that Dairy Queen Blizzards are better (and cheaper!). I also was not that impressed with Applebee's, but it was 10pm and we were hungry. It was so nice to get away for a little while and relax. I can see easy ways that I could have cut costs here (shopping around for hotel rates, taking bottled water and dinner for the first night) but that was not the objective for this trip. In the future, I would like to plan a vacation to see how frugally I can do it. Yep, that's my idea of fun! Overall, we had a great time and the shopping, SDC, and IMAX were all very much worth the money.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dissertation Drama

There are rare moments when I re-think my staunch frugal stance. When you're trying to score 74 copies of the SF-36 -which requires some reverse scoring, turning the raw scores into standardized scores, and other dramatic bits- one thinks that perhaps she should have sprung for the $254 scoring software.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Another Gift In Progress


Okay, I know I post a lot about gifts and gift giving, but it is one of my favorite things. As I posted previously, I am looking to put together a couple of baby gifts in the next few months. I recently received one of those great $10 off of any $10 or more coupons from J.C. Penney. Rather than purchasing clothing for myself (ahem) I decided to use the funds to get a couple of items for the baby gifts. I got this doll that teaches how to button, snap, tie, etc., and that cute pink onesie for a total of $1.58 after coupon. Both were on sale for 50% off. For the doll, I only had a choice between doctor and cheerleader, which I found odd. What choice is the right choice in this situation??? Even though I was captain of my high school dance team, I still went for the doctor doll. ;)

Updates

I am still alive and kicking! Here's what's been going on:

* Internship stuff is going disastrously. Or maybe not. I'll update more on this after Wednesday of next week. God is in control, y'all (P.S. I am from the midwest and technically do not have the right to say y'all. But it just looks so darn cute in print.)!

* This semester is finally over. I cannot even express how thankful I am about this.

* I got my Amazon shoe order. The boots miraculously fit my ginormous calves!!!!!! Yay!!!!!! And they are adorable! I'm keeping the red wedges but am passing off the blue to Mumsie (my mom).

* Today was my last day of practicum at the health/medical center. This is sad. I very much enjoyed being there and receiving supervision from an amazing psychologist. But I will now move on to a free medical clinic where I will serve a clientele with very little money. That is going to be awesome; I went there Wednesday to shadow and I loved it. I will be the only behavioral/mental health provider in that facility!

* My friend H. and I are going to take our mini vacation this weekend since we got snowed in two weeks ago. This weekend will be in the sixties, so I'm pretty sure we're safe on the snow. ;)

* I'm getting ready to do some serious work on my dissertation. I have finished collecting data and am set to begin analyzing it on Monday.

* ROCKY BALBOA OPENS ON WEDNESDAY. When I told my friend B. that I was going to see it, she said "You're a Rocky fan??? That surprises the !#%^ outta me!!!!!!!" I'm pretty much the girliest girl you will ever meet, but I am a closet Rocky fan who owns the boxed set on VHS. I'll tell you what I told her: I'm multifaceted. ;P


More to come soon.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Couple of Recent Gifts





Here are a couple of gifts that I've given recently. The top gift was a birthday gift for my Auntie T. The bottom two pictures are of a wedding gift given to a friend from high school. My aunt is a big book lover, and one of her favorite stores is Barnes and Noble. I made four bookmarks for her and printed quotes about books on them. I also ran construction paper through my paper shredder to make the fun shreds in the bottom of the basket. The plaid things in the back are houseshoes, and there is also a mystery book, giftcard, peppermint tea, and moisturizing foot socks. For my friend, I already had a Calphalon roasting pan that had been clearanced to $8 at Dillard's. I added to that pan three items from her registry: dish cloths, tea towels, and a Pyrex measuring cup. The dish cloths and tea towels were hard to find, but it paid off since they were on sale. ;) I still wound up spending about $23 total for her gift, but I think it wrapped up nicely. I am gearing up for two upcoming baby gifts and I will post pictures when I am done.

Freebies!

Two freebies that are worth signing up for:

1) If you have a McAlister's Deli near you, sign up for their email list. In two or three days you will receive an email coupon for $5 off of your next order! I can almost eat there for that amount.

2) If you have a Fuddruckers near you, also sign up for their email list. They will email you a coupon for a free milkshake!

I have a separate email account for signing up for freebies and contests. You might want to do that to avoid excessive emails and/or spam. Happy eating!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Now I've been tagged!

How exciting! I've never been tagged before! Thanks, Mari. :) (Okay, technically I was tagged yesterday. But some of us had to write eight page papers that were due today. Ahem.).

Three Things

*Scare me: Spiders, loud noises (I am really jumpy), and having to go through Clearinghouse to get an internship site

*I love: God, my family, and my friends. If we're talking superficial things: I love shoes, organization, and reading.

*I hate: When people judge me before they know me, when people mock rural areas and their residents, and poverty.

*I don't understand: Most higher forms of math, the stock exchange, why people won't take medications that will help them

*Things on my desk: Carmex, a $10 off coupon to J.C. Penney, and a cute paperweight

*I'm doing right now: Looking to see what time it is, listening to the song "Sweetly Broken" (well, I was- I cannot type and listen), and sitting with one leg tucked under me on my broken computer chair that has no back

*Update: What I'm Doing Right NOW: The same as above except now I'm not looking at the clock

*I want to do before I die: Travel around the world and all across the U.S., become financially independent enough to have a substantial surplus of money to give away, and help as many people as I can

*I can do: Dance, speak at length about psychology and the role of integrated healthcare, and pop my double-jointed thumbs in, out, and all around

*I can't do: Go six months without falling down, geometry or trigonometry, and sit still for long periods of time

*I think you should listen to: Third Day, Leeland, and John Denver

*You should NEVER listen to: Negative music, opera, and Michael W. Smith.

*I'd like to learn: Karate, cake decorating, Spanish (better than what I currently know), Japanese, how to play tennis. Oh wait, that's more than three. ;)

*Favorite foods: Mexican food, Americanized Chinese food, and dark chocolate.

*I drink regularly: Water and skim milk. I occasionally drink iced tea, orange juice, and hot chocolate, but not on a regular basis. I don't drink soda anymore.

*Shows I watched as a kid: The Cosby Show, Full House, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Three people I tag: Liz, Monica, and Auntie T. But only if they want to play. ;)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I AM SO WEAK










I do not need shoes. I do not need shoes. I do not need shoes. But I always want shoes. I had been doing such a good job of ignoring the great Amazon shoe codes right now- the coupons wind up being $40 off of an $80 purchase. So even though that is 50% off, I had been ignoring it. Until today when the siren call of Amazon finally got me. I found out that these Kenneth Cole boots, normally $198, were marked down to $20. I have large calves, so there is always the chance that they won't fit, right? To get my total up to $80 pre-code, I also got those adorable little summer wedges. What would have been originally been a $550+ order wound up being $47.56 shipped. For two pair of boots and two pair of wedges. And with this purchase I will also get a year's subscription to Lucky magazine for free. Of course I have the money for this purchase; I have gotten to the point in my life where I am able to tell myself no if I don't have the money. I have also been pretty good lately about not buying things just because they are a great deal. It's the principle of the matter. Shoes will get me every time. I AM SO WEAK (but well-shod).

WFMW: Card Organizer and Gift Planner













Okay, so I'm a little obsessive-compulsive. I like things organized. I wanted one of those card boxes to hold my birthday cards, but I didn't want to pay for one. So, I devised this card organizer and gift planner. I started with a two inch binder and made a cover for it. Then, I organized it. In the front pocket is gift lists from my family members. I keep these from year to year to get ideas. Next is a yellow notebook where I have written down birthday/Christmas/other gift ideas. This is organized by month and person. I track how much each gift is in here, too. I also have written down what craft items I have available in case I want to make a gift. Next is the Christmas budget worksheet that I use from Better Budgeting. I use this every year. Finally, I have regular folders that go on sale each year during the school supply season. I punched holes in them and divided them up by month and category. This is where I store the cards for each person's birthday. I also have sections for Get Well, Sympathy, Baby, Stickers and Seals, et cetera. Organization and planning works for me! ;) Go check out the other ideas at Shannon's.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ramblings

So, since my blog is named The Ramblings of T., I thought I would post some current ramblings:

* I have an eight page paper due on Friday (but I want to turn it in on Thursday). Am I working diligently on it? No. I am signing up for freebies and contests. Hee!

* I fall down a lot. I think maybe more than your average 24-year-old. My most recent fall was Sunday, when I slipped on some ice on the back porch. My wrist hurts. I have never broken anything, though; I think it is because of all of the calcium that I consume.

* I made the mistake of going to My Space last night. I am on an email chain of some girls from High School, and they all have profiles on there. So I thought I would go look. I don't remember most of the people that are my age that went to my HS. I personally do not have a page on there, and I won't in the future. I think 24+ is way too old to have a My Space page. Just my own belief. ;) Why do I not remember the names of anyone my age? I have a poor memory in general, but I think it has more to do with the schools I have been to since HS and the sheer volume of people that I see every year.

* Yesterday was my half birthday. I am officially 24.5.

* People are starting to get internship interviews and rejections. I have not received either. The final day of notification is around December 15. Things aren't looking good, but that's okay.

That's all for now!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dressing Professionally on a Dime





Sadly, this is only about half of my clothing. I also opted to not show you my shoes since I had no idea how to get them all into one picture. Anyhoo, the point is that I have a lot of clothes. And most of them were purchased inexpensively. I do practicum (a.k.a. free labor) at a medical clinic and at a community mental health clinic. The dress code at both is somewhere around business casual, but it must be obtained on a student's budget. Here are some tips on how I do it:
1) I am picky about quality. There are well-made and cruddily-made items available at every price point. I try to buy nicer things for little money. Learn about what materials last and are breathable (wool, cotton, cashmere) and what fabrics are of poor quality (nylon, acrylic, etc.). Clothing that is well made should have finished seams, linings, and hems that are even and do not have visible sewing errors.
2) I have a particular style. I like things that are more "classic" in nature. This ensures that they will last far beyond one season. I expect my skirts to last at least 3-5 years unless I get sick of them. I have a harder time finding good quality dress pants that I can afford, so I only expect 2-3 years out of dress pants. I still inject a trendy piece in my outfits here and there, but I *never* pay a lot for a trendy item. Classic items often have simple lines and are not cluttered by competing details. I do like patterns and color, so my wardrobe is not too boring.
3) I shop at stores where I can get a good value:
*Try your hand at area thrift stores. I don't have tons of luck at my local thrifts, but there is one store in particular where I have purchased multiple items. I have two nice skirt suits and tons of belts and jewelry from this store. Visit frequently! When I recently wanted to try high-waisted pencil skirts and did not want to pay $300 (!) to do so, I headed straight to the thrift and got several for $2 or $4 each.
*Try J.C. Penney's end of season clearance. Ignore all of their sales flyers. The real deals are at the end of season clearance sales. I don't pay over $7 for any item during these sales. Many of their items are well made, but inspect the make and fabric content to be sure they will last. I also get a lot of cheap (under $4) trendy summer clothing here. Sign up on their website and they will also send you coupons!
*I shop at Target's 75% off sales rack. They have a lot of cute stuff there. I just picked up a blazer that is a gray and purple plaid with puffed shoulders for $7. This is a trendy item that I won't feel bad getting rid of after a season or two.
*Try T.J. Maxx and Marshall's. I don't find much at these stores anymore, but if you have to wear suits, these are the places to stalk the clearance aisles. I bought a navy pinstriped three piece suit for $50. The retail tag was something ridiculous like $300. I also years ago purchased a red wool/cashmere suit for $50 on clearance. It still fits and looks great.
*Don't forget eBay for specific purchases.
*For shoes, I like the Bandolino brand. I look at the 75% off clearance shoes on the Nordstrom website. I also have a couple of leather pair from Target. I am hard on shoes, so I only expect them to last a few years. Nearly all of my shoes are leather, as leather breathes and wears better. Shoes with leather insides also breathe way better, but they are hard to find affordably.
*For cashmere sweaters, I like the Tse brand and Neiman Marcus. I get Tse off of eBay, but it can be difficult to get it inexpensively. Neiman Marcus cashmere can be had in the spring on the website under Last Call clearance for $40, sometimes cheaper. I have a J. Crew cashmere sweater but am not as impressed with it. Remember that if you purchase cheap cashmere, get it in light colors. It will be less itchy because manufacturers can hide some itchy fibers in the dark colors that they cannot hide in the light colors. Don't forget to check your thrift for cashmere and wool!
*For coats, I like J. Crew, T.J. Maxx, and thrift stores. If you want to sink your money into something, make it a coat. Just be sure to not buy anything so trendy that you will hate it next year. You used to be able to get J. Crew coats for about $60-$70 on sale, but those days are gone. The cheapest you will get them now is about $150. They are extremely well made and are probably worth the $150. I have a red coat from a few years back (in the $60 days) and it will undoubtedly last me for years. Last year I got a wool double breasted coat for $100 at T.J. Maxx. I would've waited for it to go on sale, but I really needed it then, so I went ahead and purchased. It also is a classic style that will last for years. I have a taupe wool-blend peacoat that I got for $5 at the thrift, so once again it pays to look around.
4) I reevaluate my wardrobe. Items that just won't work no matter what or that I absolutely hate go to the consignment shop. If it is a brand that will sell on eBay, I try that too. Also look to see if items can be altered to fit you better.
5) I try to take care of my clothing. Cashmere and wool sweaters are handwashed with baby shampoo and laid flat to dry. Winter coats are drycleaned once a year. Items that need hemming or altering are taken care of. Don't wash things too much, though; it can wear out your clothing quickly. For example, cashmere cardigans do not need to be washed after every wear unless you spilled something or they smell. Be sure to protect your wool and cashmere items from moths.
6) I try to have basics that go with everything. These will be different for everyone, but for me they are gray skirts, gray pants, cardigans, fitted (not tight) tees in various colors, a few good handbags, black heels and brown heels. I also tend to shop within a certain color palette. A lot of my winter clothing is gray, pink, or mauve. As a result, most items go with everything else. I do get into some trouble because I like patterns and most of my tops *and* bottoms are patterned in some way.
I have been working on my professional wardrobe for about three years and I'm now to the point where I really don't need anything else. This allows me to add in fun pieces when I feel like it for just a little money. And I can wait to replace an item until I find a good deal. Hope this helps, and happy shopping!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Happy Birthday, Auntie!


Love,
Your darling niece

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Frugal Book Deals


Two good book deals going on right now:
Weekly Reader has a deal where you purchase 10 hardcover classics and you get four "free" hardcover books for $20. Shipping is $3.95, and you can use code 125553 for 10% off. That equals 14 hardcover books for $21.95, or $1.57 per book. A caveat: there's no way to know what books you will get. However, I am thrilled with what I got and after checking Amazon I found that all of these books retail for $10+ each. The books in this deal are all pictured except for Green Eggs and Ham. Note: on the order page, make sure you say 'no' when asked whether or not you want the unsecure items displayed. This will make the little lock appear that tells you you're on a secure site.
Also, are you aware of the Aquafresh Dr. Seuss book offer? Buy any combination of Aquafresh Dr. Seuss toothpaste or toothbrushes and get a FREE Dr. Seuss book by mail. I bought two toothpastes when they were on sale for .99 at Walgreens and I had a coupon. The toothpastes themselves went into my Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. All I had to do was cut off the UPC labels, fill out this form, and I got Green Eggs and Ham by mail in about a month.
Want smart kids/nephews/nieces/grandchildren? READ TO THEM! That's why my head is so huge, y'all. To hold all my brains.

The Fruit of My Labor


On Tuesday I decided to wrap all of my Christmas gifts. This is everything except for two gifts that I have to finish making and some cookies that need to be baked. I am very happy to have this done! I will package together some extra notebooks and such just in case someone at school gives me a gift that I wasn't prepared for. I should mention that I decided to wrap these presents instead of studying for a test the next day. :P (Monica- do you recognize the packs of notecards in the front? That was such a great gift idea! Thanks for all of your great ideas!!!)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Weekend Shopping: More Non-Frugal Outlet Finds



Well. On Black Friday my mom and I went to another outlet mall to shop. At a reasonable hour, mind you. I wound up with the finds above. First, I broke down and got a Brooks Brothers non-iron shirt. French blue, french cuffs, fitted version, size 10. It is so fabulous in person. I realize I am the only one who gets this jazzed about button down shirts, but this shirt is very well made! And it should be for the ridiculous prices they charge. In my defense, they are cheaper at the outlet and they were 25% off. And I had a 20% off your total order coupon. So it was a lot cheaper than normal but more than I typically spend on a button down shirt- ~$35 . Also in my defense, I have not been able to find a French blue button down in the last 5 months or so. This puppy fits me perfectly!
Next, I purchased not one, but two leather handbags at the Jones New York outlet. The pictures of them turned out rather crappy, but they are really pretty in real life. I needed a brown bag, and I just plain wanted the off-white one. I am very picky when it comes to bag: no pleather, metal hardware, no plastic zippers on the outside, must be a medium size, must not be garish or have too many competing details, no contrast top-stitching, must be at least semi-structured. With these requirements it is a wonder that I ever get any handbags at all. So to find two in one trip was quite amazing. They were both on sale but not cheap- $30 for the off-white (down from $118), $40 for the brown croc print (down from $88).
I used graduation money for these purchases, which made it a lot easier to spend so much. ;) This weekend I am going on a mini trip with my friend H, and that will pretty much use up the last of my graduation money. So thanks everyone!

Weekend Shopping: The Electronics Version






Here are the items that I ordered from Staples from the comfort of my home computer on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The mini mouse with USB port was $5 down from $30. I will use it if I ever get a laptop (I'd like to get a cheap laptop so that when I move for internship I don't have to move my big PC). The flash drive will be ~$7 after rebates, down from $60. I'm giving it to my mom since she is in need of a flash or jump drive. The power strip will be free after rebate. My only regret is that I did not anticipate buying anything from Staples, and I let myself get low on $3 ink coupons. Next time I will know better! :)

Monday, November 27, 2006

DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am finally FINALLY finished with internship applications. Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!! Now I just have to wait and pray that I get some interviews in January...

Email from Jesus

Okay, I should not be posting now since I HAVE to finish five cover letters in the next couple of hours (more on this later). But this is so funny that I have to share. I have Yahoo email, and it is very good about sending spam into my bulk folder. I also redirect emails from companies to this folder. I went in to the bulk folder to make sure it was all spam and not something I needed to read. Well, you guys, you know I am special, right?? In this folder I had an email from sender Jesus with the subject line How Is Everything. This made me laugh sooo hard. Well, Jesus, things could be better. I am really tired of school and am ready to end these somewhat-of-a-nightmare three years. But I am very grateful for Your constant provision and blessings. ;) God totally has a sense of humor.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cleaning and Organizing


Last Saturday, I went to my Auntie T's house for a few hours to assist in cleaning out this big ol' closet that she has. Yes, this is my idea of a good time. Yes, I volunteered to do this. Yes, I will come to your house and do it for free if you pay for my travel expenses. Anyway, my label maker and I had a great time. She cleaned out lots of stuff and we got the rest neatly packaged into plastic tubs with labels. As a reward, Auntie T purchased for me the magazine Christmas Baking, which is delightful. She also gave me a loaf of fresh delicious bread. I had my choice of the stuff she was giving away. There was a lot of new stuff that she didn't want anymore, and you can be sure that I took it to go in my gift tub! The gets are: two brand new copies of the hardback book The Christmas Lizard, a coloring book and some small notebooks, a baby softball, handmade soap, wooden spoons, and some of those plastic outlet protectors. I have a couple more baby gifts to put together soon, so I will package the outlet protectors up cutely with the other stuff I give. I am keeping the wooden spoons and one of the notebooks for myself, but the rest will be future gifts. :) Good fun!

Much Better!

Well, my brief bout with the stomach flu has thankfully passed. Thank you ladies for the well wishes! An unexpected side effect is that I, a renowned eater-who-likes-to-shove-in-as-much-as-possible, am getting full on barely any food. For breakfast, I had peanut butter toast and skim milk and I am stuffed. Stuffed! If this keeps up, Thanksgiving should be interesting.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Vomitous + Free Shipping




First, and most importantly, Anthropologie.com is having free shipping on *any* purchase. This pretty much never happens. I got the two skirts above for under $50. Which is not frugal at all, but is quite awesome for Anthro prices.
Second, and less importantly, I spent most of the wee hours of the morning trying not to throw up. I have been successful thus far (thank you, Lord!). Television at 2 and 3 am is odd at best. I had my choice of infomercials, news, a Katie Holmes movie, or the college courses taped at local universities and then played on PBS for distance learners. I chose History 122, where the professor lectured briefly about Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and then lectured extensively about JFK. The JFK part was boring, but I think the professor was a little obsessed with JFK as he talked about how wonderful and handsome he was. Hee hee!
Anyhoo, I am going to crawl back to bed now and try to get comfortable.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tessa As Depicted in Styrofoam By Her Nephew

Yes, I am this gorgeous in real life. Jealous?

Frugal Music

CDs have never been something that I've spent a lot of money on. As a child, I spent my money on books and then later on clothes (surprising, I know). My family likes to have a wish list from me at Christmas and at my birthday, so I would ask for CDs at that time and avoid having to buy them. I usually do not listen to the whole CD, just one or two songs. I became familiar with individual song downloads and have never looked back. I've found a few frugal ways to get both individual songs and CDs:
1) Wal-Mart music downloads. They are .88 a piece, which is one of the cheapest out there. They also occasionally have a free song you can download. Recently it was an Aaron Shust song. I received a giftcard to Wal-Mart from my bro and SIL for my birthday in June and I have been using it ever since to download songs. I still have $7.68 left on it. :P
2) Be aware of free downloads on the packages of other products. I recently had free downloads from Aquafresh toothpaste, Renu contact lens solution, and Bic mechanical pencils. I had to download a couple of different programs, which was a little irritating. But I got free music!
3) If you enjoy classical music, the Philadelphia Orchestra frequently has free downloads. You can also sign up on their email list and they'll let you know when there is new music to download. You can find the current free download here.
4) If you need or want the whole CD, Swapacd.com is the way to go. If you are familiar with Paperback swap, it works in a similar way. In fact, you can "migrate" your account over. You list a bunch of CDs and then request music from others and others request CDs from you. The only difference with Paperback swap is you need to load money to pay for each CD. They will only cost you .49, so don't worry. My nickname on there is "Tessa" in case you sign up and would like to use me as a referral. ;) If you do not have Third Day's Offerings CD, sign up right now and get it. It is great. I also have gotten John Denver's Greatest Hits volumes one and two. :P
Happy Music Hunting!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Works for Me Wednesday: Keeping Christmas Frugal


There are many ways to have a fun and frugal Christmas. Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:
1) Start early and plan early. If you're like me, you can't stomach looking at Christmas anything in January. Get over it. Or start in February. ;) I keep a card and gift binder that has a list of ideas for next Christmas, what crafty supplies I have on hand, and what I have purchased so far. I recommend making a budget worksheet or getting one here.
2) Set a strict budget for each person, activity, and baking/cooking. Carefully plan each purchase with sales and coupons if possible. Remember that cooking supplies start to go on sale in November and coupons for these items are also available during this time.
3) Always be looking for gifts. Good deals are available all the time, you just need to keep an eye out for them. I have more posts on good deals here (September 21) and here. I finished my Christmas shopping before the end of August. It helps me have time to really enjoy the holiday.
4) Make your own Christmas cards! It's lots of fun. You can get the kids involved and have them draw on each card. If you want to have holiday photos, take them yourself or have a friend take them. Develop them cheaply yourself using the knowledge you gleaned here.
5) Use baked items as gifts for coworkers, families at church, unexpected guests, etc. You can save a LOT of money this way. Purchase baskets or plates for your goods at the dollar store or at garage sales.
6) Package your presents nicely with homemade supplies.
7) Attend free community and church activities.
8) Remember that Christmas is not about consumption!!!!!!!! We have taken a celebration of the birth of Christ and turned it into a spend-happy month of gluttony. Celebrating is wonderful. Traditions are wonderful. Do your kids need $500 gifts? Probably not. Just try to keep that in mind when you are crazed and searching for "the perfect gift."
Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Making Christmas Cards


Last summer, Monica at The Homespun Heart had some very informative posts about making your own greeting/note cards. Instructions are here. Scroll down to the 7th for full instructions. I have been doing this ever since and I find it to be a lot of fun. I decided to make my own Christmas cards using her templates. This was early in the summer before I had much experience making cards. I didn't have any cardstock at the time, so I used construction paper. I watered down a white acrylic paint that I had and used it to stamp snowflakes on the envelopes and across the front of the cards. I also added some details in red paint on some of the cards and mixed green with some of the white paint so the snowflakes would show up on the cream colored cards. On the inside, I am going to use a stamp that says "The Lord has come! Let the world rejoice." I just need to get to Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon to buy a green ink pad. ;) I also bought some foil seals to close the envelopes. I am already thinking about what I want to make for next year! :P

The Skirt In Question

If you came here from Rebecca's blog, here is the skirt in question. I couldn't get a picture of it where it did not look magenta, but it really is crimson in real life. You'll just have to trust me when I say that it really is darling in real life. And just the thing for the holidays if I can find what to wear with it! Oh- I also, um, have it in chocolate brown. Ahem.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Frugal Photos

My mom recently needed some photos developed off of her digital camera. I offered to shop around the free print offers online and see how cheaply I could get the photos. I considered the following companies: Snapfish, York Photo, Kodak, Photo Works, and Shutterfly. Pretty much all of these companies offer a designated amount of free photos when you sign up; you just pay shipping. Snapfish and Photo Works also are great for having coupon codes.

For reference, regular pricing for prints is as follows: Snapfish .12; York Photo .10; Kodak .15; Photo Works .19 for 1-24 and .15 for 25-499; Shutterfly .19. The shipping for each company is as follows: Snapfish 1.97 for 16-25 prints and an additional .49 for each batch of 10 thereafter; York Photo 2.09 for 16-25 prints and an additional .32 for each batch of 10 thereafter; Kodak 2.49 for 20-49 prints; Photo Works 1.95 for 1-20 prints and an additional .95 per each batch of 20 thereafter; and Shutterfly 1.79 for 1-10, 1.99 for 11-20, and 2.49 for 21-30. Shutterfly is very expensive all around and they rarely offer coupon codes that are worth anything to me as they tend to be for expensive "photo gifts." I generally use Snapfish, York, and Photo Works with coupon codes. For most of these companies, you need to download their software so that you can easily upload your photos.

For this experiment I used Snapfish to order 20 prints, Photo Works to order 30, and Kodak to order 10. In each case I only had to pay shipping. At Snapfish, shipping was .98 with a code. At Photo Works, shipping was 2.90, and at Kodak it was 1.49. Obviously Snapfish was the winner here. Overall, I spent $5.37 for 60 prints, which averages 8.9 cents per photo. I was very pleased with my results!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Books!



You know how some people are compulsive packrats? I am the opposite. I am a compulsive get-rid-of-er. I cannot stand to have too much clutter around me. This even goes for my beloved clothing, which I am always cleaning out to take to the consignment shop. The one area where I am NOT like this is books. I love having tons of books around. It does not feel like clutter to me. The pictures above are of some recent gets:

Picture One: These were all purchased at my local library bookstore. I live in a small town with a tiny library, so needless to say it is surprising that we have a library bookstore. It is in a small house next to the library and is adorable! The book prices are great: .50 for hardback, .35 or .25 for paperback depending on the size, and children's books are free. I haven't gotten very far with these, but 52 Simple Ways to Make Christmas Special is actually really good. It is written in a Christian perspective and I would recommend it to anyone looking for unique Christmas ideas.

Picture Two: These were purchased at a library book sale in the larger town that I go to graduate school in. It was total madness. I went last Friday. I thought I'd go early before I had to be at the school clinic and that I'd beat the crowds. No. No, I did not. People were already lined up. With carts on wheels. I am not joking. And I might add that I was wearing a heavy wool coat and rather impractical heels. I did not look around much since the crowds were so daunting. I just got in and out as quickly as possible. I already have a copy of Your Money or Your Life, but I am enjoying it so much that I picked up another copy to give away. I am also reading The Millionaire Next Door and it is very fascinating. The prices here weren't great; they were $1 a book.

Picture Three: These were ordered for me by my dear Mumsie (Mom). She has joined a book club and got several free. She offered to let me have one free and I picked Vogue Sewing since I am trying to get myself back to sewing. Well, my sweet mother also ordered the Christmas books for me, too, because I was eyeing them. If you haven't noticed, I have a slight habit of collecting Christmas books.

That's all for now!

Searches

Three recent searches that have led people to this blog: "luckymagrewards", "coupon binder", and "really nearsighted and lenses". That pretty much sums me up!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tess Rocks!


No, not me silly. The delightful and witty Tess over at http://tesstalks.blogspot.com/. She offered up a bunch of yarn for FREE, and you know my ears perk up like a dog's at that word. I was expecting something hideous (I consider hideous yarn a challenge) but this is lovely. I'm not sure what I'm going to make yet but half the fun is in thinking about it! And I must say I am impressed by her shipping skills because she made all this yarn fit into a Priority box and I have not been able to get all it back in since I opened it. Thanks Tess!!!!!!!!! Now go visit her blog and tell her how awesome she is.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

To The Commenter Who Asked

about where I got the plastic pages in the coupon binder: sorry for the delay, I just saw your comment. They are baseball card display/collector pages that I purchased at Wal-Mart. They were located in the check-out aisle where the smoking paraphernalia is. No, I don't smoke, but apparently those who collect baseball cards do as the supplies are nearly always in this aisle. This system is working SO MUCH BETTER for me than the accordian file was. I can see everything much better. Hope this helps!

Not-So-Frugal Outlet Shopping




On Saturday my mom and I went outlet shopping. I love outlet shopping even though it's not where I typically get the cheapest deals. The top picture is the new briefcase I bought at Wilson's Leather Outlet. I need one to take on internship interviews in January, and my black briefcase is just about shot since I carry it to school and to both clinics. I bought this beauty on sale for $35 down from $200. I also like the way the picture makes it look like it's suspended in air. LOL. At Old Navy I got the green skirt ($2.38) and the pink polo ($3.99). The green skirt will be perfect for when I go to Mexico, and I'm planning on layering the pink polo over long sleeve tees. I got an additional 20% off at ON since I have a Banana Republic card and they are having a promo. The BR card is one of the few that is worth it in my opinion. It has pretty good perks (ONLY if you pay off the balance in full each month!!!). Finally, as you know, I have a weakness for button down shirts. Particularly those from Van Heusen. Unfortunately the one I bought is 100% cotton and not the no-iron kind. That means I will wear it maybe 2x per year when I get around to ironing. ;) It also cost me $16.60, which is not a great deal but is about half off the original price. And it fits me perfectly! Finally, I bought a pair of chandelier earrings ($1) for a friend's birthday. All in all it was a great day. Good fun!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Scroll Down

for another post on frugal gift giving. It's dated October 31. It took me a few days to complete. ;)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Works for Me Wednesday: Kleenex Box Plastic Bag Holder



This tip is straight out of The Tightwad Gazette. I save plastic shopping bags to take my lunch in and to line trash cans. I previously had them stored in a large shopping bag, but it was way too bulky and took up too much room. I wish I had counted how many bags I was able to stuff in here. I think it was no less than 20. This has cut down on space and looks cute, too! If you're creative you can cover it with paper or fabric. Or you can be lazy like me and just look for a pretty box. Works for Me!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Frugal Gift Giving: Kid Edition






I am very specific in my kid gift giving and shopping. I like to buy what I consider nice gifts for a very small price, and I am picky about good quality. I should mention that all of the kids that I buy for are aged 6 and under. I'm not sure how it will work when they are teenagers!

First, I have several little kids to buy for, each with their own rules. For example, for my friends' kids, I generally purchase one toy, book, or article of clothing for their birthdays. The budget for this item is $5-6. For my friends' kids at Christmas, I purchase an ornament for each child and paint the year and their name on it. The budget for each ornament is $2. I know they are overwhelmed with gifts at Christmas, so I try to do something different. And when they are grown and move out they will have a large set of ornaments. I typically purchase individual ornaments at Hobby Lobby when they are 50% off or I have a 40% off coupon.

The other set of kids that I buy for is my nephews and niece. They each get one book and one toy at Christmas and birthdays, and I really try to make sure their stuff is something they will love. My total budget for book and toy is combined is $10, although in years past I have gone up to $15. (However, I should note that I went overboard for my niece's upcoming birthday and also bought her some really cute sale clothing from J. Crew on top of the normal toy and book. Then I felt terrible guilt because my nephews did not get extra on their birthdays. So I bought them Ninja Turtle rolling backpacks to compensate. Which they will like way better than if I had bought them clothes. Ahem.)

Now, how do I stay on such a small budget? As I mentioned in a previous post, I am always shopping. Once again, that does not mean I am always buying. I am just always searching for the perfect gifts. The most important thing is to find the stores that work for you and offer great deals. For me, I get the best deals on Amazon and at T.J. Maxx/Marshalls stores. Amazon used to be paired with Toys R Us, but now Toys R Us has gone off on its own. There was a better selection of toys and sales when they were paired, but I must say things aren't too shabby now. I only purchase toys on Amazon when there is a huge sale and I purchase enough ($25) to qualify for free shipping. This means that I make a major toy purchase only 2-3 times per year. Everything in the pictures above was $5.29 or less. The items in the top picture were $4 and under (mostly under). Earlier this year, American Girls online had some great clearance with a free shipping code. I purchased six books at .49 each. Seriously. You can't get any cheaper than that brand new. These books are too old for the little girls that I buy for, but I plan on keeping them for the future. I have recently found some good hardback childrens books at Dollar Tree, but I usually don't have any luck there. I typically buy kids books at T.J. Maxx or Amazon, and the books are usually the most expensive thing that I buy.

Some of the gifts above are earmarked for specific children and some are just in my gift tub to be used as needed. I can get a little carried away with the sales, so I try to have a specific plan for what I am buying and not purchase more than 3 or 4 gifts that don't yet have recipients. Another good source for kid gifts is the school supply sales in July and August. You can get all kinds of crayons, markers, colored pencils, paper, et cetera for rock bottom prices. Stock up!

The trick to good and frugal gift buying is to find stores that work for you. I have heard great things about Target toy clearance, but by the time I get there it is always wiped out. So I stick with the stores that are currently working for me. When they don't work for me anymore, I will move on and find something better.

Happy frugal shopping!