Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Works for Me Wednesday

A few things that work for me...
1. A cleaning schedule. Since I am off of work for the summer, I find that messes accumulate much quicker than they did during the school year. I created a cleaning schedule so everything gets done. I use a dry erase board in my laundry room to manage and remind me what needs to be done. Here is just a little tid bit of how I have things scheduled.
Tuesday-Mow the grass/outside work
Wednesday-Shopping Day
Thursday-Laundry/living room
Friday-Vacuum and bedrooms

2. Getting freebies in the mail! Just this week, I've gotten about 8 samples in the mail. My favorites have been the dog food samples I got from They are perfect for traveling with my puppy. I cannot believe how much money I am saving by using freebies and the high value coupons that often come with them.

3. Menu planning. I have attempted to do this since moving into my house as a means to save money. I'm really seeing the money saving effects now that it is summer though! Check out this link for some awesome menu planning worksheets! Thanks Money Saving Mom!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

59 Buckets of Dirt on the Lawn...59 Buckets of Dirt

Sorry for the lack of posting over the past week. This house has been alive with home improvements. The fence is now in, the grill looks like new, the patio is finished, and the furniture is all in place. My outdoor oasis is complete and thank goodness relax time is finally here.

I'm sure by now you have gotten the drift that I am frugal, but this is not always a good thing. First piece of evidence, the fence instillation. I shared in an earlier post my determination to get the best price possible, but little did I know that $100 I didn't spend would end up costing me a great deal of pain and approximately 6 hours of time. If you've ever had a fence installed, you probably remember that they leave the dirt they dig up at the fence posts unless you pay them some money to take it away. My company was going to charge me $100 for dirt removal. I have some low points in my yard and I was thinking this would be a great way to fill the area in for just my labor. Uggggg I was correct, but my labor was certainly expended during my 6 hours spent moving said dirt to this area in 90+ degree heat. I felt like I was going to die. There were tears, 3 showers needed, sore muscles, and bumps and bruises. I even created the song that is the title of this blog post to the tune of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall." It took 59 five gallon bucket trips to complete the job. The pressure was even higher to get all the dirt moved before the rain came on Sunday. Needless to say, it would have been $100 well spent. Although the low points of my yard are now filled and grass seeded, it probably wasn't exactly worth it. Chalk this one up to experience I suppose.

I did snag an AWESOME deal yesterday while shopping with my sister who is home from Ohio for a few days. We went to Big Lots in search of canning jars since everyone has told me they are ridiculously cheap there. The jars were a let down because it turns out I can get them cheaper at Walmart with the coupons that have been coming in the paper lately. The trip was not a total washout though. While looking at a dish chair my sister was considering buying for her apartment next year, I spotted something I've been searching for endlessly! A TAN PATIO UMBRELLA! I snagged a 9 foot wooden umbrella with tan fabric for under $50. I've been searching and most of the time there are insane colors or shotty craftsmanship umbrellas for around $65. I prefer a more neutral color since my patio furniture is black and has tan/gray/black cushions and I'd like everything to match. I couldn't believe it :) Check out the new look of the patio with this shady addition!
You can even spot the grill and fence in the background. Check out my next post for my grill rehab DIY project.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Works for Me Wednesday

I figured I would try a little something new for Wednesdays! Since my blog is titled Sounds Good....I'm going to share a few things that sound good to me each week in Works for Me Wednesday!

1. The USA beating Algeria with a goal in the 91st minute! This house has been hoping all morning in celebration for USA moving on to the round of 16 in the World Cup! Here is Landon Donovan celebrating the goal.

2. Brillo pads. This is my cleaning secret for all things stainless steel. I use them to clean my sink once a week, the tea pot, and those pesky spill savers on the stove that are always getting dirty. I cleaned these today and although they aren't immaculately shiny, they are certainly substantially shinier than they were.


After 3. Playing the Drugstore Game. I'm finally getting good at this. I'm doing both Walgreens and CVS right now and last night I had a semi unplanned trip that worked out perfectly while I was waiting for my sushi take out. I got all of these items between the two stores for $1.64 which was mostly tax. I had $6 RR at Walgreens from last week that I used and $4 of my $7 of ECB at CVS. I earned $6.50 in RR at Walgreens and $4 in ECB from CVS. This means that if I factor in my RR and ECB, I got all of this stuff for $1.14! I am not sure if I can beat it, but Walgreens has some other awesome deals I will be going back for later in the week once I have a chance to go through coupons and plan it out. I really want to get the conditioner to match up with this shampoo so I need to plan out the deal since I cannot use the $2 RR I got on the shampoo for the conditioner or it won't print out another one.

What works for you this Wednesday? Feel free to share any tips that you've discovered that make your life a little easier!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Organization Part One

Today begins the quest for organization. I figured I would start with my office since it is the place I feel most organized in my house. I have a LOT of stuff, but I like to think of it as stuff I need. Everything in my home office has its function. I may not use it every single day, but if I need something it is usually at my fingertips.
I have a downfall in my search for organization...the mail. All the bills and papers and stupid-stuff-you-can't-just-throw-away-because-someone-might-steal-your-identity mail. I hate dealing with it and worse I hate filing it. I have set this system up so I can file things once a week instead of every day. The top has a flag that says "File It" where all the mail goes to be filed. The bottom has a flag that says "Hold It." This is where any important papers I still need go, manuals for my computer and printer, and cards or notes I'd like to keep. By doing this, everything has its place and it is more manageable for me.
I know we've all been need a pen to write down someones number, but one is no where to be found. Thank you IKEA for this wonderful solution. This wonderful bar was actually in their kitchen section with the holders meant for kitchen utensils to dry after washing. I took the spin in a whole new direction and attached this to the wall right next to my desk. The first container is for pens and pencils. The second is for markers and highlighters. The third is for address labels that I periodically receive in the mail from organizations I donate to. All these things are at my fingertips whenever I need them!!!
I have this little tray attached to the desk that I think is meant for a keyboard. Seeing as I have a laptop, I figured I would put it to other use. I have 2 long desk drawer organizers that I got in the Dollar Spot at Target when I was in college. In these are scissors, whiteout, tape, glue/glue sticks, post its, staples, and hand lotion. I also use this space to hold a package of CDs, paper clips, a 3 hole punch, and a box of envelopes. A great way to use otherwise wasted space.
The last storage piece that I use religiously is a set of severely beat up bookshelves I got from Freecycle Indy when I first moved back to Indianapolis. I had the intention of using them in my classroom....that I didn't have my first year of teaching, so it seemed only natural to bring them to my house when I moved. I have one other one that I use in my guest bedroom to hold picture frames. These 2 shelves house all my college education books, regular books, cookbooks, documents I want to save, yearbooks, my college diploma, and a number of other things. I have placed picture frames in front of many of these things to break it up. Right next to these shelves, you'll see 3 boxes. In these boxes are all of the things I might need. Two of them contain all the freebies I will be using in my classroom for my token economy and one contains extra office supplies. They are housed inside storage boxes I got in packs of 3 last summer at IKEA for less than $2 a pack and labeled with blank index cards and tape.
Some people may think this is too much to have the boxes out in the open, but since they are all uniform and have labels, I actually like it. I get in and out of them too frequently to store them away in an area I cannot readily access. This makes the most sense for me. The whole area is less than 3 feet and it fits into a corner I would otherwise just leave empty.

What storage solutions work for you in your at home office space?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wild Weekend

I had every intention of posting a blog on storage and organization on Friday evening, but plans drastically changed when my best friend called me and told me she was in labor. I drove as quickly as I could to get over there...and got pulled over and let out of a ticket because of it...all while trying to beat the severe thunderstorms that were coming. Her husband got home not long after to take her to the hospital. I went home to take care of my dog and had him call me when things were getting close because it was really late at night. Despite the insane thunderstorms and the weather alert radio (see last blog post) going off all night, I got some sleep. Mike (her husband) called me at about 7 am and I raced to the hospital to see her. When I got there the happy family was doing well and it was just about go time. Luke was born at 8:32 am weighing in at 7 lbs 9 oz and 19 inches long. He is a TOTAL cutie! Here is one of his first pictures:
So the storage and organization post must wait since all my camera batteries are dead thanks to this little guy. Until then, enjoy the unexpected!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blessings in photos

I decided today was going to be my first edition of "Blessings in Photos." Every week I am going to highlight 5 blessings in my life and why I am thankful for them. Enjoy week one of my new experiment! This is Sophie, my wonderful Jack Russel terrier! She is a wild one that loves spending time right next to me. I am so blessed to have such a great dog even when she chews on things she isn't supposed to. This picture was taken today when we were practicing her commands in the kitchen! Hopefully she will get "touchdown" perfect before football season. If you aren't sure what this is, check back once football season starts to see her in action :)
Today I was given a wonderful present by one of the sweeties on my soccer team. She brought a big red bag with a wonderful gift and explanation for me. It is a white wooden sign that says LAUGH. She said it was since I was always smiling and laughing. When I got home, I discovered this sweet note on the bottom. The picture below shows where this special gift has now found a place inside my home. It works well with the dark wood on the hutch.
This is such a great place to highlight such a gift...right in my kitchen/dining area where I will see it everyday.

This is my garden filled with some herbs, yummy eggplant, green peppers, and 3 different kinds of tomatoes. I am hopeful (especially with all the rain we've been getting) that these plants will supply my family and friends (AND ME) with some delicious fresh food from August-October. I will also be canning tomatoes to make homemade pasta sauce, tomatoes/peppers/herbs to make salsa, and drying herbs from my garden to use all winter long. What a blessing to be able to work and see such an outcome.
Sun tea...what better thing to cool off in the summertime? I fill this gallon sun tea pitcher with water, 5 tea bags ($1.99 for 100 at Aldi), and 1/2 cup sugar and place it outside. A few hours later, I have refreshing sun brewed tea. No electric energy required. Cheaper than buying it, green living, and definitely delicious.

This is my weather radio. For those who live in Indy, you can attest to the crazy summer storms we've been getting. My dad provided this weather alert radio to me when I moved into my house last year. It is comforting to know that I will have a warning if severe storms come in the middle of the night. It might be slightly annoying at times (like Tuesday when it went off 28 times in one day), but it might help save my life one day. Believe me, you cannot sleep through this alarm!

I hope you find a way to count your blessings everyday. What blessings do you have in your life that you are thankful for? Comment away.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Trying my hand at the Drugstore Game

About 2 weeks ago, I was fortunate to read about something called "The Drugstore Game" on the blog Money Saving Mom. I had heard of people getting amazing deals at drug stores, but wasn't exactly sure how it all worked. Money Saving Mom is currently featuring a once a week segment called "31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget." Being the frugalista that I am, I was intrigued. Many of the tips are things I already do, but then the Drugstore game appeared!

Last week, I worked out my first deal in the drugstore game. I was somewhat nervous that I would blow it, but started small. Walgreens had a deal on U by Kotex tampons that cost $3.49 and paid back $2.50 register rewards. I had some $1/1 coupons for these so I took my mom with me and paid out $2.49 each and got $2.50 back. I ended up spending just under $5 out of pocket to start this game which I thought would be a good investment. I also got some Ecotrin aspirin in the same transaction that was $2 on sale with a $2 register reward and I had a $2/1 coupon from the coupon inserts. Not only did I get free aspirin, but I got paid $2 to buy it. On my $5 investment, I was now in the possession of $7 to spend in register rewards.

I've worked out several deals since then. I limit myself to twice per week when I am on the way home from running an errand or soccer practice and if the deal I have worked out can't work, I leave and stop by the second Walgreens I pass on my way home. (I have 3 within about a mile of my house).

Today, I had some great luck on a scenario that I had worked out.

I had $5 in RR that were left from another transaction earlier in the week to use.

Jergens Natural Glow Firming Lotion--marked down to $4.59 each and you earned a $5 RR when you bought 2

(2) lotions at $4.59 each - (2) $2/1 Jergens Natural Glow lotion coupons=$2.59 each

1 6 oz Orange slices-$.39 on sale

Total= $5.57 - $5 RR= $.57 + .67 tax=$1.24 out of pocket

Plus I earned a $5 RR to use next week.

I'm sure some of you are wondering why on earth I bought orange slices when I could have gotten the lotions for change without it. Walgreens will not let you use more coupons than you have items so the cheap candy (which was on sale for a REALLY great price) is called a filler item. This extra $.39 let me use $9.00 in coupons instead of $7.00 at most since the RR is considered a coupon.

All in all, I've spent less than $10 out of pocket in 5 transactions and I've gotten over $100 worth of merchandise. I can honestly say that I really can't believe it until I look at the cabinet in my bathroom full of quite a few items I've gotten for super cheap. I used to be a dollar store or Suave only girl because everything else was too expensive. I've gotten amazing name brand products (Jergens Natural Glow, Reach, John Frieda, Pantene, Kotex, Gillette, and Bayer just to name a few) for pennies on the dollar. Some of these things will be given as gifts (think stocking stuffers) later on down the road. Until then, they will be stored in their place which will be the inspiration for my next post on storage of freebies and stockpilings!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Outdoor living

I blog to you today from the back patio of my lovely little ranch. I attended a wonderful wine and craft party last night at Nicole's house where we cut linoleum stamps to make greeting cards. (check out the link to her blog on her name!) While we were sitting at the table, one of the lovely ladies in attendance commented about how relaxing it was. I've never been one for art (until last night that is because it was FUN!), but most of my relaxation comes from spending time outdoors.

If you don't know, I have recently had a construction project that is more reminiscent of Holmes on Homes than Curb Appeal. I hired a man to put a 20x16 concrete patio on the back of my house. I did not take this process lightly. I researched, got referrals, made phone calls, set up price quotes, checked with the BBB, and in the end this man was the one for the job. As frustrating as it has been (no calls, no shows, messed up BIG time, ruined grass, and a broken seal on my sliding glass door), I've had to be patient and assertive in getting exactly what I want out of this project. After over a month of effort, this will all be worth it next week. I'm not sure we would have gotten here without a few pressuring words or assertive stands, but my backyard oasis is on it's way.
I will also be having a fence put in next week. Please dear Lord make this go smoothly. This has also been a long process of me trying to score the best price from the company. I got 4 price quotes, and thanks to some bargaining, will be paying $300 less than the lowest referral and had a tension wire to keep my dog from digging under it thrown in for no cost. It has taken me an extra 2 weeks to get all of this, but in the end those extra $300 are going to go toward my future car purchase.
I have also added a wonderful little garden to my backyard this week. It has eggplant, green peppers, and 3 different kinds of tomatoes that will feed me all fall and winter long. Since this was my first year for the garden, I overbought how many plants I would need. This has turned out to be a blessing though because I have been able to supply plants to others with my excess! I'm also realistic in my understanding that there is NO WAY I will be able to eat all the plants my garden produces so I've been thinking up some ideas of how to use without wasting. I will be hosting a Canning party sometime in October to can tomatoes to make pasta sauce, homemade salsa, and my favorite, chili, all winter long. Not only will this allow me to use all tomatoes I cannot eat or share with others, but it will provide me with yummy healthy options for dinner during those cold winter days!
Below are a few tips for outdoor living on a budget:
-Shop around. If you need a project done, don't be afraid to look for the best deal out there. The economy stinks and as a result, I've found people are much more likely to do a job for a slightly smaller price rather than not doing it at all.
-Clearance, clearance, clearance. My patio set was bought the day after the 4th of July last year from Target's clearance outdoor section. It is a beautiful black rod iron table 4ft by 2 ft with 4 chairs and comfy seat cushions that was originally priced at over $650. I got it for under $200 on clearance! You cannot beat those savings!
-Take other people's freebies. My grill was a gift from Nicole and Eric that was left at their new home when they moved in. It is a HUGE charcoal grill that was rusty and needed new handles. With a wire brush, 2 cans of rustoleum grill paint ($4.98 a can at Lowe's), and some new wooden handles, it looks like new. This means I got a huge grill for under $20.
-Barter. I knew I needed to roto-til the area where I wanted my garden to go, but I have no til, nor did I want to spend the money to rent one for the day ($49 at the ACE hardware by my house). Instead I bartered with my dad who had one I could borrow. In exchange for dinner, he and my mom came over and tilled my garden for me. What services might you be able to trade for something you need? Helping someone move in exchange for help with your taxes or painting in exchange for help with hooking up electronics?
-Grow organic. It may actually cost you slightly more than it would to use lots of inorganic products, but it is much cheaper than buying organic food. I've found that Meijer normally runs some pretty good sales on organic plant food that help with potted plants and veggies (since they use up the nutrients in the potted soil within a few weeks). It makes it comparable in price to unnatural substances. You can also keep weeds down thus saving yourself a LOT of time by putting down newspaper around the plants and areas where you walk then putting grass clippings on top of it. It is going to give me a great excuse to let the grass grow an extra day or two. :)

What tips do you use for outdoor living on a budget?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summer inspiration

This afternoon I spent some much needed time mowing my grass and enjoying some outdoor time. After I was done, I grabbed a glass of sweet tea and headed to my new patio to look over the grocery ads that came in the mail today! Marsh has yet another addition of great values this week. I love that they do so often because I have one less than a half mile from my house. This includes another mega bonus sale where you get $5 back instantly for every 10 of the promotional items you buy. There are 2 great additions to there are no limits on the 10 items, and two there is a HUGE selection (most of which I have coupons for)!
Just a few featured items include: Kraft Singles, Kellogg's Cereals, Gatorade, Tombstone pizza, Velvetta, Edy's Ice cream, Nabisco snacks, Toaster Strudels, Yoplait Greek Yogurt, and Jello pudding. They also have those delicious vine ripe tomatoes on sale for $.99/lb which has spurred me to share one of my favorite summer recipes with you.

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
2 large vine ripe tomatoes
4 oz. mozzarella cheese (best to use the block and cut it into small chunks--about half the block)
4 tbs chopped fresh basil
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs balsamic vinegar

Cut the tomatoes (with seeds and juice) and cheese into small chunks. Combine together in container that can be sealed. Chop basil and add to container. Add the oil and vinegar. Close the lid and shake everything up. Let sit for 5-10 minutes then pour into a bowl and enjoy. (You can discard the excess oil/vinegar mix if you do not want it when you eat)

This is also great mixed with some cooled angel hair pasta for a summer pasta salad variation as well!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Teacher freebie ideas

I teach alternative education at the high school level which might be seen as a struggle to some, but I love it almost everyday. This past year, I tried to impliment a token economy in my classroom, but soon ran out of extra money in the budget to fund these daily rewards for positive student behavior. I plan to do this again this coming year with more success due to a little planning ahead.

I have been using coupons and help from many online blogs, like Thankfully Thrifty, A Frugal Friend, The Blessed Life, and Couponing101 to help me find awesome deals for super cheap things my kids will like to earn.

Here are my stock pilings as of June 1st. I have spent less than $3 total for this entire box of items.

Tips for finding cheap deals:

1. Save coupons that do not have a size restriction to use on trial sized items. Things like trial sized lotions, deoderant, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and shower gel are must haves for my students. I know these will likely be the first things to go so I'm stocking up now!

2. Send off for freebies to be sent to you in the mail. The site Thankfully Thrifty has Freebie Fridays where they list out all the freebies available right now. I've sent away for numerous ones for tampons, pads, shower products, and magazines.

3. Keep your eyes posted for products containing trial sized items when you buy them. I have had numerous packages of Clean and Clear and Vasaline brand lotions that contain a 1 or 2 oz trial attached. Since I'm already buying the product, why not get something else for free?

4. Save magazines that come in the mail. I signed up for subscriptions to Self, Fitness, Cosmo, and Marie Claire last year with my MyCokeRewards account. Since then Teen Vogue, Lucky, and Cosmo girl show up every month as well without me ever subscribing. I save them in their packages and add them to my stockpile of things.

5. You don't have to get it all at once. My problem when I started this last fall was that I needed to come up with plenty of items in a very short amount of time. I now have all summer to add to my collection. The picture above shows what I have after about a month and a half. I know I won't have much time when school first starts so I want to make sure I am stocked through October 30th (When soccer season is over). This way if I don't have time to get things refilled on a regular basis, I have a stash to pull from at home that will hold me over.

What ideas do you have for changing student behavior using a token economy? I think something like this might even work for kids out of school for the summer at home with parents. Throwing in packaged cookies, granola bars, fruit snacks, and some other treats might work best for smaller kids. Any and all ideas for things to add or suggestions for changes are welcome!