Thursday, September 20, 2012
So I've been watching a lot of Storage Wars and Storage Hunters, and it's as inspiring to me at this phase of my life as Home and Garden TV shows were to renovating our old home. The shows are funny, and inspire me to root through the leftover moving boxes for unused items to sell on eBay. It's kind of fun, and watching the show gives me the distance I need to just declutter.
Now that I'm through the first season of Storage Wars on Netflix, I'm wondering where my inspiration to continue will come from. Perhaps the twins, who just woke up, will have an idea or two.
Check out my items on eBay.
Just to keep me on my toes, eBay sent me an invitation to a special event: List up to 50,000 items between 9/18 and 9/22 free. (This is over and above the 50 you get every month.) I was struggling to do 50! I wonder if I can manage to break the 50 threshold in just 3 days.....
Thursday, September 6, 2012
P&G Coupon (2) $3 off two bags/one box Pampers
Target Coupon (2) $2 off two bags/one box Pampers (these were mailed out)
Target Promo: Buy two BOXES of Pampers, get back a $10 GC
Target Sale Price (>$22 per box)
Pick up two boxes of Pampers in the size you need (larger sizes go fast, but if you've got a newborn, do it; you can always buy larger sizes and store them, so take advantage of what's available.)
Use all 4 coupons
Use the $10 on your next order (you can split transactions in the same visit)
Save a lot.
$20 per box =$40
-$10 in coupons
-$10 GC credit (use immediately)
Total cost: $20 for two BOXES, which is a decent regular price for two bags at about 60% savings in the largest sizes!
Note on splitting transactions: In order to get the $10 GC you must check the Pampers all out at once; so have $10 of other stuff to buy in the next transaction.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
So here's the challenge I've set myself: Accrue $5,000 by December 31, 2012 (the deadline). I've got FOUR months*, and here are the rules:
I do this all from home, by selling off overage, old toys and kids' clothes, stuff we never used, old books, and (hopefully) a little freelance writing. (Because someone has to watch the twins.)
I have to deduct expenses for newly purchased supplies, but not for items we already own (boxes, envelopes, pack tape, etc.).
Listing/selling the item cannot involve additional fees, but may involve a percentage cut once the item sells (no listing fees allowed, commissions ok.)
If someone wants to buy something I've listed, I MUST sell it, even for the minimum price. (No reserve pricing.)
If a previously listed item doesn't sell, it must be donated before we file our taxes. The total refund added on as a result of donations cannot be counted toward this FY, but can be counted toward next year's FY. So if I donate $100 worth of items, I get ~$30 toward next year's effort.
Option: Items purchased for resale must cost less than $5 each, and no more than $50 invested at once (items must sell before I purchase more). Again, all listed items not sold by year's end have to be recycled. I can keep unsold articles for publication.
Here's the plan:
Bookholders: My year-to-date total is $44.47. Whoo-hoo! Gotta run some more books over there.
Craig's list: I sold most of our moving boxes for about $50.
Ebay: This is a fun one. Ebay recently (don't ask me when) began offering 50 FREE listings (no insertion fee) per month. This means that I can only list 50 times (relisting once counts again), and can't use any upgrades like gallery photos.
Check out my eBay auctions.
Freelance some parenting stories.
MOM Groups' Consignment sales: We net an average of $300 per sale, so two annual sales should account for $600 of the money, but I think I can do better.
Selling off precious metals. I'll keep you posted on the price of copper.....
My running total for this FY? $364.57.
Only $4635.43 to go!
I think it's a good plan, especially as I'm at risk of becoming a hoarder.
*Author's Note: I amended this information because I erroneously thought the deadline was the same for 529 plans as for IRAs (Tax day of the following year, so 4/15/13). Not so! The deadline is the end of the calendar year. Instead of 8 months, I have 4. Yikes.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
They also post a handy -- and exact -- list of qualifying items.
Beware -- check prices across retailers, because some have reportedly jacked up prices a bit to cover taxes anyway. You might do better shopping the week before or after. But my money's on after, or late in the week.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The soil is poor and needs to be enriched, but dirt is the last thing I want to spend money on. A little Googling and some creative thinking, and I've come up with an on-the-cheap gardening plan that includes finding things free or dirt cheap:
1. Free Compost. Lasagna or hole composting appeals to me -- this is where you layer "browns and greens" in a hole or strip. (Browns are papery -- dry leaves, paper, or cardboard; Greens are kitchen scraps, green leaves, anything with life left in it.) Cover it with soil and mulch and let it cook over several months. If you want to plant in the bed immediately, most advise you include some "finished" compost, worm castings, or enriched soil to the mix; however, if you can wait the winter you can just let it be.
My Plan: Collect free composting materials around the house, and dig holes around existing plants and trees. Improve the beds with Lasagna Composting once November hits. I'm also considering worm composting, but honestly that grosses me out, and I can't seem to discover what the native worms of Maryland are, in case they escape.
Browns: Shreded newspapers. I usually just recycle, can be used to tamp down leaves, but their high Carbon/Nitrogen ratio makes them poor choices for a compost heap. (Cardboard can also be used to tamp down weeds in a bed, but is a poor brown because of the high carbon rate.) Fallen leaves are the best choice for browns, as are, oddly, corn stalks and hay (grass clippings). I'm having trouble coming up with browns.
Greens: Kitchen scraps daily include 3-6 eggshells (the twoddlers eat a lot of eggs!); 2-3 banana peels. 1 cup other kitchen greens. The occasional spoiled veggie/fruit. Deadheads and twigs off existing plants.
I plan to save the day's scraps in an airtight container for a 2-3 days, outside where the heat will make them start to rot quickly. Then I dig one small hole, and fill it with the scraps and twice as many browns, a 2:1 ration being the easiest rule to follow. I'm starting with a bed that I don't plan to plant soon, but which has several young boxwoods that need nutrients badly. It may not be the best plan, but it's doable right now!
2. Grow items from seed. Duh. This is cheap, and instructive too. The twins can learn how to grow flowers, and one little packet provides 20-50 plants.
My plan: I'm starting with Purple Coneflower and Mammoth Sunflower seeds, for the excitement, and the seeds the sunflowers will provide wildlife. Later maybe I can dry the stalks, like Corn stalks, for more browns. Chives I've heard are beneficial to roses. Seed packs cost about $1 at most stores, and I bought about $10 worth to get started, but I should have checked into sales because at the end of the season I've heard you can get seeds for 10 cents a pack. Free seeds can be had from other plants; I plan to liberate some Redbud seeds from a local park -- just a handful, 50 or so. Then I can start some of these beautiful trees this winter indoors, and in a couple of years, hopefully I'll have enough to line the side yard.
For containers in which to grow seeds, I'm saving cardboard egg crates. I cut them into four pieces: the egg side, the lid, and the tab I cut off and and cut in half. I thread the two tab halves through the holes in the lid, to create a more secure seal. Then I'm going to put the egg crate inside the lid (nested) to provide extra protection again overwatering. The seedlings can be easily cut apart and planted whole, like a peat cup, providing some "browns" to the soil when I plant.
I'll also need plastic containers, but these are widely available free.Or I can line a styrofoam egg crate with the cardboard variety. It's also easy to stockpile pots included with any plants I do buy. For big, cheap pots, the Dollar Store has nice 3-gal cleaning buckets into which I can poke holes for drainage.
3. Get Free plants
Here's a place to get creative. Plant co-ops, plant exchanges, or a friend and eager gardener with a mature garden can provide you with free plants. I've read you can also get plants free if you see someone digging up a display and they're throwing them away. I saw this a week ago and missed out! Is someone ripping down another old-growth forest near you? Ask for permission to remove saplings and other plants before they do! Keep a plastic bag and a container in your car -- I'm thinking a box lined with a bag -- for this purpose.
An aunt with a lot of volunteer trees in her yard offered us free saplings, and we're taking some river birch and maybe some holly's. I'd love some Eastern Red Cedars!
4. Get cheap plants
I spotted the 50% off bin at Lowes the other day, but only walked away with a $5 verbena in fine shape. Dunno why it was on there, except most of the flowers had bloomed and it was really lopsided for a hanging plant. Verbena in a pint pot is $4. I got at least enough verbena in one hanging plant to equal 6 of those, so a savings of about $19.
I've read you can ask nurseries if you can look through their castoffs, which may appear dead. You're taking a risk here that the plant is dead (or worse, diseased), but at the minimum you get a plastic pot and some free dirt.
5. Use Native Plans
The Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources lists lots of native plants for your garden. The Maryland Native Plant Society lists local growers and providers of native plants who hold annual open sales; the MNPS also has sales in the spring. Haven't made it to one yet, but I'm committed to using only native plants. They are lower maintenance and far better for the environment than imported invasives. Locally grown means lower shipping charges, less water (natives are used to the local rainfall to provide what water they need), and less maintenance all translate into more savings.
6. Invest in big specimens.
"The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago." No one planted any here to shade the enormous, south-facing deck when they built it, and no one planted any in the 20 years since. If I can't find the Eastern Red Cedar or a fast-growing shade tree, I may have to buy a couple.
Become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation and get 10 "free" trees for a $10, 6mo membership fee ($15 annual). You could theoretically repeat this to as many adults as live in your house, or a friend/family member could gift their trees to you for their membership fee! This is an astoundingly good deal. There is NO S&H.
As a bonus, you can easily access several lists of trees that will work in your natural environment. If you're a minimalist about research, just go on the site, click on the free tree offer, and plug in your zip. You can then choose the "Flowering Tree Mix" for a list of 5 trees for your region, or the "10 Tree mix" for a list of deciduous trees that will work for you. Or you can order 10 of the same tree for several varieties. Then you can research just those trees for your soil type and available light.
So what's the Catch? The trees are 2yo saplings only about 8 inches tall, and need to be planted within 5 days, and protected from pests who just love a tender sapling; also, they only ship trees Spring and Fall.
My Plan: Join the ABF for $15 (1yr), upgrade to $25 member to get their Guide to Trees normally $15, which I can use for shopping, education, and in my back yard. (Interestingly, if you get the $10 membership they also offer you the $25 upgrade to include the Guide, so if you want the Guide get the $15 membership because it's the same effective cost ($25) and you get an extra 6 months of membership). You get 33% off all tree purchases as a member, BTW.
My goal is to spend as little as possible of course. We're already in for trees, but I plan not to spend money on anything but big specimens and needed equipment
Lastly, garden ornaments. Chairs, tables, pots, all cost money, so I'll be trolling the summer yardsales and flea markets, not to mention the thrift stores, and Craig's list, looking for pots, plants, and gardening equipment.
Friday, June 8, 2012
Think I'll try them out.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Sunday, April 1, 2012
They provide this handy list of company freebies and discounts for multiples families. Shoes, formula, portraits, various toy companies.... the list is long. The site includes a sample letter for you to copy and amend for your needs.
They also have a list of freebie sites, coupons, articles, and more for mothers of multiples.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Work the deal
Buy 4 packs for $38
Use TWO coupons for $1/2 to reduce it to $36 ($1.50 off coupons also available)
Get $10 back in Extra Bucks (for buying $30 worth of P&G Goods)
Effective cost, $26, or $6.50 a pack! Regular price is around $11 or $12 a pack, so this is a 40% savings, more if you can find more valuable coupons from the manufacturer, often available online.
Sadly, this time you can only do it once "Per card, per household". Nonetheless, I recommend you and your partner and Grandma and Grandpa take advantage of this deal this week!
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
In January I posted about creating a Consignment Sale plan. Here are some addendums.
Don't know what size to plan for? Check out the excellent Neiman Marcus Chart that provides sizing guidelines by weight and height. My boys are at the top of the toddler clothes already, and this general guideline helps me prepare to buy the right sizes in the right numbers. The boys are already well into the 4T range which we have some of, and they sprout in the summertime! I plan to buy a few (25%) shorts in 4T, and the rest in 5T. Imagine my surprise to discover there is no 6T.
Surprisingly, 4 & 5 boys (XS) is the same as the toddler, except that the boys' clothes are made slimmer because they shouldn't have to accommodate a diaper.
The sales start in late February and run through mid-April, at which point Yardselling starts. Totswap in Columbia is this weekend! Go to the Wilde Lake Shopping Center in Columbia for some great deals! I love Totswap because they're so well organized. They even have a list online of all the non-profit consignment sales in the DC Metro Area!
CAMOM's sale is St. Patrick's Day! If your kids are growing fast, then you'll want to wait until this sale for some great deals and fine merchandise, plus two or three of everything! Cradlerock Elementary school, Saturday March 17, 2012, 8a-1p.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
The State website reads:
Additionally, there will be a tax-free three-day weekend during which the sales and use tax will not apply to the sale of any Energy Star Product listed below, or solar water heater. This tax-free weekend will occur the weekend of February 18, 2012, through February 20, 2012.
Energy Star Product means an air conditioner, clothes washer or dryer, furnace, heat pump, standard size refrigerator, compact fluorescent light bulb, dehumidifier, or programmable thermostat that has been designated as meeting or exceeding the applicable Energy Star Efficiency requirements developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Maryland's next Tax Holiday -- "Shop Maryland Week" -- is August 14-20, 2012. Maryland rarely runs these, and didn't run one at all in 2009. So take advantage!
Monday, January 16, 2012
There are many ways to earn money by selling off unwanted goods, as discussed last week. But you can easily earn money with little input with these Internet ideas.
Review your purchases at Epinions, and earn money on them indefinitely. Be sure to check in frequently, or lose your balance. Electronics and travel reviews are popular.
If you shop online and don’t use a shopping portal, someone’s losing money. You can shop through various charity portals; Box Tops for Education hosts 150 popular online retailers; click through the BT4E website and earn eBox Tops for your preferred school. Or you can get the cash back yourself. Our favorite online portal is FatWallet. The stores listed give you between 1% and 15% cash back on your purchases at their sponsored retailers, real cash which you can have delivered to your PayPal account or receive via check mailed to your home.
Register your grocery cards with Upromise, or your most favored credit card with a restaurant loyalty rewards program. These programs give you cash back, essentially, for purchases. Be careful, though; Upromise will send your earnings to the aforementioned escheats division in your state if you fail to login for 3 years.
Planning to get a credit card? Get one that gives you more; airline miles, hotel points, or cash back are all earnings that save you money in the long run.
Again, think creatively! Some stores, including WalMart, may pay YOU to take their goods home. Using coupons and store promotions, you can occasionally get the price of an item down to a negative number. WalMart, Kroger, and other stores return the change as a store gift card. This also works at drug stores with cash-back register rewards. If you have a coupon for an item that is going to earn you a rewards coupon on a future purchase equal to the amount of the item (buy a toothbrush at $2, get a $2-off reward), you can earn money by involving a cents-off MCP for that item.
Monday, January 9, 2012
It sounds so simple to use and reuse what you have until it’s no longer useful. Each time I huddle under one of Granny’s quilts, I’m reminded that recycling and reusing is an old, old idea. When I compare our new modern home’s amenities to the storage and electrical output of our former home, I realize that they didn’t have as many outfits, sets of dishes, or electronics in 1935 as we do three-quarters-of-a-century later. They reused items until they had to be torn apart to be useful, and then they composted the remains out by the garage. Our old home has an in-ground trash bin outside for garbage pickup, which is roughly the size of our office recycling can (maybe 4 gallons). Clearly they used less, and reused more than we do; the lifecycle of their goods was, in many cases, a lifetime.
Over the last decades, retailers have ramped up their efforts, and are constantly trying to hurry that cycle along so that you buy new goods more often, resulting in “can’t live without” upgraded models and planned obsolescence. Many people have bought into this system, and when their shoes get dirty they buy new ones.
Granny’s philosophy was: If you’re going to throw it out, why not try cleaning it up first? Use and reuse until it’s dirt.
Case: My sons’ Robeez slipper shoes, bought with love by Grandma, were serving as the twoddler’s everyday wear inside the house. They resemble moccasins, and after a couple of month’s punishment and a few stomps in spilt milk, the soles resembled banana peels. They were dangerous. So I washed them with soap and water, and scraped the soles with a serrated knife, roughening the soles as ballerinas do. Ten minutes in the dryer on ultra-low, and these leather shoes were ready-to-wear once more. We got two more week’s wear out of them, and I'll donate these refurbished shoes when I get around to it.
If I have something I can no longer use, even if it's heavily used (like the Robeez) but not torn or badly stained, then I donate. Some balk at giving away heavily used goods, but I say to them: "Some poor people just watched their homes with all their possessions float downriver, get repossessed, crumble in an earthquake, or become a really big bonfire." Granny used to say: "Some poor people have nothing at all," and she'd know; she grew up in the Ozarks, and was a self-labeled "dirt farmer" before moving on to better things. People who have "nothing at all" will be glad for some shoes and clothes that aren't completely worn out.
I also buy items that do double duty. Kids’ toys, for example. A simple set of blocks can entertain a 6-month-old as a chew toy, an 18-month-old as a building set… but one with printed letters, numbers, and symbols can be used again to teach when the child is learning the alphabet. Later, the blocs return to their status as just a building tool. Boppy pillows. I collected several of these, I think 4, and they were useful when my kids were newborns. As crawlers, the Boppys came in handy to soften their space. Now, they are perfect first pillows for toddlers. A pillow, after all, is always a useful item around small children. I imagine them at five, snuggling the Boppy’s in the back seat on our way to a theme park.
But here’s why I bring up these Boppy’s: I was shocked to rediscover a use for them when my boys turned 16 months, because I’d gotten locked into the manufacturer’s vision for the product’s purpose. Now, we’re going through about 190 boxes, and I’ve finally got the “leisure time” (during the twoddler's naps) to sort through a couple a day. I can really consider whether to donate the item, refurbish the item (steam an old carpet, fix chipped goods), or repurpose the item. If it's broken or trash, I recycle the components.
Your Assignment: Look around your house and see what you can repurpose, refurbish, or recycle/donate before you buy a replacement.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
More specifically, where do you get several copies of the same great coupon? Because the best way to make a deal work is to find the best deal and beat it to death with as many purchases as allowed by your budget, limits on the coupon (often 4 like coupons for P&G per day), or limits imposed by the store (my local CVS only takes up to 3 a transaction). In Zen Couponing, we stockpile, but it’s a very small pile.
I aim for 4-6 sets of coupon books. That said, if I see (as I do this Thanksgiving), that the black Friday inserts were not only widely unavailable but stolen from my paper in front of my house, then I may go a little farther afield in collecting other coupons. Everyone was ignoring the stack of free P&G inserts over the weekend, which I felt ok about helping myself to late in the game, so I ended up with 14. I aim for a max of 20 in this type of situation. Why 20? Because you can sell the “collection service” and mail them to the winning bidder cheap. But less than 20 of any one coupon is not a large-enough lot for which you can sell your clipping services, if you want to do so. I tried it -- listed 8 sets of coupons on ebay and sold ONE. Not worth the time and trouble, in my book. Still, as a guideline 20 is a really good haul. Getting those P&Gs on a hard weekend where I got few other coupons was satisfying, and will stand me in good stead when I find a really great deal on one of those products. It's a balancing act.
Because 99% of people don’t use their coupons, thieves who rob your paper’s innards – the very ones you’ve bought the paper for – are annoyingly smug. I imagine them thinking, as my old neighbor did about moving my trashcans at his pleasure, that “if you’ve got a problem with me taking your paper/moving your trashcans/trespassing on your property/etc., all you have to do is let me know!” Do let your carrier know, and try to arrange a different delivery location than the public sidewalk. They may be willing to put it in your door, or throw it farther onto the property to discourage petty thievery.
If you do miss some coupons, look in the freebie Gazette paper you normally recycle midweek. The same companies that put out the Sunday paper coupons – Red Plum (RP) and Smart Source (S) – print nearly identical ones for your local paper. You get an advance copy. So go dig last week’s copy out of your recycling bin, and take a look. Other copies of the gazette will be piled up around town, in strip malls, libraries, and public spaces.
Ask for them at stores you frequent. I picked up several at Giant, which doesn’t really print its own coupons. It slaps its label on the MCP, which is a tricky bit of footwork. You can’t use the coupon anywhere else, but neither is it really a store coupon, so you can’t combine it with another MCP. Safeway prints coupons in its weekly circular, available in the Sunday Paper, as do RiteAid, CVS, and other stores. Walgreens also prints its own booklets.
Third, order the Sunday paper. You’ll get the Sunday insert on Saturday, at least with the Washington Post – and by ordering a subscription you’ll save more than a dollar on the cost of a $2 paper. Every week. Right now the Post is running a special (11/11), where you can get a year for 59 cents an issue (70% off!). One common $1 coupon a week will cover it.
Next, you can ask neighbors, relatives, and friends. A recent episode of TLC’s Extreme Couponing noted that 99% of coupons go unused, so people won’t mind donating them.
Dumpster diving may be illegal in your state. Also, diving into dirty papers filled with bugs and possibly the sleeping homeless (paper is warm) is Extreme bordering on Crazy. Be Zen.
Keep an eye out at the store. Tear sheets (pads of coupons attached to the shelves), Catalina Coupons (register printed coupons), ValPaks delivered to your house… all are sources for coupons. These are of course mostly grocery coupons, but the ValPak has coupons for services as well, and often includes restaurant discounts.
Some stores, such as Safeway, allow you to download coupons onto your loyalty card. I haven’t tried this, but it seems like a nice paperless way to do business. It may also reduce errors and “coupon snipping”. However, it doesn’t sound like nearly as much fun.
You can print coupons on the Internet at various sites, but I caution you against allowing crawlers to watch your every move on the Internet. Printing coupons is limited to two prints per computer, so having several computers in our house seemed ideal. But in the end we decided to put my old laptop into service as a sole-purpose couponer. My favorite site is CouponMom, which allows you to view deals, gives you the coupon info., including the pub date, and lets you select deals and print a list.
Lastly, people do clip coupons and sell them as a service to others. That is, they are not selling you the coupon – that’s against the rules and technically invalidates the coupon. Nonetheless coupons are available for sale at various sites, including eBay. I bought the clipping service for 20 $2/2 packs Pampers, and they helped me get that great diaper deal a few weeks ago.Finding coupons is not a problem. Organizing them might be.....