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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Brain Splat

I've managed to get rid of two large boxes of kid's clothing. This is a huge step for me, as I can easily weed out clothing that no longer fits the children but when it comes to weeding through things that can still fit but make the dresser drawers overflowing is a huge step for me. It was freeing! Thank you all for the tips!

The sad thing is that I got rid of two large boxes of clothing but still need to go through everything once again to cut down even further. The dresser drawers may shut now but they are completely stuffed. I think I can do better than that and get it all to a reasonable amount!

  I also dropped a large bag off for Goodwill filled with household items and have another one ready to go when I go to my midwife appointment next week.

Speaking of my midwife appointment, I'll be getting my first look at this little guy (or girl!) next week. It's amazing to hear the heartbeat, but I look forward to seeing him (or her!). I have no preference for a boy or girl this time around, I would be equally happy with either one. The kids all want a little sister and Ben is leaning towards wanting another boy. The ultra-sound next week will be too early to tell the gender, so we will need to wait awhile yet for that. My morning sickness seems to be gone (for the most part) but I still feel as though I could sleep for 18 hours each day. Even with an afternoon nap the bed is still calling to me now.

Jacob's kitty is doing well, Becca's birthday is next week, Jacob has his first post-transplant CT scan next week, Becca joined Girl Scouts, the two oldest are loving their religion class each week, and the weather has been sunny and warmer the past couple days so we have been spending lots of time outside. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Furry Friend

"Can I get a white kitten?" Jacob asked in the hospital this summer as he opened up another card showcasing a white kitten on the front.

When your son is laying the a hospital bed for 40 days you'll say anything to make him happy. I figured that he may forget about his request when he returned home to a more normal life.

The requests didn't stop once home. In fact, they picked up and he talked almost daily about this white kitten that he would get. We searched the local shelter pages looking to see if we could spot his white kitten. We visited the mall adoption center and peeked at the Humane Society but there was no white kitten to be found.

Who knew it was so hard to locate a pure white kitten?!

Last week we stopped at PetSmart and happened to wander over to the cat adoption center. Immediately Jacob was attracted to a kitten in the top cubical. His finger touched the glass and the kitten touched his paw to the glass. Jacob moved his finger and the kitten's paw followed. Yes, I know, most kittens will play with fingers or any moving object but this is the first kitten that Jacob saw that he wanted. He was adamant about the fact that this kitten was the one. After taking out the kitten to play with he wanted to take it home. I told him he should play with some other kittens just to be sure so we played with four other ones, but his attention wained and he desperately just wanted the other kitten back. The kitten which seemed a bit hyper. The kitten which was found in the engine of a truck, which probably meant what a curious little fellow he was.

The black kitten. Which is the total opposite of a white kitten.

The connection they had was clear. I signed the adoption papers and we brought our new little friend home.

Skippyjon Jones is what Jacob named him (from one of his favorite books...Skippy for short). Skippyjon Jones can keep up with the kid's energy but is also a sweet cuddle bug. Skippyjon Jones chooses Jacob's bed every single night to sleep on; I find them both curled up together when I check on them at night.

Sometimes we get what we want, other times we get what we need. Sometimes we get both. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


My quest to simplify has not gone away, I've actually been working on it a lot since coming home from the hospital a month ago.

A few weeks ago I was part of a multi-family garage sale at my mom's house. I took 12 huge boxes, a table and chair set, a baby stroller, and three large totes of items. I returned with just half a box of items left. It felt good to have the whole van loaded full and to return almost empty handed. That cleared out a lot of space but there is lots left to organize and get rid of.

Right now the bane of my existence is clothing. I know that I had a problem before grabbing up any cute item that would fit any of my children but while pulling out and washing all the fall clothing I noticed just what a problem I had on my hands when it took me days to wash and try to put away the clothing. I mentioned this on my blog in the last post and it's something that I have been organizing and pairing down this week. I need help though as I still need to go back through the clothing and pair it down even more to fit in drawers. How many pairs of pants, tops, and sweaters do you think is a fair amount for each child? I'd love to hear how you keep your children's clothing paired down to a reasonable amount.

Adding a 4th child to an already small house in just 6 months means that I need to maximise the space that we do have and pair down all our belongings to have an organized and clean space. So while I have been working on this task all year I really want to finish it in the next six months. One goal is to take a large bag to Goodwill each time I visit the midwife (this was one thing I did while pregnant with Joe and it helped to clear out space...knowing that I needed a full box every month, then every two weeks, and the last month of my pregnancy meant I was dropping off a full box or bag every week at Goodwill...I know that my nesting instinct helped me meet my goal!).

That's one thing I've been busy with lately...it takes a lot of hard work to live simply!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Last Week

*We've been loving the fresh garden produce. It's been late for a harvest but we've been eating yummy fresh foods from our backyard this month!

*Our van broke down, 45 miles away. It has yet to be looked at by the mechanic but we are hoping to find out that it's a simple fix (ha, ha!)

*I have been exhausted. Instead of getting a surge of energy like I usually do around this time I've felt sicker and more tired. Hmmm. I've also been grouchy, like total PMS grouchy, for weeks. Not fun.

*Our desktop computer broke. Along with our printer a few days later. Both happening within a week of each other are nothing more than a coincidence but they both are a bother. Bad things happen in threes, right? Add our van to the mix and I hope that is the end of our bad luck for quite some time.

*It's been feeling more like fall. Which means I spent ALL day yesterday going through totes and pulling out our fall wardrobes. Which also means I've been doing laundry for two days straight and still haven't finished it. I need to pair down the kids clothing, which I swear I'm doing - a bag goes to Goodwill, a bag is being sent to ThredUp, and a box is being started for the consignment shop. I'm beginning to wish that we lived somewhere with less seasons and didn't have to have 4 completely different wardrobes.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Unusual Savings Week Part 3

Sorry for the lapse in the series this week but with my husband throwing his back out, a two day garage sale, and myself not feeling so good some things were put on the back burner.

Another way to save money is to collect store loyalty cards, or in some cases, punch cards. Many stores offer a loyalty card (which is free to sign up for) and when they scan it at the register you either earn points from a purchase or get immediate savings. I have the PetSmart card which earns me discounts at the register. I know that many drug stores offer these cards, as well as several big chain grocery stores. If it's free to sign up, and you get savings, why not sign up?

Just recently I learned that a Target debit card will earn you 5% off all your purchases, and will net you free shipping online. I knew this about their credit card, but hearing about a debit card was a new things for me. We steer clear of credit cards due to the fact that if we don't have the cash for something we don't buy it (though I do have a Kohls card in order to take advantage of their discounts at one time or another but pay the bill off in full when it comes), but I am open to a debit card which comes directly out of my bank account. While I don't shop at Target too often due to the distance of one, when I do I usually purchase a cart full of groceries so a 5% savings for doing nothing seems smart to me. I recently learned that our local gas station, Kwik Star, offers a debit card with similar rewards (10% back on all groceries purchases, and this is where I often buy my milk, bananas, eggs, and butter due to the excellent prices) and 3 cents back on every gallon of gas. Considering that I use my debit card at the pumps and in store anyhow, why not just sign up for their debit card, which takes the money directly from my bank account and get a little rewards back at the same time? This same gas station also offers a milk punch card, where you receive a punch on your card for every gallon purchased and when full you receive $1 off your next gallon. They have a Kid's Club as well that all three children are signed up for. When I purchase a gallon of milk the kids get to choose a treat for free (their choice of an apple, orange, bagel, muffin, cookie, or donut). Three free treats for the price of a gallon of milk ends up being a great deal and it makes them behave when we stop in for some needed essentials.

Many smaller stores, such as consignment shops and thrift stores in the area, offer punch cards. For every $10 or $20 you spend in store you will receive a punch on your card, once you fill the card you usually get either a percentage off your next purchase.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Help Win the Fight

September is Pediatric Cancer month which is a cause near and dear to my heart. Cancer is a horrible beast to fight for anyone but it is especially haunting to watch a child fight a battle that they don't understand.

Unfortunately, even with 12,000 children being diagnosed yearly with cancer, the funding for research just isn't there. Mere pennies from every dollar donated to cancer research ends up going towards Pediatric Cancer Research. This needs to change - we need to make it so that some day no child has to face the uncertainty of cancer.

Imagine my excitement when I heard that SheSpeaks and Aflac have teamed together to sponsor a virtual rubber duck race with the proceeds going to Pediatric cancer research!

How can you help? You can enter the Swim With Friends virtual rubber duck race here for $12, Aflac will match your donation for every duck that you purchase (so feel free to get more than one!). Each donation of $12 enters you into the virtual race, with the prize being a trip for four to Orlando (if your duck is the first to cross the finish line you will win...the race will be held on October 9th on Aflac's Swim With Friends Facebook page).

I hope that you all will consider purchasing a duck to help fund Pediatric Cancer Research. $12 is a small starting point and this contest makes it oh so simple to give. We bought our ducky and hope that with enough people our dollars will be helping research. Also, share this post or Facebook and tweet your friends to let them know how to help out. (If you tweet, be sure to use the hashtag #AflacKids as $2 will be donated for every tweet with that hashtag...loop into @AflacDuck)

(This post is sponsored by SheSpeaks and Aflac)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Unusual Savings Week Day 2

Online shopping can be much cheaper than going to the store, not just because the savings of gas and time, but also the prices seem to just be a lot lower. As I mentioned yesterday, Amazon seems to have great prices on the brand of toilet paper we use. With free shipping (and free Swagbucks!) it makes more sense to buy it online.

I get most of my organic or natural pantry staples from Vitacost (if you are a new customer sign up with my referral code and get $10 towards your first purchase free!) which has much better prices than our natural foods store and even beats the co-op prices. I get my prenatal vitamins and the kids vitamins through them too, at a great price. And our winter health supplements (Elderberry syrup, Vitamin C, etc.) are lower on that site than any others. My point being? Shop around and stick with the sites that offer the best prices.

Which leads me to my next step. The majority of sites online that I like to purchase from are also tied to ShopAtHome, which is a deal and shopping site. I am able to go there to see if there are any offers or discount codes, but most of all, the stores affiliated with them offer cash back on purchases that you make by going through ShopAtHome. It's free to sign up (and you get $5 in your account just for doing so!). Then, when you are ready to shop online, you go to their site first and type in the store in order to see if they offer cash back. For example, let's say you wanted to shop at Vitacost. You would type Vitacost into the ShopAtHome website and it would show that they are offering back 11%, you would click on "Shop now" and their website would automatically open on your computer and then you shop and pay like usual. Once Vitacost confirms your purchase your 11% cash back would show in your account. A check is sent to you automatically when your balance reaches $25 or more. It's an easy way to earn money back for products that you were going to buy anyway. I'm always surprised when I find a check in the mail from them as I forget that it adds up quickly, and can be combined with other offers as well. Another example is Target online which is offering 10% back right now. They also have a new tool bar for your computer, which makes searching for their cash back offers, coupons, and codes so much easier and you earn another $5 just for downloading that. ShopAtHome especially comes in handy around Christmas when lots of great deals pop up online - why not earn a little of that money back?

Another site with the same idea is Ebates and I know several people who love it. I have no experience with it but it works basically the same as ShopAtHome.

Retail Me Not is another site you need to check before making an online purchase. This is a deals site which will list any free shipping or other discount codes that are out there for the particular site that you are purchasing from. Saving that $5.99 shipping fee or getting a percentage off your total is always welcome.

Following savings sites, such as Hip2Save or CheapCheapCheap walk you step by step through the deals online as well as stores in your town. They also announce free sample offers, awesome online prices on items, and match up the weekly coupons with sales in your area.

This tips may sound like a lot of work and a lot of time but they literally take seconds and can save you 10% or more of your purchase. Your time is worth that savings. Is there any helpful tip I may have missed that saves you money when shopping online?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Unusual Savings

With the costs of everything rising and medical bills, repair bills, and just plain bills arriving seemingly daily I've had to find unusual ways to cut costs or make a little extra money. Sometimes it doesn't seem as though the little things will add up to make much of a difference but they do. I'm going to share some of my unusual ways this week; some off the links included in this posting are my own referral links but you can also sign up yourself without using my referral links. I share these ideas with you not in order to make anything off of them but because they are tricks that I use monthly, weekly, or even daily in order to save money. Everything I mention is free to sign up for, free to use, and legit ways to save money.
The first unusual way is one of my favorites:

I have mentioned Swagbucks many times before because I love it so much. It is a search engine much like Google but you earn points just for doing your regular searches. You can then redeem your points for gifts and prizes. There are so many to choose from (shirts, books, games, gift cards such as Target and Best Buy) but I always opt for the Amazon $5 gift cards, which are 450 points each. I looked through my Swagbucks history and saw that I signed up in November of 2009. That means I have been signed up almost 3 years now and I have earned $430 in Amazon gift cards. That is a lot of free money for doing something that I always did before for free.

What happens when you sign up is you download the search bar, much like you would a Google search bar. Every time you do a search (and some people increase their searches daily by typing in their favorite sites, such as Facebook, in the search bar instead of the address bar of their computer) you have a chance to win Swagbucks. The toolbar automatically keeps track of how many points you earn and there is nothing more for you to do! Once you earn points you can visit their "Swag Shop" (again, easy to do as the redeem option is right on their tool bar) and order whatever you want that you have enough points for.

By sharing your link with friends you can earn additional points because as they earn you will earn along with them, up to 1000 points for each friend referral. Every single person that I have mentioned Swagbucks to that has joined has been thrilled, it's not like selling them something - it is helping them earn free money or gifts.

As I mentioned before, I cash in all my points for Amazon gift cards but there are hundreds of prizes that you can choose from (you can even request money by "buying" a paypal gift card option with your points). I choose Amazon gift cards in order to buy Christmas gifts. I recently decided to use it for purchasing a health and beauty staple in our house - toilet paper. The brand we buy is Scott Tissue (because it's the only roll that lasts long in our family of five) but the four packs at the store are $4. It's rare that I can find a coupon for it and while it sometimes goes on sale it is few and far between. I saw that Amazon has the 20 roll pack for $14.xx and with the subscribe and save option it brought my total down a bit lower. Having it automatically shipped to me every month or two will mean that I don't have to worry about picking it up at the store. So, all in all, the price on Amazon is cheaper than most sale prices I have ever seen, it is convenient, and because I use my Swagbucks it is free. Getting free toilet paper may not seem like a big savings but it does add up to $100 or more a year of savings! You could do this on anything - baby diapers, wipes, food products that you always use, etc. It's products that you buy made free with Swagbucks!

That's just what I use my swagbucks for, there are so many more options that may be a bigger savings for you. Do you eat out? Earn a Chili's gift card. Get a Barnes and Noble Gift card. Shop at Wal-mart a lot, buy a gift card. Starbucks, Lowes, the options are endless as are the savings!

Tomorrow: How to save money on items that you purchase online.


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