What I've Been Reading Instead of Cleaning My House

Thursday, January 31, 2008

"I want a pink coffin, Mommy!"

When Frances was little, she said, "I want a pink coffin, Mommy!" This prompted a call to my best friend, Gnat, who happens to be a child psychologist. Her expert analysis? Frances watches too much "Scooby-Doo."

Last month Alice-Grace says, "When I die, it's OK if you eat me if you need to because I'm really meaty." What? Has she been hanging out with that Uruguayan soccer team?

I come home from work today and Jeffrey has made a funeral procession out of Legos. He had coffins (with lids, you know, in case there's a viewing) with Lego men inside and even little Lego pall bearers.

This is the same boy who at my uncle's funeral stands up in the pew, points to the casket and yells, "What's in the box?"

When Frances was much smaller, I caught her shoving a Q-tip in baby Jeffrey's mouth. I asked her what she was doing and she replied, "I'm getting a DNA sample!"

I think we need to get rid of the TV.

Thursday Thopping

No good sales to talk about today (drat!).

Do you ever go grocery shopping and notice that can of olives in with the diapers or the loaf of bread mixed in with the shampoo? It's me.

I'm notorious for filling my cart full of stuff, then getting buyer's remorse and randomly putting items back on shelves (in the wrong spots) before I get in the check-out lane.

Not too nice of me, but I'm giving a whole fleet of clerks job security.

I could have worse habits. I once saw a lady systematically pick up a jar of pickles, LICK IT, put it back, pick up the next jar of pickles, LICK IT, put it back, etc. What the???

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Deal or No Deal?

Now that I'm paying more attention to grocery store prices, I'm becoming much more savvy on what's a good deal and what's not.

For example, a local store is advertising a sale where you buy 10 Kraft products and you get $5.00 off your total grocery bill. I had coupons for most of the participating items, so this sounded like a total score.

If I went with this sale, I would spend about $31.00 on the 10 items, get $5.00 off, and then save about $5.00 with my coupons for a total of $21.00.

Then I looked closer at the prices for the Kraft products and they were almost DOUBLE the cost of the exact same items at my regular el cheapo supermarket.

If I went to the inexpensive market, I would spend about $20.00 on the 10 items, save $5.00 with my coupons for a total $15.00.

I guess it pays to do your research and not assume it's a sale just because they say it's a sale.

Monday, January 28, 2008

O Coupon, Where Art Thou?

My search for good coupons continues:

The ones I get free in the mail are usually for products I don't buy.

I did a free two week subscription to the local paper, but my two weeks are up and I wasn't impressed enough with the coupons or the paper to actually pay for it.

My computer is so slow (and ink and paper are so expensive) that I dread printing off Internet coupons (besides, my favorite and least expensive grocery store won't accept them).

For a few weeks I bought the "bundle deal" at 7-11 (two different Sunday newspapers for only $2.00, so double the coupons), but the coupons are still not worth breaking the Sabbath for.

I'm trying to avoid paying for coupons with a clipping business and I hate all the coupons for stuff I normally wouldn't buy, so I'm trying something new.

I'm going to put my money (or lack thereof) where my mouth is. Remember how I wrote about contacting a company whose product I liked and they sent me free coupons? My new plan is to go through my pantry/fridge/cleaning supplies and e-mail all the companies that I like and hopefully get some free coupons from them. I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tagging Along

I've been tagged. Again. I guess I'll do this one (I wimped out on the other one because there was no way I could compete with GEO's and Compulsive Writer's great lists of imaginary college courses to take -- besides I still hate school, even pretend school -- and GEO, why do I always write your name in all caps?). Here goes:

5 things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago:

1. Making Nigel get me club sandwiches at all hours of the night while I was pregnant with Frances
2. Giving birth to my first little baby, Frances (who did not want to be born and it took the doctor yanking with forceps and a nurse on top of me pushing on my belly to get her out -- I hope she's not the same way when it's time to go to college)
3. NOT working (I took a whole year off after Frances was born -- my best year ever and I have video proof that my house was clean)
4. Breaking my back getting Frances in and out of her car seat in our little Toyota Tercel (which I still miss, but have you ever tried to fit THREE car seats in a hatchback? Can't be done)
5. Living with Rena and her family for a month and trying not to boil to death or be stung by scorpions, but it was worth it to see Maureen's "happy dance"

5 Things On My To-Do List Today:

1. Clean/straighten the house (OK, that's on my list EVERY day and I have yet to do it)
2. Go to work and NOT work more than eight hours (didn't do it)
3. Take Frances to piano lessons (did it -- how could we miss a lesson with the adorable Babs?)
4. Balance my check book (did it)
5. Write a post for my blog (doing it now)

Snacks I Enjoy:

1. Cherry Blow-Pops
2. Pringles (I like to stick them to my lips and pretend I'm a duck)
3. Cheetos (but I don't like the orange fingers)
4. Cherry Slurpees
5. Flea's rum nougat candies

Things I Would Do if I Were a Billionaire*:

1. Pay a ton of taxes
2. Buy a house with an art studio for Nigel and a garden with fruit trees for me and lots of land for chickens and goats
3. Travel and visit family
4. NOT WORK!!!
5. Share

*Note -- isn't it funny that now we have to say "billionaire" instead of "millionaire"?

3 Bad habits:

1. Speaking before thinking
2. Biting my nails (yes, even the hypnotism didn't work after a while)
3. Not finishing what I sta...

5 Places I've lived:**

1. Clover City, CA
2. Parvo, Deseret

**Note -- yes, I'm pathetic. I've only lived two places my entire life.

5 Jobs I've Had:

1. Clerk in charge of the freezer full of dead dogs at a veterinary hospital
2. Sales girl at a floral shop (which was hard for me because I don't like cut flowers -- I didn't even have any at my own wedding)
3. Waitress (at a tiny cafe in a small town where they once raffled off a mule)
4. Typer of library cards to computer databases -- did I mention the cards were all in CZECH?!?
5. Transcriber of TV news programs and interviews for a certain CNBC financial reporter

5 Things People Probably Don't Know About Me:

1. I'm in an ad for Polaroid cameras in the October 21, 1974 issue of Newsweek (pages 54 and 55)
2. I detest cheesecake
3. I'm scared of horses
4. I was president of my high school's Chinese Club
5. I used to work as a nude model for artists (one of the many reasons why I can't run for public office)

There. I did it. And just like when I was a young girl playing the real game, I'm not going to tag anyone.

Let's Make a Deal

My brother, Stillwell, taught me that when a store messes up your order, to not get angry and to instead use it to your advantage to get a good deal. After all, most businesses get their loyal customers from goofing up and then going out of their way to right the mistake.

For instance, we were once at Chuck E. Cheese (isn't that big rat one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse?) and they gave us a supreme pizza instead of the all-meat pizza I ordered. I knew that they didn't want to throw away a perfectly good pizza and make another one (and my picky kids can just pull off the dreaded vegetables), so I nicely asked the manager what he could do for me to make up for their mistake. He brought us over 100 free tokens. I would've been satisfied with free drinks, but hey, we'll take the tokens! It didn't cost him anything, he didn't have to make another pizza and my kids had a ball. Win-win!

Conversely, if a company has a product that you really like, let them know. I had an old-fashioned claw tub that I could never get clean. It got to the point where I thought I had scrubbed through the porcelain into the metal. Then I tried a certain cleanser and it worked! I was so excited that I wrote to the company. They sent me a letter back with coupons for that product. Of course, I would've been happier if they had used my letter in an ad campaign and paid me millions of dollars.

Oh well, I'm happy with coupons (or tokens).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday Thopping

Here's some coupon trivia I learned today:

I was at the supermarket taking advantage of their "buy 5 packages of pasta, get a dozen eggs free" and "buy three bottles of dish soap and get a pound of butter free" offer and the coupon said that the free items could be worth up to $3.00 each.

I grabbed butter and eggs costing only about $2.00 each, expecting to be reimbursed for the exact cost of the items. Well, it turns out that I was reimbursed for the full $3.00!

Of course, I combined coupons with the items I had to buy to get the free stuff, so it was a massive grocery score all the way around. YES!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

That little Scottish restaurant...

So the other day we ate at McDonald's (thanks to our Secret Santa gift card) and we took a good look at the neon characters outside the children's play area.

Is it just me, or is Grimace flipping everyone the bird?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Emperor's New Clothes

So for the past few weeks I've been doing a little experiment at work. Here's how it's going so far:

LOIS: Hey, did you notice that I've been wearing the exact same clothes every day this week?


L: Yeah. Black T-shirt, black sweater, jeans, and boots. Same outfit every day. I do change my underwear and socks, though.

C: Didn't notice.

L: Did you notice that I wore the same clothes all last week, too?

C: No. Hey, what was I wearing yesterday?

L: I have no idea. Maybe if I wore a tie-dye muu-muu every day people would notice.

C: I doubt it.

Try it. What was your boss wearing yesterday? Didn't notice? You're not alone. Why are we so worried about our appearance when no one even notices? Of course, maybe it's experiments like these that make people leave bags of clothes at my door.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thursday Thopping

Here's the killer deal I got today:

Scott 4-pack toilet tissue
Regular price: $1.99
Store sale price: $1.00
Coupon: $1.00 off

My final cost: FREE!!! THAT'S RIGHT, FREE, BABY!!!

The best part about my shopping today was having the luxury of NOT buying anything. Since I have a full pantry, freezer and fridge at home, I can be more selective when it comes to finding bargains. "Yeah, that chicken is on sale and I have a coupon, but I think that I'll wait until I can find it for even cheaper." And if I don't find it cheaper or if the coupon expires, then I've saved even MORE money by not buying it at all. Win--win!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

In the "Doesn't That Defeat the Purpose" Department...

While perusing my grocery store circular, I came across this ad:

"Buy any combination of 12 Stouffer's Lean Cuisine Entrees and receive two 1.75 Quart Dreyer's Ice Cream"

WHAT??? Buy DIET frozen food and get free ICE CREAM??? What kind of diet is that?

Thursday Thopping

I am getting this new system down. I clip my coupons from my FREE newspaper (trial subscription) and compile them in my notebook. Yes, I have a COUPON NOTEBOOK. Don't mess with me, I'm saving money.

Let me just brag a little bit about my grocery shopping today --
Total: $108.53
Store Savings: $46.83
Coupons Tendered: $12.70
My final cost: $49.00

That's right! I saved over HALF my bill! Even the cashier was impressed.

You should see my pantry and freezer. Even my laundry closet is stocked. Of course, I still need more experience on what's a good price and what's not, but I have been able to keep to my goal of not paying more than $1.00 a pound for meat (and I'm not talking about the "meat" Nigel brings home from the scary butcher shop in the neighborhood with all the missing cats).

I'm amazed at how much I'm able to buy just by doing some research and paying attention to the prices and deals, but am I really SAVING? After all, I'm still BUYING. I'm just buying more. Hmmm.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Kill Bill

I'm a notorious bill fighter. If you dare to send me an invoice, be prepared to get a phone call from me contesting every charge.

I find that my "stupid woman" persona works best for getting charges reduced without getting up the ire of the billing specialist.

Here's how a recent conversation went with my kids' dentist receptionist:

"Dr. Painful's office, how can I help you?"

"I'm confused. I don't understand my dental bill."

"What seems to be the problem, ma'am?"

"Well, I'm no expert, but I don't see why Frances got charged $40 for the cleaning while Jeffrey and Alice-Grace got charged $43 for the same thing."

"Oh, gee, my, I'm not sure either."

"Oh, I'm sure it's not your fault. Probably just a slip of the fingers on the keyboard."

"Let me check on that for you."

Sure enough, I got a new bill in the mail, for $6 cheaper and a note of apology.

I've done this with my bank (they used to take one or two pennies more from my account than my checks were written for, but NOT anymore), my doctors (I get billed twice for procedures all the time), and even the IRS (yes, I beat down the tax man).

The best part is that they feel super smart and competent by helping out the "stupid woman" and I get my bill reduced. Win-win!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Thursday Thopping

(apologies to "Thursday Thong")

Today is my grocery shopping day. I'm trying something new in my quest to be a more savvy consumer. According to www.couponmom.com, the way to save money is to combine supermarket store sales with coupons. Of course, this works really well if your store doubles manufacturers' coupons (which only one store in my area does, and they only do it on random days -- which no one at the store could tell me when that is). My goal is to be able to buy groceries as cheaply as possible to try to build up my food supply. Here's my good deal for this week:

General Mills cereals, normal price $3.43 per box
Store special, 8 for $10.00, so only $1.25 per box
Combined with coupons, only 70 cents per box


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

If I just save a little more...

Nigel's dad, Jedward, grew up in an orphanage run by a chocolate company. Ironically, the children were not allowed to eat very much candy (though he was trained to be a confectioner).

Jedward came into a small amount of money and he was very excited about buying candy for just himself. Then it dawned on him that if he just saved a little bit more money, he would have enough for a small portable transistor radio.

When he saved enough for the radio, he realized that if he just saved a little bit more, he would have enough to buy a record player.

When he saved enough for the record player, he realized that if he just saved a little bit more, he would have enough to buy a hi-fi system.

When he saved enough for the hi-fi, he realized that if he saved a bit more, he would have enough money to buy a nice bike.

When he saved enough for the bike, he realized that if he saved still more, he would have enough to buy a car.

This continued and continued. Let's just say that at the end of all his saving, he bought his first house with CASH.

See what you can do with a little candy money?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Parable of the Diet

"Shed" -- painted by Nigel

I went from a skinny child to a chubby middle schooler to a fat high schooler to an obese* college student. How could this be? I was eating and exercising the same as my much thinner friends. What was going on?

Then I decided to do an experiment. I was going to study my skinny friends and REALLY see if they were doing anything differently. OK. Thin people do NOT eat at all! We may dish up the same portions, but while I'm eating everything on my plate and licking it clean, they're throwing all of their food away. Even though we may be walking up the same flight of stairs, they're hopping and bounding while I'm crawling.

I decided to act like a thin person. I ate only half of what I wanted and wasted all kinds of energy bouncing around. In about six months I lost 45 pounds and by continuing to pay strict attention to what I do and what I eat, I've been able to keep it off through 17 years of marriage and three children.

Financially, I'm going to do the same experiment. I'm convinced that I'm as frugal as the next person, yet I can't seem to save any money. Am I scrimping as much as I think? Or am I blissfully unaware of my spending and consuming habits?

So 2008 is going to be my year of spending consciously. Just like in my diet where I stop and ask myself "Am I really hungry or am I just bored?" before I eat something, I'm going to stop and ask myself "Do I really need this or am I just bored?" before I buy something.

Let's see if I can find success in this area of my life just by being aware of what I'm doing.

*Please note that Nigel met and fell in love with me when I was at my heaviest. So another reason why he's the coolest guy on the planet.