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Archive for December, 2011

The best gifts don't cost money

December 28th, 2011 at 08:25 pm


I had a blessed Christmas with family. It began with Mass on Christmas Eve to herald in the Christ child (the reason for our season) and was followed by quality time with family. Good food, good times, good behavior by all. Smile

My children were gracious recipients of all gifts. There were extravagant items (X-Box and Kinnect from my father) and practical items (slippers from my grandmother) and we're embracing the new custom of photo thank-yous - so we've got fun pictures of kids with the items.

I was thinking a lot about the materialistic aspect of Christmas. We stick to three or four gifts for the kids from "santa" and we pick names from a hat for our "Advent Buddies" and our "Stocking Santa". The children were so thoughtful in their gift-giving, warmed my heart.

I think what inspired me to post this blog was "Hurry - Don't Forget Your Gifts for King Day" (apparently referring to the Epiphany)? Yet another religious holiday used for gift giving? If I am off-base and in my ignorance am showing irreverance to some cultures, I apologize. It just seemed to me ... wrong.

It is so easy to get caught up in the bargain hunting for gifts for next season. I'll admit to buying my box of Christmas card for next year at 50% off, but that's it so far.

My brother dated a woman for several years and my thoughts of her at the time were ... well, not very nice. We are worlds apart as women, and I thought my world was made of better choices. Anyhow, she and my brother parted ways over a year ago, but we still run into her now and then. Her brother was sadly murdered a few months back. A young man, handsome and happy in all the pictures. I never met him, but his family talked affectionately of him. I had a Mass said for him ... tomorrow at 7:00 AM. I arranged it in the beginning of the month and my mother sent the Mass Card to the ex-girlfriend and daughter in her Christmas card.

The ex-girlfriend called today and cried. She managed to express gratitude for remembering her brother and having the Mass said and praying for him. I, of course, cried right along with her. She said it was the best gift. It cost me nothing more than a small donation, and it was the right thing to do. I am glad that I was able to bring her a measure of comfort during this time. Kindness sure goes a long way, doesn't it?

MERRY CHRISTMAS

December 25th, 2011 at 04:07 pm


Merry, merry Christmas! May your holidays be filled with love and peace and happiness and joy! May the New Year be everything you hope for!

Hoot-hoot! More saving (while spending) and Merry Christmas

December 15th, 2011 at 01:46 pm

Disclaimer: I totally get that I am not working smarter, but harder. This is all in the name of saving money when I do have to spend it. I realize that my time IS money in some sense of the word, but I'm truly being guided by the premise that "every dollar counts".

I gave up my Kohl's charge card. Paid it off and closed the account. Whatever savings they offered, the interest was high and I ended up carrying a balance. Gone and done. Good-bye. My mom has a 30% off coupon, and I'm going to go with her to re-buy the shrug, bra(s), and pants that I purchased. I should save $18 on those items (of course I'll return them with my receipt that didn't have a discount). $18 is $18 in my book.

Well, today is the Christmas Show at school for the kids. DH and I go at for the parent show, which has the kids in uniform. Tonight is the show they get all dressed up for, and my parents take them to that.

I made a big batch of brown sugar cookies yesterday. Today is gingerbread cookies. I have a batch of dough in the fridge now, and will make another one early afternoon. Most of the things have fallen into place for the 4th Grade party tomorrow. My take-charge friend is now on board thinking everything through and trouble shooting any potential problem. I'll use my 40% off coupon at Joanne's to pick up the gag gift for the 7th grade's white elephant exchange (Plastic toy animals that poop candy is the new range - ick! But it needs to be gender-neutral). So on my front, all is looking manageable. I've got 45 mintues to start Chrsitmas wrapping.

Hope everyone has joy in their hearts as they go about doing what they do. I'm thinking I won't be on much until the new year with the kids being home and we've got some fun stuff planned as a family: trip to Morton Arboretum, maybe last minute tickets to see "A Christmas Carol" at Drury Lane, a train trip downtown to finally go to Willis/Sears Tower and ice skate, plus the Holiday itself and Mass and meaningful family time, plus inlaws in town, and oh, yeah ... older daughter's belated birthday celebration.

So, with that I'll wish my Christian friends "A Most Blessed Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior." To my non-Christian friends, I wish you "A Holiday Season filled with Peace and Love."

Merry Christmas! Laura

Win some, lose some

December 14th, 2011 at 02:28 pm


The basking glow of my frugal finds dimmed slightly yesterday. The biggest expense seems to be outfitting my children (5) in new ensembles for their Christmas show at school and Mass on Christmas Eve. With the boys it isn't that hard to hand down, resurrect, and buy filler items. All that remains for that category is a pair of brown dress shoes for oldest.

The girls, on the other hand, are a bit more complicated. Older daughter is wearing her dress from Father-Daughter dance, but needed a new shrug. Found at Kohl's for $25. We happened to come across a very cute clearance dress for an upcoming event (2012 Father-Daughter Formal or Valentine's Day Dance) for $23. Younger daughter found her dress on clearance at Von Maur for $16 (and it's made in the USA!), but she needed a belt $13 to go with it. I felt fine with those purchases/accessories.

It was the shoes that did me in. Taking five kids straights from school to Kohls with only a minimal snack and staying in the store for over 45 minutes is a lethal combination. Both girls found shoes (black heels) for $68 total + tax. I bit the bullet and bought them. Then in the car after the shopping trip, kids rallied when one decided to share a huge Hershey's bar. Smile That was enough to sustain a quick trip to Payless where each girl got black shoes that they liked better than the ones they picked at Kohl's and we picked up a new pair of school shoes. I forgot my coupon for 20% off, and the girl applied the discount (we were just there for gym shoes for younger daughter and I again forgot my coupon Frown Note to self: NOT working smarter, DEFINITELY working harder). So those THREE shoes came to $43.

Item 1 on my To-Do today is to go back to Kohl's and return the $65 shoes. $65 for 2, versus $43 for 3, I'll consider this a small victory of sorts for my money.

I think what I take away from this is: for 2012, I'll try to spend over a more spread out time frame for upcoming events, and my daughters and I will definitely continue to check out the clearance racks for cute dresses. Smile

Resale Store Scores

December 13th, 2011 at 02:33 pm

I had a bit of time yesterday to kill before having to pick kids up at school. I decided to stop at our local domestic violence resale store (all proceeds go to fund the shelter and services in our county) and also Goodwill. The last few times I've been in either of those, I've left empty handed, not quite finding anything that was "right" or "needed". I must admit that I was feeling a bit inadequate in the "item finding department" compared to CB who always manages to score great finds. Smile

My grandpa used to tell me "the tides on the minnies have turned." He was born and raised on a farm in Michigan, and while I never asked the origin of the saying I think it has something to do with minnows swimming upstream to spawn? If anyone reads this and has a different interpretation, please share. This quote applies to the turn of luck that I've experienced in having fruitful resale store excursions.

OK, I have joined the card-carrying club of thrift store scorers with the following two purchases! Here is what I got:

First Store:

Magic Tree House Christmas Book (hardcover) $.94 (all Christmas items were 25% off)

Dept. 56 Christmas figurine: $3.94

New With Tags Talbots Navy Blue Blazer for son: $6.00
(original MSRP $68)

Made in USA Camel colored Wool Blazer for son: $1.63
(Blue tags were 1/2 off trying to reduce inventory)

Two Polo brand Golf shirts for DH: $7.00 (each was $5.00 but 30% off)

Pair of jeans for son: $1.75 (1/2 off)

TOTAL FOR THIS HAUL: $22.95 Embarrassment


Second Trip to Goodwill

Gag gift for DH: GB Fauvre Football Jersey: $6.64

Three long-sleeves shirts for DH: $3.79 x 3
One long-sleeve shirt for DH: $4.74
(1 was brand new Lands End with tags, virtually new Brook Brothers plaid shirt, and two RL Polo brand oxfords)

One dress shirt for son: $2.37

TOTAL FOR THIS HAUL: $26.94 (and this was with a discount applied)

Boy do I feel like I hit the Bonanza Jackpot. Six shirts for hubby, my oldest son has a choice on which blazer/sport coat he wants to wear (and both match his Christmas shirt), little guy has a shirt that fits and jeans (we go through pants regularly with knees through holes). My reluctant reader is excited by a book, and I have a new chotchky (or however you spell it).

I'm feeling like a good steward of my husband's money and I'm grateful for these finds. Smile

Struggle and Challenges

December 12th, 2011 at 02:08 pm


Struggle

I had to go back re-read my post from Friday, about how grateful I am that my children love service and giving back to the community. After I posted that I turned up to help out at the Senior Sing that the 8th grade was hosting for the seniors of our parish. The agenda was to have the 5th graders sing their songs for the Christmas concert, have the 8th graders sing, and then have the Catholic High School's jazz band and performance choir sing. The students brought in cookies they made and we had coffee and tea. Essentialy the 8th graders were the ones to mix and mingle, but parents were asked to volunteer to come and oversee. I was at the school on Thursday evening, and the coordinator of Friday's event asked if I could bring my camera to take some pictures. I said "sure". I happened to be THE ONLY parent to show up to help out. No other parent out of the other 37 students showed up. Boy, I would have liked to complain about that to someone, but then I had to think about what my kids think - nice to give back. The seniors were very appreciative and friendly and complimented the students. The best was when I talked to an ancient grandma (probably 95+) who was delighted to meet a "mother" (me) who had five wonderful children in a Catholic school, "each one a gift from God." She also said she meets many women today who aren't mothers first. And of course there isn't any debate that nowadays most women need to work (especially where I live to maintain a certain lifestyle). I felt a sort of cameraderie with this woman who herself stayed home and raised a family. It was a bit of a struggle for me though, in those initial minutes of realizing I was the only one, and I started down that, "But I'm a Room parent who has to plan the 4th grade party, and what about the Pinewood Derby Cub Scout Event looming large." Had to tell myself to put a cork in it and move on. I alone had volunteered in one way or another for those capacities.

Challenge

I have declared 2012 my year of passive income. My goal is $1,000 and I am still working on the parameters of it. My first additition will be $81.33 of "found money" located through the post from last week, can't recall OP.

"Stuff" and Service and other things

December 9th, 2011 at 02:36 pm


"Stuff". I'm officially done with the Christmas shopping. 4 gifts for each child to open Christmas morning, one of those being a "group" gift for family fun - Smurf movie DVD, 500 piece jigsaw puzzle, Yahtzee Flash, etc. The remaining items are things they want that I wouldn't ordinarily buy (big Lego sets, Pink brand sweat suit for daughter, designer wristlet for other daughter.) Amount on each child: $130-$150. Gifts for parents/inlaws and brother/best friend $20 (dropped down from $30) but I think I did a good job finding items on sale that the individual would like.

"Service". My kids are volunteers at heart, coming from mostly seeing how involved we as a family are in service at our parish. DH and I are actively involved in all the kids' programs our Church offers (he is the Youth Director for the Knights of Columbus and I'm the co-cordinator for the summer programs). My kids love to help out and were just waiting for the sign-up sheet to be a part of the Christmas Eve Mass. It prompted a good conversation with my kids about being active and sharing our joy about the things. My older daughter suggested a family volunteer outing after Christmas at "Feed My Starving Children" the day or two after Christmas, and including the grandparents. I think this is a wonderful tradition and I'm so proud of her for wanting to do this.

Today is payday and rent collection day. This is the boring part of the month were I pay the mortgage, put our living expenses in the checking account and move the remainder to "reserve". I am waiting for a check for $1,950 to clear, for my daughter's solo dress. We bought it used from a family with tons of money. If I had a check for that amount, I'd promptly drive to the bank and deposit it. [I should add that I didn't actually pay that amount because I sold her old dress for $1,300. Smile ]

That's all Smile

Tuesday :)

December 6th, 2011 at 02:18 pm


I survived last week home with a sick child. Monday was Day #1 with three children. Days #2-#4 were with oldest daughter who has asthma and had a sinus infection. After the second trip to the doctor (the first the Wed before Thanksgiving, the second the Tues after) we finally got her on an anti-biotic. Since we're OOP on the Rxs now until January, I was shocked to find out that Augmentin was $145. I talked to the nurse who called in Amoxycillan for $26. Anyhow, the Amoxycillan has worked just fine and did the trick.

We're busy with a band concert tonight, caroling at the nursing home/senior center on Friday. I've got the 4th Grade Christmas party next Friday and am looking forward to quality time with the kids.

Money-wise, I'm a spending fool. The boys needed clothes, so I had a coupon for $10 off of $50 at Old Navy. I was happy to find a new coat for one of them for $25, plus got some warm pants and pull over for $8. I had a $10 off coupon at Kohl's so I got 18 pairs of socks for the boys for $7. I bought a sweater for my mother for Christmas using a store credit that I had at JCP.

I am looking forward to January and a new budget. I need to take a lot at my spending more realistically.

Hope all are well. Smile