Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June...a review....

Wow, what a whirlwind month! I can't believe we fit in all that we did in the month of June - 2 camping trips, VBS, extreme couponing and SEVERAL shopping trips, homeschool, and various other things. July looks to be just as busy, however, so no slowing down yet! I thought I'd share a little bit about each of these subjects and my favorite parts about them.

Camping trip #1: Eveleth Veteran's Park, Eveleth, MN. A nice small city-run park with about 30 campsites. We have gone there the last three years so that we can camp with some of my family members who live nearby. This year it was just my sister's family and my family camping -we had a joint birthday party for one of her boys and my son. It was good, and the weather was cool and sometimes a bit rainy but overall nice. Below is a pic of my kids and some of their cousins enjoying an afternoon at the beach. The water was too cold to swim in so they played in the sand and waded in the water.
Camping #2: Baker Park Reserve, Maple Plain, MN. A county run park just 20 minutes west of the twin cities. It's a beautiful park on a good-sized lake with two swimming beaches. I'm guessing there are well over 75 sites at this campground and is always very busy. This is our second year we stayed there because we really like it and it's a nice short distance (under an hour) from our home. This trip we spent with friends, and it was a good time despite the inclement weather. It rained almost two inches overnight the first night, and our friends' tent had lots of water in it by morning. This is a pic of the beach at sunset our first evening there. It was hot (92 degrees), and the kids had a great time swimming.

Vacation Bible School: This was the first year ever that my kids attended VBS. Up until this last year, we had been attending a small Bible church that didn't have enough kids to host something like that, so my kids were very excited to go. They had a blast. My daughter wants every day to be a VBS day now, and she's already looking forward to next year. I am so happy to see both of the kids' enthusiasm grow for the things of the Lord. This is my daughter's 4th grade class acting out a song at the parent's program on the last day.

Extreme couponing and shopping: In total for the month of June, I have saved an overall amount of $859.55. We bought more than just groceries and household items - Jeff needed new clothing but we only bought during BOGO or 50% off sales. We also did a lot of rebating at Menards and are still waiting for the rebate coupons to come in the mail. For actual groceries and household needs we saved $403.93, so almost half of the $859.55. We saved exactly 1/3rd off the total (if we were to pay full price) amount for the month! I'm pretty excited about that!

Homeschool: Our summer session of homeschool is a bit lighter than during the regular school year. We use different curriculum and do different things. The summer months bring gardening and kitchen basics, and we spend some time daily doing either one of them. As I mentioned before, I also am going to be adding in a money management class for the kids. We'll be starting it next Tuesday. I found some great books (here and here) that we're going to be reading through together, and then when we've read through both of them I will start having the kids help me with weekly planning for shopping trips (looking through ads, coupons, making lists, etc.). I saw other Larry Burkett books for kids when I was searching these to put up and I may consider them for next year's summer session to keep reinforcing the importance of godly stewardship. I am looking forward to helping my kids learn how to use their money wisely.

Other various things: During the month of June we also went to a classic car show, "Back to the 50's" held at the state fairground every year. My dad, brother, and nephew all have classic vehicles and have gone for the last several years. We met up with them again this year and wandered around the fairgrounds for several hours looking at classic cars. It's always a fun time.

Jeff had softball on Tuesday evenings during the month, and he has enjoyed that. We did go see him play at one game, but haven't had the chance to go again.

Overall, June was a good month. Busier than I anticipated, and these are just a few of the 'big' things we did. I hope your June was just as fun!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Savings Book

I thought I'd share today what I've come up with for what I call "my savings book". It consists of a binder with everything I need to save money. First, here's the binder:
Then when I open it up it has a slot for extra coupons or stuff that I need to have access to quickly as well as shopping lists (on post it lined paper) that don't have any ads. I also have a ziploc type pocket to put needed things in like paper clips, paper, or pens/highlighters:
Next are the coupons, and I've separated them into grocery and non-grocery using 4x6 plastic photo holders especially made for binders. I bought them at Office Depot:
Ads come next, and I used leftover heavy weight sheet protectors from Office Depot (from another project) for them. The sticky post-it lined paper works great for sticking it to the ad, and then I paper clip the coupons to the sticky note. I also have a program called Handy Shopper on my palm pilot, but I have not yet figured out a good method for using it with needing to have it set specifically for so many different stores each week. I'm trying to come up with a plan, though, since that would make it even easier!
After the ads, I have restaurant and business coupons:
Behind all this I have put a notebook if I need to have paper while I'm out shopping or want to jot something down.

It's still all in it's 'baby' stages as this is only my fourth week. So far this system is working well. I am thinking, however, that I might need to get some more 4"x6" photo holders to accommodate the smaller restaurant and business coupons that I have, too, maybe going every other page or something like that. I'd love to hear if anyone has any tips on how to make this system even better!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Enjoying blogging and productivity....

I am really enjoying this blog thing. Not necessarily me writing (although I do like to do that), but all of the great blogs I've been finding as a learn the art of couponing. Several times a day I go down my blog list to see if anyone has written anything new, and I am always blessed...I'm really getting to know these people, and enjoying every minute of it!

Over the last few days I've especially been reading the menu plans that the lady bloggers have been putting up and I'm getting ideas for new menus here in our household. I don't know how many times I've said over the last several months to Jeff how bored I've gotten with our recipes - not only am I learning how to be a better steward of our money, but I'm finding some great recipes, too! I have to also mention I feel like I've made some new friends as well.

Today was a partially productive day. This morning while my kiddos were at VBS I mowed the lawn. Our yard takes me about 1 1/2 hours to mow, and today was no exception. It was extremely warm and humid! After the kids got home for lunch, we made grilled cheese salsa sandwiches and had chips on the side. Then it was off to our pool in the backyard to let the kids cool off. After they had played for about half an hour, their friends stopped by to play and decided to swim too. They stayed for about an hour, so thankfully I had enough reading to do! After they were done swimming we came back inside and I worked on the next week's menu and prepped for dinner. I made grilled chicken (with my new McCormick's rub I snagged for about a dollar after sale and coupon!) and also grilled russet and sweet potatoes. I also had some leftover peas from a previous meal. After dinner, Jeff left for softball and I had several things to take care of. I folded laundry, brought it out to the camper, emptied out under the sink in the camper (so Jeff could fix the board that is failing), came back inside and started paying bills, cut Jeff's hair when he got home from softball, and finished paying bills. Whew! Tomorrow is going to be even busier! The kids and I all have dentist appointments in the afternoon for our annual cleaning (they also have VBS still in the morning and I still need to do homeschool planning for the youngest). After the dentist, we're meeting Jeff in town at Arby's to get their 5 for $5 roast beefs, and then have some more sale shopping to do at Menard's, Kohl's, and a truckload sale at our local grocery store. Can't wait to see what kind of deals I can get and add to my savings!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Couponing update...

This is week four of my new-found hobby of couponing. It's going well. I just about have all my shopping lists ready to get to the stores with the deals I have coupons for, and hopefully I can make it to all of them. So far we've saved over $600 total with some clothing purchases for Jeff - but we did BOGO at Kohl's, the $50 rebate at Sears, and the 50% off at Old Navy. We also did rebates at Menards. $300 of that $600 is savings from groceries and necessities, and I still have this week to include, so hopefully we'll have close to $400 in the 'grocery' checking account come July 1st that I will use solely for groceries and necessities. It will certainly be interesting to see just how far I can stretch that money!

On another note, it got to be 86 degrees and very humid here today. We decided to put the pool up for the kids. They couldn't even
wait to hop in! The water is still extremely cold, however, so they didn't last long. I imagine by tomorrow afternoon it should be perfect.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mom, we should smile because God's taking pictures...

I love storms. I love the sound of rain, thunder, wind. I love to see the lightning. Unfortunately our kids did not inherit that love! Last night as we watched radar, Jeff and I noticed a nice long bow echo heading our direction. We have always tried hard not to say anything to the kids about storms because they do panic so easily, but they heard that we were under a severe storm warning on the radio and started panicking anyway. After we tucked them in to bed, our oldest would come out every few minutes asking how close the storm was. She would ask questions like "what would happen if the storm blew off our roof?" and "how will we find the cat if we need to go into the storage room?" So once the storm was close enough to see the lightning, I had her sit and watch the storm with me. She was mesmerized as I always am. It helped that it was a rolling thunder and not big booms, and she could see the lightning shoot across the sky. Finally after 10 minutes it started raining and the wind picked up a little. She was satisfied enough to know that the storm wasn't as bad as she feared and could go back to bed. 5 minutes later, "BOOM!"...lightning had hit nearby, and yep, you guessed it - she was back in the family room concerned that the storm was getting worse! Thankfully it was the only loud boom as the storm petered out and headed further eastward. Our youngest fell asleep early on and was not bothered at all by the storm.

I share this story because as I was spending devotional time this morning I got to thinking about all the storms my family and friends have been facing as of late, as well as my own storms. Sometimes we're like my oldest - worried and panicked and scared as to what could happen. I fret along with the best of 'em. But I'm beginning to really understand that our worrying gets us nowhere, except further from God because we're not letting Him handle our troubles. We push Him away and say "No God, I have to handle this on my own", and yet He keeps telling us "My child, I am here for you. I will do what's best for you and you have to trust me".

Is it easy to trust? It should be. But sometimes it's just as scary as the thing we're fearing. How can I trust? I need to just let God in, accept His help and not carry the burden alone.
I saw a saying once that said "Don't tell God how big your storm is, tell your storm how big God is."

Some of my family and friends who are suffering right now don't know Jesus. They don't have the security that those of us in Christ do. I pray earnestly for them - not only for their burden, but for their salvation. Oh, if they only knew Jesus!

During the storm, my daughter said "Mom, we should smile because God's taking pictures of us (the lightning)". That also hit me as I know that God takes more than pictures, and not just during storms! He is with us EVERY moment of the day, encouraging us to follow Him. I want to smile at Him always, and that means smiling 100% of the time because He IS everyone we meet...our spouses, our children, our family, our friends, strangers...He is everyone. Okay, so tough task you say. Yep, I know. But if I can smile even half the time my heart will be changed and I can make a difference in other people's lives. I challenge you to make a commitment to smile at God 100% of the time, too. How does it make you feel when a total stranger smiles at you, or your spouse smiles at you, or your kids? Feels good, doesn't it? I'd love to see what would happen if we all started smiling at each other more often. Do it. I challenge you. :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fun camping cake....

My sister made this cake for my son's and nephew's birthday party this last weekend. It turned out very cute! She used one of those battery operated 'candles' for the inside of the fire pit, and cut mini marshmallows even smaller to put on the roasting sticks. My sister is pretty ingenious when it comes to cakes!

Finances for the young...

This is week number three of my new commitment to saving our family money by couponing and watching ads/blogs for great deals. My son was very proud to tell a friend that I had purchased 650+ coupons on ebay for only $12 - and he's getting used to seeing me sitting at my desk figuring out shopping lists and coupons. I am still tossing ideas around in my head for laying out a curriculum. The kids are going to VBS next week so I will have some extra time then to figure out the best scenario. I can't wait to start sharing what I've learned so far with them - they are already very excited when I tell them the amount I've saved with each shopping trip, so I know they're interested...just gotta find ways to keep that interest up! I will share with you all what ideas I've come up with for the financial curriculum for elementary ages as soon as I get the details all worked out.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thank you for the nomination!

Thanks so much to
Megan at Focusing on the Bible, Family and the Great Deals for nominating me for the Kreativ Blogger award!
Rules of this award
(1) Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
(2) Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
(3) Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
(4) Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
(5) Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
(6) Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
(7) Leave a comment on each of the blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.
7 things about me...
1. I grew up in a little town in Northern Minnesota that no longer exists.
2. I have been out of the US only 4 times...3 to Canada, and once to Cozumel.
3. My family and I enjoy camping immensely and I would love to be a full-time RV'er.
4. I went to college for a business degree - I wanted to own and run my own B&B someday.
5. I have been married for 14 1/2 years to the love of my life!
6. I have two older brothers and one younger sister.
7. I am a homeschool mom, and love the challenge.
My nominees are:
Phyllis at phyllis-sather.com
2. Jen at Penny Pinching Pixy
3. Tracy at Girls to Grow
4. Hip To Save
5. We Are THAT family
6. Crystal at Money Saving Mom
7. Mercedes at Common Sense with Money
Love your blogs, ladies!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thankful for the rain, but glad to see the sun...

Over the weekend we got about 1/2 an inch of rain. Not much, and we certainly needed every drop. I wasn't too thrilled that we had four days of gloomy, gloomy, gloomy, however! It is back to sunny skies today and a bit warmer weather, which is good.

I didn't get as much done these last few days as I was hoping to (some tummy troubles), but I am happy to say that I did find some more deals, and will be heading to Target and Cub today with a friend. Can wait to see how I do at both places!

The kids have taken notice of my recent coupon mania and frugal frenzy. My daughter has even helped clip some coupons, but my son was the vocal one...he said "Mom, you sure are going crazy with those coupons - I think you're the coupon queen!" I chuckled a bit at that, and decided I am going to make this into an educational experience for us all. It will be good for the kids to learn how to save and find the best deals on things they desire, too. Maybe I'll even design a curriculum based all on saving, couponing, and thriftiness so that we can help our family save money in every way possible. The more I think about it, the more I am excited to implement something like that! I have a couple more weeks before our next break, so I think I better starting making a plan....any ideas, please share!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

More savings...

I found us more deals today. We saved $146 on items we needed from Menard's, Kohl's, and Sears. It's such a great feeling to know that we're being wiser with our money and the way we shop.

Menard's had a lot of rebate items we could use so we stopped there first. Then we went to Kohl's - they had BOGO on summer clothing, and Jeff needed more shirts. He was able to get four and we only paid for two! At Sears Jeff bought three pairs of jeans that were on sale - for $65.
He got the three pairs of name-brand jeans for only $15 total - we'll get $50 of the $65 back in a rebate coupon to spend on more clothes for Jeff at Sears later on. What a blessing to have found these great deals!

Friday, June 5, 2009

My first coupon shopping trip

Last night we went on our 'first' coupon shopping trip at the local Cub Foods. Being as it was the first one, I don't have all the tricks down yet, but I must say I feel pretty good about saving a total of $87.78! The cashier also gave us more coupons for a future visit, AND we got coupons for 2 BOGO Twins Baseball tickets! That's probably another savings of $20 or more, since it has to be tickets purchased in the lower reserved section.

Back to our receipt and the purchases. We bought 87 items, so it was just a little over a dollar saved on each item - not bad! I am aiming to get better at this, however, and am really starting to see a plan working itself out. Jeff picked up an index card box for me last night with plastic separators for a better way to file my coupons, and I've decided for this first month we are going to put any savings we make on purchases into a separate checking account that we haven't been using. After one month that money is going to turn into my grocery shopping money, and I'll just keep putting back into it whatever savings I get each time. I'm going to see how far I can stretch it before I need to replenish it with another month of shopping from our regular account. I am so excited to try this concept out! It will be very interesting to see how far I can go!

I just realized this morning that I have been saving money for awhile as well when it comes to our vitamin/health needs. I've purchased several times from two websites that always seem to have great deals going on...vitaminwarehouse.com, and vitacost.com. You'll find both of them in my websites list on the right side of this page. I just purchased some Silent Snore for my husband today for 40% off at Vitaminwarehouse.com. Can't beat that!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Good Stewardship part 2

Okay, so I've had roughly 36 hours to totally bury myself in websites and blogsites that have some of the greatest tips for saving money, and I tell ya, I'm pooped but very excited at the same time. I spent the majority of my free time the last two days printing coupons, signing up for freebies, buying 650+ coupons on ebay (my sister and I are splitting them) and going through three different grocery store ads to figure out what's on sale this week and what I already have coupons for. I pulled out my old coupon folder and wiped the dust off, and now I just need to come up with a system that will work for me. Right now I have them in folders according to the months they expire, but I'm not sure I like that. I'll have to play around with it a bit after I get my share of the 650+ coupons!

As I've been doing all this work, I've also been thinking as I do my chores around the house what things can we live without - do we really need so much stuff? I've already sold a fair amount of items on ebay...music CD's we don't want anymore and lots of homeschool books. I keep wondering what else would sell on there, and need to spend some time soon getting more stuff listed. Then there's the rummage sale we NEED to have just to get rid of all the extra clutter we've accumulated. I'm hoping we can really do a thorough clean-out of the house soon so that we won't have to have another rummage sale for a few years!

Here's another thing we've been doing already to save money. For several years now we've already saved lots of money on clothing. My generous sister has supplied my kids clothing as hand-me-downs from her kids, so we haven't needed to buy them much at all. My husband finds t-shirts and other shirts he needs at either Kohl's or Walmart on sale or clearance. He is also able to spend a certain amount of money each year supplied by his boss to purchase polo tops, sweatshirts and jackets with his work logo, so that also helps. And for me, most of the time I wait for Mondays and shop our local Savers. Mondays are $.99 Mondays, and they have one color tag for $.99. Several years ago I had lost a lot of weight on Weight Watchers and needed a new wardrobe because nothing was fitting. I purchased a complete wardrobe - 125 pieces for $125! Since then I've gone back several times when I've needed other pieces of clothing and still go for the $.99 deals. Lately my husband has been giving me Coldwater Creek gift cards for Christmas and Mother's day, so I have stocked up on some brand new clothing as well, but even then I only buy clearanced items and get several items for the amount on the card plus they send out coupons for $25 or $30 off a $100 purchase. For this last Mother's day my husband and kids gave me a $100 gift card, and I had a coupon for $30 off, plus another $10 for completing a survey. Then I went online to their clearance shop and bought $140 worth of clothing and got it for the $100, so $40 worth of free clothing! I was very happy with my good buy and got some great summer clothes.

Soooooo.....I want to know...what are ways that you save money for your family? Do you clip and use coupons? Do you watch for sales, send in rebates, frequent thrift shops? Rummage sale? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Saving money = good stewardship

If you'll notice on the right hand side of my posts I have several blogs I follow and favorite websites about saving money. These are hard times for all of us, and there are so many women out there trying to save their families money. These are awesome sites and I highly recommend them!

I want to be a good steward of our money as well, and do the best for my family I can, so I'm starting to cut coupons again and watch for deals at local stores. This morning I spent over an hour pouring over some of the blogsites looking for coupons on things we use in our household. I found several, and I also signed up for lots of freebies and free samples of things. I'm pretty excited about my finds! These ladies have worked hard to be so helpful for the rest of us, and I commend them, and thank them heartily.

My next step is to see what's on sale at our local grocery stores, and try matching the coupons I just cut out with the sales. I know it's going to be a hard process to get started, but I am willing to do it to make our money stretch farther, and in the process glorify God because I'm being a good steward of His money.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Art Project?

My kids helped me paint the picnic table and the swingset today.

They both turned out really nice - a chocolate color. So, my question is...can I call this an art project for homeschool? Both of the kids worked very hard so I think they deserve the credit. Our back yard is really starting to look nice. Just need the trees to grow now!

Apple cake

Today was our first day back to homeschooling after a two week break, and the start of our summer session- shorter hours, more fun things to do/learn. We were supposed to be watching a "Good Eats" video from food network for our kitchen basics subject, but for some reason only the audio plays and not the video, so we decided to do some of our own baking instead. We pulled out Alton Brown's "I'm Just Here For More Food" book, and the kids found an apple cake recipe that we could make. They took turns reading the ingredients and instructions (Alton Brown is quite thorough in his explanations of why we use certain ingredients and what they do, and I absolutely love the way he lays it all out so the kids can understand it), and got out everything they needed. I helped with the stuff they couldn't do (like the food processor and a few other things), but they did a great job. They learned why the creaming method is used in some applications, how it works, and how to measure in grams, ounces, and cups and spoons. And they had fun, too!