Downsizing Your Way to Discounts (AND Free Stuff!)

27 10 2011

If you are a perfectly organized, minimalist person who lives in a house where, what little you have is immaculate and in its place– all the time… AND, if you always have the financial resources to do & have everything you want– regardless of the cost… Stop right here– this post is not for you.

However, if you are like me, and have a storage room, a junk drawer, a dusty bookshelf, or an overflowing laundry room… And if you have said in the last month, “Next time we get a few bucks, we should pick up (insert the thing you need, but never get around to buying)”… read on.  You just might enjoy this!

I often use coupon clipping services as a way to save time, while saving money.  The item I most often use this service for is diapers.  As I have said before in my posts, I have 3 kiddos in diapers, so I regularly buy Big Packs (the big box) of Huggies diapers, for around $10.  They retail between $25-30.  The kicker?  The $10 I spend on the coupon (clipping service) for each box– is generated by the sale of items I have around the house!  Let me state it again, more simply.  I sell stuff around the house, that we don’t need… To buy things we DO need. 

Over the past couple years, I have sold books, clothing, toys, collectables, and other miscellaneous stuff– mostly on eBay and Craigslist.   eBay works great for items that are not much bigger than a proverbial breadbox, because the shipping costs for smaller items are fairly insignificant, and you have a much wider buying audience.  However for larger items, I prefer to sell to locally because you can arrange for local pickup and not have to forfeit profit to shipping costs.  It is easy to set up user accounts on both eBay and Craigslist, and both sites have customer service reps that can help if you have any problems. Before you start selling, be sure to look over the sites’ selling policies so that you can maintain good standing with them by following their rules.  I recommend if you don’t have one already, that you set up a PayPal account as well.  This allows for fast and secure transactions, without the hassle of other forms of payment.

If you have a digital camera, taking pictures of your saleable items will increase the traffic to your ads.  If you don’t have a camera, make sure you give very detailed descriptions of your items.  If the item you are selling has any kind of flaw, no matter how insignificant– detail that flaw in your listing.  This will help you gain positive feedback from your buyers, so that you can build a reputation as an honest seller.

You would be amazed at what items you have lying around, that someone else is chomping at the bit to place a bid on!  Everything is a prized possession to someone.  I have even seen rocks & empty containers (like baby food jars) sell online.  Since I have 5 kids and I consider dragging them all to the Post Office to be cruel and unusual punishment, I use the USPS free pickup service for most of the items I sell.  I only have to go online and schedule the pickup, and my mail carrier comes right to my door to pick up my packages.

After you have sold a few items, you will have money in your PayPal account.  I like to call this my “Junk Money”.  You can then either transfer that money to your personal bank account, or use the PayPal funds to order items you need, online.  I often use my junk money to order (the clipping of) coupons from eBay or other coupon clipping services.  If I know I am running low on dish soap, I will go online and find coupons for the dish soap I use, and buy (clipping service for) coupons for that dish soap.   I pay between 99 cents and $2 for (the clipping service of) 20 coupons, each good for at least 50 cents off.  I wait until my dish soap is on sale for 99 cents, and I get them for 49 cents each, and sometimes less with higher value coupons!  I do the same thing to buy diapers, and other household items.  You can check ahead to see when the thing you need will be on the best sale– by using the links to the right. —->

After a while of doing this, you will find your house less cluttered, and your pocketbook less strained… And all it takes is a little time and effort!

Happy Junking! :0)

 

 

 





Perspective: The Best Space-Saver of All!

9 08 2011

I have seen many bloggers talk about creative ways to maximize living space, for this purpose and that.  While shelf-building and clever organizing can help tidy a house, it takes much more to create a home!

Recently, I was talking with a good friend, who was complaining about the size of her home, and things she wished she could change.  As she was talking, it occurred to me that, all over America– there are people who, because of our economy– do not have homes at all.  Entire families have lost their homes and everything they own.   I myself have been guilty of griping about my living conditions. I live with my family of 7 in a thousand square foot home.  My kitchen is only a little bigger than our bathroom.  Nevertheless, it contains a refrigerator full of food, an oven to cook it in, and a sink with running water.  How many Americans would be overcome with gratitude to be able to make this claim!

I think the best way to maximize space –is to be grateful for it.  While we may not have the biggest, most extravagant living space, it contains the most precious luxury of all… Family!  Strangely, when I keep this perspective, my kitchen doesn’t seem quite so small.  The fact is, no matter how big or small my house is, there is always something to be thankful for.  There is always somebody who has it worse than I do.  So instead of complaining about what I don’t have, I will choose to be grateful for all we DO have, and use those things to bless others.  So what if my lack of counter-space means I have to cool cookies on top of the wash machine… I guarantee they taste just as sweet.  Even sweeter, if shared with friends.  I can use my tiny kitchen to feed homeless people, bake cookies for lonely people in nursing homes, and much more!  When we use what we have, to help another Human Being–  inadequacy is snuffed out and replaced by an overwhelming sense of reward.

Gratitude gives us freedom from feelings of lacking, and allows us to use what we have, to the benefit of ourselves and others.

I have heard it said, that “Love grows best in small spaces.”

If this is true, then my family will be bound by unbreakable bonds…

And that’s no small success!

<3

 





Time Management for the Executive Homemaker: How Minding your Minutes will Save you Hours of Frustration!

21 07 2011

 

As a full-time student, wife, and mother of 5… There are certainly moments when I feel like my plate is so full, that at any given moment, stuff is going to fall off the edges.  Do you ever feel like your list of daily responsibilities is so long, that you don’t even know where to start?  Do you find that you are always busy, but never seem to make tangible progress? I know that personally, I can answer yes to all these questions at times.  It’s during these times, I have to get organized, which is not something that comes natural to me.  That’s why I created a tool, this Time Organizer for helping me to be more effective at managing my time.  Guess what I found out as a result? I am NOT the world’s lousiest housekeeper, I DON’T need to be Wonderwoman, and I CAN be the ruler of my daily responsibilities, instead of them ruling me!

I am not a type-A, naturally organized personality.  I have to really WORK at being organized.  So when you are reading the following steps, thinking, “I could never get THAT organized”… Yes you can!  I will let you in on a little secret.  I was voted “biggest slob” in my high school year book.   I have since risen above that horrible label, to effectively co-manage my household of 7 on a daily basis.  When I follow the steps below, my house is cleaner, I have more time for fun with the kids,  more free time (yes there IS such a thing!),  I am more confident in my role as a wife and mom, and my husband is a happier man!

I am going to show you 10 simple steps that will help you organize your time so that you can accomplish more, have more free time, and have something to SHOW for all your hard work!

You can DO it! Here’s how:

1) Make a Calendar:  The spreadsheet you see above (click on the “Time Organizer” link) is one that I made using MS Excel.  There are lots of other methods (like a wall calendar, personal planner, dry-erase board, or good old-fashioned pen & paper) that you can use, depending on your preference, personality, and available resources.  You can set up your calendar with a daily, weekly or monthly format .  I prefer a weekly format, since my family’s scheduling sometimes varies week to week– and daily scheduling is too much work for me :-). Decide what time you want to get up every day (and set an alarm for yourself, like it’s a job– because it IS!), and what time you want to go to bed.

2) Make a list of what I call “External” responsibilities.  These are things you have to do OUTSIDE your home.  Included on this list, should be things like appointments, shopping trips, school events, errand running, etc.  Anything that you have to do, that requires you to leave home.  If there are specific dates/times scheduled for the items, write that date/time/location info next to the item.

3) Make a list of your “Internal” responsibilities.  On this list should be everything you do at home, to maintain the cleanliness, comfort, and continuity of your household.  For example, meal prep, laundry, dish washing, vacuuming, bathroom cleanup, kids’ bedtime routine, lawn/garden maintenance, bill paying, etc.  For the purpose of not forgetting anything, go ahead an pretend that you are Wonderwoman/Superman, and include EVERYTHING you’d do at home, if you could get to it.

4) Look at the list you made in step #3.  Does it include personal time, and time with your spouse?  If not, write it in!  Making time to maintain your personal sanity, as well as nurturing your marriage and/or close personal  relationships are way more important than whether or not the trash goes out– yet they seem to be at the bottom of the priority list (if they are on the list at all!)  This brings me to my next point:

5) Prioritize the items on that list, in numbered order of importance, with 1 being the most important.  For household chores, you might consult with your spouse on this, if you have one– and ask which chores are most important to him/her to have done on a regular basis.  If your hubby is someone who hates to see dishes piled up, making dishes a high priority will eliminate that stress from your marriage.

6) Begin filling in your calendar, with items from the list you made in step #2.  These go in first because they are often scheduled for specific dates and times and are non-negotiable.

7) Once your external responsibilities are on your calendar, begin scheduling your internal household responsibilities.  Start with 1 hour of personal time per week.  SCHEDULE it in, and make it non-negotiable.  For that one hour per week, you can do whatever you want.  Next, schedule an hour per week of relationship maintenance time.  If you are married, use this time to go on a date with your spouse, or have that conversation you’ve been meaning to have. Just make sure that you consult your spouse and schedule it for a time that works with their schedule too.   If you aren’t married, call up a friend and talk on the phone, go out for coffee, do something relational & REAL (getting on Facebook doesn’t count!)

8 ) This is the most time-consuming step, but it is the one that will give you the greatest results! Put the rest of the items from your list (from step 3) on the calendar.  For household chores, look at the order of priority.  Some things will need to be done daily (like the kids’ bedtime routine, meals, etc.).  For the other things, decide how often you’d like to get them done.  Be realistic.  If your spouse hates dirty dishes, schedule dish duty every day, for a half hour after your scheduled meal. Some things, like laundry– you can choose to do daily for a shorter block of time, or save it up and use a bigger block of time– just one or two days per week.  If there are chores you dislike a lot, schedule them on a day when you don’t have much else scheduled for.  That way, you will actually look forward to the “easy” days when all you have to do is the one thing you aren’t super fond of. When everything is scheduled, look over your calendar and see how much unscheduled time is left.  Pretty surprising, huh?  Schedule in a couple blocks of time each week, for unexpected events.  That way, if talkative Aunt Betty calls, or you have a plumbing problem– you won’t blow your whole schedule.  When you end up doing unexpected things, write them on your calendar, into the time slot they fell into, and move the scheduled task (if there was one there) from that time slot, to another free slot.

9) Make a “wish” list of long-term projects you’d like to get done.  This could include projects you started but never finished, and/or things you’d like to do someday.  Either write the list on your calendar (in a margin), or on a separate sheet of paper posted right next to your calendar. When you have unscheduled blocks of time, begin whittling away at this list.  Write in any work you do toward these projects– into the time-slots that you used to work on them.  Cross them off as they are accomplished.

10) Post your calendar in a place where you will look at it early and often.  I keep mine on the side of my fridge.  When you get up in the morning (don’t forget to set your alarm!), look at what’s scheduled for the day.  If your carpet is filthy but it’s not on the list for today, IGNORE it… You will get to vacuum it tomorrow when it’s scheduled.  This will save you from the mental burden of feeling like you have to do EVERYTHING, every day.  Do what’s on your schedule.  If you get that done early, and you want to do more, go for it!  You will be amazed at how freeing it is, to accomplish exactly what you have set out for yourself.  Also, you will have a written record of everything you did during the course of a day, which is very gratifying.

Over time, if you are like me, you will get into a routine, and you will stop looking at the schedule so much.  Eventually, if you find that you are back to feeling totally overwhelmed… It is probably time to re-visit your schedule, or make adjustments to it.  Life happens, so don’t beat yourself up if you fail to accomplish what’s on your schedule for a given day– just reschedule it.  However, if you find this happening often– you should evaluate what’s keeping you from getting things done (what are you doing during that time instead of what’s scheduled), and give it its own time slot so it won’t keep you from accomplishing your daily tasks.

Following these steps has helped me to become more organized, and to more effectively and efficiently maintain my household.  In addition, it has helped me to be more confident in my ability to accomplish goals.

I really hope it helps you too!

:0) Richelle





Creative Kid Clothing 101: Buying Brand Names without Breaking the Bank!

13 07 2011

My husband and I have 5 kids (3 of whom are still in diapers).  Nevertheless, you might be surprised to know that our annual clothing expense for all 5 kids is $250 or less.  That’s a maximum of $4 per month, per kiddo.  So how do we do it?

Here are a few basic tips to help you keep your kiddo looking inexpensively adorable:

  • Learn your local thrift store’s sales:  Most thrift stores have some type of weekly deal, in order to clear out older stock and make room for new.  For example, our local Goodwill has half price sales every day, on a given color of tag.  So let’s say I go in on a Monday.  Monday is yellow tag day, so everything in the store with a yellow tag is half off.  I go relatively early, so that I can find high quality items. My favorite brands are Old Navy, Children’s Place, Gap, Cherokee, Land’s End, and a few others– I am not a fancy-brand snob, but these brands tend to re-sell very quickly, and for a higher value than the no-namers.  Thrift stores are also a GREAT place to find high quality kids shoes.  Why pay $20 for a pair of shoes that will be out-grown in a matter of months!?  Small children will generally outgrow shoes LONG before they wear them out, so there are always high quality shoes available at thrift stores.  (I never pay more than $4 dollars for a pair of shoes, and my kids wear Sketchers, Airwalk, and other great brands!)
  • Become a member of a clothing swap.  There are a number of online clothing swaps.  I have used ThredUP and was pretty happy with it.  http://www.thredup.com.  The basic premise of these is that you fill a box with clothes of a particular size, and you list it as available on a swap site.  When someone picks your box(es), you receive credit to pick boxes of clothes from other people, in whatever size your child needs.
  • Keep your kid clothes stain free as much as possible.  When you know you are going to feed spaghetti to your three year old, either let them eat topless, give them a bib, or designate an old t-shirt as the “spaghetti shirt.”  Keeping kid clothes stain-free will increase their resale value.  If you have a spill (because kids are kids, after all!), use spray and wash, or other inexpensive stain remover, and try to get it out.  If you can’t get it out, get rid of it, or make that the new spaghetti shirt.
  • When you do laundry, set aside quality clothes that are beginning to get too small, and put them into a Medium Sized flat rate box –which you can get free from the post office, and store it in a closet until the box is full.  Then, list that box on eBay (if you don’t want to use a clothing swap).  Kid clothes on eBay generally sell quickly when they are priced at around a dollar per item, shipped.  Shipping a medium flat rate box costs about $10 dollars, so the more items you fit into the box, the more money you will make.  You don’t even have to leave home to ship it, because the post office offers free pickup, right at your door.
  • Use the money you make selling clothes that no longer fit, to buy ones that do.  You will find LOTS of high quality kid clothes on Ebay at around a dollar per item (shipped), or you can simply repeat step number 1 (the first bullet) above.
  • Take advantage of seasonal closeout sales:  Old Navy, and other major department stores, have seasonal sales every year, generally in the spring and fall.  Last Spring, we printed a 20% off coupon from Old Navy’s website, and combined that with an 80% off seasonal sale they were having.  We ended up getting over $700 worth of kid clothes (including winter coats, tons of shirts, jeans, lots of jammies, and shoes– for all 5 of our kids!) for a little over a hundred bucks!
  • In the spring and summer, there are tons of great kid clothes to be had at rock bottom prices, at yard sales.  Most cities have a section in the newspaper, dedicated to listing yard sales that are scheduled for a given weekend.  Remember with yard sales, the earlier you go, the better the selection will be.  You can often find kid clothes for 50 cents each at yard sales.  That means AFTER your kids wear them for a month or 2– you can turn around and sell them (assuming they are still in great condition) for a dollar each, and actually MAKE money on your kids’ clothes, which you then put into your kid-clothes budget– for the next time it’s time to buy again.  Cool, huh?

By using these tips, you will not only save LOTS of money… but you will also be helping the environment by recycling clothes, and reducing waste.  That’s a savings we can ALL benefit from!

:0)





My list of Beginners’ Couponing Tips

3 07 2011

This is a list of tips I have put together for new couponers.  Allow me to clarify one thing, this is NOT a coupon blog.  My intention for this site is to provide a one-stop-shop for information relevant to raising children, and how to save money on baby care items.  However, since couponing IS a major help in baby-care savings, and many of my readers are not coupon savvy as yet… I thought it would be helpful to publish some basic couponing info to help get you started. So here it is… Enjoy!

Richelle’s Tips for Couponing

       Keep it simple, and make it your own. Don’t expect to be an expert immediately.  You will learn a lot with experience.  Someone else’s organizer does not YOUR system make.  Find an organizing method that works for your personality and your needs.  I use a three ring binder with baseball card holder sheets, and tabs for easy categorizing.  Some folks like to use a box system, or an envelope system.  There are lots of ways to store and organize coupons.  Use the one that suits you best.

Be Brand Flexible. You can either be serious about getting a certain brand… Or you can be serious about savings.   At the end of the day, does it really matter which brand of toothpaste you use?  My teeth say no!  There are times when (for medical reasons like an allergy) that you must stick with a particular brand of product.  That’s ok.  Just resolve that for everything else, you will NEVER pay full price again.  Besides the amazing savings, this type of buying allows you to try lots of products that you would normally never buy—because you get them very inexpensively (or free!).

If you don’t have one already, develop a budget.   Determine your grocery and non-food household purchase budget for each month.  You will probably find after a few months couponing—that your budget has leftover dollars at the end of the month, and you’ll have to find a place for that extra to go J.  The more you save using coupons, the more you will want to use them—which will help you to get good at getting deals in pretty quick order.  However, if you do not have a budget in place, you could fall into the trap of overspending just because you had coupons.  This brings me to my next point:

Just because you HAVE a coupon doesn’t mean you need to use it right away (or at all).  Usually during the life of a coupon, the best deals don’t come out until that coupon has been out a week or 2.  If you spend a coupon right after it comes out—you will likely miss out on a better deal that you could have gotten, had you waited another week.  Of course the exceptions to this are if you can get an item for free or better than free—take it, while the getting is good!  If you KNOW you will not use a product that you have a coupon for… Don’t even clip that coupon.  Put it aside instead, to send to overseas troops (ask me about this when you have a bunch ready to send).

Learn the Lingo.  Many coupon blogs (My faves are www.thekrazycouponlady.com, www.moneysavingmom.com,) have “coupons 101” articles.  They are brief, but offer an overview of couponing terminologies and abbreviations.  Read them, and get familiar with the terms so that when a deal comes available, you will understand it, and know how to get that deal.

Save ads and inserts.  In your Sunday paper most weeks, there are usually coupon inserts.  There may be one or more of the following in any given week: Smartsaver, Red Plum, P&G Saver (P&G is Proctor and Gamble).  These are the most common, but dig a little because sometimes there are others too.  In addition to the inserts, there should be a plethora of store ads.  SAVE THESE.  Store ads tell you what is on sale in any given week for your stores.  They also contain Store coupons (which can be used in combination with manufacturer coupons!).  Knowing what is on sale and when is the key to huge savings.

Know where to get coupons.  Coupons may be found in many places.  There are online printables at www.coupons.com, www.smartsource.com, www.redplum.com, and others.  Your Sunday paper  is also a great resource for finding coupons.  Some magazines have coupons too.  ALLYou is a coupon-full magazine that you can buy at any Walmart.  Grocery stores offer coupons many times too.  Among these are “Blinkies” (the ones you find in the aisles that come out of a blinking dispenser near whatever product they are for), “Peelies” (these are manufacturer coupons taped right to the products themselves.  They usually say something like “SAVE $1.00 NOW!!!”).  Then you have catalinas.  Catalinas are the coupons that print out when you have checked out. They are handed to you by the cashier—usually with your receipt.  There are also coupon clipping services available.  With the click of a mouse, you can order whole inserts, and/or clipped coupons for much less hassle than having to get them from the paper.  My favorite clipping service is www.couponsthingsbydede.com. She charges a flat rate $6.00 shipping charge (so order enough to make it worthwhile), and her turnaround time is really fast. Ebay is another great source for clipped coupons and whole inserts.   Some stores have their own monthly coupon books, full of store coupons (which, again—can be used WITH manufacturer coupons).  There are more ways to get coupons—but these should give you plenty to start with.

Check ahead and know what’s on sale, and when.   Through the magic of the internet, you can see what will be in the store ads—weeks ahead of time for some stores.  Here are addresses for Rite Aid and Walgreens advance ads: www.iheartriteaid.com and www.iheartwags.comWhen the page for these sites open, look to the right of the screen, and you will see a list of week-long date ranges.  Click on one of them and the ad will appear for that week.  Usually she has ads available 3 to 4 weeks before they actually come out—so it gives you time to gather all the coupons you will need to get the best deals on whatever you need.  www.weusecoupons.com is great for if you have questions about where to find the best deal on something.  There is a huge coupon forum there, with lots of veteran couponers who are more than willing to answer your questions.  They also have a comprehensive coupon database where you can search for coupons by product name.

Are you on Facebook?   If you are, then “liking” coupon bloggers (Like The Krazy Coupon Lady, and Money Saving Mom, and others) will help you to easily spot deals without having to search for them.  The deals will pop up in your live feed.  This is just a nice way of letting others do the deal-finding foot-work for you.

Walmart does not  always offer the best deals, but they DO price match and accept others’ coupons!  You will find that drug stores and grocery chains will house your best savings.  This is contrary to what you thought you knew about savings… But it’s absolutely true.  However, sometimes, if you go to a drug store and find that they are out of an item you had on your list, remember that Walmart price matches competitor ad prices… So you can probably go to Walmart and get the same item you were going to get at the drug store, at a similar price.

That’s enough to get you started for right now.  The most important thing is to HAVE FUN and save some bucks. Feel free to post your questions here, or you can visit my facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Parentstop/185544684820528

 





Couponing for a Good Cause

6 04 2011

These items were purchased using coupons.  I will be donating them to a local organization, Crossroads Resource Center, which helps young moms in crisis.  It cost me a little over $4 for everything in the picture…

Including:

Donation for Crossroads Resource Center. My Cost? Around $4 for all!

3 pkgs size 3 diapers,   6 cans Similac concentrated formula, 2 cans Enfamil powdered formula,       1 qt bottle of Similac, and 5 tubes Desitin.

You can make a positive difference in your community by making donations of items you get inexpensively (or free!) using coupons.  Check out the “Giving Back” link on your right for more information!

I apologize for the long break since my last blog… We had several consecutive family emergencies that have kept me preoccupied with other things.  However, I am back at it– and will have lots of good money-saving information for you soon!





And the Winner IS………..(Drum Roll Please)

14 03 2011

The winner of the Parentstop Diaper and Wipes Giveaway is Angie Blodgett! Congratulations Angie, and a big thanks to you and everyone else who entered.  I really appreciate your referrals, and I hope your friends will enjoy Parentstop!

Don’t forget that later today, I will unveil part 2 in the series on how to get your own cheap/FREE baby care items using coupons!








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