SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks











{February 22, 2013}   Shower the Baby

A week ago CrazyMathLady called me from Wal-Mart.  This is not my idea of a good time for any reason.  This lady is not married, has no kids and was shopping for a baby shower gift.  Of course she calls me.

Bless her heart!

The baby shower was for one of her good friends, a first-time mom, and CrazyMathLady is even more practical than I am.  For the most part.  We had discussed the shower on our way back from Bunco, and agreed that everybody and their mama would be purchasing sweet smocked baby clothes for Expectant Mom’s little bundle.  I gave birth to a linebacker and a point guard, so most of that kind of stuff went to waste in the House of Cheaptitude.

I like practical.

I told CrazyMathLady to buy infant medicines, ointments, thermometers, nursing pads, etc.  And a big package of pads for Expectant Mom.  These are things new moms often don’t think of stocking when preparing for a new addition, and most shower guests (especially here in our part of the world) like to purchase frilly foo foo smocked monogrammed baby stuff, so I thought this would be a great gift.  Expectant Mom will thank her when the first ear infection starts.

I like practical.  So does CrazyMathLady, and I actually get quite tickled by her practicality sometimes.  Her classroom was always devoid of all of those cutesy teacher wall decorations and it was flawlessly organized.  One could tell when she was impressed with a kid’s work, because that was the only time stuff was displayed.

I invited her over one evening that I planned to scrapbook and she played with paper punches all night.  I think it was the Geometry aspect.

So after she bought out the baby section of the health and beauty aisle at Wal-Mart, she texted me a picture of her packaged gift:

image

She doesn’t often get fancy-pants creative, but this is too cute!  CrazyMathLady went to the craft section and bought stickers to decorate the little Rubbermaid box.  I did notice that stickers are pretty evenly distributed, but math people tend to have a touch of OCD.

I’m so proud of her creativity, I just had to share!

What kind of shower person are you?  Cute and fancy or practical?

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{December 16, 2012}   Making Christmas Merry and Bright

Money has been tighter than ever this year.  On the news, I’ve heard the economy is recovering.  Well, I can’t believe it until I see evidence in my bank accounts.  Construction is not the ideal field work right now. Unless you have a rich in-law subsidizing your business or something….just sayin’.

So, like I posted before, I’m trying to get a little more creative this Christmas.  Our gifting will consist of our children, little kid cousins, and our parental units.  We’ve not even discussed buying for each other this year.  So that is pretty much it.  And if I can figure out things that I can make, that people will appreciate and use, even better.

I can’t post pics yet, just in case any of the parental units actually reads my blog posts.

My picture frame venture has turned out super cute, but I cannot locate my Mod Podge.  I need it to seal some of the foo foo I’ve added.   As a crafter, my Mod Podge is on the same level  as my Soft Scrub Spray for cleaning.  I love it and use it for every project possible (Mod Podge, not Soft Scrub).  So where is it?  Probably hiding in the misplaced  holiday tote with my stockings.  I found a recipe, but it’s not worked out the way I like.  Thank goodness it’s easy to find at Michael’s or *shudder* Wal-Mart.

For the little kid cousins, I’d love to start ornament collections.  By the time I married, I technically should have had enough ornaments to decorate a good-sized tree.  I didn’t, due to storage issues beyond my control, but should have.  Even now, every year, my mother goes to Bronner’s and buys each of us an ornament that either reminds her of us or she thinks we’ll love.  Most of my ornaments are handmade and have a lot of memories attached.  The exceptions include Mother’s finds from Bronner’s, Hallmark ornaments from Grizzly’s mom, and of course, Aunt Pat, the angel on top of my tree.  I want my own kids to have a respectable start on their Christmas ornaments, and I think it would be a neat tradition to start for the little kid cousins.

That might not be the kind of thing the in-laws appreciate, so I probably will go out and buy them some kind of toy or book.

As for the monkeys, they wrote down their 4 things, but were pretty silly about it (really, I’m going to buy a 12-year-old an iPad???) We always try to do something “big,” and after some tense discussions (I called Grizzly materialistic at one point), we’ve agreed on some electronic devices – that I can get on sale.

Monkey 2 needs bedding since she’s moved to a queen-sized bed.  I’ve taken a crack at locating a plain old pink comforter, to no avail.  I considered sewing a comforter cover, but have had the most unfortunate time crunch this year.  Grizzly found some pink camo bedding at the sporting goods store, so that is the direction we’ll go with that.  I’m will design her some “hair bobs” (Rhonda Belle’s term) and maybe some little beady jewelry.  She’s also begun to express an interest in her fashion dolls, so maybe I can make some doll clothes.  Pinterest, here I come.

Monkey 1’s room is terribly crowded since I took his bunk bed apart, but it’s a  small amount more difficult for him to make such a nasty mess. So he could use some kind of organizers.  And he loves art.  Santa always manages to bring some kind of art supplies, and I’ve seen the coolest handmade caddies on Pinterest.  I imagine he’ll also be getting some video games, if I have enough room on my handy-dandy gift card and I can find them for a good price.  Honestly, he’s not asked me for much.  Except the iPad.  Tweenagers are a little difficult to Christmas shop.  We’ll see.

On top of doing Grizzly’s and my shopping, Rhonda Belle sends money for me to do her shopping.  Every year, I fuss that I don’t have enough ideas.  Every year, I get a lot of bang for her buck.  I think she and PaPa Mac get tickled at my shopping adventures – and I give them details, from the minute I cash the check. Monkey 1 will be going to martial arts classes and Monkey 2 needs a bigger bicycle. To quote Phil Robertson, they’ll be “happy, happy, happy.”

I also do MY grandma’s shopping.  In her Christmas note every year, she thanks me for lending her a hand with the shopping.  She’s funny.  The kids get new jammies or sneakers or some other clothing items from their great-grands.  The monkeys always love what they receive.  I’ve learned to make it easier on myself than I used to!

The one thing I’m really excited about for the monkeys this year is a journal.  I found the idea in a blog or on Pinterest or something and have seen several variations.  It’s a “Mom and Me” journal.  As kids get older, it’s kind of embarrassing to discuss certain things with parents and sometimes writing helps.  I hope so.  I’m interested to see how this project works out.  I’ll probably cover that one in a separate post, with pics and all.

Note: Last night, Grizzly and I went back to Wal-Mart.  In case you’re counting, this means I’ve been to that awful place FIVE times in one year now.  Ugh.  We did get Monkey 2’s bike and a new helmet to match from Granny and PaPa Mac.  It is safely stashed at my dad’s house for now, because both monkeys are horribly nosey.  From the Great-Grands, Monkey 2 is getting 2 new pairs of sparkly jeans, a pair of sweat pants, and three shirts.  I’ll still have to shop for Monkey 1, because all I found for him was a pair of PJ pants.

At least I’m finally making progress.

How are your holidays looking?

~Katie

 



{November 23, 2012}   The Method to My (Coupon) Madness

Coupons Ecover

It started with that crazy show.  That Sunday, I bought 3 newspapers.  And I clipped and clipped and clipped. And I used coupons.  Some of them.

And I’ve learned a few things since then.

Recruit a Money-Saving Buddy

My friend Stephanie started couponing about the time I did.  We traded coupons, alerted each other to amazing deals, and kept each other motivated.  When you’re on a tight budget like I am, every little bit helps!

Coupons from the Sunday Paper

I only purchase one paper on Sundays.  If someone gives me their inserts, I graciously accept them (Thank You, Dad & JB!), but why am I going to spend $10 on papers to save a few dollars with coupons?  It makes no sense to me.

As I’m clipping, if I spot something awesome that I don’t see often, I may go back for more papers.  $1 off Dog Chow is great for me and worth another paper.  Apart from that…..

Printable Coupons

I do use printable coupons.  A lot of products have FaceBook pages that you can “like” and get a coupon.  That’s how I stockpiled my Kool-Aid!  The website I use most for coupons is probably http://www.coupons.com.  In addition, you can sometimes go right to the brand’s site and print coupons.  Google for free coupon sites and you’ll be amazed at what you find.  Be careful, though, because some links that will show up are virus-ridden (thank you, White Rain Kids’ Shampoo).

Loadable Coupons

If you use store loyalty cards, a lot of times you can load the savings right to your card and not have to think about it. This is fabulous!  Both of the groceries that I frequent (Brookshire’s and Kroger) have this option.  However, both of these stores triple hard copy coupons up to 35 cents and double up to 50 cents.  Preloaded coupons do NOT double or triple at these stores.  I only load higher value coupons to my store cards.

Clip What You’ll Use

My Rhonda Belle and I had this conversation today.  She is enjoying clipping coupons but says she’s stopped clipping things she doesn’t use.  This makes sense.  Our time is valuable.  I don’t color my hair so why clip a Clairol coupon?

On the flip side of this, I don’t clip based on brand.  Right now I use the store brand dishwasher soap, but I’ll still clip Cascade or Finish coupons.  Why?  It might save me money!  If I see a coupon for something we use – deodorant, pasta, etc. – I’m not brand-limited.  Clip it and keep it!

Matching Coupons to Sales

It is a rare occasion that I use a coupon right when I clip it.  I know that after X number of weeks, Totino’s pizzas should be going on sale at Brookshire’s.  I pour over the sales ads when they come in and match up the deals to my coupons.  If my family’s beloved frozen pizzas are 4/$5 this week and I have a coupon for $1 off 4, then it goes on my grocery list.  I try to match the coupons to the ads to maximize my savings.

Coupon Match Ups

Don’t pay for your coupon match ups.  There are websites where this is available for free and many SmartPhone apps.  Personally, I check my GrocerySmarts app every Sunday morning to check on deals at my CVS (my other favorite place to shop!).  This app creates a coupon match, lists sales prices, and shows which items are generating Extra Bucks.  I have the free version, which shows one store at a time, and I refuse to upgrade just to compare stores – I don’t shop Wal Mart, Target, Rite Aid, or Walgreen’s often.  There is a GrocerySmarts website where you can see it all and create a printable shopping list.

Organizing Coupons

I used to love the little coupon wallets you can order through the newspaper or buy at the store.  They’re so cute – and collect dust on my shelf.

Coupon wallets and envelopes are not helpful for me.  I end up with expired coupons.  I can’t find the specific coupon that I know is in there somewhere. It’s more frustration and just not worth it for me.

When I first got into couponing, I went to a class (Duh, I’m a teacher). It cost $5 and I didn’t learn much, but it was interesting.  At this class, the instructor was SELLING coupon binders for $20 each.

Really?  I know you need to spend money to make money, but I’m not going to spend money to SAVE money.

I’m a teacher.  I have a ton of empty binders. If you spend $20 on some coupon binder, please do not let me know about it.

  • Supplies for Your Coupon Binder
  • 3 ring binder of your choice
  • trading card binder pages
  • dividers
  • pencil pouch

Like I said, I already had binders on hand and I’m not picky.  The trading card pages I bought at Hobby Lobby ($7.99 for a package of 30 and I used a 40% off coupon – on my phone – so it was under $5), but a quick Google search a minute ago and I found good prices from Amazon.com.  Dividers I also had on hand, but I printed my own on pretty paper from Dollar Tree and slid into page protectors.  My binder is sorted into store areas (pantry, beverages, freezer, baking, feminine supplies, etc.) and in order of my grocery.

There are 9 pockets on each of my pocket pages.  I slide the coupons in, with the soonest expiration at the front.

The pencil pouch holds my store cards, any extrabucks, maybe the coupons I’m already planning to use, a calculator, some cash…..

I use a binder clip to clip my list to the front of my binder.

I’ve heard people say they can’t remember what is in their binder.  For me, this isn’t a problem.  If you spend an hour or two loading your binder each week and cleaning out expired coupons, you’ll get familiar with the contents.

Again, this is just what works for me.  I never see 99.5% savings like the ladies on “that show.”  I’m just not that good, I work too many hours, and if I can stay within $50/week for my family of 4, I’m a happy couponer.  I have seen over 50% savings with my system.  It doesn’t happen really often, because we go through a LOT of milk and meat, but I’m usually at 30-35% saving between my store card and coupons.  And we eat REALLY well on a shoestring budget!

Again, I encourage you to search around the web and see what other people are doing.  Find a method you think will work and try it out.  Modify it.  Make your couponing system your own.

And let me know what you figure out!  Happy Shopping!

~ Katie



et cetera
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