Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Coo-coo for Coupons!

I am on a new mission to save money on groceries and household items.  I have heard about "Extreme Couponing" but never really paid much attention to it.  After a friend told me she had started couponing I decided to google it.  I found many videos on youtube of people who reduce their grocery bills by 80% and more.  There are lots of people willing to share their tips and ideas for free to help a sista out!  Many of these people share a good portion of their overflow goods with local food banks- which I think is really cool.

Recently, I had thought about getting a seasonal part-time job over the summer.  But that would mean leaving the kids home and trying to work around our already planned summer vacations, etc.  When I saw these videos and how much money these people are saving I thought to myself that this could be like a part-time job in and of itself! 

There are extreme couponers, who clear the shelves and go completely crazy stocking up on 50+ bottles of mustard, carts full of candy bars, and spending 30+ hours looking for coupons.  I do not intend to go to that extreme.  My goal is to save as much money as I can by using coupons, planning out my weekly meals and shopping trips by what's on sale and still eating healthy.  Time to get back to the Dave Ramsey plan!!

I have spent the past two days scouring the internet trying to learn as much as I can, trying to figure out how it's done!  It seemed so confusing to me at first.  But now I'm starting to formulate a game plan and I'm excited! 

Here are a few things I've learned:
First, I visited the couponmom.com.  This woman is amazing.  She started out by trying to fill her local food bank back up for as little money as possible.  Once she realized how easy it was she began applying it to her own life and then sharing it with others, trying to help as many people as she can save money.  Anyways, for FREE she has listed store sales and coupons to be used with the sales by date.  These are coupons that come out in the Sunday newspaper inserts (Smart Source & Redplum) plus some that can be printed online- she gives you the link for those.  The goal is to use coupons on top of sales along with store rewards points AND sometimes stacking manufacturers coupons WITH store coupons for the same item, resulting in paying very little if not getting the item completely free.  Just visit her website and you can pull up the stores and drugstores (CVS, Walgreens, etc) in your area.

The second thing I learned, to save time, is not to cut out the coupons right away.  Just get an organizer and file the actual whole inserts from the newspaper by date.  Then each Sunday, when the sales start, visit her website, print the list of sales & coupons to be used- and just cut out the coupons you need for that shopping trip (she tells you what date the coupon came out in the inserts).  It shouldn't take any more than 30 min.

The Coupon Mom also has listed out each store's coupon policies (whether they double coupons, accept printed coupons, etc) already for you.  I found that the closest stores to me that double coupons up to .99 are Giant and Giant Eagle.  Giant Eagle also allows you to load coupons from their website directly to your customer reward card.  I can also get gas rewards for shopping there.  Double bonus!  Although they are generally more expensive than what I'm used to paying (I normally grocery shop at Walmart) the plan will be to only get what's on sale combined with coupons.

Did you know there is a new app for the Smartphone that allows you to download just the barcode for a specific item on sale, rather than carrying a coupon?  It can then be scanned directly from your phone at the register! Cool, huh?  Wish I had one! :)

CVS is another place to get good deals (as weird as that sounds, since they are overpriced).  Again, you have to use coupons on top of sales to get a good deal.  Once you start shopping there you will start to earn Extra Care Bucks that can be used towards your next purchase.  You can also use CVS's in-ad store coupons combined with manufacturers coupons.

Hopefully in the next 6 months to a year I'll have a nice little stockpile to post a picture of.  I am also looking forward to getting the kids get involved, learning hands-on practical math, along with learning how to save money.  They are already excited and asking me how much I saved after grocery trips :)

Happy Couponing!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Some New Pictures

So, what's a homeschool mom do when school's out and the kids are having FUN, FUN, FUN?  Yep, take more pictures around the yard (can't think of anything else to do with myself at the moment) while being eaten alive by no-see-ums and attacked by gnats. 

Yes, I said no-see-ums. Seen 'em? 

I am actually practicing shooting pictures manually with my new camera.  I still have A LOT to learn about aperture, exposure, shutter speed, etc.  Anyways, here are my new pictures.  I apologize in advance to my Facebook friends because you've seen these already.

This one's coming in for a landing

This one is SO not cool.  These freakazoids are destroying my roses.  Every year I deal with this.  They are about to get Sevin-ed Up.  Get it?

These kids (who shall remain faceless for the sake of privacy) approached me and asked me if I could tell what was different about them.  See if you can figure out.  You have an unfair advantage though!

Another bunny in our yard

A crow dropped this nest by Jenna as it flew by her.  I guess it was done with his meal.  :(

The kids decided to play a game of marbles outside. I found it quite artistic and had to get a picture.

Twice this week the mother of these mourning dove eggs flew out of my lilac bush as I walked by and scared me half to death.  I am sad to report that these eggs have been eaten.  **Might not be the best spot to make a nest 2 feet off the ground Mrs. Mourning Dove.**  Just Sayin'...

That, my dear readers, is all I have for today!  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Keepin Busy

Now that it's summer we've got lots of time on our hands.  We are still adjusting to all this free time. I'm trying to keep the kids busy to avoid boredom!

We went to the bookstore and started our summer workbooks Monday.  I got Jared Summer Fit: Exercises for the Brain and Body While Away From School and Jenna, Summer Bridge Activities.  They are both pretty good so far.  I like Jared's because it has physical activities as well (aerobic, strength and sport).  I think I may need to join in on some of those activities!  Jenna's has a suggested reading list in her workbook, which I really like.

We also signed up for the summer reading program with the public library.  The kids are both excited with the incentive of possibly winning a trip to Great Wolf Lodge, along with giftcards and other prizes.  Jenna is now in the teen reading program and can win more prizes for submitting book reviews.  I thought that was pretty cool.

Jenna started her "wagon sales" business yesterday of cold drinks & popsicles to the construction workers and after school kids (thanks to No Greater Joy for the idea).  She made a whopping $5.  It was a tough first day.  We were under a heat advisory and she got a late start. Today, she is getting ready bright and early for her 2nd day of sales. 

Jenna's Helper

As for myself, I have not fully adjusted to all this free time.  The kids are independent and just about outside 24/7.  I can't interest either of them in playing a game or spending time with me! Read: I'm bored!  So, I've been puttering around the yard and taking pictures.

Here are a few visitors I was able to snap some shots of:

Tune in later for more exciting bits of boring news!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Celebrating 14 Years Today!

Today marks the day my sweetheart and I got hitched 14 years ago!  What a journey it has been.

Here's where it all began:

Please pardon the cheesy dress.  This was us back in the day.  My prom night, 1995- where he proposed to me.  He was so fidgety and nervous and little did I know he had a ring in his pocket.

Actually, our journey began years before this.  I met Joe when I was 14 going on 15 years old!  I was going to Pizza Hut with my mom to pick up our pizza and there he was.  Standing outside leaning against a pillar with some kind of fedora hat, smoking a pipe!  For a moment I think everything moved in slow motion as we gazed into eachothers eyes for the first time! Ha!  My brother also worked at this Pizza Hut and told me Joe began asking about me in the days and months following.  From then on it became a very regular thing for my mom to order pizza and make me be the one to go inside to pick it up!  We began dating when I was 16 (that was 18 years ago!---Yikes). 

So, he proposed to me at my prom in 1995.  I was so shocked and not expecting it AT. ALL.  I think my response was: "Um, yes, I think, well...I need to ask my parents." HA!!

So here we are at our "Engagement Party":

We had great plans to move together to Charlston, South Carolina.  We felt like we needed a "fresh start".  We went down for a visit to scout out places to live and for me to go to college.  I was so excited to move away and start our life together in a new place.  We started collecting boxes for our big move.  Then one day Joe comes to me and says he doesn't think it's a good idea for us to move. 

WHAT?!  My heart broke into tiny pieces.  I asked him why he had changed his mind.  He said he was driving down the road listening to some song thinking about our upcoming move when the lyrics jumped out and said "...It would be the biggest mistake of your life..." 

This changed everything.  I remember sitting in my room crying- but it didn't make sense.  I had everything going for me.  What was there to cry about? 

Little did we both know, we were actually longing for a newness in our hearts-longing to be reunited with our Creator.  We were hoping to move to start our lives fresh- hoping for a change, when what we needed could only take place in a relationship with Jesus Christ where "old things are passed away" and "...all things have become new".  That's where new life and forgiveness and cleansing take place!

Not long after, we both had our own personal experience and were born again "of the water and Spirit" (John 3:3-5). We are so thankful for a merciful God that brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Now our lives had meaning and purpose, and what we were searching for we found in Jesus Christ.

We had previously made arrangements to elope to Negril, Jamaica at a Sandals resort.  So that's what we did!  The day of our wedding arrived and there was torrential downpours!  The kind of rain where if you stepped outside for- one second- you would be completely drenched. We were supposed to get married on the beach.  So much for that.  They tried to get us to cancel our wedding and move it to another day that was sunny.  We told them we "WERE NOT canceling our wedding".  They were not happy with us.  I'm pretty sure from that point on they had it out for us.  They gave us major attitudes. 

As our witnesses were walking us to the room to get married, in the pouring down rain, they were making up a song (thinking we couldn't understand...or not caring if we did) with lyrics that sang "What's the rush?"  What's the rush?  Um....sorry but we want to get married on the date we have on our wedding announcements going out and this is the day we've been waiting years for!  Sheesh.

Anyways, we were married in a small room with the rain pouring down outside.  The minister made mention of the fact that our determination to get married and not wait another minute was symbolic of the bond we shared and the determination to work hard at our marriage.

The minute we finished our little ceremony we opened the door and the sun was shining so bright.  There was still rain dripping off of all the palm trees! It was so magnificent and breathtaking!  This is the very moment we stepped out:

Our "friends" that we made on our trip from the airport to our resort, the scariest ride of my life, were there to congratulate us and took the picture above.

The party boat in the distance adds a nice touch, doesn't it? Ha!

Our Honeymoon

We came home and had a little reception with friends and family.   

Joe's Grandpa & I dancing

Newlywed days!

I'm so thankful for the years we've been blessed together with and the years that are to come!  I love you Joe!!!!!