Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Getting ready for FALL......Cheap and Cheerfully!

Supposedly the rest of the world is enjoying the beginning of Fall. Here in SUNNY Arizona we didn't get the message and we have been having a warming trend. How can you get the pumpkin scented air fresheners out when you are drinking glasses of ice cold water and contemplating a dip in the pool? Those things just don't mesh. But I LOVE the Fall!!!!

So as I have been cruising through the internet highway for cute things I can do to decorate with or have fun with my son, I thought I would share come Cheap & Cheerful things I found. Hopefully you can enjoy these things in actual Fall weather!

(Click on all the pictures to be taken to the original source. It will direct you away from my blog, so right click on the picture and click open in new tab. None of these are my own ideas, I have just added suggestions in the text that I typed.)

*I actually plan on doing some of stay tuned for my follow up!! I would love to see your pictures also and will feature them in my follow up post. Just leave a comment with your email and I will contact you.

Oh my gosh!!! How cute are these? They are milk jugs, who doesn't drink milk or juice to get a gallon jug? Click on the picture to be taken to the website where I found them and directions. I can wait to see how ours turn out!

Look at these cute edible goodies.....I used to make ones for Christmas when I worked in a school. They are SO SO easy. You can have the kids dip them and when they are dry just dab a little face on them! Voila...Halloween goodness......(look for supplies at the dollar store, look for sales for either white chocolate chips or white candy bark coating, use Michaels 40% off to get white candy melts!) (This link has a TON of fun food Halloween craft ideas!!)

These are great to make with the kids. What a fun activity, take a walk or hike (if you aren't in scorching sunny AZ) and find leaves. Then come home and do this fun project. You could do smaller versions and make cards for the kids, to send to far away relatives, etc. You could also put contact paper on them and make place mats. I just love to put this kind of stuff on the walls that my son makes during the holidays.

I thought this was kind of cute and looked super Cheap and Cheerful to me! For the "vase" use a paper lunch bag. If you don't have one of those you could reuse another gift bag or small sac that would stand up. Since you are painting it anyway it would matter what it looked like. Use an empty bag from flour or sugar. You could also wrap up a square of fabric around the "vase" if you don't have paint or don't want to. Be creative and think Cheap and Cheerful! You could use greenery from outside, look for clearance flowers at the store or look for fall greenery from the store you cal find them for $1 at the dollar store but might get them for cheaper at walmart. Just remember if you use real flowers to put a small jar such as a jelly jar in the paper "vase" to hold some water. Also if you don't have or want to use rice in the bag to weigh it down and place the leaves in you could use a piece of styrofoam. You could use the styrofoam found in packaging to stick the leaves in and then a couple rocks for weight.

Keep in mind that when you have overage from coupon deals at Walmart you can use it for small things you would need for projects like this. Even search thrift stores such as Goodwill, Deseret Industries, local thrift stores. They have a craft section and I have found great deals!

Another Cheap and Cheerful idea is to get some friends together. I love the thought and idea of friends coming together and pooling their resources. Maybe one friend would have lunch bags, one would have twine, etc. If you only want to make one or two of something and have to buy a whole package of something see if friends might also be interested. What a fun girls night, or playdate for the kids. Think of ways to split the cost, everyone contribute what they can. You could come away with some great little decorations for very little and how fun would it be to make it with friends!!!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Power of Trading.

Ok in a previous post I promised to show my BIG couponing trading moment.......

Well here it is.......

*drum roll*

How did this all get started? Simple.....I didn't want to hand wash dishes cause I decided to be to frugal to buy those little packets that cost a ton!

I counted and I ended up with 151 tablets. I traded for ALL of these and ended up only paying taxes which was .02 cents a tablet. And even though I have a ton of dish washing liquid under my sink (also only paid tax for) somehow I don't want to do the good old fashion hand washing all the time.

If I ran the dishwasher 3 times a week and hand wash the small loads in between I have enough to last me 50.333 weeks, so basically a year. WOOT!!!!! So this would be minimal hand washing ha ha.....We will see. Of course I will also be praying for another awesome Cascade coupon and then I will get my trade on.

The main thing here is to show a real life experience where I took coupons I don't use (baby, pet, etc) and traded for something I needed. What I do when I clip my coupons I have 3 big bowls. 1 for food, 1 for nonfood and 1 for trade. And then on the couponing FB page we all post what we have and what we are looking for. It is a great way to pool your resources and all swap to help meet each others needs.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

To write or Not to Write......

That would be the question. All I can say is with all the coupons pouring in my mailbox the answer to question is......


I try to write several companies a week. Man I should have kept track better. Below is a list of coupons I have gotten in the mail lately.

So if you could get $$ coming in your mailbox just by emailing a few sentences to different companies why wouldn't you? I would even type up a form letter to copy and paste to these companies. Then you would just need to tweak it here and there to fit the company you are emailing.

Keep in mind that not all companies will send coupons. I have gotten a range of responses from "thank you, we will pass along your comments", "Thank you, please go to our website and print your own coupons", "Thank you for the comments, please accept the coupons we will mail to you". So responses vary from company to company.

On the blog I follow she has a spreadsheet of what responses others have gotten from companies and than a separate list of companies to contact. This is the list I go off of every week.

So get out there and answer the call to write!!! Write away and watch the $$ come in your mailbox. (Yes I consider coupons $$, ha ha)

Coupons Received

Pictsweet - (2) Free Product
Eucerin - High value coupons (2) $3/1 and (2) $1/1
Bar S - (1)Free Product ($2 value)
Fresh Express Salad - (2) .50/1Coupons
Bumble Bee - (5) .25/1 coupons
Henkel - Several smaller denomination coupons for Dial, Purex & Renuzit

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to make your mailbox FUN again!!

I dont know about you but in the last 2 1/2 years the mailbox has been full of bills. Well bills for me and fun things for the hubs who ordered things from time to time, usually from Ebay. I came to loath the mail. I dealt with mail at work, I was the accounts payable clerk so of course all I got at work was bills. I would come home and all there would be was bills ranging from the regular bills we all get to all the medical bills that seemed to come at a steady flow. Eventually the majority of the medical bills got paid off. They still come but not as steadily as they did when we were in treatments.

Once I got back into couponing there is a whole world out there of free samples, coupons to be mailed, etc. One of my favorite things to get in the mail are all the coupons I trade for (see last weeks post). I love getting more coupons that I know I will actually use and need and that it only cost me a stamp. No more $3-$5 buying coupons from ebay. It might have been a good way to get more coupons but certainly not the cheapest.

So get out there and start filling your own mailbox with Cheap & Cheerful goodness!!!

Some of the free samples I have gotten have been:

Single use laundry detergent
trial size toothpaste
Trial size womens lotion
Trial size mens bodywash
Trial size mouthwash
Fun coloring books and packets for kids
Coupons from companies
Free Toilet Paper Roll cover
Certificate for a free Outback steak dinner
$5 coupon from Sprouts (facebook offer)
Free pair of straw glasses (put away for Christmas!)

Friday, September 16, 2011

What could be more Cheap & Cheerful than not paying for more coupons? Ones you actually need?

So you are thinking of couponing or have already started. And you find that you get a whole insert but there are only a handful of actual useful coupons for your family. In the beginning I would order coupons from clipping services and/or ebay. I would still get the item for a good price but buying coupons and paying for shipping sure bite into your coupon savings.

I have found such a blessing in acquiring more coupons of items you would actually use. What is it you ask? I will tell!!!! I found a couple Facebook pages for couponing groups in my state. These pages are full of other people also looking for coupons their families would actually use. For me I dont need the pet or baby coupons. But for others these are HOT HOT coupons.

Since I have started trading coupons the only thing it costs me is a stamp and an envelope. And there is even a secret for not having to buy envelopes. You know all those pesky bills you get int he mail that have return envelopes? Well I pay 99% of my bills online now. SO I reuse those envelopes. Thank you bill company for paying for my envelopes so I can get MORE coupons. And no it isnt tacky, almost all coupons I have received in the mail the other person has reused an envelope also. It is not only good for the wallet but the environment to. So look at you, being all GREEN with the planet while keeping more GREEN in your pocket. Sounds like a win win to me.

I just searched on facebook for Arizona coupons or couponing. Also the site I follow has a huge following and there is a lot of swapping on there. And sometimes people will just send you the coupons you need and not request a trade f they dont need anything. You just need to send a SASE.

Since I decided to live of our stockpile and only buy fresh items or pay really really low prices for things I also decided I wouldnt buy dishwasher detergent. YIKES! That meant I had to find a way to get more Cascade coupons (3 or 4 trial pack free at Walmart or Target) or face the fact that I would be washing dishes!! When I am done with my coupons (that I traded for) I will do a post on wont believe what I did and I didnt have to pay for coupons or the detergent. (well just tax and stamps).

So get out there and start trading.....just like Pit if you ever played that game!! ha ha

ps I would love to hear how you make your life Cheap & Cheerful!!! Please share and when I get enough I will have to do a post featuring everyone elses idea....

Cant wait to hear from you!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Cheap & Cheerful meat never tasted so good.....How to find your way to a full freezer of good quality meat!!

I got some great cheap and cheerful meat at Albertsons!! Albies has great sales on meat they run from time to time. They have Buy 1 get 2 free!! They also regularly have Buy 1 Get 1 free section and I found several reduced stickers on the packages. Always check your stores discount meat section. Go home and use it or freeze it! Also use Register Rewards or Catalinas for On Your Next Order (ONYO) and voila...Cheap and Cheerful Meat!!! Below is a breakdown of my meat shopping trip...

ok I got 20.5 pounds of meat for $36.89. Break down below....

Seasoned pork chops 2.08 lbs for $1.41 or .68 cents a pound (reg. 6.99/lb)
Pork Loin sirloin in bag 7.10 Lbs for $12.57 or $1.77/lb
Pork Sirloin Chops 3.14lbs for $3.90 or $1.23/lb (reg. 2.49 lb)
Beef Petite Sirloin Steak 8.14 lbs for 19.01 or $2.34/lb (reg. 6.99/lb)

My store total was $52.34 and I saved $118.15...56% savings. Bread crumbs on sale for $1, Rubbermaid on sale for 1.04 with coupon .54 each. Charmin .25 ea, postcard .25, lunch snacks for Bennett 2.50 ea. I also bought Kyle and Bennett's stocking stuffer.....but it isnt pictured (would give surprise away, but it was over 50% off). Seasonings.......2 free 5 were .30 each. Not THE best percentage wise overall but got some incredible meat for the freezer.......

Last night I cooked up the Pork Loin in a bag. It was in 4 different pieces. So I cooked 2 with a Webers Sweet & Tangy BBQ seasoning and the other 2 pieces I cooked with red/green bell peppers, onions, celery, carrots and a Weber Garlic Herb seasoning. (*Note, the weber seasonings were free) They are now packaged and in the freezer so when I am ready to make my meals the meat will already be cooked.

I would love to hear how you get Cheap & Cheerful meat!!!

Some Freapy Happenings.....

So it has been a couple weeks since I started this blog. So here is another post.

My thinking of what is cheap or even better freap has slowly been changing since May when I started back at couponing. My problem or pit fall I fell into was that if it was cheap I would buy it. Now dont get me wrong I was up to saving 70% but I was spending over my budget. Now this has allowed me to get a nice stash but this cant keep continuing.

I have set a goal to live out of our stash for this semester. Which was originally middle of December 2011. But I had to switch schools so my semester now doesnt start until Oct 24 2011 so the end will be Feb 2012. So it will be at least until Feb. 2012. The upside here is that because I built up a nice stash I can have our family live off of it. I am happy to report that in the last 2 weeks by only buying what is cheap or free I have amped up my savings to 80-93% off!!! Here are somethings I have started doing or deals I found.......

We needed milk. We were completely out! I rant o Fry's to do a run while Kyle was in school. They had the Shamrock Calcium Plus on Managers special for .99 (this milk is $3-4) it was on sale cause the date was close. But hey for .99 milk!!! It had 4 days until the date. And they had peelies for .25 off (Frys brings all coupons to $1) I scored FREE milk!!! Even better yet is that they also had Chocolate Milk. Now we only got that about half gone before it went bad, but it was ok cause it was free!!! We are still drinking on that milk. That is 4-5 days worth of milk for FREE!!!! I also scored free raspberries! A .49 birthday present for my mom (ocean Spray Sparkling Drink). I also got 2 free Sunny D, 4 free body wash, 2 free powerades, 4 free marinades. I even got an $8 Christmas present for Kyle for 50% off.......the best part was that I had $12 in Register Reward from Walgreens. Now when you use these at Fry's be prepared to nicely "educate" your cashier and even manager. The cashier saw the big ol "Walgreens" printed and immediately dismissed them. I dont think so......that was $12!!!!! So even after I pointed out that it say MANUFACTURER and had a remit to and the companies name on it he still wouldnt take it.......So I was BOLD and BRAVE and SCARED......I said please call a manager cause I have used them here and it is right that I can. (even says so in their coupon policy). So he called over a manager that I had already had to "educate" and the manager started to say no, hey hold on buddy I thought.......However, I nicely said, "Well they work and You yourself has checked me out and taken them before. He then tells the cashier to go ahead and scan it because it will work.....hello! Couldnt we have just done this in the first place. The store gets reimbursed for them. So what I am saying is dont be faint of heart. Fight for your money!!!! My out of pocket on this shopping trip (picture below) was only $6.18!!!! I saved $83!

Another thing I have done all started with a coupon for free eyes lit up, they glistened with the happiness this brought me!!! We eat tortillas and my freezer stash was gone, out, depleted......I called my mom but she didnt get the same I did the unthinkable. There was laughing and name calling, ok well that came from the husband. I went and looked through the garbage can by the mailboxes!! Well I scored THREE more coupons. I didnt dumpster dive, this one wasnt big enough to get in....I simply looked in and "caught" some papers......ha ha ha But hey it got me 4 completely free packages of tortillas that are normally over $2 each. But it got me thinking and yes I get the laughs and name calling 2-3 times a week. This week it scored me 2-3 extra coupon inserts......things I would normally pay for.

I reuse cereal and cracker bags. Why not? Not only is it good for my budget but for the environment. Something crazy like over a million plastic bags are thrown out every DAY. I use this bags for Shake N Bake (which I know make myself), marinating, storing cookies when I bake, left over biscuits, etc. They are food safe and some of the a very sturdy!!!

I was committed to this idea when I had it. But I have since found out that in switching schools my fees for this semester increased about $600. So this is NOT on option at least until February this must be a way of life. I really dont want any more student loans. But my dream and goal is to finish school and go on to a University. If this means I must become a thrifty gal, reuse things and gasp even "small garbage" container dive then I will. Because I know in the long run it will be worth it and that we will benefit from all this sacrifice!

So that is about all for now.......

Welcome to my Journey......The Freapy Way!!

I dont know what I am doing.....I am planning on living this entire semester totally on the Freap! Other than fresh basics I dont plan on buying anything but fresh basics. Crazy? Yeah, probably. But what a thrill when after my last final I can look back and see that I have done it!!

Now lets rewind back about a year, June 2010 my husband and I made the decision to try and short sale our house. We had bought at the top of the market and got taken for a ride when we did buy. We poured about $12-15,000 into that house in the 5 years we lived there. We were still paying off and facing the ever accumulating medical bills from our sons medical journey with having a condition called Neurofibromatosis. Our son started 13 months of chemo when he was just 2. And he still gets MRI's every 4 months and he is now 4. There was no light at the end of our tunnel and it seemed to be getting dimmer. Even the run away train about to hit us was retreating.

We decided that if we were going to let the house go we would not be in the same financial life boat we were in. We stopped making payments and started pouring every extra penny with a vengeance into medical bills and paying off one of our 2 credit cards. By the end of the year the credit card with the highest balance and interest rate was gone.

Work had been very understanding to a point of my schedule and attending our sons weekly chemo treatments but I was sensing that it was being a bit of a burden and the understanding was coming to a close and at a cost. I actually decided after an incident at work Feb 2010 to do everything in my power to quit. Of course at the time I saw myself with a lower-paying job in the same field. I couldnt see how it would work out. But work made me physically sick almost everyday. It wore me down so much that soon between the chemo and work there were days I dont know how I even had the strength to get out of bed. Much less work a 10 hour day, cook dinner, take care of my son and husband, keep the house up and continue with the college course I was taking. So in February I had a goal but had no idea how I would accomplish it. For a time I added it to all my other dreams that in my head and heart I didnt see ever coming true.

Bare with me as I jump to and fro on my timeline. So now jump from February 2010 to December 2010. I was so close to paying off that credit card I could taste it. I could hear that beastly thing crying out in pain knowing we would never us it again. With each extra penny I paid I was throwing water on it.....I'm melting, I'm melting it would cry and I laughed at it with great satisfaction that went to my core. When one day I was at my desk all alone. Everyone in my office was gone for the day and I had the music playing and singing to myself. When a still small voice said to me "maybe you should learn Braille".....What the heck I thought! Sure my son was blind in one eye and I have met other mothers whose children were completely blind by their preteens. The thought of my son all of a sudden not knowing how to read was terrifying for me. So I checked with Arizona Foundation For The Blind and found out they offer free Braille classes to parents with visually impaired children. I trembled, knowing I needed to do this, fearing the reason I felt this way. I approached my husband and he didnt like having to think about it either. A week later, there I was alone in my office again, reveling in the alone time with my work and my tunes. When that still small voice said "check into special education". Now I have been on the lifetime road of achieving my accounting degree for over a decade. A few years back I had taken a detour and tried my hand at working in a school for children with Autism. It was the time of my life. I was in my element. But due to conditions beyond my control found myself behind a desk again and back in accounting, in my job and in my courses at school. I thought oh man, how am I going to tell my husband I was changing my major yet again, and back to special ed. But when I approach him he was open and attentive as I discussed it with him. January 2011 found me with that pesky credit card paid off, my major changed and saving every penny I could. I was slated to give notice at my job the end of February, host my fundraiser for Children's Tumor Foundation "Spring For A Cure" March 5th 2011 and started school full time March 7th 2011 as a special education major. It was excited, nerve-wrecking, overwhelming and exhilarating all at once. I was so blessed that one year after I made the goal to quit my job it was a realization. I was home for the first time with my son. We were settled into a cozy apartment almost a third of the cost that our mortgage had been.

Money has been tight I wont lie, and my dream and blessing sometimes feels like a nightmare I brought upon my family. They are sacrificing so I can try to better myself and eventually have a better life for all of us. I started back at couponing in May 2011. Quickly achieving 70% savings. I saw my inventory of household items and some food quickly fill our small cupboards. But we had some unexpected expenses along with some unwise spending. I saw our savings getting lower and then was denied financial aid, even loans because I had been at the community college to low. I applied for over 20 scholarships in the Spring and got nothing. Discouraged I only applied for a few in the Fall. I was notified that I received a $1000 scholarship, $500 for Fall and $500 for Spring. For Fall this would cover tuition but not books and for the Spring this wouldnt even cover tuition. It was quickly looking like it might take me longer to get to ASU. I started looking for a job wondering how stupid or ridiculous I had been to think this would work. It works out for other people not for me. I didnt hear back from the one job I applied to. I kept looking but not much was fitting with my school schedule and now my sons school schedule either. I got the impression to wait and maybe look for a retail seasonal job. I just found out my appeal was approved so this means that I will hopefully get some loans. But in trying to keep expenses down I am not wanting anymore student loans.....

So my brain child? Live off my inventory except for buying the freshest, bare basics we might need, and/or getting things for free or really inexpensive. Lets see if I can do it for all semester.

I welcome any tips on how you stretch a dollar, a pound of meat or just about anything..

And if you have made it through this whole story you must be as crazy as me..