Saturday, August 30, 2008

This week at CVS

This was one of my most gratifying weeks for CVS shopping. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Here's a photo of the spoils:

4 boxes of Kelloggs Mini Wheats (I eat this for breakfast almost every day. BOGO sale, plus $1 off coupons for each one = $1.10 per box)
3 boxes of tampons (Free with coupons)
Kotex pads (They paid me $1 after coupons)
2L Sierra Mist (Free)
4 12 packs of Pepsi (This was the big expense item. It was $12 plus deposit. I paid with previously earned ECBs. By buying these, I got 4 of the SoBe waters and the 2L of Sierra Mist free, plus 3 more ECB. We rarely drink pop anymore, but it's nice to have something other than water and milk to offer when we have company.)
10 SoBe vitamin enriched water (We discovered this with a previous CVS deal and my kids are hooked! Four were free with the above mentioned deal. The other 6 cost a total of $3 but generated $4 of ECB.)
8 pack snack sized Skittles - not pictured (I needed a $1 filler so I could use my $2 off $10 coupon. It actually saved me money to get these. And it kept J and H happy for a while in the car.)

I spent about $13 out of pocket. $5 of that is deposit for the cans, so we'll get that money back once the pop is gone. That leaves about $8 spent. I'd consider that a pretty good deal just for the things we really needed (the cereal and feminine products). The other things were bonus. Plus I got $11 in Extra Care Bucks to spend next week!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

PSA #4 Wear Your Helmet

Someone else did the work for this PSA. It's one of my favorite commercials. It was made in 2002 by the Brain Injury Association. I've watched it dozens of times, but the ending still catches me by surprise each time. Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Disney's PhotoPass - The Conclusion

Read Part 1 here or Part 2 here.

The next day we traveled home. Papa picked us up at the airport when we arrived. J was so excited to tell him about all the wonderful things we'd done. I was listening as I helped load the luggage in the car. "We rode Dumbo and Peter Pan and there were Pirates and flying carpets and we got a balloon. . ."

And then I overheard him say, "And we got a little card with Mickey's picture on it!"

I turned to look and, sure enough, there was the PhotoPass card in J's hand!

"Where did you get that?!" I demanded.

"It was in the white car," he answered. (The rental car we'd had in Florida was white.)

"Where in the white car?" I demanded again.

"It was just lying there on the seat!"

"When did you find it?"

"It was just lying there in the white car!"

Interrogating a 4 year old isn't easy. We went over and over trying to figure out exactly when and where he'd found the thing until he finally exclaimed, exasperated, "For the last time, I'm telling you, it was just there in the white car!!"

We're not exactly sure when or where he picked it up. We're guessing he probably found it when B took the car seats out at the airport in FL. It must have slipped under one of them. I had tried to reach under them during our search, but never actually took them out to look. Live and learn!

So B's big adventure was for naught, but when the pictures are that cute, two PhotoPasses are better than none!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Disney's PhotoPass - Part 2

See Part 1 here.

The last morning of our trip we went to the Animal Kingdom. The batteries in both Grandma's and our cameras happened to die at the same time that day. On our way out of the park for our mid-day break, we stopped by to meet the Winnie the Pooh characters. Wouldn't you know, H picked that time to really turn on the charm with them.

I'm not sure if she had just gotten used to the idea of enormous mute animals by that point, or if it's just because she likes Pooh Bear a lot. Regardless, she was adorable! She was hugging Pooh's belly and tickling him, kissing Piglet's nose, and horsing around with Eeyore and Tigger. We didn't have a camera of our own, but never mind, because the Disney folks were capturing it all on film for us.

Fast forward to that afternoon:
We were heading back to the Magic Kingdom for our final afternoon of fun when I realized the PhotoPass card was not in the pocket where I'd been keeping it. If it hadn't been for the pictures from that morning, I probably wouldn't have minded so much, but they seemed priceless at that moment. I searched through every pocket, all through my backpack, in the seats of the car - No luck.

B turned the car around and we made a quick search of the house. Still no luck. I was kicking myself all over for being so stupid as to not write that number down!

B, being the wonderful man that he is, dropped us off at the Magic Kingdom and then headed to the information desk to see what, if anything, could be done about retrieving a lost PhotoPass card. They couldn't help him there, but told him he should definitely head back over the the Animal Kingdom to see if someone had turned it in. That is really no short trip by the time you walk back to the monorail station, catch the train, walk back to the parking lot, catch the tram to the car, then drive over to the other park (and of course, repeat the whole thing on the way back)!

He went to Lost and Found there, and would you believe it - there had been one PhotoPass card turned in that morning! They pulled up the pictures and -- they were of a nice-looking Asian family. Bummer!

They sent him to the PhotoPass studio next, where, based on the location and approximate time we'd had the last pictures taken, they were able to narrow it down to about 300 pictures for him to sort through. He did, and finally found one with our family in it. That was enough for them to pull up the rest of our pictures and put them on a new card!

Three cheers for Daddy!

To Be Continued. . .

I think this one belongs in a Disney ad.

Big belly hug!

Tickle, tickle!

Hello, Tigger!
(J did complain about Tigger choking him later, and I can see why in this picture!)

Look, Mommy's not in these pictures!

Kisses for Piglet

More love for the Pig

Kid Quotes

H, while riffling through my purse this morning, pulled out a piece of paper, held it up and exclaimed excitedly, "I got a coupon! I got a coupon!"
That's my girl!

This evening, J and I read the story of Noah's ark. We talked about how all the people who weren't on the ark died in the flood. J explained how he escaped:
"I didn't get flooded because I was still inside your tummy."
I do have a birthday coming up soon, but I'm not quite that old!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Disney's PhotoPass - Part 1

The folks at Walt Disney World are always looking for ways to keep more of your money when you visit. Apparently the two weeks' salary it costs just to get your family through the gate isn't enough. One such way they've come up with is the Disney PhotoPass. It's a service where they have photographers stationed all throughout the parks. They'll take your family's pictures in front of Cinderella's castle, the Epcot ball, with the characters, or any other photograph-worthy spot. You get a card that they scan each time they take your picture. You can then go online and view, edit, and of course purchase your photos.

My brother, who is an expert Disney vacationer, had warned me, "Write down the number from your card. That way, if you loose the card, you can still find your pictures on line." I listened to him. I wrote it down in my notes. I thought about it a couple of times throughout the week we were there. But did I do it? Of course not.

Why would I want to be responsible and thereby miss an opportunity for a blog post?!

We met a bunch of the Disney characters during our time there. H was not real keen on the whole thing. They are, afterall, about 3 times her size. The first day, we met Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy. I'd read that you should get autograph books for the kids to take when they meet the characters. It gives the child something to do so it's not so awkward walking up to them. We did that. H took hers and kind of tossed it at Donald then backed up as quickly as she could. Most of the time, she wouldn't go near them unless I was holding her. And unless I was between her and the character. Therefore, I'm in a lot of pictures with H and Disney characters. Woo Hoo!

To Be Continued. . .

"Okay, Donald, you stay over there and I'll stay over here. Just pass me back the book without coming any closer."

That blur on the left side of the picture is H running away.

"Yeah, Quincy! We love Quincy! Just not enough to actually get next to him."

"You must be joking if you think I'm getting near that big furry beast!"

Breakfast with the stars

We didn't do any of the "Character Breakfasts" when we were at Disney World earlier this month, but we had our own private version at home this morning: Breakfast with Dora. Here's H sharing her scrambled eggs with her.

J won Dora for H at the fair earlier this week. He did some super baseball throwing! Dora's been H's little sidekick ever since.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Frugal Journey

I had a good laugh when I read this post today. I'm sure my husband could have written it. The coupon box, the stockpile, CVSing, the adrenaline rush as you plan and execute your shopping excursion--it's all stuff I can relate to.

I started getting in to the whole "frugal" thing more than a year ago. It was a gradual process that started after H was born. With two children, I desperately wanted to stay home more. I would have quit my job then and there if it weren't for one problem: Going to medical school cost about as much as our first two mortgages combined. And somebody was going to be coming after us pretty quick if we stopped paying that loan back.

There's no going back and saying, "Excuse me, I've decided I don't want to be a doctor after all. I'd like to return this degree. Can I have my money back?" Which is really unfortunate, because I'm pretty good at returns in other situations.

That little problem combined with the fact that hubby was between (paying) jobs at the time made the stay at home mom deal not an option. I hated the fact that decisions about how to care for our children were being dictated by money. I never wanted to be in that position again, so we determined to make debt retirement a priority.

We started out by cutting back on frivolous expenses like eating out and getting Starbucks regularly. I started buying store brand items to save on groceries.

The next step in my frugal evolution came from reading Jeana's blog. I was intrigued by some of her comments about combining coupons with sales to get things free or nearly free. I started asking myself her coupon question: "Would I use this item if I could get it for free?" If so, I clipped the coupon. My stockpile began to grow. I would strike deals here and there, but was far from expert at it. (Jeana's actually evolved past the coupon stage now, but I'm not there yet.)

By saving the coupons until the item was on a super sale, I started to get more brand-name items for less than I'd been spending on the store brand. I signed up for the free trial of the Grocery Game during this phase. It was good training to learn how to scan the sale papers for the best deals to match with my coupons. I started trying to stock up on things when they hit the rock bottom (preferably free) price rather than waiting until we needed something and paying whatever they're asking at the time.

Then, I discovered Money Saving Mom and progressed to a new level of frugality. I took her Supermarket Savings course and read CVS 101. It opened up a whole new world to me! My first big CVS heist, and I was hooked!

I talked B into CVSing with me one night. As we walked in, I assured him he'd have so much fun that he'd be out doing it on his own! We split up the list between the two of us, because, although I'm usually brave enough to ask the cashier to split my things into two orders, I've never been brave enough to do more than that. (With one exception, but she asked for it!) When you've got multiple $2 off $10 coupons, you really don't want to go over $10 per order, you know. I gave B the quick check out tutorial - "Give her the CVS card first, then your items, then the $/$$ couons, then the manufacturer's coupons, and finally pay with the ECBs. Don't let those manufacturer's coupons out of you hand until the $/$$ coupons are scanned or it screws up the whole deal!" He was a good sport about the whole thing. And while my prediction that he'd want it to be his new hobby hasn't come true, he did have at least a smirk on his face when we walked out with 4 bags full of stuff they'd basically paid us to take off their hands.

It's been a fun way to make the most of what God has given us. I view each dollar saved as a little less time away from my precious children. I've been able to stretch our dollars and have plenty left over to share with others. Our church's food pantry got a case of pasta when Meijer was "giving them away." The homeless ministry has gotten high-end toiletries, courtesy of CVS. I've found frugality to be contagious, too. I've got my sister in law hooked, as well as Julie - whose husband even hijacks her blog to brag about her great deals!

I'm still learning and evolving in my management of our family's resources. I'm thankful to the many wise and godly ladies I've "met" and learned from courtesy of the internet. And I'm very much looking forward to November 1, when the fruits of my frugality are starting to pay off and I'm stepping down to part time at work!!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

It Snowed in August

Yesterday was a work day at the Jones house. I had the day off and stayed home with the kids. I was determined to get caught up on as much around the house as I could. In the morning, I grabbed all the dirty clothes hampers from the bedrooms and sorted as quickly as I could.

That would later prove to be a mistake.

I carried on with my other projects - tidying the garage, weeding, cleaning the bathrooms, painting with the kids, reading stories - and changed the loads of laundry as they finished. I was feeling pretty good about all we had accomplished.

About the time dinner was ready, the washer beeped to indicate it was done with the pajama load. I opened the door and was greeted with an avalanche. Ok, not quite an avalanche, but it definitely appeared to have snowed quite heavily inside our washing machine. I groaned (loudly) as I realized what I had done.

J wears a pull up to bed - just in case. He's supposed to put it in the trash when he gets dressed in the morning, but some days he forgets. In my haste to sort the laundry quickly, I managed to wash not one, but two of them in that load.

Do you have any idea what happens to a pull up when it's super-saturated with liquid? Well, let me tell you. It first swells to a monstrous size. Then it ruptures, releasing millions of tiny beads of white gel. All over the inside of the washing machine. And then those beads coat every last piece of clothing in the washer and proceed to spill all over the floor that I had vacuumed just hours earlier.

It was enough to make me yearn for the days of cloth diapers.


By the time I emptied the washer, shook out the clothes, swept the floor, and yes, vacuumed out the inside of my washing machine, dinner was a little cold.

But, hey, it made for an interesting status update on Facebook.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

What were they thinking?!

I happened to read the care instruction label on J's bathing suit when I was doing laundry today. It includes the statement, "Warm iron if necessary."

Excuse me?

Do the people at Gymboree actually think there has ever been a mother so caught up on her housework that she would entertain the idea of ironing her preschooler's bathing suit?!

That'll be the day!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Comedy on the Road

We just got back from a fabulous family vacation to Orlando. It was our first vacation since H was born (not counting visits to family). We all had a great time. I'll probably write more about it sometime, but I had to get up a couple of classic H quotes while I'm thinking of them.

We rented a house for our stay. It was nice, but the houses in this neighborhood were very close together. The next door neighbors had a little terrier who apparently spends his entire life on the back patio. He barked constantly. Ok, maybe not constantly, but a lot! I referred to him as "that yappy dog." H thought I was saying his name, but not being familiar with the term "yappy" she started calling him "Happy Dog." It was hard to be so annoyed with him after seeing her standing at the fence saying, "Hello, Happy Dog!"

We had lunch around the pool on Thursday. There was a little plastic fish that the kids were playing with. H dipped it's nose in her PBJ, then held it up and exclaimed, "Look! It's a jelly fish!" Cracked me up!