Becoming the Domesticated Diva

Finding my inner homemaker… one flub at a time!

Planning ahead..

Having my baby 10 weeks early was certainly not in the plans.  I had every intention of working as long as possible so I could spend as much time at home afterwards.. but boy am I glad I started saving as soon as I found out I was pregnant.  By no means were my husband and I well off when we decided I should stay home with our child for as long as possible, we just knew it was what we thought would be best for our child.

I started taking half of my paycheck and putting it into an online savings account (ING which is now Capital One) and we lived off (mostly) my husband’s income.  It wasn’t easy saying no to some things, or limiting others.. but we knew it would work out for the best.  I was excited to see my savings pile up, and even more excited to see my belly get bigger.  🙂  And then November came, and things got crazy fast.  You never know how much to plan to spend on having a baby.. and trust me, things never work out as you plan anyway.  Now in the aftermath, where we are still getting bills 5 months later.. I’m just thankful for my little savings account.  We’ve managed to pay most of the bills (so far), have a few outings here and there.. and keep lots of food on the table.  Its not easy, and it is certainly getting harder… but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Here’s a checklist of things we did to prepare for those soon to be “stay at home Mom (or Dad)s”:

  • Start early.  Had I known then what I know now, we would have started to minute we even THOUGHT about getting pregnant, rather than waiting til I actually did.  The NICU bills are the worst, and those eat up your savings quicker than anything else.
  • Do your best to live off of one salary (ideally the one who will continue to work).  For us, I started with saving $150/week.. and then after a few weeks I would bump it up.  That way I had some time to adjust not having my own money to do things with whenever I wanted.
  • Plan for birthdays/holidays.  I started Christmas shopping in October when I still had a paycheck coming in.. which was lucky since I was done before my baby arrived at the end of November.
  • Do something fun away from home at least once a month.  This is important for two reasons – 1) since I’m at home a lot, it gives me something to look forward to and its a new adventure for the family.  2) It reminds us that we can still have fun on a limited budget.  We have gone to the park, to visit my parents down at their lake house, a date night dinner without our son, or to Disney.  We have Disney passes because we go often and receive a discount for renewal and in the park.  The cost is worth it.  Plus, we can’t wait to take our little one there!
  • Talk over your budget before hand.  You can be as detailed or general as you want, just make sure you are both aware of bills and whether or not you can actually do this.
  • Look for savings whenever possible in buying things.  I love http://www.southernsavers.com and http://www.retailmenot.com.  SouthernSavers is where I compare my weekly Publix ad and print off extra coupons.  I know everyone has their own couponing methods, but this one works for me – and I’ve started saving an average of $90/shopping trip, basically half of my bill.  Get to know your regular grocery store and their couponing policies.  It takes some time, but, hey.. I have the time now and if I can save that much money per week by spending an extra hour finding and printing coupons, its worth it to our budget.  I also love RetailMeNot because they have coupons for almost EVERY store, website, etc that you can think of.  I’ve gotten lots of deals this way.  Plus, they have a mobile app that makes it easy when you’re out.
  • Use what you have – or trade for what you need.  This one is big.  I think most of us are guilty of going out and buying whatever is new, cool, etc. – but think about what you may already have on hand first.  I’ve been spending lots of time cleaning out boxes we packed when first moving into our home and realized we have LOTS of stuff.  Some are things we’ve duplicated since then because we didn’t remember having it to begin with, or just wanted something new.  So now we’re of the mindset that if we can make it work, we do.  If we can use it up first, do that.  The things we don’t want or can’t use anymore, we toss, give away or try to sell.  Not only does it make our house cleaner, more organized – it makes us more appreciative.

What about you readers?  Have ideas do you have to help a stay at home Mom or Dad?  What have you done to afford staying at home?  OR – making money from home?  Can’t wait to hear your ideas!

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Vacationing on a budget!

At the end of the month, my husband and I are going on a week long vacation.  I”m very very excited.. and a bit antsy.  The hotels are booked.. the tours have been paid for.. and now I’m working on our budget.  I know, a budget for vacation?  Seems a little weird, but I want to make sure when we go, that we’re going to have fun… not going and not being able to pay for all the fun things we want to do, eat, etc.

So, to get started.. I kinda overestimated what I thought I might have to spend on gas, food, hotel, and fun things.  Then, I actually booked our hotels (and I actually had over budgeted by about $30), and I checked http://www.fuelcostcalculator.com to check the cost of how much gas would run me.  I was pleasantly surprised to see I had over budgeted gas by almost $75!  So far, so good!  I also made reservations at two restaurants, and checked menus for 3 others, so I was able to get a better idea of how much I’d need to save for food costs.

Speaking of food, I found some great info at http://www.menus4moms.com/articles/packing_food_road_trips.php and http://www.momsminivan.com/savemoney.html – and then, at http://ezinearticles.com/?Money-Saving-Tips-for-Road-Trips&id=6433343 … I read some tips I hadn’t thought of, like vehicle maintenance.  Probably a great idea… especially since its about time for an oil change, and well, you just never know.

What do you think readers?  Any other money saving ideas that you’ve thought of or used on your road trips?  For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, I am definitely a planner.. heck, we don’t leave for another week and a half, but I’ve already started packing!  🙂  So, if you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Til then.. happy reading!  🙂

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Busy week..

Hello dear readers!

So many things going on for me this week I barely know where to begin!  Let’s see.. there was a birth, a death, and hopefully later today another birth.  Truly, all of them are cause for celebration.. including the death.  Not because we lost someone who was a great man, but because it gives us cause to celebrate his life with fun stories and friends who loved him.  As for babies, well, how can you not celebrate them?  🙂

Work has been a place of steady growth and change and I continue to press for positive change.  It can seem a little frustrating at times not seeing the type of growth I’m needing, but at least we’re moving in the right direction.  My domesticated side is also screaming for me to finish SOMETHING in my house.. so I decided to start with the guest bathroom.  I’ve decided color scheme and decorating ideas.. but I’m a bit at a loss as to where to find what I’m looking for, so I’ll keep checking around.  Also, it got me thinking about money-saving.  I told my best friend yesterday that with so many coupons out there, not to mention sales, why should any of us pay full price for anything anymore?  But, where do you find coupons for home improvement items?  Do I just wait until Lowe’s or Home Depot has a sale on paint to buy it?  Or is there an easier way to get a discount without having to wait for a sale?  Am I really just that picky that I need to wait for a sale or coupon?  Hmmm.. probably.  I mean, if I can save a few dollars, it’s probably worth it, right?

So, that’s been my search this week (in my little free time).. coupons for places other than the grocery store.  Are they out there?  Where do I find them?  If you have any ideas, readers, I’m all ears!  (Or eyes, I suppose).  Also, as a side note, let’s do a little poll!

That’s it for now dear readers!  I hope to hear some awesome money-saving ideas from you soon!  🙂

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Extreme Couponing?? Sign me up!

Hello dear readers!

For the last few weeks I’ve been looking into the ins and outs of extreme couponing… and let me tell you, its extreme.  🙂

For those of you who haven’t seen the show Extreme Couponing on TLC (http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/extreme-couponing), you should definitely check it out – if only to get a few laughs.  For one, who NEEDS that much stuff??  And for two, who has that much time, not only to find and cut all those coupons and research them – but to go from store to store to store as well?  And has the space to store it all?

So I decided to start doing my own sort of “extreme couponing”.  I don’t see the point in purchasing a million items that my husband and I won’t use, nor do I have the space to put all that extra stuff.  I started simple.. cutting coupons, from my Sunday paper as well as ones I printed from the internet.  Then I got a lucky a few times – sometimes my coupons were also BOGO items (Buy One, Get One), so even more savings.  And then I started paying a bit more attention to the weekly flyer and shopping around what was on sale.  And little by little, I was saving more and more.   But recently, I stumbled upon a few websites to help me along my journey.  I always wondered how these Extreme Couponing people were able to get these deals.  How did they score sales on produce?  And meat?  Those things never went on sale!  Then I learned the secret… it wasn’t that these things necessarily had ‘coupons’ – it’s just that there were so many other coupons for everything else, that you could actually EARN money for buying certain items.

Well, now I’m *really* intrigued!  The first site I checked out was http://www.krazycouponlady.com, which has been featured all over the place.  But I found it was a bit hard to understand, and it was also more of a national site than what I really wanted.  Plus, I already knew about http://www.coupons.com, and other sites where you could print coupons, so it didn’t help me much.  Then I heard about http://www.southernsavers.com.  Now THIS site was perfect.  One, I’m a Publix shopper.  I know, everyone has a preference and some people don’t mind shopping all over the place to get the best deal.  But I love my Publix and I know there is *always* a deal there, even without coupons.  Plus, its easy for me to navigate because its been my store of choice for so long now.  The great thing about Southern Savers is that its specific to stores found in the South, and its very easy to navigate.  The first thing you should find is your favorite store and check on your store policies.  For example, I found with Publix they’ll accept one manufacture’s coupon and one store coupon – but no doubling.  However, you can use them on BOGOs (so, if you are getting a BOGO on toothpaste, you can use a manufacture’s coupon as well as a store coupon for both toothpastes.  Therefore, you can actually get paid to buy toothpaste!)  That being said, all stores are a little different and it’s always good to establish a relationship with your check out clerks and to have lots of patience!  Remember, you can go as extreme as you like with your couponing – for some people, that’s a few hours on a spare night during the week, cutting out every coupon they can find or print, and organizing by what’s on sale that week (like me!) or you can spend 40 hours a week searching coupons, printing coupons, and researching stores policies – not to mention the actual shopping!  Either way, you’re bound to save some money.. and that’s always a good thing!  🙂

Here’s my advice to get you started:

  1. Cut out every coupon you can find; whether you get it out of the paper, the weekly flyer or printable websites (you can find a huge list of these on http://www.southernsavers.com or http://www.krazycouponlady.com)
  2. Pull out (or go online) to find your favorite stores ad for the week.  (Or, go to http://www.southernsavers.com, select your store, and it has the ad broken down by item and which coupons are good for that item)
  3. Print or write out your list and mark the items that you have coupons for.
  4. Organize your coupons by store aisle.  (This takes a little time to figure out what items are on which aisle, but if you usually go to the same store over and over, its worth the extra time you’ll save while you’re in the store).
  5. Head to the register with patience and a smile.  And get ready to be excited about your savings!

Good luck readers!  Tell me about your success stories or any other tips I may have missed!  I’m still learning this, but I think I’m off to a good start.  🙂

 

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its been toooo long!

Well hello my lovely readers!  (Are you still there??)

I know its been a million years since I’ve posted, but my plate has been a bit overflowing.  Between a move, a promotion, finishing up directing a musical.. I’ve been a little tired and busy!  But now that my plate is starting to clear, I am excited to jump back in to blogging – something I have truly missed.

My husband and I recently bought a house and as much as I felt like a “housewife” of sorts before (cleaning, cooking, decorating, etc) in the apartment we lived in, this is wayyy more work!  So, I’ve been getting back to my original intention of this blog.. looking into ways to make “domesticated life” a little easier for me, you, .. heck, the world!  I figure with as many magazines as I get, they’re bound to have a few ideas.  That and the fact that I’m a research junkie, I figure I’ll be learning something new all the time!  And, dear readers, I’d love to hear from you about what you’d like to learn.  I’ve had a few requests already – extreme couponing (is it worth it?), quick dinners (that are actually healthy), and getting the most bang for your vacation buck – so I’ll get to work on those first!

I am looking forward to this journey.  At 30 years old, there are times I feel like I still have so much to learn about myself, my wants/desires/skills.  I know that many of us question these things about ourself, and I hope that reading about my journey will inspire you to go on yours, if you aren’t already.  Good luck, and happy reading!  🙂

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“Shameless” Money Saving Tips!

In the September 2009 edition of Cosmopolitan, they featured some great ways to save some money.. including a great “Reality Check” that really put my bottled water addiction into check.  So, I thought I’d share the *wealth*!

  1. Cheap Fun With Him/Her – date night in with your significant other can be lots of fun – and on the cheap!  Purchasing a bottle of wine can still be a bit expensive, so try a new method – wine in the box!  Yep, even the high end brands are looking into this form of packaging because it saves them money – and you.  And, as an added bonus – a box preserves wine for four weeks, while a bottle only preserves it for a few days.
  2. Great Hair for *No* Cash – check out a local upscale salon for “teaching nights” for new employees.  They usually need hair models that are willing to allow them to cut/color/style in whatever way they decide – but on the plus side, its a free new hairstyle and there is always professional supervision.
  3. Check out froogle.com!  This website allows you to comparison shop without having to go from one store to another.  And you can do price checks as well as get customer reviews!  🙂
  4. And for our *Reality Check* – at a cost of $468/year, you can drink a 24 pack of bottled water per week OR 8 pairs of awesome jeans from DKNY

I’m a big fan of the money saving tips – why don’t you share your favorites readers?  🙂

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more grocery savings!

That’s right readers – there are even more ways to save on your grocery shopping adventures!  Check out the tips below that I’ve learned, read, or have been passed on by the master grocery shopper – my dad.  🙂

  • If you have room to stock up – do!  I recently purchased 5 boxes of Betty Crocker’s boxed potatoes (Au Gratin, Scalloped, etc) for $5 (on sale for $1 a box)  and saved over $10!
  • Same with bogos – you may not NEED two boxes of crackers, but considering they don’t expire for 6 months or so, why not get one free?
  • Check the dates on meat packages.  Sometimes the price may be different depending on the date it was packaged.
  • Check the sales at the endcaps of aisles, they’re not always the same price in the middle of the aisle – or it may be specialty products.
  • Get to know your meat/deli/bakery person – they’ll give you a heads up on any specials coming up!
  • Make sure you’re getting the most for your money.  Sometimes the larger sizes are a better bargain – sometimes not.  Check the price labels – it will tell you a break down of how much you’re spending per ounce.
  • Stick to groceries only.  When you start to branch out, you usually spend more than you would if you purchased the same products at the Dollar Tree or Wal-Mart.

Stick to these tips and you’ll definitely start saving money!  Good luck shoppers!  😀

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for some REAL savings..

Try the grocery store!  🙂  Of course depending on where you purchase your groceries will determine who much you save – but at the same time, in a general comparison between grocery stores, some items will be cheaper than others at one store, where something else may be cheaper at the other.  So, my suggestion is to find the grocery store you like to shop at and stick to it.  There are a number of ways you can save money at the grocery store, just by clipping a few coupons or checking ads.

For example, many websites have coupons you can print out right online – on just one of those, I printed out coupons for things I use all the time – that will save me $13.50!  Check out these websites for great printable coupons – and check them out often!  The coupons change approximately every week or so.

http://www.coolsavings.com                    http://www.coupons.com                          http://www.allprintablecoupons.com

Publix’s website also has a coupon section where you can print out coupons, as well as their weekly ad posted to help you create your shopping list before you go.  (www.publix.com)

Winn-Dixie’s website also allows you to print out coupons (though not as many as Publix), view their weekly ad, and register to become a member of their Reward Card program where you can save additional savings in store.  (www.winndixie.com)

Albertson’s website allows you to print a few coupons and view their weekly ad (www.albertsonsmarket.com), and Sweetbay’s website allows you to view their weekly ad (www.sweetbaysupermarket.com)

Wal-Mart doesn’t have a weekly sales ad or online coupons, but are notorious for having sales all the time.

Check out tomorrow for even more saving ideas!  🙂

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Need some new toys?

Well – by toys I mean electronics!  (Isn’t that what men usually call them??  🙂 )

Yes readers, there is a great time and a bad time to buy electronics – and ways you can do it to save yourself some money along the way!  Who knew?!  Certainly not this girl!  (Well, I did marry a electronics geek.. so I’ve picked up a thing or two since then..)

So, check it out – the best times to buy all sorts of fun new toys – for yourself, or your significant other!  😀

January:  the best time to buy TV’s!  Of course you’ve got the Superbowl in January – and electronic stores know that we all like to throw parties! – so they tempt us (especially with those fancy HDTV ones) – with these fabulous toys!  Also good to purchase in January?  Computers!

February:  DVD players, digital cameras and MP3 players!

March:  BOATS!  That’s right.. its coming up on spring time..  and who wouldn’t want to catch a few rays on a new boat?

April:  Vacuums!  I mean, how else do you “spring clean”??  🙂

May:  major appliances – especially after Memorial Day weekend!

June:  hardware and tools – I know, not exactly an “electronic” device always – but still pretty cool.  AND – a great gift for Father’s Day!

July:  more appliances savings – July 4th weekend! – as well as air conditioners (I mean, isn’t it the perfect time for them??)

August:  lawn equipment!  (again, not necessarily an “electronic” device – but still handy!)

September:  CARS!  I mean, isn’t that sorta the definition of a toy?  😉

October:  Grills… mmmm!  I can smell the yummy goodness already!

November and December:  general electronics, due to upcoming Christmas season.

Be sure to keep me updated on your shopping trips – I’d love to hear any other tricks of the trade you might have!  🙂

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Money saving ideas! :)

That’s right readers!  You voted – I’m researching!  With our economy being what it is, I think everyone could stand to save a few dollars here and there.  Every day we’ll take a look at ways to save money from different angles, and hopefully we’ll all learn a few ways to save some bucks!  🙂

Today’s money saving ideas will be all about purchasing clothing at discount prices!  I’m sure everyone knows the joy of stores like ROSS or Marshall’s for clothes – but even at stores like that, you can hit sales.  For example, if you shop on Thursday evenings – you’ll get to see not only the new stuff being put out for the weekends, but also first dibs at any sales that will occur that weekend.  Also, end of season is always the best time to hit sales.

By month – the best thing to by:

January:  work out and sports gear, winter clothes, athletic shoes

February:  winter clothes, fragrances

March:  windbreakers and raincoats

April:  spring clothes

May:  swimsuits, sandals, designer clothes

June: pre season summer clothes, Victoria’s Secret!

July:  even more discounts on summer clothing

August:  biggest savings on summer clothes, preseason fall clothes

September:  NOT a good time to buy for anything specific because of all the “back to school” stuff, but it can never hurt to look!  🙂

October: jeans, winter hats, scarfs

November:  fall clothes, pre-season winter clothes, wedding dresses!

December:  ties, sweaters, winter clothes, designer clothes, fall ready-to-wear items

And don’t forget to check the Sunday newspaper for sales in your area as well!

Leave me some comments with your best savings ideas for clothes!

Good luck and happy shopping!  😀

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