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Archive for September, 2013

Grocery Shopping Success

September 28th, 2013 at 02:52 pm

Went to the store this morning. Some good savings on things we consume regularly. My next trip to the grocery store shouldn't need to be until weekend after next.

One was getting two packages of Starbucks coffee for $6 each. I also picked up a third bag to redeem my Groupon with. Additionally, because I bought two bags before October 10th I earned a store coupon for a $5 gift card on my next visit.

On the ground coffee packages there are peel off stickers with "Star Codes". When I enter these codes to my Strbcks account I earn a star. Twelve stars and I earn a free coffee. So, I entered my three codes when I got home and now I have a free *fancy* coffee waiting on my card for me to use. Smile

I was also given a $10 off coupon for next time.

Resolution of the Childcare Situation

September 26th, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Currently we are situation "A".
Daycare costs are calculated at the new rate and average number of hours/month.
School costs are fixed per month regardless of attendance.
I work four full days and one half day per week.

A) School part-time/Daycare part-time
School 3 days/week = $590
Daycare (GrandmaB) = $396

B) School mostly/Daycare 4.5/hrs/week
School 4 days/week
+ flat rate aftercare = $885
Daycare 1/2 day/week = $81

C) School Full Time
School 5 days/week + flat rate aftercare = $990

I have asked the preschool to put us on the waiting list to increase DS to five days or at least add the fourth full day I work. This may not happen for weeks or months. This preschool is *amazing* and 100% full with a waiting list.

The school is hands-down the best place for our son to go. He asks to go every day now and financially the numbers speak for themselves - why did I/am I having such a hard time with this?
After more thinking it is because of emotional attachmant and that I very much dislike change.

In my earlier post I wasn't very clear - not even for myself. I was actually struggling to find a reason to *stay* with our current daycare lady (GrandmaB) even given her rate increase. Though it is not logical in the financial sense. I have very personal feeling toward this woman, whom I've known for over 10 years and who has cared for both of my children. She loves them like her own and gets them little gifts for birthdays, Christmas and back-to-school.

Yes, my feelings got a little hurt when she announced her rate increase. I feel that her reason comes more from seeing us "have the money" to pay preschool tuition than anything else. I might be wrong there, but can't help feeling that.

Her home and care is safe and reliable, but it is not enriching, stimulating or exciting. If you picture a small living room and a dining room with some toys and a grandma in a rocking chair you've got the whole picture. And there isn't anything wrong with that, except we can have more for him for essentially the same cost.

I could have enrolled DS full time in preschool when I was planning months ago, but I didn't for these reasons.
1. GrandmaB is flexible. If I work 20 or 30 minutes later it is no problem.
2. I didn't want to "take" DS away from GrandmaB. I didn't want to hurt her feelings by not "needing" her.
3. Wasn't sure how well DS would take to such a big change. (In retrospect this is more *I* didn't want a big change. My baby isn't a baby anymore.)
4. The cost of using GB part time was less by close to $60/month.

Unfortunately, the school is not so flexible with late pick-up. That is the only drawback there. I have already discussed what is going on and the plan with my boss. He is fine with me not being available to work late. It really doesn't happen very often and I can still stay up to 15 minutes after "closing time" if need be. He said he thinks school is the best place for DS too and that is most important.
So there it is, the only real negative factor isn't really a factor at all.

When we end up making the change I will give GrandmaB as much notice as possible and write her a very nice letter of recommendation. There may still be days when we will use her in a drop-in way or maybe in the summer. If not, I will make a point to drop by to see her and still send her cards and pictures of the kids.

Happy First Day of Fall

September 22nd, 2013 at 05:15 pm

We took a trip out to the beach this morning. The Pacific Ocean is a 35 minute drive from our house. DH and I were saying that really we should go more often given it is so close. SO we bought a regional park pass this morning for $69. It is good for unlimited visits to the parks in our county for one year. Plus, we got a surprise when we saw we also get one night of camping at any of the campgrounds. The day use fee is $7/visit and camping is $30/night so this pass will pay for itself quickly.

For our first autumn dinner we are having corned beef with cabbage and carrots. The corned beef I bought on sale back in March - $5 for 3lbs. I am going to bake drop biscuits to go with dinner as soon as I finish here. Welcome Fall! Smile

Daycare Rate Increase. Thoughts?

September 21st, 2013 at 06:20 pm

Friday evening when I picked up DS our daycare lady told me she is thinking/needing to raise our rate to $4.50/hour. I was totally unprepared when she said it and at first I was thinking that was a big increase (it is *just* $0.50/hour more). I reacted with a bit of shock and resistance. I told her I needed to make some calculations because I can pay a flat rate per month for aftercare at his preschool and that may end up costing less than using her all week.

At that point I'm sure I hurt her feelings a little. She got a little defensive in her body posture and said "do what you need to". *sigh*

Now, of course our son and his safety, comfort and care is a top priority. 50-cents more per hour doesn't seem like a lot. I don't want to be "so cheap" (you all know what I mean by that).

This rate increase would mean us paying on average $40/month more while DS is in preschool. $100/month more in the summer. That is significant.. Right?

I am having a hard time with her reason for increasing her rate which is - She is losing money because DS is in preschool now.
The increased cost would be tough enough to swallow, but I would be more agreeable if her reason was operating costs, or cost of living adjustment, or something along those lines. I mean, come on, when I work less I don't ask for a raise in my hourly pay to try to make up the difference. I feel like that is what she is saying. If she doesn't like losing income then she should take in another child. She only cares for one other little girl four days a week. And it's not as if she didn't know our DS would be coming less. I told her about preschool when he was two and a more serious discussion when all the paperwork was filled out six months ago.

Running the numbers last night it is an even cost if we pay her to watch DS two full days and three after-school days per week or if she watches him two full days per week and he stays at preschool the other three days.

On one hand I want to make a point and if she is going to charge more then I am going to use her less. On the other I don't want to hurt her feelings. She is sensitive and I don't want her to feel as though we don't value her care of our baby boy.

On Monday we will have to have a more thorough discussion since this topic was left hanging right before the weekend. Maybe she might re-think the increase given what I said about having him stay at preschool.

I have been thinking of offering to pay $40/month more while he is in school, but only if she agrees to keep the rate the same. That way in summer I'll be saving us the increase.

Any thoughts?

One Year Review of Ting and $25 Off Coupon Code (aka Ting! Ting! I Love Ting!)

September 19th, 2013 at 04:16 pm

A review of my year using Ting - the cell phone service company.

Bottom line: I really love using Ting! The last 12 months have saved us $400. And that is after I subtract the cost of the phones we purchased.

If that alone has helped you decide to change; just scroll to the end of this post for ways to save even more money when you switch to Ting.
When I look at my bills from Ting I don't cringe in horror like I used to. Especially because I am a pretty low usage user. I always hated how "Unlimited" didn't apply to me or how you have to have premium service if you want to use a smart phone. I know things are changing in the cell business - lots of competition is helping to lower the cost for everyone - I just want it super low now. Big Grin

Using Ting for just myself the bill was $16/month. Now with my DD and myself we are $25 - $30/month.

I did buy a fancy smart phone last year when I switched. You can opt for a "simple" phone or a used one or you might be able to use the phone you use now. My phone quickly paid for itself with the big monthly savings and referral credits earned (THANK YOU!).

I LOVE my Android smart phone. DH has an iPhone and it's nice too, but I like my Samsung better. Smile

I had Sprint service before switching, so I knew my coverage area would be the same, but far less money. In the past year my coverage has only gotten better as equipment has been updated and expanded.

The customer service is A+. You can email or talk to a real live person. That is so very nice. Smile

Keeping track of your usage is also very easy. There is a "Dashboard" online that shows your usage like a speedometer in a car.

The only negative (a small one) is that when I call or text my DD it counts as double - me sending/her receiving. *shrug* Not a big deal, but something to bear in mind.

Also a negative for some people, the fact that Ting doesn't offer the iPhone. For me that doesn't matter, but I know some of you are holding out until the do.
Just keep in mind you are spending way more than you need to...

Now is a good time to switch to Ting if you've been thinking about it.

1) They are now offering to "pay" a portion of the early termination fee that you are charged when you leave your old carrier.
Information here: https://ting.com/etf

2) Use my referral code to save $25 off a phone or service. *Thanks* in advance!

Happy Cell Saving to You!

Groupon Spending

September 18th, 2013 at 02:34 pm

Today is a slow day at work. Because it's slow I was going through my email and ended up clicking on Groupon. Normally I can look and not bite, but today I bought two "specials".

The first was $9. It is a $5 Starbucks card and a bag of Starbucks coffee at Safeway. This is something I would purchase anyway and by getting the deal I saved $3 or $4.

Second was $25 for a photo session. You get the sitting fee for entire party, a few prints and a CD with three images of your choice. I used this deal a few months back for photos of DD and DS. I didn't buy anything "extra" and came away with several very nice pictures. I want a family portrait this time with DH and myself with the kids. Twenty-five bucks is a heck of a deal.

So, yeah that's how my day is going... Spending money. Wink

Apple Picking

September 15th, 2013 at 01:07 pm

Yesterday morning we had an outing to a local, organic farm. We picked apples there last year and now, again, this year. They also have berries, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins and flowers available to pick.

The apples were $2/lb.
My mom paid for the "farm share membership" and the apples, so this trip didn't cost me anything except the fuel to drive out. She is going to use the apples for applesauce, apple butter and pie filling. She left us with a dozen for eating. It's about 25 minutes from home and we can go out for more in the coming weeks (we can use her membership). Just the drive out and the walking around the farm makes for a nice, frugal family outing. You can munch on apples or berries while you stroll - free "tasting" is encouraged - or bring a picnic lunch out with you and stay a bit longer.

We had hot apple crisp with ice cream last night and I commented that the apples we were eating had been on a tree that morning. I love eating food that way. And I love teaching my family how great it is to eat food that is fresh.

I am so grateful to live in such a beautiful, bountiful area. We are so blessed here.

Another Monthly Snowflake

September 12th, 2013 at 02:49 pm

I signed up last month to provide work inventory information to another survey company. It pays $15/month. It is easier to fill out than the first one and I figured if I was already tallying numbers it makes it really easy to do. This company pays monthly and I got my first check yesterday. Smile

Easy, Low-Tech, Calendar Budget System

September 7th, 2013 at 11:41 am

I wanted to share this little budgeting system using a calendar and pencil (and maybe a calculator too).
I hope someone will find it useful...

My coworker was having trouble planning her money out. She asked for some advice when she couldn't pay her rent until two weeks into the month it was due. She'd like to do the envelope method, but that is hard to start when you are starting out behind. I showed her how to lay out this calendar and she has told me the past two months have been so much better. Just a glance at her calendar budget and she can stay on track.

Some of us might refer to this a "future checkbook" or might use a spreadsheet to plan ahead. I use Quicken to do this every month - planning ahead to see where we need to move money and when in the month we can do it. In Quicken it is much easier because I can easily change numbers and dates and the program makes all the calculations. However, this calendar will help someone looking for a low tech way to look ahead and keep tighter tabs on their cash. I think this method is most helpful for people being paid weekly or bi-weekly.

These examples are based on my coworker's situation. She is a single woman without many expenses. She is paid weekly. Currently she is trying to get caught up to the point where she can pay her rent on the first of the month.

First, write in the starting balance.
This could be in your checking account or cash.
I like to plan for all the income first ('cause it makes me feel warm & fuzzy Smile ).
Payday is Friday.
Her paycheck fluctuates, so this number is a best-guess-average. Eventually her plan is to save any income above her "estimated" number and to budget a set amount to save weekly or bi-weekly.

Second, plan your month.
Each week she withdraws cash to spend on gas and food for the week ($50/wk).
She has a few small charges on auto-pay (insurance, game club, etc..).
Cell phone is always $40/mo.
TV & Internet.
Electric & Gas.
One CC payment.
Dentist payment.

Third, make changes as you go.
In this picture I show the adjustments she makes when she deposits her actual paychecks.

As you can see in this example she started September with $816 and is finishing the month with $1135. Almost enough to pay her rent on or before the first.
She would meet her goal by the end of October as long as nothing changed. Smile

*** In "real life" my coworker is not quite that close to her goal yet.
She had really gotten behind. She tells me that she is much better off now with the calendar and it is "simple to use". She showed me her September projections yesterday at work and she will have her December rent set aside by Thanksgiving.
*fingers crossed*

Working More Hours

September 2nd, 2013 at 02:30 pm

Happy Labor Day!
I hope everyone gets to enjoy a restful day off. We are in relaxation mode here at our house. Smile

Tomorrow I start working Tuesdays all day. For years I have had the morning off. Recently I started thinking I should offer to work all day. I already pay gas money to commute and I could add 3.5 hours to my week by making this change. I figured that after tax and additional childcare costs I will still bring home over $2k/year more. That is hard to say "No" to.

Last week went better than I had expected in regards to my new morning routine of getting the kids off to their schools. What it boils down to is leaving the house 30 minutes earlier. I hope we can keep it up all school year long.