Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fusion Cash - Free Money!

I just cashed out $25.02 from @FusionCash. You can too by clicking this link and get a $5 signup bonus!

This little banner brings my total cashed out to $326.03. Not making me rich, but Mrs. Pig Pennies doesn't turn her nose up at any free money!

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Review of

The little house we bought this year is on a very small lot in the city. We're really happy here, and it's plenty of space for us, but we're on a busy street and on top of a lot of neighbors. We have no less than 4 houses and a block of condominiums that can all look into our windows. I've never really been a fan of blinds (I prefer to be able to see outside) but when you're staring into your neighbors kitchen (from our bedroom no less!) instead of over some pretty foliage, blinds become kind of essential.

We looked at a few different options for blinds. First, we called Costco thinking they'd be inexpensive, but quickly found that wasn't the case. Next, we had someone from 3 Day Blinds come by, measure, and give us a quote. We needed 5 small blinds for the bedrooms, and one huge blind for the living room. The quote came to over $1500! That simply wasn't in our budget.

Finally, I started searching online. I was a little nervous about this - what if I measured wrong? Custom blinds didn't seem very returnable. But when I saw return policy (if it doesn't fit - even if it's your fault - they'll redo the blinds at no cost to you) I decided it was a safe choice.

Because of baby's impending arrival we went with cordless blinds in the bedrooms. The style we went with was the Bali DiamondCell 3/8" Daybreak Double Cell blinds. The cordless lift system added $35 a blind, but when I first started looking (before I got nervous of ordering online!) there was a free upgrade available on the cordless option. They seem to have rotating discounts going on a lot, so keep that in mind. We couldn't get cordless for the living room because the blind was too wide, but we did want to get a Bottom-Up/Top-Down lift style so that we could lower the blind from the top and see a little bit of the trees outside without seeing the sidewalk and busy street below. This added $27 to the cost of that blind.

When we purchased, we went with Bali because they were offering a 15% discount. Since ordering I've also consistently gotten discount e-mails, so be sure to look for coupon codes online along with the deals you see listed on the site. Our total order (no tax, no shipping!) came to $812.45 - half the price of our lowest quote!

The blinds are quality, look great installed, and are just what we need. Of course we had to measure ourselves, which took all of a few minutes, and then my husband had to install them, which was easy peasy (and not just because he's good at that kind of thing - I could have done it) but the savings more than made up for the tiny bit of extra work. We ordered on May 3rd, they shipped on May 10th, and arrived on May 15th, ahead of their predicted schedule.

Now onto the interesting part, and the reason I REALLY recommend When I first placed our order, I couldn't get my credit card to go through. It seemed like the site was having some kind of issue. I tried to put it through a couple of times, and then gave up and went to sleep. In the morning I double checked that I hadn't received a confirmation e-mail, and tried again. The order went through, and I had a confirmation e-mail within seconds. When the blinds shipped a week later I received two tracking numbers. I didn't give it a second thought - I figured the 6 blinds we'd ordered were coming in 2 different packages - until 12 blinds arrived at our house. I checked the credit card statement, and lo and behold, we'd been charged twice.

I called, almost immediately got a live person, and she immediately saw the issue, apologized for their mistake (never trying to put it on me, even though I probably should have called after trying to run my card multiple times) and went about solving it. The best part? Their solution when a blind needs to be returned or remade is not to have you mail the blinds back to them. They have you find a reputable charity in your area, donate the blinds, and e-mail them a copy of the donation receipt. Then they refund you in full! I have a friend who works for Habitat for Humanity, so I chose to donate them there. She wrote up a receipt for the full value of the blinds, and within a couple of days of e-mailing that to I had a refund on my credit card statement.

How cool is that?!

Not only am I happy with my blinds and happy with the deal I got, I feel like I worked with a company with a conscience - and unparalleled customer service. Since I'm not earning any referral or paycheck for posting this review, you can trust that I only took the time to write it because I was blown away with my experience with them.

And now the neighbors don't see me naked in the morning!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Baby by the Numbers

When dear husband and I first started talking about kids, the planner in me wanted to know how much it was going to cost and how we were going to pay for it. The non-planner in my husband shrugged his shoulders at me.

Of course I went to work trying to figure these things out so that I could report back to him while he stared blankly at me, and then make what I thought was the soundest choice. What I discovered is it’s really hard to figure out how much your kid is going to cost based on how much other people spend on their kids. Spoiler Alert: everyone is different.

For instance, are you both going to keep working? Will you need to pay for daycare? A nanny? A nanny share? Do you have a fairy godmother in your life more than happy to watch little Junior simply for the pleasure of getting to do so? How much do kids eat? When do they even start eating? Will we breastfeed? How much does it cost just to give birth to this little blood milk sucker in the first place?

After hyperventilating a little, I decided to be much more zen-like about the whole thing than is typical of me. I decided to live by the quote, “If you wait for the perfect time to have kids, you’ll never have kids.” After all, teenagers make it work on MTV. We could do it too, right?

Now at almost 9 months pregnant I’ve learned something very important – the amount you spend on your child will most likely follow the philosophy of the other spending in your life. If you tend to buy the latest and greatest with a credit card, you’ll probably spend a lot of money getting a nursery ready for your bundle of joy. If you regularly peruse Craigslist and eBay for almost everything you buy, and perhaps compost like you’re single-handedly saving the world, you’re probably also willing to buy used cloth diapers for your baby.

This is a break down by the numbers of what it took us to get ready for baby number one:

First, we needed a crib. For awhile I stalked the free list on Craigslist, but eventually gave up on being the first e-mail respondent. It’s like trying to win the lottery! I did learn one thing, though – a lot of recalled cribs will show up on the free list, but many of these will also have repair kits available for free from the manufacturer to make the recalled item into an approved and safe item for your baby. People tend to give these away rather than trying to sell them. If you can get in there first, you can walk away with a stellar freebie. Also, if someone is trying to sell something with their give away, offer to buy it! Odds are you can sell it for the same price and keep the freebie you were really after. (Lesson learned the hard way.)

Ultimately, we ended up with an almost brand new cherry crib and mattress for $75. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. It’s not a sleigh crib, and it doesn’t convert into a queen sized bed to last your infant to their first home purchase, but it’s a solid crib that won’t make a racket or fall apart when our toddler decides to jump up and down in it, and it doesn’t have any issues or recalls.
Next, I purchased an Ikea Poang chair with Ottoman. I liked the look better than the expensive traditional rockers, and with a little bit of bounce to it, I figured it would be just as soothing as a rocking chair. Actually, I bought two for $100, and then sold one for $60. Total cost to us: $40. At the same time, I picked up a nursing pillow, baby carrier, and baby monitor for another $30 when I discovered the nice couple selling the chairs was selling all of their belongings to move overseas.

The changing table and dresser ended up being free. I already had a dresser from my own childhood, and when friends at an organization I volunteer with found out I was pregnant they banded together and bought me a changing pad with a beautiful cover that perfectly fit the top of the dresser. The dresser is a little tall, but for free I decided to make it work. Don’t have a dresser lying around at your disposal? This is a great one to find either in the free section of Craigslist or really cheap, and a banged up dresser can look like a million bucks with a coat of paint and new knobs. Changing pads can also be found for around $20 (I was even offered one for free with a different Craigslist purchase), or for double that you can find entire changing stations if you’re looking for a little extra storage. I saw a ton of these at a local baby consignment store, so if you don’t find it on the used sites, check out used stores around you.

I found a very well reviewed baby swing on Craigslist for $40. I can’t speak to its usefulness yet, but this is one of the things that other moms told me was essential, and at a quarter of what the price plus tax would have been new, I was very happy with this deal. The swing bedding even came already washed for me! The only minor defect is that one of the eight songs it plays doesn’t work perfectly, but as my husband pointed out, everything we have for the baby seems to play music, does it even matter which speakers it’s coming from? I personally plan to snag the Jemima Puddle Duck wind up music box from my mom’s house, and place it near the swing rather than playing the mechanical sounding music.

We also decided to take the plunge and give cloth diapering a try. Everyone likes to look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them this, so I made sure to buy everything used at good prices so that I could resell it and recoup my money if this turns out to be a big failure as everyone predicts. But, truth be told, I’m committed. After hearing about the 12 diaper changes a day my close friends are currently going through with their newborn, and witnessing them use two disposables in just two minutes, I’m determined to make cloth diapering work for us. I purchased enough diapers to last us 3 days without washing so that we don’t go crazy, and also invested in a sprayer attachment for the bathroom to get rid of most of the grossness before they even go in the wash pile. I went mostly with pocket diapers and all-in-ones since that’s what the daycares around me will accept. My assortment includes Fuzzibunz, Happy Heinys, BumGenius all-in-ones, some brand new Grovias, Thirsties duo wraps – you name it, I probably have it. I spent $305 total, including $80 at a garage sale for 9 diapers, $75 on Craigslist for 12 diapers, and $150 for a lot which included 40 diapers ranging from the very used to the brand spanking new, and included the toilet sprayer. I plan to sell some, see what works for us, and then continue to sell to fund the purchase of bigger sizes or our favorite brands. Considering that the average child tends to use about $66 worth of disposables a month, I think this will be a sound investment.

The décor in the room cost me almost nothing. I purchased three 12x12 canvases and painted animals on them for a total cost of about $15. I also scavenged the décor my sisters-in-law put up at my shower including a baby name banner now above the crib and some poofs hanging over the change station. My husband’s old baby blanket is hanging on another wall. The truth is, with some minor talent (or talented friends and family) decorating the nursery can be done very cheaply. Get creative. Get on Pinterest.

I also purchased a cream-of-the-crop nursing pump for $80, and will spend about $15 to $20 purchasing new tubing and shields for sanitary reasons. I also exchanged a maternity shirt from my mother-in-law for two nursing bras, and paid the difference of $10.95.

The rest of what I have for baby (and oh, boy is there a lot of it) I all came by free through the generosity of family and friends. I was completely overwhelmed by gifts at my baby shower. I think the key is that I registered for things that were relatively inexpensive – prices I myself would be willing to pay – so people tended to buy me multiple gifts. I received sheets, blankets, a crib mobile, tons of onesies, toys and stuffed animals. My sister-in-law also gave me all her old bottles, and offered us her high chair. My grandmother and mom chipped in and purchased me a very nice stroller, and my dad purchased the car seat. I would have purchased both of these items used if I was buying them myself. If I’d had to, I could have spent another $400 or so in total. Things like onesises are practically given away barely used (baby will grow out of them quickly) and infant toys that are very expensive in posh stores are then sold in 50 cent piles at garage sales.

All in all, I spent $610 spread out over the course of 9 months, and have about $200 in gift cards to cover future purchases. Of course everyone is different, and some of the items I’d be willing to buy used you might not be, but based on my experience you can go from zero baby gear to fully outfitted for about a thousand dollars without receiving any gifts. Of course, you might be more frugal than me, and see some of my purchases as unnecessary. Or you might think that a used nursing pump is unacceptable and a humidifier might be essential in your climate.

Most people will also find that friends and family are very generous when a new baby is involved, and many people have stored their baby gear waiting for this very opportunity to shower it on you. A friend of mine worked at a coffee shop while pregnant, and had customers offering her their gently used items!

So far, getting ready for baby hasn’t broken our bank, but only time will tell how much it will cost to get us from birth through college and beyond, where we’ll be able to pinch pennies, and where we won’t be able to.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Oh look! I posted!

It's been over a year and a half since my last post. Time flies when you're working yourself to death! In that time we rented out our house, moved onto our boat, bought another house, remodeled it and moved into the city. During all of this time I went nutz decided to bump up my school credits from one class a quarter to full time. 3 classes. Every day of the week. On top of full time work.

Here's the interesting thing about college tuition (at least at the good ol' U of W): 5 credits costs about half of what 10 credits cost. But 15 credits costs the same amount as 10 credits. We're talking big bucks here, especially since UW raised it's tuition by 20% between the 2010-2011 school year and the 2011-2012 school year. I decided not to hang around later than that to find out what the next year would bring.*

*Sidenote: It brought zero increase. I took 15 credits for 3 quarters followed by 20 credits this summer and they raised the tuition none.

Anyhoo, on top of graduating with a second degree (this time a BS, cuz I'm full of it ;) I also decided to turn my MRS degree into a MAMA degree, as you may have noticed from the below letter to baby. And how pregnant am I you ask? Why, very! 37 weeks, so officially good to go, although thinking it will happen anytime soon is probably just the delusional wishes of an uncomfortable preggo.

So, you're all caught up! Except I don't even know who the crazy pregnant lady is talking to, because obviously after a 21 month absence (my absence can legally drink already) I don't have any readers left. But not to worry, because I have plenty to say even if I'm just talking to myself.

Por ejemplo:

  • Renting vs. Buying and why we decided to buy again
  • Becoming a landlord (terrifying) and paying the tax man (mixed emotions)
  • The cost of outfitting a nursery, or Why I <3 Craigslist
  • Making fresh pasta! (!!!) (because that's how delicious it is!)
  • Navigating the college savings account
  • The budget compromises of a saver and a spender
  • A review of - one you can trust, because I'm not a famous blogger getting paid to review (spoiler alert: I love them)
  • A look at how much money we spent on takeout the month I was too nauseous to cook, and hubby and I both got home from work/school after 9pm every night
  • Cloth Diapering - can we do it?!
And that doesn't even count all the adorable baby photos I will no doubt be flooding this site with. So on we go!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dear Baby

Dear Baby,

Here's a little piece of advice - always back up your data. In the past few years I've lost the picture of your dad and I on the day we got engaged, had to pay about $200 to rescue our taxes on tax day when my USB drive broke, and as of this week lost the letters I've been writing to you since January 20th, the day we found out we were pregnant with you.

So here I am, starting over!

You were very planned for, and excitedly anticipated. We got pregnant right away, leaving me a one month buffer between your birth and completing school. Your dad - the eternal optimist - had no doubt it would happen easily for us. I didn't at first, and then I browsed around the internetz where everyone takes 5 years to get pregnant and then immediately miscarries and got a little worried I couldn't wait to take the pregnancy test, and bought a 3 pack since I knew I'd probably cave and take one too early. Your dad wisely hid them from me, and didn't bring them out until the night of January 19th. I left a coffee mug with fish painted all over it in the bathroom that night, and crept out of bed excitedly in the morning to pee in it. The test was almost instantly positive, but I dragged your dad out of bed to see it with his own two eyes and confirm.

Your dad drove me to work that morning because it had been snowing all week, and the streets were still covered in slush. I still remember what I was wearing because I remember looking at a reflection of myself in a window as I walked around the office with my hand already on my non-existent belly. Besides being pregnant, I also had a bladder infection - just the first of three this pregnancy gave me! I had your dad call the doctor's office for me, since I couldn't do it in front of everyone at work. He scheduled me an appointment and then came and picked me up and took me in. The nurse came in with the results before the doctor had a chance to. She said, "You're definitely pregnant! And you definitely have a UTI."

I suggested your dad start talking to you, which he thought was crazy. Then one night he gave me a kiss, pulled down the blanket and said, "Excuse me, I need to have a chat with our baby." He'd been working late every day getting our new house ready. He told you he'd been installing the door on your room that night, and thought about sitting up with you at night, rocking you back to sleep, and realized he'd better get you used to his voice so you'd know he was your dad and be comforted. That's your dad - the sweetest man on earth when you least expect it. He's going to be amazing, I know already. He'll have you fishing and crabbing, and skiing, and hopefully you'll get a good balance of my practical planning and his never stressing out. Seeing his huge hands holding your teeny tiny future best friend so protectively over the past month makes me even more excited to see you.

I started to feel you move in April - at least I thought I did. At the end of the month I flew to Arizona to visit the future mom of your other future best friend. On the plane I realized it was for sure you - your tiny shrimp body was doing little somersaults the whole time we took off and landed! You'd been moving for a long time before your dad felt you for the first time. You have the uncanny ability to freeze as soon as I tell him to put his hand on my belly. When he did feel big strong kicks from you the first time he was blown away - and they weren't even the biggest you'd been doing! As you got even bigger, your little bum would stick out under my ribs when I lay down. He likes to grab it and wiggle it from side to side! You're already almost too big for that now, though!

You started to hurt me with your kicks about a month ago, maybe a little longer. You like to push your bum out to the right with your feet low down on the left and stretch. You better not give me any stretch marks in these last few months! I've been lucky so far. You have stretched me out on the inside enough that I have a numb patch under my ribs - at least it was numb. Now it feels like it's tearing every time I giggle! And last but not least, yesterday I noticed my stretched flat belly button was officially starting to pop outwards at the top, something I never thought it'd actually do. I think that means you're cooked!

We don't know whether you're a boy or a girl yet. In the beginning everyone guessed girl, and now everyone guesses boy - even strangers I meet in line! At your 20 week ultrasound they had us close our eyes while they checked that everything was as it should be. We'd invited your GrandNana along to check you out since she won't be here to see you born. When they told us we could open our eyes again, I opened mine to see her grinning at the screen - she peaked! She swears she couldn't tell, but I don't think I can trust the old bag! She knitted like crazy for you while she was visiting - you have a full closet of sweaters - but never gave us any clue with pink or blue. The doctor may have ruined our surprise this week though. On Tuesday I went in for what are now weekly appointments, and your dad came with to discuss our birth plan. At the end she said, "Is it a boy or a girl? It's a boy, right?" Whether she remembered right or not, I don't know, but now we're leaning to thinking you're a boy. We better figure out your middle name, if so! We have baby girl set in stone, but too many baby boy names we like, and none we love together yet. Maybe we'll know when we see you - so don't be long! (But don't be too early either, your dad is away this weekend helping G-Nan move.)

Your Momma

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Savings and a Philosophy Coupon Code

I just completed my holiday shopping - and I did it in about an hour online. Jealous? You should be, because I also saved money on every single one of my purchases!

I got 3% cash back from Best Buy and Crate & Barrel by going through Ebates, and I finally got to use the Crate & Barrel gift card I've been holding onto for some time. I had a brief moment of panic when I couldn't find the card in my cluttered purse. What a waste that would have been. Thankfully, I avoided that trap this time.

I also got 2.5% cash back through Urban Outfitters and got an additional 20% of my order over $100! I must confess, I was $2 short of the minimum order, but I surfed through the apartment sale and found a stuffed sock monkey for a reasonable price. This will be going to friends who just got pregnant, and although I wasn't expecting to find their gift at Urban Outfitters, I would have probably spent more on it elsewhere.

I'll be giving Amazon money to a Kindle owner, and thanks to the $75 I've racked up since September through Swagbucks, it's not really costing me anything!

In case any of you out there are planing to buy products from Philosophy this year, I stumbled upon this coupon code for 10% off now through Sunday and thought I'd pass it on: ebatesjolly10. Of course you can always get 5% cash back by signing up for Ebates!

Now all I have left is a Costco run for socks and boxer briefs, and I'm sure Santa won't forget my husband's fruit pastilles :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

School Related Wins

I've made a few frugal wins related to school so far. The main expense has been text books, and I've found that the last place you want to buy those is at the school bookstore.

I've seen some pretty great deals on used books through Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. I'm picking up a used copy of the text book for one of my classes on Amazon for 78 cents! Granted I can't take advantage of Free Super Saver Shipping when it's a used book, but with shipping at just $3.99 who cares? I'll be purchasing that baby just as soon as my Amazon Gift Card code comes through from Swagbucks - anyone know how long that usually takes?

I also snagged two books for another class from a friend who just took the class. Rather than selling them back to the bookstore for pittance, I figured he'd be happy to sell them to me. Luckily I already have the book for my third class since it's just an extension of the class I took last Spring. I will definitely not be selling that hefty paper weight back to the bookstore when I'm done with it. After checking out prices on Amazon and eBay I see I can get a lot more for it if I sell it myself.

I snagged 3 Top Flight notebooks for 50 cents apiece at Safeway last week. They're 70 pages each and should be enough for each class. The 3 subjects-in-one notebook sitting next to the smaller ones was $3.99 and only 180 pages. By taking a few seconds to compare prices I scored an extra 50 pages for $2.49 less!

I still have to write a huge check in October, but the little things can really add up too, so I'm doing my best to take a bite out of them, and to keep the spare pennies rolling in by using Fusion Cash, Swagbucks*, Bing Rewards, Inbox Dollars, Cash Crate, taking advantage of bank incentives, and selling things on eBay and Craigslist.

*I'm going to write up a review of Swagbucks soon - I can't believe how easy it was to cash out my first $5 Amazon card!

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