Friday, August 16, 2013

Amazon Subscribe And Save, My New Addiction

Amazon has this fabulous program called "Subscribe & Save" where you sign up to receive an item every 1-6 months (your choice on how often when you sign up). If you have several subscribe and save items they will all arrive at the same time, and you get to pick the day of the month. The benefit is that Amazon lowers the price 5% when you sign an item up for subscribe and save. BUT the real savings come when you have 5 or more items arriving in the same month-as soon as you sign up for the 5th item, you get 20% off the entire order! Once you have this set up, it easily takes care of itself as long as you have all 5 items on the same schedule (ex: every 3 months). We order so many things this way, that we easily reach the 5 item minimum each month and the savings are better than I was able to do with grocery store sales and coupons combined!

A few side notes on this program:

1. You can change your order at anytime before it ships. Just go to "Your Subscribe & Save Items" and then choose to change the quantity, scheduled month or cancel the order.

2. If the price of an item goes up after you've added it but before it ships, you will pay the price that you originally sign up for. AND if the price goes down after you sign up for it, you will pay the lower price! Amazon has a guarantee, you pay the lowest price from the time you sign up to the time it ships.

3. You are not charged for the subscribe and save items until they ship out. This helps you determine when you want your order to arrive each month.

4. Do go back in each month just before the entire order ships (you'll get a reminder email from amazon that you have only a few days left) and check the prices. You'll only get to see the current price, but if you didn't recently add it for a lower price you may want to skip that month and wait for a lower price.

It's a lot of information at first, but it is so unbelievably easy once you have it all set up! It saves me time, money and trips to the store with the kids in tow which is wonderful!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Big News!

If you caught my post last year sharing some money-making ideas (you can follow this link if you missed it)  I have a new one to add to the list which we are doing ourselves.

This April we will be opening the Derrick Family Farm-certified SC grown! We will be selling our own organic local honey, fruits, vegetables, vanilla extract, heirloom seeds and potted herbs. We'll be open one afternoon each week as a market stand, right here at our house. Since the closest farmer's market is a good 30 minutes away, we think this will be a great way to bring a market to our area.

It's a big investment and commitment that we have spent a lot of time considering, and while we're still a bit nervous about taking the leap, we are also very excited about the possibilities!

Talk about keeping to our New Year's Resolution of responsible spending, now we are one of those small local businesses...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cutting Out the Cable Bill

Many of you probably already know this, but I'll pass it along anyway for the few tech-challenged ones like myself who have been a little behind.

We decided when our two year contract ran out with our cable company that we'd cancel it since we couldn't justify the $70/mo bill, money better spent elsewhere. I'd already made peace with the fact that we'd only have three channels of low quality, but at least we'd be able to watch our favorites.

Since we have a newer model flat screen tv, we didn't need a converter box-that was a nice surprise. We just ordered an indoor antenna (it's flat and light and fits behind the tv, nothing like antennas from 20 years ago) for $40. That gave us over a dozen channels and the quality is actually better than it was with cable, not something I would have noticed but my husband certainly did. We also bought a VGA audio video cable for $19 that will connect our laptop to the tv, so now we can watch movies or shows that are online on our big screen.

That's it! A $59 investment, less than one month of our cable bill, and we're still getting to watch all of our favorites. The best part is most of the junky channels are gone now, and if it isn't there then we won't get sucked into a waste-your-time-on-a-brainless-show marathon. Like junk food, if it isn't in the house you won't eat it. I'm feeling smarter already ;-)

PS-If you've never seen Parenthood, rent the first season and let the addiction begin. Best show on tv, you'll thank me later...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Husband Is A Travelin' Man, and Why You Don't Get It

One of the reasons I decided to be a stay at home mom is that in my husband's industry (marketing) he spends a good amount of time flying elsewhere for events, meetings and vacations (he can tell me a hundred times that he really was working on that week-long fishing trip in the Bahamas but that one sure sounds like a vacation to me!). If I were also working full time (as a teacher), plus bringing home grading and lesson planning I'm just not sure our kids would ever see their parents! Thus, one stay at home parent was our solution.

All this to say we have definitely taken the preferred path but it hasn't by any means been easy. While it's added more financial stress to my husband (though I've been able to alleviate that by saving us money) it's added parental stress to me, spending 25% of the year essentially as a single parent. When I meet new people and they ask where my husband is, I might say "Oh he's in ______ for work and he'll be back in a week. He travels a lot." What I didn't realize in the beginning is that a lot of these people didn't actually GET IT that my husband is hasta la vista, in another state, not coming home to eat dinner and help with bath time and we'll be lucky if we get to say hi to him today.

Suddenly some of the husband's of these women were traveling or otherwise out-of-state for a few days and they were in a panic, falling apart saying "Joey no you don't get it, he's going to be GONE for 3 days!!!" This moment takes some serious restraint on my part, and I would respond "Yes I know, Chris leaves for a week at a time pretty often. It's hard." Here's the inevitable/kicker response: "REALLY?" Didn't I already tell you this??

Let me give you an idea of what this actually looks like in real life: I am the full-time care for my children and not too long ago that meant a newborn and 18 month old. They do not attend a preschool (now we are doing one 2 hr. church class a week) or have a regular sitter who comes to relieve me. I am going non-stop from the moment they wake up until several hours after their bedtime just to get everything done. After five or six days when I'm burned out and exhausted I cannot hand my child over to hubby and say "Give me an hour or I'm going to lose it". There is no burly man to come by and take out the garbage (out of the kitchen or out to the curb) and no super hero sleeping next to me when I'm sure I've heard a serial killer downstairs in the middle of the night and I want him to check it out. In emergencies, medical (involving a trip to the ER) or otherwise (accidentally locking my children in the car in the driveway) I am on my own.

I also find myself feeling a little jealous of women whose husbands get to go into work later in the morning, come home earlier or don't bring their work with them. Whatever happened to 9-5? Holding my kids off for a 6:30 or later dinner each night is not impossible but it also isn't a whole bunch of fun either. When I find myself feeling resentful that "everyone else" gets to see their husband twice as much as I do, I just remind myself that I got the best one anyway and quality beats quantity any day ;-)

If your husband is not a regular traveler, you cannot possibly understand parenthood from this perspective, just as I cannot fathom how on earth a military mother or father can handle 6-12 months without his/her spouse. Just as none of us can imagine what it is like to actually be a single mom for years on your own.
So if you're lucky enough to have your man-meat around consistently make sure to be thankful for it, and maybe even see if you have a single mother and/or military friend that could use a hand (or an afternoon off).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Finding The Sweet Spot of Car Ownership

When I played tennis, I learned that the sweet spot on a racket was the area in the middle where if you hit it just right you would get the most "pop" from the ball, or the most speed for your strength. I think of buying a new car the same way, I want to get the most bang for my buck, so here is what I've learned.

1. Buy used, duh. We all know how much a car depreciates in value as soon as it's driven off the lot. But you wouldn't believe how many people try to justify purchasing a brand new car because they will keep it "forever". Even if you keep it until the day it dies, you have to purchase a pretty inexpensive car and hold onto it for a very long time to beat my method.

2. Buy direct from a person. Car dealerships are a ripoff even if you're buying used. Just bring the car to a mechanic and have them inspect it first, if the owner balks that should be a huge red flag.

3. Choose the car you want to purchase and then wait for a good deal. We searched for over a month before finding a great deal on the make/model we wanted, and we still had to forfeit our color preferences to get it.

4. Save up and pay cash. Another duh, no matter what deal you get it's not going to be as good once you pay interest on it. If you can't afford it now, you can't afford it.

5. Always make an offer. Even when buying direct form the owner, people price their vehicles knowing they will sell it for less. Decide what you would be willing to pay and then offer a bit less, that way you'll have some negotiating room.

OK now the things you may not have thought of:

6. Do some calculations as to how much the car will cost you per year for the number of years you expect to use it. My ideal target is $1000-$1500 per year, so if it costs $10,000 and we expect to use it for 5 years and then should be able to sell it for $4,000 our per year cost is $10,000-$4,000 divided by 5 years for $1,200/yr.

7. Consider the costs of car insurance, registration, taxes and gas as all part of the cost! I do not factor these in for the per year cost, but do use them to compare costs of different vehicles. Insurance alone can be an extra $2,000 a year for a new car, get a gas guzzler and you're looking at several thousand additional per year. When I compared the cost of gas of a Honda minivan vs. a Honda Pilot we figured out it would literally save us $5,000-$10,000 depending on the number of years we kept it. That's a lot of money I'd rather spend on something else-like vacations!

8. Pick your top 2-3 features and stick with them. You can't have them all, especially if you're looking to save money so decide what's important to you. Having lower floors, sliding doors and easier ability to move about inside were all important to us, that's what ultimately made us choose the minivan over the SUV (practicality won!).

9. Stick with old and boring. You may be longing for a new shiny car, but as long as old faithful is still reliable and your family's needs haven't changed, there's really no reason to switch-and it will cost you.

10. On the other hand, once your car becomes unreliable and you're spending more on regular repairs than you would on the per year cost of getting a "new" car, it's not smart to continue spending more money on an inferior vehicle. Cut the cord.

All that to say, I've found the sweet spot of owning a car to be purcharing one that is approximately 4-6 years old and keeping it for 5-10 years (the ranges are due to the varying makes/models and their reliability, the mileage it has when you buy it and how many miles per year you plan to put on it).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Moms, Stop "Treating" Yourself and Start Creating Yourself

I'm sure you've heard the advice, probably dozens of times before. Be sure to treat yourself to some "me" time no matter how busy you are. It's likely the advice you heard was followed with a list similar to the following: read a good book, take a bath, call a friend, go shopping, go out with your husband or a friend, spend some time cooking/gardening/yogaing, ok that last one isn't a word but you get the point. Yes, these are all great things, but I just realized we have the advice wrong!

While we're in what I call "survival" mode with small children, we're grateful for a few minutes even once a week to do one of the activities listed above in order to bring a little more peace and calmness back into our chaos. I get that, but it's the equivalent of treating a symptom instead of treating the disease itself (please do not misinterpret this to think I'm referring to our children as diseases!). While taking a few minutes to take a bath or call a friend will bring you momentary relief, it will soon be gone and you'll be looking forward to the next break to regain your sanity.

Remember the days when you were a teenager, and you'd put on your music and spend hours working on a drawing/painting/pottery/poem/short story/skateboard ramp/etc.? You would get lost in something you were CREATING and completely lose track of time. That's what we mothers need to do again. Figure out what it is you are passionate about, where hours could pass and feel like minutes-and do that! Even if you aren't good at it, even if it doesn't make or save you any money, even if you have to spend money to make it happen.

Now your "creating" may involve something on the first list-my friend Kelly is a yoga instructor and it's so cool how she can take what she loves and is good at and use it to help other people (although she was still teaching classes with 3 small children, one being a newborn so we're not entirely sure she's human like the rest of us). You could look at the same class and see two different things-Kelly creating, and someone in her class "treating". Physical fitness is such an important thing and there are many benefits to yoga, so obviously I recommend it (if you can bend that way) but the student in Kelly's class should also be looking for a way in which she can create something for herself. 

I still love to read a good book, but creating something has relieved me of the constant need for "me" time. I still get just as much of it, and I enjoy that time as well, but it doesn't feel like I'm desperate for it any longer.

So ladies I ask you to please put down the bubble bath and pick up the paint brush, then share with me your creations!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Someone Remind Me Again, Why Did I Do This?

I became a stay-at-home mom so that my hair and outfit would be done and in style at a timely hour each day, lest we fall into those lazy motherhood ways and "let ourselves go", (we always looked at the poor "old" mothers and PROMISED to never let ourselves go!) like the 35 year old mother who just cut in front of you in the checkout line wearing mom jeans, an untucked plaid button down shirt that is wrinkled and probably doesn't match and seriously old rain boots...she must be a working mom!  No really, we actually made this decision so we'd always have clean laundry, a full pantry, sparkling floors, a professionally decorated house, a four course dinner every night (with perfect manners and conversation had by all) and eventually someone from "O" Magazine would take notice and send a reporter to decipher how I manage to do it all so beautifully...go team me!

Riiiiiight. I've determined it's absolutely impossible to have children under the age of 5 (it should really be 12,  90 if you include only males) living in your home AND have a completely clean home top to bottom. All at the same time. With your children present, you can't photoshop them in later! Hasta la vista to this dream....

Let's cut to the chase: you know it, I know it, and I'm pretty sure even Anderson Cooper knows it and will be busting open our secret on his next ridiculist. We all became SAHM's so we could sit around and watch TV all day, bon bon free thank you very much-Good Morning America is the cheerleader that leads the pack, then it's a soap here, some Dr. Oz there, don't forget Ellen! I know my kids are around here somewhere, I'll find them just as soon as they read the verdict for the Casey Anthony trial...

WHO DOES THIS??? I can honestly say that in the almost 4 years I've been a SAHM there was one day we had the TV on for me, the presidential election. So I guess pretty soon I'll be able to say "two days". All of those other 1400 or so days my kids had the pleasure of enjoying a show geared to them, edited by me (just because it's a cartoon doesn't mean it shows good values) and the only channels they are allowed to watch are PBS or The Discovery Channel or any show when someone is whispering and about to shoot a "buck deer" and so we all have to whisper too. Some days we don't even turn the TV on, those are the best.

Seriously though, I stayed home because it's critical to my child's education and well being. Daycare and preschool are a joke, how does playing "house" help my child in the real world? He needs me around, or who else will be quizzing him on the 23rd president? That one time my son could name all 50 states and everyone thought he was so smart must have boosted his self esteem tremendously, at this rate he will be carried out of his SAT's by a squad of cheerleaders on 5 hour energy. Of course they will make sure to put him back down (nicely) at an approved Ivy League school of my spouse and I's choosing where he will continue to achieve and change the world--we'll know how well he's doing this by how much money he makes. All because I gave up my career so my little one could have his dream, I'm such a great mommy!

I missed my kids. I loved them more than I thought would be possible considering we'd only known each other a few weeks. I knew what I was willing to do for them each day whether it was reading a book or holding my baby comfortingly on my chest while she was violently throwing up. Would someone else do this? I saw the timer turn to start, the one that calculates how many years/months/days/minutes/seconds you have until your child leaves you and I immediately started converting to percentages-it made me panic. I wanted to fix all the mistakes my parents made with me. I wanted to give these kids the best childhood memories to last them for a lifetime. I wanted to give them the very best parents to last as role models for a lifetime. But most of all, I wanted to give them the kind of family where their differences are cherished, each person is valued, we work together as a team 100% of the time and we teach them everything we can about life in order to scaffold their path so that they can grow and grow and GROW into whatever it is God has planned for them...because I'm sure it's better than anything we could dream up.

Cole just loves to say "cheese", Leah likes to practice a serious face, or she's 2 and just does the opposite of what I ask ;-)