Saturday, December 31, 2011

I feel the need...the need to read!

I absolutely love reading, it's one of my favorite things to do when I get a few minutes to myself (which isn't all that often with little ones!). Books are one of the few items I will continue to purchase if I find a good deal, no matter how many we already own. I believe we can never have enough and I would be perfectly content to cover our walls in bookshelves and live in a library. So when I saw the Livingsocial deal ($25 for $75 to spend at a local used book store) I didn't even hesitate. I headed out this morning for some much needed "me time" in search of this book store, but not sure what to expect.

Enter, The Book Dispensary-it was like the book-lover version of a visit to the spa! I spent over two hours browsing through the books and easily could have spent the entire day, the shelves just kept going and going and the store was much larger than it looked. James, the owner was so kind, helpful and even offered me bottled water-I can't remember the last time I had customer service like this! He even printed my voucher for me to use today since we have no means of printing at the moment due to our home computer dying this week. They also have a free "watch for paperbacks" service-if you can't find a title you're looking for just let them know and they'll keep an eye out. When it comes in they'll contact you and let you know!

In addition to the great deals I found today, I learned that The Book Dispensary will take any books you would like to bring in and give you store credit. For paperbacks you will get half of the list price, for hardbacks you will get half of the anticipated selling price (I believe they start at list price and then are discounted with colored stickers the longer they are there). Also, be sure to mention you are a new customer and you will receive a card good for a free book (up to $7.99 list value) EACH WEEK for the first four weeks after your visit! I have a bunch of books I'm ready to pass on but don't have the time to deal with selling online, this will make it so easy. Your credit can be applied towards half of your total, and if you buy paperbacks an additional 40% will come off after that.

Here is a picture of my treasures, I couldn't seem to fit them all into one picture so there is one in the bottom right hand corner that got cut off but you can get a good idea of what I found for the kids.

If you live in the Columbia area, The Book Dispensary is located only about a mile from the zoo at 710-C Gracern Rd. Store hours are 10-6, Monday-Saturday. If you'd like to grab the Livingsocial deal it is still available for 4 more days:   (If you are outside the Columbia area, it's well worth your time to look for a used bookstore like this one, especially one that offers store credit for your books.)

Compared with shopping at one of the big chain book stores, you'll pay much less, get far better service and your money will go to a worthy local small business-everyone wins! Does this count towards my New Years Resolution? ;-)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Years Resolutions

I have been pondering my New Years Resolution for 2012 several months now. Obviously, I would love for my health to get better so I can get back to blogging regularly and a "normal" schedule again, but at this point I don't have much control over that. I have decided instead to keep it simple, attainable and something that will make my family's life and hopefully some of the world a tiny bit better, here is my goal:

To be a better steward of our money.

That might sound strange since you know I already coupon, yard sale and buy everything on sale, you could be thinking "what else can she be doing???" After considering the economy (it's not getting better anytime soon), the companies our money is going to, and the economic situation of people worldwide, I came up with three parts to my resolution.

1. Get back on the coupon train. No huge revelations here, I've been very lazy about getting to the drug stores, using coupons regularly at the grocery store and relying on my stockpile the last few months. The result is I haven't saved us as much money and I haven't had as many items to donate. This is a priority and I will find the time to do it each week.

2. Purchase from brands and companies that are making responsible choices, helping others and taking care of their employees. Bonus points if they donate their profits to charity (Newman's Own). A good conversation with my sister in law over the holidays drew the question, are we really being good stewards of our money if we support companies that run sweatshops? The second part of this is to buy local when I can--produce, meat, small businesses, etc. These are all things I've done on a small scale for years but have not been diligent about.

3. Give, give and give some more. I will confess, I've been pretty grumpy about our ugly linoleum kitchen floor and mismatched downstairs flooring lately, among many other things I would like to update. I see friends with brand new houses and shiny pretty things and I want them too. Then I met a recently homeless family with two kids living in a 12' X 12' apartment with roaches and not enough food to eat even though the father has worked every single day for almost two months (including Christmas) and it brings me to my knees in thanks for all of the blessings we have. It also makes me think about how we normally give. We take care of our needs and make sure we're comfortable, then we give. This year we're going to be a tad less comfortable (cancel cable, turn the thermostat down a little and put on an extra layer, give up eating out and only cook at home, etc) and hopefully we'll be able to pass on the blessings that have been given to us to people in need both locally and internationally.

Do me a favor the next time you see me and ask how my resolution is going. I need and want to be held accountable for this one, especially since we decided when I became a stay at home mom that Chris's job is to make the money and my job is to make the money go as far as possible. I now realize our spending is not independent and it needs to go "as far as possible" for the rest of the world too, my financial choices have an effect on others-how did it take me 31 years to learn this?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MYTH: I'm too broke to go on vacation!

My husband and I both love to travel, and who doesn't love to go on vacation? When I have time to search for deals and use sites like and I can score quite a deal! But this is a rough economy, and what do you do if it's just not in the budget?

Been there. During my husband's layoff we were obviously stressed out in financial ways we had never been before, but we finally had the time to take a trip together--my husband hadn't taken any vacation time at his previous job. How do you go on vacation without any money at all??? My husband thought I was crazy, he thought it would never happen--but where there's a will, there's a way! I hopped on and emailed a bunch of house owners explaining our situation and asking if we could trade a week at their house/condo for something in return. That summer not only did we get to go to the beach, we spent THREE WEEKS at the beach! We painted the interior of one condo in exchange for staying there, we painted the deck and outside stairs as well as did a little landscaping for a house on Harbor Island in exchange for staying there (the owner liked it so much she asked us to come back and do more work sometime!) and my personal favorite-we traded a guided turkey hunt with my husband for a week long stay at the owner's condo, also on Harbor Island. This last family was very excited to do something like this that was new to them, my husband got to go hunting for three days and we got a free week vacation-how is that for win-win-win?? All of the rentals had full kitchens so we were able to shop ahead (with coupons of course) and cook for ourselves. Since there is so much do at the beach, we didn't spend any money and we still had some great memories and got some great pictures. They all had internet access as well, so he was able to apply for jobs and continue the search remotely.

Then there is the time we wanted to do a women's retreat at church. I emailed some houses on Fraser Island (super nice but very expensive) and just explained who we were and what we were looking to do and asked what their rates were. Most people gave us the standard rate or a small discount, but one very generous couple offered us their gorgeous 5 bedroom house that rents for $5,000/week for free as long as we paid the island fee that's required (it was extremely small, I can't remember how much). Then the sweet owners sent us flowers while we were there, and this year invited us back again for free!

As many of you know, my husband and I just went to the Dominican Republic to celebrate our 5th anniversary. We've been planning on going on this trip since I found I was pregnant with our first child four years ago, and so we started saving our sky miles, which we used to get the flights. We bought a pop-up camper last spring in the hopes of taking camping trips with the kids but they just didn't sleep well in it. Since we got such a great deal on it, we were able to resell it for $900 more than we paid! We used that to pay for our hotel which was all-inclusive. Then we used our birthday money (both of our birthdays were the week before our trip) to pay for our activities while we were there. And just like that...not a "free" trip, but also not effecting our budget at all!

Now we want to take the kids to the beach next spring, but I will admit I'm a total snob when it comes to beach trips. I will pay more to not have to deal with Myrtle Beach or Florida. The crowds, noise, dirtiness, craziness, it's just not for me. But our favorite beach (Harbor Island) is still quite expensive, so what did I do? I emailed the owners of course! This time I asked if we could get a lower rate if we book an entire month and share the three other weeks with other families. Of course some people still had rates of $3,000/week, I just ignored those. But, I did get several decent offers and the one we decided to go with is just the sweetest family in GA that is letting us rent a 3 bedroom house for only $700/week! That's less than the 1 bedroom condos rent for! (By the way, let me know if you're interested the weeks are first come first served)

It can be done, I encourage you to be creative and see what you can do! I've had several owners tell me that they'd never had anyone make an offer like that before, they thought it was so unique! Maybe you can trade houses with another family or rent out one of your cars for a few weeks to pay for it, you'll think of something if you really want a vacation!

Don't forget to share your creative ideas with me, I could always use some more...