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Archive for April, 2011

Third week of grocery budget tracking + couponing for charity FAIL

May 1st, 2011 at 12:58 am

I'll relate the sad tale of my couponing for charity first:
I tried to get free dog treats using a sale and double coupons, but our prices must be higher than Couponmom's store, because it would have come to $1 per bag of treats. Not good enough, so I left the coupons for some dog owner to be pleasantly surprised.
Then I went to Walgreens to try the Splenda moneymaker, free maxi pads, bandage moneymaker and super-cheap Colgate. Here's where things went really wrong.

I used a $3 register rewards and 2 coupons, and my total was $8-something. Seemed high but I knew I was getting a $3 rebate and $3 register rewards, so I thought $2 for 2 tubes of toothpaste was an OK deal. (I forgot I'd actually paid $11-something if you counted the register rewards.)

So I was rooting through my bag and realized I didn't get the register rewards. I went back and it turns out if you use a register rewards for the same product, you don't get another one. (That was the maxipads deal.) So I got a $3 refund and returned the maxipads.

After I walked out, I started thinking that I'd ended up spending $5 cash and $3 register rewards, and that I'll get $3 back in rebate. That meant my two tubes of toothpaste cost $5. They were supposedly 2-for-1 AND I had a $1 off coupon, so that means they're ordinarily $6 each? Maybe, but that seemed high. I was going to check the receipt, but then I realized THEY'D TAKEN MY RECEIPT. Not only could I not check to see if I was overcharged for the toothpaste, I also couldn't send in the rebate for the bandages. SO I started out the day with $21.01 and ended it with $12.15. I spent almost $9 for a pack of bandaids and two tubes of toothpaste! Man, couponing is HARD.

It's still going to charity, so it's not that bad. But I was expecting to spend about 80 cents after rebates & coupons, so it's kind of a shocker.

Anyway did much better with the household grocery shopping. We'd had to get more milk and soymilk during the week, so we only had $109 to spend this week if we want to get caught up. I knew we were going to have to buy compostable diapers later this week, which is $16.50, so we only had about $92.50 for our regular weekend grocery trips.

Grand total? $66.40! There were hardly any good coupons, and the website for our grocery store was out-of-date on some of the deals, so I didn't think we'd do that well. But between sales and coupons we saved $19.98.

Here's how it breaks down by meal:

Pasta with vodka sauce
Fresh basil $3.40
1/2 cup almonds $1.10
(already have pasta, canned tomatoes, vodka, bread)
Total: $4.50

Vegan buffalo wings, potato salad, eggless salad sandwiches (picnic for May Day festival)
Scallions $0.59
Tofu $1.49
Vegan mayo $4.39
(already had potatoes, bread, wheat gluten, panko breadcrumbs, etc.)
Total: $6.47

Tofu sandwiches, roasted cauliflower
Tofu $1.49
Bread (C) $1.19
Cauliflower $1.99
Total: $3.18

Pasta w/broccoli & zucchini
1 zucchini $0.29
Broccoli $1.49
(already have pasta, herbs & spices)
Total: $1.78

Veggie burgers & sweet potato fries
Hamburger buns $0.79
5 sweet potatoes $4.44 (will have extra)

Tacos & salad
TVP $1.40 (will have extra)
2 pkgs taco shells/tortillas $2.50 (will have extra)
2 bags salad $4.00 (will have extra)
Lime $0.55
2 avocados $1.69
2 mangoes $2.00
2 tomatoes $1.73 (will have extra)
Taco seasoning $0.29
Total: $14.16

General Tso's mock duck
Scallions $0.59
Ginger root $0.64
(already have mock duck, rice, other ingredients)

Other food/drink we'll use this week:
2 green bell peppers $1.00
7 bananas $1.69
2 pears $1.35
6 apples $3.48
4 eggs $1.28
Milk $2.29
Cheddar $3.29
2 cartons soymilk (C) $3.00

Other food/drink staples we may not use immediately:
Garlic $0.42
Apple cider vinegar $0.79
2x salsa $3.00
Cayenne $0.16
Club soda $0.75

Total of all food spending: $60.54

Nonfood/cat items:
Toilet paper $1.79
Paper towels $2.29
Aluminum foil (C) + tax $1.56
Tax -bags credit $0.22

Total nonfood spending: $5.86

One more April debt payment

April 29th, 2011 at 09:43 pm

AS's other student loan hit--$60 went to principal, making our April debt repayment total $1181. Just over a year to go on this particular student loan, then it'll be paid off! It's at $791, and it's so tempting to just pay it off in one fell swoop. But the interest rate is our second-lowest at 2.25%, so I know that extra debt repayment is serving us better elsewhere.

Our next big extra debt repayment won't be until June, since the May money had to go toward replenishing the lawyer fund after I used it to pay off another student loan.

Oh, and we made some progress on charitable giving! AS's job (a publishing house) had their semiannual benefit last night, and there was a silent auction where all proceeds went to the press. AS saved up her charity budget for a couple months and NT threw in some of his for us to use. We bid on a weekend at a resort but were outbid. Then we bid on a tiny iPod--size of a postage stamp, really--and tickets to a show plus CDs of the group. We won both! We were careful with our bids and stayed just under budget. So that's $590 total this year that we've given to good causes.

At the event, we met up with the friend who recommended me for the recent interview. It really reminded me how fun it was working with her! Now that we don't work in the same place, live kinda far apart and both have kids, we don't see one another as often as we'd like. It would be a really tough decision if I were offered the job. Basically, how much is it worth to me, to get a job doing something I'd love working with someone I love? Minimum $9000? Yikes. The money makes me happy when I'm not at work, but I spend so much time not being happy at work. It would be the other way around if I took this job.

Well, I'm getting WAY ahead of myself. AS forwarded me a very interesting job; only drawback is that it's 12 miles away and not accessible by bus or lightrail. So I'd need to get a car for that one. Still, the subject matter I'd be editing sounds interesting (to me--thuddingly dull to others, probably), so I'll apply next week and see what's what. They require you to give salary requirements, so I'll probably set my requirements a little higher than what I make now. That way a car wouldn't be a big bummer to our budget if I did get the job!

Heading out soon for happy hour (or what I've been mentally calling "unhappy hour") with a couple of employees. Discontent is spreading throughout the ranks, it seems, and some people want to have a bitch session about it. Suits me! If enough of us were disgruntled enough, we might even be able to force some change. Isn't that what they call "collective bargaining"? Smile

Charitable couponing worked! (to some degree)

April 27th, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Well, the Walgreens I went to was sold out of one item, and didn't appear to carry another. But they did have the Stayfree maxipads. They cost $2.99 (no sales tax), and I had a $1 off coupon that I'd printed off their website, so I paid $1.99. I also got a "register rewards" coupon for $3 off my next purchase at Walgreens. So all in all, I made $1.01 off the deal!

I dropped the maxipads off in a charity box at my job, since one of my co-workers is collecting personal-care items to donate to a homeless cause.

This weekend I'll go to the bigger Walgreens near my home, and I'll see if they have the other two items in stock. (I can use my $3 coupon to help pay for the purchase.) Also, although I can't print another coupon, I should be able to get another box of maxipads free by getting another $3 register rewards with $2.99 purchase!

Met April debt goal + 1st attempt couponing for charity

April 27th, 2011 at 05:55 pm

One of AS's student loans hit, with $122 going toward principal. That makes our April debt repayment $1121 so far, exceeding the $1000 goal! AS has one more student loan that may hit tomorrow or Friday.

Today on my lunch break I'm going to Walgreens to try some super-couponing strategies that I got via Jeffrey's "Penny Experiment" Facebook feed. I'm going to buy 3 packages of Splenda, 1 pack of Stayfree maxipads and 1 package of Nexcare bandages. If all goes well, I should spend $6.43 and receive $6.99 in "register rewards" to use next time, as well as a mail-in rebate for $2.99. So in the long run I should come out $3.55 ahead! (We'll see how it goes.)

My plan right now is to take $20 per month from my charitable-donations money, keep it separate from all other money, and see how far I can stretch it to buy things for food shelves and homeless outreach programs. So the register rewards and rebate check will go back in the envelope to be used on more great deals.

AS and I are diving into the rabbit-hole a bit on couponing right now, both to get our grocery bill under control and to maximize our charitable giving. I think because it's so soon after watching a couple episodes of "Extreme Couponing," NT is a tad worried that he's going to look under the bed someday and see a huge stockpile of toothpaste and candy bars. If you're reading this, honey, I promise that will never happen! Smile

Finally some recordable weight progress! + lazing then & now

April 25th, 2011 at 03:15 pm

At the weigh-in last night, I'd actually lost a full pound! Now I'm at 152, or 13 lbs. from my goal. I walked a lot last week and my portion sizes were pretty good, but I did eat chips a lot. However, I didn't eat chips ON TOP OF a bunch of other stuff, so calorie-wise I don't think I went nuts.

This weekend we went over and entered a bunch of commitments on our calendar, and I realized that the next 5 weeks are going to be full (and fun)! No weekend is completely devoid of social events. Plus there are several items during the workweek, both fun (charity event for AS's job) and not (dental appts. for me and NT). So I decided to be indulgently lazy yesterday, and watched TV & played videogames to my heart's content.

Close to bedtime, when I was thinking about the day's events, I had to laugh a little bit at what a lazy day looks like now versus what it looked like oh, say, 5 or 6 years ago, pre-kids, pre-husband, pre-budget.

Lazy day in the past: Roll out of bed maybe before noon, maybe not. Throw on some comfy clothes and stroll out with AS to have brunch (preferably somewhere that served Bloody Marys). Linger and get slightly tipsy. Come home, ignore all housework, watch movies or TV, read books, smoke a few cigarettes, maybe take a nap. Look through the fridge, decide to get pizza delivered, read and watch TV some more, have a few more smokes. Go to bed.

Lazy day yesterday: "Sleep in" until 8:30 am. Get AA's bottle while she's being changed, race around getting Easter basket and eggs ready, coax AA into pretty dress. Help her with Easter egg hunt and breakfast, taking pictures all the while. Change her into dress she can move around better in. Watch TV and play on the laptop while keeping an eye on AA. Make and eat lunch while AA is napping. Feed her lunch, peel orange and divide into small sections for her. Clean her hands and mouth over her vocal objections. Comfort her several times after nasty falls. Play videogames while keeping an eye on her. Change at least four diapers during course of day. Pick up Easter toys periodically only to have them scatter again. Slice & stew apples for AA's dinner. Pick peas up that have scattered everywhere during her meal. Wash huge pile of pots and pans that have accumulated over the day. Brush AA's teeth and put her to bed. Declutter the house in preparation for the cleaner. Watch TV and play videogames while drinking a couple glasses of wine.

And yes, I felt like I was being outrageously lazy! I did far less than AS and NT, who had work and homework respectively and both cooked and cleaned more than I did.

Happy Easter!

April 24th, 2011 at 04:06 pm


Second week of grocery budget tracking

April 24th, 2011 at 03:19 am

Our goal this week was to keep spending to $112. We spent $116.95. I think that's pretty darn good!

We spent a lot more on groceries and a lot less on nonfood items, but it balanced out. We pored over the store circular, printed out coupons that matched sale items we could use, and our main grocery store doubles most coupons on Saturday. We saved 40% on a bill that would have been $131 but instead was $79!

Here's how it broke out per meal. For many of the ingredients we took advantage of deals and bought more than we needed, so we'll be able to get more meals out of them. I'll try to note that, because otherwise some of our meals will seem rather expensive.

Pancakes & strawberries
Strawberries $1.99 (will have leftovers)
(already had pancake ingredients & maple syrup)

Mac & cheese w/ salad
5 lbs. macaroni $3.99 (will have leftovers)
3 pkgs shredded cheese $6.00 (will have leftovers)
Romaine lettuce $1.69
(already had sauce ingredients for vegan version; salad dressing)
Total: $11.68

Broccoli & mock duck stirfry with spring rolls
Broccoli $0.99
Mushrooms $1.89
Frozen edamame $2.49
Ginger root $0.56
Onions $2.29 (will have leftovers)
Rice $5.15 (will have leftovers)
(already have mock duck, spring rolls, spices)
Total: $13.37

Tofu "chik'n" & waffles & hoppin' John
2 pkgs tofu $2.98 (will have leftovers)
Black-eye peas $2.50
Diced tomatoes $0.59
(already have breading, waffle ingredients, rice)
Total: $6.07

Pasta w/ tomato spinach sauce
(already have all ingredients)

Lentil loaf, broccoli, chik'ny gravy and biscuits
Broccoli $0.99
(already have lentils, spices, flour, etc.)

Sweet & sour mock pork, szechuan green beans
Water chestnuts $1.09
1 green bell pepper $0.99
Pineapple $2.99
Green beans (fresh) $0.57
(already have mock pork, spices, will use rice from above)
Total: $5.64

Homemade veggie burgers & fries
Bread (C) $0.99
Black beans $2.53
(already have rest of burger ingredients, fries)
Total: $3.52

Other food/drink we'll use this week:
3 grapefruit $3.10
4 apples $2.94
4 pears $2.70
3 lbs. oranges $3.69
Can of tuna $1.99
6 eggs $1.92
Milk $2.29
4 Lean Cuisine meals (C) $5.96

Other food/drink staples we may not use immediately:
Garlic $0.45
4 boxes granola cereal (C) $8.00
Cornmeal $1.99
Yeast $0.59
2 pkgs fresh mozzarella $6.99
Fake sausage (C) $1.99
Vegan butter $3.29
Canola oil $3.49
Chili powder $3.84
Peppercorns $3.40
Tea $4.75
2 canisters Crystal Light (C) $2.50
5 frozen juices $5.00

Total of all food spending: $114.13

Nonfood/cat items:
Cat litter (reg. $8.59) FREE after rebate
Ziploc bags $2.09
Tax $0.16
Tax minus bags credit $0.57

Total nonfood spending: $2.82

Savings progress

April 22nd, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Just a quick note before I head home. It's been a busy week and I can't WAIT to get some wine (didn't have enough spending money to get wine this week; I've been compensating with occasional mixed drinks via our liquor stash, but for some reason it doesn't feel quite as relaxing as a nice glass of wine). We get our spending money on payday, and NT already called to confirm I want him to stop by the liquor store on the way home.

$25 went to EF savings, and we also gained 86 cents in interest, so that makes $1876.71 saved so far this year, and $10,388.66 in the EF fund total.

I'm kind of excited for another week of tracking our grocery spending; it might get harder to keep costs down as we work through our small stockpile, but I think we can do it. NT saved the Rainbow Foods circular and AS will look for coupons online, so we'll see what we can do. We had one more purchase of child-safety cabinet locks come through, so our grocery money is $340.44 plus $3.32 on a Target giftcard. That means we want to try to stay under $112 this week, so this money can stretch over three weekends of spending.

Also looking forward to AA's first Easter as a mobile, alert person with good eyesight! (She was around last year but less than 2 months old, and we were so exhausted I don't even remember Easter.) I bought a basket for $2, a sippy cup with rabbit ears for $2, and the rest of her Easter treats are going to be homemade or from my mom's care package.

Happy Friday! I'll try to check in tomorrow with my grocery bill totals.

Nerves post-interviewish-thing

April 20th, 2011 at 05:32 pm

Just got back from the not-interview informal coffee thing, and though I felt fairly calm throughout, now the nerves (and possibly the caffeine) are kicking in. I think I did pretty well and managed to articulate a lot of the points that would make me a good match for the job, but of course there are things I would've said differently, things I left out, etc.

The worst blunder was that I printed out a resume right before the meeting, to have just in case. I've recently been paring it down ruthlessly and just got it on one page. I took off the big header with my name and contact info with the intention of replacing that with something smaller and simpler--but I hadn't actually added it back to the version I printed out. So I tried to make light of it while I wrote my contact info on it, saying I was just starting to job-search and was still in the process of working on my resume. We bonded a bit about how hard it was to get back into that mindset once you'd been at a job for a while.

I actually think it might be OK, because this was an informal meetup and I wasn't required to bring one. Plus, it really was out of the blue (though I had a week to prepare), since my friend who works there told me about it informally. I think it was better to have something even if it was missing a header. But of course that's one of those things I keep going back to and mentally smacking myself for.

I dunno. I've conducted a lot of interviews myself and been involved in hiring decisions, and I'm one of those people who will forgive a lot of slip-ups that experts tell you are the kiss of death, if I get a sense the candidate will be good. Including people forgetting to write thank-you notes after, being a little late to an interview, and once (OMG!) I hired someone even after they called an employee after the interview to ask if we drug-test. (And you know what? He turned out great and he's still at that company I used to work for.) So hopefully if he got a good sense overall, the resume-header thing won't be a big deal.

Fellow SA job-seekers, I forgot how weird it feels. It's like blind-dating or something!

Progress, etc.

April 19th, 2011 at 10:28 pm

I forgot to note that we contributed $300 to our Roths this week. With some of our goals on autopilot it's easy to forget to mention them! So that's $1200 toward our goal of $3600.

We had to buy diapers today, so that's $14.50 gone from the grocery/household budget. We've now got $334.63 left in the May 1-15 line item, or $111.50 per weekend for the next three shopping trips, if we want to get caught up. I still have high hopes we can catch up or come darn close.

We've already run out of bread and have grilled cheese sandwiches planned for Wednesday. AS said she'll try to bake a loaf from scratch, using ingredients we have on hand. I also realized we need another meal this week since an event I'd written on the menu isn't until next week. We already have ingredients to make bean burritos (in fact the rice and beans are already cooked from Sunday's Mexican casserole), so that's the plan.

It's cold and windy today. I may wuss out on walking home. I hate to lose my momentum. But, I skipped walking Friday, and still managed to get motivated Saturday and Monday, so I think it'll be OK.

I felt like there were a few other things to mention, but my brain is mush. Hard day at work, and already getting a bit nervous about my coffee chat with the prospective employer tomorrow.

Progress on AS net worth + more invisible weight progress

April 18th, 2011 at 09:17 pm

Just calculated our net worth, and AS's is down to negative $3,927! Over $1,200 better than last month. It just needs to improve by $491 per month to get to positive by the end of the year. Seeing as how she contributes $325 per month to retirement and pays down $385 of debt per month minimum, I feel pretty good about our odds of meeting this goal!

Oh, and I weighed myself last night and showed an insignificant loss of .2 lbs. Basically I went from 152.8 to 152.6, so I'm still 153 if I round off. Ah well, at least I didn't gain! I walked at least 30 minutes 5 days last week, but didn't really pay attention to my eating. I still feel good about the week overall. NT lost over 4 lbs., so he must be getting close to his goal! I saw the loss, but didn't look at the weight number. I'll have to remember to ask him.

As for the other goals, I haven't made much progress. I do have an informal job-related chat scheduled for Wednesday (got recommended by a friend/ex-coworker). I'm excited to have my first interview-ish thing since I started looking for a job, and it sounds like a way more interesting job than the one I have, but the pay would be less--at least $9000 per year less (gross, not net, but significant anyway). I still want to hear more about it and practice my interviewing skills, though. (Plus, I would LOVE to work with this old friend; I don't really have any friends at my current job and that can tend to make one feel like a high-school outcast. Do I love it enough to sacrifice $750 per month? Hmmm...)