Summer Saving: Taking Advantage of SALES!! Part 2

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In my last post, I shared that I bought almost $700 worth of new clothes for just over $220.  And as promised, I will share my secrets to scoring these huge savings!  Get ready.  It’s amazing.  Jk.  but hopefully you will read something worthwhile.

1.   Shop at outlet malls.  There are various articles as to why outlet malls are scams (I’ll let you google those for yourself), but I personally have had great success shopping at outlets.  I love getting really cute, brand name clothes for literally a fraction of what I would pay in store.  The trick is knowing retail prices beforehand, and making sure you are paying less.  Because these stores are some of my favorites to shop at, I know what a pair of jeans, a dress, or knit top run at the retail stores (regardless of what the tag says, as some items are made specifically for the outlet stores).  I made sure that I got a bargain based on what the regular stores would sell the items for.

2.  Vow to never pay retail price.  Regardless of where you shop, make the decision to never pay the full retail price.  In my opinion, the non-sale price is usually wayyy overpriced anyway.  Anytime I walk into a store, I head straight to the clearance section.  I don’t even look at the stuff that’s not on sale, because eventually it will be, and I will get a deal on it then if I still need to buy something.  I literally can’t remember the last time I paid full price for anything.

3.  Know your personal price point.  I already mentioned to know what retail stores charge for apparel.  But it’s also important to know exactly how much you personally are willing to pay for an item.  For me, I will never pay more than $30 for a pair of jeans.  I determined this price based on what I have been able to find in stores, accounting for the fact that I have to purchase petites, and those are harder to find, especially on sale.  If I can find a pair of jeans at $30 or less, you can guarantee I will buy them!  *The ones pictured above were $25 each.

4.  When you find a good deal, stock up!  If you look at the picture above, you will notice I bought multiple colors/patterns of the same items.  For example, the two dresses (identical style, different pattern) retail for $50.  They were on sale for $24, plus an additional 50% off, so I paid $12 each.  I’m pretty sure I can’t get a dress at WALMART for $12, so I bought one in each pattern available.  Same goes for the jeans, cardigans, tshirts, and sweaters–soooo… everything I bought.  I literally got one of everything in the colors that I liked that were still available in my size.

5.  Buy neutral, casual clothes that you can spruce up.  Ok, I don’t have any scientific data to back me up here.  But in my experience, neutral, casual items tend to be less expensive than the super slinky, ruffly, fancy-designs clothes.  I always buy clothes with a simple pattern and usually in a tshirt material.  They are easy to make look fancier by adding the right accessories or dress slacks/skirts, but can also be worn for day-to-day activities.  An added bonus:  since the items are neutral, they can be worn lots of different ways, so your wardrobe options grow a lot!

Bonus!!  Don’t buy at the first store you walk into.  This was a great tip from my husband!  While shopping, compare prices at similar stores, and then go back to make a purchase, after you feel confident you are getting the best deal. When we were shopping, we walked into Ann Taylor first.  I knew going in that Ann Taylor was a little on the pricey side, but I do love their clothes, so we decided to go anyway.  I found 3 shirts there for a total of $40 on sale.  That was slightly more than I care to pay in general for knit tops ($13 including tax), but I thought they were really nice and bought them.  The very next store we walked into (New York & Co.) had similar clothes that were equally beautiful for about $7 apiece.   Had I waited to check out the comparable items at other stores, I probably wouldn’t have bought the Ann Taylor shirts.  I even asked my husband if I could go return the shirts from Ann Taylor, but he said I should keep them anyway, so I did 🙂

So using all of these tips (except for the bonus one that we learned afterward), I was able to find my new wardrobe for less than 1/3 of the retail price.  Hopefully if you need to shop soon, this list will help you do the same!

What are some of your tips to save money while shopping for clothes?  Comment below 🙂

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Summer Saving: Taking Advantage of SALES!! Part 1 (My STEALS)

Well, due to life circumstances, my “Summer Saving” series has been less than stellar.  But I thought I would end it here with what I believe is the best post of my life.  Well, that may be an exaggeration, but I am so excited about this that I don’t even care.

Let me preface by saying first that I really really do NOT like spending money on myself.  I always find myself justifying how every extra penny can and should go toward our debt payment.  And usually that’s what happens.

Now.

I’m about to be very humble right now by sharing the following information:

I’m still wearing maternity pants.

Yea.

My baby is 10 months old.  I’m still nursing him.  And I’m really not too far off from my pre-pregnancy weight.  (things I tell myself).  But I’m really not a fan of tight clothes or muffin tops, and when you have both of those things, it’s just not pretty.  So, my husband, being the awesome guy that he is, forced me to spend money on myself to get brand new clothes that make me look and feel good.  Thus, my desperately needed postpartum wardrobe.

Here’s a look at the items I got today.

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Cardigans

Patterned:  LOFT $7.79 (reg. $49.99)

Solid:  NY&C $14.99 each (reg. $39.95)

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More cardigans and light sweaters

Yellow:  NY&C $7.99 (reg. $26.95)

Green Stripes:  NY&C  $9.99 (reg. $39.95)

Blue Stripes:  NY&C $7.99 (reg. $32.95)

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Shirts

Blue Floral:  Ann Taylor $9.99 (reg. $29.99)

Grey:  Ann Taylor $12.49 (reg. $34.99)

Pink Floral:  Ann Taylor $14.99 (reg. $44.99)

Dark Beige:  LOFT $9.88 (reg. $29.99)

Sparkly Beige:  LOFT $3.59 (reg. $29.99)

Tank Top:  LOFT $14.99 (reg. $34.99)

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Dresses and pants

Dresses:  LOFT $11.99 each (reg. $49.99)

Jeans:  NY&C $24.97 each (reg. $49.95)

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My new wardrobe 🙂

Had I paid full price for everything, I would have spent $686.91 including tax.  However, I am a bargain shopper (we know this, right?) and I paid $220.39.  For those familiar with math (I don’t include myself in this category), that is LESS THAN 1/3 THE RETAIL PRICE.

In my next installment, I will share how I scored these deals (no, it didn’t include opening up credit cards to get a larger discount.  Although they definitely tried to tempt me), and what to look for when shopping for a new wardrobe so you can get awesome deals like this too 🙂

Stop The Vacation Blues, Save More Green

Originally posted on Three Peas Services:
Thinking about planning a family vacation? Are you already hyperventilating just thinking about the cost? We have compiled some of our best travel and vacation tips. From dining to lodging to entertainment, save big…

Summer Saving: Home Made Lemon Sugar Body Scrub

home made lemon sugar body scrub recipeI’ve had five lemons sitting in my fridge for a while now.  Today I decided to actually put them to use!  You all know me…  I like a quick and easy recipe, and that’s just what this is!!  This took me just a few minutes to make and smells good enough to eat!  Which, technically you can do 😉

ingredients

Items needed:

2 cups white sugar

2-3 lemons

2-3 tbsp. coconut oil

jar

microplane zester

1.  Pour 2 cups sugar into a bowl and stir in the juice of 2 lemons (the third isn’t used until the end).   Mix until lemon juice is evenly distributed.

lemon juice

2.  Add coconut oil, 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency.  I used 3 tablespoons.  You can stop here if you like, but I found the coconut smell was too overpowering and wanted a stronger lemon scent and color.

3.   If you choose to do so, add the zest of 3 lemons.  This will add to the delicious lemon-y scent and will give it a natural lemon color, as seen in the photo below.

That’s pretty much it!!  Told you it would be easy:)

 Enjoy!!

lemon scrub

 

Summer Saving: Saving on Water

Saving on water.  Let me just start by saying that the biggest way my family has cut our water bill was by selling our house with the big yard and built-in sprinkler system.  During the summer, since we live in Texas, we would spend anywhere between $150-200 PER MONTH on water, and our grass was still brown.  I believe in watering the ground, but not at that cost.  So yea, tip number 1, to save money on water, sell your house and get a smaller yard.

Just kidding.

I mean, I’m not, but that’s a really unreasonable thing for me to suggest.  I have a few other things that we have done to save on the cost of water during these summer months.

1.  Take timed showers.  Decide what a reasonable amount of time for a shower is for you and your family, set a timer, and stick to it!  I would suggest setting it on your phone (if possible) so you can set a 5-minute warning timer first, and then have the second and final one go off at your cut-off time.  Or you can purchase one of those sand timers that stick to your shower wall and have a visual reminder.

2.  Don’t let the water run while washing dishes.  I started doing this a few months ago when I realized I spent about 20 minutes per day washing dishes (I happen to let them pile up frequently), which means 20 minutes of mostly wasted water per day.  I decided I would start filling the sink with warm, soapy water instead and use that water to rinse off dishes before going in the dishwasher.  I don’t do this for hand-washed dishes though because that’s gross.

3.  Collect rain water for plants, gardens.  I wish I could count on this in Waco.  I don’t think we get enough consistent rain here in Central Texas for me to be able to do this all the time, but for those of you in climates that actually get frequent rains, this is a great way to keep your plants going.

4.  Don’t play in sprinklers.  For those of you with kids, see if your city has a splash pad you can take your kids to play.  I know in Waco, we have five different FREE splash pads around the various parks in town.  I guess it’s technically not saving actual water consumption, but it will definitely help you save on your personal water bill.

Just a few thoughts.  I’m sure lots of you have great ideas for saving on your water bill.  Leave more ideas in the comments!!

Summer Saving: Make Your Own SPF Sunscreen with Coconut Oil

I found this post a while ago, and thought it would be perfect to share for my Summer Saving series.  Health Starts in the Kitchen shares this recipe for homemade all-natural sunscreen with SPF 20 protection.  See her recipe here.

I calculated the cost for this recipe so you can see the savings.

Coconut Oil, 16 oz.                       $8.99

Shea Butter Lotion, 13 oz.         $8.79

Zinc Oxide Powder, 16 oz.         $11.87

When I did the math to figure out the cost per batch, I discovered you will pay $10.17 for an all-natural, chemical free sunscreen!!

The all-natural brand name suncreen that Health in the Kitchen compares this to is Dr. Mercola.  I found an 8 oz. SPF 30 directly from the Mercola website for $18.97.

This homemade recipe yields 16 oz. and is $8 cheaper!   I will definitely be trying this!

*Edit:  Mercola’s sunscreen costs $2.37/oz.  This recipe is $0.64/oz

Today’s Grocery Run

To begin our celebration of summer (my husband Josh is a teacher, so summer is indeed a celebration), we are going on a mini-vacation/hunting trip.  This was sort of a last-minute decision, so we had very minimal funds in the budget to make this happen…  But Josh was determined that he would get us a hog, and I’m not one to discourage free bacon, so we made a way in our budget.

For the entire trip, including gas, we budgeted $150.  This is for a two and a half day stay at a friend’s ranch that is three hours away.  We are only providing one meal and our stay at the ranch will be worked off by my husband 😉

I needed to make a grocery run because we are providing breakfast on one of the days.  Also, I don’t believe in traveling with cloth diapers and frozen baby food (been there, done that, not doing it again), so I needed to pick up some of those things to make life simple.  Take a look at what I got for just $35!

vacation groceriesFrom left to right:

  • 4 loaves honey wheat bread at 67 cents per loaf (reg. $1.67)
  • Pillsbury cinnamon rolls $2 each (not on sale)
  • Sweet Home Farms granola $4.47
  • HEB Vanilla Greek Yogurt FREE with granola purchase (reg. $3.98)
  • Hill Country Fare 42-pack disposable diapers $4.98
  • HEB coffee $2.68
  • HEB digestive cookies FREE with coffee purchase (reg. $1.98)
  • HEB baby puffs $1.56 each
  • Gerber natural baby food $1.08 per 2-pack (not on sale)
  • 2.77 lbs bananas at 48 cents per pound
  • 1.5 lb bacon $8.78
  • HEB ready made sausage and biscuits FREE with bacon purchase (reg. $2.98)

With coupons and store-brand savings, I saved $19.82.  That means I got $55.51 worth of groceries for $35.69!!

Using $36 of our budget for groceries for the weekend means we still have $114 for gas and enjoying ourselves while we are gone.  Feeling pretty good about that.

 

Summer Saving: Saving on Energy, Part 2

Earlier this week I shared some of the things we do around our house to save on lighting and cooling.  Today is all about saving energy on appliances and electronics.

Let me start by saying that yes, you can save money by purchasing all energy star and HE appliances!   And if you have budgeted to purchase new, energy efficient appliances and other electric items in the house, by all means do so!  It will definitely save you in the long run.  But for those of us who aren’t in that same place, here are some ideas on how to save on appliances and electronics without having to invest anything.

1. Lower the temperature on your water heater.  I have read that for every 10 degrees you turn down your water heater, you will save between $12-30 annually.  While that’s not huge (a dollar per month barely seems worth it), when you do this in addition to lots of other small energy saving changes, it starts to add up!

2. Turn off the heated dry setting on your dishwasher.  I did this a few months ago.  I’m totally not the person who wants to stand at the sink for an extra ten minutes to hand-dry all of my dishes… so when the dishwasher finishes, I just open it and let the dishes air dry.  I know myself and I don’t unload the dishwasher immediately anyway.  So at least this way I have an excuse as to why I’m not unloading it…  or so I tell myself 😉

3.  Use hot water for laundry sparingly.  I do about 5 loads of laundry each week.  One load for my husband’s and my clothes, one load of our son’s clothes, and then usually 2-3 loads of diapers (we use cloth diapers).  The only thing that always gets washed in hot water is the diapers.  With the rest of our laundry, I give it a once over to see if it will work to just use cold water, or if it needs a little temperature boost to help get rid of stains, etc.

4. Don’t preheat the oven.  I have never done this mostly because I always thought it was a wasted step anyway.  For those of you who actually know what you’re doing in the kitchen– if you know why a preheated oven is important, then please tell me.  But until I figure out if it’s actually necessary, I don’t plan on doing it.  Using the oven is already going to heat up your house.  Leaving it on for longer will just give it that much more time to get warm.  At least that is my reasoning.

5.  Shut down the computer and turn off the TV.  We have a habit in our house of leaving the computer on all day (and sometimes all night).  In fact, after I finish this blog post, I’m guessing I will walk away and forget to shut down, even after writing this!  I also like to have something on TV as background noise while I do housework.  These are a waste of energy, obviously, since the electronics are running when no one is using them.  I am still working on this one, but I’m committed to doing it 🙂

That’s all I’ve got for today.

If you have other ideas on how to save on energy during the summer, share in the comments!!

Summer Saving: Saving on Energy, Part 1

In my household, the majority of our utilities budget goes toward energy… mostly because we live in Texas and it’s hot and air conditioning is necessary and expensive.  Because of this, I am always seeking out new ways to save on our energy bill.  By changing just a few things, we have been able to cut our electric bill quite a bit.  My philosophy is to make small changes to cut the bill without making my family suffer (not using a/c when it’s 100+ degrees and humid really isn’t an option).

I doubt any of my thoughts on this subject are earth shattering, but I figured I would share some of the things we have been doing over the years that have helped us to save on energy.

1.  Raise the temperature in the house.  Even a couple degrees can make a big diference.  Our house temperature is currently kept at 76 degrees and although it’s taken us a few weeks to get used to the warmer temperature (we keep it chilly in the winter), we are now very comfortable.

2. Use Ceiling fans to keep the air moving in the warmer temperature.  A ceiling fan (or oscillating fan, or whatever other fan) uses wayyyy less energy than an air conditioning unit.  For us, this has been the key to feeling comfortable in a 76 degree house.

3a. Turn off the lights whenever possible.  Our house is bright, even with the blinds shut.  We mostly utilize the natural light, and only keep 1 or 2 lamps on in the living room during the day.   Any time we leave a room, we make sure to turn off lights.

3b. Use fluorescent bulbs.  These last longer (I’ve used fluorescent bulbs for 8 years and have never replaced a single one) and they also use less energy.

4. Keep the blinds and other window treatments closed.  Even though I just talked about utilizing natural light, we don’t let the excess heat come in through the windows by opening blinds and curtains.

*The next tips may cost a little bit of money as an initial investment, but will save you money in the long run*

5. Invest in thermal/light blocking curtains.  I personally wouldn’t suggest doing this for every room in your house.  Think about where the sun shines during the warmest part of the day.  If your house is in the shade for the majority of the day, it may not even be worth it for your family.  But in our house, during the late afternoon, the sun comes in our son’s nursery and heats it up quite a bit.  By hanging thermal/light blocking curtains, we are able to keep the temperature down, which then keeps the a/c unit from kicking on too frequently.

6.  Make sure all windows and doors are properly sealed.  We are still working on this at our house.  In our kitchen in particular, several windows don’t properly seal, and you can actually feel the warm air coming in at those places.  We also have 2 doors to the outside in our kitchen and neither one seals properly (the joys of owning a 71 year old home).  My plan is to get some weather stripping for the doors until we can budget for replacing them with properly fitting steel entry doors.

By doing these things, we have managed to keep our electric bill under $100 for the 8 months that we have lived in this house.  We live in a 1400 square foot home and our average bill since moving here has been $78.26.  That is totally worth it!!

If you have other tips for saving on lighting and cooling, share in the comments below!!   

Stay tuned for part 2 on Thursday, Saving Money on Energy with your appliances!!

Summer Saving: New Cash Envelope System

For my first post in this series I wanted to share my new cash envelope system. If you are on a budget, I highly recommend you adopt a cash envelope system. I was resistant to it for a long time for two reasons:

1. Our bank is out of town and it’s inconvenient to have to use the ATM every time we need cash.  Also, having to work it out so our cash is in multiples of 20s is kind of a pain.

And

2. I was certain I could demonstrate some amount of restraint with my debit card.

Which was untrue.

I believe we’ve already established that Mary and self-control generally don’t go in the same sentence (read my post about Walmart). Unless you’re saying Mary doesn’t have self-control.  Anyway, recently I have realized the errors of my ways and have fully embraced the cash envelope system.

This system will help you save money this summer for one main reason: if you don’t have the cash to pay for something, you can’t buy it. That simple.

I’ve mentioned before about attending Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. During that class we learned about the importance of paying cash for everything you can. If you’d like to know more about this, click here.

I originally had a cash envelope system that was literally envelopes with cash in them. I was not a fan of this system because it felt disorganized just having a bunch of envelopes floating around.  Also, I’m a bit haphazard at times and I just knew at some point the envelopes would tear, or get lost, I’d lose track of things, and every thing would come crashing down. So yesterday I revamped my cash envelope system and I am already loving it!

mini-accordion file

I bought this mini-accordion file a couple of years ago for 98¢. I had my own business at the time and was using it to organize my business-related purchases.  Now I keep my driver’s license, check book, our A+ card, coupons, and gift cards in the front, and I labeled the each of tabs with a sharpie marker for each of the cash categories in our budget.

cash envelope system

These categories include:

giving– currently revamping, but as of right now, this is for spontaneous giving, as well as gift giving (birthdays, etc.).

grocery– self-explanatory.

gas– self-explanatory.

household– for items such as cleaning products, toilet paper, batteries, etc. Anything related to the household that is not edible.

pets– for food, occasional treats and toys.

entertainment– for family activities such as eating out, going to the zoo, etc.

miscellaneous– for those times when you just have to buy something that wasn’t in the budget.  AKA our cash version of the emergency fund. It’s only $20.

Josh
Mary
Josiah

The last three are for purchases that we as individuals may need or want. For example, Josiah (our son) may need new socks.  Or I may just want to buy him books or a toy. These categories are our own spending money to use as we like.

In the past, when I’ve budgeted for these cash categories, I’ve used the debit card to pay for them.  Unfortunately, it is wayyyyy too easy to go over budget with a debit card.  “I know the money is there… I’m $2.50 over budget.  I’ll make up for it somewhere else.  No big deal.”

Dave Ramsey says, “While debit cards can’t get you directly into debt, if used carelessly, they can cause you to over-spend. There’s something psychological about spending cash that hurts more than swiping a piece of plastic. If spending cash whenever possible can become a habit, you’ll be less likely to over-spend or buy on impulse.”  Source: daveramsey.com

If you’re not already using a cash envelope system, this may be your first step to saving this summer!!