Retail Therapy

Last week I got my first bonus at work. It was really awesome considering I hadn’t received a bonus for 3 years before that! Winning!

Anywho, part of me wanted to be responsible with it and part of me wanted to have some fun! So I compromised. I decided to put 10% of the bonus in savings, spend 10% however I wanted and then apply the rest toward our credit card balance. Sounds fair, right?

Well I couldn’t wait to get out and start shopping. For the splurge, I was going to buy some much needed new clothes for myself. I needed some change! So over lunch, I hit the mall with a vengeance. My plan was to go to every women’s clothing store there, that wasn’t a department store. I would go directly to the clearance racks and only buy something on sale. Generally I have trouble when I shop clearance racks but that’s because I am looking for something specific. When I go with an open mind, it works better.

My other goal was to leave a little love note, Operation Beautiful style, in each dressing room I used. Here was the first one:


I left this one in the bathroom, on the stall door. I saw a lady go in there as I was leaving the bathroom. I hope she enjoyed it!

At first the shopping was slow going. The stores I went to either didn’t have a clearance area or there was nothing for me. But that didn’t stop me from leaving a note for the next shopper!


First of all, pardon my bad hair day. It was really humid and I was pulling shirts over my head a lot. Secondly, I kind of have a crazed look in my eye. I think I was trying to smile, look in the mirror and look at the camera all at the same time. The result – crazy-eyed Sarah!

Finally my luck changed when I got to New York & Co. I ended up with 3 shirts and a pair of shoes from there.


The shirt on the right is one of the ones I bought.

dressing room

Here I am modeling one of the other shirts. Do I look fabulous darling? The grand total for my purchase at NY&Co? $63! Boo-yah!

From there I headed to DSW to see about getting some shoes. I tried on several pair and after hemming and hawing, decided on 2 that I liked. One pair of flats and one pair of sandal heels.

Here’s my note:


And these are the heels I ended up getting.


I think they’re sassy and I love the color. Not your typical brown but more of a bronze. They are quite comfortable too! Grand total for 2 pair of shoes – $42!

After DSW, it was off to Old Navy! I didn’t try anything on there because I was running short on time. I was also in search of something to get for CJ and Isabella. After all, they should get some bonus money splurge too!

I found a shirt for me, 2 t-shirts for CJ (Superman and Captain America) and an outfit for Isabella. You can see part of it here:


By then my time was up and I had to rush back to work. It felt really good to get out and do some shopping for myself. I haven’t really bought any new clothes in months and my wardrobe was looking tired. Isn’t it amazing how a couple shirts and shoes can make life just a little more exciting?

Can’t wait for the next bonus!

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I haven’t blogged in a while about the progress of our budget and financial goals. That’s because there really isn’t any progress. We were doing so good for a while. Then it came time to get the house in order and it seemed like we were spending money left and right. We had to buy cleaning products, paint, supplies, trim, rent a storage unit, and on and on. I was still trying to keep spending in check but after a while just gave up.

Then we started planning for our big summer vacation. We’re taking an 8 day road trip up to Michigan and coming home through Wisconsin. 8 days on the road with a toddler means being prepared and having lots of supplies. We probably could have flown to MI for cheaper but 1) we didn’t want to deal with the hassle of checking/carrying a car seat and stroller and pack n’play and all her other gear, and 2) we actually enjoy long road trips. They’re fun and adventurous. However, all the supplies we needed for that – toys/books to keep Isabella busy in the car, snacks, luggage for her, clothes, oil change, and so on – cost money.

Between the house and the trip, our credit card is getting a work out.

I’ve tried to be somewhat frugal. I went to the library and borrowed some audio books instead of buying them. Any toys I bought were generally from the dollar bin at Target, on sale, or given to us by my parents. The snacks we bought at Sam’s Club in bulk. I think we’ve been smart about it, but spending is still spending.

Every time I pull out the credit card I think of Suze Orman or Mary Hunt or any number of frugal bloggers that I read and feel a tad guilty. But whaddya gonna do?

All hope is not lost though. We’ve had some extra money flow in here and there and I’ve applied it toward the credit card. So while we’re charging a lot, we’re also paying off some too. Are they evening out? Probably not. But at least we’re making a dent.

I’ll be happy when life settles down a bit and we can get back to better spending habits.

We leave for our trip next week and I’m excited about it. I haven’t traveled in a while and am getting the itch! We will have fun and most importantly, get to show Isabella that there’s more to the world than Omaha and Council Bluffs. I am so looking forward to seeing her take in everything, meet new people, learn new things and have fun. That’s really what it’s all about. Yes, I want to pay down some debt and I know we have to reduce spending to do that. But we also have to enjoy life. And if that means buying my daughter a souvenir on our trip or splurging for ice cream every night, we will do it!



On a side note, here was my conversation with Isabella tonight as we were getting ready for her bath:

  • Me [reaching in to the hall closet and discovering we only had one clean towel]: Looks like we need to do some laundry!
  • Isabella: At the laundry mat!
  • Me: Where did you learn about the Laundromat?
  • I: Elmo told me.
  • Me: Did Elmo go to the Laundromat?
  • I: No, Tully did.
  • Me: Oh. What did Tully do there?
  • I: Washed his shirts!
  • Me: How did he do that?
  • I: In the machine!
  • Me: Oh I see. What else did he do?
  • I: Go to the playground! Can we go to the playground mommy?

She’s already a pro at manipulating the conversation to go her way. Silly girl!

Have a good weekend!

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I tried to save money last week and got burned.

Isabella and I went shopping and one of the items on my grocery list was moisturizer. Let me just start by saying that I have sensitive skin. When I was in high school, I washed with Noxzema and moisturized with Ponds ( – and took Geritol complete…gees, that sentence makes me sound like a grandma) and it did the trick. In college I decided I needed the latest and greatest products so I was always switching to whatever was trendy (remember Biore strips anyone?).  Well, all that product hopping wreaked havoc on my skin and by the time of graduation, I was a pimply mess. I had NEVER  had trouble with acne my whole life and now here I was, 22 years old, about to head out in to the real world, and I’m popping zits. Great.

I tried everything to fix it. Products marketed specifically for acne-prone skin, medication, doctor prescribed creams…nothing worked until I was put on The Pill. That cleared it right up and I vowed to never stop taking it. Shortly after starting on The Pill, I switched back to Noxzema and used Dove or Oil of Olay for moisturizer (because they were cheap) but didn’t really think much of its effect on my skin until I went off The Pill a few years ago (when we were trying for our first baby).

My skin stayed clear and I realized it was because I wasn’t punishing it with harsh chemicals and things. For my skin, less is more. Now that I’ve figured that out, all is good.

Until this week.

In my quest to stick to the budget, I bought the generic face cream that says it’s equivalent to Oil of Olay. Hey, it was $3 cheaper! Score! I buy generic stuff all the time and have no problem. In fact, in some cases I prefer generic brands (like with macaroni n’cheese. I know – Kraft is supposed to be the best but I personally think the cheaper the mac n’cheese, the cheesier it actually is. I’ve eaten my fair share too so I know what I’m talking about here people)! But this time it wasn’t a great substitute.

I got home and started using the moisturizer and noticed right away that it wasn’t as thick as the brand name product. Then I noticed how my skin still felt dry even after I had used it, and I had to reapply.

My skin rebelled and decided to erupt.

As I was washing my hands after using the bathroom yesterday morning I looked in the mirror and saw a patch of dry scaly, flaky skin right on my chin. GAK! How embarrassing! I immediately put lotion on it and spent the rest of the day hiding my face and talking with my hand up to my mouth like I was thinking hard about something but really I was covering the hideousness of my skin.  

So I’m left with a dilemma. Do I keep using the cheap stuff until it’s gone, knowing I’ll have to reapply it like 5 times each morning OR do I call it a loss and go buy what works for me? The penny-pincher in me cringes at the thought of throwing an almost full bottle of moisturizer away but my vein side is screaming “GET RID OF IT BEFORE YOUR FACE TURNS IN TO A LIZARD!” I followed the screaming, somewhat dramatic second voice and bought some new stuff on my way home tonight.

Lesson learned: some generics are great. Other products it’s best to just pay the extra money.

(Oh, and now I’m craving mac n’cheese.)

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The Magic Behind Couponing

In the spirit of saving money and keeping to a budget, I’m trying to be really disciplined about couponing. Every Sunday I look through the ads and see if there are any coupons or sales that are useful to me. I get a little thrill when I find one, especially if it’s something that I know I need soon.

Being a “couponer” takes commitment and let me tell you, it’s hard to really do it right.

Sure, anyone can clip a coupon. Anyone can see something that will save them $.50 on yogurt, take it to the store and hand it to the cashier. That’s easy. Only amateurs do that.  Doing it in such a way as to save the maximum amount of money and get the best deal, is really hard.

It takes a lot of time and commitment. Time and commitment that I don’t have (or at least don’t want to devote).

To do it right, you have to read all the ads and determine which one has the best deal on say, toilet paper.  Then you find toilet paper coupons. And don’t forget to scour the web too! There could be $.25 out there for you! Once you have that figured out, you move on to the next item and it may or may not be on sale at the same store as the T.P. which means you may have to drive to another store for maximum savings. You continue this process until all your items are covered. By the time you’re done, you could end up driving to 5 different stores and trying to remember what you were supposed to get at each one and not lose the coupons in the process.

Who has time for that?

I saw a show once where a guy went in and literally bought hundreds of dollars worth of groceries and only paid $3 because of all his coupons. I totally admire someone that can do that.

So, while I do want to save money where and when I can, I also want to keep my sanity in the process. Maybe I can hire someone to do it for me. Course, I’d have to spend money on the Couponer which might defeat the purpose.

Unless I can find a coupon for a Couponer.

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Resolutions Update, 1

1 month down, 11 to go.

Since we have one month of the New Year under our belt, I thought it would be a good time to check in with how my resolutions are going. This helps to keep me accountable!

Here’s where I stand on my 3 resolutions:

Project T&T

Goal: To lose the 3 pounds I’d gained over the holidays and basically tone and tighten all over.

Update: Well I lost the 3 lbs. but not the way I intended to nor in a way that will provide lasting results. Case in point, I’ve put 2 of them back on. I was feeling pretty down and being hard on myself this weekend as I realized I haven’t made much progress here. The problem is that though I work out regularly and hard, I don’t eat that healthy. Let’s just say I have a hard time saying “no.”

Then I did a reality check. First of all, the number on the scale means nothing. What matters is how I feel and how healthy I am. I have a clean bill of health so that’s not an issue. What is the issue is how I feel about my looks. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m hard on myself. I won’t accept anything less than perfection (just ask Team Trader – last week at volleyball I got disgusted with the mistakes I was making and stopped talking. Real grown up,  I know.). But I also know that perfection isn’t possible. Heck, even supermodels and celebrities have cellulite!

To that end, here’s what I can say with pride:

  • Thanks to the one hundred pushups program, my arms are getting toned. Look out Michelle Obama, here comes Sarah Trader!
  • I have long, lean, and muscular legs. They really got toned up this summer while I trained for a 5k and I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to keep them sculpted.
  • C-Sections wreak havoc on your abs. They cut ‘em right open and it’s really hard to get them toned again. So while my stomach isn’t flat anymore, my abs are strong thanks in part to the two hundred sit ups program.  I still have some extra fat to take off the top so that my six pack can make an appearance, and I’ll keep working on that, but I’ll gladly pay the price of not having flat abs to have my beautiful daughter.

I will continue to push myself in my workouts and try my best with my eating. But I think that for all intents and purposes, I will call this resolution reached and stop being so freaky about it!

Mission Debt Diet

Goal: To pay off our credit card debt and pay down our mortgage and car loans, all the while socking money away in savings.

Update: This one has been good and bad. On the one hand, I’ve managed to pay off almost half of our credit card debt thanks to a nice rebate check from our FSA and regular committed “over payments.” I’ve also been able to consistently put away a dedicated amount of money into savings. I’m really happy about both of those accomplishments.

What we haven’t done so well on is sticking to our budget. We overspent in many categories, including groceries, retail, eating out and entertainment. So it’s time to re-evaluate. Either our budget wasn’t realistic to begin with or we need to work even harder at reigning in the spending. I know for certain that there are some fast food runs that could have been skipped, shopping purchases that I didn’t need and extra groceries that weren’t necessary. I think we’ll stick with the budget as is and try again to be more frugal. If it still doesn’t work then we’ll see if the numbers need to change.

[Update 2/1/11: OK so I was totally wrong. I actually went in and added up our spending from  January today and it turns out we were UNDER budget by $73! Go us!] 

Operation Dream Home

Goal:  Clean, de-clutter, and organize our house, in preparation for putting it on the market this Summer.

Update:  I started out really gung-ho on this and have faded a bit. I got some projects done right off the bat and was really excited. But then I got busy, and I was seeing us going over budget, so I stopped. I haven’t done any more projects but what we have done is maintain the organization that I put in place already. The play corner has really helped keep the living room in order and we removed the coffee table (because I always worried that Munchkin would hit her head on the edge) which gives us even more room. Our new filing system in the kitchen has been awesome. And I’ve even kept up with my Perpetual Journal, writing in it every day.



I still need to go through closets and other rooms in the house, but that will come. We also need to ID other more “major” projects to be done and get going on those. Last night we CJ steam cleaned the carpets so that was good. They look sooooo much better!


I didn’t talk about any other resolutions in my original post but there are some things I’ve thought of over the weeks that I want to do on a more regular basis. Here they are:

  • Reach out and call friends to chat. I’ll admit that I’m not a phone person. I’d rather meet and hang out in person or IM or email. I don’t like talking on the phone. But it is important to contact some friends, especially those I don’t see much, and stay in touch.
  • Floss every night. I know, I know. I used to be a real stickler about this. In fact I’d floss twice a day, every day. But then I got braces (for the third time) when I was in my late 20’s and ended up with 2 permanent retainers (one behind my top teeth and one behind my bottom teeth). So in order to floss, I have to use a special tool and it’s time consuming so I don’t do it every day. But I need to get back to that because, well, it’s gross not to.
  • Plan date nights. It may seem like CJ and I get a lot of date nights but we really don’t. It just so happens that we’ve had a couple in January. Usually though we get too busy to plan them. Well, not anymore. We need to put them on the calendar like any other appointment and just do it!
  • Drink more water. This one is a constant struggle for me but still something to work on.
  • Spend more time with my sister. We both live in Omaha. We’re both moms. You’d think we would hang out more but we don’t. As with everything, life gets in the way. But whenever we do have Sister Nights, it’s really enjoyable. It needs to happen more often.

That’s probably enough. Too much more and I’ll get overwhelmed.

Well, I hear my family playing upstairs so I’m going to close this up and join them for fun! Ta ta!

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