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

I Hate the Grocery Store

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

Obligatory Resolutions Post

I Hate the Grocery Store


Obligatory Resolutions Post

I’ve noticed a theme this year when it comes to resolutions. Seems like everyone I’ve talked to (or read) has said the same thing – they don’t normally do resolutions but this year is different. Why is this year so different for everyone? While I can’t speak for humanity as a whole, I can tell you my position. For me, I’m making resolutions because I feel stronger this year than I ever have about setting and hitting certain goals. In previous years I had some vague notions of what I wanted in my life, but nothing specific. This year, I’m getting down to brass tacks and making things happen!

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s just as important to plan out how you are going to meet a goal as it is to define it.

So, here are my resolutions for this year (BTW, it makes it way more fun if I put catchy names to them so, bear with me and my cheesiness):

Project T&T (Tone and Tighten)

What: Lose the 3 pounds I put on over the holidays and then tone up all over. I REALLY want to get rid of this muffin top and I’d love to have more definition in my arms, legs, and abs. I’m already seeing more tone from doing the one hundred push ups program. Hoping to see even more progress as I continue. But the goal here is to maintain my weight loss so that all the work I did last year doesn’t go to waste.

How: By doing what I already know works – watching calories (I’ve found that 1400 calories a day works for my body when trying to lose weight) and steady workouts. You may have noticed that a couple of weeks ago I added a section to the right sidebar called “Today’s Workout”. In here, I will record what exercises I’ve done each day. This holds me accountable and call also give you ideas if you’re in a workout rut.

Operation Dream Home

What: Sell our current house and buy our forever home (then I can cross that off the bucket list!). To do that, we have to make sure our house is in tip-top shape so that we can sell it quickly and at our asking price (or close).

How: First off, I’m planning to go through each room and de-clutter. We’ve accumulated too much “stuff” and it needs to go. Once the extra junk is gone, I want to re-organize the remaining items. This will help keep me sane and it will present the house in a neat and tidy way. We also have various things around the house that need fixing or updating: scratched baseboards, repainting the walls, getting new sinks, etc. We have some good friends who are realtors so I want to invite them over and do a walk through of our house as it exists today. They can then tell us what we need to invest time and money into and what we can leave as is.

Here’s one project I’ve already finished – the “catch all” kitchen counter. We have an area to the left of the stove that is where we keep files, stamps, papers to shred, my purse, etc. It is always so messy and I am constantly losing stuff.

Here’s the before:

Notice the files in the back are all crammed in together, there is stuff scattered on the counter, and my purse and lunch bag are eating up a lot of space. So, I put hanging file holders on the wall and labeled them “To Shred” and “To File”. This got rid of one filing system on the counter and freed up some space there.

Here’s the after:

Doesn’t that look so much better? It was a simple fix that went a long way.

Mission Debt Diet

What: To pay off all credit card debt and pay down loans, while also creating a nest egg. To be honest, we really don’t have that bad of credit card debt when compared to the national average. But it’s still more than I’m comfortable with so this year it will be paid off. I also want to pay down as much of our mortgage and car payments as possible so that we’re in a better spot come Spring/Summer when we buy a new house.  

How: Budget, budget, budget! I created a spreadsheet that lays out our fixed expenses (bills) versus variable expenses (shopping, groceries, eating out, etc) and our income. Our bank has a neat feature that shows us our spending report for 2010 (how much we spent in various categories throughout the year). So, I took that and figured out what our monthly spending was in each area.  Then we came up with our new budget goals. Here’s an example:

I then created an expenses worksheet that will help us track our spending. I broke out sections for each area and included our dollar allotment at the top. As we spend, we’ll write it on the worksheet and can then see how close we’re getting to our budgeted goal. We’ll have to use it for a while and make adjustments as we go but I think it will help.

Ihave posted it in the kitchen so we remember to record our expenses:

(inside our pantry door)

(Sidenote – see the wall sconce in the background? That’s the one Isabella’s woobie got lost in way back when. Yeah.)

This one will really challenge us to get creative. We’ll have to shop smart, plan meals, and say “no”. It will definitely be an adjustment but it’s necessary and after a while, we’ll get used to it and it won’t feel so restrictive.

There you have it!  Those are my 3 resolutions for 2011. I think they are all doable and I’m really gung-ho about them right now. By posting them here, I’m hoping this will help me stay accountable. The competitive side of me will not want to admit public defeat!!

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Sweatin’ to the Oldies

Bucket List

135 and 135 are not the same

I hate the grocery store

But I love all the food I come home with!

Grocery shopping is something I dread. I don’t like dealing with the crowds or waiting in line at the checkout or scouring the shelves for something I can’t find. Plus, the cheap skate in me sees dollar signs as I continue to fill up my cart.

To counter that, I clip coupons. Yes, I’m a coupon clipper. I don’t go crazy like some women do. I simply check the Sunday paper looking for deals on things which we normally buy. A coupon is not a savings if it ‘tricks’ you in to buying something you wouldn’t normally get.

Anyway, today I realized that I needed to bite the bullet and go. Our cupboards were getting bare and Munchkin was running out of some essentials too. So I began the process: 1) take a quick inventory and make a list of what’s needed 2) go through cookbooks and plan meals for the week. Add necessary items to the list. 3) Go through coupons and see what can be used. 4) Pack Munchkin in the car and hit the road!

I have a routine once I get to the store too. Start at produce and work my way across the store, checking off items on my list as I go. I try to stick to the list and the coupons but I occasionally add extra things. I’m also starting to “stock up” and add items that we use regularly that we might not need right away, but if it’s on sale, makes sense to grab.

Today I had Munchkin with me. She is actually a really good shopper. She sits in the cart and pretty much watches everyone. Sometimes she is antsy so I always have a good supply of toys/snacks with me to keep her distracted. Today she was in to the whole “experience” so as we walked down the aisles, I pointed out things to her that she would recognize. “Peaches!” “Red apples!” “Crackers” We got stopped by no less than 3 people telling me how cute she is. She simply flashed her best smile at them and giggled. What a charmer!

Most of the time the overhead music sort of fades in to the background for me, along with the other white noise like people on their cell phones, the chop of meat on the butcher block, the squeaky wheels of the carts, kids screaming for mom, and the beep of the cash register. But today I really noticed it because Munchkin noticed it. She was cart dancing! She would bop her head, shimmy a little, and swing her feet. It was so darn cute! That in turn made me want to dance so we moved up and down the aisles, shaking to the beat.

I was able to get lots of yummy healthy options for us to have on hand. When I got home I went in to organizational mode and started putting things away, while also tossing old items. The cupboards not only look full, but also neat and tidy!

Right now I have some chicken noodle soup in the crock pot, simmering. Dinner will be that with some whole wheat rolls and brownies or cupcakes for dessert. Yum!