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January Blues

I hate January.  Christmas and New Year’s is over, and so are the parties and family events.  I no longer give myself excuses to eat unhealthy (but so delicious) foods, and we’re back on a budget.  January is blah.  It’s dreary.  It’s long.  It’s cold.  And with the exception of my beautiful sister’s birthday (and it’s the last day of the month so, really, it could be counted as a February event), there is nothing to look forward to.

With that in mind, and the knowledge that I am subject to getting the January blues, I decided to start a thankfulness journal.  Every day, I write one thing I’m thankful for that day.  It can be big stuff or little stuff, but it must be specific to me – not something vague like “life” or “the air I breathe”.  My intention is to do this every January, so I’m leaving room under each day’s thankfulness log for next year’s log.  Then, I can look back on what I was thankful for exactly one year (or hopefully more) ago.

Yesterday, I was thankful for one last day of winter break.  A chance to be with my family before everyone went back to school and work.  One more day of not running a taxi service.

Today, I’m thankful for my new Converse shoes.  Shallow, right?  But I am. They made school drop-off, grocery shopping, laundry, and getting back into the daily grind a little more tolerable.

What about you?  How do you combat January’s blahness? grateful

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Reduce and Reuse – but Recycle the Pickle Jar

I’m a big fan of repurposing things.  I’ve turned old glass bottles into soap dispensers, tiles into coasters, and old windows into a greenhouse box.  But, my favorite repurposing technique is reusing containers and jars, often originally containing food, to store other things.  However, it doesn’t always work out.

I especially hate throwing out glass jars.  It seems such a waste, when they could be used for other things.  After I use the contents of a jar, I wash it well and use it for something else.  One day, after finishing a jar of dill pickles, I washed it and put it aside to use later.  Not long afterwards, I picked up a big bag of dark chocolate Peanut M&Ms (yum!) at the grocery store.  I brought them home and looked for something to keep my snack in.  Remembering the pickle jar, I emptied the bag into it and put it high on a shelf (so no one stole my snack).

The next day, I went to get a few M&Ms.  I opened the jar to a whiff of pickles.  Hmmm.  I tasted one.  Yep, M&Ms infused with pickles.  Not exactly what I was going for.  And the longer the M&Ms were in the jar, the more they tasted like pickles.  I still ate them because, c’mon, it’s still chocolate.  And, on the bright side, no one wanted my snack.

So, lesson learned – put the pickle jar in the recycling bin!

Here are some other items I’ve repurposed (without the new contents smelling like the old contents):

IMG_1066

A salsa jar repurposed as a container for yeast.

IMG_1070

A jar previously containing a candle now used for miscellaneous office supplies.

IMG_1068

A food can  as a fork holder (this works great for parties).

Happy repurposing!

 

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Dirty Cup Holders and Trashy-ness

I don’t know why, but the cup holders in my car get dirty fast.  They’re a pain in the you-know-what to clean too.  So, I came up with an easy solution.  Silicone cupcake holders.  Yep.  We found the 3″ size in the store, but we were pretty sure they would be too small.  So, we went on the hunt and this is what I ordered.

Cupholders2 Cupholders1

They fit nicely into my car and they are easy to just pull out and clean.  No more dirty cup holders.  On a side note, I picked those colors on purpose.  Go Chiefs!

Trash.  What to do with it in the car.  I tried several different trash cans that you buy for the car.  The collapsible one kept, well, collapsing.  I also tried the kind that hang from the back of your seat.  That’s fine if you are sitting in the back seat, but apparently they frown on you driving from the back.  It would also be fine if you had ‘go-go gadget’ arms.  I don’t though.  So, I saw this on one of those life-hack posts.  So I tried it.  I went to ‘The Dollar Tree’ and bought a cereal container.

Trash3

There was a problem though.  It kept tipping over.  So, I added some weight to the bottom.

Trash 1

Then I put in a plastic bag, put the lid on and it’s been very handy.  Now, they will ‘never catch me ridin’ dirty’.

Trash2

That’s enough about my trash.  Those are 2 little things I use in my car for a little more convenience.

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Tech-less Tuesday

We’ve all heard of Meatless Monday.  It’s a great idea.  It saves money and it forces you to eat some vegetables, for pity sake!  My husband and I recently started Tech-less Tuesdays.  Trust me, I realize the hypocrisy, as I’m posting this on Tuesday, but it’s an exception.  When I arrive home on Tuesdays, we turn off the technology.  No phones, no tv, no computer.  We haven’t died yet.  It’s a great way to actually look each other in the eye.  It brings back something from the past, called c-o-n-v-e-r-s-a-t-i-o-n.  Can we say, conversation?  Very good!  Now, we’re not perfect.  We fall back into old habits.  But, we really don’t want this stuff to own us.  Sometimes we still turn on the tv at bedtime to wind down a little.  However, that’s after we’ve had several hours of no technology.  We are adding to this too.  We are going to turn of technology from the time I get home until after dinner every night.  So, I have to go.  I’m already breaking the rules.  You should try it.  It will surprise you how creative and fun you will become.  Less like robot, more like person.  Except this blog.  You can read it on Tuesdays, but that’s it.

Phone

NOT the black screen of death. Just turned off. Your phone will do this without breaking. I promise.

TV

Also, I need to dust.

 

 

 

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The Savings Addict Part 3

This is the final post in this 3 part series by Jennifer.  For her bio and to see the previous posts:
Click here for part 1
Click here for part 2

The Cherry On Top

Well, by now hopefully you are saving at least a few bucks but clipping aside, here are a few more ways!    Just to review where to start, first, pay attention to your most frequently purchased goods so that you can stock pile, watch the sales via the ads on Wednesdays and Sundays, and clip those coupons in Sunday papers or from online sources.    Here’s a great way to just add a little extra or a lot, depending on how you commit to it.  Apps and loyalty cards.   Beautiful things.  My mother never had these amazing little money savers when I was a wee girl.  I have a HyVee Fuel Saver card, a Chopper Shopper card, a CVS Extra Care card, a Walgreens Balanced Rewards card, a Hen House Rewards card.  I even have a Lamar’s donut card because I have a donut addiction.  If you use it, find a way to save while using it.  They are loyalty cards afterall, and if they want to pay for loyalty, let them.   These might get you a discount on products in store, or fuel, or even give you cash back for future use in the store.  Now that you’ve signed up for these plastic wonders there are some apps you should know about.

SavingStar.com

You clip coupons via the app or online and it tracks your purchases by your loyalty cards.  You enter those in when you set up your account.  You can get your coupon savings back via your back account, PayPal or gift cards from various retailers.  I had this before I finally jumped on board the the smart phone train.

Ibotta

You take surveys, post on Facebook, or watch a video to earn a certain amount of money.  You do need a smart phone or tablet for this.  You buy the product, scan the UPC, then take a picture of the receipt and viola, the money is yours.  They have bonuses for completing certain tasks which earn you extra money.  They also can be used at restaurants, online retailers, pet stores, home improvement stores, health and beauty retailers, and movies.  In less than a year its given me back $160.  You get your rebates back via PayPal, Venmo (like PayPal) or giftcards.  For me that was about $20 a month.

Shopmium

This app lets you upload the receipt for certain products and then once confirmed the rebate is put directly into your PayPal account.

Shopkick

This you don’t even have to buy anything.  You earn kicks for walking into stores with app open and for scanning products.  However if you want to enter your credit card info, they will give you more kicks as you buy certain items within these retailers.  You can buy gift cards with these kicks and if you just save them up over time maybe that can help with a big purchase.

Checkout 51

This app lets you upload the receipt for certain products and then once confirmed the rebate is added to your account.  When you reach $20 you can cash out and they will send you a check in the mail.  It changes every Wednesday and occasionally has a bonus way to earn extra.

Cartwheel

This is a Target exclusive but my favorite.  This one can be used simultaneously with Target coupons and manufacturer coupons.  This is a flat percentage off of items.  It can be anything from groceries to toys to clothing and more.  You don’t actually need the app but can sign up on Target’s website for it and select the items you’d like to save on then print out the barcode before going to the store.  Sometimes it just saves a buck or two and other times it saves way way more!  I’ve been using it since May 2013, so a little over a year, and have saved $468.  You can only use it in store but it is a gold mine.  The more you use it the more slots for savings you get.  I have 23 slots to fill and I can move things off if I want something else more.  There are limitations.  You can only buy four of each type of Cartwheel item and only use it once a day.
Little by little you will see the savings add up.  Then you can feel less of the squeeze each month or save for that special vacation or splurge or maybe just that rainy day.  However, you choose to use your savings, enjoy!  And remember, there are savings everywhere, you just have to look!

 

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Date Night on the Cheap

We have a budget.  I’m not saying we’re always perfect about following it.  However, when we’re really on a roll and following it to the letter, we sometimes don’t have a lot left to spend on date night right before the next payday.  This was the solution I came up with.  I got 3 jars.  1 has “Free” on it, 1 has $5.00 on it and 1 has $20.00 on it.  In each one is a bunch of folded papers with different date night options that correspond with the amount in that jar.  It’s a fun way to be a little spontaneous without spending a lot of money.  We draw a piece of paper according to our budget and do what it says.  Here are some of my ideas:

Twenty Dollar Jar

$20.00 Jar

I will start with the $20.00 Jar.  It’s pretty easy to come up with date ideas with 20 bucks.

1.  Take the dogs to PetSmart and get them each a treat or a toy.

2.  Split the money and go to the thrift store (we both love thrift stores).

3.  Buy a new movie (either my choice or his depending on the paper), pop some popcorn, and watch it together.

4.  Pizza and a movie rental.

5.  Go out for dessert and coffee.

6.  Go out for appetizers (there are a lot of restaurants that have 1/2 price appetizers after a certain time).

7.  Go to the grocery store, buy the stuff for dinner and cook together.

8.  Go to a retail store and buy each other a $10.00 gift.  You can do a theme (romantic, funny, fun etc..)  Try to keep it a surprise until you get home.

Five Dollar Jar

$5.00 Jar

You have to get a little more creative with $5.00, but it can be done.

1.  Go to Red Box for a movie and get drinks from QuickTrip (local gas station) or from Happy Hour at Sonic

2.  Go to the $5.00 movie bin at the local retail store and find a fun, silly, or old movie.

3.  Split a $5.00 foot long from Subway or other deli’s that have a similar deal.

4.  Go to the Dollar Tree and pick out some fun snacks for a movie at home.

5.  Take $5 worth of quarters and go clean the car together.

6.  Go out for ice cream.

Free Jar

Free Jar

This one can be a challenge, but you can do it!  Here are some of the things I came up with.  Feel free to comment with any other ideas you have.

1.  Print up instructions from the internet for a card game you’ve never played and teach yourselves how to play it.

2.  Give each other pedicures (if you can talk your husband into it).

3.  Load the dogs in the car and go for a nice drive.  Play the car alphabet game while you’re at it.

4.  Figure out something new to make for dinner with the ingredients you already have.

5.  Make dessert together.

6.  Take the dogs for a walk.

7.  Gather and take donations to the thrift store.  You can spend time together for a good cause.

8.  Go to the library.  Pick a book to read together or a book on CD to listen to together.

9.  Picnic and/or camp out in the living room (one of my personal favorites).

10.  Dress up and make a candlelight dinner.

So, there are a few of my ideas.  There is more to do than you think for very little money.  Have fun, be creative.  It doesn’t just have to be a date night thing.  You can get the whole family involved!

 

 

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What Your Pharmacist Wishes You Knew

A great post from a guest blogger, a Pharmacist, Dr. Becky.

Becky

Greetings friends! My name is Becky and I’m probably the oldest “new” pharmacy graduate you’ll ever meet! After earning my bachelor’s degree in psychology (back in the Jurassic period), I spent 11 years working as a juvenile officer. And then, one fine day, I got a wild hair and decided to go back to school to become a pharmacist. It was a long, hard journey (let me repeat…it was a long, hard journey) but definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made.   Last May, I finally became Dr. Becky (did you know most pharmacists have a doctorate???). And since then, I’ve been practicing community pharmacy and loving every minute of it!

I will probably jinx myself by saying this, but I think I’ve just about seen it all during my time in the pharmacy. Stop it. I know what you’re thinking. How could she have possibly seen it all in one short year? Keep in mind I worked as a pharmacy technician for 5 years before becoming a full-blooded pharmacist. And as I soon found out after entering the world of pharmacy, most folks assume EVERYONE behind that counter is a pharmacist and they aren’t ashamed to share the goriest details of their lives with anyone who will listen. So…I really have seen, heard (and smelled) it all. Believe me when I say nothing really shocks me anymore!

With that being said, and drawing upon the most frequently encountered scenarios in my pharmacy, I’d like to share the top three things I think you should know:

It’s all about the Benjamins.

Just because your doctor wrote for generic doesn’t mean it will be cheap. Yes, in most instances, generic is cheaper than brand. However, drug prices and insurance co-payments depend upon lots of things, unfortunately none of which I can control. But, I can help save you money by suggesting therapeutic alternatives and calling your doctor for permission to change. And as a side note, it also helps to know if your insurance plan uses a “preferred” pharmacy or mail-order services, or if you have an annual deductible. I can’t stress enough how important it is to become familiar with your prescription drug coverage, preferably before you need it. This can save you tons of money, time, and frustration. And if you don’t have insurance, take the time to call different pharmacies to compare cash prices.

No magic bullet.

Please do not waste your hard-earned money on weight loss products. Generally speaking, they are ineffective and can have detrimental effects on heart rate, blood pressure and even mood.   It pains me to say this, but when it comes to weight loss, there is no quick and easy fix (despite what you hear on Dr. Oz!). No pill will melt away unwanted fat. It’s all about good old-fashioned diet and exercise. Strive to make long-lasting life style changes that incorporate a healthful, balanced diet and adequate exercise.

Don’t believe the hype.

The internet is a great place to get reacquainted with old friends, check movie times for date night, or even find a last-minute gift for Father’s Day (which reminds me…), but it is NOT a great place to get your medication information. While there are some reputable sites, it still takes some specialized training and clinical skills to appropriately interpret the information. Otherwise, you run the risk of scaring the pants off your behind or discrediting a potentially beneficial treatment option. Listen folks, as tempted as you may be to google the name of the new drug your doctor just prescribed, do yourself a favor and come see me instead. Let me educate you. It’s what I spent 5 years of my life learning to do. And it’s my favorite part of the job.

 

Take care, God bless, and always remember to be nice to your pharmacist!

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Savings Addict Part 2

Make sure you read Part 1 of Jennifer’s guest post.  It introduces you to her and has great ideas for savings!

Click here to see part 1.

Part II- Payday!

Where are the coupons?

Well, I get a Sunday and Wednesday paper (no, not at full price, haven’t you been reading?)  I buy a 6 month subscription for $19 (less than $1 per paper) on LivingSocial or Groupon with a one month hiatus in between so I qualify as a “new subscriber” by the fine print of those deals.  In that month I have to truck it to a Dollar Tree that sells a Sunday paper for, you guessed it, $1 when it is $2 everywhere else. You should be getting the ads in your mailbox if you don’t receive the paper every Tuesday. Man I love saving everywhere! But, look out it gets addicting.

 

Savings Receipt

Savings!

Online:

Coupons.com

Redplum.com

Smartsource.com

Commonkindness.com

Hopster.com

 

Store coupons sites:

Coupons.Target.com

CVS.com (printed out at the store with a CVS rewards card)

Walgreens.com (or printed out in booklets monthly in the store)

Sprouts.com (or printed out in booklets monthly in the store)

Wholefoods.com

Other:

Brand websites

Facebook pages for brands

At the store with the catalina coupon printer (you know the thing that spits out a whole bunch of paper  next to your receipts when check out that the cashier might be throwing away in the trash…eek Money!)

What you should know about online coupons is when you print them off, usually they are set up to only let your computer print them two times and sometimes just once.  This is where having a second computer comes in handy.  You have to download a lot of coupon printer software as you go, but once its set up, you’re golden.

 

Combining coupons:

My personal favorites for Super Savings is Target because you can use a store coupon, a manufacturer coupon, cartwheel (to be discussed in the next entry if you’re curious), and a sale.  A lot of times I can get things FREE or very very cheap if I’m paying attention.  If you add a red card there’s an extra 5% off your purchase too.

Rules:

The rules for couponing are…read the fine print.  Some only allow you to use a few per shopping trip and one per product purchased. Also, know the store’s coupon policies.  Most have it on their website, but you can always ask a manager for it if you are in the store without it on hand.  While you can probably get away with using more with an absent minded cashier, it doesn’t mean you should.  Save by the rules please!  That way this beautiful way of keeping your money in your pocket instead of the store’s pockets keeps on happening!

Now that you’ve got all those coupons you have to find a way to organize them in a way that works for you.  The couponistas out there use binders.  I have 3 kiddos that go shopping with me 95% of the time and that little precious basket seat at the front is taken so there is no room at the inn for a behemoth binder.  I use a coupon organizer that I got at Target in the office organizing aisle and that goes with me everywhere.  Just in case I run into a store unplanned to pick up something.  Nothing hurts like knowing you have the coupon for something but its not with you.

Coupon Organizer 1

Coupon OrganizerCoupon Organizer 2

 

Big thing here…do what works for you.  If its not manageable, you won’t stick with it.  If you don’t stick with it, then you’ll be missing out on  A LOT OF DOUGH over time!  Happy saving!

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Savings Addict Part 1

Jennifer is a stay at home mom to 3 kids, under 5 years of age.  She is also addicted to savings.  AND she’s willing to tell you how you can be too!

Jennifer

Do you like getting a raise?  A bump in the bank account?  I do.  That can be a hard thing to do especially when it isn’t the time of year where your paycheck might actually be increasing.  But did you know that there is money in the Sunday paper and on websites that you’re probably leaving on the table?  I’m not a crazy coupon lady or an extreme couponer, but I do know that I cut my grocery budget by 35% a month by doing a few simple things. I’ll focus on the first two today.  Consider it the observation phase.

  1. Knowing my buying habits and paying attention to the supply and demand of the household
  2. Learning to shop the sales and knowing when certain items were at their lowest prices of the year.
  3. Learning the stores you shop at most, the lowest prices they sell the things you buy, and their coupon policies
  4. Finding the coupons and finding a way that worked for me to keep track and actually use them
  5. Using my smart phone to download a few apps that worked in a rebate sort of function

Savings Addict Pantry

I know what my family goes through.  I know that we go through on average 2-3 boxes of cereal a week.  Cereal has a long shelf life and so this is something I have a lot of on stock in my pantry (notice the 30+ boxes in the picture).  You have to know what those things are because you’re not saving if you’re throwing away a lot of food.  Waste not, want not.  On the other hand you are wasting money if you are waiting to buy something when you run out of it and it is not on sale and there is no coupon for it.  Maybe you’re luckier than I am, but that never happens for me.    Make a list of the top 20 things you buy and start there.

Secondly, there are sale patterns based on holidays and harvest

January- Vitamins, Health & Diet foods

February- Steak, Lobster, and Junk food

March- Frozen food

April-  Candy, Cleaning products, Baking Products and Organic and eco-friendly products

May- Condiments, charcoal, pickles, and chips

June- Salad dressing, condiments, chips, and hot dogs

July- School supplies and Ice cream

August- Lunch supplies and snack foods

September- Meat

October- Candy

November- Turkey and Thanksgiving fixings (stuffing, gravy, and canned veggies, baking products)

December- Baking products, Turkey, and Ham

As for produce, if you buy it when it is in season then you will save money.  It is also good nutritionally for you to have variety. You can see this usually on the front pages of the ads and by what is featured for the sales each week.

Happy Observing!

 

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What Your Dental Hygienist Wishes You Knew

This is the first in a new series titled “I Wish You Knew”.  We plan to cover many subjects and would love some suggestions from those of you that read this blog.  This is also our first post from a guest blogger!  My friend Andrea wrote this and it’s something that should affect everyone.  We may write a couple of these posts, but most will be from guest bloggers.  It’s funny and insightful.  Enjoy….

Hey there, my name is Andrea. I’m a wife to a studly man named Dustin and a mother to the 2 most beautiful, unique children in the world (totally not biased). I also have the privilege to call myself a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH).
My job is both difficult and fulfilling, interesting and entertaining; and you either love or hate coming to see me.
However, I’m going to let you in on a few secrets to make your future hygiene appointments a better experience for both you and your hygienist with these 5 simple things your hygienist wishes you knew!
1) PLEASE be on time to your appointments! I know your hygienist might be running behind and you may not ALWAYS get brought back right on the money. Trust me, it’s probably because her first patient of the day was late and it messed up her whole days schedule! (Grrrr)We adore our patients who are on time!
2)Please don’t cry and wine during x-rays. I know they aren’t comfortable and you think we’re radiating you enough to make you grow a tail or a 3rd arm, but ya know what? We have to get them too and we know they aren’t the most enjoyable part of your day. They are a NECESSARY EVIL! (Gag reflex gets a free pass)
3)”My gums never bleed until you poke them!” Look, rule number 1 of oral health (pay attention) HEALTHY TISSUE DOESN’T BLEED. Ever had a hang nail that bleeds after you’ve pulled it off then you accidentally scrape it and it bleeds again? This is basically what is going on under your poor gum tissue when we measure your pockets. Believe it or not, your RDH doesn’t get a high on making gums bleed. (Floss more)
4) Please do not try to tell me your life story at our first appointment. I know your ex husband is a womanizing pig or your wife eats chocolate bon bons and watches soaps all day while you work your hiney off. We can cover all of this at some point, but if you want me to clean your teeth, then that requires my hands in your mouth to which I prefer your teeth not be moving! I LOVE chatting with my patients. That’s how I develop a relationship with you, but I still need to do my job in a timely fashion so my next patient isn’t pacing in the lobby while I get the latest gossip about your mother’s uncle’s sister’s friend’s cat. I want to get to know you, but we have to do it in puzzle pieces. Mmmkay?
5)I LOVE my job! When a patient comes back to see me and their oral health has improved because they took my recommendations into action at home I get the BIGGEST feeling of satisfaction! Patient compliancy goes a loooong way! When my super anxious patient who is terrified of the dentist comes to me after a few appointments and says she actually enjoys coming back, I have accomplished something! Listen to your hygienist, work at home to improve your oral health. Your appointments will be easier on both you and your RDH thus giving you more time to chat and get to know each other! Or your appointments won’t take as long and you can get the heck out of there and go back to your exciting life, job, nap. ..whatever!
I hope you’ll find these to be helpful, insightful and enlightening. If not, then I hope you at least read this in it’s entirety and it motivates you to schedule a cleaning with your hygienist so you can show off your mad flossing skills.
HAPPY FLOSSING EVERYBODY!

Hygentist

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