Sunday, December 28, 2008

CVS trip 12/28

When I first looked at today's ad, I wasn't sure if it was worth going to CVS this week at all. I'm glad I looked again, because it ended up being a very good trip. I'm getting better at this!

All that for $2.34 oop. If you take ecbs "oop" into account, then the total cost was $9.33 - a very good deal for all this! Here's what I did:

Transaction #1
2 Pantene $7.00
- $3/2 pantene coupon
-$4.00 ecb
Total oop: $0.23 tax (I figured out why I'm paying a few cents even if it looks like it should be free - you still have to pay tax on the amount of the manufacturer's coupons. The ecbs "eat" tax, but MQs don't.)
Received $2 ecbs

Transaction #2
2 Pantene $7.00
1 Tide $5.88
1 Colgate $2.99
1 CVS toddler wipes $1.49
-$3/$15 CVS coupon
-$3/2 pantene coupon
-$1/1 tide coupon
-$1.50/1 colgate coupon
-$5.99 ecb
-$2.87 ecb (this was originally a $2.99 ecb, but it got adjusted down because there wasn't $2.99 left to take off.)
Total oop: $0.43 tax
Received $4 ecbs

Transaction #3
1 Colgate $2.99
2 Kleenex (BOGO) $2.19
2 Johnsons first aid kits $1.98
-$1.50/1 colgate coupon
-$0.40/1 kleenex coupon
-$1.98/2 johnson's coupon (originally $3 off, but adjusted down to the actual purchase price.)
-$2.00 ecb (I meant to use a $2.99 ecb, but accidently handed the clerk the wrong one. Oh well.)
Total oop: $1.68
Received $2 ecbs

So my total oop was $2.34, and I have $6 ecbs that don't expire until the end of January.

Oh, and aren't those Johnson first aid kits cool? They have a nice strong plastic box with a good clasp, and I think they'll last a long time even carried around in my diaper bag.

I'm participating in the CVS $5 Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First. Hop on over for more scenarios - it is a great place to learn if you're just starting out!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I don't believe it.

I just put Josiah down, in his crib, awake, and walked away.

He's asleep. No crying, no fussing.

He's asleep.

This is the first time this has ever happened to me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Help me rescue my budget?

I'm on the lookout for ideas to help cut our grocery budget. Currently we're averaging $90 a week on groceries. This includes things like toilet paper, but not diapers. About $11 of that is spent on milk - we go through close to four gallons each week.

I buy only produce that is on sale and try to pair coupons with sales for other items (The Grocery Game helps me with this.) I buy meat when it is on a REALLY good sale or else I just don't buy it. We eat a lot of non-meat and low-meat meals.

Maybe I'm being unrealistic and it really just costs this much to feed our family, but it seems like an awful lot of money to spend each week! So I'm looking for comments - ideas for ways to feed my family healthy meals (not just boxed mac and cheese!) without breaking the bank quite so badly.

Ready, think, type! :)

Julie Andrews - age 12

I grew up listening to Julie Andrews' renditions of Christmas carols, as my mother did before me. On New Year's Eve we always watched Julie in The Sound of Music. She was definitely an important part of my musical tradition, and I spent a lot of hours wishing I could sing like she could!

Today I ran across this recording: Julie at age 12. I had no idea she was such a child prodigy!

Mom, I hope you enjoy this!

Hat tip to StandFirm.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Slashed prices

I keep hearing about how people aren't shopping this holiday season, and about how panicked retailers are slashing prices to try to lure people into their stores.

I don't know about the "people not shopping" part. Today when I went to Kohls to get some needed clothing for the boys, I stood in a line that reached almost to the back of the store. And that was the short one. Silly me for actually believing that "people aren't shopping" and I could get what I needed quickly!

However, the "panicked retailers" part must be true, because I have NEVER paid so little for clothing before - not even at Walmart. Kohls had nearly everything in the store marked down, generally around 40-60%. They had also sent me a 30% off coupon in the mail (expiring tomorrow - hence the trip today!) and emailed me a $5 off coupon which could be combined with other discounts. Then when I (finally!) got through the line and paid, they gave me an additional 15% off just for using my Kohl's card.

I bought:
2 long sleeve onesies for Josiah (originally $17)
2 play/sleepers for Josiah (originally $16 each)
1 shirt for Jonathan (originally $14)

I paid $16.09.

The poor retailers. Maybe they'd make more money if they didn't give us so many discounts.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Do you know what CAUSES that?

"Yes, and we like it."

Hat tip to Jennifer at Conversion Diary!

CVS again

Don't ask me why my photo won't stand up straight. I've tried four different things and apparently it just doesn't want to.

This morning we went out to JoAnn Fabric (business purchases - yay for FOUR orders in a month!) and because CVS was right next to it (and I am just slightly addicted) we went back. Ok, the real reason was that I had a few more things that I wanted to get AND yesterday I got a $5/$15 coupon. And I am just slightly addicted. :)

Listerine $2.99
2 Stayfree $7.98
Sally Hansen nail polish (Sarah, I checked but it wasn't BOGO 50% off at my store) $5.99
CVS "tylenol" $4.39
-$5/$15 crt
- $2/2 stayfree MQ
-$2.50 pain medication crt
-$8.98 ecbs

Total spent: $3.27 oop and $8.98 ecbs, but now I have $12.98 in ecbs that won't expire until January 21st! Not to mention free products that we would have bought anyway! :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

CVS trip

Today was a fun CVS day for me. I had only $4 in ecbs to begin with, so I had worked out a four transaction scenario very carefully ahead of time. But then they were out of one of the items, so I got to see what I could come up with on the fly. I didn't have long to think about it, either, because the whole trip had to take about 30 minutes (between church and vestry)! So it ended up being a little different than I'd planned, and I made one mistake and paid $2.59 more than I thought I would have to, but I'm still quite pleased with the results.

Transaction #1
2 Halls Naturals $5.18
- $1/2 coupon
-$4 ecb
$0.27 oop ($2.59 ecbs earned - this was my mistake; I thought I'd get ecbs back for both items but the limit was 1)

Transaction #2
Listerine $2.99
Excedrin $3.99
- $2/1 coupon
-$2.59 ecb
$2.73 oop ($6.98 ecbs earned)

Transaction #3
Complete contact solution $8.99
- $2/1 coupon
-$6.98 ecb
$0.17 oop ($8.99 ecbs earned)

Transaction #4
Listerine $2.99
Sally Hansen nail polish $5.99
-$8.99 ecb
$0.00 oop ($8.98 ecbs earned)

Final result: I spent $4.00 in ecbs and $3.17 oop. But I ended up with $8.98 in ecbs, so the trip ended up being a $1.81 moneymaker. And I got things we need and things we'll donate. *happy dance* :)

I love this new hobby of mine. For one thing, it is just fun to walk out of the store with a bag of stuff for which you paid practically nothing. But more than that is the fun of using the numbers/logic part of my brain, which has been very dormant for the past four years. I've missed using it, and this is a really enjoyable way to wake it up.

Now, for anyone reading who is better at this than I am, I have a question. On transaction #3 my subtotal (after coupons and ecbs) was one penny. But I got charged 16 cents of tax, for a total oop of $0.17. Why the tax on two dollars? Not that I mind paying 17 cents, but I would like to understand the way it all works!

Things we've been doing

A few days ago my vacuum cleaner made a horrible, awful, very bad not at all good noise when I turned it on. I really can't describe it - just imagine the worst screeching clacking sound EVER and multiply it by a large factor. Apparently my children had stuffed a pile of magnetic letters inside it, and while some of them shook out, some of them were all the way inside, lodged in the motor itself. Nice.

Visions of very expensive vacuum cleaners were dancing in my head, BUT my amazing husband managed to take the whole thing apart:

And even better, put it back together again. And it works. :)

Today while I was at the Vestry meeting (my last one - hurray!) the boys found our Christmas tree. Didn't they pick a nice one?

After setting up the tree, I made a lovely dinner, which I am quite proud of because I had no idea what I was going to make, and yet ended up with this on the table:

It is a kind of southwestern style fajita/burrito cross. Chipotle/lime chicken, onions, corn, lettuce, and sour cream, mmm, mmm!

And after dinner we walked around an incredible Christmas lights display in a neighborhood in Brea. We bundled the kids up in lots of jackets and blankets, and Josiah wore this adorable hat that Jessica made for him.

How cute is he? :)

And now we are off to bed!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Body betrayal

Bearing three children has had a significant effect on my physique. I’m not one of those women who loses all their “baby weight” just by nursing, and is back into their size six pre-pregnancy jeans eight weeks after giving birth. Every pound I lose is a fight, and it is a war that I have to wage for a long time before winning. Sometimes I just don’t win.

I’m 35 lbs heavier than I was at my most fit (just before getting pregnant for the first time). 30 lbs heavier than a more typical “normal” at that time. 20 lbs heavier than the weight I’ve resigned myself to as the “new normal” after three pregnancies.

Two weeks ago I decided to get serious about losing those twenty. I broke out the triple stroller and set up a schedule for walks and jogs. For a week it felt great. And then everything started to hurt. First it was my ankle – the one that I’ve sprained a few too many times and always gets sore during pregnancy. Then it was my knee – not the one with the osteochondroma in it (I know how to deal with that problem) – but the other one, the one that doesn’t have a reason to hurt. Then my shoulder started acting up, aching, a remnant of over-use in karate. Now it is my wrists, one of which is well on its way to carpal tunnel again.

Some of this is just part of having an infant (for me, at least) – I had some similar aches and pains when Thomas was small – but I’m pretty certain that they all flared at the same time because of trying to push that monster stroller on long walks. And so I’m left with the futile frustration of a body that is breaking down and thwarting my efforts.

Six years ago, in the throes of anorexia, size sixteen jeans would have seemed cause for suicide. Now, thanks be to God, they’re mostly an annoyance (I’ve only got one pair!) and an occasional cause for tears on bad days – most of the time I can look at my body and see the glorious functionality of a body that has born and nursed three children. Still, I’d like to lose those twenty pounds. And I wish that the functionality of a body that can and has nourished children also extended to one that could push a triple stroller with all those children inside.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

St. Nicholas day

St. Nicholas Eve:

For some inexplicable reason, Thomas did NOT want to leave a carrot in his shoe. And Jonathan was adamant that he only set out one shoe. Ok then.

And there was much excitement in the morning! Chocolate coins! Before breakfast!!

CVS and Walmart

Ok, I'm hooked. This cost a grand total of $2.04 oop (out of pocket).

From CVS:
12 (4 count) packages of AA batteries
1 bottle of contact care solution
1 package Always pads

I did the CVS part in two transactions, used $11 ECB* and ended up with $14 ECB. I also used a $2/1 coupon for the contact solution and six $5/2 coupons for the batteries (yay for an AWESOME manager who gave me as many as I wanted when I asked if she had any!) Total oop for CVS was $1.22. It should have been a dollar less, I think, but for some reason the computer would only let me apply $5 of a $6 ECB, even though the total was $5.99. I don't know why, neither did the cashier, and neither does my sister, the reigning coupon queen in my family. Oh well.

Oh, and Sarah, I think ECBs must just work differently here in regards to tax, because I had to pay at least some tax on both transactions.

From Walmart:
8 Johnson's Buddies soaps
1 BeechNut baby food jar

The soaps were $0.97 each and I had coupons that amounted to $1 off each of them. Since that would have given me a negative total, I threw in the baby food jar ($0.50). My total ended up being $0.82 because apparently they charge tax on everything before coupons - next time I won't add the extra item in and see what happens. I wonder if the coupon overage would count towards the tax? It will be an experiment. :)

I was surprised to find that there is a decided "high" that comes from figuring out how to work the system this way. Prior to trying it I had thought couponers were a little nuts. Now I still think that a lot of them are nuts, but I kind of get it. It is just complicated enough to make it fun! As I try out this new coupon project I'm going to be weighing carefully the time I spend on it, and considering the true value. I don't want to become one of those crazy people who seem to live for saving as much money as possible - my goal is to do my part of "providing" for my family by using our money as wisely as possible. But I also need to use my time as wisely as possible, and I have a suspicion that this will be a fine line to try to walk.

*ECB = Extra Care Bucks (CVS's rewards program)

Saturday, December 06, 2008


So my sister has convinced me to try CVSing. I'm not doing as well as she is right now, but I'm beginning, and today I was extremely pleased with a deal that I found at I Heart CVS. (Did you know that some people host blogs entirely devoted to couponing? Wow.)

I bought three packages of diapers and one package of wipes (items that I, obviously, would be buying anyway - we do use cloth diapers for Josiah but keep disposables around for when we're not at home or when I'm behind in the laundry!) Original total with taxes: $58.03

However, by using this promotion - free shipping and $10 off a $50 order
the coupon code "MASTERCARD" (all caps) - $10 off a $50 order
and the coupon code "MEDICARE" (all caps) - $5 off

my actual cost was only $33.03

You do have to use a Mastercard to pay for your order in order for the "mastercard" code to apply.

This was a better deal than buying the same items at Sam's Club, which is saying something!

Thursday, December 04, 2008


This afternoon I had five children at my house, and they all napped at the same time.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Our Advent season started off with Jonathan as an angel in his chapel class' part of the Advent pageant. The picture isn't great because of the very low light, but if you look carefully you can see him. It was adorable, even though only one of the little girls actually sang the song, and I'm not sure any of them gave the correct responses to the questions . Most of the children made faces, picked their noses, or sucked on their hands. They're three! :)

In the evening we set up our Advent wreath. Thomas tried to eat the candles:

but we rescued them and Jonathan helped set them up in the wreath.

Thomas looked on to make sure we did it right.

Then yesterday we made a paper chain to count down the days until Christmas.

It doesn't have any red loops because we were out of red construction paper. :)

Stay tuned for more advent activity pictures. Probably not every day (I'll be doing REALLY well to have activities, much less post about them!) but I do hope to get pictures of our best ones.

What are you doing for Advent?