Saturday, January 29, 2011

How I continue to avoid technology

I went to the bank today (actually an S&L) to ask about the monthly fee they were implementing for my checking account. With the last two takeovers, my account type was grandfathered in and I was never charged a monthly fee because I have direct deposit. I was hoping for the same thing this time. The banker (should I call him an S&Ler?) asked for my ID and ATM card. Sorry, I don't use the ATM. How about a debit card? Sorry, don't have one of those either. But here's my checkbook with the account number. Unfortunately, with this latest takeover, my direct deposit amount isn't high enough to avoid a monthly fee. Fortunately, since I have multiple accounts there, something else qualified me for free checking (but now that I think about it, I think he was looking at the wrong account so now I have to go back and clarify).

Then he asked me if I'd like to sign up for e-mails. No thanks. Online banking? No thanks. Did I have a cell phone? Yes. Would I like to receive texts? Nope, don't have texting on my phone. I think I confused him. I'm pretty sure most customers aren't like me, lol.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Five on Friday

  1. I'm really bummed that today is one of my favorite coworker's last day.
  2. I've got 192 unread posts in Reader. I'm just a little behind...which is surprising considering how much time I spend on the computer.
  3. It is Friday and I've got two days off. Yay!
  4. My nose is running; I hope I'm not getting a cold.
  5. This making a list thing is harder than I thought it would be.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A mistake doesn’t mean you’re fired

As I was running around putting out fires this morning, the newest member of our team (she’s been here less than a month) called me over. There was a slightly panicked look in her eye when she confessed that she made a mistake. It took me a few minutes to wrap my head around the mistake, then I had to admit that I didn’t know the answer (or really, how to fix the problem since it involves several groups). I was able to help her backtrack as to how the mistake occurred so she could prevent it in the future and also clearly answer any questions when grilled by our manager. As it turns out, he took it calmly also (although he was slightly less calm when discussing it with me later).

The employee was surprised at how well we took it. I confessed that this morning was hectic with two video conferences back to back (and not enough time to prep) and that if she had told us any other time, our reactions might have been different. But the reality is getting mad wouldn’t solve anything and the best thing to do would be to figure out a solution. Hopefully, I’ll be this calm tomorrow when I hear back from the other parties that this affects.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The enchanted cilantro forest

I've been bringing bunches in to work every week. There's no way I could eat all of this.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It was a Hello Kitty birthday

It was the twins' birthday celebration yesterday. Hello Kitty was everywhere, including this cute cake their mom made (red velvet!). All the presents were Hello Kitty themed, including these, lol. Woo hoo! Big girl panties! Here was my present to them. Doesn't look that exciting, does it? A stack of paper.But it turns into this: The girls, their friend, and I played several rounds of the memory/match/concentration game. I didn't know that they already were familiar with the game, having played it on the computer. But I'll bet it wasn't Hello Kitty! I ended up giving one set to the girls and another set to their little friend. It was really difficult for her to understand that she could play with all the presents, but couldn't take anjavascript:void(0)y home. It was fun to make use of my scrap supplies; I did buy the Hello Kitty dies just to make stuff for the girls since I've outgrown Hello Kitty. (How's that for justification of my purchases?)

(I need add three 12x12 sheets used to my scrapbook accounting total)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saving on groceries: coupons

Coupons? Who wants to spend time clipping out little rectangles and organizing them? I don't "want" to, but they are an easy way to save quite a bit on your grocery or HBA (Health/Beauty Aids) bill.

If you're looking for coupon match ups and deals, check out Money Saving Mom, Coupon Pro, or the forums at Hot Coupon World. You may also find some local bloggers/websites who do match ups in your area. Those sites are good because they often list the store locations with the best deals or clearance markdowns.

Target and some grocery stores "stack" coupons. That means you can use one store coupon and one manufacturer coupon on the the same item. Be careful when printing/clipping "store" coupons. Sometimes they are really manufacturer coupons, even though they are in the store ad or printed from the store website. If you do this, be prepared with the store policy. I've had checkers refuse to take multiple coupons or allow me to stack coupons.

I almost always shop with coupons. I usually buy the Sunday paper on Saturday so I can get a sneak peek at the coupons. I got into this habit because one local store used to put 3-day specials in the Sunday paper. They stopped that a few years ago, but I never got out of the habit. I recently got a Groupon deal for a competing newspaper and it was worth it just to get the better coupons. (disclosure: if you sign up for Groupon via the link, I may get a referral bonus)

If you don't want to subscribe to the newspaper (or if coupons aren't available in your Sunday paper), you can buy coupons on ebay, from a coupon clipping service, or see if a friend will pass them on to you. If I'm out for Sunday brunch or passing by an outdoor cafe, I'm not above picking up abandoned coupon flyers or asking people for their coupons. I'm more prone to do this if I know there are awesome coupons that week. You can check out preview sites or forums at You can also print coupons at, redplum, and smart source. (You'll need to download an app to print the coupons; I've never been able to get the smart source printer to work.) You can also load coupons on your cell phone, but since my cell phone is just a phone, I haven't done that.

Sometimes, you get coupons at the register (called Catalinas, after the company that markets them). They are usually for a product you just bought or may be for a competing product. If the Catalina is especially good, I've been know to put my groceries in the car and then turn around and buy that one item on the Catalina. (Catalinas count as manufacturer's coupons.)

I'm not a rabid couponer and (usually) won't drive out of my way for deals. I also don't shop at CVS or Walgreens because I don't want to figure out their coupon deals on top of the shopping I already do. Call me lazy (or practical since I know my limits). You'll need to figure out what works for you. Do you want to clip coupons only for brands you're familiar with (say, Kraft salad dressing)? Or do you want to clip coupons for everything in a category (all salad dressings).

Clipping coupons takes more time than I'd like so I usually try to multitask and clip the coupons when I'm a passenger in the car or while watching TV. Same with the sorting.

I keep my coupons in this box (I purchased it years ago; yes, those are rust stains). If you only clip a few coupons, a recycled envelope works. Or you could buy a coupon organizer (most are too small for me). Some avid couponers organize their coupons in binders, using baseball card holders to store the coupons. I thought about it, but decided it was too much work. You could also keep the flyers intact and just cut out coupons as you need them.

Some things I never buy without coupons (and usually combined with a sale):
canned foods
yogurt (except for Greek yogurt)
feminine products
toilet paper

Keep your coupons near your keys or shopping bags or in your car so that you don't forget to take them to the store. Good luck with your savings!

Saving at the grocery store series (topics subject to change):
My grocery budget
Coupons (this post)
Making a list (coming soon)
Checking it twice (coming soon)
Other ways to save (coming soon)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Scrapbook accounting update

Three weeks into the year and I'm doing okay on the scrapbook accounting front. I'd feel a little better if I actually sold some stuff to pay for what I'm buying, but listing it somewhere just seems like too much work right now.

Used/given away:
22 letter size paper
38 yards of fiber/ribbon
1 ribbon pack
6 buttons
2 brads
3 flowers
3 gems
7 sticker sheets
1 stamp
1 embellishment pack

Purchased (-$25.15):
2 embellishment packs
9 12x12 paper
1 sticker sheet
2 yards ribbon
1 tool (Tim Holtz Tiny Attacher)

March update
Purchased tool (-$20)
LSS garage sale(-$10)
Purchased (-4.25)
5 embellishment packs
5 sticker sheets
Sold $153

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why didn't I think of that sooner?

I was looking for some stationery to write a quick note (and I didn't feel like making a card), when I spotted this paper in my scrapbook stash. Why not not use the back of this pretty paper? So I did.(Thanks for the paper S. See, I'm using it even if not on a scrapbook page.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hamburger soup

or maybe I should call this Hamburger Stew since there isn't a lot of liquid. This soup is easy to put together and reheats well.
1 lb ground beef (I used 85% lean)
2 tsps olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
4-5 carrots, chopped (about 2 cups)
1-2 ribs of celery (about 3/4 cup)
3 medium potatoes chopped (about 4 cups)
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 can of water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
dash of pepper

  1. Brown ground beef and onion in olive oil until the meat is cooked and the onions are transluscent. (Note: if you use ground beef with a higher fat content, you can omit the olive oil. You may also need to drain any excess fat.)
  2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer.
  3. Partially cover and simmer for at least an hour.
The salt in the canned tomatoes and sodium in the celery added enough salt for us. You may need to add salt for your taste.

This soup is more like a light stew. You can add another can of diced tomatoes, plus another can of water if you want this to be more soup-like.

Makes about 3 quarts.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saving on groceries: my budget

My friend Kristin asked for some grocery shopping tips and I thought, "What? I'm no expert!". But we do live frugally so if I can help anyone by writing down what we do, then I'm happy to do it. I hope to make this an ongoing topic on my blog since it fits in with my desire to save more money this year. I started an outline, broke down the topics into more details, and wrote and wrote and wrote. After I got to eight paragraphs, I knew I had to publish this information in separate posts so neither of us was overwhelmed.

Let's start with some background. I'm not a frugality or financial expert, but we do manage to live okay on what we have. Nor am I an extreme couponer, but I am an extreme saver (more than 30% of my paycheck goes into retirement/savings plans) and I couldn't do that if I didn't save in other places, like groceries. I'm not giving the 30% number to brag, but hopefully to inspire you. A few years ago, my friend (who was making about the same as me) told me she was paying double her mortgage to pay it off faster. Again, this wasn't bragging, but merely a factual statement that she was hoping to pay off her house sooner than 30 years and how she was going about it. I knew we wouldn't be able to do make double mortgage payments, but I was inspired to save more because of what she said.

According to the USDA, the average cost of food for Nov. 2010 for my family/age group was $347.80 to $690.20, depending on if you're thrifty or liberal with your grocery shopping. I'm not sure how the cost of living in different cities comes into play; frankly, I didn't read all 80 pages of the dry report.

We spend around $380/month on "food"; that amount includes vitamins, paper goods, shampoo, soap, and other consumables, which the USDA doesn't include. I group these items together because sometimes I buy paper goods/soap/etc. at the grocery store and sometimes I buy food at Target. It just makes my bookkeeping easier. If you add in our dining out budget, we're still below the USDA average cost for a liberal monthly cost of food. I think we're doing quite well, especially since we live in a high cost of living area. According to the news gas averages $3.35/gallon here. Ouch!

If you're looking at cutting your grocery budget, looking at the USDA average can give you an idea if you're on the right track. Of course, if you live in an expensive area, entertain a lot, buy all organic, or have food allergies or other dietary needs (sorry, chocolate is not a dietary need), your costs will most likely be higher. You can easily track your spending for a few weeks (or even better, a few months) on a spreadsheet. I don't have a specific amount I spend per week, but since I know what our average grocery/consumable costs are, I just keep that in mind while shopping. It doesn't bother me to spend $70 one week if there are great sales because I know I'll spend less the next week. For example, yesterday, I bought vitamins and probiotics at the natural food store, which added another $40+ to the total. That's enough to last us two months and I'll keep my eye out for the next sale so I don't overspend.

Saving at the grocery store series (topics subject to change):
My grocery budget (this post)
Coupons (coming soon)
Making a list (coming soon)
Checking it twice (coming soon)
Other ways to save (coming soon)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Free Rice

I thought I'd post this again in case anyone wants to play.

Check out this website. It is a fun way to test your vocabulary and get rice donated to the UN World Food Program. Each time you get a word wrong, the vocabulary level drops by one. If you get three right in a row, the vocabulary level increases by one. So it is really easy to drop levels, but not so easy to go up.

Cards from the crop

The crop this past weekend was a bust. $45 for an all day crop. It included breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but for what we got, it wasn't worth it. The crop was supposed to start at 9:00, but the doors didn't open until 9:20. Not that we'd start scrapping as soon as we got in, but geez, we're paying for this. Start on time, especially since people were waiting for the doors to open. Breakfast was bagels, Krispy Kreme donuts, and OJ; that was okay. Lunch was teriyaki chicken bowls; tasty, but not a vegetable in sight (I'm not counting the sprinkling of green onions as a serving of veggies). Er, no vegetarian option? Okay, I understand that it is the scrapper's responsibility to inform you, but after an inquiry at lunch, you knew that there were vegetarians present. So why was dinner In-and-Out hamburgers? That was a disaster with half the orders wrong and other orders missing. Next time, I'm scrapping at home. Or, I'll wait for a free crop day. I did enjoy the company and we had a scrap celeb at our table. She was very sweet. Her style is totally not my style, but it was fun watching her build her pages. She used color combos I never thought of and lots of layers and tags.

My goal was 20 cards (such a modest goal) and I made 21 cards, woo hoo! Too bad it didn't make much of a dent in my stash. For accounting purposes, I'm counting each card as one sheet of letter-size paper since each card base is 1/2 sheet, plus many were lined and then whatever I used on the front. Supplied used: 21 letter size sheets of paper, 8 yards of fiber/ribbon, 6 buttons, 2 brads, 3 flowers, 3 gems. Maybe I need to learn how to add more layers to use more stuff. Here are a few of my favorites from the crop.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another sales bust at Michaels

I heard that Michaels (the craft store) was clearancing some Cricut cartridges for only $9.99. Michaels sales are so weird. These cartridges were regularly $69.99, not that anyone would pay full price for them. You could easily find them online for $39.99, $29.99 if there's a sale, and less than $20 if you went the ebay route. If Michaels had priced them at $14.99 or maybe even $19.99, I think they still would have sold out.

Of course, the sale started on different days in different parts of the country and 2peas was abuzz with the deals or empty shelves people were finding. Me, since I didn't check out sale for a couple days, I was met with empty shelves. I'm not sure why I bothered. I hardly use my Cricut (I'm more of a Quickutz gal).

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Winner, winner!

The good folks over at helped me pick the winners for my cardstock giveaway. According to my count, #7 is CraftyJen, #4 is Nancy, and #6 is CJJ. Jen, I have your address. Nancy and CJJ, I'll contact you for your addresses. Thanks for playing!

That was a different shopping trip

We went to a different grocery store from our usual since it was on the way home from running errands. Adding to the strangeness was I didn't have my coupon box with me. I have no idea why I didn't bring it. As it turns out, we really didn't need it because we bought a ton of stuff on clearance (and I know I didn't have coupons for any of this). Most of food has a sell by date of 1/12 or later so we're very comfortable buying it to eat/freeze this week. All this plus another bag of groceries for $16! Dry salami $0.79, regular price $5.49. Individual tapioca pudding $0.10. Cooked chicken breast (6 oz) $0.25, regular price $4.49; we're adding some sauce and having it for dinner tomorrow. Bean sprouts for $0.25. A frozen dinner for an emergency lunch or dinner. Our groceries usually have a much lower amount of packaged/processed foods, but I couldn't resist these deals. We may have to switch back to this store if we continue to get deals like these.

Friday, January 07, 2011

My scrapbook resolution

As with many of you, I have waaaay more supplies than I could ever use. But I can't seem to stop buying scrapbook goodies. Is there a 12 step program for me?
one tiny portion of my stash

I'm not one for new year's resolutions, but I've really got to get a handle on my roomful of supplies. So, for 2011, I resolve to get rid of, pass on, sell, or use the equivalent of everything I bring into the house. You might think I'm making a dent with my giveaway, but I'm not counting that. That would be too easy. Maybe I'll post an occasional update if you remind me.

Wish me luck. First hurdle, an all day crop tomorrow.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Thank you cards

(It has only taken a me months to post this.)

Last year, I received some really lovely birthday gifts and I wanted to send thank you notes that reflected my appreciation. I also wanted to use some new toys: a Cuttlebug Swiss Dots folder (which I've since destroyed and need to replace) and a Fiskars punch that I got on clearance for only $2. There's a lot of layers on this card, but it is still flat enough to not to require extra postage, especially since I put a piece of cardstock over the front of the card when I mailed it.

I've always loved Basic Grey, but I find the patterns difficult to work with so I was happy to be able to use it on these cards. Plus, remember all that fiber we collected in multiple swaps, oh so many years ago? I was able to make a tiny dent in my collection.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Out with the old

Over the holiday break, I convinced Mr. Fix-it to take a few shopping trips so I could scout out some bargains. I didn't get a few things I wanted (a black belt, new coat, dress shoes and pants for work), but I get a few sweaters for work, two pairs of sneakers (mine are falling apart), three nightgowns (I don't really need them, but I couldn't resist since they were only $2 each), and nylons (yes, I still wear them).

In my quest to reduce the amount of crap in the house, I am trying to throw out something for every new item I bring in, so this means I needed to get rid of eight things (I'm not counting the nylons since they'll get thrown out eventually). In an ideal world, it would be one for one, but I couldn't bear to part with two pairs of shoes (I'm keeping my crappy sneakers for working in the yard). It was a struggle, but here's what is going into the giveaway box:Really, why am I keeping skirts that don't fit or blouses I don't like or a rose-colored suit that I haven't worn in 10 years? Who knows if anyone at Goodwill will want this stuff? All of it is still wearable (some of the tops have only been worn a few times), even if it isn't fashionable.

I did pick up another bargain, some of my favorite chocolate. I'm pretty sure the candy will taste just as good now as it would have before Christmas. It was only 40% off, but since the candy hardly ever goes on sale, I couldn't resist.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Got cardstock?

Have you ever submitted your name/e-mail to an online contest? Did you ever think that those contests were a scam or wonder if anyone ever won those contests? Well, real people do win those contests and I'm here to tell you about it. Core'dinations had a contest where you had to watch a video showing various techniques on how to alter their cardstock. I thought the video was well done, entered my name/e-mail, and promptly forgot all about the contest. Imagine my surprise weeks later to get an e-mail from Core'dinations. Still, I didn't want to believe anything until I had the goodies in hand.

Although I mentioned my big win to Mr. Fix-it, he obviously forgot about it because I got a phone call from him at work, "What the heck did you order? It weighs a ton!" There was a squeal of delight from me, followed by an embarrassed cough since I was, after all, in the non-soundproof/non-private cubicle at work. Who wouldn't be excited to win 500+ sheets of cardstock? But what the heck am I going to do with all that cardstock? After all, I probably have that many sheets of cardstock and patterned paper already (another embarrassed cough here). How about sharing the wealth? How about some of this? (this is a 20 sheet pack)Or this? (this is an 80 sheet pack)All you have to do leave a comment by January 7th. I'll pick two winners sometime over that weekend. How's that for a nice start to the new year?

The fine print: The cardstock will be shipped to US addresses only. I priced shipping these overseas and the cost was painful. But if you're overseas and leave a comment and I draw your lucky number, I'll send you some other scrappy goodness.