Archive for the ‘Thrifty Mom’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Having fun on a dime

It’s no secret that most of us struggle financially to live the American Dream. In the best of economies, this is true. We all want more, whatever the definition of more is to us. Since having my little twin nuggets, that “more” has changed. Sure, I still love the hot new boots and a gourmet meal in a five star restaurant, but my kids come first. Like most parents, my husband and myself have chosen to re-prioritize to give our boys the best life possible. This means one income, less frills.

As a result of an almost frill-free lifestyle, I do not want to forsake the fun. The boys are getting older now and exposure to music, culture and art is becoming more important to me. Every week I do my research to try and plan at least one fun activity out of the house. Some weeks the surprises of life, such as a recent domino effect of plumbing issues, keep us from our fun day out. Nonetheless, I fill my arsenal of cheap or free days out in preparation. When you pay close attention, you really can come up with quite a list. Here are a few of mine. Feel free to share yours.

1. Festivals such as a recent Apple Festival in a nearby community. The general buzz of the festival is free and we bring our own food and beverages. If we choose, we can put out a little money for a pony ride or a sweet treat.
2. A trip to a different playground or park. We live in the Philadelphia suburbs. There are a ton of parks in our area, but on occasion we trek over to one in a nearby town or even in the city to get the kids excited about a new environment.
3. Free under 2- I have one more month on this one. There are some amusements that are free for kids under 2. One local money draining facility only requires that parents pay, but the fee is nominal. They are really targeting the older kids in these types of places.
4. Nature Center- My boys are nuts about animals, probably since they now know the sounds most animals make and can identify them in their books. There are local nature centers that are free or incredibly cheap and even provide a little education.
5. Story time at the library is a great one. My boys will soon be old enough to sit still for this. Some books stores also have great story time with music and costumes. Just do your research.
6. Airport is on top of my list but I have yet to visit one. My kids always point out planes in the air and get super excited. I’m thinking an air show or just the simple local airport might be an hour of fun.
7. The mall has its own hidden treasures. Shopping at the mall is pricey and my kids don’t like it. I really don’t ever drag them out on errands if I can help it. The local malls, however, do plan some special events geared toward parents of young children. Just because they get you there, does not mean you have to shop. Have fun, bring your own snacks and pay for coffee alone.

PostHeaderIcon Garage Sale over: Next Project to Obsess over

The Garage sale went well. We had a really cool day which may have kept some people at home. Overall, I made $213. It’s better than nothing, but not quite the fortune I had anticipated. It did, however, force me to take stock of what was considered sale worthy and decide carefully where all of the remaining items should go.

As we cleared out the driveway I separated items as follows:

  • Continue to try and sell on CraigsList
  • Donate
  • Save for future craft project
  • Save for future Garage Sale

The reality is, I have a lot of junk but I also have a lot of space in my unfinished basement. As I was sorting things, I decided to go with the above mentioned categories because I could always decide on donating at a later date. When viewing 10 or so glass vases and about 10 champagne glasses I realized that I have been guilty of purchasing such items at the dollar store to create party decorations (centerpieces). So, why not create a stock pile for now? Other items for keep included pictures that had decent frames. If I can’t sell them, why not utilize the frames for my own decor- hell, there is always spray paint to really make stuff work!

Now, the keep for garage saling in the future, well that may be a bit presumptuous. But, I am a planner and planners often have a hint of hoarder to them (with thinking ahead and what not). These items walk a fine line between valuable and not valuable to me. Plus, they are too small or less than the $5-$10 mark that I think they must be for CraigsList. Yes, I categorize things like crazy- in my head, on paper and with labels.

This brings me to the next project: CraigsList sale items. Pictures, detailed listings and get those suckers outta here!!!

PostHeaderIcon Yard sale in action

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PostHeaderIcon Yard Sale Virgin

I admit it. I have ventured to many. Spent my money at a few. I even participated in a group yard sale. I, however, have never held my own yard sale. I actually never had much of a yard, or a driveway for that matter, to handle such an event. Until now!

As my family grows, acquires crap, grows out of crap, and just plain gets sick of crap its a general progression to the suburban yard sale. I started preparing for this yard sale over a year ago when we were moving. I packed boxes marked specifically for the occasion and put them in the corner of the basement. I have amassed a little mountain that is slowly creeping into the rest of the basement. So, fall is upon us and it is time to get grooving.

I’ll share with you how I’ve organized this event and then let you know if it worked. First, I started my assessing my wares and deciding on the categories. It always helps to be organized. It’s easier to manage others and if you have a map of your plan people are not always asking you where things go. My categories go something like this:

  • Clothing and shoes (overall, this is a fashion section)
  • Baby items (strollers, car seats, etc)
  • Dishes and kitchen utensils
  • Appliances and Electronics
  • Christmas Decorations
  • Office and craft supplies
  • Housewares/Decor
  • Lighting, Fixtures, Window coverings
  • Books, movies and toys

My plan is to hang the nicer clothes on a rack and neatly fold the remainder by general size and orientation (example: 4-10 women, infant boy, etc) in a retail style. The clothing, along with the remainder of the the smaller items, will also be sub-categorized by price. I would like to have, for example, an entire table or box that is $1, $2, etc. The big ticket items will be priced individually. You might think that pricing and organizing is jumping the gun a bit as the sale needs to be promoted. But, there is a method to my madness.

I advertised for this sale via Craigslist and Ebay Classifieds. In addition, I found a local news station that also allows you to put in a free ad for garage and community sales in the area. I created multiple ads every day starting one week prior to the sale. Some people only search by the most recent ad, so the duplication is necessary. Some of my ads (Craigslist) included the description of a big ticket item, like one of my twin strollers and infant car seats. This opened the sale up to really interested buyers early on and left it open to those on the fence to come to the yard sale. My internet campaign also included a message out to my Facebook friends.They were invited to sell their own stuff, come visit or pass the message on. The last form of advertising was very old school: signage. I found bright garage sale signs, some even staked for easy installation, at my local dollar store. I put up about 10 of them at the various entrances to my neighborhood. One sign sits on my front yard and the morning of the sale, two more will go at the end of my street to direct traffic (I don’t want to anger neighbors in advance).

The most important part of any retail environment, once you get the folks there, is keeping them there, shopping, happy and with the right customer service. For that, I am preparing a pot of coffee (should be a cool morning) and all the necessities for a proper store. Here is my list, but I invite you to customize for yourself:

  • Shopping bags
  • Wrapping paper/Newspaper (for fragile items)
  • Clear price tags and price signage (to provide a haggle starting off point)
  • Tape, markers and scissors (Cause you never know)
  • Calculator
  • Change (Dollar bills, small change and maybe a couple of $5 bills)

Ready to go! I’m following my yard sale bible and we will see how it works. I’ll report back to you later!

PostHeaderIcon Tightening the Purse Strings with Twins

As most may guess, raising twins on one income at the height of a recession is tough. For the first year, we were so sleep deprived and hazy we paid no attention. We purchased a new home, made some improvements and just coasted by on some unemployment, one paycheck and savings. Once the fog lifted, it was hard not to worry.

I truly think that the best scenario for any kid is to be at home with a parent, particularly with twins. Twins, first of all, require twice the daycare payment and, in my case, they were later to develop and are talking later (we just started hearing the first words between googly googly recently). If this is a sacrifice (i.e. income) you are able to make, then you need to focus on cutting costs wherever you can.

I started with the frugal thinking prior to the twin’s birth. When I found out I was having twins I considered the price of formula and vowed to breastfeed for the first six months at the very least. I actually made it 14 months. When the boys started on solid food, I vowed to make everything from scratch. Both of these decisions were both healthier and more cost effective.

As the boys get older, I always try to find new ways to pinch a penny. Here are just a few methods that have helped make me a frugal mom.

  1. Collecting hand-me-down toys, clothing and books- Since I became a mother long after many of my friends it was easy enough to ask for the used stuff they couldn’t wait to unload. Since my house has plenty of storage space, I have plastic bins of clothing and toys stocked through age 5. I plan on continuing my collecting efforts as long as possible.
  2. Buy used: When I do need some toy (like when I realized my kids loved instruments) I try out Craigslist or garage sales to fill in the blanks. I have purchased some really nice strollers and toys this way. When we went to visit my folks, my Mom bought two playards for $30 total!
  3. Clearance and coupon: While used is great, sometimes the clothing you get does not satisfy the needs to two, nor the right size for the season. I take stock of what I have, make a list of what I might need and scour the clearance sales, along with coupons. I especially like the outlet malls. This has been great for shoes, which we always seem to need.
  4. Bring your own- Whenever possible I bring the kids our homemade meals, snacks and drinks. I check to see if food is allowed and pack what I need. Plus, my kids are so used to fresh they turn their nose up at processed foods.
  5. Don’t be brand loyal- Although there are times when I feel that one brand is superior to others, I try not to be brand loyal and shop around for diapers, wipes and other necessities. This means a combination of online, in stores and armed with coupons. This may require some research, planning and space for storage to really do it right.
  6. Cut costs in spending on yourself- It’s the name of the parenting game; sacrifice. So, we sacrifice. There are fewer date nights and parties at the house. In addition, we really look carefully at the money we spend on groceries and other essentials.
  7. DIY- Be realistic based on your skills. Not everyone is handy, but some who think they are not just haven’t tried. We have used our own skills and plenty of YouTube videos and blogs to slowly remodel our fixer upper home. We employ the DIY method for other elements such as bread making, repairs, lawn mowing, upcycling fashion, building a compost and raised garden and much, much more. For everything we need or desire we think long and hard about whether or not we can make it ourselves, the cost of materials and time and compare that to purchased goods or services. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense and other times it just doesn’t make sense right now.
  8. Yard sales and Craigslist- Like any frugal person I have tried to sell anything I don’t need. I used to donate everything, but those days of a disposable income are gone. To be honest, I have only once participated in someone else’s huge yard sale. Most of my items I have sold via Craigslist. I am currently planning a huge yard sale that will bring in money for little bikes for the boys (used of course!).
  9. Rewards Memberships- I have collected rewards or loyalty points wherever possible. For example, Huggies has them on their diapers and wipes. Since we buy so many it really pays off to save them and utilize the rewards points for coupons or freebies. Take it where you can get it!
  10. Barter- Wherever you can. Seriously. Barter with friends and family for babysitting, carpooling, memberships for places like the zoo and aquarium (many memberships allow up to 6 guests at a time), hosting play dates and more. You can even barter with friends on the task of cooking. You make the two month supply of black bean burgers and they make the casserole. This can be a time and money saving opportunity.

PostHeaderIcon Birthday Party Planning

We are knee deep in birthday party plans for the twins. We are making a casual big deal of the whole thing, if that makes sense. Since we recently moved into our new home and most friends and family have never visited, we are hosting here (amidst partially renovated rooms). Whether people want it or not they will have an intimate look into our new life.

Like all parties that I plan, this one is getting the premium touch. I am ultra organized and creative and it usually shines in party and trip planning. A new draft of a to do and shopping list is created daily- need I say more. For this particular shindig, I was at my wits end trying to figure out how to please approximately 40 people comprised of adults and children (ranging from 0-13 years of age). I needed entertainment that would make, at the very least, the kids happy and not scare my babies (clowns, animals, characters in big furry costumes).

After much brainstorming I landed on a caricature artist and decorate your own cupcake station. The caricature artist being for one and all and the cupcakes for the antsy little ones. Now, I need only figure out how to keep the peace with children anxious to get their portrait or awaiting their turn at one of 6 seats at the cupcake station.

More to come on birthday party madness.

PostHeaderIcon Used is your New Best Friend

As new parents we all want everything fresh and new for our babies. I also focused on the new, while realizing that I would need to incorporate a bit of the old and used to supplement. I quickly came to realize that I needed two of some of those items where I thought one would do. I also realized that if I wanted to spoil my kids, minimize laundry days and save tons of money, I would need to accept friendly hand me downs and purchase from garage sales.

Firstly, twin moms are the first to sell their baby supplies at garage sales or on Craig’s List. The generally do not have friends that require twin strollers (or two of everything!). Singleton moms also get to that point where their youngest is about 5 and they realize they are not going to have another go at it. Spend some time on Craig’s List, look for local consignment sales and scour garage sales and you will find almost new stuff that can have your kids in the best toys and clothes for quite a while.

My best advice is to start early. I collected a hand me down crib and a Craig’s List purchase when I was about 5 months along. It allowed me the opportunity to shop around and be choosy. I have done the same for a changing table, clothes, a swing and much more. All the while, friends dropped of bags of clothing and old toys.

Almost everything you can imagine can be washed or scrubbed clean, even a potty. The only items I would not recommend obtaining used is teething rings and infant tubs. There comes a point where your kids use just about everything as a teething ring, but honestly those little ones that go in the freezer are cheap enough and I am not sure that they don’t have an expiration date. In regard to infant tubs, many have a sponge layer to cushion the baby and it can really get kind of gross after a while.

Several words of advice when buying used:

1. Like anything new, do your research. Ask other moms what they like most and why. We are all different and what is right for me may not be right for you. I suggest that you write a list of you need and keep it handy. Take your space into consideration when you make this list.

2. Keep an eye out for recall notices. Obviously you cannot carry around a recall list with you everywhere, but you can compare one to internet purchases. You should also compare your wishlist to recall lists to make sure that there are not certain brands or models to shy away from.

In this same vein, you should be aware of expiration dates. Car seats and their bases expire. Generally, car seats are good for between 5-10 years depending on the brand. Five years is a good rule of thumb. People wanted to pass their old car seats on to me and I quickly researched and learned the dangers. They are not meant to last. If you do get a freebie, Babies R Us has an event two times per year where you can turn in old car seats, strollers, etc. and get about 25% of for an in store purchase that day. I took advantage of this for my infant car seats and accompanying stroller.

3. Give yourself lots of time. As I said before, you need to know what you want or need well in advance so that you are not making regretful purchases.

You may want to pepper in the used amongst the new and that’s fine. Here is a list of what I have bought or received used and definitely recommend.

  • Crib
  • Changing table
  • Clothing
  • Blankets and towels (You will need a ton of these so don’t even try to go for all new here)
  • Play yards or Pack n Plays
  • Infant swings, bouncy seats, rocking chairs
  • Gliders and their friendly ottoman (A new one is upwards of $200, I bought a whole set used for $30!)
  • Electronic toys and wooden toys (Easily cleaned and they outgrow them in a flash!)
  • Playroom mats
  • Bumbos (They are your friend)
  • Diaper pails
  • Nursery decorations (Book ends, pictures, etc.)
  • Books!!!!!