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One Good Thing

Last night, preparing to welcome in 2011, I was pondering New Year’s Resolutions.  I still make them, though over the years I have learned to make concrete, do-able resolutions rather than broad sweeping ones like “get fit” or “get organized.”

In that vein, I started to contemplate.  I recently read some “best resolutions” in a magazine and one lady said she vowed to try 3 new recipes a week.  I thought, “that’s a bit too much, but what about one new recipe?”  Then I got to thinking, “I’d really like to clean my office out this year and make it more of a haven, but how to do that?  Maybe clean up and get rid of one thing a week?”  Could I do anything else, one thing at a time?  Eventually, my resolution crystallized into “one new thing.”  I plan to try to do at least one new thing per week this year.  It may be a new recipe or signing up for a cooking class or a new fitness move from a magazine.  Small or large, it doesn’t matter.

Then I thought a little further.  What would these new things do for me?  Hopefully they’d be good.  Maybe I should call it “one good thing.”  Then I thought, heck, good things happen every day, maybe I should resolve to take note of them.  That’s when I decided to go out today and pick up a  pretty journal to keep next to my bed and every night look back on the  day and make a quick note of the “one good thing” I could say about that day.  It’s not a gratitude journal, it’s just an acknowledgment that every day brings SOMETHING that’s good, no matter how tired and cranky and down we might feel sometimes.

Of course I will pursue “one new thing” as well.

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

My New Cleaning Lady

As school and work pick back up, I realized that I would have a hard time keeping up with the house cleaning.  We clean the kitchen regularly, at least wiping down counters and washing dishes every night, and I spend a little over an hour each weekend making sure all the bathrooms are clean (read about my bathroom routine here).  Laundry also gets done about once a week, with my son preferring to do his own, which cuts down on the number of loads I have to do.

But the one place we tend to fall down is when it comes to dusting, vacuuming, and dry mopping.  I usually wait until either we are having company, or it gets too gross to stand.  My spouse doesn’t like to do any of those chores any more than I do, but is bugged by it all the same, and suggested that we hire a cleaning lady or cleaning service.  In speaking to a friend, I found that a cleaning service would set us back at least a couple hundred dollars a month, and I really feel uncomfortable giving strangers keys to my house.  But what was the alternative?  I don’t mind doing SOME cleaning on the weekend, but I don’t want to blow my entire weekend doing more work!

My kids both get a fairly small allowance since we pay for most of their needs including gas for my son and the occasional movie or football ticket for my daughter.  My son makes extra money walking a neighbor’s dog, mowing the lawn, and picking up after our dog on a weekly basis.  My daughter always felt a little put out that she didn’t have a way to make extra money like her brother.  So, I thought, why pay someone else to clean my house when I can hire my daughter?  Some people might feel it should be a kids chore, either associated with allowance or not.  But I think they approach it a little more positively when it is something they choose to do to earn money, rather than something they are being forced to do as a chore.  Both kids understand that if they don’t do the job well, they’ll either have to redo it in order to get paid, or they’ll lose their job, just like in the real world.  We also have them deposit half their “pay” into a savings account so they can build up a nice nest egg for a worthwhile purchase, maybe a down payment on a car when they are a young adult.

So today I walked my daughter through her cleaning routine.  I will continue to do bathrooms and laundry, but she will be paid for a weekly cleaning of the family room, dining room, living room, and office.  Her tasks include dusting, washing all glass tables (we have 5!) and the glass on the front and back doors which the dog slobbers on, vacuuming the carpet, and dry mopping the hardwood floors.  Even in the training phase, it took her only about an hour.  She will be paid $10, half of which goes to the bank.  When she was done, I asked her if she thought it went ok and whether it was too hard, and she said it was fine.

So I am hoping this will work out.  My daughter is pretty diligent about most things, but has been known to decide things are a hassle and give them up a little easier than her brother, who watches the lawn like a hawk, willing the grass to grow so he can make a little extra money:).  Both kids know that if they put one of the jobs off too long, it will be done by a parent and then they won’t get paid.  Never been a problem with my son, so I am hoping it becomes a habit for my daughter.

For now, though, I have a new cleaning lady, and I feel good about helping my daughter learn some new skills and make some extra money.  A friend even suggested that if my daughter gets good at it, she might hire herself out to some neighbors who might not want or need the skills of a fully-fledged cleaning person.  We’ll see how things go in the next few months and then I might suggest that to my daughter.

Sigh, now if only I could convince a kid to go weed my flowers beds!

Wishing you a lovely weekend and a clean and organized house,

Regards,

Lynn

Internet Shopping Tips

As long as you are shopping online, why not help yourself and get some cash back?  First step if you can is to use a reward type credit card and pay it off in full each month.  Many pay up to 1% or more in points that can be redeemed for cash, gift cards, etc.

Next step is to go through a trusted portal in order to earn some extra cash.  All these programs are free to join.  I generally only sign up for the big ones that are easily researched to make sure they are legit.  Here are a couple I like:

Ebates:

I have just joined Ebates and it looks pretty good.  Use my referral link below and you get a $5 signing bonus and then must make a purchase through them of at least $20 within a certain period (I think it’s 90 days)  to activate that bonus.    They currently have this offer running through 9/30/10.  They issue rebate payments quarterly for amounts over $5.    There are lots of common sites to buy from, including Ebay.  Standard disclaimer:  I do get a referral bonus for people who sign up through this link and who make a minimum $20 purchase.

http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=dIDl1sLnkzhPN4y%2BNdQqZA%3D%3D

Upromise:

Another site I like is Upromise.  Even if you don’t have a kid heading to college one day, you can still collect the savings for yourself.  Or link to the account of a friend or relative and contribute your savings for their kids.  You get cash into your account several ways.  Shop through their portal at various sites and get a % of your purchase deposited into your Upromise account.  Register your credit cards and grocery store/drugstore cards and you automatically get bonuses for buying certain items or eating at certain restaurants if you sign up for their restaurant program.  Lastly, you can load grocery coupons onto your account through their website that, when you buy that item at a store using one of your registered store cards, puts the amount of the coupon into your account rather than taking it off your purchase.  The only thing I don’t  like about Upromise is that it is a bit of a hassle to empty your account (you have to write them a letter and then wait quite a while for your check), so I will just let mine build up for a while.

http://www.upromise.com/welcome

Credit Card Sites:

Another way to get bonus cash back is through your credit card’s website.  They sometimes offer extra bonus cash back if you shop from their site.  I know Discover Card has this program.

So next time you are shopping online, make sure you are signed up for these programs, then take a few minutes to check each and find which one has the best deal.  I have found, for instance, that ordering from someplace like 1800flowers.com, you can get different deals from each site.  Some also offer coupon codes for things like free shipping.  Pick the best one, also considering which program will give you the quickest easiest option for actually getting your cash back.  It doesn’t help you to get a 2.50 cashback bonus on your Discover Card if you don’t use it enough to hit the threshhold to redeem!

Best regards and happy shopping,

Lynn

Congratulations to Pixie for winning the gift card. I used the random number generator at random.org to select the winner and the winning comment was #5. I have emailed Pixie for her mailing info. If I do not get a response in 48 hours, I will draw a new winner.  Thanks to all that entered.

Bloggers sometimes get a chance to offer their readers some interesting giveaways, courtesy of generous sponsors.  This week, I am going to run my first ever giveaway, for a $25 Sam’s Club Gift card, courtesy of  General Mills and Sam’s Club, through MyBlogSpark.

They are running a promotion while supplies last to give you 150 box tops for your school when you sign up for a Plus Membership.  Plus Memberships are much more expensive than the regular memberships, but you are supposed to receive discounts and benefits to make it worthwhile.  I could not tell you if it is worth it yet, since I only have a regular membership, but I will soon get a chance to try an upgrade and I am looking forward to seeing if it is worth it.   Look for an update in the future regarding how my Plus membership is working.

Through the end of the month, you can also find many General Mills products at Sam’s with 6 Box Tops on them.

Even if you don’t have kids, or kids in a school that uses Box Tops, I am sure you can find someone who can use them.  I am saving mine to give to a friend who still has kids in grade school.

HOW TO ENTER:

To enter, leave a comment below telling me your favorite reason for shopping at Sam’s Club.  Contest will close on Thursday, August 12 at 11.59PM EST.    One reader will be selected through random number generation to receive a $25 Sam’s Club gift card.   I will announce the winner on Friday, August 13 by 5pm EST and contact them by email.  The winner will have 48 hours to contact me and provide their mailing details or their prize will be forfeit and I will select a new winner.  One entry allowed per household.  Must be at least 18 years old to enter.  US Entries only.   All comments must be approved, so please be patient in waiting to see your comment posted.

Required disclosure:  The gift card has generously been provided by Sam’s Club, General Mills, and MyBlogSpark and will be fulfilled directly by MyBlogSpark.  As part of this promotion, they have generously provided me with a $25 gift card for myself as well as an upgrade to a Plus Membership.  Any opinions expressed here are my own.

It is hot and I am tired, but I had such a nice time coupon shopping today that I had to share.  My first stop was SuperTarget and the results for $10.10 are shown below.

Bought at Target for $10.10

I had a buy one get one free (BOGO) from Bear Naked’s Facebook Page, so one of those cereals were free, though the coupon was causing trouble, so the cashier had to manually insert it as a miscellaneous coupon.  I also had a 50 cent off Target coupon that I stacked with it, so I got the two cereals for 3.29.  Both Raviolis were free after a $1 off Target Coupon.  The FiberPlus bars were originally 2.69, but I had dollar off coupons for both plus a dollar off two Target coupon for a net cost of 1.19 for each box.  Lastly, I needed Shower Cleaner and have been wanting to try the Extend-A-Clean.  It was on sale for 6.99 and I had a $3 off coupon.  Naturally, I brought my own bag for another nickel off:).

My next stop was Walgreens.  Generally at Walgreens I try to do several small trips, allowing me to “roll” Register Rewards (use the RR from one item to pay for something different on another trip that then produces a different RR), but it’s hot out, and Walgreens is running a Friends and Family 15% discount with a coupon available through Facebook (“like” Walgreens and you can find it), so I decided to just do all the RR items at once and hope for alot of things to buy with them next week:).  My out of pocket cost was $27.10 but I got back $19 in Register Rewards which I always spend and rarely waste them on something I wouldn’t buy anyway, so I consider them to be as good as cash back.    My trip is shown below.

Walgreens for $8.10 net cost

I had a raincheck for the 6 bags of Goldfish for 99 cents each (84 cents after F&F discount), plus 2 coupons for 50 cents off.   The vitamins and contact solution produced Register Rewards for their full price, plus I had a dollar off coupon for the vitamins and lucked into a peel off coupon for the solution right on the box.  Tea bags were on sale for 2.10 (after discount and a Wags coupon) plus I had 40 cent coupons off each one (one from my paper, one from a neighbor who kindly brought me his inserts yesterday).  Visine was 1.69 after discount and in ad coupon, plus I had 1.00 off.  The Tide was on sale and came to 5.09 after discount, plus I had 1.00 off and also got back RR on that one.

Those were my two big shopping coups today.  I did also stop by the “bread store” (Aunt Millie Outlet store) in the hopes of scoring some cheap english muffins and bagels.  Unfortunately, the place was almost cleaned out.  All I could get was two packs of whole wheat bagels for 1.09 each.  Cheaper than the grocery store, but alot more than they usually cost there.

Picked up two Sam’s Club roasted chickens for dinner (too hot to cook) for 4.99 each.  We’ll eat a little more than half of the chicken today and I’ll use the rest for enchiladas later in the week.

My last stop was Meijers.  They had Honey Nut Cherrios large boxes (25.25 oz) on sale for 2.99.  These are about twice the size of the standard boxes.  I had several 1.00 off 2 coupons that were about to expire, so I bought 9 boxes despite still having about 8 boxes in storage due to a rebate offer last month.  Still, my son eats almost 2 boxes a week and they are good until Sept 2011, so it was worth stocking up.

Hope you are having as much fun and luck saving money.  Let me know how it goes.

Lynn

I absolutely love the egg sandwiches you can get at various fast food joints.  This summer, my daughter and I have been on a huge kick, eating egg and muffin sandwiches for breakfast, sometimes snacks, and sometimes for lunch.  They are so easy to make and quite inexpensive.  For one sandwich, here’s all you need:

1 English muffin

1 egg

butter to fry egg

cheddar cheese (one slice just slightly smaller than your English Muffin)

one slice deli ham

Have all your ingredients out and ready to go.  Begin heating a small frying pan over medium heat.  Begin toasting muffin in toaster.  Butter your pan.  I just grab a stick of butter and swipe it quickly around your pan.  You can prepare your egg however you prefer.  We like ours scrambled.  I usually just crack the egg into the pan and scramble in the pan.  As the egg starts to set up, begin to scrape it into a pile about the size of your english muffin.  When muffin pops out of toaster, put the cheddar cheese on one side of muffin, then set the other side on top to start softening the cheese.  When your egg pile is set up enough to turn, flip it, and continue cooking until done.  Put egg on top of cheese on muffin, put ham on top of egg, put other size of muffin on your sandwich and you are ready to go!  Yum!!  I can make one of these in just a few minutes and my daughter says they give her a lot of energy to get her through a morning of summer PE.

Here are a few tips:

I shop for English Muffins at the day old bread store (where I also try to buy all my bread).  Last time I was in, they had Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) on English muffins and bagels.  You can’t beat 2 packs of english muffins or bagels for a total of 89 cents – less than 8 cents per muffin.  Stock up – bread products freeze great!

I buy a 2 lb block of cheddar at Sam’s club for about 5 bucks.  It keeps great and is good for snacks and cooking.  I probably use less than 1/2 an ounce of cheese on the muffin sandwiches, so the cheese costs about 8 cents per muffin also.

I really like the Egglands Best Eggs.  We were buying an 18 pack at Sam’s Club for about 3 bucks, but many of my magazines had 50 cent off coupons for EB eggs lately, so I clipped them all.  My Kroger doubles coupons, which results in a 12 pack of Eggland Best Eggs for 1.59.  That works out to about 13 cents an egg.  If you want to buy store brand eggs, you can often get them on sale for about a buck a dozen.

Finally, I have been buying Oscar Mayer prepackaged deli ham.  The round slices work perfectly for these muffins, which is the main use I have for the ham.  One 7 oz. pack can be found on sale for about 3 bucks or less.  There is probably at least 30 slices per container, so about a dime per piece of ham.  They usually have a long shelf life both before and after opening.

So, my total for a muffin would be:  8+8+13+10=39 cents.  Add a penny or two for butter and electricity for toaster and stove if you like.  Not too bad!

Enjoy!

Lynn

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