Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My New Bicycle!

It sounds weird saying "bicycle." But when I say "bike" I feel like people might think I mean a motorcycle.


I got a new bike today! My awesome parents bought it for me as an early birthday present. Very early, since my birthday isn't until December, but it doesn't make much sense to buy someone a bike in December here in ND.

It's a Trek Navigator 2.0. Here's a picture - mine is the same color and everything.

So we took Isaac for a ride tonight. It was the perfect day for a bike ride. 75 degrees and sunny! Seriously, this bike made the ride SO much more enjoyable. James says that he can't tell the difference between a $100 Target bike and a $400 Trek, but he's wrong. There IS a difference. A big difference! I can't wait to go for another ride tomorrow.

We have this nifty baby seat for Isaac that sits in the front between the bike seat and the handle bars. I'd never seen one before my parents bought it for us (and got one for my dad's bike too). It's really cool because I can see what he's doing and he can see everything without my butt in the way. He LOVES bike rides.

It looks like this:

That first one is really blurry, but it's the only one I have that shows exactly where the seat sits on the bike. I'll blame my mom. She took the pictures. :) That's Isaac and his grandpa, who LOVES to take Isaac on bike rides.

I'm so excited about my awesome bike! Maybe now I'll get out and get some exercise!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

Since I'm on the subject of debt, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite debt-related things.

It's a website where you can enter all of your debts, interest rates, and minimum payments. Then you enter how much you plan to put toward your debt every month, and it tells you how long it will take you to pay off your debt if you continue to pay the same amount every month, even after you pay something off. It's a little thing called the "debt snowball", which brings me to my next favorite thing...

Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover
Ok, this isn't exactly a favorite because I haven't read it yet, but it's on my list. Obviously, it's a book. And although I haven't read it, I've heard a lot about it and I think it's a great program. There are two things that I really like about it.
  • Seven Baby Steps - Dave gives you seven steps that tell you the best order in which to do things. This will help you get started.
  • Debt Snowball - If you're serious about getting out of debt, this is the way to do it! Basically, you figure out how much extra, if any, you can afford to put toward your debt every month. Then you pay all the extra (if any) toward the smallest debt. And when that debt is gone, you take all the money you used to pay toward that debt, to the next smallest debt, and so on and so forth, until it's all gone. So you're paying the same amount every month, and each time you pay something off, you're putting more and more money toward the principle of the next debt. This is what whatsthecost.com helps you do.
Dave Ramsey also has a tv show I like to watch once in a while that makes the list too.

Suze Orman

I watch her show occasionally on CNBC. I like her. She'll tell it like it is. There is a segment of her show where people call in because they want to buy something, they give her all their income and debts, etc, and Suze tells them if they can afford it or not. Love it!

She also has a website called MoneyMindedMoms. I just discovered this website and haven't done a whole lot of exploring yet, but I think I kind of like it. You should check it out.

I use Quicken for our personal finances. I love it. I'm the type of person who wants to know exactly how much money we have at any given time. It helps me keep track of my check register, savings account balances, credit card balance, investments, loans, assets, etc. And you can easily download your transactions directly from your bank. I bought mine, but if you don't want to pay for it, you can use http://www.mint.com/, which is owned by Quicken and essentially does the same thing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Let's Talk About Debt

Earlier this week, I was watching Oprah's Debt Diet. Now I have finances on my mind. So I thought I'd blog about it. Because that's what you write about when you have a blog - things that are on your  mind. Right? Right.

Ok, so I have a degree in accounting and have been blessed with a natural understanding of most things finance. Of course, I don't know everything. Not even close. But finance is an interest of mine, and therefor I want to learn about it. I understand that not everyone is so inclined. But I have a hard time dealing with the fact that A LOT of people don't even have even the most basic understanding about their finances. In fact, it really bugs me. It bugs me almost as much as women who know nothing about their own bodies, but that's another post for another day.

This particular Oprah show was highlighting a couple who were trying to make "sacrafices" in order to pay off their debt. The husband had to sell {gasp} half of his season tickets for some pro football team. Um, seriously dude? If you're $100,000 in debt (and I don't mean a mortgage), don't buy them in the first place. How is that not common sense? I would love to have season tickets for Sioux hockey. But I don't. You know why? Because I have other financial responsibilities that come first.

There was another lady on a few weeks ago. They were $170,000 in debt, but she would NOT give up her weekly trips to the salon. It was absolutely non-negotiable. Why the eff did she even sign up for this? Because it seems like she doesn't really want to get out of debt. No, scratch that. She sounds like she wants someone to wave a magic wand and make all their debt go away without having to make any changes.

Of course, now I'm sucked in to this whole Debt Diet series that Oprah has going on. I guess I just enjoy watching train wrecks.

{Steps down off soap box}

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Neighbors

Isaac and I met our new neighbors today! They moved about a month ago into the house two doors down. I saw some little kid toys in the yard, so I was hopeful that they would have a kid Isaac's age. Last night when I came home from my massage, I saw the little boy (who looked a little older than Isaac, but not much) outside with who I thought was his mom. So I grabbed the hubs and the munchkin and we walked over to say hi. Turns out it was the babysitter, but we did find out that the little boy's name is Eli and he just turned two.

So today I decided to take Isaac for a walk, and Eli was outside playing while his dad worked on some landscaping and his mom watched. We stopped by and introduced ourselves. They were very nice and seemed relatively normal! They seemed like they're in their late 20's, they have Eli who just turned two in June, and a baby on the way. They will be married for three years in August. They just moved here from Michigan because the husband got a job at UND as an aircraft mechanic. They said to stop over anytime and I extended the same offer. It's nice to have another young family in the neighborhood!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

...garage sale season! Or is it Christmas? Oh well, I guess that's a matter of opinion.

Anyway, I though I'd share some of my fave finds from last weekends garage sales. It's all baby clothes. That's pretty much what I shop for at garage sales. It's a great way to satiate my addiction to shopping for baby clothes.

My mom, Isaac, and I went to a couple of garage sales on Friday. We only went to like, five of them because we didn't feel like being out all day. This is the only thing I bought, but it was a GREAT deal.

I got this wind jacket for Isaac for $.25. It's in perfect condition. No stains, the zipper works fine. And it's from Baby Gap. Usually, people who are trying to sell name brand clothing want way too much for their crap. I don't usually care too much about brands, but now that Isaac is getting a little older and a little harder on his clothes, I really can tell a difference. The Gap/Gymboree stuff really is better quality than the others (but usually way too expensive, so I'll only buy it on clearance). Even Old Navy isn't as good. That's been my experience anyway. But regardless, I'm not spending more on it at a garage sale.

Then on Saturday, there was a community wide garage sale at the Alerus Center. Anyone can rent a booth and sell their crap. We went and found a few good things. This was my favorite.

I have a soft spot for little sweat suits. The jacket is kind of a heavier material. This outfit will be perfect for fall. And I paid $1 for it. My little man is gonna look so cute!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Very Good Question

While I was shopping yesterday with my mom, she asked me something. She said, "You save all this money with coupons, but would you even be buying half of this stuff if you didn't have a coupon?"

My answer was, "Yes. Sort of."

I understand what she means. Sometimes it's easy to get sucked in by coupons and buy things that you don't need. I try really hard not to do this. Would I buy those Scrubbing Bubbles power sprayers for $8.69 if I didn't have coupons? No way in Hell. But, then I would have to buy something else to clean my shower with, and it would probably cost more than the $.69 I actually paid for the power sprayer. Catch my drift? I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I see a coupon for a great deal on something we will use, I buy it. Yes, I have enough body wash to last me a few years, but when I get it for next to free, I buy it because I will use it. And if I don't buy it, when I run out, I will have to buy more, and I may not get such a good deal then.

Could I ditch the coupons and buy store brand stuff instead? Sure, I could. But honestly, I usually find better deals on name brand things with coupons. You don't usually get coupons for store brand things (although sometimes Target sends them out, which is awesome). Plus, it's fun to have the stuff with all the bells and whistles (continuous spray shower cleaner, disposable toilet wand, etc...) and it make life a little easier. If I can't find a deal on something that I need, I will often turn to the store brand. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But it's not always the least expensive option.

Since I've created a bit of a stockpile on necessities (due to my couponing obsession), now I can wait for the good sales. I don't have to say, "Crap! We're out of toilet paper. Lets go out and pay full price for it because we need it now!" I buy it when it's cheap to avoid these types of situations. And it's nice to have what you need on hand. When I run out of deoderant, no worries! I've got some downstairs!

This "obsession" of mine has made a considerable difference in our budget. It's noticable. And it's really nice.

For me, it's worth the extra time and effort to find the coupons.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Another Good Target Run!

Ok, good is an understatement. More like a great Target run. I totally win.

Here's all the stuff I got:

Total before coupons: $71.92
Total after coupons: $32.40
So with price cuts and coupons, I saved $44.08! That's about 61%!

So I've decided I'm going to start blogging my Target deals a little differently. It's so time consuming to put all the coupon links, so I'm not going to do that anymore. Instead, I'll just link to the post on the Totally Target blog, since that's pretty much the only place I look for my deals. That will save me some time, and you, the reader, will still be able to get the same deals that I did!

Here we go!

I didn't have coupons for all of this stuff. Lets face it, sometimes there just isn't a coupon for what you need. Here's what I didn't have coupons for:
- The french bread loaf. I'm going to use it to make garlic bread for our spaghetti tonight. It was $.99.
- The Sara Lee bread (which is kind of hiding behind the juice in the picture. I kind of ran out of room on the table), but I did save $.10 because it was on price cut.
- The whole wheat Country Hearth bread. But I still saved $1.60! It's normally $3.59, but it was on price cut for $1.99. Since I was going to buy this anyway, I was thrilled to save that much!
- 3 Einstein Bagles @ $.99 each. This was my splurge. Asiago bagles, yum!

That's all folks. Everything else I had a coupon for.

Welch's White Grape Juice - This was on price cut for $3.27. On Totally Target, it says $2.82, so I was disappointed that our store sold it for so much more. But I had the $2 off coupon, and James loves this stuff, so I got it anyway. For $1.27, which still isn't bad. Here's the post.

Fruit2o - They're on price cut for $.89, and you can print a $1/2 coupon. I got four for $.39 each. It's a good alternative to soda, which I should really cut down on. Here's the post.

Ball Park Angus hot dogs - They're $2.44, and I had a $.55/1 coupon (can't remember which mailer I got it out of, sorry), so I paid $1.89. Not great, but not terrible and I wanted some hot dogs for grilling if it ever will stop raining here!

Gulden's Spicey Mustard - James likes this stuff and he's been eating a lot of sandwiches lately. It's regularly $1.59 and I had a $1/1 Target coupon from their home mailer. $.59 is a pretty good price!

Cheerios - Free again. I still had two coupons for a free small box of Cheerios, so I used them up since they expire at the end of the month. We're stocked on Cheerios for a while now, which is a shame because while I was there, I noticed that the bigger boxes of Cheerios had peelie coupons on them for $1/1! Those coupons expire in May of 2011 so they're good for a while (so I peeled a few off to use later, shame on me) and the price for a big box of Cheerio's is $2.55, so that will make it $1.55. That's a sweet deal if you like Cheerios!

Bulls Eye BBQ sauce - Free. I had a free coupon for it that I got in some Kraft grab bag thing that I got a while back.

Gold N Plump Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast (38 oz, which is like 2.3something lbs) - Normally this is $9.99, but it was on price cut for $8.99. I had a $1/1 Target coupon (from the home mailer) and a $1/1 manufacturer coupon from the Gold N Plump website. Paid $6.99.

Now for my favorite deals of the day:

The wipes - Free, free, and free. No that's a lie, I actually got paid $.03 each to take these off their hands. They were $1.97 each, and I had three $2/1 manufacturer coupons from the 6-6-10 P&G insert. Yes!

The diapers - They're $8.99. I had a $3 manufacturer's coupon (find one here) and a $1.50/1 Target coupon from the home mailer. So I paid $4.49. I generally try to not pay more than $5 for a Jumbo pack of diapers. This fit the bill nicely!

(You'll find these deals here)

I apologize for the blurry picture. I was in a hurry.
Anyway, I had the Target B1G1 coupon for the Vanish Drop Ins and a B1G1 manufacturer coupon. So I bought one at $2.14, got one free with my Target Q and got the other one free with my MQ. So I got three for $2.14, or $.71 each.

The Fresh Brush deal is pretty awesome. I bought the Toilet Cleaning Gel (which I've tried before and I like it) for $3.94. Then I used a Target Q and a MQ that are both 'buy one Toilet Cleaning Gel, get one Fresh Brush strarter kit or refill free'. So I got one Fresh Brush starter kit ($6.29) free, and one Fresh Brush refill ($3.94) free.

So for everything in the above picture I paid $6.08 (It's a $20.59 value). I'm going to have the cleanest toilet on the block!

And voila! I saved myself $44.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Isaac's First Steps!

I can not believe that I forgot to mention this in my post last night, but MY BABY IS WALKING!

Ok, not so much walking as taking a few steps here and there. He took his first steps while playing with his Papa (Grandpa R) in the camper before we left on Friday morning. He started by taking three or four steps. Now he takes three or four steps, stops and stands for a second, then takes three or four more until he realizes that he's not holding on to anything and falls on his butt or dives toward the nearest person. And sometimes he'll take seven or eight steps without pausing.

We kind of knew he'd start walking early. I mean, he's only 10 months old, but he has always liked to stand and walk holding our fingers. He's been walking with our help since he was six months old, so it was just a matter of time. Plus, James and I both were early walkers when we were babies.

Since we've been home, he's taken off without holding on to anything several times. He's just raring to go! Once he gets his balance under control, we're in trouble!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Outdoor Family Trip and a Sinus Infection

Last Thursday, we set out for Isaac's very first camping trip. James' sister works for the South Dakota State Parks and is kind of in charge of this annual event called Becoming an Outdoor Family. This year it was at Oahe (Oh-awe-hee) Downstream recreation area near Pierre, SD. It's on a river, downstream of the Oahe Dam. 

During Outdoor Family, they have all sorts of classes that involve doing outdoorsy stuff, like archery, campfire cooking, fishing, a bug exhibit, etc. On Saturday they have a potluck where every family has a recipe that they cook over the campfire and bring, and we all eat it.

Now, Pierre is about a 7 hour drive from here, so we left on Thursday to spend the night at James' parents' farm near Watertown, SD, which is the half-way point. It really helped to split up the drive, which is important when traveling with a 10-month-old.

James' sister was able to reserve us a cabin. The cabins are pretty simple, just a small structure with three beds inside (a double bed with a single bunk on one side, and a single bed on the other) and a table with benches on three sides.

But they have air conditioning, heat, a great deck, and an even better view! I took this picture from our deck.

We had a lot of fun, and it was great being able to hang out with family that we don't get to see a lot. I was also able to get some good pictures! Here are my favorites:

This was the beach in front of our cabin.

Isaac on the deck.

My beautiful niece/Goddaughter, Gwen, at the playground.

This is my niece, Kiersten, and her grandpa (my father-in-law) walking on the docks.

We left on Sunday and went back to the in-laws' farm after visiting with James' brother and sister-in-law for a little while at their apartment in Pierre, and stopping in Watertown to see James' other brother and sister-in-law and their new house. The plan was to meet the latter siblings in Watertown for an early lunch on Monday and then head home, but no, I had to get a wicked sinus infection. So instead, we rushed home on Monday so I could get a doctor's appointment. I spend most of that day on the couch, completely worthless.

My mom, bless her heart, came over on Tuesday to watch Isaac for me while I wallowed in my misery. Thankfully, by Tuesday evening, the antibiotics has started to kick in and my head, which had previously felt like it was going to explode at any second, deflated a little. This was my first sinus infection, and holy mother of Mary I pray to God that it's my last. It was terrible!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today is James and my THREE year anniversary! We couldn't be happier! We've come so far and accomplished so much!

  • We're homeowners. Granted, James had the house before we were married, but it's still a blessing!
  • We traveled. Since we've been married we've been to Jamaica, London, Paris, Chicago, and Las Vegas.
  • We got a puppy! We love you Gizmo!
  • We've remodeled our kitchen/bedroom/nursery and made our house nice and cozy.
  • We both have jobs that we like. That one took me a while to figure out, but we're both there now.
  • We had a baby! Isaac is our life and we love him so much!
We are so blessed for everything that God has given us, especially each other and our family. I couldn't ask for more.

Thank you for the last three years, Jamesy! We've been through thick and thin and I couldn't possibly love you more!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Paper Towel Addiction

Hello. My name is Rachael and I'm a paper towel addict.

My addiction started when I got my first apartment and had to actually start cleaning up after myself. I never thought about how I was affecting the environment, not to mention my pocket book, by using them.

Then after I got married and had real bills and expenses, I began to realize what a huge budget-killer paper towels are. I've never been the most environmentally responsible person, but I was becoming more aware of that too.

Now that Isaac is here and eating baby food and making big, fat messes, I have been using more paper towels than ever! And it needs to stop!

First of all, the cost really adds up. I mean, sure, if you use washcloths and towels instead, you have to factor in the cost of the water/soap used to wash them, but that's minimal. Hand towels and washcloths are so small that you can throw them in with any old load of laundry and it won't make a difference at all.

Then there's the environmental factor. Did you know that paper towels produce 3000 tons of landfill waste each day? That's a lot. And I mean a lot.

This is not to say that I am going to cut paper towels out of my life completely. I'm just trying to be less dependent on them. I've started by trying to be more conscious of it when I reach for a paper towel. Do I need a paper towel right now? Or will a washcloth do the trick? I have washclothes, so why don't I use them? And I've noticed that using a washcloth to clean Isaac up after a messy lunch is much more effective than a paper towel.

So think about it. Do you have a paper towel addiction? Admitting you have a problem is the first step...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Outside with Isaac

Funny story - I was talking to our next-door neighbor the other day and he was telling me about this one time last week when I was laying on the ground taking pictures of Isaac. He went outside, saw me, and thought I was laying on the ground all funny because I was hurt. Then when he looked closer, he saw that I was just taking photos of Isaac.

Apparently I look like I am in pain when I'm taking pictures. Who knew?

The said photo shoot when ok, but I did have one nemesis - the sun. Let me just say that I really don't know what the heck I'm doing. I know about a few camera settings, and I have a decent camera, but other than that, I'm sort of flying by the seat of my pants. :) I guess this blog is aptly named. Also, the photos that you have seen on this blog thus far are totally unedited. I'm currently trying to find a deal on Photoshop Elements (you know me, I won't pay full price) so I won't have to find time to go to my parents' house and use my mom's copy.

Ok, so the sun was not my friend this day. When we sat in the shade of the tree, I got shadows. When we sat in the sun, facing away from it - I got shadows. When we sat in the sun, facing toward it - guess what? Shadows you say? Wrong. No shadows, but Isaac was making funny faces because the sun was in his eyes. I just couldn't win.

Anywho, here are a few of the shots I got.

See what I mean about the shadows? This is when we were sitting under the shade of the tree.

This picture is the reason we decided to give Isaac a haircut. No child of mine will have anything resembling a mullet.

This is one of my faves. I just love aperture. Can you tell?

Not really sure what's going on here. Push-ups maybe?

This is when we sat in the sun, facing away from it. It's a little washed out in some places, and much darker in others. I maybe could have adjusted the ISO, but I'm not really sure if that would work in this situation. Isaac was getting restless so I didn't have time to monkey with it.

Obviously, this is when we were sitting facing the sun. That's Mickey in the background. We were doggysiting while my parents were on vacation.

"Mom, can't we be done yet?"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Few Good Target Deals

I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day! I did! Isaac and I spent it out shopping with Grandma (my mom)! One of our stops was Target (are you surprised?). In addition to a cute little swim top for Isaac and a birthday present for my niece, here are a few things I came out with:

We go through a lot of Cheerios at my house. James likes to snack on them. He just eats them by the handful. Who needs milk and a spoon? Isaac loves them too. He scarfs them right down! Like I said, we go through a lot of Cheerios at my house.

So a few weeks ago, when I saw that Pampers Gifts to Grow had "discounted" the amount of points you needed to get a coupon for a free box of Cheerios, I jumped at the opportunity and got six. LOL! So these two boxes were free. And I still have four free coupons left to use before they expire on June 10th. I didn't know they would expire so soon! Oh well, they'll get eaten eventually.

I know, I know. I already have a few of these bottles, but it's not my fault! They just keep putting out coupons making this deal irresistible! Buying the whole thing is cheaper than just buying a refill, so that's what I'm gonna do! Plus, I really like this stuff. It keeps my shower squeaky clean! I paid $.69 for this bottle, regularly priced at $8.69. Here's how:

Print this really awesome $5/1 coupon here.
Print this $3/1 Target coupon here.
(EDIT: Use this manufacturer coupon in addition to those other two to get a FREE refill. This coupon attaches to the refill at the register, so you can still use the $5/1 manufacturer coupon because that one will attach to the starter at the register. Some stores won't let you do this, but mine did. This means you can get a starter bottle and a refill for a total of $.69.)

Voila! There you have $8 off. I cannot imagine paying $8.69 for this product though. It lasts like for like two weeks. Maybe I use too much. Either way, you can't beat $.69. I think I'll go back and get some more.

Dove body wash! This stuff is normally pretty expensive (in my opinion) at $5.49 each. It was on clearance for $4.66 (which isn't much of a clearance, if you ask me). Use this $1/1 Target coupon, and this $1.25/1 manufacturer coupon, and you'll get one for only $2.41. I'm not sure why, but I had four of each of these coupons, so I gave two sets to my mom because she likes this stuff. She was pretty happy about getting this deal too!

This John Frieda shampoo and conditioner is regularly priced at $5.04. I used this Target coupon for $3/2, and used two of these manufacturer coupons for $2.50/1. That means I got these for just $1.04 each. W00T! (Yes, I just said w00t. My computer nerd of a husband is rubbing off on me.)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Isaac's First Haircut

On Sunday night, we gave Isaac his first haircut! It was quite the event - Grandma and Grandpa even came over so someone could control the video camera.

Isaac did REALLY well! Grandpa was on the floor playing with Gizmo, and that really kept Isaac's attention while I was using the clippers on him.

Here are the obligatory before and after pics.



(Haha, you can see Grandpa on the floor keeping Isaac distracted.).

And to make this related to money-saving, think of how much I saved by doing it myself! I've been cutting James' hair now for about 6 months and we've long since paid for the clippers with our savings. I was nervous at first, but it's not so bad. Totally worth it!