Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DO NOT BUY Target's Create Your Own Wooden Clock

We needed a clock for our wall in our dining room, where we do most of our homeschooling. Instead of spending $3 on a cheap wall clock at Target, I blew $10 on a make-it-yourself one so the kids could create it and be proud of it hanging on the wall. Here is what they created:

Cool, huh? Too bad I had to return it, which broke my heart and upset my kids, as well. The piece that holds the clock arms to the front and the battery compartment to the back (the washer?) was too big and did not screw on. My husband ran all over the place looking for a washer that would fit ... no dice. So I went to Target and opened another box to see if it would work, but NOPE. Aron called the company and they have stopped making this ... no surprise. What is annoying is that they are still on the shelves at Target.

I can't find my piece of paper with the manufacturer information (not a shock since I'm not the most organized person in the world), but when I do I will post it. In the meantime, don't be tempted to pick up this do-hickey!!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Blue Laws

I'm probably at church right now (if you're reading this at 11 a.m.). Then we won't be heading to the pool because we don't shop or spend money on Sundays so my husband extends that to not going to places where people have to work, which means the flipping pool. Trying to change his mind is like hitting your head against a brick wall, and I'm not patient with mind-changing anyway, so I just sigh and let stuff go sometimes. Pick your battle in marriage, I always say ... yeah, right!

Tomorrow I hope to be at the pool with the kids unless it rains in KC. Then lots of hanging out. How about you?

Hubby didn't want me to mention this, but I think it's a big deal that he went to Joplin, MO for 3 days to help out. I'm pretty much bragging that I have a kind-hearted husband who enjoys helping others. He is certainly too good for me. So we will be enjoying him today and listening to his stories of the town hit so hard by a tornado, only 2 hours from where we live.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

MommyKerrie Is Taking a Break This Weekend

I gotta take a bloggy break. I'm getting burned out again. This always happens this time of year, about the time summer comes around and I realize I still have homeschooling to do and I have tons of fun stuff planned for the kids over the summer and tons of other writing projects I want to get to while kids are laying around in a post-pool coma.

And let's face it ... I'm getting my butt kicked trying to keep the house looking decent these days. AND I have all those millions of photos staring at me when I go to the basement to do laundry and they are BEGGING to be put into simple scrapbooks. And you all know how DEMANDING my husband is ... give me a backrub this and rub my feet that and make me some duck a l'orange this and fetch me a martini that. HAHA! Yeah, right!

So leave me a comment and let me know some of your summer plans. I'll still be blogging ... June is the month of ME since I'll be turning 40. Then July is homeschooling month. If you guest post for me that will give you some new fans and me a freaking break!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Frugal Tip #11: Teach Your Kids to Wait for Stuff

In honor of my mother's 61st birthday (Jeez, she only looks 50!), I have to honor her frugal spirit. I remember when Kaepa tennis shoes were popular and I wanted them SO BADLY. The problem was they cost $50. I know, these days tennis shoes cost several times that, but back in 1983 that was a lot of cash.

So I did not get those shoes when they were popular in 1983. I got them in 1984 when they were out of fashion and when my parents could afford them.

And I FREAKING LOVED THOSE SHOES. I wore those shoes until I wore holes in them. I wore those shoes until I was in my twenties. I miss those shoes. I appreciated those shoes.

So the moral of the story is ... if you are dying to make a purchase ... WAIT! Impulse purchases will get your butt in debt, friends!

Happy Birthday, Mom! You rock!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Frugal Tip #10: Set Up a Budget

I started using an on-paper budget when I started losing bills and having to pay late fees for bills I had forgotten to pay on time. Some of the more spontaneous people I knew made fun of me ... until they found themselves in credit card debt with a wicked Target credit card bill coming every month.

Setting up a budget (either on a piece of paper or in Excel, which is how I do it because I like the calculations) has helped me to prioritize what I spend money on and we are never late with bill payments now.

It's easy to do.  If you use a piece of paper, make column headings like "Name of Bill", "Total Amount Owed", "Amount Due Now", "Due Date", "Date Paid", "Amount Paid". You decide how you want to set it up.

Down the left side list your bills: rent or mortgage, utility bills, car payments, dance lessons, groceries, gas for your car, everything. Don't forget about those things that come every two or three months, like maybe your trash bill or if you pay your car insurance every 3 or 6 months.

Whip out your calculator because you may have to adjust some of your amounts that you spend on unnecessary stuff like fast food. If you are low on money for a certain paycheck, watch what you spend at the grocery store because that is the easiest place to cut costs. Shop at discount stores and consider some meatless meals like Frito Pie, grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly.

Check back with your budget often to make sure you're on track. It will take some tweaking and a few months to perfect it, but soon you'll be on your way to financial success. Setting up a budget is especially important for couples who maybe aren't on the same page financially ... like one spends a lot and one prefers to save.

I also highly recommend any book by Dave Ramsey, as well as his radio talk show!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Frugality Tip #9: Take Care of Your Health

Recently a guy was telling me how he spent $14,000 on medical care in 2010 for a family of 3, and that did not include the premiums he was paying through his work. I was schocked and wondered how we had paid way less than that, even the year that Sam was in the NICU for a week, and we have a family more than double the size of his. Here are some factors that will have you paying out the wazoo ...

  1. Do you smoke? Not only are you probably looking old and wrinkly and blackening your lungs (how fun for your kids to have to take care of you when you get emphysema!), but you probably feel like crap, too. How far can you run before you are out of breath? Are you sick often?
  2. Do you drink alcohol often? Wine now and then is said to be good for you, but are you throwing back a 12-pack of beer nightly? That's a different story for Mr. Liver, and I hope your kids are available and still in contact with you when it's time for a ride to your AA meeting (since you got that DUI and all that).
  3. Do you take too many prescription drugs? Do you need them to help you sleep, wake up, be happy, get over an illness, for pain? Do you need them to live?
  4. Do you run your kid to the doctor for a paper cut?
  5. Do you head to the ER for a headache?
  6. Do you hit the therapist up every time you experience rejection or are having a hard time with someone?
  7. Are you on birth control pills? Have you read the warnings on those puppies lately? Breast cancer doesn't sound like a fun way to spend my 50s.
  8. Do you over-sterilize everything you or your precious kids touch? Stop that!
I hope my non-judgmental and amazing health tips will help you to cut your medical costs in the future. You can send some of that extra money my way for my LegoLand 2012 fund. Thank ya.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Post: Behind the Piano

I love this guest post by Carol Alexander ... it shows that you have to think outside the box when it comes to saving money. I am in her position (well, not behind the piano!), and my writing desk is small and is up against a living room wall where I can be near my homeschoolers. I love her tips on saving on office supplies, especially!

By Carol J. Alexander

In twenty-three years as a stay-at-home-mom, I have learned that you make money by saving money. Because most people already own a computer, paper, and pencil, a writing business requires less start-up than the average network marketing scheme. But one step into your local office supply mega-store could undo that in an instant. With so many years’ experience making ends meet by bargain hunting, using what’s on hand, or doing without, it is only natural for me to apply these principles to my business. Let me show you a few ways you, too, can put more of your earnings into your pocket.

I save a tremendous amount of money by buying a year’s worth of office supplies during back-to-school sales. I purchase copy paper for $2.50 instead of $4.50 and spiral notebooks for a dime. Pens, pencils, notebooks, and folders all sell for next to nothing this time of year.

For larger items, I decide ahead of time how much I want to spend and do not buy until I find my price (or better). I also practice delayed gratification by saving cash for the purchase. Then, I track the sales. I use the Internet to compare brands and to search for rebates. I watch the advertisements in the newspaper. Most large-ticket items like computers and electronics go on sale in August and for the holidays. I recently purchased a laptop and printer. I shopped for something that would meet my needs, was a quality product and was within my price range. After the sale prices and rebates I paid less than $400 for the pair.
I have saved my business the most money in the design of my ‘office.’ An article in a recent writers’ newsletter discussed outfitting your office in these slow economic times. Most everything the author suggested I cannot afford to do. Also, in a popular book for writers, the author cautions the reader against starting out too big, too fast. She shares that she only recently graduated from her modest 10’x10’ office in the spare bedroom to something more spacious. Let me assure you, if I had another 10’x10’ room in my house, I would rapidly separate some boys. My money saving office measures precisely 5’3”x3’4”.
You wouldn’t believe what I fit in 17 ½ square feet. I have a comfortable, ergonomically designed office chair my husband picked up at a thrift store for $5 and an old kitchen table that I use as a desk. I also have a bookcase that holds the books I use constantly, an inbox (for putting works in progress), some catalogs and journals. A few flower pots sit on the shelves to hold paperclips, sticky note pads, pencils and a stapler.
On the other side of the piano (Oh, I forgot to mention that my neat little space is behind the piano!) sits a small filing cabinet and on top of that is the printer. And that is all I need…for now. Granted I’ve only been pursuing this writing career for a few years; but I earn money. I am published in national magazines. I am happy with my progress.

So, when can I turn the spare room into an office? I don’t anticipate having a spare room until my now 16-year-old son moves out. So, until then, you can find me behind the piano.

Carol J. Alexander writes from behind the piano in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Her articles have appeared in Urban Farm, BackHome Magazine, Grit, Home Education, The Old Schoolhouse, and several different parenting magazines. She is also the author of two e-books for homeschooling parents: Seed Catalog Curriculum: 50+ Lesson Plans Using Seed Catalogs, and Planning a Homeschool Graduation. You can find Carol, or her books, at her blog EverythingHomeWithCarol.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Frugality Tip #8: Save Money on Groceries and Food

I used to have a problem with fast food. More like an addiction. I craved it and when I would get a writing paycheck in the mail I would cash it and spend it on fast food or ice cream or something else food-ish.

Something happened recently that I can't quite explain.

I stopped craving it. I also stopped taking second helpings of every meal at home. I can't tell you the last time I bought myself a fancy coffee. I make coffee at home when I am dying for it and keep a $2.50 bag of M&Ms in my diaper bag for my sweets cravings. That bag lasts me about a week, then I get another.

I lost weight and saved money for LegoLand. I have to give some credit to Geneen Roth and Bethenny Frankel Hoppy ... they say don't deprive yourself, but don't pig food in when you are faced with something you love. Have that chili cheese dog, but only eat half of it now. You will not starve. There will always be more food.

What are your tips for eating less and eating out less?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Frugality Tip #7: Sell Your Old Junk

Usually I just donate our old stuff since it’s the easiest route, but lately we’re trying to make money for our dream goal of going to LegoLand in California someday, so we are saving every cent we can. Here’s the order of events in getting rid of stuff:

Garage sale. Oh, how I hate having a garage sale, but my kids love it, so I reluctantly do it about once a year. For one thing, we are not early birds. We never end up making money, but this year I decided to advertise it for free on Craigslist and put in the ad that we were only open from 10-4. We made $45, which is like half a ticket to LegoLand.
Consignment shop. We have a kid consignment store down the road, so I took all the toys that did not sell at the garage sale (they’re too picky about clothes) and tried to sell them there. I made another $14.

Craigslist. I put an ad on Craigslist advertising a “lot” of toys for one low price. Perfect for a daycare or a new grandma trying to stock up her house. I put special stuff in their own ad (Littlest Pet Shop, Thomas trains, my husbands tools). We were able to quickly unload a tool of my husband's for $15. (I never have buyers come to my home unless my husband is home because I'm a big scaredy cat).

Thrift stores. After about a week, what was left went in the back of my van and to the local thrift store.

Your challenge: to sell some old junk and not spend the money on fast food. Put the money away ... like in a savings account!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Games to Play with Baked Lays on Mother's Day

This here is what you'd call a "break" from Frugality Month. I'm not loving the theme months, but I'm committed (or should be ... ha!), but I can take a break on the even days if I wanna.

On Mother's Day Michael and I were on the deck eating Baked Lays. All of a sudden he put them in his hand all fanned out like they were cards. He said, "Let's play Go Chip."

I didn't miss a beat and put my own chips in my hand and made a discard pile of chips. We started playing, like this:

Michael, "Do you have a .... [pause] chip?"

Me, "No. Go chip." Then he picked from the discard pile. Then I asked, "Do you have a ... chip?"

Michael, "Yes." Then he gives me two chips that are close together in his hand. I eat one and add one to my hand.

We continued on like this for a few minutes until our chips were eaten.

Then I started laughing my butt off at the absurdity that is us!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Frugality Tip #6: Use the Library

You Know You Have a Good Book When …

I love the library. So I sometimes have to wait months to get my hands on the latest bestseller. It’s free!
I used to overuse my PayPal account to buy used books on ebay (imagine if Amazon and Half.com took PayPal!!!). Then I realized I was getting books, reading them and then never looking at them again. So I’d sell them for a fraction of what I paid or just give them away. I know, some people save every book they’ve ever read, and I used to do that. Then I took a look around my 1,327 square foot home and saw the space our homeschooling stuff took up and realized I just can’t save books unless I’m using them for something.

You know you have a good book when …

… you want to stay up late reading it.

… you lock yourself in the bathroom pretending to be having bowel issues.

… you read instead of watching The Real Housewives (or your favorite show).

… you get excited to get back home to dive into it.

… you find your mind wandering in social situations because you’d much rather be with your book friends.

I'm so excited about adding Amazon to my blog ... you can now purchase books directly from this site. Sometimes you check out a book from the library and just HAVE to own it. Or sometimes you hear the title and HAVE to own it (like how I just had to have The Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family, and my friend bought it immediately, as well!).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Frugality Tip #5: Borrow Other People's Ideas

I came across this post at Life as Mom recently and at the end she had readers add their own ideas for saving money. They included ideas on saving money on food, electricity and more. Check it out. It was up to almost 60 ideas last time I checked, and you could add your own!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Frugality Tip #4: Stop Spending Money on Unnecessaries

Say “no” to every telemarketer who calls, even if they talk about childhood cancer. I like to turn it into sport, like when they call about me paying for life insurance or funeral costs for firefighters and cops. I feel a little bad, but I have to ask, "Um, my husband pays for OUR life insurance, so why aren't THEY paying for their OWN life insurance?" or "How come my tax dollars aren't going to the vets instead of you calling ME personally and asking me for money, 1/2 of which is going into the pocket of your CEO?" The telemarketer gets all flustered and doesn't know what to say, and that's the end of that.

Buy ONE box of Girl Scout cookies every year, not 10.

Spend less at Christmas (we don’t go crazy AT ALL, but I noticed last year the kids were tired of opening presents after about the 4th of 9 … so this year how about 5 gifts per kid and head to Craigslist!)

Spend less on gifts for the endless birthday parties we attend (working on an article on this; remind me to link to it once it’s out)

Check Dave Ramsey’s site and contact an insurance Endorsed Local Provider to see if we can get a better rate on our car and home insurance. Cancel full coverage on our trashed-out minivan, which will save about $30 per month.

If I can’t afford a $5 coffee I can’t get it until the next writing check or payday, no matter how badly I may want or need it. I’ll just make coffee at home or else buy a $1 iced tea at McDonald’s or take a B12 with a bunch of water.

Share your ideas with me!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Frugality Tip #3: Make Some Extra Money

If you can’t cut your expenses, here are some ways to make extra money as a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t want to put her kids in daycare (I’ve starred the ones I’ve personally done) ... oh, and don't forget your husband can also do some of this stuff if he's only working part-time or something like that:

*Mystery shopping

*Market research

*Babysitting at home

*Babysitting at churches
 Babysitting at health clubs (free membership included usually!)

*Freelance writing (magazines, but also sales letters and marketing manuals, as well as ebooks (GetPublishedParentingMags.com)

*Blogging

*Magazine delivery to businesses

Newspaper delivery

Mowing lawns (good exercise, Mama!)

Dog walking or sitting

House sitting

Anything you were good at in your previous work life that you can turn into money at home (legal advice, PR services, proofreading, doing taxes … sky’s the limit!)

*Sell some crap (books at Half Price Books, garage sale, Craigslist, consignment shops)

I wrote an article once called Moms Making Money and researched some obscure ways to make money at home, which include*:

Audio-to-Text Transcriber (www.TigerFish.com; www.ProductionTranscripts.com)

Direct Seller (www.TiensNA.com for health and wellness products; www.TheTravelingVineyard.com for fine wine)

E-Juror (www.eJury.com; www.TrialPractice.com)

Online User Guide (www.about.com; www.chacha.com; www.JustAnswer.com)

Online Tutor (www.tutor.com)

Professional Blogger (www.BlogHer.com; http://www.blogsvertise.com/)

Sales Call Verifier (http://www.voicelog.com/)

Telemarketer (www.Intrep.com; www.Telereach.com; http://www.west.com/)

Virtual Assistant (www.TeamDoubleClick.com; http://www.virtualassistantjobs.com/)

Virtual Customer Service Agent (www.AlpineAccess.com; http://www.workingsol.com/)

Virtual Publicist (www.OrcaCommunications.com; http://www.wasabipublicity.com/)

*Tory Johnson’s Work-from-Home Tips www.abcnews.go.com/gma/takecontrolofyourlife/story?id=2621388&page=1 (except for Professional Blogger sites)

Please add your ideas in the Comments section!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Frugality Tip #2: Save on Baby Gear

Lookie! It's a playpen!
When I was pregnant with my first child 10 years ago, we went all out on baby gear. Thankfully, most of it was gifted to us, and much of it has lasted through 5 kids, but there are some things we really could have saved a lot of money on:

  1. High chair. Instead of having my dad get us a new $100 high chair, we could have hunted garage sales, thrift stores and craigslist.com and saved up to 75%. Then Dad could have spent the money he saved on a huge chocolate stash for his favorite (only) daughter.
  2. Stationary walker. Ditto from above, except insert "my mom".
  3. Stroller. Ditto from above, except insert "me" spending $110 on a double stroller. Should've saved the leftover money for nursing bras because those dang things are exPENsive!
  4. Car seat. Our first kid's carseat came FREE from the hospital because by law they can't send a baby home NOT in a carseat. I found that out and didn't take one with me, so we got one for free. It was cheesy with no handle and pleather, but it got us around for a while til someone gave us a used one. Yes, I am aware that you aren't supposed to use used carseats, but some truly broke people have no choice but to trust that a seat hasn't been in an accident (and even if it has, they have to take their chances that THEY won't get in an accident, and so on).
  5. Cloth diapers. Sounds gross, but you can buy them used and just bleach the heck outta them.
  6. Clothing. Garage sales and kid consignment shops save you a ton of cash on baby clothes. Also, taking any handouts from people who have older children is a huge budget saver!
  7. A changing table. I've never owned one of these. I prefer to change diapers on the floor or on a bed, where I am FACING my baby and am not at a weird angle to him/her while trying to keep him/her from falling off a high surface!
I'm sure I'll come up with 50 more things I could've bought used. In the meantime, give me YOUR ideas!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Guest Post: Get a Raise, Even During a Recession

This guest post is brought your way by DebtConsolidation.com/.


Like many of us, you feel like it is harder to make ends meet today. You have been working hard at your current position, and you really feel they deserve a raise. However, with the poor economy lately, you are afraid to even broach the subject with your boss.

This could actually be a great time to ask for more compensation for all that you do. Many companies have laid off so many people that the ones left behind are doing double the work to make up for the loss.

Those who are taking on more responsibility are showing how valuable they are to a company and should ask for more money. Here are some possible strategies that can get you more money.

Take a look at your title. Does it say one thing, but yet you do the work of a position higher in the company? Let your boss know it is time to adjust your title and your salary so you will be making what you are worth. You may find out your supervisor has no idea what you are compensated and give you some extra money.

Do your research. Check around on the internet and see what others in your area are getting paid for the same or similar position. If you find the median pay is higher than what you are receiving, present the facts to your company along with a summary of your current duties.

Check out your company. How they have done financially? If you see they have made a profit the last quarter, take note of that and how much it was. Use this information to support your request for a pay increase.


Finally, list all of the work you do in your position, especially anything you do that goes above and beyond the job description. If possible, show how you’ve saved the company or how you have streamlined work processes to increase efficiency.

Once you have all your information documented, take it into your boss. Be prepared and have your facts straight, and you may leave pleasantly surprised!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Frugal Tip #1: Cheap or Free Haircuts

Welcome to the kickoff of Frugality Month at The (Mommy)Kerrie Show. By the end of this month you should pretty much figure out that I'm so tight I squeak when I walk. The reason for this is that I do not like to feel out of control as far as money goes. I like to have zero debt and money saved. I do know how to enjoy myself and how to treat my family to some fun, though. Read on ...
Callie after Paul Mitchell cut


Joel is happy to get his Mommy-cut

Why not let the 3-year-old try hair-cutting?

Better yet, let the 1-year-old give it a shot!

We love to do at-home haircuts. We spent about $20 10 years ago on a clipper set and have saved hundreds of dollars. I cut my husband's hair, as well as my two sons' hair. Sam will be next! I do bang trims on myself and my girls. Callie has only had 2 real haircuts in her life, both at Paul Mitchell school for $10 each (sounds expensive!). I get my hair layered MAYBE twice a year at the rate of $13 per cut. No coloring needed for me yet, thankfully (heck, I'll just do it at home out of a bottle anyway!).

Don't forget that lots of places will give you a FREE haircut if you have a bunch of hair to chop off and donate to Locks of Love. I've done this THREE times (not for the free cut but because my hair grows fast and I want to help someone out). Start by contacting Great Clips for this, but some high-end salons will also do this for kid, women and men.

No photo of me to share this time around, folks, because I asked for a shaggy, messy haircut and now look a lot like Jon Bon Jovi's long-lost sister. I'm trying to rock my new style, and thankin' God at the same time that my hair grows 1/2 inch a month. Whew.

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