Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thinking Inside the Box

There is something rewarding about doing things for other people.  I started sending care packages to the troops in Afghanistan this summer.  I had done it once before, during Desert Storm, but this time I’m much better at it. It could be that the soldier was a guy, and he was very low maintenance.  We did a lot of letter writing back and forth vs. care packages.  I still sent them, but I remember the letters more than the packages.  I do recall sending a hat and some cokes at some point…but the rest had to be the basic needs.
 I asked my daughter if she would like to help me select the group that we would like to send care packages to.  She decided that we should support an Army unit since she is in Army JROTC at school, and that we find some women. We found 2 units using one is a small unit and the other is very large.  Both units are from Texas (yes we are from Texas and that is what Texans do), so it already felt right for us.  If you are from Texas or a Texan at heart, you will appreciate the photo below.  If not, well someone once told me a long time ago…that you never have to ask someone if they are from Texas, if you give them enough time, they’ll just tell ya.  This is true, we are proud, loyal, and share a bond that we call home.  From one Texan to another, this package was very well received.
Now I’ve always been a person that likes crafts, and thinks I can be crafty, but the reality is that I’m not (ask my husband).  I’m terrible at wrapping presents, I do not even know how to tie a bow, and the last presents I wrapped for Christmas were wrapped in old Sunday comics and a pretty string.  So I started to do something a little different, but just as special as wrapping a gift.  Since the outside of the packages require a large customs form, and have writing on them that the U.S. Postal Service uses, it made it pretty easy to focus on the inside of the box.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people decorate the outside, I just choose not to. The box had lots of Pop-Tarts, Coffee K-Cups, some flavor-ice and other good ole American snacks.
This is the last care package I sent:
As you can see, more Pop-Tarts, some instant oatmeal, gum, sweet tea & pork n beans (not pictured).  I wanted her to to know that we are proud of her.  My 3 year old helped me glue the leaves and letters on, he loves to glue stuff. She really liked the package too.  My care packages are pretty simple compared to some others that some Any Soldier supporters send out (they inspire me to do a better job), but I’m proud of the outcome of this one, and it makes me feel even better to know that I made her happy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Spare change anyone??

My Father came to visit over the summer and told me that he paid off his car using the spare change he would have at the end of each day. For as long as I can remember, my dad had change that he was rolling into tubes to deposit in the bank, or he would have a huge water jug that he would drop loose change into. So having him tell me that he paid of his car using loose change, was believable, coming from him. Could I do that? Nah.

So over time, the thought of what I could do with the loose change that I get when I do laundry, or I see around the house has been bouncing around in my head. You see, I didn't want to spend it, I wanted to save it. I spend spare time cutting and sorting coupons, so I don't have time to roll coins. Who goes into the bank anymore? I do everything online now, so I wasn't going to make a deposit once I got it rolled anyway. I know, I sound lazy, but I'm being very realistic about me. 

So one day I was talking on the phone to my friend about the loose change, and she mentioned Coinstar. Now if you aren't familiar with it, it came out a few years ago. It is a machine in most grocery stores and it counts your coins for you, for a small fee. When it is done you get a receipt that you take to the customer service desk and they give you the cash that has been counted up. I found this picture and you can see that the person had $10.00 in pennies but after the fee would get $9.11 once they redeem the receipt at the customer service counter.


Now, I knew I didn't have $10.00 in change at the time that we were having this discussion and I didn't want to pay a fee to use the machine. Here is the good part, you can use Coinstar to count the change and get a Kroger gift card without a fee. So you get to keep the value of all your change and you can use the gift card when you purchase groceries at Kroger (minimum of $5.00 to get the gift card). 

Okay, so here is my version...I used the machine (I found a dime on the ground in front of it) and I had $7.02, and now I have the Kroger gift card with that amount on it. I don't want to spend that money, I want to save it. So I went home went to my online banking account. I transferred $7.02 from my primary checking account (which is what I would normally use to pay for my groceries), into my savings account. This is how I plan on saving some money, I only need $6,992.98 to buy the used station wagon I found! I know it is a slow process, but it works for me! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Using a Rain Barrel

Drastic Times Bring Drastic Measures!

I bought a rain barrel a long time ago. I thought I could use it to collect the rain and water my yard between rains. That in theory was supposed to save money. Well, I'm in Texas, and if you haven't already heard...there is a drought in Texas. I'm not getting the use out of my rain barrel that I hoped I would. There is another option though...

You see there is this term: "grey water", it is the water that comes from your washing machine, that can be recycled. It isn't water that you can drink, but it is usable water. This drought is horrible, it is supposed to make it into the record books. We have been advised to water our foundations with soaker hoses, which I did, but my water bill is going up. Now we have been asked to conserve water (and electricity), so here is where the rain barrel comes in. I have a 57 gallon rain barrel, it looks like this: 

My washing machine uses a little over 40 gallons of water each time I wash clothes, and that water goes down the drain. It is water that I can use. It is ridiculous that I'm waiting for rain that isn't coming to collect water to use (not on my grass, on my FOUNDATION). I talked to my husband about how the city is dealing with 1,000 water leaks a day, and how we could conserve water. I also talked to my sister (she is frugal too), and she is noticing the effects of the drought on her home as well. Well one thing led to another and now my rain barrel is in my garage collecting the grey water from my washing machine. The spout on the rain barrel at the bottom has a male part, so I connected my water hose directly to it, and it waters my foundation and yard each time I do a load of laundry.

It isn't as productive as using a water sprinkler, but it is helping me maintain my water bill, and helping me take care of my home. I never would have thought at the time that I bought the rain barrel that it would be used this way, but it is getting the job done!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Collecting Box Tops For Education

Box Tops for Education

I've been collecting box tops for a few years now. It started when my daughter was in elementary school (she started high school this year), but once we moved, the new school didn't participate in it. I usually have to ask around to find someone whose school is participating and give them my collection. It is really easy to do, I just put a magnet inside of a sandwich/snack size bag and stick it on the fridge. As my family and I see them, we tear them off and drop them in the bag. Once I have a decent amount to give away I start asking who would like them.

Now you are probably wondering why this would be a subject I would choose to talk about. Well if you have school aged children, you may have noticed that there are more and more school supplies needed for school. It isn't just backpacks and binders anymore. It is pencils, glue, crayons, paper, tissues, and paper towels. When I was in school, the school provided the thin brown paper towels. It has changed a lot. I have noticed that almost every product I purchase with a coupon has Box Tops on them. Since my husband is a teacher, I know that it was an uncomfortable year for us with all of the layoffs that occurred. He wasn't one that was let go, but he only has a 1 year contract. Anything can happen next year. Now most of the teachers that we know, pay for school supplies for the classroom, and the parents provide the additional supplies. So if the issue truly is a monetary issue, I think it would be good if we could get every eligible school to participate in this program and try to help out. You see EACH school that participates in Box Tops for Education can earn up to $20,000.00 using the 4 ways to earn. I know that doesn't sound like a significant amount, if you multiplied the amount of Elementary and Middle schools in each district, it is a significant amount that can be earned. I do see the value in coupons, the Box Tops can be just as valuable, especially if the item was purchased at a great price with a coupon.

Collecting them in the work place can be just as easy, the same ways some businesses have designated a clearly marked trash receptacle as a recycle bin, and recyclables appear in it. A clearly marked cup/bin in the work place can be just as effective. Your co-workers will take notice and donate, just give it a try. I'm not sure why my daughter's new school didn't participate, but I'm going to see if I can set them up. If you have any ideas or suggestions to help raise money for schools, by all means, please comment! They will be greatly appreciated!
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Green, Greener and Greenest!

Okay, so there are a lot of ways that you can be "green" and I've implemented a few things to become more environmentally friendly. I've always recycled (paper, plastic and glass), and we still use cloth diapers (even though we are potty training), and I drive a flex-fuel truck (and have a scooter that is even better on gas). I changed jobs, so now I'm working 2.2 miles from home, and we have a rain barrel that has been severely under-used since we have had a dry spell practically since I bought it. it has been really hot, I have a programmable thermostat, but my air conditioner is still working hard to keep up with this heat. With that being said, we have had temperatures over 100 degrees consistently, so I was thinking about buying a solar oven...

It has been so hot here, that I've forgotten to take meat out of the freezer for dinner, and simply put it outside for a few minutes, and it was thawed so that I could cook (no water wasted to thaw it). It may sound a little cliche, but you really could fry an egg outside in this heat. That's what has me thinking, I could be taking advantage of the heat (similar to my rain barrel collecting free water), not to make sun tea, but something bigger!

Solar cake in a solar oven (GSO: Global Sun Ov...Image via Wikipedia

I mean, I'm still going to try to make fruit roll-ups in the truck, just to prove to my kids that it can be done, but I have a feeling that I could use my truck to cook until I save enough money to get the oven that I want (it is a little pricey). I know, I can use my crock-pot, but a sun oven, once it paid for itself wouldn't cost anything to use it. It does sound like I would be pinching the pennies, but the crock-pot, even though it costs very little to cook with, still gives off a good amount of heat (at least mine does). This way the heat stays outside. So in the meantime, I'm going to play around with my truck. My first experiment will be with cookies, I'm going to stick with smells that I wouldn't mind in my truck. I will add the photos later, but in the meantime if anyone has used this oven or anything like it, please feel free to give me some pointers or recipes! I would love to hear from you!
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let's Create A Gas Price WAR!

Ok everyone, I've come up with a plan to try and create a price war among the gas stations. I know, I know, everyone has an idea. Please just hear me out, and if you can, support it for 3 weeks and lets see if it is working. Right now the gas prices are going to be outrageous by the time summer starts. I have a schedule on a Google calendar that we can use to boycott the big 3 for the first 3 weeks, after that, we will start to implement the program. It will take time for the news to spread, so I figured during the first 3 weeks we could avoid the big 3.

Here is the plan, there are a lot of gas stations that we can go to, and that is a good thing. So I've come up with a list that we will use and together we will start to use only the ones on the list for the corresponding week on the calendar. I've created a  Gas Calendar that is public, if you already use Google calendars, you can add the schedule to your own. The main thing is that without helping me spread the word about this, it will not work.

Please give it a try and show some support. I can't sit back and watch what is happening without making an attempt to make a difference. If someone has a better plan, please feel free to make a suggestion. I'm not looking to put people out of business, I'm just wanting to get the message across that we have tolerated this too long, and it has to stop. So please, help me spread the word, Twitter it, Myspace, Tumbler, it etc. You should see it as an event on Facebook already.
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gas prices are rising again...UGH

2004-2007 Nissan Titan photographed in USA. Ca...Image via Wikipedia
      Has anyone noticed that the gas prices are slowly creeping up again? I drive a big truck (Nissan Titan), so I've noticed regular unleaded is $2.89 in my area. It will probably be $3.00 in a few more weeks. I'm writing to remind you that you can use your Kroger card at the pump to save on the cost of gas. I'm already aware that you may be thinking,  a few cents off each gallon doesn't really help. I want you to maximize your savings by using coupons while you are in the store. You see, Kroger will give you 10 cents to use towards gas for every $100 you spend. In my case, I have a 22 gallon tank, so I save $2.20 each time I fill up.

      I am mentioning Kroger because, for those of you that don't use coupons,  not only are you losing money in the store, you are losing money at the pump. You see, the 10 cents that Kroger gives to you to use toward gas, that comes from the total cost of your groceries before the coupons have been deducted. You don't actually spend the higher amount,  you just get the points to use toward your next gas purchase. I have noticed that since I've been using coupons for the last 5 years, I have unused points that could be used for gas that roll over toward the next month to use.  These points are used by both my husband and I, and on occasion if I'm riding with someone else and they need gas; I allow them to take advantage of my points at the pump.

      Now if any of you have any suggestions on how to save money at the pump, they will be greatly appreciated. We can all use the help.
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